Sunday, September 21, 2008

the divisive feminist.

There's a feminist blog out there called the Reclusive Leftist that I found via a link from another feminist blog, either Feministing or Feminist Law Professors or maybe Feministe. I always love finding new feminist blogs, but the views expressed on it are so troubling to me, from both the blogger and commenters alike, that it makes me want to disassociate myself from feminism in general.

I don't want to be narrow-minded, because I realize not every self-proclaimed feminist has to agree with me on everything, but the point at which I got really turned off from the website was after reading a post titled, "Why the attacks on Sarah Palin are the best argument for voting for her." I'm a HUGE defender of Palin against sexism, even though I disagree with almost all her policies. When someone calls her a "whore" or a "slut" or even a "gilf", or questions her maternal instincts in accepting the VP nom, I come to her defense. That kind of rhetoric doesn't do liberals any favors (or conservatives, but they're on their own).

On the other hand, attacking the Republicans for picking her SOLELY because of her gender or the hypocrisy in framing her daughters' pregnancy as a matter of "choice" is fair game as far as I'm concerned. And her policies and lack of knowledge are even more legitimate reasons to criticize her.

But the author of this post, Violet, makes such overarching statements as, "That the lynching is being conducted primarily by Obama supporters who consider themselves 'progressives' isn’t completely surprising...", which, as far as I'm concerned, is complete bullshit. (The use of the word lynching here is a whole 'nother issue.)

But um, Violet? A good share of the sexist comments (as I've written about before) are coming from Republicans themselves. And though I agree Hillary faced all kinds of awful sexism from liberals and conservatives alike, I don't think women are going to "flock to" vote for Palin because of the repeat offenses. And I think a lot of the attacks on Palin are actually NOT sexist in and of themselves, but are instead trying to reveal the sexism of the Republican party in choosing Palin.

I'm not saying there aren't Obama-supporting sexists. But there are also a ton of McCain-supporting sexists as well (obviously). And the mainstream liberal community has treated Palin with more respect than I expected.

My friend's mom tried to tell me that most of the sexism towards Hillary was coming from "the black community", which, I'm sure, constituted part of it, but misogyny (and racism) is exhibited by every type of person imaginable: black, white, asian, hispanic, male, female, transgender, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, etc. And assuming that all misogynistic statements about Hillary during the primaries came from black men is ridiculously racist. When it comes to making prejudiced statements, pot, meet kettle.

Anyway, that wasn't even the worst part. The comments made me nauseous. Here's one:

"For many women, the last eight months was the worst sexism they experienced in their lives. Under any Presidency Republican or Democrat. And that was just the primary! Imagine what life would be like under an Obama Presidency. He was just getting started. To me, it’s worse than losing Roe v Wade."

And from another post,

"Palin’s representation of women already had an effect. Republicans are opposing sexism!!!!!! If Palin is VP, Republicans will oppose sexism and that, my friends, is half the battle. I was never beaten or raped in my life but the last eight months is the first time I felt beaten or raped. Fuck Roe v. Wade. How many abortions will I need anyway? Basic respect for women is the first step in feminism. Maybe policies will follow."

So I was livid about these comments, and tried to argue why voting for a woman just BECAUSE she's a woman is antithetical to feminism. They responded by saying they were bigger feminists than me. Even worse, Blogger Violet ignored the persuasive articles that I posted by making ad hominem attacks against the authors. Okay, I admit I wasn't the nicest. I said some strong things, like "Who are you people? Your views sound neither liberal nor feminist." But they made themselves look just as hostile by making assumptions about me and saying that *I* was the one who wasn't a real feminist.

And here's another baseless comment. These are all from the same commenter, "donna darko". Maybe I just have a problem with her:

"How Obama treats women is worse than losing Roe v Wade."

"The last eight months was the worst sexism many women have experienced in their lives. I was never beaten or raped in my life but the last eight months was the first time I felt beaten or raped."

I know that the way Hillary was treated was hard on a lot of women, including me. The amount of sexism displayed by liberal and conservative men and women alike was heartbreaking. But comparing it to rape, something this woman has never experienced, is insensitive and hyperbolic. So then, a presumably male commenter named Brian responded by saying:

"This rhetoric is so over the top it is difficult to know how to respond. Your preferred candidate did not win and you equate that with being raped!! Isn’t that just slightly insulting to women who were in fact raped, including women of color who supported Obama over Clinton?"

And you know how these women responded? They called him a RAPIST. They said: "Don’t you just love it when the rapists tell women what is and isn’t rape." and "Any man who would make a post like that is a rapist. He has the mind of a rapist."

What the fuck?

So Brian responded again, and said "I am sorry but this is really offensive. I am certainly not denying that Clinton’s campaign revealed quite a bit of mysogyny. Quite frankly, I almost voted for Clinton because of this but ultimately leaned toward Obama–I am not an Obamabot, as I am rather lukewarm on him. All I said was I thought it was somewhat over the top to compare to being raped. What is even more over the top is to say this is equated with being a rapist."

And he was again met with no respect. The last comment posted proclaims that "Men have no justification in telling women what they should or should not say or feel about rape because men cannot be raped", only sodomized. I know that sodomy is used in legal terms for nonconsensual anal or oral sex, but isn't this just semantics? Isn't forcing sex on someone, regardless of their gender, RAPE? Men can be raped by other men, and the fact that children are raped (male and female) is vile. Would these women think sexual abusing a little boy is somehow less traumatizing than a little girl?

These women who frequent the "Reclusive Leftist" seem to be of an older variety, and I know there's a lot of conflict between second and third wave feminists (or, old guard vs. new wave), but I just can't understand their sentiments. I'm trying not to be judgey, but when I ask for clarification, they get hostile and overly defensive.

What's MOST ironic and hilarious is that the author of the Reclusive Leftist, Violet, is one of the founders of something called the "New Agenda". Here's their explanation of what it is:

"Imagine a big lawn party with lots of little booths and kiosks staffed by different groups. This lawn party is Feminism. Over in one rather large booth we have the liberal feminists; they’re wearing power suits and carrying Blackberries. In another part of the lawn the cultural feminists are holding court in their Earth Mother skirts, with some womyn-only music playing on the speakers. A group of radical lesbians have set up a kiosk and are selling Hothead Paisan books and T-shirts. There are Christian feminists and Jewish feminists and Muslim feminists and Buddhist feminists, all with their own booths piled high with literature. The stay-at-home moms have a booth, of course, and they’re graciously sharing their brownies with everyone. The NARAL crowd is out in force, while at the opposite side of the lawn some pro-life feminists have set up a kiosk of their own.

What we’re talking about, of course, is a coalition. It’s a concept that is unfamiliar to many Americans, particularly young Americans (including young feminists) who seem to believe that they can only cooperate with people who resemble themselves in every respect. A coalition, on the other hand, necessarily involves people who disagree on certain issues, but have chosen to ally themselves on the causes they share."

Sounds nice and friendly, doesn't it? So why did one of the founders (Violet), say to me, after I tried to respectfully disagree with her point,

"As for who I am: probably more leftist and feminist than you’ve ever dreamed of being. And old."

Isn't the point of the New Agenda not to COMPARE or RATE brands of feminism? A phrase like "I'm more feminist than you!" should not be coming from one of the New Agenda's founders. And one of the key commenters there tells me (or Brian...she didn't say who she was addressing),

"You might want to start on another blog. Try Feminism 101 at Echidne of the Snakes."

Just a bit condescending, no? Every point I make, they say I "haven't done my research". Fuck that. No, I haven't read a transcript of every interview Sarah Palin has ever given, but I fact check everything I read and write about her. That's why you don't see me re-posting every little rumor on the Daily Kos. I guess I'm oversensitive, but I find them rude, and I don't understand all their hostility towards younger feminists.

This is what Violet says about my generation of feminists:

"I hate to break it to the Third Wavers out there, and really this topic deserves a post or twenty of its own, but for me, as an Old Bat, the most stunning thing about the Third Wave of feminism has always been how unfeminist it is. There are some wonderful feminists in the Third Wave, but they are the exceptions. For the most part, it’s been a return to the pre-feminist, patriarchal snakepit: women tear each other down, accuse each other of being jealous schemers, stab each other in the back. It’s more like the 1950s than the 1970s. Young women of the backlash — and that’s what the Third Wave is, basically — have internalized the misogyny of the age. Other women aren’t sisters to be embraced, but threats to be feared and despised."

It's true that there's an anti-woman sentiment from some women today, but not from feminists I've seen, and to call it the NORM is ridiculous. Again: pot, kettle? By making unfounded statements about younger feminists, isn't Violet exposing herself as a huge hypocrite?

All in all, it's left me feeling pretty shitty about feminism.


laura said...


Sorry I'm at work and don't have time to read the whole post right now! (will laterz. promise)

I kind've take issue with the whole 'respecting her privacy!' when it comes to her role as a mother. My problem is that being a mother of five seems to be presented over and over as one of her qualifications. She's the one who brought up the whole hockey mom thing. So if her role as a successful mother is so integral, then why are we scolded for examining what she accomplished? I'm not saying that she is to 'blame' for the pregnant daughter.. But if she can talk incessantly about her enlisted son, I think we're entitled to ask about her daughters "choice"...


clarafier said...

that comment thread was kind of hilarous. my personal favorites were:
"brian, owner of an instrument of rape!"
"men can not be raped, only sodomized."

every time i don't get a puppy when i want one i've been holocausted.... :(

(oh, and also i liked that if you don't let someone sleep peaceably you're a rapist. i felt like jeff foxworthy should've been narrating that whole list)

allison said...

Okay Clara, you read the whole thing...what is UP with those ladies?

And why is it that Obama is a sexist and electing him would be WORSE THAN OVERTURNING ROE V. WADE OMFGZZZZ but they kept mum about McCain?

clarafier said...

the whole thing was bizarre. mostly because i went in thinking i might agree!

i don't really consider roe v wade as a litmus test for feminism (mostly because i have NO FUCKING CLUE what feminism even means anymore!). i'm pro-choice, but it's not top on my list of things that matter to me (but again, i wouldn't consider myself a feminist). that being said, their reasoning was militantly fucked up. this comment (from the "yes you are" post) in particular got to me:

"We have to stop worrying about what we ARE and think instead of what we DO. Elect women. The rest is gravy.
BTW, that’s ANY AND ALL WOMEN, PERIOD. No, you don’t have to care about their positions on anything. I’m serious."

okay. i'm assuming this woman considers herself a feminist. but what is the point of being feminist if you're putting women in power whose values and principles are the polar opposite of yours, and moreover, who plan on legislating off of those beliefs? what is the aim of that sort of feminism? BOOBS.

allison said...

EXACTLY. I realize not everyone agrees that being pro-choice is crucial to being a feminist, but like you said, they think ANY woman is good for feminism. Does that mean all women are automatic feminists?

They haven't pointed to anything that would make Palin look like a feminist except her being a working mom. But if she's not helping OTHER, less fortunate women balance family and career, how is she helping the women's movement? They act like visibility is everything.