Safe Space For Possibly Unpopular Thoughts on Feminism, Leftism

by Belle Waring on February 12, 2015

UPDATE: REDOUBLE YOUR EFFORTS AT MAOIST SELF-CRITICISM, COMRADES; DO NOT BE GULLED BY MY MOPING. TELL US YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING CRAZY. IT IS A NEAR-CERTAINTY!

In the thread to one of my string of unfailingly well-intentioned, generous—not to put too fine a point on it, let’s just say, kind posts on Political Correctness, some of us discussed what it would be like if I were actually kind we had a “safe” thread in which we could discuss feminism without worrying we would ban ourselves from polite society by saying The Wrong Thing. Now, I cannot actually bring it about that other commenters will not remember what you said in this thread and be a dick to you about in some future thread. I can fight the tendency by asking everyone who participates to do so in a spirit of truthfulness and generosity; by banning unpleasant arguments in this thread; and by ruthlessly deleting future comments of this sort when they are made to one of my own posts. If the comment is not made to my own post I can still upbraid the person for violating what is meant to be a minor experiment in honesty and, yes, kindness. However, if you feel what you have to say is truly incendiary you can always just make a burner pseud for the occasion. The tradition followed at unfogged is that regular commenters donning a pseudonym of convenience choose some past political leader. I think it would be nice if we took up floral banners for the day and became Lady Clematis or some such, but I leave the details to you.

Now, I must tell you my own “I have the possibly wrong” opinion on a feminist issue, but it won’t make sense without context. This may seem like a silly tic of mine, this constant introduction of my actual life, blobs and swirls of ink floating on water and ox-gall, and slashed at, just so, with a fork, yielding marbled paper on which the posts are hard to read at times when compared with the black on white clarity of some of my co-bloggers. But this is the secret: the personal really is the political.

When I got raped at college I knew a lot about some things and nothing about others, but being a teenager I pretended to know mostly everything. I wasn’t a college student, even; the National Cathedral’s School for Girls sent two girls every year to study at New College, Oxford during the summer between junior and senior year, with a bunch of college students from Ohio. These programs are just money-farms for Oxford and the professors do not take them very seriously at all. When I got the reading list, I was 16, so I took it completely seriously. I read everything. All the books on the list. I didn’t understand that you’re not really supposed to. I read Ulysses. I did not understand it hardly at all and I just read that damn thing anyway, on my spring break, in the hammock on the sleeping porch at my dad’s in South Carolina, one leg pumping idly against the white uprights between which the screens are stretched, birdsong and cicada up there enough to be loud. So loud! The experience of forcing myself through hundreds of pages of something that I don’t understand is unique to my adolescence. Three Shakespeare plays. Secondary literature I had to get at the big library downtown in D.C.

When I got to Oxford and I realized these big dumb college students hadn’t done the reading I was mad as hell. It didn’t even make much of a difference! There were other things they weren’t good at. Buying drugs. They wandered around with these T-shirts and these big clean teeth like kernels of corn and they could not buy hash to save their lives. I met a guy who was a street artist doing chalk murals of Dante and Beatrice. He was a black guy…I don’t know what people in the UK say, actually; his parents had been from Jamaica but he was from Oxford. He was pretty cool. He was way older than me. I went over to his place a few times to hang out and he macked on me pretty hard the first time with the “if we’re going to listen to that Kate Bush album we need to go upstairs because that’s where the record player is” which…c’mon. He even tried the ultimate hippie cop-a-feel “massage” maneuver. But when I told him I wasn’t interested he backed off and was cool about it. Hilariously he was worried he was corrupting the youth what with me with my braces on and hacking and wheezing. The thing was, I didn’t know how to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette with hash in it. I was sucking that shit down and holding it in like I was drowning in the Sargasso Sea of Not Stoned. All In ever smoked before was the green green grass of home—quite literally as my dad was, in those days, a master gardener, though he has reformed, long time gone now. This dude was like, “are you sure you done this before?” and then I was choking laughing, wishing I had brought that photo of me as a little girl, hair streaked white blonde, in my 70s pants and shirt my mom sewed with a huge discount roll of hideous courduroy she bought, with a 20-gallon Hefty trash bag of dressed bud. It’s too bad I lost that.

Just generally these college students were bad at meeting people. I had some H.S. friends coming through, one guy staying with me part of the time, and we met kids our age in pubs and did normal stuff, went and stayed the night at their grandmom’s tiny council flat, all four of us in one bed. We, um, stole those boats and went punting. Or like, we went to see U2 but we didn’t have tickets. We found outrageous scalpers which about 2/3 of the group (all Ohio kids and me) bought. Then I bribed a security guy £20 to let us all into the stadium, but it turned out you couldn’t get anywhere like that, there was a whole separate deal inside. So I got good and worked up, gave all my stuff to the other people to carry, and went to report to security that my purse had been stolen and I was carrying everyone’s tickets! My purse really had been stolen like a week before, so I was able to give a really good description of the contents, and then burst into tears—so much so that some English kids nearby who had just gotten grabbed for fighting made fun of me “aw, the poor little American girl and her tiiiiickets!” We got escorted in to the 7th row.

BUT I did not know how to make an international phone call with the payphones in the porter’s lodge. And I was embarrassed to ask and then when it had been longer and longer I was more embarrassed, so no one in my family even heard from me till my grandmother came to Oxford with my brother to pick me up and take me to see some cousins of ours who lived nearby. BUT I STILL DIDN’T ASK.

One thing I knew a lot about was drinking. And Oxford professors enjoyed plying me with sherry! It’s a sweet, revolting, ancient tradition! One night I got really drunk, enough that I got sick in my trash basket. I am a calm, composed drunk, so I took it down with me to the showers, washed it out into the toilet and then entirely clean, and myself, and got the bits of regurgitated carrot out of my hair, and then went back upstairs to sleep it off. I had idly mentioned to a dude before this group of people went out, “maybe we’ll hang out later after you get back.” This guy was like me. He wasn’t the normal college age either. He was 33, and he had been insinuating himself into my life for some time. Chatting me up on the bus on field trips, complimenting me on my taste in music, etc. When he knocked on the door I woke up in a cold start, not at all able to think who it was. But then I felt as if I was obliged to invite him in, as I had essentially done so earlier, so I pulled something on, and he came in with a bottle of wine and two glasses, and poured a big one for me, and I thought, eh fuck it and drank up. When he started to kiss me I told him to stop, no, that I wasn’t interested. When he started to rape me I said the same thing but I was embarrassed to scream because I felt ashamed of what someone would see if they opened the door. That doesn’t make sense, but it made sense then. It hurt a lot and, as I was entirely virginal in this respect at least, I also bled a LOT. He left me crying there and avoided me the entire next ten days. He didn’t think there had been a wacky misunderstanding. He never spoke to me again. There were sinks in the room into which the male students would, naturally, pee; I got up to perch on the edge so I could bleed into mine and could only think, very irrelevantly, that I would have made a good medieval bride. A perfect one. They could have hung up the bloody sheet the next day.

I never thought about trying to get him in trouble. It wasn’t just that I didn’t think it would work. It was that “don’t narc” was like my family’s stupid goddamn motto at the time. Not my dad’s, my mom and stepdad’s. I…can’t really think of a good anecdote to illustrate this. We weren’t like, being beaten up all the time or anything, I don’t want you to imagine it was…well it sucked, anyway. I guess, one time, my stepdad told me and my brother that if we ever complained again to my mom about anything he did, he’d kill us. See? Rapists always know shit like this. Why? Why can’t they be incompetent?

OK, here’s the thing I am really not sure about with rape on college campuses. We don’t think there should be student and professor group evaluations or judgments on what to do if one student just beats the tar out of another student. Simple assault and battery. No one thinks, time for that committee of…randos…to…decide if this dude should get suspended for a semester for breaking that other dude’s arm with a chair? Right? We think that an honor code violation goes in the student/professor committee box, but wrecking somebody with a chair? Not really. But maybe? I mean, if it’s framed as, these guys can’t get along as roommates, one alleges the other assaulted him, they should definitely get moved, if the R.A. believes that the student was actually assaulted then he should get in trouble… Because of course we think that you might lose a whole semester’s worth of fees because you committed plagiarism. It’s not as if non-criminal complaints can’t result in serious sanctions as it stands. Still, there’s really something a little weird about how sexual assault and battery would maybe get diverted into this weird para-justice-system, and simple assault and battery would probably lead to a chat with the cops? But I don’t want it to be that you can only get help from your school if you go to the cops. And yet, perhaps, shouldn’t a special relationship between the local cops SVU and the college be established that would make that an easier, gentler prospect?

And then, it does seem to me that if universities are going to create weird para-justice systems to deal with rape and sexual assault on campus, then they need to formalize them, make them completely transparent, let people know in advance what they are like, and provide dedicated advocates for the accused. Because it is true that some rape accusations are false. It’s taken me years to figure out how to talk about this. Almost all girls and women who come to you and say they’ve been raped are telling the truth. But if a girl or woman is mentally ill and involved in some way with a man, a false rape accusation is a common thing for that mentally ill woman to do! I know a ton of women who have been raped. God, so many. I have an unusually good early childhood memory. The first thing I remember is from when I was only 22 months old! Truly! I was on the bus and I was sitting with my mom’s friend and I was scared and crying. We were siting at the front, behind the driver in the row that is parallel to the sides of the bus. And I was afraid of the toilet. I was afraid it just went down to the road, because I could hear the sound in there so clearly, and I thought I would fall through the hole onto the highway. That’s all I remember.

What happened was my mom’s best friend had given my mom (my parents had me when they were really young) a break by staying in St. Augustine for two more days and letting my mom go back up to S.C. without me. They had both been down there staying with a third friend who was having a tough time. One day while the friend was out, her husband raped my mom’s best friend at knifepoint. He held a buck-knife to her throat, with an elk-horn hilt, but he joked that he didn’t really need to. Because I was right there in the next room, just through an archway in this little Florida house. I don’t think I was asleep. I hope for her that I was. Afterwards my mom’s friend just grabbed me and everything and got on the Greyhound. I guess we were probably both crying but I don’t remember that. But you know what? I know somebody who made a false rape accusation recently, too. Someone I love a lot, who is a troubled person.

The other Politically Incorrect thing that I worry about is that feminists are always accused of being man-hating and sometimes I think, yeah, I kind of maybe hate you. Who felt my sister up in the Takoma Metro station when she was 12 and then broke her jaw in two places when she wouldn’t give up her wallet? Who ever made her kneel down and face the wall and put a gun to the back of her head during a robbery, where she wouldn’t turn over her wallet or jewelry (my sister is stubborn. And awesome.) Was that some woman? Y’all know you didn’t even think for a second that it was. I know this is wrong, and I love my husband and my brother and my dad and I want to love the hundreds of millions of good men in the world doing their best right now in tougher situations than I’ll ever face. I guess it’s more that I’m scared and I’m angry because I don’t like being scared.

Kind of goes without saying, but don’t tell me I’m a dumbass for getting that drunk and it’s my fault I got raped. I’m a dumbass for getting that drunk and it’s his fault I got raped.

{ 381 comments }

1

Lynne 02.12.15 at 3:31 pm

Oh, Belle, I am just so angry for you, the whole time I was reading I was just getting so mad. You were only 16! The penalty for getting drunk is not rape, it’s a headache. I hope no one has ever said different to you.

Ah, geez. None of this sounds un-P.C. to me, but what do I know. I hate that that happened to you, and to your sister.

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Belle Waring 02.12.15 at 3:42 pm

Can I deal with this? I am in Bali and I know John just read this and thought, oh the fuck even. WHATEVER. I AM BRAVE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER. Actually I have been writing the post for several days. I’m going to sleep so “I want y’all on y’alls baddest goodest behavior. Lend me some sugar. I am your neighbor.”–Andre ‘Ice Cold’ 3000. Also, people, you should say things that you think, but think may be received ill in some quarters. That was the point, originally. I know you have suspect beliefs, comrades. Now is the time for strenuous self-criticism!

3

Commenter No. 5 02.12.15 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for sharing that, Belle.

My wife works on a university campus and is involved with students who have been raped. The list of problems and possible improvements are legion, but since this thread is about feminism, I’ll focus on that.

From what I’ve seen, many activists/writers in campus organizations and online are more interested in repeating talking points than in trying to do anything constructive. To use the examples from the Freddie de Boer thread, you will get these meetings where people spend a lot of time discussing whether campus rape is due more to the patriarchy, or capitalism, and don’t forget about racism, etc. They don’t understand the process of how justice can be obtained, and such concerns are secondary to having good politics.

And for many of these people, I don’t mean they’re 80% of the way to understanding and just need to be nudged in the right direction. I mean their worldview is orthogonal to reality and that renders them incapable of effective action.

I used to think it was navel-gazing bullshit of no consequence, but now that campus rape is a high profile topic those kinds of opinions are influencing the conversation, so to speak.

So, at the university where my wife works, there is a specific step in the process that it’s almost impossible for rape cases to pass, and it is something student activists could agitate about and have a real chance of changing. And with university politics being what they are, it is probably only students who can change it. But none of the student activists have bothered to understand how the process works, so they don’t know how to fix it.

On a more positive note, I’m glad that people are beginning to see that barring Sororities from throwing parties is insane. Allowing them to wouldn’t fix everything, but it would certainly help.

4

Commenter No. 5 02.12.15 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for sharing that, Belle.

My wife works on a university campus and is involved with students who have been raped. The list of problems and possible improvements are legion, but since this thread is about feminism, I’ll focus on that.

From what I’ve seen, many activists/writers in campus organizations and online are more interested in repeating talking points than in trying to do anything constructive. To use the examples from the Freddie de Boer thread, you will get these meetings where people spend a lot of time discussing whether campus rape is due more to the patriarchy, or capitalism, and don’t forget about racism, etc. They don’t understand the process of how justice can be obtained, and such concerns are secondary to having good politics.

And for many of these people, I don’t mean they’re 80% of the way to understanding and just need to be nudged in the right direction. I mean their worldview is orthogonal to reality and that renders them incapable of effective action.

I used to think it was navel-gazing bullshit of no consequence, but now that campus rape is a high profile topic those kinds of opinions are influencing the conversation, so to speak.

So, at the university where my wife works, there is a specific step in the process that it’s almost impossible for rape cases to pass, and it is something student activists could agitate about and have a real chance of changing. And with university politics being what they are, it is probably only students who can change it. But none of the student activists have bothered to understand how the process works, so they don’t know how to fix it.

On a more positive note, I’m glad that people are beginning to see that barring Sororities from throwing parties is insane. Allowing them to wouldn’t fix everything, but it would certainly help.

5

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 4:15 pm

Belle you are a fucking lion.

/Write that book. Seriously.
//If you want to to.

6

Doctor Science 02.12.15 at 4:18 pm

I, too, have heard way, way too many stories like this. I’m glad you found your courage, Belle.

The thing about false rape accusations that makes them different from other false crime reports: victims pay such a high price for making *true* rape accusations that it often seems as though you’d have to be crazy to do it.

I mean, I know a *lot* of women (and some men) who’ve been raped — but I know very few who ever reported it, and even fewer where there were ever criminal sanctions against the rapist. And I don’t blame them — in most cases it’s not sane or realistic to report rape, it would just be volunteering for more trauma and abuse.

But when you have a system where it’s not sane to report a crime, then the people who report crimes will often be insane.

7

Peter Glavodevedhzhe 02.12.15 at 4:25 pm

Wowsers, Ms. Belle. Thanks, really liked this.

I’m thinking of a quote heard somewhere (source? too lazy to look it up right now): “Shame and shamelessness: the roots of violence.” Maybe more to add later but thanks for now.

8

William Timberman 02.12.15 at 4:25 pm

Belle reminds me, as always, of how hallucinatory much of our lived reality actually is — which is how in fact we recognize it as reality. (If that’s a provocation looking desperately for a way out of its own philosophical cul-de-sac, I suppose Rimbaud’s Le poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens will do as well as any.)

We often pretend that the boundary between in here and out there isn’t permeable, or if it sometimes is, that there are rules which, if we can manage to harness them, will distinguish us for all practical purposes from the schizophrenic. I think that the situation is far more fluid than that, and that our pretense to the contrary leads us astray as often as not. Which is why I love to hear from philosophers and nuclear physicists from time-to-time, and from poets always. It’s also why I like to hear from Belle, although if asked, she might well say that this is not high up on the list of reasons why she would like people to like what she writes.

In the present case, I’m reminded of Joseph Conrad, if Joseph Conrad could be set to the music of a sort of heroism that I’ve seen occasionally, but never really experienced. I suspect that I’m the poorer for that, but considering what it would cost to be richer, I’ll make do with the poverty, and say thank you for the opportunity to peek around my own defenses.

9

P O'Neill 02.12.15 at 4:33 pm

OK the moping is warranted but one question, was NCS any source of support during that Oxford episode? You’re unlikely to have been the only victim.

10

Cian 02.12.15 at 4:34 pm

I’ve seen far more male college students get blindly, stupidly, dangerously drunk than I ever saw women. I don’t think one of those men got raped. So that’s a thing.

11

JanieM 02.12.15 at 4:41 pm

Ah, Belle……..

I am going to try to write something for this post, but even though it will be much more mundane (in any number of ways), if it’s going to be worth the bother it will be long and may take a while. I hope anyone interested in this thread will keep coming back, in case more of us than just Belle need a few days to get something put together to post.

12

Layman 02.12.15 at 4:43 pm

There’s no getting around the fact that men are all bad. Some of us manage to control our evil programming better than others, but we all have it. I suppose the most anti-feminist thing I can say is, I think women are not inherently bad while men are; that there are differences, and those differences have real consequences. I wonder how much the threat of violence contributes to the problem of unequal pay? I don’t mean real threats of violence – just the general understanding by one man of another’s capacity for violence, and how it shapes a society in every way up to the employer / employee relationship.

Also, Belle, your story makes me ill. I’m dreadfully sorry for the things done to you.

13

John Garrett 02.12.15 at 4:46 pm

Belle, you have the courage to know and tell the truth, there is nothing that matters more. I spent years working in child abuse, until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and learned there about torture and rape as family affairs, over and over again. Not everywhere, I hope, but certainly here. Something else that is hard to tell the truth, a truth almost no one every wants to hear.

JG

14

Lynne 02.12.15 at 4:57 pm

Belle, since you’ve provided the thread, here goes.

When I became a feminist one of the early concerns was rigid gender roles. If you were female, you were expected to be feminine, and this meant you were supposed to smile quite a lot and defer to men, and make less money than men (they were supporting families, our money was “extra.”) You got laughed at if you drove a truck, unless you were on a farm. It was okay to be emotional. In fact, you were expected to be emotional. In fact, you were called emotional even when you weren’t.

If you were male you didn’t play with dolls as a child, you were allowed to be messy. Men spoke with authority, and had authority at work. You could close your bank account without your wife’s signature. You could be angry and loud, but not sad or shy or uncertain. You would get laughed at if you were seen pushing a baby carriage because that was not a masculine thing to do.

Both sexes were harmed by these gender roles, although men also benefited materially, and continue to do so.

For awhile it seemed things were getting better. Men push baby carriages, women drive trucks. Girls are allowed to wear pants to school, which frees them up for much more activity at recess.

Dolls were made for little boys (both my sons had one) and unisex clothing was available for children…..This lasted for about ten minutes. Judging from children’s toys and clothes, gender roles have gotten more distinct and rigid again. I could say more about this (women singers in skimpy clothes!) but I haven’t even made my point and this comment is too long.

Gender roles are problematic when they stop being about what men and women do and become what men and women should do because they are men and women, and when shame is attached to a man or woman who does not fit the role. All my life as a feminist, which is most of my adult life, I have believed gender roles need to be less rigid, more inclusive. I have believed that society’s gender roles need to change to fit actual people; people don’t have to change to fit the gender role—that would be like cutting off your toes to wear a shoe that was too small.

And that is what I see the transgendered doing. The rise in sex-reassignment surgery seems to me a painful attempt at an individual solution to what is actually a social problem. I am especially concerned with men saying they are women. First, if you don’t feel manly, it’s not your fault, it’s the stupid gender roles. Second, though, it isn’t that simple to become a woman. It takes more than chemicals and surgery to make a woman.

So this is what I have been reluctant to say online: men cannot become women. Transwomen are not women. They aren’t (obviously!) evil or bad or deserving of hatred or violence, either, but they aren’t women and I don’t want them or any other men driving feminist discourse.

I could say more but I’ll leave it at that for now.

15

MDH 02.12.15 at 4:58 pm

Belle, thank you for sharing that experience in just that way. Your style renders its terribleness more accessible, in some way… in any event, I am both sympathetically upset by and appreciate the emotional response it has engendered.

Here’s the thing that I think that I think is likely to be ill received. Concerted action with the intent to cause physical or emotional discomfort among some decision makers for the purpose of effecting some policy change is an under-used tool. In my mind, this all takes a form that stops well short of what we would tend to think of as political violence. But if I’m really honest, sometimes that border is fuzzy. Implied threats are a type of harm, and there are cases where I’m, like, “Yeah, that guy /should/ be a little worried about whether or bad thing will befall him before deciding on X.” So that’s the fuzziness – I kind of believe there are legitimate applications of that sort of harm but not of the sort that effectuates the threat. If that makes sense. Distressingly, my judgment about what makes it legitimate is probably some simple correspondence with my other political beliefs. That is pretty weak tea as far as principles go. Which is why I cannot reasonably endorse this as a universal principle. I don’t want the other guys doing it too. And yet…

16

LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 4:59 pm

Okay, here’s something I feel uncomfortable about talking about in anti-rape advocacy discussions: the blurred line between intoxication and incapacitation due to alcohol.

I’m completely comfortable with most criminal laws on the subject, which are generally phrased something like “incapable of expressing non-consent due to incapacitation caused by alcohol [or other drug use]”, and are expressing something, in colloquial language, like “lack of resistance from someone who’s passed out or close to it does not qualify as consent.”

But there is a fair amount of rhetoric from anti-rape advocates who I am mostly entirely in agreement with on issues around rape generally, saying that it is impossible to give consent when intoxicated at all. And I don’t really know what’s going on there. Most people drink socially; I would guess that of people who drink at all, most people have had something alcoholic to drink on most occasions when they’ve had sex (that is, drinking, socializing, and having sex are correlated). In my own life, I have a drink or two with dinner almost every night, and I’m a lightweight, drinking-wise, so I’m perceptibly affected by that much alcohol, and I am more likely to have (long-married) sex after dinner than before.

So, I get very uncomfortable when I hear people saying that intoxicated consent is impossible (that is, if someone is actively consenting to and voluntarily participating in sex, that consent is invalid due to intoxication), because I don’t know exactly what they mean. If they mean “after any drinking at all”, that seems blitheringly insane to me (or really, that they’re defining most actual sex as rape, and they can’t actually be serious). If they mean something inbetween “Had a couple of drinks” and “is incapacitated due to drinking or drugs”, though, I don’t have any clear sense of where people think the line is, or if a usable line can practically be drawn.

But boy am I uncomfortable pushing people to clarify what they mean on this issue, because I feel like I’m attacking people who I generally think of myself as allied with, and it’s an area where there’s so much viciousness from the other side that I really don’t want to add to it.

17

armando 02.12.15 at 5:04 pm

You are brave like a MOTHERFUCKER, dude. Much respect.

And in keeping with the personal is political and things you aren’t allowed to say, I’d like to share this.

This is all a bit new and raw for me, due to the fact that I have suppressed most of it for my entire life, but I was abused pretty horribly by my mother in ways that were pretty much always deniable, and which flashbacks leave me screaming and crying. That she was a malignant narcissist who inflicted pain and violation on me, I remember. But I’m pretty sure that there is a whole load more I buried. I’m not even sure exactly what happened some of the time, just that it was bad enough that childhood was a hell which I needed to endure so that I could survive and escape. Which I have, and I’m in a really good place – ironically, this is what is allowing the flashbacks.

But, anyway, part of the problem was the deniability of it. Your mother is the person who loves you most in the world, and being a boy you are all rough and insensitive and stuff. So the “don’t tell anyone” aspect of abuse takes on a particular role of being reinforced by a general societal agreement. Be careful round girls, and so on. And as I got older I realised that if I was walking down the street at night and a lone woman was there, I should cross the road to make her feel more safe. Be aware that my mere physical presence was intimidating. That consent, as it is talked about, is simply never about my consent (actually, this isn’t quite true. I feel safe in kink environments where consent is not a gendered concept – the difference from mainstream discourse is striking).

Essentially, the message I get from feminism is that I am a violator and I should stop being so violate-y. When I arrived at University, I read a book which had an entry on what to do to support feminism if you are a man – “Stop raping women”. And my reaction was, I think understandably, FUCK THE FUCK OFF. I AM NOT THE VIOLATOR. It was, to my mind, a fairly clear reinforcement of the “don’t tell” aspect of the abuse I had suffered. Who the fuck was gonna believe me? Men are abusers, not abusees. Man up, live with it. And stop raping.

So, ok, I got over that. I don’t take it personally in that way any more. I oppose rape culture, and I recognise the way in which men *are* largely the ones who need to think about consent. But that was an effort, in which I felt pretty isolated for a while. But I can’t help feel that I’m not alone in that reaction and that at some level the focus on men as violators ignores a fuck load of suffering. I certainly felt I could expect no support, and I think I was exactly right. And I sometimes think it actually *contributes* to rape culture. But mostly I wanted to say that mainstream narratives about privilege, abuse and so on are valuable, but – for my clear personal reasons – I do sometimes think that they can be grossly insensitive to individuals.

18

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 5:06 pm

Since Lynne got the ball rolling. I have two beliefs that are probably unpopular at least among some parts of feminism:
1. A feminism that does not include a strong voice for Sex Workers is not one that I want to be a part of.
2. I think that adults at work, going to conferences, or going to college should be free to sleep with each other/hit on each other if they want (with a whole lot of provisos to prevent abuse).

19

Widmerpool 02.12.15 at 5:11 pm

I’m just an uncool lurker and I was going to burn this nym anyway.

I think MRAs score a rare point when they argue that mainstream feminist discourse marginalizes the fact that men and boys do, in fact, also get raped, and even by women, especially in institutional settings.

Some will respond that grown men outside prisons do not live every day scanning the horizon for the threat of rape. And this is true. But still.

20

Lynne 02.12.15 at 5:11 pm

LizardBreath, I’m glad you mentioned that because I have wondered the same thing. How drunk is too drunk? Not easy to say, maybe, but ….relevant.

21

armando 02.12.15 at 5:16 pm

@LizardBreath: Totally with you on the drink thing. Its one example where it is clear that consent as talked about is so very gendered, in a way that I feel is very unhealthy.

I *have* confronted people on this – survivors of rape, in fact. Which was probably stupid and insensitive of me. But it was interesting watching them defend the position that the time they got tipsy and had some romantic sex was somehow non-consensual sex and wrong, and see them start to compare it in their minds with actual non-consensual sex. They aren’t the same. And the people saying so realised this, once their defensiveness abated somewhat.

Its an understandable defensive reaction, I think. Of anger and outrage. But its no way to actually try to construct sensible, *helpful*, notions of consent. I suspect it does the opposite. If you make unreasonable rules of conduct for people, you just create an understanding that the rules aren’t meant to be taken seriously.

22

CaptFamous 02.12.15 at 5:16 pm

I think protests are overrated; they are an effective means of gathering people who have previously not had a way to get involved, but protests composed mostly of already-active participants are more self-satisfying than useful. They can also be a waste of energy, providing a sense of accomplishment without any actual accomplishment.

Involvement is personal. This is an important fact to recognize for a couple reasons: 1. We should always consider how much our actions are driven by a desire for personal satisfaction at the expense of collective goals 2. You shouldn’t denigrate other people for joining a cause for what you view as “selfish” reasons (assuming these reasons don’t result in an incompatible sent of principles) because you are involved for “selfish” reasons, too.

I think #2 is a particularly big problem with men getting involved in feminism. If patriarchy is bad for men, then there will be men who get involved because it’s bad for them, and they should be able to say as much. Any guy who claims to be a feminist for altruistic reasons is likely lying to either themselves or to you (and possibly a macktivist).

23

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 5:17 pm

LizardBreath I have actually had similar thoughts. I mean if the other person is unconscious the situation is obvious. But what if both parties are just stumbling around silly drunk?

24

LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 5:19 pm

Yeah, what I’m comfortable with right now is actual expressed consent, regardless of intoxication, is consent, because I don’t see how to draw a line at all short of incapacitation. (And that anyone interacting with someone who’s drunk is responsible for being very clear about the difference between active consent and non-resistance, with any confusion blamed on the less intoxicated person.)

But if someone explained a clear ‘too drunk’ line for me short of incapacitation, that might make sense.

25

Zephyrus 02.12.15 at 5:23 pm

On the topic of male-victim rape… I think our media treats it as a joke, and activists and politicians don’t treat it seriously. It’s more widespread than people realize, and if the statistics that MRAs throw around are even partially true, it’s a huge blind spot among people concerned about social justice.

That said… I’m a man who’s been raped twice, once long ago by a man and more recently by a woman. I’ve brought it to five people total, four women whose backgrounds range from non-profit work to medicine to consulting, and one man who works in finance. Of that group of people, four people immediately identified it as rape, offered to help me out in any way, and even went so far as to help me report it. One person laughed and told me to man up and admit that I wanted it.

It probably won’t surprise many people who the odd one out was.

26

Harold 02.12.15 at 5:26 pm

Most rapists are not people who have had a few too many and have had their inhibitions loosened. They are predators, serial offenders who single out vulnerable people.

27

LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 5:31 pm

If that was to me, I do completely agree with that. It seems very clear to me that most rape that involves drinking is about intentional predators raping people who are less able to defend themselves due to intoxication (as in Belle’s incredibly sad and enraging story) rather than to any kind of confusion.

28

Brett Bellmore 02.12.15 at 5:34 pm

“It seems very clear to me that most rape that involves drinking is about intentional predators raping people who are less able to defend themselves due to intoxication”

How do you square this with both parties to the act of intercourse drinking to the point of intoxication? I’m having a bit of trouble here figuring out how, in that quite common circumstance, you identify one drunk person as a victim, and the other drunk person as an aggressor.

29

LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 5:37 pm

And oh look, this is why I’m uncomfortable breaking solidarity to bring up concerns about this stuff. Brett, I think Belle’s asleep, but she did ask that this thread be a safe place. In the spirit of openness and generosity, think if the direction you’re trying to take the conversation in is something that is likely to be deleted when she’s paying attention again, and maybe spare her the effort?

30

Robert 02.12.15 at 5:40 pm

So I have trouble relating to feminism, and not just because the dominant strain defines me as irredeemably ignorant as well as being, to paraphrase Reagan, “The source of evil in the modern world.”

I have trouble with feminism because it seems to me that many feminists cannot decide if they are humanists or not. On the one hand, the notion that we all share a human condition and a roughly similar proportion of virtue and vice is pretty important in the history of feminism and for the whole anti-sexism, pro-people agenda to even be able to be articulated in a reasonable way. On the other hand identity politics and the notion of women as inherently superior, or, more generally, as the oppressed as generally superior, seems to find a lot of purchase in leftism and feminism.

It’s also discomforting that male feminism is often regarded as a rather pathetic and always inadequate performance. When you create a social stigma around bad behavior there’s an implicit promise that if you get right with the New Deal, whatever it is, that you won’t have the stigma attached to you, but the attitude of feminists towards men who try to be feminist seems dismissive and contemptuous in equal measure. Nothing is ever enough. Indeed, more is worse. It really does seem that male feminists are regarded like Quislings, degraded and pathetic creatures. By feminists!

I remember in college I tried to volunteer for a rape crisis charity. After weeks of impromptu lectures from the people I was meeting with, during which I said I would be happy to wash dishes or stack boxes, I was ultimately told that I was good for nothing at all, unless I wanted to pay them to be lectured on the evils of men and then go out and lecture other groups of men on the evils of men (the brochure made sure to specify that this would “not be a discussion” and that we were there to “hear their experience” only.)

So my own life experience has been that feminists in America want to “own” the problem of rape, and they very specifically don’t want my help with it. Which is unfortunate, as I’m no longer a penniless college student, but rather a fairly successful professional. Because there are very few safe spaces to talk about the space between the feminism that is and the feminism I imagined I wanted to be a part of as a young man, and because the only winning move in identity politics is not to play, I pretty much ignore feminism and its complaints.

31

armando 02.12.15 at 5:41 pm

“Yeah, what I’m comfortable with right now is actual expressed consent, regardless of intoxication, is consent”

Yeah, if you don’t draw a line there, it takes you to some pretty ugly places.

32

Brett Bellmore 02.12.15 at 5:44 pm

I thought it was supposed to be a safe place to bring up *unpopular* thoughts about feminism. Which I didn’t take to mean a guy confessing that his whole gender is evil.

My unpopular thought about feminism, is that it claims to be about fighting patriarchy, but is actually about imposing matriarchy in it’s place. This explains why most women reject it: They don’t hate men.

33

LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 5:47 pm

(Not that I’m the police around here, but given that I griped at Brett after his first comment, his second comment seems fine to me as I understand Belle’s rules.)

34

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.12.15 at 5:49 pm

Maybe I haven’t read enough feminist writing, but the idea that false accusations of rape virtually don’t exist seems like straw man to me. I’ve heard that they’re rare enough to not affect surveys & studies aimed at assessing the frequency of rape, but that claim isn’t strong enough to have implications for disciplinary policies at places like university campuses, it seems to me.

Was that some woman? Y’all know you didn’t even think for a second that it was.

re this, here’s the closest thing to an antifeminist position that I’ll state (actually, I think it’s rather something that most feminists would agree with, but MRA types would accuse them/us of denying):

There isn’t a social expectation that girls be able to defend themselves physically from their peers, as there is for boys; girls aren’t stigmatized for not being violent enough, and have the privilege of being able to appeal to authority against violent people without social repercussions. This doesn’t just make boys grow up to be more violent, but profoundly affects their sense of personal security–physical and otherwise. It really would have been nice, growing up as a boy, to have been immediately able to see threats of physical violence and other bullying as a serious shortcoming of my social environment and not as a personal flaw (that I wasn’t tough enough, or confident enough).

Belle’s story is one fragment in a huge pile of evidence that girls and women don’t actually have such easy recourse to authority (and there are a lot of other things one could point to that complicate this picture further), but at the same time, I wonder if things like sexual violence aren’t a lot more shocking for girls because they generally do have the expectation that they ought to be protected by others? In other words, especially when you go back closer to childhood (as adults, we’d just call the police if someone physically threatens us), events that are major episodes of victimization for girls, fail to stand out as much from the background noise when they happen to boys. (And then the situation is reversed again post-puberty, when women/girls are exposed to more frequent, casual sexual harassment.)

35

js. 02.12.15 at 5:51 pm

This Amanda Hess piece is very good and very relevant to the drunk sex debate, and also to colleges’ handling of sexual assault and misconduct.

And Belle, thank you.

36

Brett Bellmore 02.12.15 at 5:58 pm

” events that are major episodes of victimization for girls, fail to stand out as much from the background noise when they happen to boys.”

As I child, and very much not at the top of the social pecking order at my elementary school, I had the nerve to speak to a girl who was at the top. I ended up being held down by several other students while she repeatedly kicked me in the balls. Kind of a “Know your place, nerd!” moment.

This did stand out from the background noise. In fact, it stood out enough that I didn’t go on a date until my late 30’s. Shy didn’t begin to describe my relationship with women.

So, no, I think things do stand out from the background noise even for guys.

37

Luke 02.12.15 at 6:17 pm

@12
I’m also sympathetic to the ‘why would you just go and adopt another gender role’ line. Two things give me pause, however. Firstly, I can’t understand the subjective experience of someone who claims to suffer from dysphoria, and it seems humane to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially given the difficulties involved. Secondly, aren’t we just assigning another (different) gender role when we say trans women are men? Do women have the right to be girly?

@17
Brownmiller wrote quite a lot about men raping men, though I found her thesis a bit insufficient (transference of gender roles in situations where no women existed, IIRC).

Finally, my own unacceptable view: I’m sex-negative (as opposed to ‘sex positive’). To be fair, this is still a debated issue, but it does rather seem as if younger feminists in particular are moving toward the position that sex industry (porn, accessories, sex work, whatever) is basically or potentially positive. I think this is misguided: we’ve already seen how e.g. porn re-inscribes class and racial boundaries. I’m also concerned that sex products produce norms (or even implicit normative values) regarding sexual practice. I’m not sure whether there’s such a thing as sexual authenticity, but I’d rather the romantic imagination wasn’t mass produced.

38

ragweed 02.12.15 at 6:38 pm

I am a guy, and perhaps I should stay out of trying to define the rules for this thread, but it seems to me that recognizing that this shit is real and happens to real people should be part of it. Bella and several other folks on this thread have shared some pretty intense experiences that actually happened.

The valuable reason for sharing unpopular ideas about feminism seems to me to address those real situations that “popular” thinking doesn’t address or addresses poorly (scare quotes on popular because I don’t think its really clear that there is a feminist party line). Discussion of the experience of men getting raped and all the complex issues that brings up seems really relevant (though probably shouldn’t dominate). Tired arguments about straw-man matriarchy less so.

39

Shatterface 02.12.15 at 6:45 pm

LizardBreath: But there is a fair amount of rhetoric from anti-rape advocates who I am mostly entirely in agreement with on issues around rape generally, saying that it is impossible to give consent when intoxicated at all.

This came up in a recent discussion about Russell T Davies’ new series Cucumber and I think it’s useful to bring this up as it addresses drunken sex without making it a man vs woman issue – because the participants were all male and all drunk.

In the first episode the middle-aged couple Henry and Lance are in a failed gay relationship; they invite a young homeless man they meet at a nightclub back home with them on the condition he has a threesome with them. He is clearly pissed as a fart while Henry and Lance are only slightly less drunk.

Henry backs out at the last moment, Lance and the young guy have sex, Henry calls the police claiming the guy is an intruder and the young guy (who is naked) is arrested after attempting to assault a police officer.

Now, if intoxicated people cannot give consent this is rape. The young guy is drinker than the other man, he’s homeless, and by any standards in a vulnerable position. If this scene had involved a young homeless woman the scene would have been widely condemned.

But it’s not so long since homosexuality was illegal and the gay community is perhaps more wary about criminalising what for many gay and straight people is normal behaviour; alcohol plays a large part in our social lives and nobody expects to have to pass a breathalyser test to prove their own consent is free.

The objection to alcohol fuelled sex has traditionally assumed that a woman who is drunk may regret that sex later and characterise it as rape; there is a lot of social pressure to do so. Since arguments then polarise into automatic belief in the woman’s side of the story or knee-jerk rejection of it based on assumptions about unequal power relationships.

Yet young men or women often experiment sexually and use alcohol to lower inhibitions; and those who regret experimenting with partners of the same sex might find themselves pressured into redefining an unsatisfactory sexual experience as rape.

Right now tribal affiliations are easy to determine; that’s not going to be so straightforward if the conflict is between straight men or women who regret a sexual experiment and men or women more confident about their sexual identity who suddenly find themselves accused of rape.

40

Widmerpool 02.12.15 at 6:53 pm

Not trying to derail, but I predict that the college drinking/sexual assault issue will truly hit the fan when, in the near future, Fox News gets wind of a case at a big school in which the accuser and the accused are the same gender.

41

Brett Bellmore 02.12.15 at 6:58 pm

It’s already hitting the fan, the tort lawyers have smelled blood in the water, and are going after school administrations for violations of civil liberties in their treatment of accused students.

42

Matt 02.12.15 at 6:59 pm

I will second LizardBreath’s confusion/trepidation about the issue of inebriated consent. I have been with the same person for many years, and buzzed sex involving alcohol and/or other substances is not uncommon. Usually there’s not explicit stepwise verbal consent to sexual escalation either.

43

Shatterface 02.12.15 at 7:00 pm

Not trying to derail, but I predict that the college drinking/sexual assault issue will truly hit the fan when, in the near future, Fox News gets wind of a case at a big school in which the accuser and the accused are the same gender.

Or, as happened in the past, accusations are made disproportionately at ethnic minorities. Straight white cis male vs straight white female isn’t going to task the liberal mind; underprivileged black guy vs wealthy white woman might; Asian cis woman vs black transwoman is going to open up a real can of worms.

44

Sacha Sokoloski 02.12.15 at 7:01 pm

So I consider myself a feminist, and not just because I see myself as ‘trying to help out’, but also because I don’t like where it’s supposed to put me (as a guy). I hate all the bullshit about how men and trusted around kids, for example, and I remember watching Kramer vs Kramer and being near something which weren’t quite tears the entire time. Thank god for that generation of Hollywood publishing really groundbreaking stuff, like a grown man behaving like an adult and the strong bond between him and his child (and Meryl Streep pulls off an incredibly difficult role as well).

Anyway, my difficult opinion, which isn’t just about feminism but about identity politics in general, is that I don’t know where to draw the line between between people needing to shape how they’re perceived, and people just needing to learn to ignore other peoples opinions. Are you a young women trying to make it in academia? Well, just ignore all that bullshit and push through. And I don’t mean that as admonishment, but as genuine advice. My wife is fighting this fight at the moment, and this is the way she deals with it, and although we’re just PhDs, she’s certainly pulling it off so far.

And I feel this way about a lot of these things. I felt this way about people needing to define sexuality as not a choice, or with transgendered people and the constant debates over pronouns and the like. For me personally, I feel one of my greatest strengths is that I don’t let other people define me, and I don’t let their opinions – though I may listen to them attentively – disturb my sense of confidence and self.

I often think back to Marcus Aurelius, and Stoicism in general, about how we can’t control our world, but rather only our perception of it. Moreover, I feel like so much of identity politics is about labels, and putting oneself in one box or another. It doesn’t matter what label you have! You ARE one way or another! Stop trying to label yourself, and rather find yourself! Once you do that, you’ll realise that no one can change who you are, and all their labels don’t mean shit!

But of course, I’m a white man. I’m the default. So people don’t expect me to be much one way or the other. I’m entitled to do what I want, more so than anyone else. Of course it’s not perfect, and people do try and define me. Nevertheless, there’s probably a really broad and problematic gradient of that one could draw with white man at the top and some combination of race, sex, and sexuality at the bottom, in terms of what society will tolerate us being.

My wife has in fact made it clear to me that she does not enjoy these conversations, because she doesn’t want to have to think about it – her primary way of dealing with being a woman in academia is by ignoring it. I give her the space she wants, of course, but I see how desperately problematic the situation is, and I want it to be fixed. Here identity politics also distorts this picture, because I feel this problem is often characterized as bad men oppressing women, when the real problem is a whole social structure which cannot be fixed on a individual level, centered on issues such as maternity leave and paternity leave, and enforced accomodation of such things so as to not allow a woman’s career to be ruined for commiting the crime of having a child during her child bearing years…

And through all this back and forth in my head I still don’t know how to shake this conflict, or where to draw the lines. And a lot of what I feel like I see in these debates, is people projecting their own way of dealing with difficult situations onto everyone else, to validate their own perception of self. I often think about the woman who was raped by Roman Polanski (there’s a dark irony in this sentence) who I’ve read interviews with, where she proclaims frustration with people telling her endlessly how she is supposed to feel about what happened, and that she is the victim, when all she wants to do is take control of her own life.

I support the right of everyone to be who they are, and I also took solace in Belle’s recent post about how political correctness is just basic politness and consideration, after the hundreth time of trying to explain to some of my European colleagues that North Americans don’t just have some random stick up their ass about this topic. All that being said, the obsession with identity, as one of perception as opposed to being, I think is a very mixed bag.

45

Ze Kraggash 02.12.15 at 7:01 pm

“Was that some woman? Y’all know you didn’t even think for a second that it was.”

I didn’t have to think for a second to know that it was some criminal. Generalizing about dangerous or unpleasant people’s irrelevant characteristics usually isn’t a good idea. It can easily lead where we don’t want to go.

46

Main Street Muse 02.12.15 at 7:04 pm

Belle – I am sorry you were raped. That man was and is a rapist – a criminal – a disgusting man.

And I totally agree with you that campuses should NOT be prosecuting rape cases! And often there are students acting as the judges! Insanity!

And I also agree that false rape charges exist – witness the whole Rolling Stone debacle over their UVA gang-rape story.

I do not think we’re sending our teenagers to college with ANY understanding of sex, sexuality, sexual relationships. (See the Steubenville rape case as example – boys raped an unconscious girl and sent pix to people.) It’s highly problematic.

47

Elizabeth Wydville 02.12.15 at 7:07 pm

I see that several of the comments are from people who don’t really identify as feminists explaining why they don’t. That seems like a separate issue from what the post is getting at, i.e., that people who generally identify as feminists sometimes have problems with particular feminist ideas or subgroups. It would be nice if the latter could be heard without being drowned out by the former, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

For my part, I’m a feminist, always have been, but I find that I’m irked by the way some feminists talk about childcare and childcare providers. There’s sometimes an “anyone can wipe runny noses” attitude that I see, a dismissiveness about the labor and skills of people hired to look after children. It does not accord with my experience at all. I understand where it comes from – the perfectly natural and necessary desire to break free from the ideal of motherhood and its various traps. But the fact remains, it’s actually difficult to find someone with the patience and fortitude to look after one child, let alone multiple children.

What people don’t seem to acknowledge is that what you are looking for in a daycare provider is someone who is actually better at minding your children than you yourself are. Yes, most of us parents slog along without degrees in early childhood education, and we get through it without making too many major mistakes. But the patience and fortitude one displays toward one’s own child is hard to muster day-in day-out for someone else’s. And we allow ourselves slips, like yelling or even the occasional smack, that we would never tolerate in a babysitter. So really what you are looking for is someone with a certain specific temperament and set of skills that even you yourself probably don’t possess.

I notice this because I happen to send my children to an extremely well-run daycare, and I remark all the time on the serenity and talent of the teachers. Part of it is that this particular center is run by my university, so it receives subsidies as well as fees, which means the teachers get a good salary and benefits. They therefore tend to stay in their jobs for decades, developing their skills over time. They are also allowed the time to develop a rapport with the children in their care. Most daycares pay very little and have high turnover, meaning the children don’t get attached to individual providers.

48

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 7:12 pm

“I do not think we’re sending our teenagers to college with ANY understanding of sex, sexuality, sexual relationships. “

Yeah. This is a huge issue.

49

Patrick 02.12.15 at 7:17 pm

Yeah, if ever there was an issue that drives a wedge between me and feminism, it’s the refusal to acknowledge the connection between alcohol and sex in peoples lives. Same with the current fad for affirmative consent requirements for explicit step wise sexual initiation and escalation.

I don’t think these things will lead to a spare of false rape accusations, as some claim.

I just think that the point of ethics is to provide a practical guide for people’s lives. People are going to drink and have sex. They’re going to playfully push boundaries sexually. And the vast majority will have a great time. If you declare these things to be immoral, everyone will ignore you.

I think affirmative consent and the weird fog surrounding alcohol and rape is the feminist equivalent of conservatives who declare how great it would be if all teens everywhere never had sex again. Who needs birth control then, right? But that’s not going to happen, and the moral assumptions that demand it are shady, so let’s come up with ethical rules that work for real people.

50

Map Maker 02.12.15 at 7:43 pm

Lynne stole my message. I am very uncomfortable with 18-21 young adults making decisions to undergo permanent gender reassignment treatments. I am uncomfortable with the reasons they feel they need to do this, uncomfortable that we live in a society that makes them feel they need to do this. Seeing one of my local 7 sisters dealing with the fact that there are now men there is a painful backdoor way for them going coed that I didn’t see coming.

FGM has similarities to gender reassignment therapy, including the age of the person giving consent – something like mid-teens in some cultures I’m aware of, vs. 18-21 at US colleges?

51

Lynne 02.12.15 at 7:49 pm

Luke @ 35 Gender roles are socially constructed, our sex is not. This is my unpopular belief. It is not surprising to me that the more rigid the gender roles, the more people there are that feel they don’t fit those roles. I wonder how many people really do feel like they fit the roles, in all or even most ways.

52

Map Maker 02.12.15 at 7:50 pm

sorry – I did mean sex reassignment, not gender…

53

Luke 02.12.15 at 8:06 pm

I appreciate that, and I agree that sex is not constructed (to the extent that anything isn’t, anyway). I guess what I’m trying to say is: I still feel like the assertion that people who are born with one sex should stick to it is itself the imposition of a kind of gender role — a meta-role, if you will.

If nothing else, I see trans people fighting the good fight against restrictive gender roles (and dying for it, quite often).

Not trying to start a fight here, but this seems like a safe space to have this awkward conversation.

54

politicalfootball 02.12.15 at 8:17 pm

Brett@34: That was a generous bit of biographical information to share. Sorry you’ve had it rough.

55

bi-state curious 02.12.15 at 8:28 pm

Gender roles are socially constructed, our sex is not.

Or.

56

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.12.15 at 8:32 pm

Brett @34 So, no, I think things do stand out from the background noise even for guys.

In case this wasn’t clear, I didn’t mean that men aren’t really victimized in ways that don’t fit neatly into existing (for lack of a better word) politicized narratives, but that many boys probably do have experiences that are just that bad, but that we don’t ever elevate to the level of a ‘public’ (or politicizable) concern in the way that, say, sexual abuse is. Or in other words, a truly terrible experience like the one you went through is (rightly or wrongly) seen as something feminism does not care about, and we feel that we are recognizing its serious in spite of feminism.

@36 The valuable reason for sharing unpopular ideas about feminism seems to me to address those real situations that “popular” thinking doesn’t address or addresses poorly (scare quotes on popular because I don’t think its really clear that there is a feminist party line). Discussion of the experience of men getting raped and all the complex issues that brings up seems really relevant (though probably shouldn’t dominate). Tired arguments about straw-man matriarchy less so.

IMO this is right on the money. And then the next step is to look at all the data together and see if there are consistent blind spots. Or does feminism have a blind spot for bullying that is not explicitly patriarchal or heteronormative, in the way that actually existing atheism has an islamophobia problem?

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milx 02.12.15 at 8:37 pm

feel the same way about trans issues – that sex is not socially constructed, but gender roles are. and that getting surgery does not make you into the opposite gender (and that, in fact, it is impossible to know what it means to be a gender you weren’t born as – that you can only know your own feelings about what it means to be that gender). But as a corollary that as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, that we should allow ppl to modify their bodies in whatever manner they please, and they can call themselves whatever they want, and if you’re sensitive to their feelings you’ll respect those decisions. but that respecting someone’s feelings about themselves does not mean taking on an entire ideology that is pretty illogical and incoherent in philosophical terms.

i also believe that there is a lot of bullying on the left, that a lot of the left has adopted identity politics (race, gender, sex) to the exclusion of addressing equality, egalitarianism, and even socialism. that you risk being ostracized from the left if you raise these concerns, mocked for your beliefs, and considered a bad person. that you can’t be skeptical of a rape accusation without being called a rape denier. or in some circles you can’t be skeptical of a radical, revolutionary political movement w/out being an apologist for colonialism. i also believe that post-colonialism focuses on the West as a locus of evil when it has historically been the biggest source of progression + standard of living increases in the history of humanity. i believe that huge swaths of the left are totally irresponsible + i’ve gone from considering myself a radical leftist to being grateful that the democratic party in the US are just republicans lite.

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 8:38 pm

Luke, I don’t feel like you are trying to start a fight. I agree it’s worth exploring. The thing is… I don’t think we can change who we physically are just because we don’t like it. I will never have blue eyes, for instance. If I didn’t identify as a white woman (which I am) I can’t become black or native, however much I might want to. It isn’t possible. And I wonder, if I claimed to have done so, would I be welcomed into black or native activist circles? I who had no history of the racism they’d lived with all their lives?

Further, it alarms me to hear of little boys who think they must be little girls because they want to dress up and do girl things rather than boy things. I don’t know these children personally, it is all anecdotal in the newspaper and online, but it is terrifying to me. Children are so vulnerable. How would a child get the idea that there is something wrong with him because he doesn’t play sports and so on? Some adult must have given him that idea. In all the stories I’ve read the reasons the boys give for not believing they are boys are exactly about the trivial gender-role garbage. I would like those children to know they are perfect, just the way they are.

When someone said to Gloria Steinem, “You don’t look like you are sixty”, meaning it as a compliment, she said, “This is what sixty looks like.” So a little boy who dresses up is a little boy who dresses up. There is nothing wrong with him. It doesn’t make him a girl.

The other side of it is that this drive to accept transwomen as women like any other is taking away the few women-only spaces left. If a woman goes to a rape crisis centre she should be able to talk to a female counsellor if she wants, to refer to a landmark case in Canada where a rape crisis centre was forced to hire a transwoman as a counsellor.

Women have had to fight on many fronts, but to have men now assert that they can become women is a very intimate front to have to fight on. It is like we are being colonized, frankly (and now that really is something I don’t expect anyone to want to hear).

I don’t know if transpeople fight traditional gender roles. I don’t know any personally, but the ones I see and read seem to be emphasizing the roles—they look more feminine than I do in their make-up and heels.

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dn 02.12.15 at 8:44 pm

I’m sympathetic to radical critiques of gender roles and especially agree with Lynne that the hyper-gendering of childhood is a terrible, terrible thing.

But I also want to respectfully disagree with Lynne and agree with Luke: I don’t understand how feminists can ask others to take the experiences of women seriously on their own terms without being willing to do the same for those who identify as trans. I agree that SRS is something that people should be very cautious about committing to, especially at a young age. But this goes beyond that; it amounts to arguing that you know trans peoples’ minds better than they know themselves. And it seems to me that that’s a classic patriarchal trope, ironically enough.

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MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 8:45 pm

“Sorry you’ve had it rough.”

Seconded.

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afeman 02.12.15 at 8:54 pm

Thank you for sharing that, Belle. Somebody I know had a similar early experience; she described a later, more joyful physical relationship as “taking back the night”.

I’m uncomfortable ascribing gripes to feminism writ large, as opposed to certain individuals or camps.

Some of the rhetoric around affirmative consent strikes me as ripe for blowback, in particular how objections get framed as so transparently ridiculous that they must be insincere or clueless. For example, there are in fact people who argue for explicit verbal consent. This is not strawmanning. They assure how hot that can be, much like the apologia we got for premarital celibacy in Sunday school. John Holbo, as I recall, resolved in favor of the non-verbal consent argument by saying we just have to trust prosecutors’ judgement the way we already do. That was maybe a week before the grand jury announcement in Ferguson.

I agree there won’t be a wave of false accusations, but the kind of situations Amanda Hess describes seem inevitable.

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drlemur 02.12.15 at 8:55 pm

Belle, your story is very real and very familiar. I know so many women with similar stories, the numbers are staggering. While I am completely sympathetic to concerns of male victims and the transgendered, statistically, the issues just do not affect comparable numbers of people (unless the male victims in prison numbers are real, but that’s an issue about prison really more than sexual assault). Is that a controversial opinion?

Perhaps not, so here is sort of another. I am a white, straight male raised a feminist by a feminist single mother. I went to a lot of pro-ERA, women’s rights, defending abortion access, etc., rallies throughout my childhood. This way of thinking is fairly baked in, although it is still super easy to temporarily forget how lucky I am to have the advantages of being raised white, male, middle class, professional, etc. But I try my best.

The potentially interesting thing is that having been raised to see women as equals, deserving of full respect, and certainly never as objects — puberty was f**king terrifying. Suddenly the hormones kick in and “not objectifying” is, like, impossible. Porn and the rest of the sex industry seem wrong (demeaning, etc.) but holy cow is it attractive. And when you are young, you think all those “don’t rape” messages are aimed at you and in the back of your head you fear that you might secretly be a monster, too. Adolescence is hard in a lot of ways because you don’t even know who you are yet.

Fortunately, a few years and a few life experiences later, it becomes a lot clearer (I’m a grownup now and have raised 4 feminist kids with my wife of 25 years). Later adolescence (college and just beyond), I learned that desire is actually ok. Women even feel desire too. Hook ups happen when desires coincide and everything is fine, even if both parties were a bit more interested in the physical than anything else at the time (objectification is ok in limited circumstances when everybody is on the same page). You realize you aren’t actually a monster (at least most of us aren’t — most sexual assaults are committed by a small number of repeat offenders), even if you aren’t perfect; like maybe that one time you shouldn’t have said that thing that came across as way creepy after a couple of drinks.

But I see echoes of my adolescent confusion in a lot of the whining of “anti-feminist” types across the internet. Young, and still in fear that their desire is wrong, in fear that they might be one of the monsters, they lash out at the whole concept — “you can’t tell me what I should feel.” To these guys, the answer is: just don’t be an asshole. Yes, it takes some social awareness not to be creepy. And yes, this is some work and also some embarrassment when you screw up and have to apologize. But it’s still way less work than what women have to learn to do to cope with the real monsters out there, so shut up about complaining about it.

I’ve always felt that “being PC” is roughly synonymous with “don’t be an asshole.” Which amusingly makes that “anti-PC” crowd objectively pro asshole. Which is like, okay, fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think we’re going to be friends.

And when dealing with these guys, the rest of us might need just a drop of sympathy for the genuinely confused. Mostly these young men need more normal social interactions with women so they can learn what really creeps them out (and how often it happens) and that women are real people with their own desires, flaws, insecurities and not some weird, abstract man-hating harridans. Ok, maybe man-hating, but really, you can’t study history or sociology without hating men collectively, even if you love a few individually (this is true for both men and women).

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Patrick 02.12.15 at 8:58 pm

The only trans person I know went through six massive changes in self identity, the latest of which was trans. In one of them they moved overseas, regretted it, and came back to a significantly disrupted career. They now take the position that they were secretly trans the whole time. They’ve dived into self modification with a gusto that is now familiar.

I want them to be happy, and they’ve made clear that they need support. So I give my support.

But I’m terrified that this will last on longer than the other efforts at self identification. And this one may not be reversible. I know the feminist norm is to proclaim the primacy of self-asserted personal experience, as discussed by others above. And I can socially respect their assertions of how they identify. But I can’t buy it. Not yet. My friend seems like they’re just generally uncomfortable with themselves, and like they’ve spent their whole life casting about for the framework to explain that discomfort. Maybe transgenderism is that framework and they’re finally coming home to a place where they’ll find comfort.

But I thought that before, and it sure didn’t work out. I’m worried.

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MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 9:00 pm

“We just have to trust prosecutors’ judgement the way we already do”

I hate this but I really, really don’t see another alternative. I wish I did and if someone can think of one that seems sensible I will happily come along.

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John Lol's 02.12.15 at 9:07 pm

—–
If you’re the kind of person to get your back up at anything even remotely critical of feminism, don’t even bother. Anyone who can’t take criticism or won’t give the benefit of good intentions isn’t someone I can speak with and listen to.
Beyond that, skip to #4 or #2 for the main ones.
——
Firstly, are you planning on writing a book? You should think about writing a book.
Two, you know, I’ve been reading Crooked Timbers since senior year of HS-which was two years ago-and I’ve been thinking about stopping over the sheer amount of trash that came up in: re the Chait piece. Even if I didn’t find his arguments compelling, both the posters and the commenters were un-be-lievable dismissive. So I am glad this opportunity for some free thought is allowed.
Three, to the point. With a few stray exceptions, this thread has been dominated by people born pre-1992 and identify as feminists.
Before I get to the point, a word on context. I’m sure what I say will elicit a response something like: not all feminists believe X, or act like X. Well, I’m talking about the strains of feminism I run into as a student on a large public university with twentysomethings and younger. Take this as you will.
A lot of people might wonder what dog I have in this fight. As someone on the very lowest rung of academia, the way the highly educated discuss political issues matters a great deal to me. And as a mix of left-liberalism and ’68 radicalism, it’s up my alley to care how the left treats matters.

Aiiiight, throat clearing.
#1 A reliance on essentialism.
Men bad, women good. accuser must be protected, accused must be subject to the fullest examination of the law and some. Ally good, skeptic shitlord.
There are probably ways to analyze the discourse of feminist writings, but I’ll concede there is no way to empirically prove this.
Problem is that much feminist rhetoric doesn’t really capture the nuances of life, of people, of thoughts. You might think I’m spekaing to ’70s feminists, but believe me, just go through tumblr. Nuance is nowhere.
This leads to…
#2: A project of ultimate ends
You see this on the sexual assault issues. Even if I agree that it’s a categorically different type of crime (unsure, leaning yes), alll sorts of goods are subverted to achieve this one end. Anyone who suggests that there are other things that need to be considered in formulating policies is shut down in a hail of claims of rape appologist. Even while accepting that the way victims report the crime is messy and trauma seriously screws with a person’s memory…that should factor into a decision how?
But long story short, value-weighing tunnel vision.
#3 No schilling fence
My mention of this outs me as a reader of Scott Alexander. He’s one of the half-dozen websites I go to every few days alongside Lawyersgunsmoney, here, the guardian, popehat for fun, and a few others. My issue with feminists in this sense is the following: once the feminist ideology has left the station, where does it stop? Again, try going to /r/tumblrinaction. Scroll through that little treasure trove. And without appealing to the social sciences, ask yourself how a feminist would respond to the foul shit they find. Basically it seems like the only way to object to the extremes is by some appeal to common decency..which seems a little out of place…or social stat, which is usefully ignored elsewhere…
#4 in-group dynamics gone wild

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LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 9:10 pm

That is a big part of what worries me so much about the idea that affirmatively expressed consent isn’t consent if you’re intoxicated — that it does seem to plausibly lead to absurd results like mutual rape. I am honestly unsure of how much of a strawman that standard is: that is, I’ve seen people advocate it as a standard, but I’m sort of assuming most of them didn’t mean it literally in practice. And I really don’t know to what extent it’s applied incoherently by colleges (I am pretty sure, although I don’t have all 50 states’ criminal laws at my finger tips, that the standard that worries me isn’t a criminal standard anywhere.) The Amanda Hess article describes an actual case of a mutually drunk couple who voluntarily had sex and then Occidental College expelled the man for it, but googling around for confirmation that it actually happened like that, I didn’t see anything other the complaint where he sued Occidental. So, maybe it (that is,punishment for sex where everyone agrees that both parties actively expressed consent at the time, but they were both drunk) happens, I doubt it happens much, but I don’t actually know.

I don’t think affirmative consent has anything like the same problems. It doesn’t clarify all possible situations, but I don’t think it’s likelier to lead to absurd results than the status quo, and it solves some problems.

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AcademicLurker 02.12.15 at 9:20 pm

I am honestly unsure of how much of a strawman that standard is: that is

From listening to other people’s anecdotes, it seems like this standard is most often encountered form overzealous freshman orientation counselors. At least with all of the people I know of who claim that they literally heard this exact standard put forth, that’s who they heard it from.

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William Timberman 02.12.15 at 9:20 pm

Lynne’s concerns interest me, both in general and specific terms. Evolved gender roles, and the need for them, is real enough, it seems to me, even though both appear indeterminate and co-dependent on the evolution of society, at least in the West. What seems less real is the need for the presently crude instruments of hormone therapy and surgery to adjust the sex of individuals to make them fit more comfortably into the gender roles that appear desirable to them. It’s not that we don’t — and haven’t always — made adjustments in our physical bodies to accommodate our ambitions for ourselves, it’s that in this case, the adjustments seem prematurely radical as well as irreversible, and that if we had the patience to strive for them, other more comfortably achievable solutions might be available.

I’m not talking about science fiction-like genetic engineering, or morphological nano-magic — steel bones, computer/brain interfaces, changeable skin pigmentation, whole-body transplantations and the like. One day such things might be possible — who knows — but not, I think, in the foreseeable future. Right now, Lynne’s discomfort seems justified.

To be honest, I feel a bit like I’m stepping into bob mcmanus territory when I say this, but sex reassignment smacks to me of an individual solution, and a drastic one, to what is in fact a social and political problem. Is there really no way that we could make the world safe for an expansion of sanctified gender roles without, as desperate individuals trapped what we believe to be intolerable situations, submitting ourselves — trusting ourselves — to the ministrations of surgeons whose record of successful interventions is questionable at best?

At this point, I should probably sit back down and let transgendered folks have have floor. I’ve read a lot of polemics, and novel or two, but I’ve yet to read anything from the transgendered community which is as clear to me about why they’re doing what they’re doing, as Belle’s writings are about the consequences of feminism, but that may be either because I’ve not looked hard enough, or because I’ve not really been paying the right kind of attention.

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gianni 02.12.15 at 9:23 pm

Lynne – not much by way of reaction, but I share some of your ‘unpopular thoughts’, especially wrt sex-change vs. up-ending gender roles.

I also totally agree with those above on the absurdity of university justice on issues of sexual misconduct. The incentive structure facing university administrators is often such that they would prefer to suppress these sorts of charges to preserve their brand name rather than legitimately resolve the cases as they come. So then the university gets called out, and overreacts because their incentive structure is geared not towards discerning the proper course of justice, but instead towards managing their public image and making clear demonstration that they are ‘doing something about it’.

Institutions not properly outfitted for the dispensation of justice should not be assigned that social function. Especially when they may have significant financial interest in one or another outcome of said judicial process (!)

My alma matter recently hired an ex-judge to serve as an independent consultant on issues of sexual misconduct. My thoughts are that this should be a generalized thing – a group of legal experts standing as an independent body, separate from any specific university/college but available to all for consult, to guarantee that proper standards are upheld, and exist as a check on the narrow interests of the uni administrators.

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Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 9:26 pm

I have sympathy for everyone who’s been sexually assaulted. Other than saying that, I have no idea how to possibly write in a way that isn’t quite identifiable as me, so I don’t think this space would really be safe for me even if I took on a pseudonym.

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bianca steele 02.12.15 at 9:27 pm

@19.2 makes a lot of sense. But I’ve done that exercise and gone the other way. For a long time I tried to write a story about a sexual experience I had in college–much too ambiguous to describe fully in a comment box–and finally I realized that the reason I was having trouble with it–the reason I couldn’t describe my own behavior in a way that made sense–was because it had not occurred to me that the guy was at fault. It was not factoring into the story in any way. I would not say today that it was rape. I don’t know whether if I’d resisted more forcefully/continued to resist he’d have left me alone, or he’d have held me down “playfully,” or he’d have manipulated me into a place where it was harder for me to get away, or how much resistance that would have taken. But an objective observer, I think, would have to say that he coerced me and was in the wrong. To write the story I would have to describe him as an aggressor. (Which, for complicated reasons, didn’t fit with rest of the story as I’d imagined it.)

And it wasn’t just a “nonverbal sexual initiation.” It wasn’t, ultimately, a pleasant experience. It didn’t lead to a fulfilling relationship. It led to periodic bouts of further manipulation and a lot of wasted time and lost opportunities to do other things.

I don’t think I should have been encouraged to press charges of sexual assault (it was a few years too early for that). But I’ve heard too many stories about women blamed for rapes after they started throwing things, shouting “get out of my room,” and so on, or in situations no reasonable person would think defaulted to “sexual,” because they didn’t resist “enough”. There has to be some place before that where it becomes a crime. Playful as grabbing someone and throwing them on a bed may sometimes be, I think I’m willing to draw the line at saying this is not okay on campus without explicit verbal consent, because there seems to be no way to distinguish this from intentional assault.

These are young people who have no living space except their bedrooms, living in mixed-gender dorms, with no parietal rules at all, except restrictions on non-students and off-campus dwellers. People move in and out of rooms all the time. It’s often not considered okay to lock your door. You can’t talk quietly or study together unless you’re in a bedroom. You don’t say to someone, “Wait outside while I get the book you asked to borrow,” you let them into your room and you let the door close. College students don’t have a lot of breathing space if they start to feel unsafe.

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temp 02.12.15 at 9:29 pm

I don’t think it’s necessarily a social or political problem. Biological sex has both physical and mental aspects. Sometimes these are misaligned due to problems in development. Twins studies suggest a fairly strong genetic component (as well as environmental components). Surgery can correct the misalignment. And it basically works–satisfaction with surgery is generally high.

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Bruce Baugh 02.12.15 at 9:33 pm

Some of the trans stuff here is making me boil over in frustration and I don’t have the time or brain today to offer some other angles. I make note here that I’d like to and will return to it when I can.

I can offer a few pointers. Julie Serano’s memoir and advocacy piece Whipping Girl is a good read by someone who’s thought a lot about what she and others are doing. If you’re on Facebook, also look up Jenelle Jacquays, a long-time figure in the roleplaying and computer game world (published as Paul Jacquays) who’s undergoing a middle-aged transition and is a delightful writer about herself and her concerns. Since trans women’s experiences are sometimes easier to find being discussed, I also point at What Becomes You, a joint memoir by artist Aaron Link and his mother Hilda Raz. Personal note – Aaron’s a long-time very close friend of a long-time close friend, and I really enjoyed the times we had to visit. He’s got a remarkable visual and kinesthetic sense, and his prose has this vivid quality that’s hard for me to describe. Good stuff.

LizardBreath, about drinking and consent: I know that some of it is about the specific condition of blackout drinking, where you’re functioning in present time but will have no memory of events later. I’m allergic to booze, so this is all theoretical for me – I don’t know how reliably one can aim for that particular state of drunkenness, but I remember it being something dorm mates shot for back in the ’80s and understand it’s still a thing. That’s the one bit I have to add to that exchange.

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js. 02.12.15 at 9:34 pm

Lynne — I just wanted to say, I found it really interesting that you link the rise in sex-reassignment surgery with a re-rigidifying of gender roles. It hadn’t occurred to me to think of the two as related.

As for unpopular thoughts, I don’t really have any just now (I try reeeally hard to think only popular thoughts, see), but I am really looking forward to reading this in the very near future.

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milx 02.12.15 at 9:37 pm

I think Hannah Rosin was right about the end of men and I’m very grateful that my daughters are more likely to achieve scholastically, and ultimately in the workplace, than they would if they were men. I think this is a major blow to the feminist narrative about patriarchal hegemony.

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AcademicLurker 02.12.15 at 9:40 pm

68: Blacking out (the functional but can’t remember later kind) isn’t something that people deliberately “shoot for” as far as I know, but it does happen. It also doesn’t correlate very well with the amount consumed; it’s very unpredictable.

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js. 02.12.15 at 9:41 pm

about drinking and consent: I know that some of it is about the specific condition of blackout drinking

This is right, but it’s also unhelpful. The thing about being “blackout drunk” is that it’s not a state you’re aware of when you’re in it—in the moment, it’s perfectly possible to think you’re fine (just drunk) and more or less in control. It’s only the next morning that you realize you were blackout drunk.

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geo 02.12.15 at 9:43 pm

Thank you, Belle (and others who’ve said difficult things, including Brett).

MSM@44: I do not think we’re sending our teenagers to college with ANY understanding of sex, sexuality, sexual relationships.

I second MPAV @45 that “this is a huge issue.” Might it decrease the shock and horror, especially for younger rape victims, if the whole subject were ventilated, without embarrassment, in high school? I imagine the word “rape” is mentioned in sex education classes, but, I would guess, largely in passing. If you were told openly, and knew that everyone else your age had been told openly, by teachers/social workers/law enforcement officers et al whom you all trusted, that unwelcome sexual initiatives are as common as every other kind of bad manners, if not more so, that they easily slide into sexual pressure, which in turn easily slides into sexual coercion, that a distressing number of such episodes end in sexual violation, that no one in authority is going to get all uncomfortable or blame you for telling them about it if it happens to you, and that every decent person, adult and adolescent, is determined to protect you and prevent such things from happening to you and others, then maybe the paralyzing shame and confusion that so many victims describe in the wake of a rape might be lessened a good deal?

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LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 9:45 pm

And I don’t think being in a blackout is reliably obvious to the people you’re around either. It’s a horrible evidentiary problem for rape — that it is very possible for a drunk person to literally not know what happened the prior night — but there’s no easy way in the moment to use it as a cutoff beyond which consent is invalid.

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 9:46 pm

js, thanks. And that book is on my TBR pile, too.

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MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 9:46 pm

“And it basically works–satisfaction with surgery is generally high.”

I think this is a key point. Thank you temp.

I would recommend this book written by a transgender woman to anyone interested in the topic

Right Body, Wrong Junk
By Avery Edison
http://averyedison.com/rightbodywrongjunk/

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William Timberman 02.12.15 at 9:51 pm

temp, Bruce Baugh, MPAVictoria….

Ask and ye shall be given. Thanks.

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 9:54 pm

dn and Luke, let me see if I understand your position (which I take to be the same). You are saying that if a man does not feel comfortable in the masculine role to the point where he doesn’t identify as male and believes he is really female, and wants to be treated as such, then no one else can no his mind as he does, so we should accept him as a transwoman. Is that right? Accept him in all ways, not just as another human being but as female—“F” on his passport instead of “M”, he uses the women’s washroom, etc. No difference. Is that right? So our taking his word for it, not presuming to know his mind better than he does, should be similar to our reaction to someone declaring their sexual preference. They know their preference, I don’t, I take their word for it. Am I understanding you right?

If I do understand you, would you be interested in rephrasing my point of view? I find that can help avoid talking past each other, if you are willing.

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MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 9:55 pm

Man so far this has been a remarkably awesome thread….

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 9:57 pm

William Timberman @63

“…but sex reassignment smacks to me of an individual solution, and a drastic one, to what is in fact a social and political problem. Is there really no way that we could make the world safe for an expansion of sanctified gender roles without, as desperate individuals trapped what we believe to be intolerable situations, submitting ourselves — trusting ourselves — to the ministrations of surgeons whose record of successful interventions is questionable at best?”

Yes, exactly.

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JanieM 02.12.15 at 9:57 pm

[Geez, there’s another novella worth of comments that accumulated while I was writing this….I see some book recommendations, yay.]

I’m going to throw this out there because if I don’t, a week will have gone by and I still won’t have been able to write something both coherent enough and pithy enough to post on the subject Lynne brought up.

I have a complex and conflicted relationship with gender (in more senses of the word than one), so I have enormous sympathy for trans people. But I have never wanted literally to be a man, or felt I was a man, and when I read accounts by transgendered people about their lives, one of the things that strikes me overwhelmingly is that a huge difference between me and them is that for them it’s so binary. For me, a big part of the problem is that from where I sit it’s most emphatically not binary, and that seems to put me at odds with…practically everyone, it sometimes seems.

There are three writers whose books I have enjoyed and learned from. Those who are up on this topic will see from this list that I’m behind the times, but I’m going to offer the list anyhow because all three of these writers are so accessible, so honest, and in Bornstein and Boylan’s case, so often hilarious in writing about their lives, even while the stories are often painful. The list includes:

Conundrum, by Jan Morris

She’s Not There, by Jenny Boylan (also a couple of her later books)

Gender Outlaw: Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein.

The last on the list is my all-time favorite book title, because it’s such a wonderful, unexpected, and funny encapsulation of my own relationship to gender.

These are all people who have had (none very early in life) male-to-female reassignment surgery, but they also all tell similar stories about realizing very early in life that, as I think Jan Morris puts it in remembering herself at three years old, “I was born into the wrong body.”

I went to a reading maybe ten years ago by Jenny Boylan, who teaches at Colby College, which is about half an hour from where I live. I asked her afterwards if she could recommend a book as accessible as these three, but written by someone who had gone in the other direction. She said that she knew of nothing that was very much like these three titles in being written for and accessible to a general reader. Maybe there’s something now; I haven’t really kept up.

Lynne wrote, The other side of it is that this drive to accept transwomen as women like any other is taking away the few women-only spaces left.

I am sympathetic to Lynne’s concerns for her sake, but I don’t share them for my own sake, because part of the reason my relationship with feminism is so conflicted is that I have never felt “feminist” circles to be a safe space for me, even, or especially, in the context of some of my closest friendships. But that’s a story for a separate comment, if I can condense it enough to post.

As a last comment, even “sex” isn’t truly binary. See the story of Caster Semenya, whose life, as far as I can tell, triggered the first appearance in the general mainstream media of some extended consideration of the fact that sex isn’t actually 100% binary even at the physical level.

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 10:00 pm

argh—“know” his mind.

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dn 02.12.15 at 10:05 pm

I have never wanted literally to be a man, or felt I was a man, and when I read accounts by transgendered people about their lives, one of the things that strikes me overwhelmingly is that a huge difference between me and them is that for them it’s so binary. For me, a big part of the problem is that from where I sit it’s most emphatically not binary, and that seems to put me at odds with…practically everyone, it sometimes seems.

You may be interested in this.

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milx 02.12.15 at 10:06 pm

I think leftists trying to get more status in their peer groups by leveraging their marginalized identities + victomhood is both real and super gross.

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Bruce Baugh 02.12.15 at 10:17 pm

LizardBreath: Oh, yes, it’s a mess. I just meant to say, “When I see people that I’m in a position to have an ongoing exchange with say that intoxicated consent isn’t valid, it routinely turns out that they’re thinking of things people assent to while in the blacked-out state”. I’m not in a position to say any more than that, so I won’t.

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CaptFamous 02.12.15 at 10:20 pm

milx @70

“and ultimately in the workforce”

While I do think that it’s just a matter of time until the workforce turns over enough to reflect the considerably higher success of girls in school, I also think there is a legitimate question about the degree to which the behaviors that drive success in school are actually the behaviors that lead to eventual high-level success in the workforce. Most of these questions center around the very different nature of the teacher-student and boss-employee relationships.

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JanieM 02.12.15 at 10:23 pm

@dn — thanks for the reference.

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bob mcmanus 02.12.15 at 10:36 pm

…recommend a book as accessible as these three, but written by someone who had gone in the other direction

You mean FTM?

This page has names to google (there is a lot of online material; I have been reading by/about Louis Sullivan) and some books at the bottom of the page.

I am not feeling expansive today and am behind on my reading. Good thread! Maybe when the thread winds down I’ll paste some Joan Wallach Scott and confound you all. Probably not.

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BBA 02.12.15 at 10:37 pm

I think, as a man, it is inherently anti-feminist for me to claim to be a feminist.

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milx 02.12.15 at 10:39 pm

I think that racism and sexism can be directed by anyone of any identity group against anyone of any other identity group and that it’s no better because it’s “punching up” instead of “punching down.”

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CaptFamous 02.12.15 at 10:43 pm

milx @90

I have actually had some interesting debates on this. Most of the time, the argument against the existence of “reverse”/”punching up” racism is that to be racist against someone requires that you can exert some power over them.

While I would probably grant that this is a valid argument against, say, the existence of any institutional racism against white people, to say that no individual of a disadvantaged group can ever exert power in some context over a member of an advantaged group is to be using a very very restrictive definition of power.

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milx 02.12.15 at 10:47 pm

Right, even if it’s just the power of cruelty.

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Almost the same 02.12.15 at 11:20 pm

OK, I have thought long and hard before writing this, not only because it is the very first time I say anything about this topic to anyone.

Sometimes, I have had the impression that some feminist women considered that the possibility, threat or actual experience of rape (an evidently more prevalent experience among women) gave them some special insights into oppression or the patriarchy. Sometimes it’s in your face, sometimes it’s subtle and I guess basically easy to explain, like a thread on a feminist blog about rape with the recommendation that men should not comment. I understand that after years of mansplaining, which I think is a very real phenomenon, you get testy.

Nevertheless, I have resented that. Mostly I think because I feel excluded or diminished because a parameter of my identity I neither chose nor control.

But also this. I have been raped twice as a child and I have never felt the experience nor the 8 ensuring years of depression-of wanting to fucking break myself once and for all every single day so that the fucking pain would just stop-were, in fact, especially meaningful, enlightening or even profound.

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stubydoo 02.12.15 at 11:24 pm

Here’s an opinion that may or may not be unpopular here, not really sure.

Related to the Slate piece linked above @33.

When two drunk college students have sex, neither one really remembering it but it being very clear (thanks to text messages, other witnesses etc.) that other than the drunkenness it was clearly consensual on both sides, and the college responds by expelling the boy but meting out no punishment whatsoever for the girl, the reason why the college authorities make this choice is because they are sexist. It’s basically that simple.

I’ve also got some other more incendiary opinions, but this one is enough for here.

(I also reserve the right to update my view based on information coming to light based on flaws in Amanda Hess’ reporting).

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LizardBreath 02.12.15 at 11:28 pm

That one doesn’t strike me as all that incendiary, I’d agree with it if it turned out that was a fair representation of the totality of what happened.

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marcel 02.12.15 at 11:45 pm

Having awarded D^2 laurels just about a week ago for inspiring the best comment threads at CT (here), I find that I must retract that or come up with something better. BW has topped him here! This thread is one I have read not with amusement (like the one I was commenting on last week), but with interest and fascination. I’ve learned a fair amount, or suspect I will have once I’ve digested this. Thank you, all.

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Lynne 02.12.15 at 11:50 pm

Armando and Brett,
I’m about to sign off for tonight but your stories are staying with me. I’m sorry you had those things happen to you.

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dn 02.12.15 at 11:53 pm

Lynne: Sure, I’d be glad to. First, your reading of me – I think it’s mostly right; I think that gender identity should be respected in the same way as sexual orientation and that telling trans women “but you’re not really women!” is basically like telling gay people that they weren’t “born this way”. But with one proviso – I also see it as about more than discomfort with “the masculine role”. I’m inclined to take seriously the idea of “gender dysphoria”, and I believe that accepting a critique of gender roles – i.e. behavioral norms – does not necessarily rule out the existence of gender identity as a biological/psychological phenomenon distinct from “sex”. I think that gender is a very poorly understood phenomenon in general (just look at the complex and varied concepts of gender that exist in other societies). I believe that given how little we really understand, we should be very cautious before attempting to generalize, and should be willing to trust the word of self-identified trans individuals just as we would trust the members of any other disadvantaged group when trying to learn something about their problems.

Now, your position: I understand you to mean that you consider “gender” to be more or less synonymous with “gender roles“, and wholly socially constructed. You believe that when gender roles are made narrow and normative, such that “men” and “women” are required to fit their behaviors and lifestyles into narrowly-defined boxes, that this is a problem (with this I agree). You believe that transsexuals are generally people who have bought into such an illegitimate concept of normative gender, but find it narrow and repressive and are consequently dissatisfied with their own situation. You consider hormone treatment and SRS ill-considered overreactions to this situation, and think that, were repressive gender roles to be softened or done away with, trans people would feel more comfortable identifying with their assigned sex and would not feel compelled to resort to such drastic physical remedies (with this I disagree). In any case, you consider it incorrect for an anatomically-male transgendered individual to identify as any sort of woman and believe that such people should be excluded from “women-only” spaces and discourses. Am I in the right ballpark here?

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dn 02.12.15 at 11:53 pm

JanieM – you’re welcome!

105

Lynne 02.12.15 at 11:59 pm

dn, what a thoughtful reply. I look forward to getting back to you tomorrow.

106

phenomenal cat 02.13.15 at 12:12 am

I gotta get in on the safe thread.

Thinking over the comments on gender/sex differences with special attention given to Lynne’s posts…

I’ve got a kid, a girl, kindergartener, smart as a motherfucker, and all the rest of that stuff a lot of parents think about their kids. One of the coolest things about having a kid, which never occurred to me prior, is you get to be around kids frequently (yeah, I know, some people only like their kids, not “kids”, fine). So I interact with these kids, which is generally hilarious and fun, and what is immediately undeniable is how different each one of them is. Often the differences are most pronounced among siblings a year or two apart. There is something “essential” about each one of them, otherwise the differences wouldn’t be so pronounced. It fascinates me no end.

The gendered stuff is already visible at this age, but among those I’m around it’s still kind of remote, if you follow. So, I’m curious about the differences and obviously a primary way to pursue that is to note: okay, this is a girl and this is a boy, what are the differences I can infer based upon that difference? (Caveat: I know I’m not breaking new ground here and that there’s a shit ton of research on child development)

Well one thing I notice, (allowing for any number of exceptions) my girl and others seemed to have quite a bit more verbal capacity than the boys which seems to translate as being emotionally more complex. I say “seems to” b/c I don’t know if that’s actually the case. I watch and talk to the same-age boys; allowing for the exceptions, they usually cannot carry a conversation the way the girls can. I see them thinking/feeling, but they don’t yet know how to translate that to coherent streams of words. As a gesture, sure, or a bodily movement, or an exclamation or utterance, but not in nuanced dialogue (remember, I admit there’s many exceptions, this cuts both ways and so on and so forth).

This worries me/makes me a little sad for the boys. Why, I don’t know. Maybe b/c I was one once, but there’s something more that I can’t articulate. So, I’m reading Lynne’s posts and thinking about about trans-women’s claims to be women (I know very little about the politics of this) and what that means for Lynne or others. I’ve known some trans-people, but I’ve known more “queens” over the years. The latter, I never had a problem treating them as a “lady” or “woman” or whatever, but my sense was they were playing with gender more, it was more fluid and “performative.” (also never had a problem in terms of treating trans-people the way they wanted to be treated, I’m just noting a difference)

Then I go back to those little boys and their relative inability to articulate the “complexities” they feel, but cannot express–the vulnerability, even delicacy, of that position. I suppose what worries me is that things going wrong at home, school or a thousand different places can stunt, deform, and kill that essential vulnerability forever–and of course, something like this happens to women and girls all the time. I don’t know, I’m sure some parents, especially mothers, see that delicacy and vulnerability and try to protect it, but as a culture/society we really don’t give a shit about it and most assuredly don’t give a shit about it when the color of the little boys is anything other than lilly white.

Then I think of the trans-people who might feel what is most essential about them has been turned inside-out as far back as memories go. I can’t relate, I’ve always been boy/hetero, but I can sympathize–though, I have to admit, full-on sexual reassignment does strike me as kind of “dogmatic” or orthodox in a very non-orthodox way. Not that I judge or oppose the choice…

Anyway, Lynne’s discomfort (sorry Lynne, I don’t want to speak for you) speaks to me in a larger way. I have specific and determinate problems with some feminist theory, but one of the strands of feminism I always dug was the version that went: ‘hey asshole, you and I are different, not in the way you think we are, but we are different…and while we’re on this topic, pay me the same wage you’re paying dipshit over there.’

We need better ways of recognizing and talking about differences– respecting them, keeping them safe, and letting them be– without reifying or sanctifying them.

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John Emerson 02.13.15 at 12:29 am

“This may seem like a silly tic of mine, this constant introduction of my actual life, blobs and swirls of ink floating on water and ox-gall, and slashed at, just so, with a fork, yielding marbled paper on which the posts are hard to read at times when compared with the black on white clarity of some of my co-bloggers. But this is the secret: the personal really is the political.”

You should be writing a novel.

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Balbulus Notker 02.13.15 at 12:31 am

Oh wait. That was me.

109

Balbulus Notker 02.13.15 at 12:55 am

OK, here’s the anonymous secret part.

The first thing is that without witnesses or physical evidence of rape, cases often turn on “him against her” testimony. And given “innocent until proven guilty” and “beyond reasonable doubt”, it’s hard to see how cases without physical evidence or witnesses could be tried at all. And since rapes, like sexual relationships, are usually conducted in private, there are special problems with this category of crime. And furthermore, rape kits are good for identifying rapists but not so good for establishing rape. And finally, since consensual rough sex is accepted as permissible, even bruising might not count as evidence.

Second, while false rape charges are statistically rare, they aren’t non existent, and in American history they have led to a number of lynchings.

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Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 1:30 am

The drunk people consenting question is difficult. The hypothetical example in which we know for certain that is was mutually consensual is easy, and the man should not be expelled. People being blackout drunk is a real thing, but it’s not a target at which ordinary people can aim, and the person seems fine, if drunk, while in the state. They just have a scissor-snip cut out from the reel of their memories. Ask me how I know! But yeah, I think conservatives will see the light somewhat on standards when some star football player is the victim of rape by another man. Tragically, he’ll never tell anyone, so the problem persists.

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stubydoo 02.13.15 at 1:39 am

What about the other alternative: i.e. go ahead and expel both of them?

I certainly don’t agree with it, but it seems like it might be the logical consequence of the policies they’ve gone and written, and it might be productive in shaking (some) feminists out of their have-cake-and-eat-it mode.

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js. 02.13.15 at 1:39 am

I do not think we’re sending our teenagers to college with ANY understanding of sex, sexuality, sexual relationships.

I think the other part of the problem (tho a smaller one) is that we send teenagers to college, so to speak, without any real understanding of how to drink. Not being facetious, I do think this is a problem.

(I realized that I do indeed have a very unpopular opinion, tho it’s not really about feminism, and this thread has been really good so far…)

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The Raven 02.13.15 at 2:04 am

First, thank you, Belle, for writing about this heartbreaking subject.

“Still, there’s really something a little weird about how sexual assault and battery would maybe get diverted into this weird para-justice-system, and simple assault and battery would probably lead to a chat with the cops?”

The problem, of course, is that the cops and the prosecutors mostly don’t listen. This is the solution that’s been sort-of worked out. I don’t think it’s a very good solution. The better solution, of course, is to fix the justice system, but people are oh-so-scared to actually do that.

“But if a girl or woman is mentally ill and involved in some way with a man, a false rape accusation is a common thing for that mentally ill woman to do!”

Also false child abuse allegations. :-(

But, yes, #notallwomen. Not even most women. This is what trials are supposed to be for, if only they actually were.

“The other Politically Incorrect thing that I worry about is that feminists are always accused of being man-hating and sometimes I think, yeah, I kind of maybe hate you.”

Yeah. I once had an abusive lover, who defended her rages as her “anger style.” But, again, I figure women are entitled to some anger and hatred. You can’t break up with sexism, after all.

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Landru 02.13.15 at 2:06 am

Safe space? Nah, I’m sure it’s a trap. But I’ll join in anyway, just for the spirit.

If we are departing the usual police zone and are — momentarily — able to bring up criticisms of feminism on CT, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Scott Aaronson affair. Newcomers, read the instant-classic post “Untitled” by Scott Alexander here

http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/01/untitled/

long but very much worth your time. And, no, don’t even start with the #notallfeminists weak-sauce. Aaronson was abused by the mainstream movement thirty years ago, and again a few months ago, and likely for a lot of time in between, despite his being as generous and scrupulous as soul as one could ask for. The recent events are arguably a good illustration of what commenter Robert discusses at 28 above, about feminists being unable to suppress contempt for men who actually follow the faith. But that’s just one issue in a larger story; read the whole thing, as they say.

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A H 02.13.15 at 2:15 am

Luke @35 Secondly, aren’t we just assigning another (different) gender role when we say trans women are men? Do women have the right to be girly?

Who is saying that only women have the right to be girly? The radical femist critique of gender is saying that biological males don’t have the right to identify as women. The problem I think Lynne is pointing towards, is that a focus on gender as an inate (but non-biogical) quality leads to a weird conservative view of gender roles, the opposite of your concern.

dn @97 I believe that given how little we really understand, we should be very cautious before attempting to generalize, and should be willing to trust the word of self-identified trans individuals just as we would trust the members of any other disadvantaged group when trying to learn something about their problems.

But identity is not something that can be arbitarily self-identified. For instance, white people who have tried to self identify as in indigounous people have been rightly called out on appropriating indigenous culture.

The problem with current dogma in trans activism is that it rests on this essentialist view of gender that breaks apart whenever you try to look at it from a feminist perspective that takes gender as a result of politics. The personal can’t be political, if the personal is some unquestionable essence.

At the same time persecution of trans people is a very real thing, and I think people should have the freedom to do what they want to their bodies and dress and act however they want. A lot of radical feminists go way to far in their critiques of trans people. But incoherence about how transwomen are women because reasons isn’t helping anyone.

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sharculese 02.13.15 at 2:33 am

Quite frankly, I’ve never understood the claims of dudes who think it’s just so impossible to know when someone is too messed up to consent, even if they’re equally messed up. It’s never been that hard for me.

New Year’s of this year I was back home and at a friend’s house, and happened to meet a woman who I clicked with. She was drunk, I was drunk, and on both sides here were a variety of other substances involved. We end up in bed, we’re fooling around, and at a certain point she ask, “So are you gonna have sex with me,” and despite, again, being fucked up to the gills, I manage to reason out that this is a bad scene and tell her, “no, not tonight.”

Next day I told her what happened and she was like, “yeah, good call there.”

It’s pretty simple stuff, and I feel like a lot of dudes make out that it’s hard as hell because that’s better for them than it being simple.

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dn 02.13.15 at 2:36 am

A H @107 – “Identity is not something that can be arbitarily self-identified.” Would you tell that to a gay person? And who said anything about it being arbitrary?

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Val 02.13.15 at 2:39 am

Thanks Belle for starting this thread and for telling your story of rape. It’s horrible and you are brave for telling it.

Like Rich above, there are some things I wouldn’t talk about here, even under a pseudonym, because they’re so complex and personal and involve others, and I can’t change my style of writing much, probably.

However there’s one story I can – when I was about 11, one night when the parents were having some kind of do at our little country school, we kids were playing chasey – boys chasing girls. The boys had to catch the girls and bring us back to a place that was like a captive yard. I was a very fast runner at that age and none of the boys could catch me. In the end some of the captive girls started yelling at me to give in because I was spoiling the game.

I can quite understand, now, that they were sick of being in the captive place, and the longer I wasn’t caught the more boring it was for them. However at the time it seemed to me the message was girls were supposed to give in and pretend to be slower, even if we weren’t. I still think that’s true really, because the boys could have given up, but the girls weren’t asking for them to do that, they were asking me to give up.

As an adult feminist, that’s a pretty good metaphor for a number of situations I’ve been in, where a dispute with men (in committees etc) has dragged on and I’ve been unwilling to give in (“compromise”) to the extent where other feminists have eventually turned on me and accused me of being to blame for the situation (rather than the intransigent men).

One of the things I won’t talk about in detail but will sketch out is that I’ve also seen some nasty episodes of girl group bullying at schools, in one case using the word “slut”.

I’ve been reading a lot of feminist theory and history on patriarchy lately, and one of the things that several writers have suggested is that the most difficult thing for feminists – or women – to deal with in this field is the question of complicity. So unlike some of the commentators here who are getting into the feminists are nasty to men issues, my concern is more about feminists being complicit/feminists being nasty to each other. But I don’t know that those two things are necessarily ‘opposite’. There’s a lot of pain and anger as a legacy of patriarchy, and it’s going to come out in funny ways sometimes.

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Kiwanda 02.13.15 at 2:49 am

js@72: It’s only the next morning that you realize you were blackout drunk.

I didn’t actually know until pretty recently that “blackout drunk” doesn’t mean “drunk until blacked out”, that is, unconscious, but instead means “drunk enough to suffer memory loss”, and that such memory loss is possible without passing out. So somebody who doesn”t know that, and wakes up in bed with somebody else without knowing how they got there, is likely to think that they were passed out and something entirely noncensual happened. And it may or may not have.

This is another reason that I think heavy drinking is a bad thing. Although it has never tempted me, so that’s easy for me to think.

A few pronouncements that I can’t resist given the topic:

“Affirmative consent” will not reduce sexual assault.

“1/5” is not a well-supported number, and assault rates are higher for people that age not in college.

Rape victims should feel able to report to the police, because the way the police handle such reporting should be *greatly* improved.

Rape victims should report to the police, because most rapes are committed by serial predators, and reporting and convicting will protect other people. Also, as imperfect as the courts may be, they are the best means we have to try to punish the guilty while protecting the innocent.

Rape of men in prison is not funny, not part of the punishment, and should not be discounted because the victims are men.

According to the standard that “having sex with someone drunk when you are sober is rape”, maybe Amy Schumer did
rape a guy. But I don’t think she did.

I think that being a transwoman is much, much more than not feeling comfortable in a masculine role. I don’t understand trans at all emotionally, and have a large “squick” factor about it, but what that squick actually tells me is trans people are feeling something of profound depth. But this is also hard for me to understand because my gender doesn’t feel *important* to me in quite the way that it seems to with trans people: my sense is that a version of me that was the opposite gender would not be a radically different person from the current me (internally, emotionally, ignoring the greatly different life experiences that person would have had). This sense might well be wrong, but it’s what I feel.

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Matt 02.13.15 at 3:02 am

Un-PC? Most rape accusations are true. Some are false. Some women are enraged enough by the power imbalance between genders and aggression from men that they hate men, some in the abstract (as you describe yourself), some more actively, interpersonally. Those are simple facts. How are they un-PC? Isn’t being unable to distinguish between fact and ideology something for the right wingers?

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js. 02.13.15 at 3:08 am

Ok, so here’s my unpopular opinion, which is (a) not about feminism, and (b) not an opinion (actually wait, I smuggled in an opinion):

I just think it’s really disapponting that over the last couple of decades—i.e. for as long as I’ve been politically conscious—the two big things that the gay movement (if it can still be called that) has fought for have been the right to serve in the military and the right to get married. And I think that the often-noted fact that the struggle for gay rights has been very successful very quickly, in a way that feminism hasn’t managed, isn’t at all unrelated to the particular rights that have been fought for, i.e. marriage and military service.

Now, I am a straight dude, and so I have basically no personal stake in this. And so I should maybe just shut my mouth (i.e. stop typing). But… well, I think I’ll leave it there and maybe add a Part 2 later.

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Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 3:14 am

Gay rights have been fought for by white men, also. I do think there’s something there. But as a feminist and supporter of equal rights for genderqueer people of every stripe it can seem frustrating sometimes when you think of how far the gay marriage issue has come and how far the E.R.A. has been flushed down the memory hole of history.

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 3:19 am

js. — What should gay people have been fighting for instead?

(Another topic I could go on about for chapters, but … not now, maybe never, here.)

(But I will say: these various quests are not non-overlapping. One big example: gender equality in marriage surely helped (thought no doubt not on purpose) pave the way for same-sex marriage.)

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 3:31 am

Val @110 & Landru @106- …the most difficult thing for feminists – or women – to deal with in this field is the question of complicity. So unlike some of the commentators here who are getting into the feminists are nasty to men issues, my concern is more about feminists being complicit/feminists being nasty to each other.

Something that I believe bridges these two spheres of concern is the question of what feminism looks like in daily life–specifically, how is feminist discourse used in, and what immediate effect do feminist sympathies/sentiments have on everyday situations, in the hands of people who aren’t essentially experts (academics, professional writers, &c.–people with a professional stake in not misunderstanding or abusing feminist ideas). A lot of what we seem to refer to when we talk about feminism are the texts written by pros–either academics, or columnists like Amanda Marcotte or Dan Savage, where they have a lot of control over what scenario they intervene in, leeway to eliminate all kinds of complicating factors, and enough time and distance to concoct a perfectly measured, fair response. So I find that they are rarely ever wrong in a way that is easy to put your finger on, and in fact I tend to like their writing, but that kind of selective problem solving approach is also very prone to developing blind spots, where feminism becomes this thing that pertains to a few very narrow areas of life, i.e. whatever is good for a theoretical or political discussion at a given moment.

I thought this line in Landru’s link was interesting:
Let’s not mince words. There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics, and unlovable freak. Ms. Penny may be right that her ideal feminism doesn’t do that. Then again, my ideal masculinity doesn’t involve rape or sexual harassment.

I suspect that this “growing trend in Internet feminism” is not actually any of those things, but is instead a reaction to how many people who happen to be feminists (or who claim to be, and perhaps not all that sincerely) actually behave. In other words, what goes on when people who know a bit about feminism have ordinary social interactions that are mainly driven by things other than the desire to realize a political ideal.

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Kindred Winecoff 02.13.15 at 4:12 am

Great thread. I have three observations from experience — not opinions, so hopefully the question of their popularity isn’t an issue, at least until the end — that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. I mean these to be anecdotes, not systematic evidence of huge social trends or anything.

1. I’ve known more than a couple women who have intentionally become moderately inebriated so as to overcome nervousness over picking up a man/woman as part of the process of moving on from a serious, monogamous, committed, longish-term relationship that had recently ended. That is, they intentionally got drunk so that they could intentionally get laid without second-guessing it. For more than one of these women sex within the prior relationship had become low-level abusive over time — no outright rape but definite manipulation — and for whom it was really important to once again experience sex as something fun and enjoyable rather than emotionally devastating. And it worked! That is, it’s not just that the combination of alcohol and sex can lead to some fuzzy lines as LizardBreath and others have said, although that is definitely true too, but also that sometimes the combination of alcohol and sex can be straight-up therapeutic.

These were very smart, very mature, very well-educated (all of them have postgraduate degrees) women in their late-20s and early-30s. I.e., they weren’t teenagers or in their first year in the dorm or anything like that, so I’m not in any way suggesting we should generalize from their experience. They are well-versed in feminist politics and well aware of what they were doing and why they were doing it. They still felt vulnerable at the time, as do many people who are initiating a new sexual relationship. But to claim that they’d been abused in these situations would remove their agency. They certainly wouldn’t stand for that.

2. More than one friend who has been violently, forcibly, raped has been infuriated and felt injured when other people seem to downgrade “real” rape by including drunk-consent/non-verbal-consent sex that regretted ex post in the same category as their abuse. “Rape”, for them, is not a word that should be applied to a wide range of situations. There should be other words for those other things, and these words should indicate strongly that those other things are very bad crimes, but they are not the same crime and so there should be *other words*. This certainly seemed reasonable to me, at the time, when they were saying it. But it is definitely not my place to draw such distinctions.

3. I’ve never had an open conversation about sex with a man without that man describing some form of (usually) low-level sexual abuse that has occurred to them. Most commonly this involves women doing things to guys because they think “he can take it” or “all guys want it anyway” or that it’s just funny or for unstated/unknown reasons. I’m not talking about ass-grabbing or ball-tapping or even uninvited kisses, which very few guys I know would even think interesting enough to worth mention. Frequently it has involved violent attacks on genitalia that are not in self-defense, which still seems to be a joking matter in mainstream culture somehow. (I used to know some otherwise-cool punk rock ladies who would wear steel-toed boots and kick guys in the junk while they were slam-dancing at concerts, just for fun. I’ve known others who were not punk rock and didn’t wear steel-toed boots but otherwise would do the same thing at bars and clubs and parties. This is… not acceptable. But not uncommon either.) Frequently it involves punching/hitting/biting/scratching/kicking during sex without prior notice, much less consent. Not infrequently it involves anal insertion without prior notice or consent. All of these and more have happened to me.

There are other things that I haven’t experienced but I’ve heard described in a seemingly-reliable way, some of which are incredibly emotionally and/or physically brutal. Yet none of these guys have said that they were abused, except one. It’s laughed off or otherwise dismissed as something like an occupational hazard: sometimes you end up with more than you bargained for. Which I find kinda strange, since more than once real physical damage has been done (broken bones, trips to ER, etc). But also not really strange at all, but there is no real language for guys to talk about this kind of thing as if it was a serious matter. The attitude is “Hey! sometimes these things happen I guess”.

I’m not trying to equivocate, At. All. This is clearly a very different thing than male-on-female abuse for a whole host of reasons. Still, if the goal is to eliminate sexually abusive interactions in general then coming up with a language that includes this kind of experience could be helpful. Especially because men who have had those experiences are — of the non-random sample I know — more likely to be comfortable with “blurred lines” than others. After all, if they haven’t been abused when the lines are blurry then they won’t be abusing in the reverse circumstance, in their minds. This is just how it goes sometimes, I guess, in their minds.

Yes I know that this could be a pure selection effect, but I don’t think it entirely is.

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js. 02.13.15 at 4:32 am

What should gay people have been fighting for instead?

JanieM — (a) My overriding impulse right now is just to retract that comment, tho I won’t because it is something I find myself thinking every so often; (b) I really don’t think it’s at all my place to be telling gay people what they should fight for—which is why (a); (c) I have no fucking idea—which is also why (a).

I keep trying to draft a longer comment with more positive content, but they all keep coming out sounding like: “make it attractive to me!” I will try to make the point I’m searching for, but if I can’t, I might ultimately have to retract that comment.

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 4:37 am

js. — tough, isn’t it. ;-)

If I write another word I’m going to regret it, because I have nothing brief to say about this topic. For now, thanks for the reply. I was tempted to add another comment, after I posted my question, to make sure you knew I wasn’t being snarky. But I guess you knew it without my having to say it.

And to think I still haven’t managed to write what I originally wanted to contribute on the “unpopular thoughts on feminism” topic. Maybe tomorrow or Saturday.

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ragweed 02.13.15 at 4:58 am

With contemporary trans people I don’t think there is necessarily a strict dichotomy between male and female – in fact I think that is part of the point. Many trans people don’t actually have surgery but settle into something state in between, maybe doing hormones, maybe not. There is a wide variation in what actual transgendered people do.

Another factor is sexual assignment surgery at birth, where babies that are sexually ambiguous, which happens more than you might expect, are arbitrarily made male or female. Sex as well as gender is not always so clear-cut.

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harry b 02.13.15 at 5:12 am

Belle — I just wanted to add my thanks to others’. Both for the thread, which I assumed would be a train wreck but, in the end, has been something like what you wanted plus a whole lot more than you reasonably could have wanted. And for the post. Like others I’m glad I had the privilege to read it, but I’m also glad that it is here, easily accessible, to point to the next student who confides in me that she was raped. Sometimes your elliptical style makes me impatient, and others, like this, I just marvel at what a wonderful writer you are.

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Realist 02.13.15 at 5:19 am

There seems to be this standard of proof in America where if you present one vivid story (or a whole set of vivid stories) about being victimized, than you have proved that you are a victimized group. This presumes that the opposing “group”–which is men in this case but could be anyone–is somehow not victimized in its own unique set of ways. Vivid stories probably mean something to people who have led an extremely sheltered life, but to many of us “politically incorrect” people they’re not informative one way or another.

Not everyone has been raped, but everyone has dealt with major personal tragedies–in some cases with a perpetrator and in some cases without one–and know that life can be cruel to everyone. One story is good at arousing emotions, and emotions are indeed one route to persuasion, but please don’t think that men don’t face another unique set of problems or that some privileged set of people that don’t have problems.

Also, you would never make a generalization about, say, black men no matter how many times you’ve been victimized by black men, so keep in mind that one way men (in general) are disprivileged is that it’s fully acceptable to make generalizations about them that would never be made about “victimized” groups.

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js. 02.13.15 at 5:20 am

Yes! It is tough. But fuck it, I’m going to make this somewhat about me (and possibly regret it later!).

I noted in above that I’m a straight dude and so basically have no direct, personal stake in the fight for gay rights. A sort of analogous thing to say would be that I’m a dude so I have no personal stake in feminism. Except that I’ve always thought that I did have a personal stake in it. Part of this is that I grew up around lots of self-avowed feminists. Going back to Lynne’s comment @12—the first few paragraphs, in particular—that’s essentially the feminism I grew up with. It’s practically in my bones. And I don’t for a second want to take anything away from the fact that feminism is a struggle for women’s liberation and women’s equality. And it’s that in a world still dominated by patriarchy, which is why it’s essential. But there’s a sort of universal liberatory potential there that secondarily applies to men, perhaps as a side-effect, perhaps as something more internal to the project. Either way, it’s why I do feel that I have a personal stake in feminism.

I think that there was, and perhaps still is, a similar sort of universal liberatory potential in the gay movement. Something evident in its challenging of heteronormativity, e.g. Or something sort of captured in the slogan, “everyone is gay”—I honestly don’t even know if this was an actual slogan or something friends of mine made up. And it can be understood (or misunderstood) in lots of ways, but I don’t mean something like: everyone ultimately wants to have sex with someone anatomically like them. Even the possibility of the latter sort of misunderstanding suggests to me a kind of loss of the radical potential in the gay movement. This still isn’t very well expressed, but what I was expressing in @112 was a sort of disappointment in what appears to me as this loss of radical potential, of the attempt to undo heteronormativity rather than enjoy some of its privileges.

I might well regret this later, but hitting “submit” anyway.

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js. 02.13.15 at 5:31 am

the attempt to undo heteronormativity rather than enjoy some of its privileges

To be clear, I do absolutely support gay rights if this means the fight to enjoy said privileges—these privileges are very real and very important, and if they exist, everyone should get to enjoy them.

133

JanieM 02.13.15 at 5:46 am

js. I don’t disagree with much of that, if any, and I don’t think you should regret posting it. Just a couple of quick thoughts on my way to bed.

The first (touched on also in a discussion on homeschooling in a post of Tedra’s in Oct 2012) is that there’s a hard question to be answered about how much personal sacrifice anyone should be expected to make in pursuit of an elusive goal that seems unlikely ever to be reached anyhow. I started out my adult life (not yet knowing I was gay) with a disastrous relationship that made me decide I was never getting married, and no one else should either. Abolish it, I thought! But life just isn’t that simple. People – including any children who are involved, and there very often are children, one way or another — can suffer in a lot of ways when they try to form partnerships or families without any legal recognition or protection.

The second thought is that I don’t know if I agree that the fact that gay people can get married now is a capitulation to heteronormativity. But I will need some time to sort out my thoughts on that. In the meantime — here’s a related unpopular thought for this thread, since you and so many other people have used the word: I hate the way the word “privilege” has been given a new meaning, in my opinion an extremely counterproductive one in terms of PR in relation to the goals it’s supposed to be supporting.

***

Extension of the first thought, and something that has never occurred to me before in quite this way, but prompted by what you wrote: gay people were in hiding before, and reviled and despised and thrown off bridges” etc. It took some guts and some rebelliousness and some defiance to live as a gay person, even in hiding, before the last couple of decades. But really, that was a framework imposed on us from the outside. Most of us, like most other groups you could name, are just folks. We get up, go to work and school, dress the kids, go to soccer practice, whatever. Not visionaries, not revolutionaries beyond the obvious and necessary. So from that point of view maybe it was totally predictable that neither gay people nor feminists would realize the radical potential you might have wished for, and in a sense imposed on us. (I don’t mean that in a bad way…..)

Gotta stop. Thanks – more eventually.

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 5:51 am

these privileges are very real and very important, and if they exist, everyone should get to enjoy them.

We crossed in the mail. But this is precisely why I hate that word in that usage: until Peggy Macintosh wrote that essay (or whenever this use of the word started), a “privilege” was something extra that some power or authority could rightfully take away if you were bad. Something that everyone should get is a right, not a privilege. I think calling things that should be everyone’s birthright — as most of the things in the knapsack of privilege are, IMO — privileges is, as I said, a terrible idea PR-wise.

Is it a privilege to have enough to eat if there are people who don’t? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that’s a helpful way to frame it if you want to bring people around to figuring out a solution to hunger. It makes it sound as if you’d be just as happy to take away the “privilege” if people didn’t behave themselves to your satisfaction.

135

JanieM 02.13.15 at 5:53 am

136

Zora 02.13.15 at 6:37 am

Perhaps I was raped, many years ago, the 60s, when I was an undergraduate at a small liberal-arts college. Or perhaps not.

I took acid, first and only time; a friend was there to watch over me. She started feeling ill and wanted to go home. She took me to a mutual acquaintance. She thought he was still my boyfriend and didn’t know that I had stopped seeing him. I was too stoned to explain or protest.

He took me to bed and had sex with me, while I lay there motionless, crying. We slept. He fed me breakfast, as if we were still together, still lovers. I said nothing. I left and never saw him again.

At the time, I thought that this was no big deal (though I had nightmares for months afterwards). I thought it was sad. I thought he was a jerk for fucking a motionless, crying woman. But I didn’t think of it as rape. Years later, I told a friend about this and she insisted that I had been raped.

I didn’t say no. I didn’t tell him that he was a jerk afterward. I could have done that, but I was too timid.

And of course, back then, there was no way in hell I would have complained to the school or to the police. Illegal drugs. I had slept with him, willingly, more than once.

I still have a hard time saying that I was raped.

137

js. 02.13.15 at 6:45 am

Something that everyone should get is a right, not a privilege.

Point taken. (There’s a bit more I’d like to say here, but see below.)

The thing I’d sort of take issue with is this: “it was totally predictable that neither gay people nor feminists would realize the radical potential you might have wished for.” The general sentiment here is one I totally get and agree with. But the thing is: feminism, i.e the same feminism that was around 1-2 generations ago, still seems pretty radical. I again want to go back to Lynne @12 because I think it’s a really great and clear statement (hi Lynne, hope you don’t mind), but Belle’s point about the E.R.A serves equally well. So I think the analogy breaks down.

But mostly, I’d very much like to hear your unpopular thought, so don’t want to unnecessarily detain you with this (though I am finding it very useful, and I’m almost entirely in agreement with you).

138

Charles S 02.13.15 at 8:37 am

JanieM,

You might enjoy What Becomes You by Aaron and Hilda Link. It’s been a while since I read it, and it is by a friend of mine (and his mom), but I remember it being a pretty satisfying and accessible account of being a trans man. (Oh, reading backwards through the thread, I see Bruce Baugh already mentioned it, so I’m just seconding his recommendation).

Also, possibly Leslie Feinberg’s books, although none of them are memoirs, and she identified as transgender but still identified as female.

139

Soru 02.13.15 at 9:00 am

If you want to guarantee a movement will stay radical, all you need to do is prevent it from achieving its goals.

Obligatory controversial opinion about feminism; I don’t think it has actually won any political battles since about the early 70s. Any change since is basically demographics catching up with the status quo established then.

140

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 10:29 am

Llandru: our previously agreed-upon standard of safe-space-ness was that no one would get more unpleasant in response to anything than, “wow, that really hasn’t been my experience at all. I couldn’t disagree with you more.” That’s the outer limit, there. So I would just say, with regards to the Aaronson fracas, wow, that wasn’t really how I saw it at all. It was really weird and unfortunate that he chose to read all and only the woman who is perhaps feminism’s most polarizing and (in a cartoon version of herself) extremist, figure, rather than other feminists writing during the time he was reading, or than talking to his female classmates or teachers about the subject. (I understand he was too shy to proposition anyone, but that doesnt leave out a talk about feminism.) I also think its too bad he didn’t confide in his parents at any point, because they could have helped him go to a psychiatrist. Anyone who is repeatedly considering castration as a way to deal with their sexual urges needs to have a talk with someone around whom they feel safe, about their desires and what they think is getting or should get in the way. He was ill-served by years of silence.

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Val 02.13.15 at 10:55 am

Llandru – and others – there’s two different things being talked about here. One is, people get unhappy, mean, screwed up – we do bad things, we hurt each other, we imagine things and we screw our own lives up. We can do something about that by trying to be kind, to understand each other, to talk about our fears, to seek help – maybe professional help – when we need it. Admitting vulnerability, letting kindness in.

The other thing is patriarchy. It’s a hierarchical social system that privileges (sorry, but that is actually a useful word here) men over women, but also sets men against each other in a competitive system that is damaging to all. We should aim to get rid of that system. It is to blame for a lot of the problems we are talking about here.

Please people, try to distinguish between those two things.

142

Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 11:20 am

“And it basically works–satisfaction with surgery is generally high.”

Look, I’m cool with people modifying their bodies surgically, or with drugs. Seriously, I don’t mind if you change your body like that dude in the Outer Limits who got changed into a fake alien.

But, for God’s sake, let it wait until they’re old enough to make the decision themselves, as adults, with informed consent. As a parental decision, it’s just another form of genital mutilation, with maybe a side order of Baron Munchhausen by Proxy.

“Quite frankly, I’ve never understood the claims of dudes who think it’s just so impossible to know when someone is too messed up to consent, even if they’re equally messed up. It’s never been that hard for me.”

I’ve never understood the notion that it’s possible to be messed up to the point where you can’t yourself consent, but still be clear headed enough to determine if somebody else is or isn’t similarly messed up. It’s not like there’s this isolated “determine if somebody else is messed up” module in your brain, that’s specially protected from alcohol. Alcohol generally messes up your judgement.

““1/5″ is not a well-supported number, and assault rates are higher for people that age not in college.”

Kinda like saying “The Moon is made of green cheese” isn’t well supported. 1/5 is an utter fiction. A lie, not a mistake.

And, now, for my parting unpopular thought:

Heteronormality IS normality, in our species. Much like having two legs is normality in a bipedal species, even though some people will inevitably by some accident end up with a different number.

You don’t blame people who lost a leg in an accident, or were born with an extra. You try to accommodate them as much as is feasible without warping society. But you don’t have to pretend having three legs is normal, or that somebody going out and having a third one sewn on isn’t wacked in the head.

Sex is not a construct, it is a biological reality, which is as mutable as your number of legs, but still has normal states. While gender roles are to some extent socially constructed, to a considerable extent they are also biological reality. And the reality of biology is that sometimes it malfunctions. And we don’t have to pretend the malfunctions are just another “normal”, even if we do need to accommodate them.

“Sick, but sick people have rights.” Not a slogan anyone in a gay pride march is going to be happy with, but that’s where I am.

143

Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 11:21 am

Seriously, my comment is in moderation? In THIS thread?

144

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 11:25 am

Sorry Brett, I haven’t been looking at it.

145

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 11:30 am

Lots of comments let out now all at once so please re-read, people. Sorry!

146

rather B anonymous 02.13.15 at 11:47 am

milx @70 on Hanna Rosen.

I have a hard time with anyone who plays as fast and loose with basic, empirically verifiable facts as Hanna Rosen does. Feminist or not, left or right.

Phil Cohen (who I’m not) has done yeoman’s work on this:
http://www.bu.edu/bulawreview/files/2013/08/COHEN.pdf

147

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 12:06 pm

Especially re-read “Almost the same’s” comment at 98, because it’s the first time he ever told anyone about being raped. Beloved reader, you are awesome, and I really I have tears in my eyes right now thinking that this stupid idea would work, and that anyone would feel “safe” enough on this snarky fucking blog to say that thing out loud, on the words of typing and hovering your finger over the publish button. Oh god I’m so sorry I kept you waiting for it to post. I’m really sorry. Being raped doesn’t give you amazing insights into the nature of anything except violence and control and how to shut people up and how to make people scared. And children are so easy to scare. You can scare them with such stupid lies. Your blood will boil like in all your veins at once later, suddenly all drained out and battery acid put inside all at once when you think “that was so STUPID what a STUPID thing to be afraid of.”

Maybe you see women have extra feminist credibility because they’ve been raped, that’s stupid, too, but it’s a real thing. Within a given feminist community, a woman might flex more because of that. But insofar as woman think they have gained wisdom about the nature of the patriarchy or something–and do we think this? I guess maybe sometimes, OK–it’s just what I said: violence, and control, and how to shut people up, and how to scare people. How to make a seamless transition between terror and just tucking in your shirt-tail and looking for that one Metro card that has $2.75 on it, have you seen it? And you think, can he really expect me to answer this bland question? Like the knife over the smooth peanut butter in an open-faced sandwich in a TV ad, one slide and then everything is perfect again! Better than perfect, it has one rakish swirl at the edge. But there’s nothing to understand. Maybe some people turn to activism because a good story’s better. It’s a story about patriarchy! But you’re not almost the same, you’re just the same: it’s a story about getting broken open and all your insides hollowed out with blackness. Even the top layer of you is flaking off and it’s mysterious how you can move now, what things can be grinding against one another in the place where you used to have arm bones and elbows. Then you either die or not. You didn’t die! YOU WON! YOU FUCKING WON! YOU WON!

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milx 02.13.15 at 12:47 pm

rather B anonymous @146,

If you’ll permit me my anecdote, I recently (last year) attended my sister’s high school graduation at a smaller private school. The graduating class included around twenty boys and twenty girls. Looking through the program I noticed that all but three of the girls were graduating with honors. By contrast all but two of the boys were not. Far more of the girls than boys ended up being accepted into well respected college programs (Ivy and similar). Obviously I cannot extrapolate from this to the society at large, or to other schools, but it occurred to me at the time that if I raise my children in this community (which I am), and send them to these schools (which I might), it would be a lie to claim that they were less privileged than their male coeds.

149

egalitarianisting 02.13.15 at 1:04 pm

My unpopular thought is hard to articulate in a way that doesn’t just sound stupid.

I suspect I’m not the only man who agrees with everything that feminists stand for and yet balk at being called anything so single-gender-identified as “feminist”. I was quite pleased to hear Marcus Brigstocke on the Now Show last Friday proclaiming himself a feminist, but it’s not a sentiment you hear from men very often. I will describe myself as a feminist because that’s the language we’ve got, but I would much rather we had more gender-neutral language by default in the way that “civil rights” became the moniker for the black rights movement in the US — something so obviously inclusive that everyone can get behind without qualm.

150

Very occasional poster 02.13.15 at 1:12 pm

Regarding affirmative consent:

A couple decades back, I was (male) friends-with-benefits with a woman who was resentful of the arrangement on account of her bigger, unrequited feelings, and I lacked the maturity to pull the plug. At some point in this we had sex of the sort where she was angry and I was nonverbally “fine, whatever” about it. Afterwards she said, out of remorse as opposed to mindeffery, that some of our classmates would call what happened rape. I muttered something about the problem of the expanding definition of such.

But by the spirit and letter of the affirmative consent standards I’ve seen, it was. The thing is, I’m appalled that this behavior, poor though it was, should be put on the same moral plane as what happened to Belle or for that matter Zora, or should carry the sort of life-altering consequences being considered.

151

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 1:16 pm

That’s too many kids with honors. That’s not how honors work. “You’re in the top 47% of your class! You all get trophies because liberal soccer moms have ruined America!” Somebody needs to get a curve up in there. Are male grade-schoolers “co-eds” though? I think it’s maybe a sassy thing to turn around on Fox news panelists as a word for adult male college students but this seems iffy. Setting that aside I think you’re really growing to this pseud.

152

engels 02.13.15 at 1:20 pm

Unpopular view: feminism’s main advances over the last few decades are a political echo of capitalism’s requirement for a larger, mixed-gender, workforce to exploit. Much of American online feminism is identity politics for college-educated US women, which cares little about the interests or experiences of the majority of women in America and is rarely interested in non-American women except when they can be ‘rescued’ by American imperialism. Its imposition of avant-garde behavioural norms and politically correct shibboleths is classist in effect if not in intent and it sures up capitalist ideology through its fetishisation of individualism and choice.

Good thread by the way, and sorry to hear about Belle’s, Brett’s and others’ experiences.

153

magari 02.13.15 at 1:25 pm

Engels in one sentence: welcome to the economy, now you can be exploited like everyone else.

154

Robespierre 02.13.15 at 1:35 pm

@Brett 142: (not stalking you, I actually agree).

As for “sick, but sick people have rights”: I am in no position to speak about gays. I do, however, suffer (yes, suffer) from a paraphilia, which I will not name. And it is not normal, and it is not ok. I’d much rather be able to feel attraction to a whole person. If I could choose not to have one, I wouldn’t hesitate a second, and wish no one else would have to suffer from one, either. Unfortunately, there is no such possibility.
A while back, in my own country, I stumbled on someone writing (to no one in particular) “best wishes and have gay kids” – a play on the more traditional “best wishes and have male kids”.
I can’t help thinking that I would wish no such thing on anyone, any more than I would wish that someone were born with a disability, and I can’t help thinking that we’re being enormously hypocritical on this point.

I’m sure that people can nonetheless live happy lives, and that less prejudice would help. Still.

155

milx 02.13.15 at 1:42 pm

@Belle, 151: If I understood correctly the honors were the product of achieving a particular level of success in X number of advanced placement courses, and maybe some other similar “objective” (non-curved) measures.

156

engels 02.13.15 at 1:44 pm

Okay one more- unpopular(?) question, not a view, because I don’t know the answer- is the decline in wages in America over the last few decades connected with women’s entrance into the workforce, and is the loss of workers’ entitlements in specific sectors (eg. HE) connected with the feminisation of those sectors?

157

magari 02.13.15 at 1:49 pm

I’d say it has a lot more to do with the mobility of capital (outsourcing) and the neoliberal political project (organized labor is bad, “flexibility” is necessary, and if you fail it’s your fault).

158

Belle Waring 02.13.15 at 1:52 pm

Very occasional poster: did you mean to say the sex wasn’t up to snuff taking enthusiastic consent standards into account, for the reason that you hadn’t said to one another “hey, d’you wanna…?” If anything it sounds as if your sexual encounter would fail the enthusiastic consent standard in that you more or less only grudgingly agreed to have sex with her, (blows hair off forehead, rolls eyes) ‘fine, whatever, god.’ But it seems as if you’re saying it didn’t meet the standards because it was both a) non-verbally undertaken and, b) separately, she was pissed off at you for not taking her romantic interests seriously. Is that it? I mean, they’re sort of totally separate tracks for non-consent to run along. If she was saying, people might agree that was rape because I was pissed as hell at you and crying before-hand, well…well…it would be a billion percent contingent on the actual facts! I’m happy to take your word for it. People fight and then make up (sort of) by having sex in this mixed-up world we live in; having been angry at the person previously doesn’t make subsequent sex acts non-consensual. You just don’t consent to sex, or withdraw consent and then BOOM; non-consensual sex acts happen. Or nothing because the other person backs off. Or rape of some more thoroughgoing sort. But “I was mad at you but had sex anyway, which I sort of wish I hadn’t because I have a terrible crush on you and had determined to retain the upper hand in some way, but then, dude, I have a terrible crush on you that consists of wanting to sex you up, so, that happened, and now some people would say it was rape!” That’s an asshole thing to say and the people who would say it was rape [stipulating they knew the actual facts] are assholes. Also yes it was a mindfuck thing to say. Well, I wasn’t there, but that’s my feeling. It’s not a thing you just drop on a dude you like all casual. It’s only a terrifying accusation.

Also, Zora, holy shit I’m so sorry. People can’t tell you what to say and feel about your own life, but if you were my friend I would say, ‘you got raped while you were tripping?!? That’s like the most horrible idea in the world!’ Nobody with human empathy thinks using a petrified crying person as a sex toy is ever ok. And the tripping part! I don’t mean to focus on irrelevancies, but having sex on acid on purpose is some heavy shit. Everyone is made of gelatinous permeable decaying goo! Why was I not informed till AGAIN 10 MILLISECONDS AGO AGAIN.

159

LizardBreath 02.13.15 at 2:02 pm

I think Very Occasional was saying that his friend-with-benefits confessed/asserted that by some standards, she had just raped him, because he had not really consented. Not accusing him of rape-by-some-standards because she was angry during the sex they had, but remorsefully admitting that maybe she was a rapist. (Which, everything you said about the contingency of the situation still holds, but I think you read Very Occasional backwards.)

160

Very occasional poster 02.13.15 at 2:09 pm

Belle,

Thanks for your input. I guess I was unclear: she speculated – unless I am woefully deluding myself – that *she* had raped *me*.

There’s something said by this very confusion.

161

engels 02.13.15 at 2:17 pm

Thanks, Magari, I expect you’re right that those are more important reasons, I just wondered if it was a factor…

162

temp 02.13.15 at 2:17 pm

AH@107: “But identity is not something that can be arbitarily self-identified. For instance, white people who have tried to self identify as in indigounous people have been rightly called out on appropriating indigenous culture.”

Neither sex nor ethnicity are discrete. Perhaps white people should be called out if they self-identify as indigenous, but what about people who are half indigenous, or quarter indigenous, etc.? Similarity, I think the scientific evidence suggests that transwomen are born “biologically male” in some respects. Does that give them any claim of identity? Or are genitals determinative?

163

Lynne 02.13.15 at 2:19 pm

dn @ 103

Yes, you’re in the right ballpark, with a couple of adjustments.

I’m just going to quote you here so I can refer to it because there have been a lot of comments since yours, which I look forward to reading:

“You believe that transsexuals are generally people who have bought into such an illegitimate concept of normative gender, but find it narrow and repressive and are consequently dissatisfied with their own situation. [Yes] You consider hormone treatment and SRS ill-considered overreactions to this situation [I’ll tweak that below], and think that, were repressive gender roles to be softened or done away with, trans people would feel more comfortable identifying with their assigned sex and would not feel compelled to resort to such drastic physical remedies [Yes] (with this I disagree). In any case, you consider it incorrect for an anatomically-male transgendered individual to identify as any sort of woman [No, as explained below] and believe that such people should be excluded from “women-only” spaces and discourses. [Yes] Am I in the right ballpark here?”

I do believe that with a more flexible, open, loving society, one unjudgemental of sexual matters, fewer people would resort to the painful, drastic measures involved in changing their sex. However, I wouldn’t say trans people are ill-advised or doing something incorrect. I would just say they aren’t becoming women. I don’t accept them as women, and I don’t want feminism derailed by the alphabet that follows LGB….

Yes, I do think they should be excluded from women-only spaces. To me, a trans person is less comparable to a gay person than to someone who is trying to pass as another race. I don’t suppose I’d be well-received by black activists if I tried to pass as black, however sincerely held my beliefs. That parallel strikes me as apt. So I don’t condemn trans people for changing themselves, but I don’t accept that they have changed themselves into my sex. They may be transwomen but they aren’t women.

Thank you for making the effort to understand my position. It is more than I dared hope for when I posted.

164

bob mcmanus 02.13.15 at 2:25 pm

152-155, 156: Yes, it’s connected. It’s all connected, intersectionally. Individualism/atomization among other things. Not that women are to blame, any more than immigrants. Here’s a paragraph for you with a new term to me, from Christian Fuchs:

Housewifization means that jobs take on insecure and precarious traits that have traditionally characterized housework (Mies, Bennholdt-Thomsen and
Werlhof 1988; Mies 1986; Werlhof 1991). Indian software engineers are different
from house workers in the respect that they are waged workers, but the kind of
flexibilities they have to deal with are an aspect of housewifization: like house
workers they have to be constantly available, be ready to switch between different
tasks and invest long hours of work without having enough time for themselves

I understand that is not what is wanted in this thread, and am still planning for the cut-and-paste from Joan Wallach Scott on personal narratives. Don’t have a one, myself.

And well, labor creates and sustains capitalism with a narrative of personal liberty. Intersectionalize that to the Patriarchy.

165

milx 02.13.15 at 2:25 pm

Can I just point out (and hopefully this bit of meta won’t topple this wonderful, and successful, experiment) that it seems like a lot of ppl who consider themselves leftist (or leftist enough to read + post on CT) were craving the opportunity to share ideological breaks from the left in a safe space? And maybe that suggests that there has been a level of censorship in the left (of the sort Chait, deboer, et al have been mocked for pointing out).

166

engels 02.13.15 at 2:37 pm

Just to be clear, I certainly don’t think feminism is ‘to blame’ for falling wages (and I think a world in which a subsistence wage is split between two partners is preferable to one in which it is paid to the male partner alone).

167

LizardBreath 02.13.15 at 2:44 pm

And maybe that suggests that there has been a level of censorship in the left

I don’t mean to imply that this is completely off-base in general, but fear of censorship from the left wasn’t where my inhibitions about raising the issue (about intoxicated consent) came from; it was more fear of exploitation from the right. I really am on board with the vast majority of anti-rape activism, I just have this one issue, but I see people who believe that anti-rape activism has gone too far using this same issue as a tool to discredit the whole enterprise, and I don’t want to help with that.

On different issues, the source of people’s inhibitions may be, and probably are, entirely different.

168

bob mcmanus 02.13.15 at 2:45 pm

166: I disagree, in that it isn’t my choice to make and institutional structures (historical, current, or ideal) can have unintended consequences, good and bad

See Janet Hunter, Japanese Women Working, last chapter, Joy Hendry, “The Role of the Professional Housewife”

With that, I’m gone.

169

lurker 02.13.15 at 2:58 pm

‘Neither sex nor ethnicity are discrete. Perhaps white people should be called out if they self-identify as indigenous, but what about people who are half indigenous, or quarter indigenous, etc.?’ (Temp 162)
It’s complicated. Americans have 1) the one drop rule (for blackness) and 2) the blood quantum (for Native Americans). In my country (it’s been explained to me by experts) membership in a minority community is something that is determined by the community. If other members of the community recognize you as one of their own, you are in, if they don’t, your ancestry and feelings are irrelevant.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 3:02 pm

Okay here I go:

I hate hijabs and burkas. Whenever I see them I feel so sorry for the women wearing them. I know that many women choose to wear them but I just find the idea that there are these special clothes that women have to wear to be modest so super sexist that I want to scream. Do I want the government to ban them? No. But do I think they are a relic of a sexist and patriarchal culture? Yes

/I feel super racist posting this :-(

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milx 02.13.15 at 3:05 pm

I don’t think that Islam is a race; in fact I think the idea that Islam is a race is absurd.

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LizardBreath 02.13.15 at 3:31 pm

170: Would it help you to separate out burkhas (which also seem to me objectively incredibly restrictive and oppressive) from hijab (which seems to me like a gender-differentiated standard of modesty not very different from the general Western assumption that toplessness is immodest for women but not men. Arbitrary, but not a hugely significant deal, in that it’s not all that troublesome or restrictive?) If you talked yourself into equating hijab with the requirement that women cover their breasts where men don’t have to, you could consistently be equally offended by both arbitrary standards (either not at all, or a lot, either way), and the consistency might let you feel less racist about it.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 3:33 pm

172: Probably something to that.

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hix 02.13.15 at 3:42 pm

@171: The Burka wearing is very specific to some predonimant islamic ethnicities however. In general, i would think a lot of complaints about islam are not very islam specific, but rather a question of social structures in many predominant islamic countries that are independent of islam.

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parse 02.13.15 at 3:44 pm

What should gay people have been fighting for instead?

Pederasty, aka “The love that dare not speak its name.”

That’s my unpopular opinion.

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adam.smith 02.13.15 at 3:46 pm

@MPA — I’m just curious: do you actually mean hijab, i.e. the regular headscarf? Because I share your feelings about niqabs and burkas and I don’t feel all that bad about that, given how strongly they’re connected to super-sexist versions of Islam. I feel differently about regular hijabs, probably not least because I’ve had actual meaningful conversations with women wearing them.

I don’t know if this qualifies as “unpopular” (and the existence of a Louis CK bit on it suggests it doesn’t) but I really dislike making words taboo even when quoting someone or talking about their meaning. Obviously I’d never call someone any F, C, N, or T words (leaving these abbreviated for the benefit of the mod-bot), but the idea that we have to refer to devices such as “used a well-known racial epithet” or that Dan Savage (whatever his other faults) gets in trouble for using the T word when explaining how he came to understand its hurtfulness and doesn’t use it anymore–that goes way too far for me.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 3:46 pm

“The Burka wearing is very specific to some predonimant islamic ethnicities however. In general, i would think a lot of complaints about islam are not very islam specific, but rather a question of social structures in many predominant islamic countries that are independent of islam”

I agree. Which is why I said they are a relic of a sexist and patriarchal culture. ;-)

/Of course I think Islam, like all of the Abrahamic religions, is incredibly sexist as historically practiced. How the faiths are actually practiced by many people today is a different story.

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mattski 02.13.15 at 3:49 pm

This is a beautiful thread and Belle is a brilliant writer. Thank you, Belle, for your courage. I wish I had yours.

To Brett: I appreciate very much both your tenacity and your willingness to share personal details, stories of suffering. But here is another point of view about deviancy from the norm, so to speak. If we visualize the distribution of sexual preference and identity as a bell-curve (bad associations I know!) we can fairly point to any part of that curve and say, “this is normal.” IOW, it is normal for (making up numbers here) 70% of the population to identify as ‘unambiguously hetero’ for example. Or, it is normal for 10% of the population to identify as ‘unambiguously homo’, or for 15% to identify as ‘probably bi.’

So, it is just as easy to look at the entire distribution as ‘normal’ as it is to cast those near the margins as somehow ‘impaired.’ Are they really “sick?” Isn’t that a judgement based on little more than fear of what is different? Isn’t it an entirely unnecessary judgement? Isn’t more accurate, more scientific, to say that it is NORMAL for X percent of the population to have such-and-such sexual identification?

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 3:51 pm

Clamping my metaphorical mouth shut on being called “sick” (that possibility was inherent in the rules of this thread, and I don’t think it invalidates it at all, it’s a wonderful thread) except to reference a book.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 3:52 pm

” Isn’t it an entirely unnecessary judgement? Isn’t more accurate, more scientific, to say that it is NORMAL for X percent of the population to have such-and-such sexual identification?”

I like that mattski. I like that a lot.

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 3:55 pm

And because the relevant parties will likely never check out the book, this is from the Wikipedia entry about the author:

Biological Exuberance cites numerous studies on some 300 species (see List of animals displaying homosexual behavior) showing that homosexual and bisexual behaviors are common among animals and proposes a theory of sexual behavior in which reproduction is only one of its principal biological functions.[3] Bagemihl proposes that group cohesion and lessening of tensions, seen for example among bonobos, are other important functions of sexual behavior.[4]

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SamChevre 02.13.15 at 4:03 pm

MPAVictoria:

I’m curious–is it only hijab that you find troubling, or is this also troubling?

If yes, that’s an unfamiliar point of view, and obviously strange to me. (That’s a recent picture of my mother.)

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bianca steele 02.13.15 at 4:07 pm

I don’t have time to type much right now (and I have a really unpopular but really trivial thought that I’ll save for when the thread dies down), but there are some inherent contradictions in feminism that, maybe, have developed in different directions than women in the 1960s and 1970s would have thought. There was always a strand of thought, even in equality feminists (if that’s an actual term, I’ve hit on it by accident), that the world would be better if women’s ways of thinking were more dominant. There would be less war, etc. It’s not obvious what that would mean, of course. And of course, women aren’t actually biologically coded to be “nice” in a way men aren’t, so the idea doesn’t work all that well. There was always a strand of thought that women are made to feel bad about being women, and wanting to correct this can lead to reinforcing gender roles and tradition, in a way that’s not really compatible with second-wave feminism (at least not if you think about it–I think, as a slightly younger woman, that some intergenerational conflict amounts to basically this–second generation feminists upset about the way younger women present themselves, in a way younger women perceive as reinforcing old gender norms). Thought about traditions handed down from woman to woman can turn into psychological theories about how women should get along with their mothers which can in turn be blind to whether mother-daughter conflict is itself essentially over feminism. Thought about gender roles can become essentialist and prescriptive. There is frequently too much emphasis, I think, on “structural” feminism, to put it shortly.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 4:11 pm

Hi Sam, I meant no offence to you or your mother and I know it is an unpopular view on the left. Basically I find any clothing that requires women’s bodies to be covered up like they were something dirty or shameful troubling.

Again I offer these comments in the spirit of the thread and mean no offence.

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SamChevre 02.13.15 at 4:12 pm

No offense taken–I was just curious, since that response is not one I’ve run into before.

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engels 02.13.15 at 4:16 pm

any clothing that requires women’s bodies to be covered up like they were something dirty or shameful troubling

Bathing suits?

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delagar 02.13.15 at 4:17 pm

Lynne: Re trans people: As someone with both friends and students who are trans, I’ll just say, wow. That has not been my experience at all.

Also, I’ve seen the analogy in which we compare trans to identifying as black when you’re actually white on a few other blogs. Trans people really aren’t that.

Since we’re not supposed to be duking this out, if I understand the rules for this thread, I’ll stop there.

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delagar 02.13.15 at 4:21 pm

I also have students who wear the hijab. I’ve never been clear on how that’s different than, say, a kippah, or yarmulke, or the head scarf some Jewish women wear.

I wouldn’t wear one, but surely this is a personal choice.

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engels 02.13.15 at 4:25 pm

Another one: whenever I hear about ‘male feminists’ I think of this

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 4:33 pm

“Bathing suits?”

If you mean do I oppose rules preventing women from going topless yes.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 4:34 pm

“I wouldn’t wear one, but surely this is a personal choice.”

Of course! No argument there. I just find that choice troubling. Less so with a headscarf or hijab and much more so with a Burka or a veil.

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engels 02.13.15 at 4:50 pm

MPAVictoria, the discrepancy is that you say you find the choice to wear the hijab troubling, but (if I understand you) you don’t find the choice to wear a bathing suit troubling, only laws mandating it.

It seems to me that if you really believed any clothing that requires women’s bodies to be covered up like they were something dirty or shameful [is] troubling you would feel more-or-less the same way about both.

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engels 02.13.15 at 4:54 pm

(Unless you have a reason for thinking the hijab suggests ‘shame’ about the ‘dirty’ body parts it covers whereas a bathing suit doesn’t–I’d have thought the opposite view was more plausible. Anyway, I assume this kind of cross-examination isn’t really in the spirit of the thread so I shan’t continue it…)

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 5:00 pm

“It seems to me that if you really believed any clothing that requires women’s bodies to be covered up like they were something dirty or shameful [is] troubling you would feel more-or-less the same way about both.”

You are probably right engels. Curious as to your thoughts regarding Burkas?

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Ronan(rf) 02.13.15 at 5:05 pm

I don’t see how objecting to the burqa is problematic. Wearing the burqa is not a politically or ideologically neutral act, it symbolises (for a lot of people) something very specific, ie the subjugation of women. And this comes up regularly enough from the women themselves who *choose* to wear it, not that they’re passive victims of patriarcal cultural norms but that they’re making an explicit choice, to reject one conception of female empowerment for what they see as another. So I think it’s ‘fair game.’ My position is one of ambivalence. It’s much too complicated a question for me to get my head around, and none of my business.
This is one of my pet peeves, I guess, about (what I’ll generalise as) the left. I think that politically and rhetorically there’s a tendency to essentialise individuals, to imagine them as either passive victims of some larger structural process, or merely representations of some larger ‘identity group'(for good or bad). Both of these options, IMO, take all agency away from individuals. By extension I think there’s a reluctance to engage with people as equals, to acknowledge the *choices they made* and the specific reasons they made them. To argue against those choices. Not to say that it should be outlawed, but that you disagree. To me this is central to being seen as an equal, that you are not only or primarily a victim(or a representation of some relatively meaningless demographic), and that you need not always treated with kiddy gloves.

I think this is a manifestation of a larger problem, mainly the predominance of W(estern) E(ducated) I(ndustrialized) R(ich) (D)emocratic thinking and how it affects the lefts ability to either understand the world or speak to anyone outside of the ideologically commited. I can’t really articulate this at the moment. I might come back to it, but might not. If anyone wants to try decipher the point and speak for me, I’m more than happy.

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Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 5:11 pm

“Or, it is normal for 10% of the population to identify as ‘unambiguously homo’, or for 15% to identify as ‘probably bi.’”

More like a couple of percent, Kinsey was a fraud.

Biology is not 100% reliable in producing an optimum phenotype. People are born blind, deaf, subject to seizures, you name it. That some people would be born with a malfunctioning system for identifying potential mates is absolutely to be expected. And evolution has made organisms very good at making lemonade out of lemons that come their way. But that doesn’t make lemons oranges, if you get my meaning.

There’s a movement among the deaf, to respond to medical advances in preventing/curing deafness with opposition, because it will destroy deaf culture. To the point where people with deaf children are urged not to have them cured!

There’s a line between making the best of a problem, and embracing it as a non-problem. I think homosexuals have crossed that line.

I also think that we will, in not too many years, finally figure out the causes of homosexuality. Will homosexuals then medically intervene to inflate their own numbers, in response to straight parents acting to avoid having homosexual children? Probably. It’s going to be a strange world when biotech really hits it’s stride.

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ragweed 02.13.15 at 5:18 pm

@169 – Native American identity is a hugely complicated discussion that takes us far afield of the topic of this thread. Blood quantum is one factor that mainly impacts tribal enrollment, but different tribes have different definitions of what constitutes enrollable blood quantum – some require as much as a quarter, others as little as 1/32. But then others reject the notion of blood quantum – as Nahaan Fasts-from-English (Twinges) says “Blood quantum is not part of our indigenous language”.

Generally I find Native people in the us define Native membership as being culturally connected to a tribal community with some degree of ancestral connection. The cultural connection is key – so someone can be 1/16th blood Cherokee and tribally enrolled and be accepted as Cherokee, but someone who claims a distant Cherokee great-grandmother and is otherwise completely unconnected to the tribe is generally not considered legit. But it is also complicated by federally recognized vs unrecognized tribes, urban vs tribal experience (70% of Native Americans in the US do not live in their tribal communities), forcible adoption policies, forced assimilation and the boarding school / residential school experience (where the goal was to “kill the Indian, save the man”), etc. More recently there has been a huge controversy over some tribes that are trying to dis-enroll large numbers of tribal members, in some cases shearing off whole family lineages, in what is mostly an attempt to increase per-capita Casino royalties to the remaining enrolled members (google the Nooksack 306).

The more I work with Native communities, the more I realize how different those politics are from other racial and ethnic groups in the US. There is a whole language of sovereignty that is very different from issues of race and racism.

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engels 02.13.15 at 5:22 pm

Curious as to your thoughts regarding Burkas?

Don’t like ’em, don’t want to have ’em banned.

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ragweed 02.13.15 at 5:28 pm

I must turn off autocorrect on this tablet thing. That should read Nahaan Fasts-from-English (Tlingit)”. For that matter, why would the Microsoft dictionary not include the name of a significant Alaskan native tribe?

(if this makes no sense it is because the post it refers to is still in moderation).

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 5:32 pm

“Don’t like ‘em, don’t want to have ‘em banned.”

So the same place as me. Why don’t you like them? Last question I promise. :-)

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mattski 02.13.15 at 5:46 pm

Biology is not 100% reliable in producing an optimum phenotype.

Brett,

Optimum phenotype? What is that? Surely a successful species has to have some way of controlling its population growth. Or it wouldn’t ultimately be successful, would it?

So, maybe when humans–who don’t seem to be subject to predation–come up against the constraints of environmental carrying capacity they will turn to their reservoir of homosexuals for guidance…

;^)

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Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 5:57 pm

You actually do have something there, Mattski. In research in rats, homosexuality does seem to be a response to crowding. It’s possible something of the sort is going on in humans, given that most of us live at huge population densities compared to our recent evolutionary past. Like I said, evolution is pretty good at turning lemons into lemonaid.

It’s still less than optimum, though, unless you consider the propagation of disease to be an acceptable population control mechanism.

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engels 02.13.15 at 6:09 pm

a malfunctioning system for identifying potential mates

That’s a pithy definition of civilisation, Brett.

Why don’t you like them?

They’re wearable symbols of patriarchal oppression which seem to me on a different level from, eg,, the hijab or high-heeled shoes.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 6:11 pm

“They’re wearable symbols of patriarchal oppression which seem to me on a different level from, eg,, the hijab or high-heeled shoes.”

Thank you. Very sensible and probably more correct then where I started this thread.

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Zora 02.13.15 at 6:17 pm

Wearing niqab or a face-covering burqa in Western countries can be defiant protest. “You don’t like Muslims? I’ll show you Muslim!”

A headscarf, on the other hand, can be both a profession of faith, like wearing a crucifix or a yarmulke, AND a way to pacify relatives who would prefer that a female stay home, in purdah. Women who wear headscarves go to school, get advanced degrees, hold professional jobs … all the things that grandmother might not have been able to do. With added headscarf, it’s OK. A headscarf can be Muslima feminism. It neutralizes family resistance.

I’m thinking of those two lovely women recently gunned down in North Carolina.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 6:23 pm

Excellent point Zora.

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Asteele 02.13.15 at 6:25 pm

Kinsley was researching sexual histories, not orientation, so it’s more accurate to say around 15% of his subjects had a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex. Brett continues to be strangely obsessed with naming people that are not like him as biologically inferior or damaged.

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dr ngo 02.13.15 at 6:33 pm

I decided some years ago that since I subscribe to most of the general tenets of feminism (as I understood it) I would identify as a (male) feminist. Unless I was hanging out with a bunch of women who felt that the experience of being a woman was central to feminism, at which point I would say: “OK. It’s your club. If I’m not a feminist, call me an ally.” Not a big deal.

As for the doctrinal purity required of many branches of feminism, my analogy (to myself; this has largely been an internal dialogue) was with American religion as I’ve seen and experienced it, where many many “Christians” (or “Catholics” or “Baptists”) or Jews regard themselves as such without following all of the rules, even as they themselves understand them. Catholics who ate meat during Lent (when that was a thing) or used birth control, Baptists who drank, Jews who ate pork, etc. And some of them cheerfully acknowledge the discrepancy, perhaps during the one festival of the year they actually show up religiously (Easter?): I’m a bad Catholic, but I’m still a Catholic and will always be one. Thus I became OK with thinking “I’m a feminist, but sometimes I’m a bad feminist.” Not a philosophically tight position, but it works for me.

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engels 02.13.15 at 6:42 pm

Thanks MPAV. Zora’s also right re symbolism depending on the context (it’s not what you wear but how you wear it, as they say).

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 6:43 pm

js. @ 137: But mostly, I’d very much like to hear your unpopular thought

This far into the thread, my unpopular thought seems pretty mundane. It comes out of the way the dynamics of my birth family shaped my response to my early experience of feminism in general and the feminism of my friends in particular.

My parents were from widely differing cultural and religious backgrounds, and they were temperamentally like creatures from different planets as well. (They had both grown up very poor, so they had that in common, but even there it was a different kind of poverty in town from that in the country.]

I came out of a childhood where “villain/saint” was the implicit controlling narrative about my parents. My dad was hot-tempered and grumpy and he worked two jobs so he wasn’t around much. He was kind of scary, but (and I understood this much better when I had kids of my own) unlike his own father had been with his family, my dad never hit any of us. My mother was the one who laughed with us, helped us with our homework, was always around.

My understanding of all of this started to change when I found myself, in my mid- to late twenties, responding to my mother in the same way my dad always had. I.e., I would get suddenly very angry with her in the middle of an interaction. After I watched this happen over the course of several years, I decided that what had been going on all those years was that both my parents were nervous, anxious people, and whenever anything went wrong (very broadly defined), my dad’s volatility would immediately come into play and he would start to get agitated, frustrated, angry. And my mom, what would she do? She would do or say something perfectly calibrated (I won’t say calculated, because I don’t think this was conscious behavior) to make him angrier. And hence more in the wrong than he already was by starting to lose his temper.

Once I started to have that game played on me, I started to question the family mythology in a big way. It took a long time, but in brief, my conclusion was that within the family, my mother was the one who controlled the narrative (with a hat tip to Phyllis Rose’s Parallel Lives) and the definitions, i.e., she was the one with the shaping power, and she used it to make my dad the villain and to let herself entirely off the hook of any responsibility for how things had gone.

This was bullshit.

It’s hard to step back from delving deeper into this, but suffice to say that this was happening for me while my friends were becoming feminists and framing the world in such a way that I was then, as I still am now, saying, “It’s more complicated than that.”

My very best loved friend from home became an angry feminist who said to me, by implication (as I quoted on a thread here a couple of months ago), “If you don’t see this the way I do, you can’t possibly have thought about it enough.” And who said quite literally and out loud, “Of course you see it that way now, but someday you’ll have to go through the stage of angry feminism, as I have, and then you’ll see it differently.”

My unpopular thought is a sort of multi-faceted resistance to feminism as I have encountered it personally, i.e. in relation to how the feminists I have known have treated me. It’s an insistence that the world is not actually made up of – as the public utterances of “family violence” people in my area would like us to think – women, children, and perps, and framing it that way is counterproductive to any goal I would like to reach. Gloria Steinem said in a cover story in Time on 3/9/1992 (which I have just ordered, because I want to quote it so often I decided I ought to have a copy), “Any woman who is not a feminist is a masochist.” My answer to that is: Fuck you, Gloria Steinem. I didn’t spent half my adult life claiming the right to define myself in the face of opposition from every institution and many of the individuals in my life just in order to hand it over to you and your snide condescension. (There was more in that article that makes me rant but this is too long already.)

I wish I had known my dad as one adult to another, separate from my mother’s shaping influence. But he started sliding into dementia in his early sixties and died when he was seventy-one. The most telling of his qualities that, in retrospect, reframes his role in my childhood for me is to remember that he could laugh at himself. My mother can’t do that, and I have a hard time with it as well, though I do keep working on it.

In relation to feminism and the way my feminist friends and some public feminists have framed the lives of men and women, I keep remember a saying of Eldridge Cleaver’s: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” I think that’s only a partial truth, and that it’s also usually true (in ordinary life) that “If you don’t recognize that you’re part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.” My mother was part of the problem too…….

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JanieM 02.13.15 at 6:46 pm

I just want to add that this thread is amazing. There are dozens of posts that I would like to note and/or reply to, but that obviously isn’t feasible even on the logistical basis that if we all did it, we’d have an encyclopedia’s worth of comments in short order. I hope everyone who has posted feels, as I do, that this has been a rare and precious experience of being heard, even if not every comment gets a specific response. It’s very rare that I read every comment in a thread, but I have done that here and intend to go on doing it unless it descends….to where I doubt Belle will let it go.

Thanks all.

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bianca steele 02.13.15 at 7:02 pm

Ronan @ 195

I think you and I are using different definitions of “essentialize.” I don’t think it’s essentializing to let people be, or to recognize that they have commitments and a self-image and identity and so on. There are so many things a woman immigrant needs to worry about–for many women, whether to cover her head is probably not the most important one. I may think if she had infinite leisure she would decide it’s better not to cover her head. But it’s really not my business, any more than whether she eats pork or fasts during Ramadan.

This: from the women themselves who *choose* to wear it, . . . that they’re making an explicit choice, to reject one conception of female empowerment for what they see as another. Okay

I have read of women making this statement, but are they all women, or those with more contact than average with what you call WEIRD people? It doesn’t take agency away from people to recognize that they are often happy living the way they’re used to (even if you wouldn’t live that way and they can’t argue to WEIRD standards of evidence why they like it that way).

This isn’t the place for an argument, I’ve whittled away as much as I can while leaving the point around “essentialize,” which is what I wanted to say.

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Ronan(rf) 02.13.15 at 7:08 pm

bianca- that wasn’t meant to be in response to anything you said specifically. I’ll try get back to it in a bit and perhaps make the point more coherently.(Just don’t have time at the minute)

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Lynne 02.13.15 at 7:10 pm

Elizabeth Wydville @ 47

I guess your post was in moderation because I didn’t see it before, but you make two interesting points.

About childcare, I used to wonder whether the guilt-tripping of working mothers contributed to their frequent undervaluing of the people who cared for their children. I often heard them claim they were “working two jobs”, meaning paid job plus childcare, as though their babysitter wasn’t holding a full-time job of her own. Also, as you say, it’s hard to admit you want someone to be better at caring for your children than you are.

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bianca steele 02.13.15 at 7:11 pm

Ronan, no worries. I noticed the reuse of the same word and I think it helps pinpoint the difference I have with your POV, not here specifically maybe, but e.g. on the France thread.

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Widmerpool 02.13.15 at 7:16 pm

JamieM, thank you. My mother criticized and needled my father in that same way right through his final weeks dying of congestive heart failure, while she complained to us kids about how “short” he was with her. I considered asking her point blank to be nice, but I didn’t because I thought it might make things worse. Witnessing this has deeply affected not only my relationship with her, but my tolerance of harsh words within my own marriage, especially in front of our daughter, because I am viscerally resolved that I Will Not Die That Way.

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Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 7:17 pm

“Brett continues to be strangely obsessed with naming people that are not like him as biologically inferior or damaged.”

Let us say, rather, that I am not obsessed with denying that some people are biologically inferior or damaged. Including myself, or I’d have married in 20’s, and not have had my first and only kid at 50. Considering prostate surgery rendered me sterile a couple years later, I only barely escaped getting purged from the gene pool completely for being excessively phobic about women.

I think sometimes people will conflate moral and biological equality, and feel driven to deny the obvious, that some people are just better organisms, because they see it as necessary to assert that people have equal rights and worth. That’s a category error.

Kinsey committed research fraud, and enabled criminal pedophilia. I’m not sure how far any of his findings can be trusted. He’s certainly no guide to the percentage of the population with different sexual preferences. Perhaps he’s a guide to the nature of the people he liked to hang out with.

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dbk 02.13.15 at 7:33 pm

I’ve been following the thread since it began a couple days ago, and have learned a lot. It’s gone off in directions I wouldn’t have anticipated, but they’ve been fascinating and profoundly moving.

If I may, I’d like to ask a few questions:
1) What major political issues are U.S. feminists actively pursuing today? Who are their closest allies?
2) Why do today’s feminists (~30-50-something) feel the ERA failed to be ratified? Does its failure concern them at all?
3) How do today’s 30-something feminists feel about the walk-back from Roe vs. Wade that’s going on at the state level?

For me, “women’s rights” always signified a complex but ever-present interplay of three vectors: sex / race / class. If you think of society as a social pyramid that includes all three, rich white men have traditionally been at the top, and poor black women at the bottom. Statistically, most black women are poorer than most white women, and more white women are poor (particularly in old age) than are white men. I sometimes wonder whether the 1960s women’s rights movement should have been built from the base of the pyramid upward.

I’m pretty sure this is an unpopular feminist view, but speaking from personal experience I feel our generation (the “second wave”) failed our daughters’ generation.

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 7:47 pm

Elizabeth Wydville @ 47

Fantastic post. Thank you.

/Lynne thanks for bringing Elizabeth’s post to my attention.

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Almost the same 02.13.15 at 8:31 pm

Dear Belle,

Oh god I’m so sorry I kept you waiting for it to post. I’m really sorry

Are you kidding? You provided the space. Though I will admit that, so used we are of the flickering screen reflecting instantly our emotions, I had a couple of rough hours yesterday night when I thought the one time in 25 years I have said anything about this could disappear in a comment thread glitch. The greatest tragedy of the modern world. Or not. You provided the space, and armando’s and-yes!-Brett’s posts gave me the courage to write mine. Thank you to you three.

But you’re not almost the same, you’re just the same

Oh I feel bad now. “Almost the same” was supposed to be armando’s story, which I meant to give a shout out to in my post and then didn’t. Trembling hands, and all that. But thanks for the kind words.

You didn’t die! YOU WON! YOU FUCKING WON! YOU WON!

Thanks again for the kind words. Sincerely. Thanks also for the previous paragraph though I’ll admit I didn’t get everything (what’s with the Metro card? and the sandwich?) But really, no. I didn’t win. I failed to die then went on bits by bits and then one day things are better and you get on with your life and the lingering pain is not really that different from the all the thousands minuscule or momentous injuries of life, some of which crash straight into you, some of which you miraculously dodge. But you know that, I guess.

Unfortunately, I have a rather good memory so this also happens, sometimes.
http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2347

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MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 8:41 pm

“Unfortunately, I have a rather good memory so this also happens, sometimes.
http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2347

My god. That comic is my mental landscape. I just cannot say how accurate it is.

For example, I like Indian food but I can never order it without my brain reminding me of the first time I went out for Indian food and didn’t understand the menu and embarrassed myself (at least in my own mind) in front of someone I had a huge crush on. So, EVERY SINGLE TIME I hear about Indian food I have to replay that little moment in my head and feel stupid and ashamed.

Basically a normal day will have multiple moments like that. Something will trigger a memory of a mistake or something that I made in the past and I will be stuck ruminating on it for a while.

/The invention of the MP3 player probably saved my life. Music, Audiobooks and Podcasts help keep my mind busy and negative thoughts at bay.
//Almost the same, my bad memories are of course nothing compared to those you shared but the cartoon you linked to just rang so true to me that I wanted to comment. Thank you for sharing it.

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bob mcmanus 02.13.15 at 8:49 pm

I’m pretty sure this is an unpopular feminist view, but speaking from personal experience I feel our generation (the “second wave”) failed our daughters’ generation.

There are way too many movements, idealisms, experiments whatevers that “failed” or shifted or transmuted in the period say 1970-1990 to single out 2nd wave feminism and extract a simple lesson about either feminism or the times. I also don’t like to say that union leadership failed, or environmentalism/conservation crumbled, or music sucked after Lennon died. Or socialism was a mistake.

Bourgeois counter-revolutions also happen and are tough to fight and last a long time: 1830s, Gilded Age, 1950s. These can also be fruitful times for individualistic self-expression: (Post-) Impressionism, Expressionism, Beats.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 8:58 pm

Val @141 Llandru – and others – there’s two different things being talked about here. One is, people get unhappy, mean, screwed up – we do bad things, we hurt each other, we imagine things and we screw our own lives up. … The other thing is patriarchy.

I wasn’t mixing these things up, my point is precisely that bullying complicates this distinction, and just like feminism can be racist or classist, feminists can also leverage and reinforce these other not-so-publicly-challenged social hierarchies. (In theory feminists may agree that it shouldn’t do that, that that’s not what feminism is about, but in practice it hasn’t been that uncommon for feminists to ignore or even reinforce social distinctions–that’s why we need things like #solidarityisforwhitewomen.)

When I was bullied in school, the distinction you’re trying to make is exactly how a school administrator (and various other people around me, such as teachers) tried to avoid dealing with the problem–by acting like it was a conflict between me and other kids, whereas in reality it was an unwritten (but not infrequently spoken out loud) rule that this particular kid (and one or two others) were fair game for almost any kind of abuse you could get away with. This was a very real, established social hierarchy that was confined to a classroom (lasting about 4 years–mostly the same kids in the same class together all 4 years), but that has such an impact on your identity and how you relate to others that it tends to live on for a long time after leaving the environment where it was strictly enforced. That’s the kind of thing people like Aaronson are talking about, and it’s abundantly clear to me now, many years beyond childhood and after having studied and learned a lot about patriarchy, racial hierarchies, and social struggles of many kinds, that this is a lot more like patriarchy or racial oppression than it is like acts of unkindness that poison individual relationships.

That said, I agree that the article Landru linked to are making a mistake by acting as if Marcotte speaks for all feminists. Anyone who wants to argue that this is a fundamental problem for feminism needs to do better than that article did.

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TM 02.13.15 at 9:17 pm

Rape on the Campus by Zoë Heller (seems like worth mentioning)

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/feb/05/rape-campus/

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Abbe Faria 02.13.15 at 9:34 pm

engels:

“Much of American online feminism is identity politics for college-educated US women, which cares little about the interests or experiences of the majority of women in America and is rarely interested in non-American women except when they can be ‘rescued’ by American imperialism.”

I very strongly agree with this, except for the bit about imperialism. I’ve been really disturbed by the lack of a mainstream feminist response to the Rotherham (and Rochdale, Bristol, etc) child sexual exploitation scandals and the rise of the Islamic State. They seem absolutely feminist concerns, and I think the reason they’ve been ignored is they effect working class girls and Middle Easterners, and are ‘problematic’ for people concerned about colonialism and the West. I find this upsetting because I think political pressure in this area could do a lot of good.

I think the iconic recent feminist/progressive campaign was #bringbackourgirls. It made everyone feel noble and failed to achieve anything. And more than that; while the Obamas were tweeting sad faces and talking about their pain, and progressives were tweeting their support for womens rights, the Iraqi government asked for airstrikes against the Islamic State. The progressive anti-Imperialist playbook was followed and the US refused, and consequently thousands of Yazidi girls were abducted, raped and sold as slaves. I do not know a more appalling example of people engaging in a feelgood social media circlejerk while simultaneously conniving to allow the very thing they profess to be appalled by.

Kobane is another great example. Quick recap: there was a literal battle between Jihadists, trying to establish a literal Patriarchy, and the YPJ, a literal army of militant feminists trying to stop them. (And I do mean literal – stone adulteresses to death, throw gays from rooftops, sell women as slaves, marry 9 year olds – Patriarchy. In the IS we’ve seen the creation of the most oppressive place in the world for women). But the YPJ are Kurds and fighting Islamists, so good luck finding any sign of interest in Western feminist media. Any credible feminist movement would aid these women and regard them as heroes, not ignore them.

I wish feminists were in favor of American imperialism.

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novakant 02.13.15 at 10:39 pm

I wish feminists were in favor of American imperialism.

Yeah, awesome, let’s start wars for women’s rights. Hillary Clinton is waiting in the wings.

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Emma in Sydney 02.13.15 at 10:54 pm

Thanks Belle for this most interesting, discomforting and challenging thread, and for, amazingly, eliciting such civility among commenters. I’ve been too busy working to compose a long comment but appreciate all that I’ve read.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 10:58 pm

Abbe Faria @224 They seem absolutely feminist concerns, and I think the reason they’ve been ignored is they effect working class girls and Middle Easterners, and are ‘problematic’ for people concerned about colonialism and the West.

Or maybe the fact that Muslims (weren’t they actually S Asian?) were involved is what got the story in the news in the first place, and without the islamophobia it wouldn’t be newsworthy (how many cases of sex-trafficking do you hear about in the news? and are you sure this isn’t how under-age prostitution and sex-trafficking work in a lot of cases?) What struck me about the story is how completely unhelpful/hostile the police were to the victims. That is an issue that comes up again and again. That is the dimension of this that is representative of a larger problem, not the fact that it was Muslim men preying on non-Muslim girls. But conservatives and center-right Democrats in the US pretty much only care about violence against women when it is avowed Islamists who are committing it. The Egyptian government under Mubarrak or Sisi can act almost like the Saudis, but when Morsi does the exact same thing all of a sudden it’s a crisis. Nobody who complains about ISIS or child sex rings will ever have anything to say about Sisi.

The progressive anti-Imperialist playbook was followed and the US refused, and consequently thousands of Yazidi girls were abducted, raped and sold as slaves. I do not know a more appalling example of people engaging in a feelgood social media circlejerk while simultaneously conniving to allow the very thing they profess to be appalled by.

The obvious answer: pretty much this exact line was used, and very effectively, to sell the invasion of Iraq to feminists, and that war is what started this whole mess in the first place–it is absolutely unthinkable that IS would exist without the invasion of Iraq. So more awareness things going on outside the US is good, but these examples are unconvincing.

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ragweed 02.13.15 at 10:59 pm

I wish American foreign policy were determined by a concern for women’s rights rather than imperialism. Imagine how history might be different had the CIA said “well, we could support the Mujahideen, but they are to horribly patriarchal.”

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Ellie Kesselman 02.13.15 at 11:49 pm

engels comment 152

…feminism’s main advances over the last few decades are a political echo of capitalism’s requirement for a larger, mixed-gender, workforce to exploit. Much of American online feminism is identity politics for college-educated US women, which cares little about the interests or experiences of the majority of women in America… Its imposition of avant-garde behavioural norms and politically correct shibboleths is classist in effect if not in intent and it [shores] up capitalist ideology through its fetishisation of individualism and choice.

Yes, yes, yes! This is my impression as well, engels, despite being a Wharton MBA grad and former investment banker.

As for engels question in #156, I think it is answered by #157. Engels observation extends beyond healthcare or other fields that have seen an influx of women during the past 20 years. To expand a bit: Be aware that the so-called STEM crisis is due more to increased US corporate exploitation of ALL types of labor, including STEM. As #157 said, implementation was realized by the odious )o| Larry Summers-flavored neoliberal paradigm and popularized by the equally odious Thomas Friedman and his flat-world euphemisms for inhumane labor practices as “choice” and “global knowledge workers”.

On topic, I agree with MPAVictoria about burqa wearing. Instead of having the effect of protecting women, or I guess protecting men from the evil, morally-compromising effect of female bodies per my understanding of the rationale, it instead seems to make women more visible targets for abuse.

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L.M. Dorsey 02.14.15 at 12:05 am

In Santería, I am told, the eidola of Christian saints are invested by the gods, for the duration.

Likewise, it seems to me, America is the eidolon of the Enlightenment invested by the animus of Aristotle’s Politics, for the duration: wherein the world is a hierarchy of subordinations, and the relief for your misery is that you, who are not at the bottom, are authorized to kick down at someone else, by God!

At least that’s the theory one might propound over sherry. America is a knife fight.

“Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

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mattski 02.14.15 at 12:08 am

It’s still less than optimum, though, unless you consider the propagation of disease to be an acceptable population control mechanism.

Well, we don’t know what ‘optimum’ is. That was what I was getting at. Adaptation to change is an essential part of life, so the constant proliferation of genetic outliers is a crucial part of natural selection. In an inherently unstable environment it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think in terms of ‘optimum’ types.

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mattski 02.14.15 at 12:14 am

MPAV,

In terms of unwanted thoughts, you are FAR from alone! I seem to recall film maker Errol Morris being asked, “do you ever have any unwelcome thoughts?” To which he responded, “Are there any other kind?”

:^)

But seriously, have you ever tried meditation or gone on a short (1 or 2 day) retreat? Can be a really helpful thing.

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adam.smith 02.14.15 at 12:28 am

MPAV — since you mention podcasts and bad thoughts in one line. Just in case you haven’t found the new Invisibilia podcast yet: they have a cool episode on, essentially, bad thoughts: http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/375927143/the-secret-history-of-thoughts?showDate=2015-01-09 (whole show is recommended, btw.)

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dn 02.14.15 at 1:36 am

Lynne @163 – Thanks for the reply, that was very useful. Want to say before I go any further that this thread has been wonderful; thanks to Belle for starting it and especially to all who have shared stories, they were very powerful and harrowing – best wishes to all of you who have suffered.

I’d like to elaborate on my position a bit (okay, a lot), which will probably entail expressing some unpopular opinions of my own. Full disclosure: I, a white, straight, cis man, am about to declaim at length on all of the above categories. Please ignore me, or better yet, slap me down, if I say something idiotic or come off as an insufferable white/straight/cis/mansplainer.

First I want to make one point, which will be assumed throughout what I say below: I believe trans people who tell me they did not “become” another gender, but always were, even with the wrong anatomy. In web spaces I frequent that have many trans participants, I often see cis commenters express the idea that e.g. trans women “became women” through hormones or surgery, and day in and day out the trans commenters correct it. They feel so strongly about it that I feel compelled to operate under the assumption that there is something to it.

Anyway: it seems to me that gender identity and sexual orientation can both be helpfully thought of as orientations toward bodies. Gay people have a different orientation toward other peoples’ bodies. Trans people have a different orientation toward their own. I’ve often seen it described as something felt since early childhood, and I have no reason to believe that they couldn’t be “born that way” in essentially the same way a gay person is – which in turn would tell me that their identity can’t be totally socially constructed; I believe it probably has some biological basis comparable to what scientists think about sexual orientation (and yes, I do think that this has implications for men and women in general; there’s my unpopular opinion). And when I think of it that way, I start to feel that telling them “you can be a trans woman but not a real woman” is a lot like telling gay people “you can get a civil union but it’s not a real marriage”.

The comparison to race I do find compelling, but in an ironic way, because it says more about race to me than gender. What I mean is, I’m sure most of us here are comfortable with the idea that “race” is a social construct. Being white has very little to do with biology and everything to do with social in-groups and out-groups. Yet our racial borders are reified to an incredible degree, such that we feel comfortable citing them as the definitive example of an uncrossable social line. Obviously there are good reasons for that, given the history of racial oppression. But that’s just it – the normative boundaries are not fundamentally based on inborn differences, they’re based on power relations, relationships of social advantage and disadvantage.

Patriarchy is also about power relations, and that’s perhaps a legit reason to be suspicious of people crossing gender lines. But in that case I think there needs to be more attention to how patriarchal power relations impact trans people. Even in a patriarchal structure, cis women have one genuine advantage over trans people – they have their own place, even if it’s a terrible, shitty place that we should all agree is often shamefully degrading to those forced to occupy it. The category “women” is accepted as a real category, if an inferior one. Women-only spaces not only exist, but patriarchy even endorses some of them insofar as they don’t challenge male authority outside the space. Conversely, trans women have no place at all in a society where the binary holds sway. Thus simply existing as trans becomes incredibly dangerous. In the face of the appalling level of anti-trans violence that’s out there, I can’t help but think that a radicalism that excludes trans people is deeply inadequate. I not only think it’s cruel to trans people; I think it actually amounts to a win for patriarchy.

Patriarchal ideas constrain people by putting them in boxes, by telling them that anatomy is destiny and that arbitrary constructs built around anatomical sex are actually “natural laws”. I think anything that shows the inadequacy of those constructs and the unreality of those “natural laws” is effectively subversive of patriarchy. In that regard, I find it strange that gender transition is being framed as a reactionary response to a “judgmental” patriarchal society, because I’m having a hard time thinking of something more likely to open a person up to judgment! Patriarchy doesn’t accept trans people any more after transition than it accepts them before; if anything it rejects them even more harshly. They fly in the face of the most basic patriarchal rule, the rule that a person is wholly defined and constrained from birth by what’s between their legs. That’s why I think merely sympathizing with trans women is insufficient; if we don’t grant them authenticity, we fail to break that most fundamental boundary keeping men and women separate and unequal. Accepting trans men as men and trans women as women can be a genuinely radical step if we understand that people are more than just gender roles, that trans people shouldn’t be pinned down by their new bodies any more than by their old.

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Belle Waring 02.14.15 at 1:42 am

I should just say that there pretty obviously are lots of things I don’t agree with even if I didn’t happen to be adjacent to them to say “wow I really couldn’t disagree more” at the moment they were posted. I’m more trans-positive than lots of people, maybe, but I understand what people are talking about with all-female spaces. Also, the reason people need a safe thread to talk about what happens to consent when both people have been drinking, but only moderately, and are not drunk, is very much not that their PC sistren will come get them but that tedious trolls will come get them and will use their words as ammo against them in a tedious way. Because this is like the single favorite topic of some people, so much so that one becomes suspicious. Also, Almost the same, you are still awesome, and about the metro card I only meant that violent people set horrible violence right up next to normal behavior, and then you are short circuited, and they start acting like you’re the crazy one. That manipulative people draw a smooth veil over distasteful things, so that it is maybe the victim who “causes unpleasantness” if he insists on the truth. Smoother than a fresh jar of skippy, hm? Also, that cartoon is great, and very true, but it might unfortunately also be better for some of the time if it had more panels that said “you are a worthless piece of shit”–your brain. “You could step in front of that bus you hear roaring up the street behind you.” It could alternate and be long.

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magari 02.14.15 at 2:01 am

In general, i would think a lot of complaints about islam are not very islam specific, but rather a question of social structures in many predominant islamic countries that are independent of islam.

I think this is wrong. For example, a chief complaint about Muslim minorities is that they will not “integrate” into society. And yet no one seems to care whether the Chinese do. Actually, we on the left treat it as a benefit! Authentic xiao long bao! “Ethnic neighborhoods!” Diversity!

But do I think they are a relic of a sexist and patriarchal culture?

This may be true, but it’s also true that it’s a relic of a culture comprised of men and women who do things we don’t understand out of reverence for God. Secondly, Arab critics take especial glee at pointing out our own sexist/patriarchal sartorial matters, including the objectification of the female body and the social expectation that women will work for sex appeal. You say burqa, they say bikini. Something to keep in mind when you single out their patriarchy.

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 2:02 am

That manipulative people draw a smooth veil over distasteful things, so that it is maybe the victim who “causes unpleasantness” if he insists on the truth.

Truer words…….

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 2:26 am

dn: Gay people have a different orientation toward other peoples’ bodies.

That whole comment was well done and thought-provoking, but I want to note this in particular because it echoes something I used to try to articulate in a different way. There are times when it’s important to remember or remind people that sexual orientation and gender are, while overlapping topics, not the same thing. Not everyone who you think is gay, is gay, etc. (Over-simplifying.) But I do think it’s fair to say that gay people by definition violate one of the biggest gender rules there is — the rule that tells you which gender you’re supposed to fall in love with.

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js. 02.14.15 at 2:40 am

This whole thread has been bizarrely excellent (thank you Belle and everyone else), but in particular, as someone who really hasn’t ever thought all that much about the relation between trans people and trans rights and feminism, it’s been super enlightening and thought-provoking. So thanks to Lynne and dn in particular (I’m probably missing someone, sorry). I still don’t know what I think about it exactly (tho my instinctive sympathies, so to speak, lie with Lynne’s position), but I do think I have a much better sense of the issues and difficulties involved. So again, thanks!

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Priest 02.14.15 at 3:07 am

The one transwoman that I’m acquainted with (that I know of) I didn’t know was trans without someone telling me, long after I’d met her. Because of her look and manner I inferred that she was a lesbian. I have no idea what degree of medical interventions she has or has not had, and it’s not really any of my business.

I guess what I’m getting at is she “presents” as woman. The idea that she should not be welcome or included in a women-only space seems pretty discriminatory.

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js. 02.14.15 at 3:11 am

I guess I’ll make one comment about the burqa/hijab bit. (I suppose I’ll mention this: I come from a Muslim background, tho in the case of my family, “nominally Muslim” is maybe closer to the mark). So yeah, look, obviously the burqa is horrendous, and almost as obviously (to me at least), the hijab is quite problematic.

LizardBreath said above:

[the] hijab (which seems to me like a gender-differentiated standard of modesty not very different from the general Western assumption that toplessness is immodest for women but not men. Arbitrary, but not a hugely significant deal, in that it’s not all that troublesome or restrictive?)

And I’m inclined to say: Yes…, but also not really. Yes, the stricture against showing hair and the stricture against showing breasts are equally arbitrary. But, and this is a dumb-sounding thought (and possibly unpopular!)—but I do think that the sheer amount of covering demanded is relevant. So, on balance (and ceteris paribus), a standard that demands (even) your hair to be covered is more oppressive than a standard that demands (merely) your breasts to be covered. I’m not really sure how to spell this out more right now, but if there’s significant pushback, I’ll try.

But: I fully leave open the possibility that I find both the burqa and the hijab to be particularly offensive, or at least troublesome, because of the particularities of my background (my grandmother defied these conventions at significant personal cost kind of thing).

(And this is the kind of thing I’d generally not say for fear being trolled by Islamophobic assholes.)

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Val 02.14.15 at 3:18 am

Fuzzy Dunlop @ 223
I don’t think we are in disagreement in the way you think, though after I wrote my previous comment I worried that it could be seen that way. I think in fact that patriarchy in its ‘extreme’ form (men privileged over women, systematic hierarchies of domination and oppression amongst men) actually does encourage that kind of awful and prolonged bullying that you had to endure. It presupposes that some men (males/boys) have to be at the bottom of the heap, and what is more they deserve to be.

What I meant to say is that even in a society which was broadly egalitarian (which is the alternative to patriarchy) you’d still get individuals behaving badly to each other. I don’t think we’ll ever have a perfect egalitarian society, but hopefully a “broadly” egalitarian one would be less likely to have that systematised and ongoing bullying and oppression.

Also, of course, there are different types of patriarchy, including what I think someone (Carol Pateman maybe?) called ‘fraternal’, where all men are considered to be equal as citizens and heads of private households, and the more recent Neo-liberal form where non-gendered ‘individuals’ are all considered to be equal, except they are assumed to have the characteristics of the adult (white middle class able-bodied) male (like not giving birth, and not having to do the caring work and the body/dirty work, like cleaning the toilet).

Anyway, it’s very tempting to use this thread as an opportunity to write dissertations on what patriarchy actually means, but I don’t really think that’s what it’s all about, so I’d better stop.

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oldster 02.14.15 at 3:38 am

Up around 227 or so, someone asked to be allowed to retract a posting that was then in moderation.

I think it would be a really good thing for any of the CT mods to pull the post in question, in deference to the poster’s second thoughts.

That seems like the spirit of this thread, i.e. that it should not be a source of new regrets.

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dn 02.14.15 at 3:40 am

JanieM – thanks for the kind words.

I just want to add one clarification based on what Belle said @238 re: women-only spaces. I think I can understand some of the concerns Lynne mentioned about w/r/t such spaces. For instance, her example of a rape crisis center – insofar as spaces like that are intended to help people going through trauma, it’s absolutely fair to say they should be willing to go far to avoid distractions from that mission, and to accommodate the needs of the people they serve. Clearly trans people still have less-than-total acceptance, and I suppose that could be a distraction, although I still wouldn’t agree that they should be excluded.

But saying they “shouldn’t be allowed to drive feminist discourse”? I can understand why people would not want, say, me driving that discourse. I’m at the top of the patriarchal totem pole. I’m pretty limited in what I can add. But trans women? Who better to include, if you’re looking for distinctive angles on the nature of patriarchal oppression? Besides, I wouldn’t worry about them co-opting feminism. They’re a minority and I’m sure they always will be. All the more reason to lend them support, to make sure they are heard, it seems to me.

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dn 02.14.15 at 4:07 am

js. – Missed your comment there for a moment, but thank you to you, also!

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christian_h 02.14.15 at 5:33 am

First and most importantly, many thanks to Belle for providing this thread (and admiration for opening up about a horrifying and infuriating story), and to commenters for the serious discussion (and also opening up).

Here is my own issue deserving of self-criticism, Maoist style. I feel that in the US in particular, but increasingly in the rest of the world, we try to make things that are fluid and grey, fixed and black and white. Wether it is sexual consent or the memory of it, or whether it is hate crime legislation (if you execute Muslims but what set you off was a parking issue it apparently is not a hate crime…) we have this need to write the perfect law drawing the perfect line. But of course we cannot, so then we write laws with the implcit understanding they will be applied with prosecutorial discretion but, taken literally, do not allow it – like rules requiring explicit consent.

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b9n10nt 02.14.15 at 6:50 am

I believe as if I’ve been both source and victim of sexual humiliation(1) and the potential for it unites us all as a binding source of our shared human suffering and humility and dignity.

I can believe the queer movement (widest sense) is the highest cultural achievement in a society exploding with creativity and wonder

Our stimulative distracted sexualized culture doesn’t integrate shame at all, and like 80% will spend a lot of our time in a mindset of I’m a reproductive inferior.

(1)I really wanna respect and not band wagon on the earlier testimonies.

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G850 02.14.15 at 8:47 am

I”m coming late to this and sort of a tangent.

I am not American so I suspect my encounters with feminism and leftish things are different as to me the US “left” is central and maybe even centre right, and the experiences of American women I have see via the admittedly distorting lens of the internet are nothing like my experiences.

But then I’m not much of a woman. I have never been girly, I’m non-girly enough that most people who meet me assume I’m a butch lesbian.

If I had known FtM trans existed when I was young I may well have gone that way but I still do not know if I want to be a man, or just do not want to be a woman. I have never liked the look of my body but that is just as likely to be because it isn’t stick thin as it is to be because it has boobs and hips and so it is always going to be ugly in my culture-shaped mind. (But then… I find womanly shaped women aesthetically pleasing to look at and stick thin ones not so, so who am I fooling?)

When I was young gender roles were strong but being the daughter of a woman who did not conform all that strongly to them when she was young (studied physics as the only woman doing so at her University) and being moneyed middle class I could ignore them. At some cost, but I could. A man in the same situation and even the same class could not.

Took me far too long a time to realise that.

I have had the advantage that men looking at FtM transition do not have: the ability to dress as I feel comfortable in, do the things like motorcycle racing and swordfighting that I enjoy (and I note that my fellow racers and combatants have no issue but those outside the communities often do) with only some social stigma and that has faded as I got older.

I have been in “women only spaces” and felt unwelcome or to be more accurate unconnected. The focusing on childbirth and menstruation and “moon” and the sort of tribal identity with men as a nasty “other” just made no sense to me.

I also found that in some places women found my butch presentation and my heterosexuality difficult to deal with. Men coped better, maybe they crossed me off their lists as obviously lesbian and so could get on with talking about things without having to have one eye on the mating dance?

FtM is almost never mentioned in discussions about transexuality. I have never knowingly met one and I’d love to, to see how they felt and what made them go that far.

Is an FtM still a woman and welcome in a women’s only space if an MtF is not a woman and not welcome?

My guess is neither would be because “women only” are as much about gatekeeping gender roles as “men only “are.

It has been my experience that feminists who feel strongly enough about it to form groups are very uncomfortable with non-conforming heterosexuals. It is OK if you are butch and lesbian but butch and het is right out. A femme lesbian friend once told me the same happened to her at a feminist meeting: once she mentioned her sexuality most of the women there became a lot less comfortable. I guess because it was hard to say she was brainwashed into dolling up for the men!

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armando 02.14.15 at 8:50 am

I just wanted to say that this is an awesome thread, and thanks very much to Belle and everyone, really, whose reactions have been great.

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engels 02.14.15 at 11:22 am

Thanks, Ellie.

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LizardBreath 02.14.15 at 12:51 pm

But saying they “shouldn’t be allowed to drive feminist discourse”? I can understand why people would not want, say, me driving that discourse. I’m at the top of the patriarchal totem pole. I’m pretty limited in what I can add. But trans women? Who better to include, if you’re looking for distinctive angles on the nature of patriarchal oppression?

I don’t have any sophisticated knowledge or insight on trans issues generally, and I do think trans people generally are being terribly oppressed, and anyone acting in such a way as to make their lives harder is doing something very wrong. And I don’t myself, actually think that trans people are driving feminist discourse in a harmful way, in most cases. But let me offer some rationales for why someone might reasonably feel that was a possibility.
(A) Take someone who thinks of “how society treats women” as a fundamental feminist issue. A trans woman who socially transitioned as an adult, like most trans women, didn’t have the experiences of being raised and treated in the way girls and young women are treated. She was almost certainly treated badly and oppressively, but in a way that’s highly dissimilar to how cis women and girls are treated and socialized. So her experiences and direct knowledge are not going to be on point for the issues facing the large numerical majority of women. Even after social transition, unless the trans woman in question passes seamlessly, her experiences will be in many respects unlike those of a cis woman, and if they’re driving the discourse, that could result in neglect of commoner problems.
(B) A common feminist issue is a belief (which I share), that in our society, women are socialized to defer to men, and men to expect and push for that deference, and that mixed groups will therefore tend to find it overly concerned with the concerns of the men. Trans women were, mostly, raised and socialized as men, and there are some feminists who believe that that socialization leads them to expect deference and attention in the same way men do, in a manner that’s harmful to feminist discourse. This is not a dynamic I’ve seen in action myself, but it doesn’t seem obviously unreasonable to me.

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Captain Daffodil 02.14.15 at 1:40 pm

[following Belle’s suggestion of floral throwaways]
Great thread. A few people turned up simply to attack feminism, but that’s to be expected.

My unpopular opinion is that some of the conceptions of sex and gender promoted by leading trans*activists are foolish, confused and/or harmful to feminism, that many feminists are aware of this, but don’t want to be seen to beat up on a tiny and horribly oppressed minority.

In particular, I think that identity is social: it involves performance and recognition, and cannot simply be declared by fiat. We are not infallible authorities on our own identity.
Identities can develop, through social and political struggle, so that now for example someone with XY chromosomes and a penis can under certain conditions be a woman (and vice versa), but it is nonsense to claim that merely declaring oneself to be X means one is and always has been X.

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engels 02.14.15 at 1:42 pm

Imo some of the earlier anti-trans comments were a little unedifying.

Even after social transition, unless the trans woman in question passes seamlessly, her experiences will be in many respects unlike those of a cis woman, and if they’re driving the discourse, that could result in neglect of commoner problems.

It seems to me a similar argument could apply to lesbian women or disabled women. Imho the only way to exclude trans women from feminism is to bite the bullet and say you don’t believe they’re women (I’m not in favour of that fwiw). Otherwise I don’t see why they shouldn’t be accepted as women with atypical experiences and capacities. Also think this is quite separate from the issue of whether non-discrimination law means a rape counselling service should be forced to hire them. Just my two cents (as implied above, the group of people I think feminism shouldn’t be open to men is like me).

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LizardBreath 02.14.15 at 1:55 pm

Well, an argument that they weren’t raised as or treated as women wouldn’t obviously apply to lesbian or disabled women. I’m not sure how similar an argument you’re thinking of.

I don’t think trans women should be excluded from feminism (I also don’t think men should be excluded from feminism, or, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by thinking feminism shouldn’t be open to cis men like you. Shouldn’t be primarily concerned with the interests of cis men, that I get). I just wanted to spin out the nature of some of the concerns, insofar as I’m aware of them, for a commenter who seemed unaware for why feminists might be concerned about the effects of making trans issues central to feminism.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 2:02 pm

For my part, I find it wildly unlikely that, left to their own devices, Muslim women would choose a requirement to cover their hair, and impose it on themselves and their fellow women. As a result, I can never quite credit the protestations of those Muslim women who wear the hijab when they say they they do so as a matter of choice. And, even if they do, they can’t be unaware that many of their peers are coerced to comply, and that their own behavior serves to defend the system of coercion.

If a particular faith required that women (or men, for that matter) wore a collar and a leash, and went around on all fours behind their master (or mistress), I feel certain we’d ban it, even if some claimed they chose to do it.

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magari 02.14.15 at 2:17 pm

@254 In which case, you can safely allow those women to continue wearing the burqa/niqub/whatever so long as other women do not suffer for omitting it. Then we can cease with the moralizing about how the burqa is repressive, since women choose to wear it, and it’s not your place to decide whether it’s right.

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 2:18 pm

Val, I wish you would talk about patriarchy. This seems exactly the place for it, and too many people treat patriarchy and men as the same thing—rule by patriarchy, rule by men. Patriarchy is unjust, men are unjust. Like that.

I have spent my entire feminist life trying not to do that, but it is decades since I’ve talked much about feminism and I find myself quite unfluent any more. So please, anything you feel like saying, I would love to hear.

I have been lucky in my experience of feminism. When I read that some male commenters have been told that all men rape, so what they can do to help feminism is to stop raping, I am quite lost for words. This just hasn’t been my experience. I never heard a woman articulate such a thing. I did know women who were “separatist feminists” and tried to live their lives entirely separate from me, but even they didn’t say anything like that.

Nor did any of us tell each other, as Janie was told, that if a sister (yes, we used the words “sister” and “sisterhood”) didn’t agree with us she hadn’t thought about it enough (!) On the contrary, we tried hard to honour each other’s experience, and our own, and to account for it all.

So, as I say, I’ve been lucky.

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 2:20 pm

ugh. “separate from men”, obviously, not “separate from me.”

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engels 02.14.15 at 2:30 pm

Lizardbreth, I meant your observation that a trans woman’s ‘experiences and direct knowledge are not going to be on point for the issues facing the large numerical majority of women’ seems to be true of lesbians or disabled women. Lesbians don’t suffer all of the specific forms of oppression straight women do (ie. those specific to relationships with men). I agree that the point about not being raised as women doesn’t carry over, but I don’t think it’s over-ridingly important. It seems to me trans women are structurally in the same position that other women are (in a transexuals’ cases’ permanently so)– so perhaps analogous to someone in a workers movement with a bourgeois upbringing — grounds for suspicion perhaps but not exclusion.

The reason I don’t think that men can be feminists is that I think feminism is a social movement for the self-emancipation of women from patriarchy, just like socialism is the movement for the self-emancipation of workers from capitalism (and also because of some of the reasons you gave, that we tend to dominate discussions, are socialised to perpetuate patriarchy in ways we can’t just switch off by reading Feminist Frequency for a few lunchbreaks, nice thought that would be….)

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 2:30 pm

About men supporting feminism, we used to call such men pro-feminists. And they called themselves that, too.

There have been some stories in this thread of men being rebuffed by feminists, thoroughly and unkindly. And other stories of men who experienced a lack of sympathy from feminists for the abuse they had suffered. I felt for the men who told these stories.

I would like to offer a glimpse from the other side, though, which might be relevant. Most women find they are routinely expected to do the emotional work for men. Sympathize with them, and help them articulate their emotions and so on. And sometimes you just don’t want to, or you just can’t.

Also, not the same but related, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard (or been) a woman talking about an issue affecting women (rape, child abuse, being talked over in meetings) and a man has interrupted with “what about men in this issue?” It happens over and over again.

And you just want to say, Yes, that’s important, of course. Lots of things are important. But right now, we are talking about this issue that affects women.

Men typically have not received this well. They do expect to be listened to, and if their experience is discounted they can be pretty vocal about that. But it is derailing. You need to keep repeating, Yes, their experience is important, but it is not the focus of this meeting.

I mean no offence to those who have shared their stories, which moved me. But I thought I’d fill in the picture of the demands made on feminism and that might make the rejections some men here have experienced feel less personal, and more a consequence of the overall situation feminists find themselves in.

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 2:34 pm

I’m going to repeat and endorse comment # 47 again here because it was so excellent then and still applies two hundred comments later:

“I see that several of the comments are from people who don’t really identify as feminists explaining why they don’t. That seems like a separate issue from what the post is getting at, i.e., that people who generally identify as feminists sometimes have problems with particular feminist ideas or subgroups. It would be nice if the latter could be heard without being drowned out by the former, but I’m not going to hold my breath. “

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Patrick 02.14.15 at 2:38 pm

engels- I have literally heard, IRL, a trans woman declare to the world that she never realized how pervasive misogyny was until she transitioned. Now that she was being treated as a woman, she could see how badly women were treated.

I was obviously polite enough to keep my mouth shut. I knew the person had things rough, and there was no reason to pile on.

But my immediate thought was, “Are you sure you’re experiencing misogyny? Because I can tell at a glance that you’re trans. Transphobia is a thing too.”

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Layman 02.14.15 at 2:41 pm

magari 02.14.15 at 2:17 pm:

“In which case, you can safely allow those women to continue wearing the burqa/niqub/whatever so long as other women do not suffer for omitting it.”

Yet other women do suffer for omitting it. Don’t they?

“Then we can cease with the moralizing about how the burqa is repressive, since women choose to wear it, and it’s not your place to decide whether it’s right.”

Then we can cease with the moralizing about how denying women the vote is repressive, since some women choose not to vote, and it’s not my place to decide whether it’s right.

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engels 02.14.15 at 2:53 pm

Patrick, I agree, but you could refrain from making a similar comment to a lesbian feminist could you not?

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armando 02.14.15 at 3:17 pm

“Men typically have not received this well. They do expect to be listened to, and if their experience is discounted they can be pretty vocal about that. But it is derailing. You need to keep repeating, Yes, their experience is important, but it is not the focus of this meeting.

I mean no offence to those who have shared their stories, which moved me.”

As someone who shared a story, I want to make it clear that I actually support this position – its pretty obvious that men often dominate discussions, and make it all about them. I also don’t want to give the impression that I harbour an ill-will toward movements that attempt to address societal injustice – of which feminism is an excellent example and which I entirely support.

But there are many times that I have been lectured that – as a man – I don’t really understand violation, vulnerability and so on. And these days I more or less bite my tongue, since it isn’t all about me. And those same people are *hugely* sympathetic to my story in the right context. But sometimes biting my tongue is a little painful, and I wish that the lines weren’t drawn like that. (FTR, the people who have helped me most in terms of processing my personal horrors have pretty much all been feminists. Men often, though not always, tend to reject notions of vulnerability for themselves and other men. This is fucked up beyond belief.)

Its not that I don’t acknowledge structural oppression, its more that such systems of power are like statistical facts that aren’t really about individuals. And while sexism is actually so pervasive that you can almost take it as read that the main features of it are true for everyone, individuals still *can* experience it differently.

In other words, the “notallmen” rhetorical tool can be a pretty crummy thing to deploy against someone who has had some shit happen to them.

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Pat 02.14.15 at 3:27 pm

Wow, what a great thread!

I know I’m late but I have some unpopular opinions that didn’t seem to be listed above.

#1. It’s been easier and safer-feeling for me (a woman) to get into male-dominated spaces by putting up with the male dominance than it has been for me to get into spaces that were being subjected to feminist criticism, with everybody divided into camps pro and con. In fact I remain happily involved in several of the former, and have given up participating in several of the latter.

#2 I think being a feminist has sometimes been bad for my relationships with men. When I put on my feminist head it makes me treat any mildly sexist action or remark by a man like “The 500th time that s*** has happened, a**hole!” instead of treating the guy like an individual who gets to make his own mistakes. I would never respond to my students like that, and you can bet that their antics *have* happened 500 times before. So nowadays, I mostly leave my feminist head at home.

#3 I feel more silenced by ‘gotcha’ feminism than by overt sexism. And I feel more able to deal productively (and enjoyably) with sexists than with ‘gotcha’ feminists.

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Patrick 02.14.15 at 3:33 pm

engels- I can refrain from making comments to anyone. But the parallel with a lesbian feminist is probably not a good one. Lots of people have their sex, gender, and self expression policed. This doesn’t mean that all policing is the same policing.

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engels 02.14.15 at 3:47 pm

Patrick, sorry I wasn’t very clear. Trans women suffer from misogyny and transphobia. Lesbians suffer from misogyny and homophobia. Some lesbians are generally perceived by at a glance to be lesbians and sometimes anti-lesbian homophobia even takes the form of regarding them as not ‘real’ women.

I agree that if your friend inferred that the poor treatment she was getting was due to misogyny she would be wrong but I think it would be possible for a hypothetical lesbian woman to make the same faulty inference.

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tub 02.14.15 at 3:52 pm

The dispute between feminists and trans folk is, at its heart, philosophical. Feminists believe sex is biologically determined, while gender is socially constructed. Trans folk believe both sex and gender are biologically determined.

Obviously, these are general statements. There are strands of thought on either side that have different articulations, but that is the basic disagreement.

There are trans folk who will go so far as to claim that there are such things as male and female brains: a trans person is someone with a brain and body not in gender-sex agreement. They are literally saying that the structure of the brain determines whether or not a person will like to play with dolls.

Whatever side you side with doesn’t matter: the problem is that there can be no middle position on these questions of what the world is fundamentally like and what a human being fundamentally is.

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engels 02.14.15 at 4:19 pm

Also, I don’t want to send this off on a tangent but I’m pretty sure some feminists define ‘woman’ in a way that is independent of biology, so some people who are biologically male (who occupy non-normative or subordinate locations within patriarchy) are classified as women and some who are biologically female (who occupy powerful locations within patriarchy) are classified as men. I assume that has no problems accommodating trans women (and perhaps gay men, etc) as feminists.

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William Timberman 02.14.15 at 4:25 pm

Looking back at my own path through the issues raised here, and I hope without attempting to unduly generalize on it, much of what we’re now debating began for me in the concept of sexual liberation that came to focus during the Sixties. For those of us who were low-status young men at the beginning of it, it largely meant more access to sex, without the baleful eye of in loco parentis always peering over our shoulders, or muscle-bound atavists shoving us out of the way.

Young women, to their credit, said Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t just about you. Sexual liberation doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t mean liberation in general, and that means a lot more than including nerds like you in the patriarchy. It also means US, fools, and you haven’t even asked yet what WE want out of it. As it turned out, what women wanted out of it encompassed a lot more than sharing the housework and taking an equal part in arid political discussions. Books were written, movements were formed, the ERA was put on the agenda. Nothing would ever be quite the same afterwards.

To those of us young men who weren’t entirely ruled by our hormones, this made undeniable rational sense, but what we could — or would — do about it in our own lives took an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing. Struggle was/is the leftist term, and struggle was what we did, although I’d be the first to admit that even those of us unwilling in principle to appeal to an already debased patriarchy for a leg up made something of a hash of it.

A lot of this took place on college campuses, true, but it certainly wasn’t confined to them, and as it spread, and more people attempted to tailor it to their own needs, it inevitably developed beyond a single center of concern. Meanwhile, gay folks, dissatisfied with a contingent and therefore precarious co-existence with the straight world, had been fighting their own desperate battles. Us too was a claim that no one outside gay circles could in good conscience reject, and especially after Stonewall, AIDS, and the murder of Harvey Milk, solidarity was really the only choice. About the struggles of trans people I know relatively little, as they took center stage well after my own time as an activist, but they make perfect sense to me. No matter how one tries to qualify it, liberation really is about everybody, or it’s about nobody.

That’s why I reject the notion advanced by some on the left that this is all a tempest in a teapot, and can be dismissed as identity politics, as though one’s identity is of relatively little significance. It may be that the agonies of the poor, or the economic insecurity of the working class world-wide should have a greater claim on our energies, but I would argue that the principle is the same in any case. Self-determination and an inclusive society — one which respects everyone’s path through the maze — will eventually have to embrace all of it. Whatever piece we take up at the moment, it shouldn’t be assumed that our insistence on walking and chewing gum at the same time is evidence of our non-seriousness.

Finally, a word about blowback. There are clearly people who believe that they can bully, or even murder their way back to some imagined golden age of normalcy. Given who they are, a defense against their individual acts is difficult, and may well be impossible. Still, we can and should end the permissive attitude our decaying system of justice takes toward them. A system which prefers to believe cops instead of black teenagers, insists that women who wear the wrong clothing! and drink too much deserve what they get, refuses to investigate the bombing of health clinics, certifies a gay partner’s exclusion from hospital visiting rights, etc., can be brought to account. Whatever else happens, that process, at least, is already well under way.

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Yama 02.14.15 at 4:50 pm

I think the safe space idea is mostly used to protect your own glass house. The space will never be safe enough; the constant effort to shrink has wildly diminished the influence of feminism. It has been a great mistake, IMHO.

I wish you folks luck, but the derisive behavior has been pretty revolting, particularly the nice guy stuff that Landru has pointed to in the various threads at SSC.

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Marshall 02.14.15 at 4:52 pm

What Lynne said, men and women are different, and trying to pretend it’s just a matter of culture or choice is futile. That was the whole Sociobiology thing, that evolution acts on behavior; culture is not total freedom, writing on a blank slate. Men and women have different evolutionary pressures acting through their inherited genome. Sure the resulting differences aren’t clear cut and we’re all born “a little bit gay” with cis and trans parts and culture has mashed things up further. But the rough cut is that we are either biological egg-makers or sperm-donators and the male role has shaped the male biology, to include elements of behavior.

For chickens, as people, males and females are born in about equal numbers. I buy 2 doz. chicks and look to get 12 +/- layers. Since the cost of feeding a chicken is chicken feed, having 12 roosters busy making fertilizer doesn’t bother me. The rap is they will fight to the death because There Can Only Be One, but in reality the jocks work their socialization in part by competitive fucking. With one rooster in a flock the sex doesn’t seem to be exactly consensual but the hens put up with it and the big guy can really scratch with those claws (finds and shares food) and he will get out front when there are security issues. When pairs of roosters are taking turns jumping on a hen, it gets really ugly. Once that starts I have to pick one and shoot the rest. It was sad this year because they were such gaudy birds and the one that was getting the work done was not of the guadiest. Dealing with farm animals is not a happy business.

Women need and deserve their own space: feminism for and by females. Guys “interested” in feminism should work on guyism, which lately has gone downhill from drum circles to gamergate. It’s natural to want to be on the other side, but …

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.14.15 at 5:13 pm

I agree with Lynne, this is a fine place to talk about what patriarchy is & isn’t.

Val @243 I think in fact that patriarchy in its ‘extreme’ form (men privileged over women, systematic hierarchies of domination and oppression amongst men) … presupposes that some men (males/boys) have to be at the bottom of the heap, and what is more they deserve to be.

I do think we are largely in agreement, so this is kind of a nitpicky point: the relationship between bullying and other social hierarchies may be more one of resemblance than causation. Like, something in our culture or social-psychological constitution demands that we place ourselves in social hierarchies, so when it becomes not-okay to overtly enforce certain racial or gendered hierarchies, people (especially children, with the unconscious encouragement of certain authority figures) will try to create similar hierarchies, because they want to have a sense of who they should emulate and who they should avoid being like. I could certainly see this happening less over time as patriarchal/hierarchical habits are repressed/forgotten, but also maybe not, and I think this is why a lot of men who self-identify as socially excluded fear that the suppression of hierarchies is a zero-sum game, up to the extreme position that feminism just wants to replace patriarchy with matriarchy.

It might help to make more use of “hierarchy” as a term of critique, because using “patriarchy” as the blanket term for all social hierarchy really stops making sense even for many kinds of racism (especially orientalism), and all the more so for non-racial & non-economic social hierarchy. Orientalism is a very good lens for seeing the problems with “patriarchy” as a term of critique, and it even has a historical connection to derogatory terms like “nerd” that originated in resentment of Jews and Italians–“greasy grinds”–who ‘unfairly’ outperformed ‘white’ students by studying too hard (sound familiar?). In one sense, the “Oriental” and “nerd” are feminized, but equally essential is imagining them as excessively and childishly masculine–think Borat. I wouldn’t stop saying “patriarchy” or “white supremacy,” because that’s what hierarchy is so much of the time, but it’s also other completely different things, and I think there’s something gutsy and fresh about saying one is opposed to social hierarchy in general–almost like saying you believe in anarchy, but without the inconvenient policy implications.

Pat @265 #2 I think being a feminist has sometimes been bad for my relationships with men. When I put on my feminist head it makes me treat any mildly sexist action or remark by a man like “The 500th time that s*** has happened, a**hole!” instead of treating the guy like an individual who gets to make his own mistakes.

This is why I really like reading Dan Savage’s column, he has a really good sense of how to balance thinking with his feminist or queer hat on, with sensitivity to people’s individual circumstances. Even if you don’t agree with him on every point or principle, it’s a good model for understanding how other social hierarchies play out at the level of individual or small group relationships. I think having been a regular reader has made me a much better & happier male partner.

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engels 02.14.15 at 5:14 pm

Marshall, thanks for all the information about chickens: if I ever become a poultry farmer it will be very useful.

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 5:17 pm

Here goes my Saturday.

When Lynne @214 first flagged Elizabeth Wydville @47, I too went back and tried to catch up on the comments that had come out of moderation. My first reaction to 47 was that Lynne was surely appreciating Wydville’s comments on child care, because the first paragraph of 47 was (from where I sit) an unpleasant, excluding, boundary-policing comment that suggested that I should not participate in this thread. (Not literally, because I hadn’t contributed anything of substance yet.) (The boundary-policing also seemed presumptuous, to say the least, given that “Elizabeth Wydville” has never, to my knowledge, posted a comment here before. Of course, the handle could be a temporary pseud for someone who’s here a lot, in which case that doesn’t apply.)

I was tempted to react “out loud,” but I decided that even though I didn’t think the first para. of 47 was in the spirit of the thread (both on its face and meta-wise), I wasn’t going to bite the hook because biting the hook was surely not in the spirit of the thread.

But now that Lynne has foregrounded the first paragraph of 47 @261, I’m going to bite.

First, “on its face”:

Here is what Belle wrote in the OP:

some of us discussed what it would be like if I were actually kind we had a “safe” thread in which we could discuss feminism without worrying we would ban ourselves from polite society by saying The Wrong Thing.”

Here is what Belle wrote in originally proposing the idea of this thread:

“And, indeed, I would be glad to provide an entire safe thread for people to say things they think about modern leftism but are afraid to say for whatever reason, in which everyone either backs the fuck off harsh criticism or gets banned.”

And I would note that the very title of the thread includes leftism as well as feminism. So I don’t see any evidence from Belle herself that she meant people who don’t identify as feminists to shut the fuck up.

And “meta”:

By rights I certainly should be a feminist. In terms of what I want for the world, it’s a quibble to say I’m not. If you put me in a room with Lynne for a few hours, or Belle, or almost anyone else who identifies as one (Hilzoy, let’s say, with whom I a blog-commenty conversation very like this once at ObWi), I’m pretty sure we would be 90+% in agreement about the kind of world we’d like to help build. So I posted here from the point of view of someone who – shy, nerdy, not articulate out loud, and temperamentally about as unsuited to overt activism as it’s possible to be – has felt shunted aside from feminism for my entire adult life because it’s too damned hard to fight my way in unless I keep my mouth shut. (Pat @265’s #1 and #3 apply.) (And a movement that purports to be working for me and speaking for me but wants me to keep my mouth shut, what is that?)

And this is where I think the point of the thread applies: it’s to a significant degree the fault of feminists that I’m not a feminist.

(I have lost two of the most important friendships of my life, not overtly or directly because of disagreements about feminism, but that disagreement was always, after a certain point, in the background of those connections. I was an asshole some of the time, no doubt about it, and I have to take my share of responsibility for that.)

People keep writing about how it’s important to have women-only spaces, because otherwise men tend to / want to dominate. I get that; I certainly have experienced that. But I have also been in women-only contexts where, in the absence of men, certain women push their way to dominance, and it’s just as fucking unpleasant. It’s also just another illustration of the fact that – as I tried to say to my friends when I was figuring out how my birth family worked – all the good isn’t on one side and all the bad on the other. In single-gender contexts, as in same-sex relationships, people polarize around certain axes because we’re human. That isn’t to say that there should never be single-gender contexts; I don’t believe that at all. I guess it’s just to say that it’s dismaying to see the same thing happening here (@47), and then to have one of my favorite commenters (Lynne) second it.

If my comments haven’t been in the spirit of this thread, I’d like to hear it from Belle, and I’ll go away. She can even delete them if she wants.

The whole mess reminds of the time after September 11, when the US was plastered with the message “United We Stand.” My feeling about that was: Okay, if you want to stand united, let’s stand united behind my opinions and values. But of course that’s not what the people pushing that slogan meant. If we can’t be united when we’re 90% in agreement, then it’s no wonder we’re (as usual) in trouble.

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Rich Puchalsky 02.14.15 at 5:19 pm

After reading some of these, I’ll confess my own unpopular opinion: I don’t like online “safe spaces”. I’m glad that the thread has been great for a lot of people, though.

I thought about writing about my tangential involvement with a Rus Funk – organized “Men Against Rape” men-only group against rape culture back in the mid-80s, and an attempt to start a campus rape crisis center, but … I can’t think of any way to write anything useful that won’t be recognizable to people whose stories aren’t mine to tell, and I don’t want to deal with reactions that are not the kinds of reactions you’d get in an actual in-person safe space.

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Elizabeth Wydville 02.14.15 at 5:34 pm

Lynne and MPAV, thanks for the support. I’m glad I could add something to the discussion! I don’t have a huge amount to say about trans issues, which seems the main gestalt of the thread.

I wonder my response about trans issues. Of course I feel for people who have suffered, and I try to be understanding and behave well around the (few) trans people that I know, but then sometimes I feel this little tingling of resentment or hackles-raising at the demand for inclusiveness in women-only spaces, or the demand for gender-neutral language in areas where you are mostly discussing the experience of women. It may be unfair, I would have to think more about the individual cases where I have felt this to really unpack my response, but that is occasionally my reaction. For instance, when I read Michelle Goldberg’s New Yorker discussion of trans issues, I started out thinking the radfem position was a bit strange or harsh, and then by the end as I confronted the actual examples I was thinking, hmm, maybe they have a point.

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Elizabeth Wydville 02.14.15 at 6:04 pm

277 written before I saw – I’m sorry about boundary policing. I just meant that people can argue over feminism in good faith and bad, and I’d prefer it be good. Maybe I was expressing that hope too narrowly. It just seems it’s easy to find discussions that are generally negative about feminism, it’s much rarer to find safe self-critique, so that’s what, I, personally, was hoping for.

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bianca steele 02.14.15 at 6:11 pm

A short comment on hijab–Orthodox Jewish women are also supposed to cover their hair, after they are married, in the presence of other men, and some make sure their collarbone is covered, though few I think (except from present-day majority-Muslim areas) cover their neck. Some do wear a scarf over their head. Others wear a wig. Some “modern Orthodox” wear a hat. So some women are comfortable marking themselves off visually from the majority and some are not. (Most non-Orthodox women don’t cover their hair, though some synagogues provide little lace “veils” to pin on the back of your head.)

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 6:15 pm

Elizabeth Wydville @247 — Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate it.

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MPAVictoria 02.14.15 at 6:27 pm

“If my comments haven’t been in the spirit of this thread, I’d like to hear it from Belle, and I’ll go away. She can even delete them if she wants.”

I appreciate your comments Jane. In fact I have appreciated almost all the comments here so far. Even the ones I disagree with (for example I think men can be feminists and I think that trans women should be welcome in welcome in most women only spaces, with perhaps some exceptions for things like rape crisis centres).

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bianca steele 02.14.15 at 6:32 pm

dn @ 235

Even in a patriarchal structure, cis women have one genuine advantage over trans people . . . . The category “women” is accepted as a real category, if an inferior one. Women-only spaces not only exist, but patriarchy even endorses some of them insofar as they don’t challenge male authority outside the space. Conversely, trans women have no place at all in a society where the binary holds sway.

This is what I mean by “essentializing.” I’d have less of a problem with it if by “gender” you meant “sexuality” alone: that cis women bond with men and cis men bond with women, and lesbians don’t fit the binary. But to say cis women fit the “category woman,” and no one who doesn’t conform to gender roles is gay, doesn’t fit my understanding. And there are plenty of women who don’t fit the “category woman” and don’t feel “they have their own space” in a patriarchal society. The binary affects everybody, but the binary isn’t an immutable fact of human existence.

I do think there’s a danger of essentializing gender in such a way that poor and working-class women can’t escape it, while rich white feminists get to act as they like because as rich white people they’re allowed to ignore social categories. This isn’t actually good for them either.

And this has gone away a bit, but there used to be a bit of a discussion, online, about how places like CT were “male spaces.” If a woman wants to use a male identity online as a mask, I have no problem with this. But I would be dubious of the suggestion that a woman has to hide herself under a male or ambiguous pseudonym, as well as the suggestion that a woman who posts as a woman has to adopt a patriarchally defined female role.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.14.15 at 6:54 pm

Lynne @260, 261–comments that I now see may have been directed partly at me–the point you make about women being expected to do emotional work for men is on the money, and although I don’t think Scott Aaronson’s ‘comment 171’ was making such a demand of feminists, the “feminist bloggers are not your therapists” objection is valid in a lot of other contexts.* It isn’t–or, at least, wouldn’t be–fair to blame feminism because it hasn’t been trying to solve social exclusion of boys all along, since, like, the 1960s. But Aaronson’s claim is not that, it’s that certain aspects of feminism have been actively harmful. Specifically, that many individual feminists, and maybe a lot of feminist discourse more broadly, leverages social hierarchies to advance its agenda, and that is fundamentally at odds with its avowed philosophy–at least if we see feminism as opposed to something bigger, like “patriarchy”, that includes racism. The classic example of this would be the common practice (by ostensibly pro-feminist men at least as much as by women) of stigmatizing people it opposes as sexually-undesirable–“pimply basement-dwelling mouth-breathers” and stuff like that. If the larger goal of this discussion/thread is to make feminist and leftist politics more inclusive, this seems very much on topic to me.

JanieM @275 What you said about your family history and how that impacted relationships with friends is the kind of thing I had in mind when I suggested we should pay more attention to the difference between feminism in theory (what people write) and feminism in practice (social relationships/interactions, in person or not). From what you’ve written, I can’t see any difference between you and a (pro-)feminist other than the name and whether your use of it is accepted or meaningful in your own particular social circles. I think it may be a real problem that we are sometimes talking about 2 or more different things when we talk about “feminism”–we aren’t all talking about the same thing. One can’t simply blame feminist writers for “every problem looking like a nail” to some individual feminists.

* In fact, looking at that and other reactions to Aaronson, it seems like they’re trying to reconstruct a lot more context and background from his comment than is really reasonable, and/or misreading it–most importantly, he never said how he got to feel socially excluded, so it’s not at all fair to assume that this was largely due to psychological problems he had, as the linked post and Arther Chu’s response did; and he didn’t actually deny being privileged as a man. In other words, they’re misreading him in order to have the broader conversation that they want to have, but Aaronson is much, much less guilty of these mistakes in comment 171 than they imply. I don’t see how comment 171 is a whole lot different from the occasionally-valid criticism that feminism is really only concerned with middle-class white women. Isn’t it just as unfair to ask why feminists haven’t been trying to solve racism all along since the 1960s as it is to ask why they haven’t been trying to solve other kinds of social exclusion all along?

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delagar 02.14.15 at 7:05 pm

My students who wear the hijab certainly *believe* they are wearing the hijab of their own free will, and that they are wearing it to honor God, and not because they are being oppressed. I’ve had passionate essays from them arguing just this point — this is how I know that’s what they believe.

I’m an atheist; I put all religion in the same box, so, you know, no dog in this fight.

But I can’t see how any of us have the right to tell these women, who are after all intelligent adults, that they’re wrong about what they believe. ( If I recall right, didn’t Catholic women also used to have to wear hats into church — cover their heads — to show respect to God?)

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 7:24 pm

Fuzzy, I get your point and I was tempted to refer to your previous mention of it, but life and comment threads are finite, so I refrained.

“An idea isn’t responsible for the people who espouse it” and all that. As I think you recognize, feminism in theory and feminism in practice are, while not the same thing, also not non-overlapping. I at least never “blamed feminist writers” for anything, unless you count Gloria Steinem. Also, the distinction you’re making is further murked up by the fact that (as with definitions of “left” and “right” and a lot of other things) there is no pope-like authority to speak ex cathedra and set us all straight on official definitions.

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js. 02.14.15 at 7:35 pm

I would of course be the last person to argue that Muslim cases of head-covering should be treated differently than Catholic or Jewish ones, etc. (This should I think be obvious from my previous, but perhaps not.) I think a large part of it is that because I come from that background, broadly speaking, and particularly from a family that criticized it and actively rejected it, I do feel quite comfortable criticizing it. And it is true that similar, or at least superficially similar, criticisms coming from some other quarters would make me deeply suspicious.

But a smaller part of it—and again with the unpopular thoughts—is that I think the focus on personal choice to (what can seem like) the exclusion of everything else is misplaced, at least a bit. I won’t belabor the point because it’s been made much better than I can make it here, but individual choices are socially constrained in all sorts of ways, and a range of social pressures can and do operate on any individual choice, both consciously and not-so-consciously. I don’t see why the left or feminism or any other progressive social struggle should (a) balk at recognizing the existence and importance of these constraints and pressures, and (b) not leave itself the freedom to evaluate these pressures as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, autonomy-enhancing or autonomy-suppressing, etc.

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 7:38 pm

Janie, I’m so sorry how Elizabeth’s comment and my endorsement of it came across. I do see how it did, but I understood it the way Elizabeth has clarified. And you always seem to be talking in good faith to me, about feminist ideas, too, a lot of the time, even though you don’t identify as a feminist.

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geo 02.14.15 at 7:47 pm

I just remembered something, which isn’t exactly an opinion or hardly even a thought, but which is slightly shameful and may be good for me to confess here. A long while ago, a friend came back from a visit to Berlin and said he’d seen a poster asking plaintively: “Comrades! The subordination of women by men has lasted 50,000 years! Why can’t it last just 50 years more?”

When I think of that poster, I sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, despite my best efforts, chuckle.

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 7:58 pm

Lynne — thanks. I know myself to have a hair trigger about being excluded or condescended to, and for the most part I’ve learned to walk away when it’s tripped on the internet. But this thread seems to have made space for some challenges amongst us, and I’m glad to know I misinterpreted and maybe overreacted to something that maybe wasn’t expressed with precision. If that’s enough qualifiers…..

I’m really curious…are you still up or up this early? ;-) (You don’t really have to answer, but I the time difference was on my mind when I posted my comment, and it made me hesitate. It’s unavoidable, I guess, and I shouldn’t worry about it.)

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 8:04 pm

Janie, I’m in Ontario so I posted first thing this morning and only just came back to look at the thread and saw your comment and was horrified. I’m always delighted at a JanieM sighting, and they are all too rare!

I’m glad you spoke up, because I really didn’t realize how differently the comment could quite fairly be interpreted.

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 8:09 pm

An, Ontario. I thought you were further west…….

Anyhow, thanks for the kind words.

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JanieM 02.14.15 at 8:09 pm

Or basically I’m having a brain cramp about locations and time zones. Sorry.

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mattski 02.14.15 at 8:12 pm

My students who wear the hijab certainly *believe* they are wearing the hijab of their own free will, and that they are wearing it to honor God, and not because they are being oppressed. I’ve had passionate essays from them arguing just this point — this is how I know that’s what they believe.

I don’t think the influence of culture (habit) in early childhood can be underestimated. What we experience as toddlers & young children tends to leave a profound imprint on our feeling of who we are and who our community is. Similar to the [Jesuit or Aristotle?] saying, “give me the child until 7 and I’ll give you the man.” So we need to be careful about telling people that habits and cultural attachments they formed in childhood are, in our opinion, deficient.

Even harking back to one of the torture threads, I think it was Peter T who mentioned the existence of what we might refer to as indigenous ‘warrior’ cultures where ritualized torture was practiced. Imagine telling a young man in this tribe that his people were morally inferior!

As a thought experiment, I imagine a 12-year old boy from such a warrior culture being brought to America to be educated, say, through to the college level. I imagine that at some point along the way, and maybe it would take longer than his early 20’s, but at some point he would probably come to think, “wow, my native culture is really barbaric!” But reaching that point might be a very slow and painful process for this person, with many periods of vacillation.

My point is that there is a limited place for telling people what the deal is with them. Far better they come to it without being pushed.

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Luke 02.14.15 at 8:22 pm

re: headscarves. One thing I find striking about the whole business is that people expect muslim women to *choose* the ‘liberated’ option. There’s a sort of perverse neoliberal logic at work here. I believe Wendy Brown wrote something along these lines. In short: women are expected to display their liberation by displaying their bodies, i.e. the revealing of flesh is a Western social expectation in the same way that veiling is a Muslim one, and those who refuse to conform are clearly ‘repressed’, i.e. victims to be liberated or enemies to be punished.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 8:24 pm

“But I can’t see how any of us have the right to tell these women, who are after all intelligent adults, that they’re wrong about what they believe. “

First, we all have the right to tell them whatever we wish – that’s what freedom is about. Beyond that, I think there’s some obligation to challenge beliefs we find both wrong and dangerous.

That being said, I’m not at all sure about banning it. There are clearly some voluntary practices which should not be permitted (indenture comes to mind) but I’m not at all sure the hijab rises to the level of banning. And I agree with Mattski when he says it’s better people come to the realization of wrongness about their cultural beliefs, unless there’s some urgency to putting a stop to harmful behavior.

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js. 02.14.15 at 8:39 pm

In short: women are expected to display their liberation by displaying their bodies, i.e. the revealing of flesh is a Western social expectation in the same way that veiling is a Muslim one, and those who refuse to conform are clearly ‘repressed’

Except that a lot of these social conflicts, and forms of rebellion, say, can and do play out in non-Western countries. I do think there’s a point to be made about the broader social-cultural norms, i.e. the dominant ones in a given society, and how they color choices like wearing the hijab or not. But the argument you’re presenting seems to me too quick and not really convincing. (Is this within the bounds of this thread? Apologies if it isn’t, and understand if it’s deleted.)

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js. 02.14.15 at 8:40 pm

I absolutely don’t think that the hijab or even the burqa should be banned, tho. That strikes me as utterly counterproductive. I’m not sure if that was clear.

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magistra 02.14.15 at 8:40 pm

I want to talk a bit more about patriarchy, because I’m a historian who’s worked on the topic (and hoping to do more research on it). My unpopular opinion is that in many societies class trumps gender. A woman of sufficient social status will have more power overall than a man of somewhat lower social status. This doesn’t mean that patriarchy isn’t a real force: to see that, compare the relative opportunities for and well-being of brothers and sisters, who share the same social position. But the cross-cutting of class with gender (even in those medieval societies which were largely homogeneous in racial and religious terms) means that feminist discussions of patriarchy as simply being about men oppressing women are inaccurate and misleading.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 8:50 pm

Luke @ 294

” In short: women are expected to display their liberation by displaying their bodies, i.e. the revealing of flesh is a Western social expectation in the same way that veiling is a Muslim one, and those who refuse to conform are clearly ‘repressed’, i.e. victims to be liberated or enemies to be punished.”

You could be right – I could just be sexist western pig, lusting for a glimpse of some hot hair!

On the other hand, it could be that I’m drawing some conclusions from the observation that there’s some correlation between the level of legal and social enforcement, and the choices Muslim women make about covering; in that a lower level of legal and social pressure to comply always results in a lower rate of compliance.

I have in fact been to some of these places, and observed the differences in levels of compliance.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/08/what-is-appropriate-attire-for-women-in-muslim-countries/

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engels 02.14.15 at 9:05 pm

a lower level of legal and social pressure to comply always results in a lower rate of compliance

Have you looked at the effect of social pressure on women’s clothing choices in Western countries too? I think may find it’s not non-existent…

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MPAVictoria 02.14.15 at 9:14 pm

Really interesting point at 299 layman.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.14.15 at 9:22 pm

JamieM @285 feminism in theory and feminism in practice are, while not the same thing, also not non-overlapping.

I think not so much overlap as interact in unpredictable ways, as in when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. We have a common (or at least heavily overlapping) set of issues that we’re interested in at any given moment, that we’re talking about–or a common language we use to connect & frame different issues–and it’s not so much that that dictates one position or another on, say, ‘geek culture’ or parenting, but that other unrelated problems pop up while we’re trying to hammer away at those nails…

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Layman 02.14.15 at 9:23 pm

Engels @ 300

I think you’re right. And…?

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Luke 02.14.15 at 9:29 pm

@js, Layman

Engels hits the nail on the head. My point isn’t that there aren’t pressures on muslim women to conform by covering themselves; it’s that wearing a headscarf in a country where it’s expected and wearing one in a Western country are two very different ‘statements’.

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engels 02.14.15 at 9:31 pm

Layman, perhaps I misread your conversation but Luke said:

he revealing of flesh is a Western social expectation in the same way that veiling is a Muslim one

I don’t think your claims to have observed social pressure to cover up in Muslim countries contradicts this unless you are also going to claim that there aren’t also pressures to expose yourself operating the West.

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engels 02.14.15 at 9:32 pm

Sorry-X’d with Luke.

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js. 02.14.15 at 9:36 pm

Have you looked at the effect of social pressure on women’s clothing choices in Western countries too? I think may find it’s not non-existent…

Humbly, having some first-hand experience of both sorts of “cultures” (for lack of a better term), these are completely different levels and kinds of social pressures. I’m leaving aside legal constraints entirely, and even so, we’re talking about things like the very real possibility of being ostracized by your entire family. It’s really a difference in kind, not just in degree.

I do think there’s a danger of white liberals treating Muslim women as, in Luke’s words, “victims to be liberated”, and frankly, I’m having trouble coming up with a worse idea. Which is partly why I would almost never push this line of argument in an online forum with an overwhelmingly Western audience (also tho, racist trolls). All that said, and with the caveat that I’m not a woman, I do think that e.g. the clothing-related social pressures faced by women in conservative Muslim societies are of an entirely different order than those in liberal Western societies. Importantly, though, the previous sentence is equally true if you were to drop “Western” and “Muslim”.

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Emma in Sydney 02.14.15 at 9:38 pm

You should google “My stealthy freedom” for an indication of what many thousands of women in countries where there is no choice about veiling think about it. It’s a fascinating glimpse.

For me, as a lifelong feminist and researcher into the history of feminism, the strangest thing about many of these comments is the assumption of a monolithic “Feminism”. This has never been the case, from Mary Shelley onwards. The suffragists debated race and class, as did second wave feminism from its beginning. Feminist thinkers have always been in deep discussion of all the issues that “feminism” is accused of ignoring, whether at the level of philosophy or on the ground in consciousness raising groups, activist groups, campus groups, refuges and everywhere else that feminists gather. I spent four years reading the archives of Australian feminism for a history of feminism. It’s all there.

This is part of the reason for some of the experiences related in this thread of impatient dismissals. When you have worked on and through specific problems for years , it is only human to get impatient with the n00bs telling you that you haven’t thought about their pet issue. We have seen exactly that response from D2 in the Greece threads on this very blog. That doesn’t excuse it, and I agree with Pat above, that sometimes you have to desist.

Feminism seem to me more like an orientation to the world than any kind of orthodoxy. You can find feminisms that vary hugely in their analyses, focuses, strategies, audiences and results, if you look. Positing some mythical, orthodox, monolithic “Feminism” isn’t helpful, either to the struggle, which is multifarious, or the n00bs.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 9:40 pm

“My point isn’t that there aren’t pressures on muslim women to conform by covering themselves; it’s that wearing a headscarf in a country where it’s expected and wearing one in a Western country are two very different ‘statements’.”

I’d agree that they may be two different statements, but not that they necessarily are. Unless you think that social pressures to comply don’t exist in Muslim families & communities in Western countries? That such pressures can only be ‘national’, never local or familial?

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engels 02.14.15 at 9:41 pm

these are completely different levels and kinds of social pressures

Agreed,

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js. 02.14.15 at 9:52 pm

Oh, good. Layman said (@309) exactly what I was going to say. And @299 also strikes me exactly right.

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engels 02.14.15 at 10:01 pm

Fwiw I assume America devotes rather more economic resources to its–undeniably less brutal–mechanisms of influence (advertising, MTV, fashion industry, etc) than Saudi Arabia does…

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Lynne 02.14.15 at 10:06 pm

About banning the burka or niqab: I hesitate to add my voice to those telling Muslim women what to wear, but there are places where a covered face seems wrong in our society where we have a tradition of face to face interaction.

There was a court case a few years ago where a young woman was testifying against two male relatives who were charged with sexually abusing her. She wanted to wear her niqab, and was refused by the court. I thought, reluctantly, that that was the right decision because in Canada the accused has the right to face his accuser. Also, we rely on seeing people’s faces when we evaluate whether they are telling the truth.

There are a few other places I wouldn’t want to see people wearing veils (off the top of my head; teaching children, certain professions where the contact is personal, eg. medical or if you were consulting a lawyer) but I think these could be dealt with without a general ban.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 10:11 pm

“Fwiw I assume America devotes rather more economic resources to its–undeniably less brutal–mechanisms of influence (advertising, MTV, fashion industry, etc) than Saudi Arabia does…”

No doubt. Again, and…? Just pretend I’m slow, and spell it out for me.

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Val 02.14.15 at 10:12 pm

Thanks Lynne and others for comments re patriarchy, I will continue my thoughts on this. First though a bit of “self-criticism” – reading this thread has made me realise that normally I am quite quick to get fed up and snarky. It’s partly, as others have said, because as a feminist you do encounter the same objections to feminism again and again – you deal with them here, they crop up again there, like hydra heads. Tiring. But also I think I’m impatient because I grew up in an era when children were “IQ- tested” and I was so repeatedly told that I was the smartest person in the room that I’ve probably internalised it!

So mea culpa and trying hard to be patient, polite and humble (a bit of snark is fun sometimes but this isn’t the place) – the other reason I stopped commenting about patriarchy before is because I have been reading a lot about it (many sources but recently particularly Gerda Lerner) and I could write at length.

So trying to keep it brief and respond to a few things here. I don’t think it’s useful to conceptualise gender and class as opposing theories or explanations. They interact. However patriarchy historically precedes class ( at least class in the Marxist sense). Lerner suggests that subordination of women was the model for other forms of subordination and that they all involve “othering” the subordinate class (I hope I’m doing her justice). She, and others I’ve read, suggest there hasn’t ever really been matriarchy – the two main forms of social organisation are patriarchy ( subordination of women and ‘othered’ men, competition between men for “women, cattle, slaves, scarce land” as Weber put it) and gatherer-hunter societies (I’m not sure this is considered the best term now but not entirely up with this yet) which while they may have hierarchies and violence, don’t tend to have systemic inequality and tend to share resources rather than compete. (I have written a little about this on my own blog here, if I may be excused http://fairgreenplanet.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/why-we-should-acknowledge-elders-and.html)

Also, as I hope this makes clear, there doesn’t seem to be any historical evidence that people ‘naturally’ form hierarchies, at least not in the form characterised by systemic inequality. We lived much longer as gatherer hunters, 60,000 years or so, whereas patriarchy seems to have been around only about a few thousand.

In response to Fuzzy Dunlop, I also suggest it would not be useful to substitute “hierarchy” for “patriarchy” as patriarchy is the form of hierarchical system that many humans have lived with in the last few thousand years, including us contemporary humans here, to greater or lesser degrees, and which has influenced our thinking (the discourse in which our subjectivities have been created, if you like).

I could talk about some of the work (including some of mine) that has been done in understanding the way the normative individual has been constructed in liberal democracies but it might take rather a long time. Just briefly however the normative individual generally has the assumed characteristics of an adult able-bodied male (and often I think someone middle class who doesn’t have to scrabble for existence, and although this no longer formally the case, often also white).

Also just briefly one of the reasons we have so much trouble dealing with abortion legally is because apart from the patriarchal aspects of men wanting to control women’s reproductive capacity, our normative legal individual is one single self contained (adult) person.

An interesting thing I’m working on conceptually at present is how can we think and write in a way that allows for individualism (because I think there is truth or reality in the concept, just not that restricted liberal adult male one) but also sees us as as being connected to/part of other people, other species and the environment.

Finally I think the term “identity politics” is a push back term from people who want to keep the adult male as the normative individual.

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Val 02.14.15 at 10:14 pm

Oops sorry that really was long. Don’t get a person on her hobby horse!

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engels 02.14.15 at 10:24 pm

Spell out what? It’s an observation. In both countries there is a lot of effort by men to influence what women wear. The methods employed are different in kind. In SA they’re much more brutal, and, I’m guessing, cheaper.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.14.15 at 10:36 pm

js. @307 & Layman @309
On hair covering in Muslim countries, there is of course a lot of research on this, though I’m not totally up-to-date on it. Layman @309 is not wrong, but there can also be ‘nationalistic’ or other ideological reasons for women in Muslim countries to cover their hair–reasons besides family pressure. See e.g. work by Ernest Gellner and Saba Mahmood. Egypt has gone in the last 20-30 years from the hijab being very much optional & even uncommon in certain classes of society to being ubiquitous. This is not entirely (& maybe even not primarily) due to family pressure or even increasing street harassment.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.14.15 at 10:46 pm

Val @315 Thank you, that was interesting (I may have more to say later).

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Luke 02.14.15 at 10:58 pm

Layman @309
“I’d agree that they may be two different statements, but not that they necessarily are. Unless you think that social pressures to comply don’t exist in Muslim families & communities in Western countries? That such pressures can only be ‘national’, never local or familial?”

You’re absolutely right. Which is to say: Muslim women in Western countries may end up living with two competing sets of irreconcilable normative expectations. Actually, I think this is typical of the immigrant experience in general — I’ve seen my wife struggle against conservative family expectations, on the one hand, and the ‘flattening’ of her parents’ culture by the liberal mainstream, on the other.

That said, our parents die. It’s true that there may be a lot more direct coercion involved in getting women to cover themselves than there is in getting them to uncover themselves (though this seems to be changing). And, yes, I’d probably rather be discriminated against for not dressing appropriately than forced to dress appropriately at gunpoint.

However. I think it’s also important to note the role choice (or ‘choice’) plays in liberal/capitalist discourse. The comparative lack of direct coercion in enforcing gender roles is necessary in that liberal political discourse legitimates itself via freedom of choice — conformism will always be phrased as ‘tolerance’. Further, Brown would note that the choice to conform is both eroticised and something that is *actively pursued*. So, the freedom to conform to Western standards of beauty is a competition, and its cutting edge is a surgeon’s razor.

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Tyrone Slothrop 02.14.15 at 11:15 pm

Geo at 288: Thanks. Upon reading that earnest (if somewhat desperate) plea, I proved no more capable of containing the chuckle than you announced yourself to have (occasionally, reminiscently) been.

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bianca steele 02.14.15 at 11:18 pm

Here’s my trivial unpopular thought–though maybe everybody else lives somewhere where it started snowing earlier than here and is out shoveling–since it kind of ties in with the theme of Western undress:

I think the Underpants Guy statue at Wellesley should have been removed. (This was a realistic sculpture of a man wearing nothing but underwear, sleepwalking, with his arms straight out ahead of him in the classic pose and a kind of drooling look on his face. It got into the news when a petition called for its removal, and the petition was pretty much ridiculed, including IIRC by most online feminists.)

My first reason: At Columbia, the engineering and computer science building was in an isolated part of campus, and there was a huge scary statue right in front of it. It’s supposedly a “marteleur,” and I guess it’s wearing a leather apron and a hat that looks like an open book, and holding a big hammer. But in the dark and fog it looked like a cloaked statue of the grim reaper, eight feet high, looming up out of the night. (It’s since been put up on a plinth, it seems, so it’s more obviously a sculpture.) So, I’m opposed to scary statues on campus.

Second: Would they have put the thing on a co-ed or all-male campus? They would have had guys stripping down and posing with the thing, and walking all over campus in their underwear. Would they have put it in any public place, other than a museum? Would they have put it in City Hall Plaza? Absolutely not. They put it on the Wellesley campus because it was the place you’d least be likely to see a guy stumbling down the road, about to fall on anyone walking past him, with his arms out like Frankenstein’s monster. And when students said “we don’t really want something that looks like a real almost-naked guy on our campus, much less one who looks like he’s about to reach out and drunkenly grab someone,” people laughed and said “But it’s Art!” and made them defend themselves against being prudes. If it had been intending as a pwning, it couldn’t have been better.

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Layman 02.14.15 at 11:24 pm

Luke, going back to you @ 294

“One thing I find striking about the whole business is that people expect muslim women to *choose* the ‘liberated’ option. “

I gather you think this kind of thinking happens because Westerners are steeped in their own cultural norms – norms created by the social pressures you note – and can only imagine Muslim women choosing the same. You may be right, but there’s actually evidence of Muslim women choosing the ‘liberated’ option even in non-Western cultures, where those cultures have a lesser enforcement regime. So I think you must grant that there is some reason besides Western cultural bias to expect it will happen; and not all Westerners who think it will happen do so because of their culture.

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engels 02.14.15 at 11:35 pm

there’s actually evidence of Muslim women choosing the ‘liberated’ option even in non-Western cultures

You mean in non-Western cultures that are completely insulated from production for Western firms, consumption of Western products and the influence of Western media?

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Layman 02.14.15 at 11:46 pm

Engels @ 324

Mars, you mean?

No, forget Mars. Tunisia ought to suffice. Check out the data I linked to earlier.

Otherwise, I’m really failing to see your point. I get that no human exists in a cultural vacuum, but I don’t think that means data are irrelevant because cultural bias. People are born nude. In the presence of an enforcement regime that requires them to cover their entire bodies with cloth, they tend to do that. Do you really doubt that, in the absence of such a regime, they’d be less likely to do it? And is your response to data which corroborates this simple hypothesis really to dismiss the results as the artifact of some other cultural pressure?

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harry b 02.14.15 at 11:52 pm

On hair covering — a simple, unrepresentative anecdote. I traveled alone, around Turkey, in 1983 (aged 20). Everywhere I went in the Western part of Turkey women (of course) did not cover their hair (I think it was illegal). But every single woman who tried to speak to me (I never tried to speak to them, or anyone for that matter, which was pretty much how I behaved in England) would be, quickly, rebuked by an older man or woman (usually a stranger) and would stop.

I arrived, eventually, in a village in the Kurdish part of Turkey where I was such a rarity that little kids followed me around throwing stones at me to see what I would do. About 30 minutes after I got off the bus a young woman (around my age) in a burka (definitely illegal, but common in that part of Turkey then), walked up to me and started chatting gaily away to me (in broken French; her’s was about as good as mine, which is not great). She took me to her home, where I met her father with whom she lived (no French), changed out of the burka (not in front of me), made me dinner (allowed me to help), and I had a lovely evening with them both, by far the most fun I had in my travels.

Never knew what to conclude from that. But it has stayed with me for 30 years.

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harry b 02.14.15 at 11:53 pm

PS, for ‘not great’ above, substitute ‘bad’.

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mattski 02.14.15 at 11:55 pm

Positing some mythical, orthodox, monolithic “Feminism” isn’t helpful

Same for “patriarchy” I would say.

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dn 02.15.15 at 12:31 am

bianca @282 – I think you’ve misunderstood me. I’m strongly against an essentializing gender binary in the way I think you’re using those words. (Please correct me if I’m not understanding, and again, if I’m mansplaining please tell me so. I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m a cis man writing a lot of words about trans women and feminism right here.)

I think there is such a thing as “gender identity” and that it is more than “just” a social construct, but that what exactly it really is is not at all well-understood by anyone. (Kind of like dark matter – we know it’s there, but we can’t actually see it and have no idea what the hell it is.) I believe that the “gender binary” is a social construct, or a sort of “folk theory” of gender that has been built up in the absence of any actual scientific understanding. Unfortunately, this folk theory – which I reject – simplistically blurs together distinct phenomena into a false essentialism, much to everyone’s confusion.

The folk theory gives us only two concepts, “man” and “woman”, to describe gender. These words lack simple definitions; they are expected to carry the whole weight of huge bundles of ideas about anatomy, psychology, morality, you name it. Unfortunately, because this binary does not capture reality particularly well, the meanings of “man” and “woman” are intensely contested (as clearly shown in this thread). What I wanted to express in the passage you quote was simply that while these socially-defined and contested categories, “men” and “women”, are inadequate to describe the totality of actually-existing gender, they are comparatively more adequate for some groups of people than for others, and that this does have serious real-life effects on those who fit less comfortably in the generally-acknowledged folk categories.

What I ultimately believe is lacking in a trans-exclusionary feminism is respect for trans persons’ self-determination. Lynne would critique all boundaries, would allow for self-determination in all areas – except one. That one happens to be a vitally important one for trans women. I think it’s wrong to stop short. I think if you’re going to contest the meaning of “man” and “woman” you should be willing to go all the way. That’s all.

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Charles Peterson 02.15.15 at 12:55 am

I’ll bite as well as I can, thanks.

I would mandatorily self-describe as “feminist.” On my own terms, which includes an absolute right for a woman to choose abortion. I would take it as until natural childbirth, but Roe v Wade is a fine compromise. Strangely, I suspect a lot of the feminists with whom I disagree on other matters might disagree on this also.

I’m a fan of Ellen Willis, and her notion of pro sex feminism, as compared with very common in USA anti porn feminism. An anti porn stance in the broadest sense (which many well known feminists subscribe to, and some of my friends) is that any female image that men find erotic should be banned–could be a completely clothed model lounging on her own website, no matter. This is not unlike how Islam bans human images. I argue that objectification is the essence of human though, not some evil process, and anti porn feminists are simply using a rhetorical curse to selectively roll back liberty where in the historic traditional sexual compromise women were given absolute power. Masturbation, and sexual images that were lewd, were prohibited. But there were a lot of things where women gave up power–involvement in politics, participation in many careers, and, arguably, they were prompted to submit to men.

My second, and further out objection to a lot of feminism is how it essentially rejections the old traditional marriage model for all people. Call it serfdom, but I think something like a traditional marriage model fits many people better than total subjection to wage slavery. Perhaps even a majority if done on an appropriate basis (I suggest a very liberal basis, which actually is open to either sex as ‘breadwinner’, and unconditioned and guaranteed support for the homemaker, but there are also endless traditional models, and conservatism is very common in my country). This was the norm until the 1970’s, and what has happened since? Not entirely coincidentally, median wage growth plummeted compared with earlier periods. Doubling the potential labor force was not at coincidental–it helped make it possible.

In my vision, there are fewer wage slaves, but nobody lives in poverty, there is more time to devote to things other than work, activism is more sustainable, there is lots more sex and more fun. The downside is a loss in investment products and possibly some loss in consumer products.

Many women it seems, including my best friend, are dedicated to work as sort of self-proof. No matter how much suffering and/or how little reward it delivers, it is worth it, to be free and independent of any single man. Instead, the capitalist boss become the new ultimate boss, and he demands endlessly increasingly sacrifices in today’s neoliberal wage slavery, ultimately leading to the death of all other relationships, each person with only a job and an a video screen.

My mother was actually a pioneer in this movement, despite being a lifelong conservative who had been an early admirer of Ronald Reagan, later a fan of Limbaugh. She took advantage of the availability of work during WWII, and ended up spending far more time living away from my father than with him. My sister opined how much materially better off she might have lived as a housewife of the time, and how much more she might have ended up with when my father, a senior manager, died. Not even counting the possibility he might have been more successful or lived longer to make wiser investments. She had lousy jobs–some of which probably long-term poisoned her–but economic freedom.

I don’t understand it myself. A life married to someone far richer than myself, in which I could pursue art, politics, and technology on my own terms, and get a healthy stipend so I have no material concerns, sounds like paradise to me. And I have a great and successful career doing stuff I love doing, so I’m actually fine right now, not slaving away under a totally unreasonable boss demanding more and more time as I hear so many women complaining about.

The neoliberal capitalist disorder has been fine to me directly. I have no complaints about how much material is available to me, or how hard it is to get. The number one concern of my life is how little time I am able to spend with my love partner, and how most of my life I couldn’t find one. I trace that limited amount of time exactly to the neoliberalism enabling aspect of feminism that essentially abolished anything like traditional marriage in the the segment of society (not the most elite) I inhabit.

I don’t want to say this as a curse, and I hope I’m wrong, but it seems to me that until there is a great improvement (and in part, a restoration) of our social and sexual lives, there is little hope, I believe, in any sort of social revolution of the kind needed, which would be back toward and increasing social democracy. We face a spiral into global collapse of all kinds which cannot be stopped. I continue to live as much as I can as if this is not true, I join movements, including many feminist ones. But I fear that sexual neoliberalism, which is a core part of feminism for many feminists, has destroyed the future. If people have no time to spend together, the bonds that it needs for social cohesion are never formed. I feel that many in the Crooked Timber crown are protected from the lower social reality which I face–the one that exists for liberals and leftists who self identify as feminist, but aren’t university professors or rock stars or hedge fund managers.

But this reality isn’t necessarily so for many extreme religious conservatives. Even the less than elite have with traditional models of marriage and sexual roles. Not surprisingly, their influence on geopolitics has been increasing–in particular since the 1970’s.

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js. 02.15.15 at 1:02 am

Holy shit! I didn’t know what bianca steele was talking about @322, but that is fucking terrifying! I guess I didn’t get how literally “realistic” was meant.

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bianca steele 02.15.15 at 1:13 am

dn:

No one would disagree that pretty much all languages and cultures have words for “male” and “female” and so it’s a kind of human universal. Many cultures also have ways of describing people who “don’t fit”–which could be seen as the exception that proves the rule, I suppose, that dividing people into male and female is universal.

But that’s a far cry from saying that “woman” necessarily implies a lot of specific traits. That’s exactly what I mean by essentialism, the idea that you can list those traits and those are traits a woman has to have. Much less that “woman” implies a lot of moral traits–so much less that I’m not sure you’re serious. (If only because many if not most cultures have subdivisions of “man” and “woman,” like “wife” and “widow” . . . but that would take me away from where I want to go.) So, I suppose, “woman” takes advice and instruction from men, and “man” knows things and explains them? Honestly, there aren’t many parts of the US that are so conservative that’s the only way they can conceive of adult gender roles.

I agree with Lynne to the extent that I hope men, for example, aren’t being told, “You have a kind of passive personality, and that makes you more female than male.” (I think this is what she’s saying.) I hope men and women both aren’t being told, “You are a woman (or man), and so you have to try hard to have this specific set of traits.” I hope women aren’t being told (as I think they were, occasionally, in the past), “You are a woman, and scientists are men, so if you want to be a scientist, you have to refuse femaleness by remaining celibate.” I worry about kids like the eleven year old boy in Massachusetts who killed himself after being bullied, whose mother had been told the school couldn’t help him unless he “admitted” he was homosexual, which was taken to be the reason his classmates were tormenting him. (I don’t agree with Lynne to the extent that I can sort of begin to imagine what it would be like to feel like you were really, in some sense, a different sex.)

Another reason I disagree with your binary is that it doesn’t take account of cultural differences. You seem to be assuming that any of us can know, at any time, for any person, anywhere in the world (because after all this is the Internet), whether a personality trait is “male” or “female.” I think this is nuts.

I’m not going to pursue this, as you’re just repeating what you believe without giving any reasons.

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dn 02.15.15 at 1:29 am

bianca – Now I’m weirded out, because most of what you wrote @332 I completely agree with. But we’ll let it lie.

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js. 02.15.15 at 1:45 am

People know about this, yes? I mention it only because it’s a very different discourse than what exists re trans rights in the US (at least from what I understand). I am by no means very knowledgeable about it.

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Val 02.15.15 at 1:45 am

Emma @ 308
Thanks Emma that was really interesting. You may not wish to link it here for anonymity reasons, but I would be very interested to read your work.

Bianca @ 322 – side note – I know the blog tends to be predominantly North American but some of us here in the Southern Hemisphere certainly aren’t shovelling snow, we’re sweltering in heat! Good luck with the snow shovelling and keeping warm.

Pat @ 265
I really agree with a lot of what you say. I also find it quite difficult to have conversations on feminist blogs generally, even though I’ve been a feminist for many years, and have a real sense of having to be very careful what I say. It isn’t conducive to solidarity and making progress as feminists. I have some theories about why it happens, but I wonder if Emma in Sydney might be able to comment on this?

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dn 02.15.15 at 2:07 am

Looking back over that exchange again, I suddenly realize what my mistake was. I misinterpreted one word and it made me completely misread the whole rest of what you were saying, bianca. You were totally correct. My apologies.

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Emma in Sydney 02.15.15 at 2:15 am

Val @335, the project resulted in this book <a href="http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/7824171?selectedversion=NBD22117255&quot; title="Australian Feminism: A Companion". I was the senior researcher on the project and wrote about a third of it. I’m one of the et al in the author list. Remaindered long ago, I’m afraid. When the project ended and the funding ran out, I was out of a job and ended up in technical writing. I’ve often wondered what became of the laptop containing my database for the whole project. We also published this <a href="http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/21899879?q=Emma+Grahame+&c=book&versionId=46461954&quot; title="Research Guide to Feminist publications" .

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Emma in Sydney 02.15.15 at 2:16 am

Sorry about that. HTML tags don’t really seem to work here.

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JanieM 02.15.15 at 2:27 am

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js. 02.15.15 at 2:34 am

One of the weird, lovable quirks of CT is that almost none of the tags work as advertised. But for anchor tags, the following works: “[TITLE]

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js. 02.15.15 at 2:35 am

Oh fuck! It parsed the tags! Just ignore me.

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JanieM 02.15.15 at 2:40 am

[a href=”html address in here between straight quotes not smart quotes”]text that will be visible[/a]

Taking over from js.’s attempt … with perhaps no greater luck. Replace the square brackets with the other kind. I never use title= so I don’t know how it’s supposed to work or might work here at CT. But I don’t think you need it; just put the title of the book where my sample says “text that will be visible.”

I mess these up about 50% of the time I try them, most often because I compose in Word and forget to replace the smart quotes when I paste into the comment box. Earlier today I missed up and used “strikethrough” instead of “strike”. Oh well.

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JanieM 02.15.15 at 2:41 am

missed -> messed … where’s the proofreader?

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magari 02.15.15 at 3:06 am

JS 307: “The clothing-related social pressures faced by women in conservative Muslim societies are of an entirely different order than those in liberal Western societies.”

I don’t know what you mean by “order” but if we mean harm done to women, then you can certainly not discount the incredible pressures Western society puts on women’s bodies (and, increasingly, men’s) and the way in which individuals harm themselves (mentally/physically) in order to achieve the social expectation (improbably thin and curvy and muscular). Such expectation is lacking from societies expecting women to cover.

I suggest, given the great moral/political danger one puts oneself in when they begin advocating that people in other countries change their customs to match our expectations (in the name of their liberation, of course!), that people who care about the social life of women focus instead on the crazy shit expected of Western women.

@Layman. I think you missed my point. You argue against the hijab/burqa on the basis of those women who wear it out of latent/manifested social pressure. There are undoubtedly women who wear these garments against their will. On the other hand, there are women who wear them because it is their piety. Minimizing the former is wholly desirable. Banning or casting a categorical denouncement on these garments/practices is wholly wrong.

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engels 02.15.15 at 3:10 am

In the presence of an enforcement regime that requires them to cover their entire bodies with cloth, they tend to do that. Do you really doubt that, in the absence of such a regime, they’d be less likely to do it?

No, I don’t. I’m just saying that in the absence of coercion softer pressures (conditioning, persuasion) come into play and the American capitalism is much better at these than developing countries are.

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bianca steele 02.15.15 at 3:17 am

Val,

Thanks for the good wishes. The snow piles are already up to my head! But I wasn’t sure where everyone was. I’m pretty sure Janie, Bob, Lynne, LizardBreath, Brett, Main Street Muse, Rich, geo, and Dr. Science are pretty much in the same time zone as me, and a bunch of people in Europe probably still awake, like engels, js., magistra, and Ronan.

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js. 02.15.15 at 3:35 am

bianca steele,

I don’t know why you think I’m in Europe! I’m very much an Eastern Time Zone kinda guy—in fact, currently in eastern Mass. housesitting for my parents, and hating every minute of it. (They do have someone who comes and cleans out the snow, so there is that.)

And JanieM, thanks for picking up the pieces of my HTML fail.

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JanieM 02.15.15 at 3:41 am

Snow pile at my house more than a week ago. We’ve had significantly more snow fall since then, and we’re at the front edge of the next big blizzard — as is Bianca, I believe — at this very moment.

Snow at MIT and elsewhere in the Boston area. The good old Daily Mail!

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js. 02.15.15 at 4:04 am

See also. (Sorry, kinda in derail territory, and I will stop. Just really kind of insane around here right now.)

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JanieM 02.15.15 at 4:12 am

js., those are great pics. But you’re right, it’s sort of a derail. It’s Saturday night and there’s almost no one around, so maybe it’s no big deal, but I’ll stop too.

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Val 02.15.15 at 4:38 am

Those photos are amazing. It’s 32C here (about 90F) and 3.30 on Sunday afternoon. I am lying around trying to work out whether I can be bothered to go out.It’s not really hot by our summer standards (this has been a cool- ish summer in Melbourne) but it’s humid, which we’re not so used to here.

I read somewhere that the murder rate in New York has gone down because of cold weather.

Anyway back on topic. Thanks Emma @ 337, I will get those books from the library next week. I know your research was on pre-Internet feminism but do you have any theories why Internet feminism might be so fraught (at least for some of us)?

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Emma in Sydney 02.15.15 at 5:02 am

Val,
Avoiding work on a very hot Sydney summer afternoon — freelancers never rest! I think these discussions were always fraught, it’s just that now there is a much greater chance of trolls, and other nasties, escalating them. Even in a group specifically dedicated to working for say, multicultural feminism, or feminism for working women, or lesbian feminism, there were always hard, divisive, challenging internal fights, many of which led to the dispersal, division or derailing of the groups in real life. This is hard stuff!

(This is also true for socialist groups, in my experience, and the intersection was particularly fraught — more than one feminist group in Sydney during the 1970s was more or less destroyed by the disciplined intervention of the Spartacist women, which I’m sure was not their goal, but happened anyway).

I think the commenter above who wrote at length about the problems with consensus decisionmaking at Occupy would know what I mean. Feminist groups have a very good claim to inventing consensus decisionmaking, as a response to the silencing of women in traditional meeting procedure on the left, but it was a double edged sword.
I should get back to my work now. Stay cool/warm, everyone.

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bianca steele 02.15.15 at 5:10 am

js., I’m not sure why I thought you were English.

Janie, others, we’re far enough west to get a little less snow this time, but that’s making up for the first storm when we got a lot. Way too many snow days, between scheduled days off and snow days, in Jan. and Feb. the schools will have been closed 16 days even if it doesn’t snow any more.

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js. 02.15.15 at 5:42 am

Between the first decade in India and intermittent anglophilia, it’s entirely possible some of my idioms sound that way. (Also, I talk about cricket sometimes?)

I know I said I was done, but here are a couple of photos I just took out the back of my parents’ place. Go left for the other one. Or maybe right. Ok, now I’m done. I think.

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Michael Drew 02.15.15 at 6:27 am

Should men say they are feminists, or should they refrain from it?

Why or why not? If it depends, what does it depend upon, and how should a man determine whether the conditions that mean he should do it apply to him (in general or at given time depending on context, whichever it is)?

358

Michael Drew 02.15.15 at 6:32 am

“one becomes suspicious”

This could be the title of the Belle Waring section of Crooked Timber.

359

ZM 02.15.15 at 6:55 am

There is a movie The Day I Became A Woman with one section about a girl on the day of her ninth birthday when at noon she turns from a child to a woman and must wear a chador in public and can’t be friends with the boy who is her best friend. In a Shakespeare play a King recalls being “breeched” when he went from wearing the dresses befitting a young child to the trousers of a man. This gendering is less formal in our culture but remains nonetheless: in one gender class we were asked when we thought it happened in our own experiences and the answers varied from early childhood to adolescence. I think the lack of formality means that you are viewed as having freedom but there are a lot of informal expectations and constraints etc that are out of your control.

My unpopular idea is that one of the reasons I started to like Iranian movies in late high school was that it seemed to me the girls and women in their chadors in, say, Salaam Cinema, could be more like normal protagonist characters . It was also important to me that they were around about contemporaries with me rather than people in a 19th C book or something, as I tended to find it hard to relate much to the mid-late 20th C Western representations of young women that I was familiar with at that age. I was the sort of kid that when a friend and I were underage in a pub and an interstate guy gave us drugs I thought what would be great next would be to have a discussion about the Velvet Revolution — my knowledge of which was admittedly rather hazy. So since the films were well regarded the Iranian women in their chadors for me broadened — as opposed to limited — what I saw as contemporary forms of being a girl and woman.

(Of course I did not ever have to wear a chador or hijab, so I was not subject to any of the actual limits Iranian women are, and there are certainly problems in Iran especially with corruption and violence by police and in gaol)

*****

“TELL US YOU BELIEVE SOMETHING CRAZY. IT IS A NEAR-CERTAINTY!….
But if a girl or woman is mentally ill and involved in some way with a man, a false rape accusation is a common thing for that mentally ill woman to do!”

While I am fortunate to never have suffered rape like Belle — and that was a horrible story, I am very sorry it was done to you — I do wish that there was less use of the word crazy as a derogatory term for non-crazy people’s stupid or scoundrel-like behaviour, and fewer unsourced claims about mentally ill people.

People with a serious mental illness are about 2.5 times more likely to be the victims of violent assaults and rape. I could not find any figures concluding that false allegations of rape are mainly made by mentally ill women: One study I found said the majority of false rape allegations (over 50%) were made by people who just wanted to escape the negative social consequences of having that instance of consensual sex; then the next biggest category was people who made false allegations for revenge and retribution (27%-44%), with mental illness being only a small category. Other studies criticised police for not following through on complaints by vulnerable groups with learning difficulties and mental illnesses for reasons based only on police officers’ discretionary judgements.

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Val 02.15.15 at 8:21 am

Js the photo I could see was amazing – foreboding I would say. I couldn’t swipe to the other one on my iPad.

ZM I think the issue of political correctness around the terminology of mental illness deserves a thread to itself. However I do know someone who I think made false claims of sexual assault due to mental illness.. I would be somewhat sceptical about the false claim statistics you cite – it’s so hard to prove rape by evidentiary standards that I think the first issue has to be what actually constitutes a “false” claim: an unproven claim? A claim that was withdrawn? I’ve read a bit about this and I think there are real problems in this area.

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ZM 02.15.15 at 11:36 am

Val,
Those numbers I cited were from a study by Kanin (1994) about a town in the Midwest USA from 1978-87. They were cases where the accusers withdrew their accusations. The incidence of false allegations there varied from year to year from 27%-70%.

False allegations are more studied for prevalence than for reasons and motivations, but scanning two other papers they did find mental illness was a factor, if not the highest. Although both papers included cases where the police decided the allegations were false, rather than the allegations being recanted as in the former case, and some other papers are critical of this as they see the legal system as having a tendency to believe men rather than women or the young or disabled.

O’Neal (2014) studies a smaller number of cases in L.A. (55) and used multiple motivations: the main reason is wanting attention or sympathy (23) ; then to have an alibi/wanting to escape the negative consequences of consensual sex (22); then some form of mental illness (18); then personal reasons (17) and revenge (13) and so on. And Kelly, Lovett, and Regan (2005) found that young people, less educated people and disabled people were over represented demographics in the false allegations group, but didn’t look at other motivations. All the papers pointed out that their results were not appropriate to generalise from.

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Ivan Alias 02.15.15 at 12:51 pm

About men supporting feminism, we used to call such men pro-feminists. And they called themselves that, too.

This. When I was in my formative years the concept of a “male feminist” was regarded as an oxymoron, and not because pro-feminist men were unappreciated except by a fringe of the movement. I do recognise that usages change with time and there’s nothing intrinsically good or bad in that, but then we still seem to need a word for a praxis based in women’s experience.

Bad thought: is it me, or have the most visible currents of feminism almost entirely abandoned the working class in a dash for respectability among the upper middles? I have friends who have spent most of their careers working to incorporate gender and disability awareness into the activities of the labour movement. But to read many of the go to feminist commentators these days they might as well not have bothered. It makes me sad.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.15.15 at 1:30 pm

ZM @359 My unpopular idea is that one of the reasons I started to like Iranian movies in late high school was that it seemed to me the girls and women in their chadors in, say, Salaam Cinema, could be more like normal protagonist characters .

I’m curious how much this is due to how they’re dressed, as opposed to other things, like how dedicated those writers/directors are to telling women’s stories. I mean, it’s not really surprising that Iran would produce cinema or other art with international appeal, and it’s not like there’s even a rough consensus on how women can dress, so these movies (especially The Day I Became a Woman!) probably don’t reflect the views of people who want to enforce “moral” dress codes.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.15.15 at 1:39 pm

My broader observation about this thread: it seems to me like most of the “unpopular opinions” are not actually all that unpopular, even among feminists. They’ve been very interesting and provoked a great discussion, but there’s few things where I thought ‘ooh you couldn’t get away with saying that…’ I tried to find an issue (geek culture and bullying) that might pose a real problem for feminism, but the commenters (Landru & Yama) that partly started it seem not to have stayed around to continue the discussion.

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engels 02.15.15 at 1:45 pm

I think ZM’s points are good, on both ‘women don’t make up rare allegations’ (which I’ve never understood) and of ‘it’s common for mentally ill women to do so’ (which I don’t like at all).

366

Layman 02.15.15 at 1:48 pm

magari @ 346

“@Layman. I think you missed my point. You argue against the hijab/burqa on the basis of those women who wear it out of latent/manifested social pressure. There are undoubtedly women who wear these garments against their will. On the other hand, there are women who wear them because it is their piety. Minimizing the former is wholly desirable. Banning or casting a categorical denouncement on these garments/practices is wholly wrong.”

I largely agree with this, which is why I would stop short of banning it. That said, would you not agree that there are some things done out of piety which are, and/or ought to be, banned? For me, dress restrictions aimed solely at women – which must be sexist in practice – are perilously close to that point. Only the awareness that there are some people who may comply without coercion restrains my view.

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engels 02.15.15 at 1:57 pm

Fuzzy, re opinions not being _that_ unpopular: I think that’s the point. The unusual thing seems to me is the discussion has been about views which are not consensus ones but are still worth discussing, whereas 99% it’s a flame war between the right-thinking person’s opinion and some right-wing trollish bullshit alternative. Imo this ‘unite against the enemy’ dynamic actually imposes ideological conformity among the right-thinking.

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Belle Waring 02.15.15 at 2:02 pm

Fuzzy Dunlop, yo’ very wish is my command. Come and see the new post I have made just especially for that purpose.

369

Michael Drew 02.15.15 at 2:11 pm

Let’s remember that the title was “Safe Space For *Possibly* Unpopular Thoughts on Feminism, Leftism,” so let’s not act like w should be laughing at anyone who offered an opinion she thought might be unpopular but turned out not to be. Merely offering a possibly unpopular opinion is not claiming that it is is in fact unpopular.

Let’s also not pretend that two meanings of the term “unpopular,” 1) not held by very many people in general ; 2) likely to be very ill-received in some particularly defined community – are the same. Soliciting “unpopular” opinions, which clearly refers to 2), and then pointing out that they may not be 1) is a bait-and-switch,

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Lynne 02.15.15 at 3:14 pm

Before this thread is closed, I’d like to thank Belle for starting it, and everyone who participated. It’s been a treat to read and participate in.

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bianca steele 02.15.15 at 4:43 pm

to get a little less snow this time

Or not. At least I don’t have to fling it to the top of Janie’s pile with my little shovel.

Echoing Lynne: thanks, Belle.

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MPAVictoria 02.15.15 at 5:08 pm

Echoing Bianca and Lynne.

/I actually think this thread might make me a less “derisive” commenter

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mdl 02.15.15 at 5:56 pm

I’ve been planning on commenting but haven’t had time to compose. But anyway, if I don’t get time to do it (as it sounds like these threads are closed eventually?), I’ve found the discussion here very interesting!

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Val 02.15.15 at 7:43 pm

Me too MPAVictoria. Though I can’t swear that I won’t wake up one morning in a bad mood, and see some dismissal of feminism that I’ve seen twenty times before, and get snarky!

Thank you Belle for this thread and your courage. I’m off to read the next one …

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Landru 02.15.15 at 8:58 pm

but the commenters (Landru & Yama) that partly started it seem not to have stayed around to continue the discussion.

Well, some of us do have day jobs and demanding family responsibilities. In my own case, though, an additional important factor is that takes me a _very_ long time to compose anything that reads smoothly and gets a point across. In generating new prose suitable for CT standards I would guess that I average in the ballpark of five to ten minutes per sentence, probably at least one or two orders of magnitude slower than Belle and many of the regulars.

I did have a comment almost ready to go last night in reply to Belle back at 140, after several days of work; but that’s now been completely obviated by the new thread. And while I do take a certain oddball pride in meriting a beat-down from herself every now and again — “A sneer from him, Meriadoc, is a compliment” — it’s not really a good use of anyone’s time for me to engage there while outgunned by a hundred to one. So I’ll just stick to the opportunistic bon mot for now.

Overall, though, this thread has been a great achievement, and I don’t at all begrudge the effort of going over it several times to pick things up coming out of moderation. Definitely time well spent!

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.16.15 at 12:07 am

Belle: thanks again for starting this and the new thread, I hadn’t actually seen your recent comment here when I started posting there. This was all really good to read & I appreciate the dialog.

Michael & engels: Yes–my remark about nothing being really unpopular absolutely wasn’t meant in a spirit of derision.

Landru: fair enough, & I have some of those myself. I enjoyed reading this too!

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OCS 02.18.15 at 2:36 pm

Looks like I’m late by several days, but I want to take advantage of the opportunity, so here I go.

My unpopular thought about feminism is that it shouldn’t only be about women. It should long ago have broadened to be a critique of gender roles in general, emphasizing how rigid gender roles are bad for men and women both, and how easing those gender roles will be good for men and women both.

In fact, when I was younger, I thought that’s what feminism was. But I think it’s usually seen now – by proponents and opponents – as a movement specifically about women’s issues. Any critique of male gender roles tends to focus on the way those roles are bad for women.

My feeling is that rigid gender roles are bad for men and women – perhaps even equally bad, but if not certainly bad enough that men and women would all be happier if we could ease off of them. I think traditional male gender roles don’t work for most men, and often lead to lives that are stunted by emotional disconnectedness and feelings of anger and inadequacy. At its worst this leads to “toxic masculinity,” including violence.

I don’t think this opinion is original at all. I’m sure it’s right there in mainstream feminist thought. I suppose the reason I need a safe space to express it is that I’ve seen similar opinions shot down as being hateful, anti-feminist, misogynistic, and typical of those awful MRAs. I think unfortunately feminism is seen now as a zero sum game, where any gains by women necessarily come at the expense of men, and any attempt by men to complain about their problems is seen as beside the point, or actively hostile to women.

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Bruce Baugh 02.18.15 at 9:02 pm

As a sort of epilogue to this thread, an article from Nature reviewing research into the complexities of defining sex. In short, it turns out that organisms are much less innately binary than most people think, and that a complicated (and still probably largely unknown) array of factors add up to an organism’s sex, or its gender. Much of this is stuff that trans people have felt intuitively and tried to develop various vocabularies for, without a lot of success; it’s fascinating to see convergence from research that generally set out without such people in mind at all.

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legalcommentator 02.19.15 at 4:49 pm

OK, here’s the thing I am really not sure about with rape on college campuses. We don’t think there should be student and professor group evaluations or judgments on what to do if one student just beats the tar out of another student. Simple assault and battery. No one thinks, time for that committee of…randos…to…decide if this dude should get suspended for a semester for breaking that other dude’s arm with a chair? Right?

Right. Here’s why:
1) We have a system set up to deal with assault already, with a set of valid and well known rules that have been evolving for centuries and which have specially trained professionals with specific subject matter experience dealing with them;

2) Assault is an issue which is general, and which is unrelated to college or campuses or anything else other than “that is where it happened to occur.”

….Because of course we think that you might lose a whole semester’s worth of fees because you committed plagiarism. It’s not as if non-criminal complaints can’t result in serious sanctions as it stands.

Right. And that is because it is the converse:

1) We DON’T have a system set up to deal with plagiarism already; we DON’T have a set of valid and well known rules that have been evolving for centuries; and we DON’T have specially trained professionals with specific subject matter experience;

2) Plagiarism IS NOT an issue which is general, and IS an issue that pretty much only matters in a few isolated arenas.

Still, there’s really something a little weird about how sexual assault and battery would maybe get diverted into this weird para-justice-system, and simple assault and battery would probably lead to a chat with the cops?

That is entirely true. Sexual assault is just like battery, car theft, and anything else: universal; part of a system; with trained experts; with known laws; etc.

But I don’t want it to be that you can only get help from your school if you go to the cops.

This is a common problem in feminist college-rape discourse: You’re mixing up “help” and “taking action against the accused**.”

Help is things like medicine, psych, protection, assistance with filing a claim, and so on. Help is generally defined as “anything which benefits the accuser WITHOUT hurting the accused.”

Help has NO due process issues and NO complaints, because there’s nobody to do the complaining. If there’s no consequence from an inaccurate accusation, who cares about accuracy?

Punishment is the issue.

And yet, perhaps, shouldn’t a special relationship between the local cops SVU and the college be established that would make that an easier, gentler prospect?

This would be faultless, so long as the college did its best to HELP (“free rides to the police station; lists of victim advocates; free rape kits; etc.) and not JUDGE.

***Here’s step one: everyone involved should start using “accused” and “accuser,” as a means of reminding folks that it makes no sense to adopt a stance of “victim” and “perpetrator” until AFTER you have actually come to a conclusion about who is/was actually a victim and a perpetrator.

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engels 02.20.15 at 2:22 am

Re my comment above, that a structural rather than biological definition of ‘woman’ might mean there was no problem with feminism encompassing trans women, I see in Catherine MacKinnon that Susan Brownmiller defines ‘woman’ as ‘to be rapable’.

Relatedly, Owen Jones has an interesting piece on trans rights in the Guardian yesterday.

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Soullite 02.20.15 at 3:22 pm

It’s hard to believe you intend to create a ‘safe space’ about discussions surrounding feminism when you prime the audience with a rape story.

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