Tag Archives: label

My Response to an Anti-Feminist

14 May

On the Twittersphere, I recently shared a blog post by Katherine Fritz over at I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog. I got a response tweet from a self-proclaimed anti-feminist. Since his response came through a public forum, I felt it would be appropriate for me to release mine through a public, easily-put-link-in-140-character-box medium as well. Thus, the following post.

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Hi Ian,

thanks for your thoughtful response! I appreciate your civil discourse and lack of ad hominem attacks. Seriously.

Due to your lack of actual citation beyond the link to a blog post that itself looks at largely anecdotal data, I will also respond using broad strokes and summaries. I can provide factual citation and data from research on historical trends from non-biased sources as requested, if necessary. Also, while gender and sexuality are multivariate, not binary, in order to most directly and efficiently respond to your letter, I will mostly be talking about feminism in largely binary terms.

So, I see your hurt feelings. They are true and valid. I will not dispute that they exist. However, I think that there’s some conflation going on assigning causality in incorrect ways. I am not saying that nothing was done, or that no one did anything. Things were done. People did them. But from where I’m standing, there’s been some conflation of separate entities in what all went down.

Yes, feminism has pointed out that there are issues that exist with men, masculinity, fatherhood, and male sexuality. It has not, however, said that those categories are the issues. They have the issues. And lots of those issues have affected women at a systemic and subsequently individual level. Yes, women, femininity, motherhood, and female sexuality also have issues. And those issues have affected men on a systemic and subsequently individual level. But feminism posits, with the whole of history that I won’t repeat here to back it up, that men’s issues have had the harder hit, when it comes to the way society has shown bruises. The phrase “it’s a man’s world” is an incredibly crude phrase, but it is a good summary of what the main problem throughout history has boiled down to.

You say that feminism has not been inclusive of men’s issues. I say that this is an unfair critique. Every activist movement only has so many resources to go around. You wouldn’t criticize a puppy rescue for not seeing to the homeless kittens out there, too. It’s not their scope. Do they care about kittens? Yes. Do they want organizations to exist to get the kittens help? Yes. Do they think that by addressing the cause of homeless pets while working specifically with the target population of puppies their work will also help kittens? Yes. When they go out to the public to talk about their mission, are they going to use their limited time and resources to talk about kittens? No. Feminism works on the overall condition of human rights by focusing on a target dynamic. We think men and their plights are important too. We’re just not that organization.

Finally, there is the important distinction between “the actions of an individual who claims a label” and “the definition of the label itself.” A person can claim that they are a certain thing, and then act in no such manner. It’s been the recognized case with religion for years. People claiming to be Christian and to believe in love and forgiveness have gone and slaughtered millions in crusades and KKK rallies and abortion clinic bombings. Were those actions produced by Christianity? No. They were actions produced by angry individuals who falsely claimed the nearest convenient label as a justification for their own independent action.

Feminism is not about taking advantage of or attacking men. Feminism is in fact exactly the opposite, about righting a systemic abuse of power to bring us all back to a playing field of being reasonable, decent humans to each other who don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes, whether about males or females. The actions of not-actually-feminists only “stain” the movement as much as the action of male rapists and serial killers and bigots and otherwise terrible humans “stain” the whole of manhood.

As Katherine mentions in her blog post, true feminism does not discount subsets of feminist interests. Women are allowed to want to be mothers and wives and mascara-appliers and hair-doers and skirt-wearers. They are allowed to care about their high heels and children. That is fine. Acceptable. Laudable. As is not wanting to be a wife or a mother or to wear makeup or do anything remotely similar. Or, to be a male and to want to be a husband and father and to wear makeup and do hair and wear skirts. Or, to be someone who falls in none of those categories. Feminism is the idea that boxes are idiotic, and no one should be trapped in them – or outside of them. You say my idea of feminism is naïve, but I would counter that perhaps your experience of it is limited. I do not deny that there are angry people out there calling themselves feminists and acting the opposite. They are visible. They are loud. They are really quite noticeable. Yes, they exist. But feminists who are reasonable and don’t go gutting others in the style of exactly what we’re trying to end exist, too. The “warm, happy, sunny feminism” you claim I know because I practice it, or at least try my damnedest to. Katherine does as well. There are others – women and men – in my day to day life who practice it, too. I see them. I know they are real. I’m sorry people like them apparently don’t exist in your personal world. Though when presented with two people – one who’s smiling at you and the other who’s about to stab you with a knife – I can understand how the knife-wielder might take more precedence in what you’re remembering came at you that day. I promise there are more of smilers out there, somewhere around you.

But don’t get me wrong – people who are good feminists, are decent humans are allowed to get angry, too. Just like you, we’re allowed to feel hurt at our own knife wounds. And we’re allowed to fight back. Just as you are.

Best,

Miceala Shocklee

Names, Not Labels

31 Jan

I love words. Obviously. I’m a writer. “Love words” is kiiiiind of in my job description. Words are lovely, useful, wondrous things with a great deal of power. And I understand that it’s important for people to have words, to have specific terms with meaning, they can use to describe themselves. To understand themselves.

But all the same, sometimes I wish we didn’t use some of the words the way we do. Because as important as naming terms are, there can be a lot more damage done when they get turned into labels. When a word is no longer purely an identification but a categorization. Identifications expand an existence. Categorizations shrink them.

I wish that certain words would describe but not delineate. Specify but not separate. Define but not divide.

Words like trans, male, gay, butch, woman, and straight. Words like disabled, elderly, mentally ill, druggie, cutter, and poser. Words foreigner, Democrat, GOP, Libertarian, celebrity, homeless.

These words are not an evil unto themselves. But too often we – you and me, people – use them to draw a line between us, the “people,” and the others. By calling someone a label that we don’t share, we push them beyond the realm of the experience we have in being human. By carving humanity into little boxes of likeness, we lose sight of the fact that we are all, in the end, human.

And inevitably, some – even ourselves, even if unwittingly – are bound to assign a “naturalness” to one of the terms out of a group. “This is what’s normal, this is what the null hypothesis looks like, this is the ground state of humanity.” And the ones who don’t fall under that term become something strange. Something different from that which resides within us. We deny full legitimacy to those without our particular label and come to understand them only in terms of deviation.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

But what if we didn’t look at all the ways humans can exist as deviations from ourselves? What if we recognized each as a fully true expression of all the possibilities of what humanity looks like? What if we viewed the human condition not as bound and filed in a dictionary but as interwoven with no particular hierarchy into a novel? What if we stopped categorizing all the words we might type out of those four keys in our DNA and started seeing how they all fit together to make a larger sense? What if we gave ourselves names, instead of mere lists?

I’d like it if human thinking as a whole could move beyond trying to force us all into our separate encyclopedia entries and started using all the words we’ve got around to describe, not prescribe, instead. I want an identity, not a categorization.

You can get more information out of a narrative, anyway. Encyclopedias and dictionaries have always been so limited in what they have to tell you.

It’s a big wide world out there.

9 Dec

 

Especially when it comes to sex.

multiple sexualities

Today, I came across this awesome comic and decided to read through, given that while sure, I had heard about and had a vague understanding of the sexual label it was talking about, I still wasn’t entirely clear about the details or what people who identify with that particular label experience culturally right now.

Over and over again, I’ve found that people tend to have a vaguely hazy idea at best of what certain terms about sexuality mean. And while in they end they are only labels and word usage can change and shift over time and cultures, it still is helpful to understand how others that are not you might think of themselves, in their own terms. It’s easier to accept and make connections between you and another person when you speak the same language. So, while some of you may be going “definitions, eeewwww” right now, I’ve decided to throw out a post defining some of the sexual orientation labels that are out there right now.

Now, before we start, let’s be clear about something. Sexual orientation refers to how a person experiences sexual urges. The categories associated with sexual orientation generally correlate with how a person finishes the sentence “I enjoy having/want to have sex with [blank].” While commonly lumped in with sexual orientation, something else called romantic orientation is technically different. Falling in love with someone is not the same as falling into sexual attraction with someone, though the two do often occur together. Along with sexual and romantic attraction, there’s also a third general type of attraction sometimes called filial attraction, which is basically the sort of liking that happens between friends.

One more thing to clear up before we get on to those definitions y’all are waiting for – sexual, romantic, and filial orientation/attraction are NOT the same thing as gender identity. Gender identity is how one thinks about one’s self in relation to general female/male/neutral-ness, to put it very briefly. What’s more, how a person may choose to display their physical assets may or may not be tied into their sexual and gender identity. “I like when I look this way” is a VERY different statement from “I want to have sex with [blank]” or “I feel inside that I am the gender [blank].”

Now, as for those definitions:

heterosexual – briefly, “sexual attraction to the other.”

Most commonly, this means attraction of a cisgendered person to the other cisgender binary. However, this can also include attraction of a cisgendered person to a transgendered person of the other gender binary.

So, some examples of heterosexual relationships would be those between:

– a cisgendered male and a cisgendered female

– a cisgendered male to a transgendered female

– a transgendered male to a cisgendered female

– a transgendered male to a transgendered female

 

homosexual – briefly, “sexual attraction to the same.”

Again, most commonly, this means attraction of a cisgendered person to the same cisgender binary, but can also be applied to attraction of a transgendered person to the same transgender binary.

So, some examples:

– a cisgendered female to a cisgendered female

– a cisgendered female to a transgendered female

– a transgendered male to a cisgendered male

 

pansexual – briefly, “sexual attraction to all.”

And by “all,” pansexuality is still usually a term meaning sexual attraction to all within a given species. So, pansexual generally means that a given individual isn’t attracted to one particular set of gender/sexual identities, and any pairing could happen. Cisgendered to cisgendered, transgendered to transgendered, cis to trans and trans to cis, same gender binary to different gender binary, same gender binary to same gender binary – the individual finds themselves capable of being sexually attracted to pretty much any form of human expression. Often, those who identify as pansexual will describe their sexual attractions as depending on a certain person, not on a certain mold.

asexual – briefly, “sexual attraction to none.”

Yes, it is that simple, and that complex. Those who identify as asexual just generally don’t find the idea of their genitals mashing up against someone else’s genitals all that attractive. It doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t still like hugs, or that they can’t still fall in love, or that they don’t want friendships. It also doesn’t mean that they don’t occasionally have sex. Sometimes, for example, an individual who identifies as asexual will still have sex with a partner who doesn’t identify as asexual in order to gratify that partner sexually. Now, some of you may be going, “Well, if they can stand to have sex sometimes, are they really asexual?”

Yes. They are. Sexual orientation is a descriptor of what you’re sexually attracted to, not what you will do sexually over the entirety of your lifetime. And think about it. How many people have done the dishes or taken out the trash for their partner, or given their partner a foot rub, because they know the other partner would really appreciate it, even if the person themselves find it mortally boring to do the dishes, or intensely disgusting to take out the trash, or really gross to rub another person’s smelly toes? People venture outside of their comfort zones to show love and affection, no matter what sexual orientation they are. For a really good description of the asexual orientation and the discrimination they do unfortunately face in today’s culture, check out the comic I linked above.

Phew! That was long. Hopefully, some of you learned something. Or had some thoughts sparked. Or raised some questions in your brain that you want to go find out more about. And while I know that with every letter I type this is getting even longer and I’m keeping you all staring at even more of my rambling, I’ve got one more point I’d like to make.

Some of you, maybe, didn’t like this post. Not because it’s about sex, but because of what I’ve said about sex. Some of you may be objecting to the fact that I talk about types of sexual orientation falling outside the heterosexual paradigm and seem to be doing so as if they are all right and real and natural and valid.

Well, it’s because I think they are. I won’t go into the thought and deliberation and experiences that have brought me to that opinion, but it is my opinion nevertheless. You may have a different opinion. I am not going to tell you that you should not, that you should have my opinion instead. But I am going to tell you that however you think things should be, that has no bearing, in this moment, on how things are.

Whether you think sexual orientation should only occur under one paradigm or not, the reality is that there are people who experience sexual orientations of multiple types, and regardless of whatever religious or political laws are in place, are going to keep feeling their sexual urges and doing their sexual acts. And yelling at them or telling them that they are wrong is not going to make them or their urges or their acts go away. It is only going to make you feel uncomfortable and make them feel shitty.

We have to learn to deal with the world that we live in. Just because I think that hey, I live in Southern California, and it should not be anywhere near this cold is NOT going to change what temperature it is outside. And if I go outside in shorts and a t-shirt because I don’t want the world to be the way it is, it’s only going to result in  my being unhappy. The coldness isn’t going to go away one bit.

So, even if you disagree with the idea that there could be multiple sexual paradigms, the fact is, people are going to keep feeling and acting as if there are. The world will become a lot less frustrating if you learn about what this means and how you can be a reasonable person and deal with it. Go ahead, put on a coat. Yelling at the cold isn’t going to make it go away.

But learning to be okay with shaking its hand and treating it as just as much of a person as you are does have the potential to make this place a whole lot warmer.

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Like this post? Whatever your sexual orientation and practices, comic artist Erica Moen over at Oh Joy Sex Toy has LOTS of information on how to make your sexual experience safer and more fun!