Tag Archives: response

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

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Warning: Contains Swear Words

17 May

Alrighty, folks. In case you didn’t read the title, I’m going to warn you right now that this post will contain swear words. If they offend you, you should probably stop reading. Right. Now.

Or keep reading. Whatever. It’s your choice. I’m not forcing you to read this blog. You did so of your own happy accord. Which is why it confuses me, a bit, when readers call me out on language. Which happens, funnily enough, in just one place on my blog: in the comments on the post about how I don’t think Frozen *quite* managed to be an all-out progressive movie.

Since posting, it’s been one of the pieces that’s driven the most traffic on this blog. However, it is on this blog. It’s not in a letter to you, or your hypothetical children. It’s not plastered all over windows, or on billboards. It’s here, in my own little writing space on the internet, on my personal blog that I’ve designated as “PG-13” in the WordPress rating section. I’m nowhere near as prolific as Chuck Wendig when it comes to beautiful bomb-dropping of words beginning with f and c and s and damn near every letter of the alphabet. But I do curse occasionally. A fuck here, a damn or shit or a fuckshitdamn there. I use the curses for emphasis. For color. For tone. For a multitude of reasons. Keeps me honest. Which, interestingly enough, is actually something that science has found a correlation between. Swearing and honesty/trustworthiness, that is. The more someone swears, the more likely it was they were being honest about what they said. Probably because swearing usually means you’re not fucking putting a filter on what you say to goddamn please some other person’s stunted sensibilities. If you’re swearing, odds are you’re not being too cautious about what you’re letting out. You’re not dodging around, beating bushes, sweeping under rugs in an attempt to conceal or deceive or mask. You’re just saying what you’ve got to say.

And here, on my blog, I’m going to goddamn say what I’ve got to goddamn say.

I, too, used to be someone who flinched any time a swear word surfaced. Whether in conversation, or on TV, in a movie, even in a book. But I didn’t sling some shit of a criticism at the speaker/author about having dirtied what they trying to say by using a swear word. Their words had no less effect, no less relevance or truth or fucking simple fact to it just because it happened to have some other random word that society has arbitrarily designated as a bad word in front of it. Unlike, apparently, some of the readers of that Frozen post I mentioned.

I’ve gotten comments that my use of swear words “distracted” the reader from the substance of what I was saying. Honestly, I’m not going to apologize. At all. In a post containing 1,849 words, if my use of three shit’s and one fucking distracts you, I’m pretty goddamn sure that’s a problem with your reading comprehension, not with my writing. Especially since those four swear words make up less than one fucking percent of the pure word content. Those four words, in fact, make up 0.2% of the post.

If fat made up 0.2% of a cookie, the FDA wouldn’t even require it being noted. If smog made up 0.2% of your city’s atmosphere, the climate scientists would be weeping in joy. If swear words made up 0.2% of a (not to toot my own horn too loudly) very intelligently written critical piece on the issue of continuing misogyny and sexism and body image slaughter in movies we show our goddamn children, if it is a set of letters that represent less than 1% of the blog post that offend you, then really, I think something is wrong about your priorities.

To the readers who have commented on the Frozen post in an actual attempt to have a real discussion, I applaud you. I appreciate you. I love that you’ve commented. Even – especially – the ones who brought up counterpoints disagreeing with what I said. The whole point of the post was to think critically. And you did. You’re wonderful. Thank you.

To those of you who might be reading this who instead felt the need to deliver a below-the-waist jab at four little words instead of spending that energy being disgusted by unrealistic standards or promotion of repression or the perpetuation of a system in which women are told they can only fail at making choices, then please, I have a request: Go. the fuck. away.

Good riddance.

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Also, I might love you forever if you buy me this shirt. I’m a size small. Please and thank you. 😉

On the question of a cat call…

11 Apr

In modern feminist discussions, there’s a lot of talk about cat calling. The general sentiment seems to be that cat calling is rude and invasive.

I mean… yes, having someone shout something at you unexpectedly is by definition invasive. But… I am not yet completely satisfied with the discussion around cat calling.

For example, earlier today, I read a Guardian article trying to clarify where the line is between acceptable flirting and sexual harassment. (It’s part of Laura Bates’s series, “Everyday Sexism.”) I generally agree with the article, especially the last two points about context appropriateness (eg. “flirting” in a job interview is a definitive no go) and “am I actually, all things considered, just being a bit of a dick?”

Yeah, that last one’s a question people should probably just ask themselves, like, all the time. Sending an email? Don’t be a dick. Talking to a customer service representative over the phone? Don’t be a dick. Trying to ask someone out? Don’t be a dick. Basically unless you are somehow a sentient cock or some kind of dildo, don’t be a dick. Simple stuff.

But… I do have some hesitations about some of the Guardian article’s assertions. Obviously, pretty much all summary articles need to taken with a grain of salt. There’s no way that six very short phrases are going to capture the mess of grey complexity that is the scope of human interaction in the sexual realm. The Guardian article is by no means definitive or comprehensive. Guidelines are guidelines.

Like point number four, “Is this ‘advance’ actually just a shouted and uninvited assessment on my part of this person’s attractiveness/body/genitals?” I’d say there’s some wiggle room there.

Why? Because there’s a huge range of variation on “shouts” and “uninvited assessments.” What they are, how they were made, the vibe behind them, the person who made them, the person they were made out… There’s a spectrum there that I’m pretty sure runs the gambit from “completely acceptable” to “you will burn in hell forever.”

Let me explain. In my own subjective, personal case, if some guy (or girl) came up to me with very politely folded hands and a mousy little voice mostly mumbled under they’re breath ’cause they’re that quiet and a body posture not at all aggressive and a personal space bubble that kept them at least three feet away from, if this person came up to me and said in full blown self-defacing awkwardness, “Um, excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your day, but I think you’re very pretty. Okay, I’ll just let you go now…” I WOULD FEEL SUPER HELLA ALL THE UNCOMFORTABLENESS.

Ummm why was the person so awkward? Why were they so mousy about it? Were they trying to hide something inappropriate under the comment? And that body language… why were they so self-defacing? Are they okay? Are they being bullied? Abused? What’s their mental health state? DO THEY NEED A FRIEND? DO I NEED TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE OKAY? Oh god, now it’s my duty to go make sure they’re okay and make their day better and try to fix whatever hurt in their life I can ’cause they gave me a compliment and there’s so much lack of clarity in this situation and oh god all I wanted to do was go buy groceries…

Plus there’s also the fact that the person actually approached me to talk to me. Came up to me. Joined our personal spaces. Even though (s)he stayed three feet away. As unaggressive as that is, I actually feel like the flow of my life has been more violated than if I’d just been able to keep walking. It was well-intentioned, but I still ended up feeling more violated than I would have if some random stranger had just shouted something at me that I could have just immediately written off and gotten on with my life. Grocery shopping. Whatever.

But again, that’s only one scenario. I personally have actually been sexually harrassed by an ex-mentor who got too testosterone-headed and decided he wanted to tell me something outside the house of a graduation party we were attending and began saying stuff like “I’d love to see you with your hair down some time” and “man, your legs just keep going,” and decided to “wrap up” the interaction with a hug that he wouldn’t let me out of even when I started to pull away. Thank god someone else decided to leave the party at that moment and shouted at us, causing the ex-mentor to jump away from me guilty. In that case, the uninvited comments on my physicality, confidently made though they were, were most definitely sexual harassment. Too close, inappropriate context, indication of discomfort on my part – lots of reasons.

But I have a third scenario to tell you all. Earlier this week, I was actually walking to the grocery store. As I made my way towards the entrance, I had to pass by the table area nearby where people chill, eat, wait for their ride, whatever. As I approached the area, a shades-wearing guy looked up from the sandwich he was eating, smiled (thankfully after having the courtesy to smile), lowered the sandwich, and, looking at me, exclaimed a very appreciative “Woooooow!” It all happened in two seconds of knee-jerk spontaneous reaction on his part.

Yes, I blushed. But I also smiled. Genuinely smiled. And laughed, called out a thank-you, and kept walking. I went into the grocery store, and the guy went back to his sandwich. He didn’t stare at my butt as I walked away, he didn’t make any move to approach me, he didn’t make any more comments. He just smiled at me for the additional two seconds I maintained eye contact and then went back to his day, letting me go back to mine.

Did he shout? Yes. Well, he raised his voice. But it was not a holler; it was an honest-to-goodness exclamation that I was allowed to hear. If he’d just muttered it under his breath, I’d have been creeped out. Alright, you just have your private little fantasy session there, dude, whatever… His smile was sincere. It was genuinely pleased. It honestly probably is the same smile that smacks itself on my face whenever I unexpectedly encounter a dog on the sidewalk. Or that would appear if suddenly one of Van Goh’s works plopped itself in front of me. Whoa! Intense aesthetically pleasing thing that I wasn’t expecting!

Because honestly, that’s how that cat call made me feel. I was an unexpected work of art. A thing of beauty to be given admiration in its own right, not because the guy had any agenda of ownership for it. His voice was respectful, not leery. Then there’s the fact that what he said wasn’t super invasive. It was just a “wow.” A sentiment. Not a specific evaluation. He didn’t name any of my body parts, or label me anything sexual, or imply I owed him anything, or ask me for anything, or try to sound suave. He just communicated his own personal response. “Wow.” Simple. Clear. Non-aggressive. Generally not offensive.

He kept his distance, didn’t try to force himself any more into my space than he had with his prior reflexive response. He didn’t try to get anything from me. He didn’t stick around and try to interact with me more. No. He gave me a compliment – uninvited and shouted – and then went back to his sandwich. Like a normal dude who just happened to see something cool. And that was that.

I don’t think that was sexual harassment. I don’t even think that was even flirting. I think that was just one human’s positive response to the aesthetic of another human that he was kind enough to share with her.

Maybe I’m reading into the situation what I want to see. Entirely a possibility. But I don’t think I am. I have been sexually harassed. I have been cat called. I have been leered at. I have been stalked. I have been complimented. I have been respected. I have been protected. I have been allowed to fight for myself. I’ve seen a variety of human action and reaction, and I think that I have enough social intelligence to at least be able to correctly pick up on the general vibe of an interaction.

So. Cat calling. Not always a cat call. Sometimes it’s a harpy shriek. Sometimes it’s a sincere commendation.

Cat calling is grey and tremorous territory. There is an art to compliments. All in all, I suppose the lesson is that if you’re going to try to venture there – just don’t be a dick.

Unless you are a dildo. Then you may be a dick.