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61 Responses

  1. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 1, 2007 at 2:08 pm |

    It wasn’t feminists attacking her book; it was anti-feminists who held her up to these bizarre ideals of strawfeminism. How could she not get that?

  2. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne October 1, 2007 at 2:40 pm |

    There are, unfortunately, some people who identify as feminists who seem to be obsessed with rejecting anything that’s traditionally feminine in favor of anything that’s traditionally masculine. I’m thinking of the person I know who was approached by someone at her college who told her that knitting in public was setting the cause of feminism back. It’s what Debbie Stoller was talking about when she realized that taking up a “masculine” hobby like karate or soccer would have garnered her praise, while taking up a “feminine” one like knitting only led to blank stares and questioning whether she was a “real” feminist.

    Frankly, I think those people are about as genuinely feminist as David Horowitz was genuinely Marxist back in the 1960s, but that’s a whole different fight.

  3. norbizness
    norbizness October 1, 2007 at 2:40 pm |

    There are several catch-22’s:

    Regardless of the misunderstandings of the term “the personal is political,” not everything personal can/should be political, or feminism becomes a religion with micromanagerial dictates rather than an economic, sociological, or political movement..If people write memoirs/posts seeking prospective or retrospective absolution for wanting a traditional wedding, getting a bikini wax, or other minutia, then the word takes on the trappings of a religion and the political is utterly bogged down in favor of the personal.

    When then gets to the initial line of defense: I doubt the reviewer of the book or Ms. Cox identify as antifeminists, yet could probably be identified as such with quotes concerning choice or social justice and without references to their sexual proclivities. See also: “Feminists for Life;” if Patricia Heaton talked about staying in an abusive relationship, that wouldn’t make her NOT a feminist, but rather her advocacy for governmental intrusion into women’s personal autonomy.

  4. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 1, 2007 at 2:46 pm |

    Well, Mnemosyne, to me that type of “feminist” is very UN-feminist. Casting everything “feminine” as inferior is anti-woman. That’s like saying it’s “feminist” to use “pussy” as an insult.
    And I wish those women weren’t used to represent feminism as a whole.

  5. norbizness
    norbizness October 1, 2007 at 3:12 pm |

    You misunderstand: I have no doubt that, based on public pronouncements, both reviewers can probably be called antifeminist or at least grossly insensitive or dismissive of women’s issues.

    In that sense, I still agree with Katha, if the sentence were modified: “Has feminism the allowable definition of the term feminism in public discourse really become so wide so as to include such a brittle, defensive, live-for-your-resume, never let them see you cry kind of thing? If that’s true, and I hope it isn’t, the backlashers have truly won.”

    Think of it like the phrase “hero” or “heroism.” Now there isn’t really any sort of objective definition, but we can all agree that a nerd camping out in the rain for two weeks to get tickets to The Phantom Menace has probably not reached the threshold for heroism.

  6. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 1, 2007 at 3:26 pm |

    If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without having to worry that someone will freak the fuck out about how harmful our lives are to other women, how are we to move forward? How are we to, at the end of the day, live our lives the way we want to? To separate out what we really want from what we’re being pressured to do — whether that pressure comes from the patriarchy or from people who are excessively concerned with what the message the patriarchy takes away from our choices?

    zuzu: I am going to frame that somewhere and hang it on a wall…

  7. Mme. Termagant
    Mme. Termagant October 1, 2007 at 4:03 pm |

    Bostonians,

    Ms. Politt herself is a-speaking tonight:

    Katha Pollitt, Monday, October 1, 7:00 pm, Harvard Book Store

    “Pollitt is known for what she’s written for The Nation, but she will be at Harvard Book Store to read from Learning to Drive, a set of funny stories about her own life. In one of the more discussed stories, “Webstalker,”Pollitt fesses up to tracking the behavior of an unfaithful ex online -and having a good time doing it.”

  8. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne October 1, 2007 at 4:26 pm |

    Well, Mnemosyne, to me that type of “feminist” is very UN-feminist. Casting everything “feminine” as inferior is anti-woman. That’s like saying it’s “feminist” to use “pussy” as an insult.

    In case I wasn’t clear, yes, I completely agree. If you run so far to one side that you end up rejecting everything ever coded as “feminine,” you’re not being a feminist at all. You’re buying the patriarchy lock, stock and barrel.

    And I wish those women weren’t used to represent feminism as a whole.

    Problem is, they’re often the most vocal and get or demand the most attention, especially in our shouting-heads media where you don’t need facts, just a willingness to cut other people off on TV.

  9. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 5:56 pm |

    All too often, I’ve seen “the personal is political” raised to criticize someone for the choices she makes, whether those choices involve wearing makeup, shaving, getting married, having kids, staying home with the kids, having certain kinds of sex, doing sex work, having plastic surgery, getting a puppy, what have you. And always, the people who pop up declaring that “That’s not very feminist!” deny that they’re trying to shut anyone up, that they’re trying to criticize the person and not the choice. But that’s exactly what they’re doing. If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without having to worry that someone will freak the fuck out about how harmful our lives are to other women, how are we to move forward? How are we to, at the end of the day, live our lives the way we want to? To separate out what we really want from what we’re being pressured to do — whether that pressure comes from the patriarchy or from people who are excessively concerned with what the message the patriarchy takes away from our choices?

    a) Someone will criticize everything you do. You can’t live in fear of criticism.

    b) Some criticism is warranted.

    c) It really isn’t about shutting someone up. And it really is not personal. You can choose not to believe that, but it’s true.

  10. alsojill
    alsojill October 1, 2007 at 6:34 pm |

    See, I didn’t read that as Politt blaming feminism at all. She was (rightly) critiquing the people who claim “feminist” as a label, and yet reject the kind of writing/work she’s engaging in here. As Mnemosyne suggests, there are rather a lot of anti-woman “feminists” running around, and Politt is right to call them out. I think, at the root of it, she’s questioning their use of the term as much as she’s questioning their approach to her work. What’s more, she’s right. If people who take that approach claim that theirs is the “true” feminism (and some of them do), then we have lost the term. I worry that it’s already been so inappropriately redefined that we will never get it back, particularly if young women (teenagers, girls in their early 20s) don’t stop equating feminism with “man-hating” and, of course, the ever-present spectre of the hairy lesbian.

    I was recently embroiled in an argument with a woman who had rejected feminism b/c feminism had rejected her. I argued that it wasn’t that way any more, but the fact is that many of those feminists–often earlier feminists–are still around, and they’re still talking. Loudly.

  11. Karolena
    Karolena October 1, 2007 at 6:43 pm |

    Agreed, Elaine.

  12. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 1, 2007 at 6:58 pm |

    Elaine:

    I don’t know, you hear it once, that’s believeable.
    Twice, yep, also. Three, four, five times, still very much so.

    Constantly? Not so much. Yes yes, question and examine, very good then…until you end up beating someone over the head with it and not listening to their answers.

    Which also happens all too often.

  13. La Lubu
    La Lubu October 1, 2007 at 7:38 pm |

    a) Someone will criticize everything you do. You can’t live in fear of criticism.

    That is true. One of my favorite mantras concerning sexism is “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” However, I don’t think any regular visitors to/posters on this blog are living in fear of criticism; rather, some of us get damn tired of having these conversations degenerate into demonstrations of personal holiness on the part of the self-annointed. We’re looking for room, our own room, that we don’t have in mainstream venues (and some of us don’t have IRL at all) to hold constructive conversation with regards to survival in a world hostile to women. Absent any discussion of the ways and means of why women make certain decisions, certain accommodations—y’know, ways of passing, “criticism” of women that basically amounts to second-grade “nyah nyah, I dont make xyz accommodation to the partiarchy, therefore I am a more real feminist than, well, I won’t say you, but I’ll make it crystal clear that yes, I do mean you”—that isn’t bringing anything of substance to the discussion. And it does have a silencing effect—even though the ensuing threads are hundreds of responses long. It silences effective communication. It replicates the one-upmanship of the patriarchy—the hierarchical relationships we are told from the time we are children (perhaps not from our family of origin, but certainly when we enter the school system) are “natural” and “good”—the way things are supposed to be. ‘Cuz make no mistake, declaring someone’s sexual proclivities, reproductive decisions, employment decisions—having the belief that one is qualified to pass judgement on another woman’s decision on these matters—is rooted in how much authority the judge feels she has. Some folks feel more situated to point fingers; and some feel better qualified to authoritatively declare what is Feminist Dogma, rather than listen to the voices of those with say, a more democratic bent.

    b) Some criticism is warranted.

    Again, who decides? All of us, collectively? Through these discussions? Or just the “real” feminists? Who are these “real” feminists? What are their traits? To me, the issue isn’t so much whether criticism is warranted or not (I reserve the right to declare any decision I make none of anyone else’s business, if that’s what it comes down to—I mean, how could a criticism concerning personal sexual practices be anything but a MYOB call?)—no, it’s whether a criticism is constructive or relevant. And yeah, whose ox is being gored.

    c) It really isn’t about shutting someone up. And it really is not personal. You can choose not to believe that, but it’s true.

    But I have seen that dynamic on this and other feminist blogs. The “my way or the highway” dynamic. And it gets pretty damn personal. Look at threads concerning transgendered or intersexed people—there are a helluva lot of the self-anointed who want these individuals excised from feminist theory, feminist practice, feminist space, period. Look at threads at various progressive blogs, including feminist ones, on children—if, when, or how to raise them. Look at threads concerning the treatment of women of color within feminism—where and when should WOC enter (with the assumption always being that white women were the first feminists, and WOC have to “prove” or “choose” feminism as a priority)? To some white feminists, the correct answer seems to be “why, the back door! Isn’t that where the hired help enters?” Because that’s how women of color are treated—as hired help; as photo ops. (See this article from Colorlines magazine for just one small reference…)

    See, the big-ass elephant in the kitchen is the fact that even within feminism, some of us are more “equal” than others. And until that shit is dealt with, the effectiveness of feminism as a political movement will remain stagnant.

    How can this shit be anything but personal?

  14. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 7:38 pm |

    A content analysis will prove that my criticisms of Jessica were far from “constant.” I criticized her on less than half of her Monty posts. In fact, before she banned me from commenting on Feministing, I only posted criticisms on 33% of the Monty posts. And my criticisms were far outnumbered by other commenters who didn’t agree with me.

    These blogs have thousands of readers. If I criticize Jessica for buying a puppy from a breeder instead of adopting one from an animal shelter, I am not really expecting Jessica to examine her shit. I am putting the thought out there for the other readers to think about.

    Zuzu wrote

    “…criticize someone for the choices she makes, whether those choices involve wearing makeup, shaving, getting married… getting a puppy, what have you.

    which suggests she missed the point. I never criticized Jessica for getting a puppy (nor did anyone else). I criticized her for getting a puppy FROM A BREEDER. So, I’m hardly “beating someone over the head” if they don’t even totally ‘get it.’

  15. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne October 1, 2007 at 7:59 pm |

    So, I’m hardly “beating someone over the head” if they don’t even totally ‘get it.’

    Elaine, I’m sorry, but since you’re still bringing it up weeks later in a post that only referenced the whole brouhaha tangentially, you are beating us over the head with it.

  16. Deserved Criticism : Elaine Vigneault
    Deserved Criticism : Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 8:39 pm |

    […] Zuzu wrote, “All too often, I’ve seen “the personal is political” raised to criticize someone for the choices she makes, whether those choices involve wearing makeup, shaving, getting married, having kids, staying home with the kids, having certain kinds of sex, doing sex work, having plastic surgery, getting a puppy [from a breeder], what have you. And always, the people who pop up declaring that “That’s not very feminist!” deny that they’re trying to shut anyone up, that they’re trying to criticize the person and not the choice. But that’s exactly what they’re doing. If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without having to worry that someone will freak the fuck out about how harmful our lives are to other women, how are we to move forward? How are we to, at the end of the day, live our lives the way we want to? To separate out what we really want from what we’re being pressured to do — whether that pressure comes from the patriarchy or from people who are excessively concerned with what the message the patriarchy takes away from our choices?” […]

  17. octogalore
    octogalore October 1, 2007 at 9:10 pm |

    I agree wholeheartedly with alsojill. Pollitt wasn’t blaming feminism, but so-called feminists who use the term as a bludgeon.

    As per her statement “Has feminism really become such a brittle, defensive, live-for-your-resume, never-let-them-see-you-cry kind of thing? If that’s true, and I hope it isn’t, the backlashers have truly won.”

    Note in particular “and I hope it isn’t.”

  18. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 9:14 pm |

    M,
    I guess I should make my point differently.
    Zuzu wrote:

    “If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without having to worry that someone will freak the fuck out about how harmful our lives are to other women, how are we to move forward?”

    If you have the power to speak out and be heard, that should be good enough. You don’t get to also expect not to receive deserved criticism.

    Zuzu has conflated two separate issues: The undeserved criticism by anti-feminists of Pollitt with the deserved criticism by feminists of other feminists.

    And in the latter issue, Zuzu ignores the fact that the criticized person has more power to silence than the critical person.

  19. Faerylore
    Faerylore October 1, 2007 at 9:21 pm |

    I swear to dog, Elaine if you don’t stop harping on little Mr. Monty, I am going to buy myself a cute little purebred terrier, just to give you something slightly different to yabber on about. And I’m going to name him Fluffy. And he will be mine.

    But merging back onto the thread, I do think it’s targeted. And while I don’t really care if the reviewers are feminists overall or not, I don’t consider it to be feminist to sit anywhere and tell ppl that how they’re living their lives is wrong. We (in my opinion) shouldn’t just be overwriting what is acceptable behavior or not, we should be adding to it.

    Damn it, now I really do want another dog. lol.

  20. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 1, 2007 at 10:06 pm |

    La Lubu, you’re points are totally valid and I completely agree with point C.

    However, Zuzu did not make any references to criticism of feminists in regards to their gender or their color or inter or transexualism. She specifically mentioned “wearing makeup, shaving, getting married, having kids, staying home with the kids, having certain kinds of sex, doing sex work, having plastic surgery, getting a puppy”. Those are the areas she thinks should be free from criticism. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it wasn’t an exhaustive list and she would also include color, sex, gender, class, religion, etc.

    But I don’t think a criticism-free feminism is the way to go. I think we ought to be critical. Critical thinking is the way to go. We ought to strive not to be hurtful. We ought to not use ad hominem attacks. We ought to disagree peacefully. But disagreement is often a part of serious discussion. And sometimes some of us are wrong. It’s all part of growing and learning. It’s the women’s movement, remember? We move, shift, grow, evolve…

    You can’t just assume everyone’s going to agree with you whenever you do something. You can’t put yourself out there and expect everyone to understand and support you. That’s wishful thinking. You can’t just assume that every choice you make is a purely personal choice that doesn’t affect anyone else.

  21. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 1, 2007 at 10:35 pm |

    Even if Pollitt was referring to people who call themselves “feminist” but don’t actually behave or think or act like feminists, don’t you think she could have explained that? Because if even I and a number of other true feminists interpreted her as saying, “X, Y and Z bad behaviors are feminist” I’m sure the average reader is going to come away with that notion as well. More people with the wrong idea about feminism.

  22. La Lubu
    La Lubu October 1, 2007 at 10:44 pm |

    Well, since we’re talking about Katha Pollitt….;-)

    This sentence stood out to me: They’ve gotten women to censor themselves to save society the trouble. The way I read the sentence, the “they” she was talking about was the backlashers she referred to in the previous sentence, not the more-feminist-than-thou set. That (some) feminists are letting the backlashers define what is acceptable conversation for women to instigate or engage in. That taking a defensive posture by self-censoring ourselves, only letting the most sheroic stances reach the printed page or spoken word—is ceding too much power, too much voice.

    That rings with a certain familiarity to me—reminds me of being an apprentice and always being the first one to jump in the ditch, the last one to ask for any help doing any “bull work”, because I felt I had to prove a level of “macho” above and beyond that of the male apprentices. I was met with anything from skepticism to outright hostility in those early years, and thought that the way to win hearts and minds was to be Superwoman.

    And the problem with that, is that the Superwoman stance also engendered silence. I never spoke of the negative things that happened to me, let alone how embattled and enraged I felt all the time. Shit, it’s still hard to talk about it. And that made the burden—the burden of endurance that much harder to bear. It left me with an inability to use tools that in fact, I did have, to protect myself. And who was my silence protecting? Me?! Hell, naah!

    And these silences are endemic amongst women. We learn to lick our wounds in the shadows early on. Drink silence in like mother’s milk. It’s dysfunctional.

  23. La Lubu
    La Lubu October 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm |

    wearing makeup, shaving, getting married, having kids, staying home with the kids, having certain kinds of sex, doing sex work, having plastic surgery, getting a puppy, what have you.

    Ok, so why would I jump from this list to transgender and WOC issues? Because the “default” in mainstream feminism—which is supposed to be an inclusive movement—is still white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual. So positions or practices relating to the list above are going to be informed by one’s other, intersecting identities.

    Or to be blunt, makeup means something different to the transgender woman than it does to a cisgendered woman. Entire books have been written on the implications and impact of various hairstyles on/of African-American women, while European-American women just have good or “bad” hair days. Ethnicity impacts presentations of femininity and acceptability—from both within and without one’s community of origin.

    It’s a familiar trope amongst white feminists that, when it comes to parenthood, “no one’s genes are that important”, and “you can always adopt.” Those statements sound different in the ears of someone whose ancestors were deemed defective. It’s easy to assume that everyone can adopt when you have the sort of background, bank account, and even body deemed “proper” by the persons with the power to decide if you’d be a good parent.

    That’s what I’m talking about—the refusal to listen to the voices of women—the less equal ones in this feminist movement, by those with more institutional power. The treatment of feminist movement as a personal possession, a territorial conquest.

  24. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 1, 2007 at 11:14 pm |

    what La Lubu said in comment 15? Looks damn dead on accurate from where I’m sitting.

  25. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 2, 2007 at 12:39 am |

    La Lubu wrote:

    “That’s what I’m talking about—the refusal to listen to the voices of women—the less equal ones in this feminist movement, by those with more institutional power. The treatment of feminist movement as a personal possession, a territorial conquest.”

    I’m talking about the same thing in a different way. There is institutional power within the feminist movement. Pollitt and Jessica and Zuzu and Marcotte write for HUGE audiences. When they make a post declaring this or that thing to be THE feminist ideal, other feminists listen and respond. When they make assumptions, others make the same assumptions.

    And the minority views get shut out.

    Long threads and big debates might happen in the comments, but most readers don’t read the comments. So jumping down the throats of a vocal minority for being critical of the powerful voices IS silencing. Jessica’s decision (or the web admin’s decision) to ban me from commenting on Feministing is exactly that, silencing dissent. (She has every right to do it and it may be the right choice, but it proves who has the power.)

    My view: Feminism is not about democracy. It’s not about majority rule. It’s about eradicating sexism and misogyny. And it’s about ridding the world of other forms of oppression, too.

    I agree with La Lubu in comment #26. Pollitt isn’t blaming feminism, she’s defining it:

    “…enlarge our sense of women’s humanity, in all its messiness and contradiction and individual truth;…connect women to each other, and to men, in more honest ways.”

    When Zuzu said

    If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without having to worry that someone will freak the fuck out about how harmful our lives are to other women, how are we to move forward?

    She wasn’t saying we should find the courage to speak up regardless of the criticism we’ll receive, the way Pollitt seems to say:

    “If a writer censors herself to keep up the good name of womanhood, it is most unlikely people with a low opinion of women will be impressed.”

    Zuzu was saying we shouldn’t be so critical of each other, which is something else entirely.
    Something I can’t sign on to.

  26. Jill
    Jill October 2, 2007 at 5:26 am | *

    I’m talking about the same thing in a different way. There is institutional power within the feminist movement. Pollitt and Jessica and Zuzu and Marcotte write for HUGE audiences. When they make a post declaring this or that thing to be THE feminist ideal, other feminists listen and respond. When they make assumptions, others make the same assumptions.

    Elaine, maybe I’m reading things differently than you, but I don’t often see Zuzu or Amanda or Jessica playing Feministe Gate-Keepers. I see them writing about feminist issues and I see their own feminist views reflected in those posts, but I very rarely see any of them taking other feminists to task for doing things that don’t conform to their version of feminism. It’s one thing to criticize the institutions and structures that push women to make “unfeminist” decisions; it’s one thing to examine how all of our choices fit into a broader narrative. It’s another to attack a woman herself for making choices to enable her to get through her day easier; it’s another to attack certain choices as universally anti-feminist without any context.

    No one here has a problem with criticism — after all, Zuzu’s post was pretty critical, wasn’t it? We have a problem with the pile-ons and with the misunderstanding of “the personal is political” — as if every personal decision we make is a political action.

  27. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 2, 2007 at 7:41 am |

    Jill,
    We’re not seeing the same things.

  28. alsojill
    alsojill October 2, 2007 at 8:20 am |

    Because if even I and a number of other true feminists interpreted her as saying, “X, Y and Z bad behaviors are feminist” I’m sure the average reader is going to come away with that notion as well. More people with the wrong idea about feminism.

    Two things in response to this. First, what in God’s name is a “true feminist”? I know I used the term “‘true’ feminism” in my last comment, though you’ll notice true was in quotation marks. I question the use of that term, b/c it sets up a dangerous hierarchy, in which people who don’t hold certain values (whether they be vegetarianism, fiscal liberalism, or atheism, to give just three examples) cannot be considered “true” feminists, or, at the very least, cannot be feminist leaders.

    My second comment is this–who is Politt’s audience here? IS it the “average reader,” or is it the women who attacked her for writing in a different and personal style? And what is Politt’s responsibility for making sure that everyone down to the lowest common denominator understands *exactly* what she means in her text?

    The text is clear enough. Backlashers cause women to self-censor. Politt fears for the future of feminism if we bow to the brittle notion of feminism put forth by the backlashers.

    The inability to read a straightforward but complexly worded text seems to be growing, at least if my students and MSM are any indication, and I would say that this text is being misread here, as well.

  29. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 2, 2007 at 8:48 am |

    Alsojill, by true feminist I mean someone who doesn’t privilege “male” characteristics above “female” characteristics or encourage women to be more masculine in order to gain respect in this world. That’s just misogyny.

  30. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 2, 2007 at 9:01 am |

    Alsojill, by true feminist I mean someone who doesn’t privilege “male” characteristics above “female” characteristics or encourage women to be more masculine in order to gain respect in this world. That’s just misogyny.

    what are you considering to be “male” characteristics? what constitutes “female” characteristics?

  31. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 2, 2007 at 9:13 am |

    AP: Goooood question.

  32. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 2, 2007 at 9:38 am |

    I don’t consider any characteristics inherently male or female. But people are criticizing Pollitt as a feminist for writing and talking about her life, which is apparently too “feminine” to be taken seriously. These people would rather she behave like a stoic hard-ass without human weaknesses in order to be “consistently feminist” (i.e. not “feminine”). Which makes no sense, as that’s not what feminism advocates at all.

  33. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 2, 2007 at 9:40 am |

    See Zuzu’s first paragraph as well.

  34. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 2, 2007 at 9:51 am |

    oh, being a stoic hard ass will get you critisized just as easily.

  35. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 2, 2007 at 9:58 am |

    I know that, RE. I’m not advocating it. Women are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

  36. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution October 2, 2007 at 10:08 am |

    which is why I love zuzu’s post here…maybe it’s time we stopped giving a crap if we’re damned or not and quit arguing over who is MORE damned…

  37. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne October 2, 2007 at 11:33 am |

    La Lubu: Is animal rights an inherently feminist issue? Because that’s what this weeks-long argument with Elaine has been about. She thinks that animal rights is inherently feminist, so therefore the fact that Jessica bought a puppy from a dog breeder was a specifically anti-feminist act that needs to be criticized on feminist grounds.

    Just so I know where to argue from, are you agreeing with Elaine that you can’t be a real feminist without signing on to animal rights as well?

  38. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 2, 2007 at 11:43 am |

    thanks for the clarification, SarahMC.

    I wonder if certain attributes commonly held to be “feminine” in 2007 were considered “masculine” in days gone by, or vice-versa.

    it’s all so arbitrary.

    for me, it’s not that interfeminist criticism exists. it’s the fact that it can go from political to personal in 2.5 seconds.

    And I wonder how much interfeminist criticism is motivated by the desire to be the next big Feminist Bon Mot Generator, or the desire to once and for all, with one elegantly eloquent flourish, cut right to the bone,dig up the root, slice through all the hypocrisy and Present The Answer. (I know that kind of thing occasionally drives me to crimes of rhetoric I profoundly regret in the morning.)

  39. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 2, 2007 at 12:23 pm |

    It’s definitely worth examining why we do stuff, why we think of things the way we do, to separate out the external forces acting on us from our own internal desires.

    sure – but when you’ve actually examined your shit, and decided that no, it’s not external forces but internal desires, and you say “ok, I’ve thought about it for a day/a week/a year/my life, and I’ve come to the decision that it’s me, not The Patriarchy, and here’s why” – it seems that you’re still no closer to healing the rift.

  40. louise
    louise October 2, 2007 at 1:30 pm |

    Mnemosyne in 44, agreed. I’m sitting here shaking my head- WTF does feminism have to do with animal rights?

    Elaine, why are you attacking specifically FEMINISTS on this issue, rather than ALL who would buy a puppy from a breeder? Men buy puppies, too.

    I’ve read your views from your own site and there are very, very valid points raised- but for the life of me, I don’t understand what your agenda is on this site. Are you trying to raise awareness as a step towards illiciting change, or simply trying to piss folks off? Perhaps if your processes were clearer, the animosity would lessen…

  41. alsojill
    alsojill October 2, 2007 at 1:45 pm |

    Sarah MC–fair enough. :) And FWIW, I agree with you. I was just questioning the terminology.

  42. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 2, 2007 at 1:56 pm |

    That there is the rub. It’s useful to go through the exercise because you can be aware of how much outside pressure you get to conform, but there seems to be no room in some people’s minds for one’s own desires if they happen to align with what the patriarchy wants. You know?

    or just look like they happen to align with the desires of the Patriarchy.

    you know that face on mars? that picture of that huge mountain range on mars, that looks just like a human face?

    it’s not really a face. it just looks like a face from the angle that the picture was taken.

    it’s a simulacrum. a convincing simulacrum, but a simulacrum nonetheless.

    I wonder how many things look patriarchal (or feminist) from one perspective, but from closer in or farther out lose their resemblance.

  43. antiprincess
    antiprincess October 2, 2007 at 2:12 pm |

    re my previous comment (#51) – which is not to say that someone’s reality-on-the-ground is nothing but an optical illusion. But I am trying to say that one’s individual perspective matters, maybe more than we’re all willing to give credit for.

  44. louise
    louise October 2, 2007 at 4:36 pm |

    Just went over to Feministing and found the original brushfire- oh boy. Please disregard my 1:30pm #49 post…

  45. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos October 2, 2007 at 4:53 pm |

    I don’t consider any characteristics inherently male or female. But people are criticizing Pollitt as a feminist for writing and talking about her life, which is apparently too “feminine” to be taken seriously. These people would rather she behave like a stoic hard-ass without human weaknesses in order to be “consistently feminist” (i.e. not “feminine”). Which makes no sense, as that’s not what feminism advocates at all.

    Which strikes me as very funny, after coming from a bagel shop that is underwriting a show by David Sedaris, who strikes me as being in a very long tradition of self-depreciating storytelling that includes Garrison Keillor, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby at his height, Mark Twain and Ben Franklin. The bumbling everyman who struggles with the complexities of modern life was the character that catapulted Chaplin, Marceau, and Buster Keaton to stardom. To say that Pollitt’s memoir writing is too feminine because it admits to imperfection, is to ignore the way that male writers have shamelessly exhibited their foibles as literature.

    And evidently, it is entirely kosher these days talk about your own quirks and foibles, if they happen to involve titilating confessions of liking to be buggered by a laundry list of lovers. I must say that I’m a bit overly fond of catching myself, but have no illustions that it’s sending me closer to god.

  46. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos October 2, 2007 at 5:53 pm |

    And where I think that Pollitt is still feminist for exposing her failings is that, well, heck, how many millions of dollars has Woody Allen made projecting his insecurities on the silver screen? How many million tune into Keillor’s monologues about poor pasty midwestern guys never quite meeting some high standard of manhood? Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson made a single million and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding 13 million.

    I think there is still a big double-standard in that you can build an entire movie around a character like The Dude Lebowski, but women in media must be either witty goddesses on a shrine or silly little moral object lessons. (The Jane Austin revival has given us idolized heroines and caricatured supporting cast.)

  47. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault October 2, 2007 at 9:34 pm |

    “Is animal rights an inherently feminist issue? Because that’s what this weeks-long argument with Elaine has been about. She thinks that animal rights is inherently feminist, so therefore the fact that Jessica bought a puppy from a dog breeder was a specifically anti-feminist act that needs to be criticized on feminist grounds.”

    “Just so I know where to argue from, are you agreeing with Elaine that you can’t be a real feminist without signing on to animal rights as well?”

    I never said any such thing. You are mischaracterizing my argument and making a strawfemininst/ strawAR out of it. I never said Jessica wasn’t a real feminist and I never even said animal rights is inherently feminist. I said there are similarities.

    Oppression is oppression. 3rd wavers tend to extend the feminist radius of interest outward from women to include various forms of oppression. Some extend it only out to race and class while others include all kinds of oppression, including animal oppression. I thought it worthy to discuss animal rights since the issue was already brought up by Jessica indirectly on Feministing and since I was not the only person interested in discussing it there.

    Jessica has made posts about Monty a regular feature of Feministing. She chose to post there rather than in a personal, private place. She’s the one who brought the puppy discussion into the public, political sphere. Yet she does not feel it is appropriate to discuss him in any way other that “aw, he’s so cute.” She’s not blogging about Monty to share personal experience so other women can relate, the way Pollitt describes. She’s blogging about Monty because she can. In fact, her first post about him was about making her readers jealous. It wasn’t at all about sharing and uniting over shared experience. It was “Lookie, lookie at what I have and you don’t. Nah nah!”

    Feministing is not a diary. It’s a feminist blog. When you post personal stories and pictures on a political blog you’re going to get a political reaction. That’s what I meant by the personal is political. That, and I don’t believe buying a puppy from a breeder is a private, personal act. It’s an act of commerce that directly affects the lives of other dogs and the humans who work in shelters or in animal control departments.

    If Jessica wrote that she went into the forest and chopped down trees for fun she wouldn’t get to defend that “choice” as a private, non-feminist issue that didn’t deserve criticism. If Jessica posted pictures of herself eating veal and fois gras while wearing a fur coat from China (where dogs and cats are killed for fur, yet labeled as fox, raccoon, mink or even faux fur) she wouldn’t get the rest of the feminist blogosphere to rally around and defend her from deserved criticism of her “choices.”

    The fact is, all of the “feminists” criticizing me (for having a loud mouth) believe that animals are inferior to humans and they think we can use them however we want regardless of our need or lack thereof and regardless of their suffering. So ANY criticism I make of a feminist on an animal rights issue will be regarded by them as an “attack” and as backlash, even though it isn’t.

    How does this relate to Pollitt and her essay? Pollitt talks about how feminists shouldn’t censor themselves in order to live up to the feminist ideal. Well, that goes for this feminist just as much as it goes for that feminist. So, I’m not going to censor myself in order to live up to your ideal feminist, the one who thinks animals are just like fetuses and whatever you do with them is strictly your private choice. Because that’s not what I believe.

    (And Zuzu, I never said you were afraid of shelter dogs. I just quoted you when you said they were a “crapshoot,” as if they were more risky to adopt than purebred dogs, which is wrong.)

  48. La Lubu
    La Lubu October 2, 2007 at 10:06 pm |

    La Lubu: Is animal rights an inherently feminist issue?

    At the risk of derailing the thread, I’ll keep it short and sweet—no.

  49. Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » Quote of the day

    […] zuzu at Feministe, via Ren: If we can’t speak about our own lives and our own choices with honesty, without […]

  50. Amber
    Amber October 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm |

    It really isn’t about shutting someone up. And it really is not personal. You can choose not to believe that, but it’s true.

    Ummmm… except when it’s NOT true.

    When the “conversations” go something like this (which I’ve experienced far too many times than I care to count):

    Me: [talking about my own life & experiences]

    Chorus: No, you’re WRONG! What is REALLY means is THIS! Why don’t you just EXAMINE some more??? Here, listen to me, I’ll tell you what this REALLY signifies, and by the way, by doing this thing, you’re HURTING WOMEN, can’t you see that??

  51. Feminist Focus - Today Top Blog Posts on Feminism - Powered by SocialRank

    […] Why blame feminism for this? […]

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