Actually, attacking women is hurting women.

I was pretty excited for the launch of Double X, Slate’s online feminist magazine. They have some thoughful writers, a great editorial staff and a big platform, so I was hoping for good things. Unfortunately, the magazine seems to have kicked off by hosting a feminist pissing contest — because what’s more fun than telling other feminists that they aren’t quite feminist enough?

The article in question is by Linda Hirshman, and it’s entitled “How Jezebel is hurting women.” Hirshman starts out by criticizing Jezebel writers Tracie and Moe for going on the Lizz Winstead show drunk and saying a variety of idiotic things — and I agree that Tracie and Moe did look like idiots on that show and did say some incredibly anti-feminist stupid shit. Tracie and Moe have admitted as much, and apologized. This is all old news; it happened a year ago, Moe has left Jezebel and Tracie primarily writes reviews of TV shows at this point. Jezebel’s more feminist-minded writers have gained prominence on the site — Anna, Megan, Dodai, Sadie and others write regularly, often with a feminist bent. Which isn’t to say that Jezebel is an explicitly feminist site; it isn’t, and it doesn’t bill itself as such. It’s a site that a lot of feminist writers certainly take issue with from time to time (but of course, so is Feministe and lots of other explicitly feminist blogs). Some of the Jezebel writers have put up posts that have made me want to throw something — that’s not an unfamiliar feeling when someone’s feminism doesn’t look all that much like mine. And as much as I find Tracie and Moe’s writing to be very entertaining, their feminism isn’t much like mine. At the same time, other Jezebel writers regularly produce content that is thoroughly feminist-minded, progressive and thoughtful; it’s a group site, and there’s a diversity of opinion and content. That’s ok.

What’s not ok is stuff like this:

Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!

Linda is referring to the fact that Jezebel writer Megan didn’t report a sexual assault that she survived when she was 17 and in a foreign country, and that Megan also wrote a post criticizing Linda’s article about how good feminists should hound domestic violence survivors with the question, “Why don’t you just leave?” Linda is also referring to the fact that the Jezebel writers often pepper posts with personal anecdotes — stories of crappy sexual partners, nights of too much drinking, and experiences with pregnancy, STDs and sexual assault. In other words, the Jezebel writers live “high-risk” lives of whoredom and then get mad when you tell them they got what they had coming to them. In fact, Linda argues, women are sexually vulnerable, and there are risks to the liberation that the Jezebels embrace; by not properly avoiding those risks, they’re responsible for the “consequences” of their actions — “consequences,” ostensibly, like getting themselves raped, or getting themselves beat up by their partners.

Women can pretend they’re female chauvinist pigs, but it’s still women who are more sexually vulnerable to stronger men, due to the possibilities of physical abuse and pregnancy. These Jezebel writers are a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom; in fact, it’s the supposed concern with feminism that makes the site so problematic. How can Tracie, who posted this picture, criticize the men who go to Hooters? How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape? It’s incoherent.

If failing to report a sexual assault at 17 in a foreign country when you’re young and scared and the assault itself is what too many writers have termed “grey rape” or “date rape” — an assault that doesn’t fit into the Lifetime Movie image of a horribly violent stranger rape — is all it takes to be a Bad Feminist who loses her right to criticize the U.S. military for not cracking down on rapists, I’m happy to turn in my Feminist Club membership card right now.

In a paragraph I quoted above, Linda writes, “Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior.” I was under the impression that one standard of basic feminist behavior is not arguing that women bring rape or assault upon themselves — and not saying that rape or assualt is one way that “women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts.” But maybe that’s just my shiny-shiny slutty-girl feminism.

I’m not arguing that feminism should be a movement of No Judging, or that we can’t criticize anything women say or do. I’m not arguing that because Jezebel is a feminist site, hands off. But I will argue that how women deal with surviving sexual assault should not be a deciding factor in evaluating whether or not they qualify as feminist. I will argue that a feminism which requires perfection from all women is not something I can be a part of. And I’ll also just throw it out there that one probably should not pull the “You’re a bad feminist” card when one writes for a feminist website that launches with front-page articles like “Whine, Womyn and Thongs: How feminism has failed” and “How I Got Bored With Feminism.”

Just to be clear, this isn’t an indictment of DoubleX. Their editorial staff is great, and I’ve heard that they have some amazing pieces lined up. I am genuinely excited to see what else they put out. But the “I’m more feminist than you, you slut” stuff? I hope it stops.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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91 Responses to Actually, attacking women is hurting women.

  1. bellareve says:

    out of curiosity, what aspects of Jezebel upset you and clash with your feminism?

    after that interview debacle, I’ve found the site pretty innocuous.

  2. Hirshman’s recent oeuvre is all about talking about how awful women who disagree with her are, isn’t it? My impression of her is of someone who wants deeply to present herself as The Best Feminist In The World.

    This is a great post—thank you for laying out so clearly how fucked up Hirshman’s article is.

  3. Jill says:

    Bellareve, it’s mostly been stuff by Tracie and Moe — who, for the record, I think are often hilarious and refreshingly honest, but whose views I sometimes find really offensive. Tracie at one point in the Lizz Winstead show said that she had never been raped because she’s not stupid; Moe wrote that piece about how “grey rape” is an acceptable term. Every once in a while their feminist writers will pen something that I just think is wrong-headed. Tracie apologized for those comments and Moe clarified her grey rape piece, and even though I don’t agree with either of them (even post-apology and post-clarification), I don’t really feel the need to indict them as Bad Feminists. I mean, some of my favorite feminist writers have written things that made me want to headdesk; I’ve written things that I’ve gone back and read over and wanted to burn. It’s the nature of public writing. I still read Jezebel at least once a week and really enjoy it.

  4. Bec H. says:

    When I was fourteen, my family and I chose not to prosecute the boy who raped me because we lived in a small town and I didn’t want to deal with every teacher looking at me with pity. I didn’t want to re-live what happened repeatedly. I wanted to go on with my life and recover from it. Does that mean I’m not a feminist? Does that mean I’m responsible for any other atrocities he might commit in his life?

    Linda Hirshman can kiss my ass.

  5. Tlönista says:

    As Feministe’s own Lauren once put it, “The nasty undercurrent of Hirshman’s goals is a wish for weathy women to achieve status on the backs of others.” All I see in that Double X article is a lot of priggish slut-shaming and zero empathy.

  6. Thomas says:

    About reporting: what I learned in sexual assault awareness programs nearly twenty years ago was that one should not tell survivors what they should have done; that whatever they did was right for them, in the situation they were in, and that having survived was evidence enough that they made the right choices. In a perfect world we might make some conjecture about what each survivor’s personal situation is regarding reporting … but in a perfect world, there is no rape.

    Whether any particular woman will feel vindicated by the arrest of her assailant or just have to keep reliving the rape; whether if there is no prosecution she will feel judged; whether if there is a conviction she will feel vindicated and whether it is better for her to go down that long road to get there; whether she is even ready to discuss the rape with anyone in its immediate aftermath … I can’t presume to know this for any woman, or for any survivor. She’s in a better position to make her own decision than I’ll ever be, so I’ll trust her.

  7. Jess B. says:

    Considering Linda Hirshman has yet to write what I consider to be an intelligent, well-reasoned, and coherent article on the female perspective, I’m not all that concerned with her contribution to Double X. I am happy to see another feminist blog popping up, and will be following XX with interest.

  8. Medea says:

    They also put up a post, some time ago, claiming that fibromyalgia is a fake disease invented by the drugs industry.

  9. Good god. I love how Hirshman buys the notion that women were “protected” under patriarchy—you know, even though the rape and domestic violence rate are going down due to feminism. Turns out that when men think they own women, they feel more free to beat and rape.

  10. Yolanda C. says:

    Women can pretend they’re female chauvinist pigs, but it’s still women who are more sexually vulnerable to stronger men, due to the possibilities of physical abuse and pregnancy. These Jezebel writers are a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom; in fact, it’s the supposed concern with feminism that makes the site so problematic. How can Tracie, who posted this picture, criticize the men who go to Hooters? How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape? It’s incoherent.

    I’m not a Jezebel reader, but regardless of whatever published transgressions their writers have committed against feminism, it does not excuse the misogyny in Hirshman’s essay. Not only is this crap misogynist, the passage above is a straight-up defense of rape culture. How feminist is that?

    Call me a judgmental radical, but I don’t trust the Slate-WashPo complex when it comes to any school of feminism, not even the mainstream anglo-centric kind. I’d bet money that the white boys call the final shots at Double X.

  11. Amy H. says:

    Assault survivors are never responsible for the behavior of their perpetrators, future actions or otherwise. The fact that she implies that victims/survivors who don’t report or prosecute are somehow responsible for their perpetrators future assaults is beyond appalling.

    I also don’t like how she implies that the site can’t be feminist because 49% of its readership is male. Newsflash: Feminism isn’t for women alone. Its for people of all types who want to fight oppression.

    Hirschman’s feminism is the type of feminism that makes me uncomfortable describing myself sometimes as a feminist.

  12. piny says:

    How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape?

    Well, for starters, they could talk about how the military punishes soldiers who report rape and sexual assault. They could talk about the femicidal culture of impunity that gives every female soldier a really good reason to keep her mouth shut. They could point out that victim-blaming is the rule rather than the exception, even in civilian venues like Linda Hirshman’s dipshit head.

    It’s one thing to argue that some feminist arguments are irresponsible–like we do when Hirshman says something–but to blame a woman for failing to secure a conviction for her rapist? To then go on and say that this woman has no moral authority to complain about rape? Excuse me, institutional apathy towards rape?

    This is misogynist. It’s a ludicrous standard, both for victims and for our national discussion. If we exclude any woman who failed to put herself in enough jeopardy for the sake of publicizing her sexual assault, we won’t be left with very many survivors. We’ll also be reiterating one of the strongest traditional arguments against valuing women after they had suffered rape.

  13. Lance says:

    The shifting of responsibility from the male perpetrators to the female victims is appalling and depressingly common for this genre. If you leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, nobody will talk about holding you responsible for the consequences of your actions. Were I to walk down the street at night in a high crime area waving hundred dollar bills and get mugged, people would criticize me for being a moron, but wouldn’t say that I needed to take responsibility for my mugging. The very words used to describe the situation are premised on women being at fault for their own rapes. And this is from somebody more-or-less on our side.

    Sigh…

  14. emrez49 says:

    so glad to see others writing about Double X. I’ve been looking forward to reading the articles and was immediately disheartened when I saw Hirshman’s piece mixed in with the rest. Thanks for a well thought out review. Hope to hear more as Double X puts out more.

  15. jenlillith says:

    Thank you for writing this… I was extremely disappointed with the first round of posts on DoubleX. Given that it’s a spinoff from the ever-coolly-contrarian Slate, though, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

    And there were House spoilers on the front page! Argh!

  16. Cara says:

    Wow. Okay, see, I’m personally in the camp and have been for some time that Jezebel, while occasionally writing a feminist-minded piece, is not a feminist blog. I’m not big on being the feminist police, but yeah, I’ve felt pretty strongly on that for sometime. Read them if you want, I couldn’t care less (trust me, plenty of sites I read are not feminist), but I do cringe when they’re called a “feminist blog” like whoa.

    That being said . . . what the flying fucking fuck? Okay, so you know when I thought that rape victims should be morally obligated to report their rapes to the police and try to see them prosecuted for the good of every other woman on earth (because yes, I did actually think that)? When I was fucking 13, and when I hadn’t yet been raped. Because I was a stupid little self-absorbed asshole who didn’t get that rapists have a responsibility not to rape and victims don’t have a responsibility to become public martyrs who will be villainized and not believed and further traumatized.

    As for what I think about Linda Hirshman, infer from the above what you will. But I know that she thinks of me as not enacting “feminist behavior” for failing to report my rape, despite the fact that I didn’t even realize it was rape (he didn’t use a weapon or beat me up!) for many years. Maybe I didn’t realize it was rape because assholes were too busy running around telling women that they’re bad people for not reporting their rapes to actually spend some time clearly defining the term “consent” for the mass amount of the population that still doesn’t get it — especially those young women most vulnerable.

    But hey, what does little old non-feminist me know?

  17. PilgrimSoul says:

    I am generally confused about the XX Factor site generally; I don’t know what kind of hole it is seeking to fill. As others have noted, this was clearly a bit of play to get Jezebel fans over there and commenting and riled up, but thus far, I’m having trouble seeing the site as anything other than a “backlash” to feminism. And I am skeptical that we need any more of that.

  18. Fatemeh says:

    Agree with you 100%, Jill. That post was just not right.

  19. amy cross says:

    i agree with Jill about DBLE X–I too was excited that these clever editors are working on this–smart journalistic web content–but turned off by all the f-bashing.

    I surmise that the discourse is to attract a wider audience–those who don’t identify as feminist. And as Pilgrim soul says, to generate opening day controversy and jezebel detractors.

    I will wait and see and look forward to reading–I’m on a telesummit for women who tech so I can’t really add more analysis….

    amy cross
    women make news.com

  20. GloPan says:

    Great piece, Jill. It does a great job describing the dynamic of criticism among feminists. In the divide between what constitutes a good feminist and a bad feminists, we lose a lot of women, who don’t want to be called feminist at all.

  21. I can almost understand why Tracie and Moe said the outragious things they did. I dealt with a media blogging contract and wisely backed out. (FU Creative Loafing.) Nick Denton is a slave master and these women need traffic in order to survive.

    What does Linda Hirshman hope to gain by mentioning Tracie’s and Moe’s year-old interview? If she wants to talk about rape how about writing about Jamie Leigh Jones. Hirshman can open a newspaper and find current stories dealing with feminism. She strikes me as severely out of touch. What is Hirshman’s next op-ed? Elizabeth Stanton doesn’t meet the 21 century definition of what a feminist is? Seriously.

    I look forward to Hirshman’s muckraking piece on how the Feministing logo is responsible for Bristol Palin’s pregancy.

  22. Aftercancer says:

    AMEN! Thanks for saying what I wanted to say in the comments section of Double XX, if only the comments were working. Perhaps tomorrow.

  23. mikki says:

    Great piece Jill. I was astonished to see that XX’s editorial stance was to critique other feminists, and Hirshman’s piece was both passé and enraging. Thanks for your response.

  24. Meowser says:

    Hirschman: Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!

    Hirschman is a lawyer, is she not? I gather she hasn’t practiced in a while, but has she never heard of this case in Beaverton, OR in which a 17-year-old girl was thrown in jail for making a false police report of her rape just because the cops thought she didn’t “look traumatized enough” at the time? There was a case in Pittsburgh recently that was similar which Cara blogged about on The Curvature. When women are getting the message that if you report your rapist, YOU have a better chance of doing time than HE does, can anyone blame them for not reporting? Hirschman just looks more and more out of touch with every word she types.

    And I’m no big fan of Jezebel, either, but that just seems like a wonky-ass thing to attack them for.

  25. Meowser says:

    Bleh, I flunk closing tags. Should have been a after “judgmental!”

  26. annaham says:

    Seconding Medea’s comment (#8); the “Jezzies” also seem pretty judgmental/oh-my-god-someone-doesn’t-live-exactly-like-me-so-let-me-be-“snarky”-about-it when it comes to mental health issues as well. The ableism that they display is, at times, astounding, and such attitudes certainly aren’t feminist.

  27. Jill says:

    Sure. I don’t think the issue is whether or not Jezebel is a feminist blog — I don’t think it marks itself as much, and I wouldn’t define it as a feminist blog, even while I know some of the women who write for it are feminists. I just don’t think that’s really relevant to how we respond to Hirshman’s article — feminist blog or not, her victim-blaming is totally unwarranted.

  28. annaham says:

    I also find it odd that Hirshman’s using phrasing/victim-blaming that is pretty “judgmental!” even while she slams the site for using that exact tone.

    There’s a lot to criticize about Jezebel, but, as Jill pointed out, the drunkeness debacle is old meme.

  29. rainy_day says:

    @ annaham: I find it incredibly insulting that you a) lumped all readers of one hugely popular site together and b) claimed that they are all “not feminist.” This sort of reactionary, finger-pointing does not serve any purpose. And I for one, as a feminist and (gasp) a Jezebel reader, am not okay with anyone declaring themselves the feminist police.

    I’m sorry that the tone of this is argumentative; I resent being judged and told that I’m “not a feminist” because I read a particular blog.

  30. rainy_day says:

    @annaham: I also would like to say that I agree with your second comment.

  31. Pingback: Femmostroppo Reader - May 13, 2009 — Hoyden About Town

  32. matttbastard says:

    Well said, Jill.

    Suppose it was too much to expect XX Factor to be anything other than Slate with pink wallpaper. As Spackerman put it earlier today “Linda Hirshman is the feminist Mickey Kaus.”

    FYI: Megan and Tracie have responded.

  33. Jill says:

    Rainy Day, annaham didn’t say that Jezebel readers are universally “not feminist.” She was making a critique of the tone of the comment sections and the posts, not of every single commenter. I’m a Jezebel reader too, but nowhere in annaham’s comment does it say I’m unfeminist for reading (or linking to them, which I do fairly often). A lot of feminist blogs — including this one, on occasion — have comment sections that deviate into decidedly not-feminist territory. Doesn’t mean that most of our commentariat isn’t feminist.

  34. tekanji says:

    What I want to know, is why Hirshman still considered a feminist? I know feminists don’t have a club card or anything, but when her main shtick is to bash women/feminists using blatantly misogynist attacks I just can’t see what value there is to even give lip service to her being “feminist”.

    And, speaking of grudgewank, I may as well link the reasons why I have such a huge grudge against Ms. Hirshman:
    Has Feminism Lost Its Focus? [June 09, 2008]
    To all feminists: Stop using the word “choice feminism”! [September 30, 2006]
    Trading one set of chains for another [November 24, 2005]

  35. The Opoponax says:

    The ableism that they display is, at times, astounding, and such attitudes certainly aren’t feminist.

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense, to me. Which is not at all to say that ableism (or any other kind of -ism that isn’t purely feminism) is a-OK. Of course.

    I appreciate the idea that we are all working from every angle, trying to become the most liberated and politically aware people we can be. But I don’t think you have to the most raised consciousness ever in order to be worthy of calling yourself a feminist.

    I especially feel this way because it doesn’t really leave a lot of room for growth or development. Was I not really a feminist when I didn’t realize “welfare queen” was a racist lie? Was I not really a feminist when I said something particularly ignorant about Islam? Was I not really a feminist back when I used to have somewhat icky ideas about trans issues? Was I not really a feminist last weekend when I said some things that were somewhat disrespectful of people with mental illnesses? Do any prejudices I might have that I am not well aware of mean that I’m not a feminist right now?

    I’m not sure there is a single person in the feminist blogosphere who is perfect enough to call hirself a feminist if they have to be 100% politically pure in order to do so.

  36. Tom Foolery says:

    Was I not really a feminist when I didn’t realize “welfare queen” was a racist lie? Was I not really a feminist when I said something particularly ignorant about Islam? Was I not really a feminist back when I used to have somewhat icky ideas about trans issues?

    I’m interested to hear the answer to these questions. It seems to me that one of the challenges that faces progressives, especially identity progressives, is this obsession with ideological purity.

  37. annaham says:

    Thank you for your comment in my defense, Jill. To rainy day: I did not mean to lump ALL of the posters or commenters at Jezebel into one monolithic category , but my wording should have reflected that.

    Opponax, I didn’t say that anyone had to be politically “pure” in order to be a feminist. I am not opposed to people working through biases that they may have. However, this does not seem to be the case with some of the Jezebellians.

    I just find *some* of the bloggers’ and commenters’ attitudes toward those who are different (done under the guise of snark) not particularly feminist and not progressive; when Moe says things like “fibromyalgia sounds fake,” (I’m aware she’s no longer at the site, but still) or when some posters use the word “retarded” as a pejorative term, they’re pretty much throwing people with disabilities –some of whom could even be potential readers/allies– under the bus. You’ll forgive me if I don’t think it’s feminist to call peoples’ health problems “fake” because one wants to make a point about Big Pharma, and how it dupes people.

    Full disclosure: I have fibro, and when that post went up, I stopped reading the site altogether. I cannot support something that has obtained page hits from denigrating a condition that I, and many other people, deal with on a daily basis.

    Okay, I am absolutely derailing the discussion with this comment. Derail over.

  38. Sheelzebub says:

    Linda Hirschman is inches away from turning into that irrelevant loudmouth Camille freakin’ Paglia.

  39. non sequitur says:

    I think her whole shtick is just to try to be Paglia for a slightly different demographic.

  40. Isabel says:

    I am so over Linda Hirshman that my only contributions to this discussion can be:
    1) Jill, thank you for this entire post
    2) piny, thank you for the phrase “civilian venues like Linda Hirshman’s dipshit head”

  41. The Opoponax says:

    Opponax, I didn’t say that anyone had to be politically “pure” in order to be a feminist. I am not opposed to people working through biases that they may have. However, this does not seem to be the case with some of the Jezebellians.

    Which is not at all what you said. What you said was that Jezebel is not a feminist site because some of the bloggers have written ableist things. Since feminism and ableism are not the same movement, there is no reason that a blogger who writes something ableist cannot be a feminist blogger. We don’t have to like those statements or hold said blog up as The Best Feminist Blog EVER, but if we took away the feminist card of everyone who ever fucked up on another front of a social justice movement, there probably wouldn’t be any feminist blogs left.

    I just find *some* of the bloggers’ and commenters’ attitudes toward those who are different (done under the guise of snark) not particularly feminist and not progressive

    No, as I said, feminism and differently abled rights (I’m sure there’s a better term for that, sorry) are not actually the same movement, so it’s possible to be feminist and yet also not be 100% there on the ableism front.

    I’m not necessarily sure that Jezebel should be considered an explicitly feminist blog (and agree a lot with Jill that I certainly practice a different kind of feminism from theirs), but to the extent that Jezebel bloggers and commenters consider themselves feminist and cover feminist topics, they are feminists. Whether we see eye to eye on other stuff or not.

  42. Jet says:

    Thank you for this.

  43. GallingGalla says:

    two big problems, both related: (1) wtf with the name? XX? Not all women have XX chromosomes. I don’t. (and not all women with other than XX chromosomes are trans.) (2) dear linda – i am a trans woman, and i will not report rape / sexual assault against me, b/c i know for a *fact* that police do not take rape / sexual assault of trans folk seriously and will, at best, tell me it’s just desserts, and at worst, arrest *me*. but i doubt that trans women even enter the thoughts of her dipshit head (great phrase, piny!)

  44. Banisteriopsis says:

    How can Tracie, who posted this picture, criticize the men who go to Hooters?

    …what does Tracie doing comedy have to do with staring at boobs? That’s a weird leap Linda made. Unless Tracie always wears feathers under her dress? In which case: Awesome.

  45. Abyss2hope says:

    The biggest problem I have with Hirshman’s article is her decision to conflate women’s consensual behavior with sexual violence done to women.

    The assumption that Jezebel writers and/or readers are bringing violence down on themselves while other women are made safe by their behavior is provable nonsense. This assumption completely ignores that girls and women who regulate their sexual behavior are also sexually assaulted and many times they too choose not to report.

    “Connecticut police have arrested a youth adviser accused of sexually assaulting a Trumbull girl being counseled to abstain from sex.” From WTNH

  46. Chocolate Tort says:

    Thank you for this post! I read about this on my facebook newsfeed, and I was incredibly disappointed when I read the piece. I got the feeling that Hirshman doesn’t actually read Jezebel so much as cackle gleefully when one of the bloggers comes under fire. I usually describe Jezebel as “pop culture with a feminist bent,” and while the comments vary widely in terms of quality and feminist thinking, I usually find thoughtful discussions taking place at least a few times a week there. It’s just about the only place I can read about pop culture without wanting to stab the screen too much.

    But as people here have already said, when it comes down to it, Jezebel’s feminist cred isn’t really important here. The misogyny of Hirshman’s piece is breathtaking; as so many of the Jez commentators said in Megan’s Response, the blame for rape lies on the shoulders of the rapist and on the people who told the rapist that it’s okay to use other human beings that way. When this kind of crap comes from someone I know to ignore, it’s easier to skim, but Hirshman’s is not a name I immediately recognized. I won’t make that mistake again.

  47. piny says:

    We’ve been tagged back on Double X, by the way. I think I’m most offended on behalf of Christmas.

  48. Nikki says:

    I like the Double X site, though the play on XX is typical of the “lets take something that we think is appealing to men and be ‘ironic’ by using it for feminism” branding that seems to dominate in the media. I agree that Jezebel is bad for women. Some of the posts on there sometimes seem like something a sexist pig would post of a fake “women’s issue” website to get a reaction. Which is sad and scary considering 1/2 their audience is men who are reading comments about women not wanting to bother reporting rape or women saying they have rape fantasies. I think most of the posts and comments can be chalked up to the people being young, dumb and ridiculously liberal.
    I disagree with some of the comments on this post too. Most women who are raped are date raped. They did not “survive” the rape. They were never in any danger of being beaten, permanently harmed physically or murdered. They do have a responsibility to report the crime. We are a community of people, not individuals who should do whatever they feel like doing and expect to never be “judged”. Their will always be rapists in the world, how do you think we are going to stop them if women who are raped never report it? The date rapist probably thinks he didn’t rape you because he has done it before and since and no one ever reported him. Also, if someone left their keys in their car with the doors open and it was stolen, of course people would “judge” them and blame them. I don’t see the big deal in telling women “don’t have more than two drinks, fight back and report your rape”. How is that anti women? Jezebel seems like it is more pro alcohol than it is pro woman.

  49. Natalia says:

    I miss Moe.

    *sigh*

    I could never, ever judge anyone for doing an interview drunk – because it looks waaay like something I could easily do if the stars aligned themselves just right. Also, being in the media business, you hear about men pulling that crap – not when it’s being filmed (because that would be too easy to make fun of all over YouTube) but you talk to people and they’ll go “I just sat down with actor X or writer Y, and he was pretty wasted,” and there will be a tone of admiration in their voice, as in “wow, actor X and writer Y are so cool and out there and they’re not afraid to, like, be themselves, man.” Any woman who’s ever had a few in the presence of the media is, by comparison, unladylike and gross. Which is why I suppose I tend to gloss over the stuff that happened with Moe and Tracie.

    I think what squicks me about Hirshman is very much akin to what Laura has said – hers is a very specific type of feminism, and, what’s worse, it feels like you are pretty much unwelcome if you aren’t a perfect fit. Oh, and you’re probably stupid then too. And a slut.

    Makes me sad, because I want to like Linda Hirshman.

  50. Jennifer says:

    Opponax said:

    But I don’t think you have to the most raised consciousness ever in order to be worthy of calling yourself a feminist.

    I’m not seeing where annaham said that at all. She was referring specifically to displayed ableist attitudes and suggesting they’re not particularly feminist attitudes.

    If she’d said “I don’t think the commenters are very feminist because they said ableist things” then your point might apply, but she didn’t, and yeah, I can’t necessarily run around calling people unfeminist because they say bigoted rubbish, but that doesn’t mean I have to see that bigoted rubbish as a feminist attitude.

  51. Pingback: So…about that Jezebel thing… « random babble…

  52. Holly says:

    Hirshman is clearly trying to start some shit, if you ask me. Cute stunt when you’re starting a website, but when everyone calls it out for what it is, it’s maybe not the best footing to get off on. Also, everything else that Jill’s said.

    One other thing: I have to agree with GallingGalla, and it’s probably better if I don’t just try to ignore the uncomfy squicked-out feeling I get from the name of this site. Call me sensitive, call me a member of a little tiny minority of women… but naming an ostensibly feminist website “XX” does make me feel like it’s not intended to be by or for women like me. I mean sure, it’s quite possible that will turn out not to be true. I wouldn’t confuse my vague feelings of dismay with an analysis of hard reality. But names are important, and it’s right there in the name: two X chromosomes, biology as destiny, etc. The only excuses are somewhat half-assed notions like “well, we didn’t really mean it that way, it didn’t occur to us…” or “well, MOST women are XX so it’s actually all right as a generalization…”

  53. Ali says:

    Thanks GallingGalla and Holly. That aspect of the name completely flew over my head so thank you for bringing that point home.

  54. William says:

    I could never, ever judge anyone for doing an interview drunk – because it looks waaay like something I could easily do if the stars aligned themselves just right. Also, being in the media business, you hear about men pulling that crap – not when it’s being filmed (because that would be too easy to make fun of all over YouTube) but you talk to people and they’ll go “I just sat down with actor X or writer Y, and he was pretty wasted,” and there will be a tone of admiration in their voice,

    Good point. Hitchens has practically made a career out of being drunk and surly during interviews.

  55. piny says:

    And if anyone is a feminist exemplar, it’s Christopher Hitchens.

    I think Hirshman makes that connection explicit, actually–she argues that these young women see feminism as the right to act like dudes. She uses Levy’s phrase, “female chauvinist pigs.” Levy argued that acting like a dude wasn’t feminist if it meant acting like a sexist asshole. Hirshman, on the other hand, is arguing that women cannot behave like men. It will only get them hurt, and it will strengthen sexism. Drunkenness, like sexuality, is simply different when young ladies embrace it.

    But the drunk interview itself….I can see how it would be embarrassing, but I think that’s outweighed by the sheer triviality of the incident. Really, who gives a fuck? So they did an unprofessional thing that may well have cemented sexist ideas about young women in the minds of anti-feminists, professional and amateur. Can we go back to talking about rape in the military now? I have a really hard time believing that it had that much of an impact, if only because feminism is so “dead” that Hirshman gets to elect herself spokeswoman for feminism. What’s her proof? Is Hirshman arguing that their drunk interview is what’s making it impossible for her to talk about all the prominent sober young feminists out there?

  56. cassis says:

    Great post.

  57. William says:

    Piny, I wasn’t implying that Hitchens is a feminist exemplar, just underscoring just how severe the double standard is between women who appear drunk in public and men. Part of Hitchens’ schtick at this point is that he’s three sheets to the wind any time he makes a public appearance, and his fans love him for it. A couple of female bloggers do the same thing and the public shaming over their “risky” behavior is still popping up a year later.

  58. Sheelzebub says:

    You know, Nikki, the OC Gang Rape was perpetrated by the survivor’s boyfriend and his two friends against her. She was passed out cold and raped with a lit cigarette, a pool cue, a mini-baseball bat, a can, and a Snapple bottle. While they filmed it. And she was called a big old slut and whore and found herself and her family harassed and slandered by the families of these nice boys and their allies. They harassed her at her new school, for fuck’s sake.

    As for not getting beaten in a date rape, seriously? FUCK YOU. You have NO IDEA what the fuck you are talking about. And BTW, a guy twice my size can hold me down without beating the shit out of me. Don’t fucking trivialize what happens to women when they are raped by people they know, k? IOW: stop being so pig ignorant.

  59. Gwrthryfel says:

    Altough I have never experienced sexual assault – and hopefully never will – I have certainly experienced other women telling me I can’t be a feminist.

    I have a problem keeping jobs. Im ALWAYS 15 minutes late. I also have had trouble staying in college, because of social anxiety and some other issues. I also can’t save money worth shit. One could say I sort of suck at life.

    But I see no reason ANY of that disqualifies me from having feminist ideals. Do we tell rock stars that they can’t be rock stars because they do drugs? Do we tell actors they can’t be actors because they never finished high school? Do we tell successful women they can’t be anti-feminist because they are opposite of someone like me? Those examples aren’t very good. But it’s hard to find an analogy for such a ridiculous judgement.

    The worst part is, this criticism has come from my own mother (a successful woman), and close friends (also successful). Do they feel high-and-mighty? Or do they actually believe that their logic is sound? I can’t tell. But I know that telling someone they can’t be a feminist because they’re unsuccessful, let alone because they didn’t report a rape, is unreasonable at best.

  60. SarahMC says:

    Nikki, what the everliving fuck are you talking about? Jezebel has been an extremely positive force in my life and in the lives of the other women (and men) who take part in the discussions there. I know this because, unlike you, I pay attention to what’s going on there and follow the comment threads and even met my co-bloggers through the site.
    Go ahead and give an example of a post “something a sexist pig would post.” Tracie is not Jezebel. Moe is not Jezebel and has not even been an editor there in many months. When people want to slam the site they mention one of those two women. The two women of color in the top spots and the other contributors – thoughtful, passionate, engaging writers who clearly care about women and women’s issues – are erased.
    A lot of the women in that community have testified that Jezebel inspired or awakened their feminist sensibilities, and I, for one, have learned a lot from some of the posts and even more from the comment conversations.
    It’s not like I work for the place. I have had problems with particular stuff Jezebel has done. But to say the site is bad for women is ridiculous. The writers are not a monolith and neither is the commenting community.

  61. SarahMC says:

    Btw, what Sheelzebub said.

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  63. Shazbat says:

    It’s a pretty long thread already, so I have only skimmed it, but I think I saw some discussion of the name of the magazine itself.

    There is a huge range of chromosomal variation within and between genders, and to reduce it to “XX = woman” is trans-exclusive and short-sighted. I’m not going to go to a site where a basic tenet of feminism as I see it is excluded and made invisible. If they do ‘include’ trans women in some tokenistic articles in the future, then it will be an inclusivity of the ‘we’re letting you in our club’ sort. Not a de-centering of cis-centered concerns.

  64. Shazbat says:

    Oh yes, I see GallingGalla and Holly have already addressed this. Sorry!

  65. Superla says:

    “They did not “survive” the rape.”

    I don’t want to contribute to the derail, but I think this comment represents what Hirshman only hints at: Denying the psychological trauma that comes with sexual assault/abuse/domestic violence etc.

    Y’know, it’s true my life was never in danger when I was assaulted and abused. But if you think that “survival” refers only to the crime committed, you seriously need to do some more listening to survivors.

    PTSD and c-PTSD: Google ’em.

  66. piny says:

    I got your point, William. I was being tongue-in-cheek.

    At some point, the double standard Hirshman has married herself to becomes a non-negotiable point of activism. So long as I can be blamed for my own rape if I was drunk at the time, I’m not equal and sexism controls my whole life. No responsible feminist can accept this status quo or confuse it with a “post-feminist” culture.

  67. Gwrthryfel says:

    @Nikki: They did not “survive” the rape. They were never in any danger of being beaten, permanently harmed physically or murdered.

    Wtf? “Never in any danger”? I think rape itself DEFINITELY harms you physically.

    I don’t see the big deal in telling women “don’t have more than two drinks, fight back and report your rape”.

    Are you serious? Women shouldn’t have more than two drinks, coz – what? Then it will be their fault? I have never experienced rape or sexual assault, but I know you are SO wrong. Thanks for defending rape culture.

  68. SarahMC says:

    I love the “fight back” order. ‘Cause potential rapists always back off if you struggle and holler. How long and how mightily must a woman struggle before her rape is considered legitimate?
    I feel so fucking dirty right now.

  69. Holly says:

    Wait, did anyone see the response at XX? It’s just one blogger’s response (Susannah Breslin of Reverse Cowgirl) but it’s the only thing on the site that acknowledges that there was some response to the launch and to Hirshman’s piece.

    Also, it’s hilarious. Great quotes like

    I thought feminism was dead. I mean, didn’t we kill it already? At best, it seems odd to judge a 21st century production by the politics of a decades-old movement, the relevance of which has been dubious for years now… Aren’t we over that already? I could have sworn feminism was cultural road kill, at this point. And isn’t it intellectually reductive and culturally retarded to imply that the only site for women worth doing is one that follows an abstract set of political rules upon which no one can agree? It seems to me that “feminist” sites like the aptly-named Feministe are interested in having it both ways. They want all the power their feminist foremothers promised them—and the right to play full-time victims of the patriarchy. Get over it. Get on with it. I hope the feminist mantle doesn’t fit Double X.

    And “play full-time victims of the patriarchy” is a link to this post, so apparently that’s what her interpretation is of this discussion, about the decisions women make about reporting or not reporting sexual assault, about how to talk about that and how women are blamed around it, and about a critique of Hirshman’s ire for Jezebel. Maybe I’m missing something, I don’t get exactly where that involves “playing a full-time victim of the patriarchy” unless that’s what happens when you acknowledge that sexist bullshit you know, actually exists, still hurts women, makes life harder for women who get sexually assaulted by salting the wound further, and can be perpetuated by other women. Oh no victim victim victim! What? What? Really?

  70. shfree says:

    I have come to the conclusion that Hirshman has absolutely no desire to work with feminists that fall outside of her narrow idea of what feminism should be. She does such a thorough job of alienating anyone who might have opposing views that I just can’t believe she doesn’t do it deliberately.

    Consider how “Get to Work: A Manifesto of Women of the World” basically ignored that the majority of women were working already. I certainly don’t consider the relatively few number of highly educated, upper middle class women who aren’t working for pay to equate the women of the world. Hell, and that doesn’t even address the fact that a large number of THOSE women felt forced out of their previous jobs simply because they had a family. Just, argh.

    And everything else I have read by her since that time seems to be nothing more than pissing and moaning about how other feminists don’t practice the “right” feminism, with no effort at all to find some way to work with them even though they might have differences.

    She just gets on my last nerve.

  71. piny says:

    Look, the bloggers at the new site for women have much better things to do than be a part of the women’s blogosphere. Who cares what we think?

    I’m writing a response to it, sort of. I’d rather do just about anything else.

    The most fascinating thing about the response is that she refuses to acknowledge any of the context of any of the posts. They’re all responses to one statement or another. Hirshman is rebutting her understanding of Jezebel’s understanding of sexuality. The Jezebel writers are discussing that. We’re discussing both. And yet she writes as though all of these specific arguments are general position papers on feminism. I suppose it follows; she’s defined feminism as a concept divorced from an idea.

  72. piny says:

    Also:

    “like the aptly-named Feministe”

    Is there something missing from this joke, or is it just me?

  73. Holly says:

    I think the joke is that we’re a site that has “Feminist” in the name, which is inherently hilarious, because feminism? Isn’t that some ridiculous movement from the 70s? There’s actually a site called FEMINISTE or FEMINISTING or something like that? You might as well have a site called IRRELEVANTOR

  74. piny says:

    Actually, “Irrelevantor” would be a pretty awesome name. “Irrelevantrix?”

    Well, yes, but she’s ridiculing us because we’re an explicitly feminist site. “The aptly-named ‘The Economist,’ which devotes itself to wonkish squabbling about global finance….” No, still not funny.

  75. Cara says:

    PTSD and c-PTSD: Google ‘em.

    Why would she when she’s too busy being right about what other women experience as a result of being raped and telling us all about it? As I said above, I wasn’t beaten up or threatened with a weapon. So clearly, my rape = a cakewalk. Googling “PTSD” would just muddy the waters by throwing facts into the mix and complicate her idea of what it mean to “survive” by suggesting that it might just be about a little bit more than escaping near death!

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  77. Abyss2hope says:

    Nikki wrote: “We are a community of people, not individuals who should do whatever they feel like doing and expect to never be “judged”. Their will always be rapists in the world, how do you think we are going to stop them if women who are raped never report it?”

    Okay, if you truly believe that we are a community with community responsibilites what are you doing to stop rapists? If you use this premise to demand action from others then you must act yourself. Where have you volunteered? Which anti-rape organizations have you supported financially? What anti-violence legislation have you urged your representatives to support? How much of your time and money have you sacrificed in this community effort?

    If your answer is none of the above then you want rape victims to protect you but you are not willing to return the favor.

    To refer to rape victims as people doing whatever they feel like doing is to demonstrate an utter lack of understanding which helps rapists deny their crimes.

  78. The Opoponax says:

    I thought feminism was dead. I mean, didn’t we kill it already? At best, it seems odd to judge a 21st century production by the politics of a decades-old movement, the relevance of which has been dubious for years now… Aren’t we over that already? I could have sworn feminism was cultural road kill, at this point.

    Wow, I am so never reading that site, like, ever.

    Do these folks really think they are going to win more traffic to their site by explicitly distancing themselves from the feminist movement? I mean, I can see keeping it ambiguous, not wanting to come off as militant firebrands, etc. Which is pretty much where I feel Jezebel is at – they want to have their feminist cake and eat their America’s Next Top Model pie, too. But shit, at least they don’t go out of their way to explain how they’re TOTALLY NOT FEMINIST, Y’ALL.

  79. Lauren says:

    Linda Hirshman: Feminism :: Christopher Hitchens : _____________.

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  81. octogalore says:

    Holly — thanks for pointing out the idiocy of that passage.

    The portion: “At best, it seems odd to judge a 21st century production by the politics of a decades-old movement, the relevance of which has been dubious for years now… Aren’t we over that already?” I found quite interesting. So the relevance of equal rights for women is dubious? Now that Breslin’s benefited from the work of her foremothers Steinem, Walker, Friedan, hooks, the suffragettes, etc. etc., she can blythely be “over that”? Disgusting.

  82. Fiendish says:

    Um.

    I am deeply, deeply against the judgmental attitude directed toward women who don’t report their rapes. I’m against any attempt to pin responsibility for further rapes on victims who don’t report, and against any attempt to belittle their feminist activism. I really am.

    But I do think feminist blogs should breed a culture that supports and encourages the reporting of rape. Rapists need to be brought to justice. That is a horrible mantle to have to carry, but for anyone considering it, I think feminists and feminist blogs should provide a supportive environment and a culture which sends the message that it is the right thing to do. It’s not always possible. We should never expect it. But I’m afraid that feminist blogging is moving too far in the direction of “don’t report it if you don’t want to” and not far enough towards “you are amazing and brave and please report it if you can”. That’s my view on the issue, I think.

  83. Ismone says:

    Fiendish,

    I think we already do. The problem with these “women should” things that Ms. Hirschman and like-minded people say “women should take responsibility” “women should report their rapists” “women should learn self-defense” ist that those statements suggest that women are not “taking responsibility.” Many more men than women are murdered every year, and unlike female murder victims, they are often murdered by strangers, in scenarios that involve alcohol. Also, in a rape case, the rapist is more likely to be intoxicated than the victim. But we do not say “men should take more responsibility for their drinking, because drunk men commit/are the victims of violent crimes involving alcohol.” That should tell us a little bit about the social drives that are underllying this “helpful” advice to women.

    -Izzy

    PS–Someone stole my backpack once. I didn’t report it. I did report a threatening phone call. It led to a waste of about two days of my time, because the cops didn’t take it seriously, and didn’t even bother to write down, in their report, that I used to work for a legal organization where I rejected the post-conviction requests of rapists and murderers for legal assistence, and that some of those people are now free on parole. And my name is rather unusual, so they could find me for a $40 or so people search online.

  84. ShelbyWoo says:

    Feindish:

    My problem with pushing to report (even if it’s a gentle push) is this:

    Many victims describe that the trauma that they endure from reporting the rape is worse than what they suffered at the hands of their rapist. They generally have little in the way of support. Not to mention, the conviction rate of rapists in this country is abysmally low making justice very unlikely. So, until we can guarantee rape victims are treated fairly and appropriately like every other crime victim, it would be disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst to do anything more than be supportive of whatever the woman needs to do to heal.

    Of course, we need to be supportive of anyone that decides to report, but until we’ve banished the culture that makes rape the victim’s fault instead of the rapist’s, we really can’t expect the victims of an incredibly ingrained rape culture to do more than survive.

    Your heart and thoughts are in the right place, it’s just that society isn’t there with you…yet.

  85. Abyss2hope says:

    Fiendish, the problem is when we think the only feminist actions we can take related to rape is about reporting. There are many other actions feminists can take.

    If all we do about reporting is debate about whether we should or should not urge rape victims to report then we have failed.

    If our only practical discussion about prevention centers on the behavior of victims and potential victims then we have failed.

  86. Fiendish says:

    Ismone: I don’t know where you live, and so I can’t comment on the legal structure behind your incident with the phone calls, but it’s shocking and horrible. I want to make it clear now that the way the legal system here in Ireland, and as far as I know in the US, treats women and rape victims is wrong. It is wrong. I don’t mean to say that nothing should be done except encouraging people to report — there are a lot more (and a lot more important) actions that can and should be taken. I just would hate the focus to move away from reporting so much that we’re not even providing a framework of encouragement for people who do do it, because we owe them so much.

    Abyss: Again, like I’ve said above, you’re right. My previous comment was just about rape reporting, but I didn’t mean to belittle or ignore other feminist actions with regard to the legal system behind rape convictions or female victims in general. If the discussion about rape centres on victim behaviour, we have failed hugely; that doesn’t mean that we should discount the positive behaviour of victims, because it’s important to extend them our support.

    I never suggested, though, that “all we do about reporting” should be urge victims to report. I never even said we should do that. I just think we should foster a pro-reporting culture with full understanding of the many reasons why it’s never easy and often impossible. More importantly, we should be fighting the legal systems that are in place to receive and deal with reports of rape, but I think we are trying to do that and I was just making one small point about victim support rather than a comment on rape and the justice system.

    Thanks for your replies.

  87. Ismone says:

    Fiendish,

    I think you have hit on something that is really tricky with feminist advocacy. Ideally, we want to enable more women to report their rapes. What is tricky, and why I completely disagree with Hirschman is that she assumes that a given person hasn’t done enough or has done the wrong thing by not reporting a crime, which is not a message I am getting from you. I think you are right that women should be encouraged to treat crimes against them as worthy of reporting, but I think the better way to frame it (better than Hirschman, I mean) is by telling survivors that they have been wronged and should not be ashamed to report what happened to them. And by creating support structures, such as advocates who can accompany the survivors and support them through their dealings with police. Maybe what we really need are volunteer counselors or lawyers who will go with the survivor to make the report, and who can ensure that they are treated with sensitivity and respect by the authorities or else.

    I also appreciate the fact that you are willing to engage in discourse after being told “nope, you’re wrong.” The strength of my response to your initial post has more to do with the intensity of my disagreement with Hirchman than with the point that we should enable survivors to report.

    -Izzy

  88. Fiendish says:

    I really appreciate your responses. This is a pretty interesting dialogue for me because I’m just kind of beginning to shape my own feminist ideology and you’ve made some really interesting points. What you said about support counseling and legal advice is dead on — I know that tackling the way rape is dealt with is the most significant issue in a larger context, but making reporting bearable and even empowering for the victim has got to be on the feminist agenda too.

    Oh, and believe me, we’re united on the Hirshman front. The fact that she thinks not reporting rape somehow negates someone’s feminist credentials or even loads them with the responsibility for future crimes is disgusting, and the way the site tried to later brush it off by saying feminism was dead just made it worse.

  89. Abyss2hope says:

    Fiendish, thanks for clarifying your position. I do believe that we should support survivors in the possibility of reporting as long as we do so in a way that never feels like an order, an expectation or coercion.

    With the horrible experiences so many rape victims have had when they report (including being wrongfully charged) it can be easy to get cynical about the system. But there are investigators and prosecutors who work diligently to get it right.

    As a rape survivor and someone who volunteered at my local rape crisis line, I would never report without an advocate at my side. Thankfully in the US we have the RAINN.org phone and online hotlines. Local advocates have a history with the police in their area and can help victims make their decision with more information than I or any blogger could ever give them.

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  91. Lila says:

    My sister was sexually assaulted when she was 5 by an old guy who lived by the softball field. To make it even worse, my sister had a speech-processing problem, so she had a limited vocabulary even with her family when she wasn’t under stress. When my mom went to the police, they said this had happened before, but the families had chosen not to report it. My mom decided not to press charges because she didn’t want to have my sister have as one of her earliest strong memories being in a courtroom, dealing with adults asking her about the assault. I can’t blame her. But I wonder if Ms. Hirschmann would. That guy could still be living by the softball field for all that I know, abusing kids and getting away with it. Let’s just say that he’s lucky that my family has great respect for the law, because I’m pretty sure my mom would have killed him if she did not. But if doing what’s least traumatic for you and/or your family makes you a bad feminist, I’ll burn my feminist card.

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