Author: has written 57 posts for this blog.

Clarisse Thorn is a Chicago-based, feminist, sex-positive activist and educator. Personal blog at clarissethorn.com; follow her on Twitter @clarissethorn; you can also buy her awesome book about pickup artists or her awesome best-of collection, The S&M Feminist.
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114 Responses

  1. JD
    JD February 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    I hear you about not replicating oppressive power dynamics, but I also believe that power is a fact of human interaction, that it is distributed and redistributed, and that it is up to you or I or us or them to take it and hold on to it. It would be nice if power were not a zero sum game, but as far as I can tell there are almost always winners and losers. I am not sure how much room there is in this struggle for being polite.

  2. DP
    DP February 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Who’s seizing power from whom, though?

    If we accept that power is zero-sum and that the goal is to acquire it for your team or side (don’t necessarily disagree), then the struggle is endless.

    Everyone can team up to try to seize the power from straight white men, but if and when that’s accomplished, what’s to stop one oppressed group from seizing it from another? What’s to stop the patriarchy from trying to grab it back?

    More to the point, if that’s the dynamic you’re working in, won’t you end up with a movement that cannibalizes itself as feminists, labor, anti-racists etc. struggle to carve out their own piece of power?

    Not sure there’s a solution, but to set it up as power = X and the goal is to grab as much of X as possible for your oppressed group seems to guarantee a movement will turn on itself.

    JD: I hear you about not replicating oppressive power dynamics, but I also believe that power is a fact of human interaction, that it is distributed and redistributed, and that it is up to you or I or us or them to take it and hold on to it. It would be nice if power were not a zero sum game, but as far as I can tell there are almost always winners and losers. I am not sure how much room there is in this struggle for being polite.  

    JD: I hear you about not replicating oppressive power dynamics, but I also believe that power is a fact of human interaction, that it is distributed and redistributed, and that it is up to you or I or us or them to take it and hold on to it. It would be nice if power were not a zero sum game, but as far as I can tell there are almost always winners and losers. I am not sure how much room there is in this struggle for being polite.  

  3. BradMillersHero
    BradMillersHero February 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Ah, PMS has definitely become a tool of sexists. I don’t even have mood-related PMS- none whatsoever and never have- but every time I display something unwomanly like standing up for myself, I inevitably get the question, “aww is it just that time of the month?”

    Anyways, the contrasts in time remind me of how feminists are now accused of being lesbians; although before 1971, NOW discriminated against gay women, and would kick them out if suspected.

  4. Jadey
    Jadey February 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    I appreciate the second try, but I think a lot of the issues with the last post came down to deep-seated ideological differences. If one person believes that male privilege exists and is a huge social justice problem, and another person believes that male privilege does not exist and that the idea of it represents a huge social justice issue, then the requirements for those two people to have a productive, meaningful discussion (whether or not consensus is reached) are incredibly high. And the more elements that are being discussed at once (i.e., patriarchy, rape culture, specific instances of discrimination or marginalization), the more difficult the conversation becomes.

    I have seen complex conversations on difficult subjects happen on blogs, but it seems to help if there are at least a few ground rules laid down and the topic narrowed to something manageable, or at least not taking on too many controversies at once. And, honestly, I really like Feministe a lot, but I am doubtful that a blog with a commentariat of this magnitude and with *so many drive-by commenters* (because it only really takes one obnoxious comment to send us all into a spiralling derail, as we have demonstrated time and again), is ever going to be a welcoming space for anti-feminists. Unless we’re talking, like, womanists or other groups who recognize sex-based oppression, even if feminism itself has proved far too alienating to identify with.

    I think this is more of an unavoidable reality than a serious failing. I would never choose to follow only one blog anyway, because none of them are perfect. Although following the mirror post on your blog, I saw that some commenters there feel that a failure to be welcoming to all (or most) comers was a serious detriment. I say meh. I think the commentariat here right now are pretty critical and reflexive toward feminism, actually, although we tend to disagree with each other quite a bit. Why go inviting more discord when we’re already stocked up?

  5. Jadey
    Jadey February 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    Shorter me: pick your battles. I don’t feel the need to make this an even more hostile space for the commenters who are already here.

  6. Jadey
    Jadey February 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm |

    Okay, Clarisse. I won’t go on with that aspect of it. I’m not entirely clear on what the purpose of this post is, though. I feel like it is addressing an issue I wasn’t aware had been raised?

  7. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin February 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm |

    I think this needs to be addressed, and I’m glad that you did. There’s no way to not be able to resort to the on-one-hand, but-on-the-other-hand tap dance when complex matters like these are raised.

    It seems to me that we need to find a way to address sensitive issues without being instantly and emotionally reactive. As an exercise, what if we tried to look for the best intentions in everyone’s comment or remark, minus those which are clearly meant to inflame? And in saying that, I know that it’s difficult to not perpetuate our environment and our conditioning.

    One of the reasons I’m inclined to fly off the handle sometimes is because I had a father who, despite his good qualities, could be extremely invalidating. Instead of letting me make my own mistakes as part of my own development, he was convinced he was going to educate me so that I would never embarrass myself in front of others. So if someone insinuates that my point of view isn’t worthy or that they know better, I go right back to the anger I felt at my father. That happened at a party two weeks back with this jerk, and I got to the point that I very nearly let my anger get the best of me.

    And I can’t do that. I have to know when to take a step back and just let people be douchebags. And, even better, I might find a way to see their humanity and frailties rather than how much they have hurt me.

  8. sexgenderbody
    sexgenderbody February 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |

    bravo.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey February 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    I’m probably going to keep quiet on this thread and see how it unfolds because I have some strong feelings on the general subject matter, but not enough clear direction in order to express them helpfully.

    I do want to strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t (or hasn’t lately) to check out Kinsey Hope’s series on activist tactical modalities (that link goes to the tag page – there are four posts).

    By way of an enticement: Kinsey discusses four different activist tactic “types” based on two intersecting spectrums (despite the personality-ish language, she recognizes that individual activists can use different types of tactics and it’s more of an educational aid than a strict classification): Appeasers, Logic Bombers, Emoters, and Nukers. Her main point is that all of these approaches have strengths and drawbacks, and that one single approach is never as good as a combination (although one activist may specialize, it helps to be backed up by people who specialize in other types of tactics).

    The Nuker and Appeaser strategies (which are diametrically opposed in her typology) probably get the most bad press of the lot – one for being overly divisive and inflammatory, and the other for being vulnerable to manipulation and being co-opted, and I think both of these aspects are relevant to the conversation at hand (as I understand it), both in terms of their strengths and their potential weaknesses. Kinsey has one post that specifically draws out some of the complications of the Nuker-type, and I really hope she is able to do a more in-depth discussion of the other three types at some point as well.

  10. Pidgey
    Pidgey February 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    I think having different spaces for different discourse helps with the shutting-conversation-down dilemma. I enjoy reading the “snarky” feminist blogs where the writers take the “I don’t give a damn what you think of me” attitude. Other blogs, and I think feministe fits in this category, take the “If you don’t already know about feminism 101 and the existence of privilege then learn about it elsewhere” attitude. Well meaning individuals who have not been exposed to many feminist ideas need some place to begin, but such places already exist on the internet. One shouldn’t feel responsible for making any particular space welcoming for utter cluelessness.

  11. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley February 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Pidgey: I think having different spaces for different discourse helps with the shutting-conversation-down dilemma. I enjoy reading the “snarky” feminist blogs where the writers take the “I don’t give a damn what you think of me” attitude. Other blogs, and I think feministe fits in this category, take the “If you don’t already know about feminism 101 and the existence of privilege then learn about it elsewhere” attitude. Well meaning individuals who have not been exposed to many feminist ideas need some place to begin, but such places already exist on the internet. One shouldn’t feel responsible for making any particular space welcoming for utter cluelessness.  

    And I think that’s a big thing, a lot of these people come into feminist discussions with absolutely no understanding of even the basic framework of the movement but yet feel they are equipped enough to tell us why we’re wrong. They don’t come in asking nicely for information they come in roaring for a debate and then as soon as someone used a concept they don’t understand they cry foul and demand we stop the discussion an educate them on that concept, all while still telling us we’re wrong. It just comes a time when enough is enough and we need to ask them to at least learn the basics. It might seem cruel but if we’re constantly having to explain 101 to everyone we’re never going to talk about anything else.

  12. Grey
    Grey February 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm |

    With the whole PMS thing…I have endometriosis. And it never failed to frustrate me that I’d get the whole ‘oh, you must be emotionally overwrought because of PMS, so the reaction is not important’ lecture from family and friends. No, I’m emotionally overwrought because I can’t tell the difference between this pain and being stabbed by a sharp implement. Because I’ll vomit from the intensity of it. I’d love to see other people fail to become terse if they’re suddenly undergoing forty eight hours of agonising pain.

    I’ve been told I’m ‘just being moody’, but it seems so neatly dismissive. I’m not ‘moody’. I’m trying not to regurgitate. I’ve been neatly trained out of showing I’m in any pain as that makes folks uncomfortable, but the whole fact I’m supposed to not even be brief or blunt as I try to muster enough mental control keep my lunch down is a bit much.

    This does remind me of a story I read in a medical text about menstruation regarding a girl who was thrown from a horse. Her parents noticed her limping and took her to the doctor a few days later, who discovered a broken hip. Her father commented in shock at how she’d been able to walk in that state without complaining, and she informed him that she just thought it was cramps – because her cramps were always that painful…as she’d been telling people…for a while. Children lack privilege, and her father’d been under the impression she was just whining over nothing.

  13. Lyn
    Lyn February 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm |

    It is seriously creepy how patriarchy manages to appropriate woman-centric, woman-positive and feminist approaches and words and morph these ideas into still more woman-hating/dismissing concepts. PMS is a great example – also worrying are the number of feminist legal reforms that have been twisted into patriarchal use. *Trigger warning* RTS (rape trauma syndrome), while not exactly a legal reform, was supposed to help juries understand that rape survivors often delayed reporting and showered directly afterward – therefore this did not signify that they were lying about the rape. Of course, in a recent case, a rapist was aquitted because a woman didn’t display RTS symptoms and so it was argued that she wasn’t raped.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that feminist debates and terms, no matter how well-meaning we are (the actual meaning of the term can be pretty irrelevant too – think about how many people think that Frankenstien was the monster and not the doctor!), it can totally get eaten up and regurgitated looking completely different by trolling commentators, right wing bloggers, and then the patriarchy at large. I guess the answer is to just keep going regardless, and undermine patriarchal power wherever possible until it no-longer holds sway.

    I must admit, I think that the zero-sum understanding of power, JD, isn’t actually true. It was once assumed that women in the workforce would take away men’s jobs…but really the workplace just expanded and now (in Australia at least) we have a much lower unemployment rate than it was prior to women starting in the workforce. Power is amorphous and the point of feminist (and other) challenges to patriarchal power is not to take it all for themselves but to share it – patriarchal power is all about keeping women in their place (as well as a few other things, it works very well with imperialism, for example) where most feminisms (or at least, the ones I like) are about sharing power, about making it possible to hear a multitude of voices and experiences rather than shutting them down. The uses to which power is put can change – I don’t think it just has to be about sustaining itself and disempowering everyone else.

    Oh and @BradMillersHero – I was under the impression that NOW didn’t accept lesbians into the fold because they were trying to prove to everyone that they weren’t all lesbians? So, it wasn’t because the feminist movement in the 70s was considered particularly het…

  14. Tony
    Tony February 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    Jadey: I do want to strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t (or hasn’t lately) to check out Kinsey Hope’s series on activist tactical modalities (that link goes to the tag page – there are four posts).By way of an enticement: Kinsey discusses four different activist tactic “types” based on two intersecting spectrums (despite the personality-ish language, she recognizes that individual activists can use different types of tactics and it’s more of an educational aid than a strict classification): Appeasers, Logic Bombers, Emoters, and Nukers. Her main point is that all of these approaches have strengths and drawbacks, and that one single approach is never as good as a combination (although one activist may specialize, it helps to be backed up by people who specialize in other types of tactics).

    That was very, very interesting Jadey.

    1) Now that I have those four archetypes in my head, I will never be able to get them out, particularly my own self identification with the Appeaser tactic. The few times I’ve tried to go Nuker it has never worked out well.

    2) Images of a Dungeons & Dragons build guide are coming up. You know, like… “I have a Level 8, cis, het, disabled WOC Nuker/Logic Bomber specializing in Rage… are there any Level 8 Appeasers with the Strategic Warrior out there? Let’s team up to complete Quest 4.” That’s a bad sign.

    3) Kinsey Hope…in the post about calling out you can also tell she’s starting to realize that while awareness of tactics is critical, we can’t let this turn into a game, we have to keep it grounded in actual activism… and the fact that although we’re online, we’re all dealing with real people and it’s useful to occasionally imagine meeting them face to face, or them at their computer reading your words, just to keep up with this reality.

    I’d also add that learning can be painful is a real problem, and it’s an issue that maybe can’t really be addressed… I mean there is a gray area between people who are really well intentioned and learning well… and egotistical people who just can’t handle criticism or own up to mistakes. Almost everyone wants to be the former, but we all have a bit of the latter in us. And then there are the people who we’ll just never agree with because they’ve formed their opinions and trying to educate them is a waste of time. Sorry if this post is incoherent, I’m on 3 hours of sleep.

  15. Stoner with a Boner
    Stoner with a Boner February 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    Hiya Clarisse,

    I do like your writing style and that is not a backhanded compliment, it is why I have come back somewhere where I may not be welcome.

    I understand that the “she’s on the rag/PMS’ing” statement is extremely disrespectful and a lame attempt to shut down someone who can have a valid point.

    I have been told that I am mansplaining. Well I would be alright if someone addressed my comments and said what they thought were wrong with them. But from my point of view I was being dismissed, someone was attempting to take my voice away with a cheap insult. Can anyone empathise (sic) with that even though I may be hard to relate to and even perceived as an enemy?

    Privilege is a really loaded word. I am not arguing about the existence of patriarchy. Western civilization is influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition. —–Anyways, who has more power, influence, social standing, financial wealth: Sara Palin or Jose the gardener? Obviously every interaction can’t be simply put through a lense saying that, “Oh, he is a male so he has all the power, she is female, she has none.”

    We could also look at that through race. I am not arguing that racism does not exist, just like I am not arguing that sexism/patriarchy does not exist. Who has more power, influence, social standing, financial wealth: Will Smith or an illiterate white man with no teeth living below the poverty level in the Appalacian mountains?

    I am sure that Sara Palin has dealt with sexism and I am sure Will Smith has dealt with racism.

    I realize that I posses some “privilege.” Heck, I think most of the commenters on this board do. If you are eating three square meals a day, have a place to live, are literate, have internet access–well you are doing better than many people in this world. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t experienced injustice, and so have I. That also means that you can also be capable of committing injustice, and so can I.

    No matter how others may react, I wasn’t looking for a fight.

    If I get called troll, howabout Troll with a Goal-it flows, just not as good as Stoner with a Boner ;)

  16. Tony
    Tony February 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm |

    To be clear, Jadey, I am very glad you linked that, thank you. This kind of analysis *is* helpful. There isn’t any more lucid writing on this topic anywhere else. It really clarified a lot of things. And KH is going on the ‘blogroll’. :)

  17. Gentleman Cambrioleur
    Gentleman Cambrioleur February 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    +1 for the Kinsey Hope citation. Love her writing :D

    There was an article way back when by, I believe, brownfemipower (will try to find the link later) where she talked about the way “privilege checks” specifically concerning ableist language were often used to silence people of colour and dismiss whatever they might have to say on the grounds that they were being “ableist.” This in spite of the fact that many of the people giving the “privilege checks” were unidentified or able-bodied, and many of the people of colour being called out were actually disabled. It’s a fine line to walk, because many people w marginalized identities get triggered by offensive language and that is totally reasonable and worthy of respect, but at the same time privilege checks in the context of advanced social justice theory should probably be made while keeping in mind the probable good faith of the interlocutors particularly if they are making challenging points otherwise.

    If indifferent or hostile people or wannabe-allies feel they are being “silenced” by privilege checks however – I can’t really summon a whole lot of sympathy. If I’m at work chatting with colleagues, or having a good time at the bar, or hanging out on my favourite Internet forum, and someone trots out the rape apologism, I’m gonna protest in all my glorious Aspie* blundering tactlessness and, really, that’s as it should be. I’m not getting paid enough to serve as the Public Relations Officer of the New and Improved Social Justice Movement and the benefits suck.

    *I am AS and get to use that word :P

  18. Gentleman Cambrioleur
    Gentleman Cambrioleur February 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    I found the link I was talking about:

    http://flipfloppingjoy.com/2010/08/02/on-being-triggered/

  19. David
    David February 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |

    Tony: 2) Images of a Dungeons & Dragons build guide are coming up. You know, like… “I have a Level 8, cis, het, disabled WOC Nuker/Logic Bomber specializing in Rage… are there any Level 8 Appeasers with the Strategic Warrior out there? Let’s team up to complete Quest 4.” That’s a bad sign.

    Well, after they nerfed the appeaser’s empathy strike I decided to roll logic bomber. Way easier to solo without looking for instance groups.

  20. ellid
    ellid February 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    My iron deficiency (slight, but enough to get me deferred from blood donation) had nothing to do with my periods. It turned out to be due to blood loss from hemorrhoids. Once I had those taken care of, my hemoglobin level went up to near-normal levels for *men*.

  21. RD
    RD February 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    Re: the Kinsey Hope post – not my favorite, mostly because I think emotive vs. logic is a false dichotomy, and those things are not related.

  22. Jadey
    Jadey February 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |

    Tony: To be clear, Jadey, I am very glad you linked that, thank you. This kind of analysis *is* helpful. There isn’t any more lucid writing on this topic anywhere else. It really clarified a lot of things. And KH is going on the ‘blogroll’. :)  

    Came through loud and clear. :D Kinsey is fantastic – you might want to check out her tumblr too as she updates that more frequently (if slightly less coherently!) than the blog currently. The links should be on the blog somewhere.

    @ RD

    I hear you on the logic-emotion false dichotomy. I think think the structure of the typology is flexible enough include “hybrid” tactics, but it’s certainly an oversimplification.

    @ Clarisse

    I’ve been avoiding it for being potentially off-topic, but I’m totally digging the menstruation part of this post just on its own and I’ve noticed I’m not the only one! Is it okay to comment on that as well, even if it doesn’t relate to the rest of the post? Or should I save it for another day?

  23. David
    David February 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm |

    @Jadey
    I know I’m not a paragon of on-topicness, but I think it’s fine for a conversation to stray from time to time. Speech is organic. We shouldn’t feel the need to stay confined to one field of thought simply because it’s on topic.

  24. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan February 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm |

    I think emotive vs. logic is a false dichotomy

    I think that it’s a false dichotomy when it comes to people, for example someone with strong emotions is not suddenly incapable of logic, but I think in the context of tactics it makes sense; you can argue primarily from emotion or from logic (or mix them) depending on the audience, your preference, etc. and they can have pretty distinct phenotypes. I think you can feel emotional about something while still constructing a primarily logical argument, and vice versa, but there’s still a difference between something like “we need to be nice to X because X is sad! [shows picture of X's single tragic teardrop]” and “we need to be nice to X because they have Y resource we want” (to give slightly hyperbolic examples.)

    But now I’m not even slightly on-topic for this post…

  25. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan February 17, 2011 at 12:13 am |

    But I want the strongest feminist movement possible, and I believe that means creating conversations that are non-oppressive and generous and open to critique, as well being analytical and aware. … What are the difficulties we’ll deal with while doing so, and how can we deal with those?

    Regarding having these kinds of interactions with non-feminists (of the ignorant variety, not of the conscientious objector variety) I guess I would respond that 1) the first sentence pretty much describes how feminists necessarily live in the (real) world every day and 2) one difficulty is that we necessarily live like that in the (real) world every day and it’s super exhausting.

    I mean, I’m fairly careful and generous with the people around me during all sorts of interactions (“well, no I totally understand the confusion, it’s a good question, but yeah having sex with women who are passed out drunk is still rape–”) just because I’m not a complete social incompetent, and once you’re labeled “crazy feminist” no one will listen to a word. So I see the value in generosity but I also appreciate having a space (online) where you can say “you know what? That’s the most fucking ignorant question I’ve ever heard” without insta-nuking your career. I find some value in having these ungenerous spaces.

    Being generous within a group of people with similar goals seems like a good idea (plenty of discussions devolve into the most useless, pickiest, more-feminist-than-thou purity contests) but I’m reluctant to extend further generosity to people who adamantly oppose, for example, gender equality. I’m not a fan of “fair and balanced” to the point that we’re saying “Patriarchy — should we have more or less of it?” and treating both options like equally legitimate viewpoints.

  26. Jadey
    Jadey February 17, 2011 at 12:20 am |

    Menstrual pain and associated symptomology are kind of a big deal for me. I don’t have endo (finally got that checked out), but I have severe cramping for basically no pathological reason – just bad body chemistry I will hopefully grow out of. I struggled quite a bit trying to take myself and my own pain seriously, much less trying to get anyone else to, although once I did start speaking out, I got a much more positive reception than I’d expected (but not universally).

    As far as I can tell, having now explored a lot of other menstruating people’s perspectives, there’s actually quite a bit of variety in menstrual experiences. Some of the worst attitudes I’ve confronted have been menstruating women who seem to have relatively light and pain-free periods (based on what they say), but who assume that everyone else’s experience must be the same, and therefore anyone who can’t suck it up and move on is just a lazy whiner. A few times, even people who tried to give me the benefit of the doubt who were still shocked when they finally saw me in the midst of a really bad period (and emotionally devastated aftermath) – it was more than they could imagine.

    I am frustrated by the silence enforced around menstruation because it helps perpetuate false ideas about what menstruation is and how it is experienced. Okay, maybe it’s not dinner talk on a first date (although I kind of want to date the person for whom it would be!), but the shaming and silence suck. We may have gotten rid of some of those old chestnuts about menstruation, but I agree that we’ve pretty much replaced them with shiny new ones that are no better.

  27. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes February 17, 2011 at 12:55 am |

    @ Stoner with a Boner:

    I believe the term you’re looking for is “intersectionality”. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard someone say “but rich White woman is better off than poor Black man therefore there’s no such thing as male privilege” or some such (which is what your Palin/Jose argument sounds like). Race, gender, sexuality, cis-trans-genderqueer status, class, ability-status and more can all play a part. Identifying instances where one axis of privilege is outweighing another does not serve to negate the idea that the other types of privilege are at work in society. The question is, does Jose the gardener enjoy privilege as compared to Juanita the maid? Are similarly wealthy and white men privileged over Sarah Palin? And so on.

    If you’re still struggling with these concepts, I believe the usual suggestions are “Google is your friend” and “get your 101 on”.

  28. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband February 17, 2011 at 12:57 am |

    But — while the concept of “checking your
    privilege”, of trying not to speak without
    understanding the experiences of others, is
    one that I have personally found valuable
    and useful — sometimes the word “privilege”
    or the idea of “privilege” can be used to
    silence people who have good intentions and
    valid critiques. And it ’s up to us to keep an
    eye on our motivations and our intentions
    and our goals: to make sure that we aren ’t
    telling people with privilege to sit down and
    shut up out of narrow-mindedness or even
    our own forms of power hunger.

    I would hypothesize that is problem is rooted in the almost binary perception of privilege. It seems as if in many of these conversations, privilege is narrowly defined as X vs Y or A and B vs C and D. I think that may be useful in cementing allies in a political movement but it becomes problematic when the goal is anti-oppression rather than a redistribution of power from one group to another.

    It may be a big picture/little picture problem really. For example institutionally we know that men have higher status in society than women, all things being equal. But, in real life, when you get down to the individual level all things are never equal. As a result its impossible to say X man simply by virtue of his gender has a higher status than Y woman. Other factors likely impact their status. So, privilege as an absolute makes a great deal of sense on the societal level, but not as much sense *as a metric* on the individual level.

    The solution I think may be to consider perspectives. Kristen has probably mentioned this before since its at the core of her philosophy, but it fits in this conversation I think. We should all came into a discussion with the understanding that we each represent just one perspective in a universe of nearly infinite perspectives, each of which is incomplete. This doesn’t mean that we have to listen to every shit who speaks, but rather we listen when we can without “reflexive defensiveness” knowing that what we believe is rightly subject to constant revision.

  29. Rachel C-H
    Rachel C-H February 17, 2011 at 1:49 am |

    I was reading through this and I started highlighting some paragraphs to make my Facebook status, and then had to stop because I realized I agreed with way too damn much of it and it wouldn’t fit as a status :-P.

    But I took issue with this: “But — while the concept of “checking your privilege”, of trying not to speak without understanding the experiences of others, is one that I have personally found valuable and useful — sometimes the word “privilege” or the idea of “privilege” can be used to silence people who have good intentions and valid critiques. And it’s up to us to keep an eye on our motivations and our intentions and our goals: to make sure that we aren’t telling people with privilege to sit down and shut up out of narrow-mindedness or even our own forms of power hunger.”

    I’ve literally never seen this happen. Maybe it was different in the comments section of the other article (which I admittedly didn’t read but will very soon). More often what happens is the privileged person involved acts like they are attacked when asked to check their privilege and demands that their hurt feelings derail the conversation and overshadow the real oppression of the non-privileged person. I have quite a bit of privilege – being in college, cis gendered, etc – but I also identify with some marginalized groups. I’m a lesbian, latina, a sexual assault survivor. As such, I’ve asked people to check their privilege in discussions about things that directly and intimately affect me but not them. If I am nice, I am complimented about how eloquent I am and the privileged person continues to ignore me or politely explains how I’m “biased” (because apparently one can be “unbiased”?). If I am rude, I’m called a cranky minority (I wish I were joking with that one). Either way I fail at getting to the other person, even if I don’t explicitly use the term “privilege.” Also, while I think most people probably have good intentions, I wonder who gets to judge whether a criticism is “valid” or not. Is it the people with the most privilege, as is usually the case?

    I know you were not writing that paragraph with me in mind (“not everything is about you!”) and you did qualify your observations with “sometimes.” But I’m afraid that validating that characterization of people who invoke “privilege” this only gives our opposition and privilege-deniers more ammo against people like me who are trying to honestly educate (“Whyyyy aren’t you considering my status quo perspective? It’s narrow-minded of you.”).

    Congrats to anyone who got through all that :-P

  30. Stoner with a Boner
    Stoner with a Boner February 17, 2011 at 2:16 am |

    Hiya SnowDropExplodes,

    Intersectionality, thanks….

    I found it on wiki-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality

    Kristen J’s Husband comments above were a little closer to what I was trying to articulate.

  31. amy
    amy February 17, 2011 at 3:02 am |

    PMS, Peri-Menopause, Menopause are code words for “Please Men Stop!” What I mean is, imagine a world where women weren’t the other and then there’d be none of this “hormone-related” behaviour. We’d be what we’d be when we were being because genuinely and absolutely there is reasons to be mad a pissed off and to eat chocolate. Whatever.

    Say these “conditions” are imagination or say they are real– either way all are a way to shut women up.

    My privelaged two cents before bed.

  32. Michelle Beltano Curtis
    Michelle Beltano Curtis February 17, 2011 at 8:40 am |

    I have no complaints about what you wrote. It was genius and I’m with you all the way. I thought you might appreciate this article by Eileen Myles which talks about the disparities of women writers being represented -vs- the fact that there are more female writers out there than male writers. http://www.theawl.com/2011/02/being-female

  33. ladybug
    ladybug February 17, 2011 at 8:57 am |

    I’m in my 30s and can remember reading articles written by male doctors (early 80s), dismissing cramps as being in a woman’s head. Or, if acknowledged, merely “uncomfortable.” This is like telling a man that someone grabbing his nuts, yanking them out, down to his knees and then squeezing in a rhythmic fashion for 2 days is “uncomfortable.” That’s what my cramps felt like and it forever ruined any credibility for male doctors if they couldn’t even get this basic fact of life correct.

    Or the whole PMS thing. It took me a while to realize that my “irritability” was actually just me suddenly becoming uninhibited about expressing irritation at irritating people/things. In fact, it is a whole lot like being a man — saying anything that pops into my head instead of censoring in order to make others more comfortable.

  34. Women Writers Being Silenced « Carving Out a Voice

    [...] read this blog post on Feministe this morning by Clarisse Thorn and I thought it would be a nice follow up to my blog on the Eileen [...]

  35. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable February 17, 2011 at 9:32 am |

    Jadey: I don’t have endo (finally got that checked out), but I have severe cramping for basically no pathological reason – just bad body chemistry I will hopefully grow out of.

    I had a really bad first day. If I caught the symptoms early enough, I would be able to down far too many painkillers and be functional, but if I missed it at all, I would never be able to catch up and I’d have to skip work/school because I couldn’t function. Hormonal BC helped with the pain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been leaking blood for the past two months which is no fun. I hope you find something that works or that it stops naturally soon :(

  36. groggette
    groggette February 17, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    ladybug: Or the whole PMS thing. It took me a while to realize that my “irritability” was actually just me suddenly becoming uninhibited about expressing irritation at irritating people/things. In fact, it is a whole lot like being a man — saying anything that pops into my head instead of censoring in order to make others more comfortable. ladybug

    I wish more people (men and women) got this.

  37. RD
    RD February 17, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    I get horrible cramping too, three days of it usually, and a week of period. Sometimes I can function ok and sometimes not. The pill helps and the in-advance pain med thing. That article that was posted concerned me cuz I have chronic (mild) anemia too, but apparently its not my period?

  38. groggette
    groggette February 17, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    (piggybacking on my previous comment)

    I actually tried to explain this to my boyfriend one time. Like, I get hella cranky around my period. I’m in pain and I don’t have the patience or reserves to be “nice” about the things that do bother me normally but I can let slide when I’m NOT IN TONS OF PAIN!! Basically I just have less tolerance for bullshit.

  39. Jim
    Jim February 17, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Jadey: I am frustrated by the silence enforced around menstruation because it helps perpetuate false ideas about what menstruation is and how it is experienced.

    I (man) had the very good fortune to be raised by a very plain-talking Taurus mother who talked about human body issues about the same way she talked about gardening and plants, or death or whatever, so I never learned all the prissiness around menstruation, and had to learn it the hard way later in life.

    Now in my late 50′s I have never observed anyone “PMSing” as in moodiness and illogic. Or maybe I have, but since there was always plenty of other reasons for that peroson to be angry or irritated, I always put it down to those reasons. There was a period when my ex-wife would get horrible cramps, but I never saw any particualr emotional changes in her – when she would get crabby, it was because she had gone too long bewtween eating and her blood sugar was low, and the same hapens to me. It had nothing to do with PMS.

    The PMS shut down is just like testosterone blaming. In fact it’s identical, because raised testosterone levels are supposedly implicated in PMS, or at least that was one of the theories. It may be bunk.

  40. KBHC
    KBHC February 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    I am the author of the menstruation/anemia study and blog post. I just wanted to thank you for linking to my post to help raise more awareness of this issue! I would love to see more intersections between feminism and science so that more women engage with, comment on, and learn about science. Feministe is one of the first blogs I ever read, and so it’s a real pleasure to have my work noticed by you folks :). Thank you!

  41. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    The Hope thread of this conversation may be played out by now (I was reading last night, but ended up delaying the comment I wanted to make), but I wanted to say that I’ve played every one of the roles she elucidates. And very often being an appeaser feels totally great. But I usually find that I can only be an appeaser once someone else has been a nuker first. Then you can go “oh, the nuker was mean, here, let me soothe you a bit (and also make my point)” and the overton window has been nuked open wide enough that you can position yourself ideologically where you need to be and still take an appeasing stance and actually get listened to.

  42. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    I had the worst period of my life (knocked me out for a significant length of time) last month, and as I was weeding through the information on “when your bleeding is heavy and you should go to the doctor” to figure out whether I should contact my gynecologist, I realized I’d *never* had a period that didn’t check every point on the heavy menstruation list.

    This is the kind of thing that frustrates me about taboo subjects. I say “cramps suck” and someone else agrees with me; we may be talking about pain scale 2 versus pain scale 6. I say “christ I’m bleeding a lot” and someone else agrees with me, but without being specific, what is a lot? And taboo often keeps the conversation out of the specifics, if it doesn’t stop the conversation from occurring at all.

  43. Michelle Beltano Curtis
    Michelle Beltano Curtis February 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    On the topic of PMS and horrible cramps, I just wanted to add that if you have both of these and they seem severe, you should probably talk to your doctor about Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or other similar disorders. I had it for years before I was diagnosed and my PMS had become PMDD. I hate the PMS stereotypes and the excuses and the ways in which it’s used against women, but the reality is that your emotions can become truly severe and uncontrollable due to hormone imbalances, often caused by a medical issue that throws everything out of whack. I almost lost a job and a relationship over it before I figured out the culprit.

  44. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan February 18, 2011 at 1:21 am |

    it also arguably becomes at least partly a question of acquiring and spending social capital, and doing so in a well-calculated way. Clarisse Thorn

    I think this actually gets back to your question about legislation — how do you gain political capital? More cynically, how much do you have to dilute/compromise/soundbite-ify your beliefs to get enough political capital to accomplish anything? I’m somewhat of an idealist (and very much like to tease out all the complexities of any situation even just for the sake of pure intellectual curiosity) so I hate discarding subtleties, but I also hate repeating the same failed tactics over and over and expecting a different result. How do you discard aspects of your platform — streamline your agenda to get it through — without discarding the people attached to these aspects as well? This isn’t Grand Theft Auto; we shouldn’t have to throw innocent people under a bus just to score points! :p

    TL;DR = I have no idea! Politics is for people who are better at lying and better at putting up with assholes than I am…

  45. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan February 18, 2011 at 1:31 am |

    Though, on the Nuker v. Appeaser theme, I think that we would be well-served by applying this strategy to pushing the political Overton window to the left (as discussed with the social one.) In a friendlier and more liberal climate we would have to make fewer hard choices (and engage in less human sacrifice) for the cause… Yanno, make the clothes to fit your body, not try to fit your body to the clothes? Mold that political climate over to our beliefs, don’t start a moral diet to try and cram stuff like basic human dignity into the crappy little hole that’s being dug for it.

    (Hey, I said I was an idealist. And I never said my metaphors wouldn’t wander around.)

  46. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes February 18, 2011 at 6:00 am |

    General purpose question for anyone still reading this thread: Tonight I had a conversation with another feminist in which she observed that it’s very difficult to get legislation passed when you’re considering all the nuances of a perspective. I tend to think this is bad news, especially with highly nuanced and divided issues like sex work, but she might still be right. Anyone have thoughts?

    I’m inclined to say something along the lines of “get the legislation right first, THEN try to get it passed”. I suppose activism is firstly trying to persuade people that legislation is needed, and then trying to persuade people to pass it, so it’s not always suited to allowing for an in-between bit where people make sure that it is good, well-balanced, nuanced legislation (I forget which comedian parodied this recently as “What do we want? A free and open discussion discussing all possible alternatives! When do we want it? In due course!”) It’s also fair to say that the political system under most representative democracies doesn’t really help to make for this sort of approach either, where politicians feel the need to act quickly to meet public demand and retain good feeling in order to be re-elected.

    It also occurs to me that (depending on this other person’s perspective) maybe it isn’t so much “hard” as “takes a long time”, which might make it seem hard if one is impatient for action?

  47. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 8:14 am |

    Clarisse Thorn: Totally comment on the menstruation thing.Seriously, I don’t care about what comments are about as long as (a) they’re not antifeminists telling us that all feminists are awful bitches who never do anything right and (b) they don’t perpetuate the flamewar that happened in comments on the last post.  

    I can’t help but feel the ‘shutting down’ of critical views has now been extended over a number of blogs. This double-posting of posts, whilst bringing debates to a wider group, seems to serve the purpose of reinforcing the message that ‘some people are not welcome here’.

    The irony – one- for me is that I have not just ‘walked into’ feminist spaces they are where I am from. And my knowledge of Clarisse’s work is from my real life and internet activism in the world of S and M and gender. ‘sex positive’ feminism is supposed to be one of the most ‘open-minded’ forms and is supposed to encourage people to feel less inhibited about expressing sexualities that are still demonised in mainstream culture. I am not feeling that at the moment.

    Clarisse wrote:
    ‘at what point does it stop being “that one guy”, “that one time”, and become a pattern? And at what point does an example become good enough to represent the pattern?’

    This could be applied to feminists’ shut downs of critical voices as well.

    I am happy to keep away from individuals’ blogs if there has been a conflict. But if they then post general posts about who is allowed to engage with feminist and gender ideas online elsewhere and who isn’t I will start to feel there is some kind of power dynamic at work. One that I am not comfortable with at all.

  48. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 18, 2011 at 8:49 am |

    Clarisse:

    I’m a big fan of the idea that there should be a multiplicity of strategies and points of view. So, ideally, there should be forums where nukers are asked to take a gentler stance, and forums where nukers are permitted. There should be forums that draw the line for “is this a valuable contribution?” at well before 101, and forums that draw the line at the advanced calculus level.

    They all have their benefits, and they all have their detriments, and the more different types of conversations that are happening and being engaged in, the more different kinds of ideas can be produced and shared.

    I admit you’re more of an appeaser than I prefer. I like your work, and many of your thoughts, and I appreciate the consideration and time you put into your pieces. I feel I learn from seeing your perspective. I feel much the same way about I Blame the Patriarchy. Even if I don’t agree with your conclusions or hers (and sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t), I’ve learned something by exposure to both.

    I’m not particularly fond of arguments, though, that suggest all spaces should be similar in terms of how accepting/appeasing/101-friendly they are. Maybe that’s not what you meant to suggest, but it’s sort of how I read it. I think the balance you strike is a needed balance. But I also think more restrictive balances are needed.

    To draw the comparison again to I Blame the Patriarchy, I actually think that her comment restriction (at least as I read it) is kind of brilliant–men are actually perfectly permitted to post as long as they don’t post about being men, since that’s not the topic of the space. I admit that her piece was ambiguous on the point, but that’s what I read her to mean based on her prior essays on the subject, in which she celebrates men’s contributions to the site, but says she finds it grating when someone takes the conversation to a place about “I, as a man, feel that the issue should really be X.”

    It’s not that men’s perspectives on the issues are bad in general, but I think it’s okay to have a space where they don’t dominate the conversation. And it’s okay to have spaces where they do! I actually often think Alas, a Blog, where I write, would be much more successful as a space intended for male perspectives on feminism and positive constructions of men’s rights activism. However, the men I write with, who I feel are rather brilliant on these topics, have expressed that they don’t feel like they have time to create what would amount to a new movement, which is reasonable–they have lives.

    Anyway, there’s room for that sort of forum (I would argue even deep necessity for it, since men really are restricted by some of the kinds of things MRAs don’t ever manage to productively talk about), and there’s room for I Blame the Patriarchy’s comment policy, and there’s room for places that do both, or some mixture.

    (Aside: Unfortunately, I think I Blame the Partiarchy’s comment policy is doomed to failure for the simple reason that the commentariat is kind of a clusterfuck. There’s poisonous privilege of the kind that I really don’t think is okay anywhere, as per the threads on trans rights. A few years ago, I had brief hope that the commentariat was going to explode out all their nasty and then start to improve, as happens sometimes, but it never seemed to happen there. Not that there isn’t signal there, sometimes, but there’s a lot, a lot of noise.)

    I’m not trying to say (as I believe you are also not trying to say) that there are never lines where behavior is unacceptable. I’m not really chill with any social justice forum that permits the kinds of comments about trans people that are regularly written at IBTP. I guess I might be forced to admit that it might be okay in some kind of no-moderation community where the goal was antithetical to moderation, because I do believe that there’s probably something to be gained from those conversations just as there is from controlled ones, but permitting that kind of poison is, IMO, antithetical to stated social justice goals.

    Anyway. To analogize it to a class discussion, some professors direct a lot, some a little, some not at all. On either end, the discussion can be impaired by too little or too much direction. But even the extremes work for some people, produce a conversation that might not happen in the same way if a different technique was used. And on the internet, where we do not lack for classrooms, I think it’s great for many different strategies to be embraced.

    So, basically, both/and please. Nukers and appeasers. 101 conversation and level 1 conversation and the kind of conversation you only get at conferences with experts. And lots of room for people to pick which settings they want to be in.

  49. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    @mandolin – who decides who becomes ‘professor’ on the internet though?

    Just because someone runs a blog doesn’t mean they are the ‘expert’ to be respected and deferred to on gender issues.

    I do not expect that from commenters on my blog.

  50. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 18, 2011 at 9:18 am |

    @Quiet Riot Grrl, people are quite entitled to run their spaces however they wish. That includes you. Also, it might be interesting for you to note that I said “to analogize” not “to suggest that internet conversations are in every way, including authority and deference, identical to conversations that take place in academia.”

    I don’t defer to feministe posters except in situations where I feel they’ve earned deference. I do generally try to treat them with respect, sometimes even if I’m irritated with them. But if I get too irritated and don’t want to interact with what I consider to be a minimum of respect for someone while in their space, I can actually buzz off, and since I’m not under the misapprehension that an analogy necessitates an identical situation, I am shockingly subject to none of the bad grades, black transcript marks, or other retaliatory measures that I might accumulate if I ditched a professor.

  51. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 10:06 am |

    True but you lose your place in discourse. I think that is more important than a classroom.

  52. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    @ Clarisse and general re: activist modalities

    I think that’s interesting, because I started somewhere around Appeasing strategies and have since drifted more toward Nuker-type, although my core preference is Logic Bomber. Appeasing is something I do a lot in my personal life because I can be a pretty decent mediator between loved ones, but I’ve never had the energy to do it for long unless I deeply, deeply cared about everyone involved. While I try to be mindful of the pitfalls of nuking (anger toxicity and collateral damage), the trouble I ran into with Appeasing tactics was feeling exhausted by being pulled between too many viewpoints of people who weren’t interested in reconciling (more about that in a bit).

    I also saw something happen to other people using Appeasing tactics that really got under my skin – the person they were arguing with would turn around and use them to put down other people arguing the same points with different strategies. This happened a lot in Racefail, and it’s one of the issues of co-optation. It usually took the form of someone who was being challenged on racism telling a lot of (usually) Black fans, “See, if you had just been really nice and friendly to me like [insert White fan's name], instead of angry, I would have listened to you!” Tone argument is a phrase that gets over-used and misused to be sure, but the example above is a true expression of a tone argument, especially because the Black fans didn’t have to be particular Nuke-y to get this thrown in their faces – just anything less than perfectly deferential (and White, because in a true tone argument, who you are matters less than your actual tone if you are angry by stereotype). Sometimes a White fan would know well enough how to turn this back in the right direction by stepping away from the person and refuting their claim, but if they weren’t able to then all credibility went out the window. Racefail is where I got a lot of my baby activist education, and I think the lessons really stuck.

    But fandom is different than feminism (although neither is really monolithic or static), and every blog and every argument and conversation is at least a little bit different than the others. I do value all the approaches equally and try not to glorify one over the other. I think what I would like to see is more cooperation and appreciation between people using different approaches (including ones Kinsey’s typology may not capture) to the same ends, although the necessities of trust as well as the multiplicity of ends probably make this hard on a large blog with a semi-transient commentariat.

  53. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    I said I was going to mention something more about the frustrations of trying to change people who don’t want to change. To that extent, I want to link to a theory of immense importance in the behaviour change domain: the Transtheorectical Model of Behavior Change.

    It’s “transtheoretical” because it ostensibly applies across all therapeutic theories and strategies. The gist of the model is that change is dependent on whether the individual in question is in a willing motivational framework, and that this framework develops over a series of stages, from precontemplation all the way to action and maintenance. One of the key messages of this model is that while you can try to help someone move from one motivational stage to another (via motivational interviewing or somesuch strategy), you can’t bring about meaningful lasting change in someone who is not ready for it.

    I don’t think it’s any great revelation to say that activism isn’t just about bringing about the desired social change, but sometimes about bringing the necessary social state for change to occur. However, I think looking at this model in an analogous way (obviously what is written for an individual unit of analysis will not apply exactly at a social level of analysis) starts to raise questions about *how* and *when* and *what type* of change we go looking for. Change is hard, not just for the person trying to do the changing, but for the person trying to change. Motivating change depends on the target person/group being willing to at least consider moving along the spectrum.

    I think that’s one of the great functions of anecdotes like yours, Clarisse – to inspire people in a single pivotal moment to realize that all that they thought was true might not be. I know my turning points of change were very much like that – a sudden burst of realization in response to a single, perfectly-timed exposure to a reality alternate to my own. However much context and slow knowledge accumulation led up to my ability to accept these moments when they came, I wouldn’t have gone over the edge without a tipping point. Change itself was not immediate (it never is), but the process was underway.

    But there again is the issue of needing a willing and open mind in the first place. I think past threads have demonstrated that what might be a powerful revelatory moment for one is barely a blip on the radar for someone else. I think that’s just reality. But this variety of motivational frameworks, of even recognizing a desire or need to change, speaks to why sometimes it’s okay to give up on someone or not deal with them at the moment and have this not be a failure of activism – sometimes it isn’t worth it. Given the cost-benefit ratio of our own juices versus the demands of the context and the likelihood of change, sometimes it’s okay to just walk away, either individually or as a group (again, the social vs. individual level of analysis complicates things – it’s not a perfect analogy by any means). Pushing change where it is unwanted on people who are not interested sometimes have more detrimental effects than leaving it alone, and it’s especially hard to justify when the end gains are not substantive (e.g., we’re not talking about fighting seriously bad news legislation).

  54. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    (Sorry, I know I’m wandering. I have more to say as well, maybe later, but this is what I meant when I said I had strong feelings, but not a lot of direction in this post! I’m branching out on a lot of different thoughts.)

  55. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    Jadey said:
    ‘However much context and slow knowledge accumulation led up to my ability to accept these moments when they came, I wouldn’t have gone over the edge without a tipping point. Change itself was not immediate (it never is), but the process was underway’.

    I agree. I have had ‘tipping points’ which have led to me no longer identifying as a feminist. My experience is just as real as yours, but my conclusions have been completely opposite.

    So how do we deal with that opposite in terms of people’s conclusions from living in gendered society?

  56. Response to Clarisse Thorn’s Backlash 2: Nuke *and* appease, please; be a both/and blogiverse | Alas, a Blog

    [...] Feministe, I posted in reponse to Clarisse Thorn’s article on “The Backlash 2” about where activists should draw the balance between encouraging safe spaces and high-level [...]

  57. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    Quiet Riot Girl: So how do we deal with that opposite in terms of people’s conclusions from living in gendered society?

    I don’t think we need to. People can and do and will always hold antithetical views, and I don’t see anything wrong with evaluating different perspectives and reaching different conclusions. My interests as ever are content and context. I’m not looking for universal accord. That’s one of the nice things about a phenomenological approach.

  58. nathan
    nathan February 18, 2011 at 11:33 am |

    I hesitate to wade in here because everything I said on the last post, no matter what my intentions might have been, just “perpetuated the flamewar.” However, the way this discussion has turned is really interesting.

    This issue of blog ownership possibly turning someone into an “authority” or “expert” when they aren’t, or the ways in which the speed of the internet allows the spread of messages rapidly, but which also might increase the likelihood of groups rallying around poorly thought out arguments, or even well thought out arguments that only represent one view, is really important. I was part of a group of bloggers last winter responding to calls from a Fox News reporter suggesting that golfer Tiger Woods should convert from Buddhism to Christianity. One of the issues I saw in all of that was that one of the bloggers ended up getting quoted on national news outlets, and suddenly became a default representative of the entire group – which was far flung and diverse in it’s opinions. This particular blogger was drawn to controversy at the time, and enjoyed writing highly charged posts filled with flamable quotes, stuff that I and many others didn’t feel was helpful at all, and in fact, probably served to marginalize us collectively.

    There are many dilemmas in all of this. First, there is the relative freedom available online for anyone to start a blog and be heard to some degree. I think this is a positive overall. Secondly, there is the issue of popularity, that easily translates unfortunately into authority and expertness when people aren’t thinking clearly. And finally, for now, there is the conundrum of dealing with conflict – how far do you go to include, and when do you exclude, and how is that excluding done.

    One of the major troubles I see online, regardless of the issues being discussed, is that people too easily conflate popularity with value of contribution, and then do their damnedest to defend those people and spaces. Once a blog or website becomes popular, the actual quality of writing doesn’t matter as much as quantity. Keep posting stuff for the readers. In fact, I have seen it with my own little blog, where I have fallen pray to posting more controversial stuff that was poorly thought out in order to keep readers and get more. It’s a dangerous cycle because then others spread your flame-driven posts, which influences more people, who then join the bandwagon you started.

    Another trouble spot is that people have been trained by the soundbyte society to like short, direct, and to the point views that often pander to lowest common denominator emotions or thought processes. An article saying President Obama is an “asshole socialist” because he did “X” will get a ton more hits than a longer, more nuanced consideration of the impact of some Administration policy. There’s so much talk amongst people on the “left” about diversity, inclusion, and upholding marginalized voices, but in the end, we also grew up in the post industrial age, and are prone to the same soundbytes, cheap shots, and simplistic groupthink that any other groups are.

    And let’s face it: most of us also, deep down, want to be liked and/or included in some group. So when that feels threatened, the possible loss of connection often overrides the, in my view, valuable discourse across differences that needs to happen for social change to occur. I have seen that on here, and in so many other places.

    That’s why even though some of the points Clarisse opens up the possibility of conflict, feeling threaten, and the rest, it’s really worth considering the many downsides to closing ranks around a few popular or chosen views, and shutting out the rest. That certainly doesn’t mean appeasing anyone who walks in the door, but it does mean balancing the need for belonging and safety (which are valid), with the need for enough diversity to have rigorous discussions that might aid real life action.

  59. nathan
    nathan February 18, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    Jadey – even though you are wandering, I appreciate what you bringing up, especially the individual development/realization piece. To me, it’s always both an internal process for each individual, and an external process of the collected groups of individuals.

  60. Tony
    Tony February 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    @Clarisse, re: nuance.

    I don’t think there’s really a binary between nuance and activism. Some of the most effective pieces of activist writing show a lot of nuance. It’s effective because the nuance accurately conveys important points or nuances in real life which enhance the analysis being presented. I mean, oppression is nuanced. If oppression were always a blunt object, it wouldn’t be very effective, because it would be easily identified. So shouldn’t the response to it be nuanced as well? It has to be. You can’t fight what cannot be identified and described, and often, all of activism consists of identifying and describing oppression (as opposed to ranting against it).

    Of course, we must bring the facts to the surface before we can describe them or use them as a jumping-off point. So the tactic is less important than whether the activist actually has something important to say. Good writers need only to be good at writing. Good activist writers also need to have something important to say. If they don’t, they won’t have any impact no matter what tactic they use, because there will be no impact to be had. Substance over form.

    Jadey:
    I don’t think we need to. People can and do and will always hold antithetical views, and I don’t see anything wrong with evaluating different perspectives and reaching different conclusions. My interests as ever are content and context. I’m not looking for universal accord. That’s one of the nice things about a phenomenological approach.  

    Universal accord would be a scary world to live in. All of my public political stands, each and every one, is a product of context. I mean, I hope I’m not shooting myself to make a point here, but if everyone else on the planet was a feminist, I might become an MRA, just to balance things out.

    @QRG,
    I couldn’t imagine a more welcoming and well-intentioned post than this one. The stated goal of this thread is to discuss how to “creat[e] conversations that are non-oppressive and generous and open to critique, as well being analytical and aware.” Because of the tone Clarisse set, we’re at 65 posts and each and every one so far has been thoughtful and respectful. No one who comes and posts here at Feministe will, I think, be not be given the benefit of the doubt on the first post. Nor is there all that much policing of disagreements. The main gatekeeper, actually, is that you have to do the readings, the OP. Then we’re off to the races. In that sense it’s more of a seminar than a lecture hall. You disagree with feminism, and want a place in the feminist space. You have it. You say the fact that we disagree is something that must be dealt with. What is the solution then? Do you want to convince all of us, or do you want all of us to convince you?

  61. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    I am not welcome to post at Clarisse’s blog tony that’s the point. And it is not S and M and ‘sex positivity’ that I am most interested in.

    I was completely trashed here on Clarisse’s last post and she thought I was one of the main ‘contributors’ to the ‘flame war’ I believe.

    This post was in response to the last one by Clarisse which broke down into insults and the comments were closed.

    That is the issue that needs to be dealt with among others imo.

  62. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    @Clarisse I thought you were wrong but I left your blog as I could not comply with your requirements of me. You have posted another thread stemming directly from the one where we all got into conflict here, so I wanted to say my point of view.

    And as you have opened out the issue I wanted to see if any ideas developed about trying to make ‘feminist’ online spaces less ghetto-ised and less like ‘echo chambers’ as some people call them.

  63. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. February 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    One vote for not centering QRG in yet another conversation.

    @Clarissa

    Re: Political realities

    I agree with your friend with one minor variation. My reading of social justice history is that power changes hands not in response to a nuanced appeal to morality or to empathy (although I think that is usually one component of the rhetorical arguments) but rather in response to an appeal of sameness in contrast to a more dangerous other.*

    In essence for privilege to share power the privileged must think there is something in the proposed alliance that will *protect* or enhance their position of power. Often such power shifts occur because there is something out there that is perceived as a greater threat to those in power. (See women’s suffrage as a beautiful example.)

    In my view the moral/ethical arguments *for the most part* provide psychological reinforcement of a decision based on personal self-interest.

    Which is all very bleak, I admit, and I don’t think it explains why every individual does what they do. But it does explain why nuance gets lost in the practical work of progressivism. At that level its not about convincing people on a moral or ethical level its about finding their point of self-interest.

    *I picked up this analysis from someone on this blog years ago, but sadly I don’t remember who. If someone has a better memory than I do please remind me so I can give credit :)

  64. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    “Perhaps it’s just that the first point is more controversial than the latter, but I’d be interested in more on the second, as well.”

    Yes, it’s more controversial than the latter. I don’t think you’re wrong at all about needing to protect less privileged voices; I’m a bit more skeptical about the concern over more privileged ones.

    Although it’s also, frankly, less complicated, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that was why it draws more comment. Privilege being the multi-flowered beast it is, it is in fact possible for a point someone is making about one type of oppression to be deeply embedded in another. My general reaction to this is to suggest that a) moderators be mindful that this sort of thing happens, and b) react to it on an individual basis as appropriate while acting carefully to mitigate their own privileges and bias.

    I suppose I also generally would advise that in situations where multiple axes of oppression are converging, moderators consider giving more latitude and the benefit of the doubt to the oppression with which they are less familiar. I am female; I am queer; I am white; it behooves me to take extra care when facilitating conversations about race.

  65. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    I will add I have never had a ‘flame war’ on my blog and I only stopped publishing one person’s comments, for a short period of time, because she was making very personal nasty remarks to/about me on my blog and elsewhere. She apologised and I let her comment again.

    So maybe it is something to do with feminist blogs? Or identity-led blogs?

  66. Mandolin
    Mandolin February 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    “My general reaction to this is to suggest that a) moderators be mindful that this sort of thing happens, and b) react to it on an individual basis as appropriate while acting carefully to mitigate their own privileges and bias.”

    Oh, I suppose, and c) be aware they will probably make mistakes and be willing to take responsibility for them, apologize for them, and remedy them, rather than indulging in defensiveness or self-pity.

    1. Jill
      Jill February 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm | *

      I am not welcome to post at Clarisse’s blog tony that’s the point. And it is not S and M and ‘sex positivity’ that I am most interested in.

      I was completely trashed here on Clarisse’s last post and she thought I was one of the main ‘contributors’ to the ‘flame war’ I believe.

      This post was in response to the last one by Clarisse which broke down into insults and the comments were closed.

      That is the issue that needs to be dealt with among others imo.

      Um, why? Just because it’s about you? You have your own space, which you are welcome to make All About You Narcissism Central if you’re so inclined. There’ sno obligation to do that here, and I’m not sure that any other person on this thread feels “that is the issue that needs to be dealt with” here.

  67. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    Quiet Riot Girl: I will add I have never had a ‘flame war’ on my blog and I only stopped publishing one person’s comments, for a short period of time, because she was making very personal nasty remarks to/about me on my blog and elsewhere. She apologised and I let her comment again.
    So maybe it is something to do with feminist blogs? Or identity-led blogs?  

    No, I would wager it has more to do with the size of the blog and the scope of the commenting population on it. Flame wars can and do happen anywhere if enough people are involved.

  68. Tony
    Tony February 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    @Clarisse – Do you have any links to favorites?

    Um, sure. I’m hesitant on this grounds, because I’m not familiar with your writing and don’t really feel qualified to hold up examples of ‘good activist writing’ to you, as you are much more of a writer than I am (literally). But I do feel that nuance can definitely enhance activist writing, at least it has for me personally. For example, This essay about how one woman came to feminism used both nuance and anecdote very effectively to illustrate the conclusion. Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn used nuance quite well in the chapter of their book on prohibition and prostitution. I mention this because they were feminists who changed their mind about prostitution legalization, and in the end they changed my mind about it, as well. And also because they are writing about a very powerful topic with clear-cut moral tones, modern sex slavery. Yet it is the explication of the nuanced nature of the problems in this area that provides a great deal of the educational value. It comes hand in hand with outrage that pours from every chapter.

  69. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Jill:
    Um, why? Just because it’s about you? You have your own space, which you are welcome to make All About You Narcissism Central if you’re so inclined. There’ sno obligation to do that here, and I’m not sure that any other person on this thread feels “that is the issue that needs to be dealt with” here.  

    I didn’t mean in relation to me. I meant in relation to how a thread was closed down because communication broke down, and that this has implications for how blogs are run in the context of ‘feminist blogs’.

    If I was the moderator I’d want to try and find ways to engender discussion without having to resort to closing down comments.

  70. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    Tony- I think Nicholas Kristoff is a capable writer but I don’t think he is ‘nuanced’ in his arguments. He has a very damning view of sex work and has been found to exaggerate greatly about trafficking. There have also been cases apparently where people he is associated with have ‘rescued’ women from sex work and put them in more dangerous situations as a result.

    I’d be wary of using him as a good example of nuance.

  71. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Regarding spaces, another point that I had thought about upon first reading your post was about the diversity of kinds of spaces, even more than just “safe spaces” and open discourse spaces. The lack of uniformity in tone, content, philosophy, scope, participation, geographical, political, and cultural background, etc., is what draws me to blogs in the first place. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t themes among my most favourite blogs, but there’s still enough disparity to keep things from getting boring.

    I’m from the school of LURK MOAR when it comes to social justice – my preference is to listen more than I speak. Feministe is the major exception in the sense that I comment here more than any other activist blog I frequent (although believe me I delete without posting 10x the number of comments I post and I still think listening trumps speaking). To me, this space is not just about exposure to discourse and being a “safe space” (although I always get the feeling that there isn’t a commonly understood meaning of what a “safe space” is), but it’s kind of a hang out spot as well. Somewhere fun to go, get some news in a non-infuriating way (I used to be addicted to mainstream news sources, but I stopped being able to put up with their crap on a daily basis), and to hear from and talk with people I like and respect on a variety of fascinating topics. It’s fun. There is discourse and mind expansion going on here too, but I think there’s a value in socializing with like-minded individuals, especially in the context of activist burn-out.

    But this is what I mean when I talk about the lack of uniformity among spaces. Feministe is not like *any other* place that I spend time in. My personal life is not like Feministe. My professional life is not like Feministe. A lot of places I frequent on the internet are not Feministe. My own blog is not like Feministe. A lot of people in my life bear no resemblance to the Feministe bloggers and commenters (some of them do, of course, but hardly all of them). I’m not confined to a ghetto or living in a hermetically sealed vault or shacking up with a bevy of cats in an isolated cabin in the Rockies, just me and my narrow feminist ideology and an Internet connection that only gets one channel.

    Some spaces will have many voices. Some voices will have many spaces. Some of either will only have a few of each. I’m at least as concerned about having enough different kinds of spaces as I am about having enough different kinds of voices.

    And, yeah, personally I am more concerned about the further exclusion of marginalized perspectives to that of privileged ones (acknowledging that perspectives /= person, necessarily – an individual can have many perspectives). For me, that’s kind of the point. I’m actively glad there are people for whom that is not the point, though – I’m with Tony; if all the world I agreed with me, I’d probably change my mind out of sheer suspicion.

    *I want to acknowledge that what I get out of participating at Feministe is not necessarily what other people are looking for or get out of participating here, or what the intended function of this space is. For all I know Jill gets out of bed every morning and weeps for what she has created. I like to think that she rolls around in a big pile of money and whore pills instead, though.

  72. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm |

    can I ask a technical question?

    who moderates a guest post? Is it the moderator (Jill) and does the author have moderation responsibility too (Clarisse)?

    Thanks.

  73. Tony
    Tony February 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    Quiet Riot Girl: Tony- I think Nicholas Kristoff is a capable writer but I don’t think he is ‘nuanced’ in his arguments. He has a very damning view of sex work and has been found to exaggerate greatly about trafficking. There have also been cases apparently where people he is associated with have ‘rescued’ women from sex work and put them in more dangerous situations as a result.I’d be wary of using him as a good example of nuance.  

    @QRG – I agree that Kristoff has his problems – I don’t subscribe to everything he writes by any means. I was just citing that particular chapter as an example of effective writing with nuance. There are several specific examples in there where points are qualified or the opposing viewpoint is given, and often conclusions are reached tentatively with acknowledgement that they are incomplete answers. Had they come out full throated without those nuanced bits, the argument would have been less convincing, at least to me.

  74. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |

    yes I see what you mean! I think he is a clever writer.

  75. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    Tony. Nicholas Kristof is a fucking asshole who has made life more difficult for sex workers and trafficking victims across the world. I’d read that chapter but I’m angry enough already. More later.

    QRG, I am not arguing this to back you up in any way. So you can go fuck yourself if you think we’re allied here.

  76. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    Especially, his role re: the situation in Cambodia…well, it really gives him a share of the responsibility in massive rapes, incarceration, police brutality (physical and sexual), etc.

  77. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    To give some background on this issue, here is a letter I wrote over two years ago about this:

    Dear Rachel Maddow, I would like to respond to Barbara Boxer’s appearance on your Tuesday, January 13th show and on her line of questioning during Clinton’s confirmation hearings. Boxer cited some of Nicholas Kristof”s recent columns in the New York Times, especially the columns on forced prostitution in Cambodia. I feel very strongly that those columns have painted a false portrait of some very misguided U.S. policy and pressures. Some policy makers, I believe, Democrats and Republicans, have very knee-jerk reactions to the issue of sex trafficking, and respond in ways that actually make the situation worse for both trafficked women and other women in prostitution (in the US and Cambodia, as well as elsewhere abroad). In response to U.S. pressure, Cambodia outlawed prostitution last February, which has had some horrible and disastrous consequences. To quote Melissa Ditmore, former Executive Director of the Sex Workers Project (SWP) at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, “The [Cambodian] government’s promotion of a “no condoms, no sex” program in legal brothels there had succeeded in reducing HIV infection rates but now those brothels have closed or gone underground along with bars, karaoke clubs and street areas. Hundreds of women have been arrested, jailed or displaced, while dozens have been raped and beaten by police and prison guards. The HIV prevention and care programs that were working have collapsed” (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/06/23/sex-workers-grateful-banki-moon). It should also be noted that Bush’s anti-prostitution pledge, which is tied to PEPFAR funding, has also had adverse impacts around the world. Many important harm reduction groups have lost funding. See especially the video “Taking the Pledge” by the Network of Sex Work Projects (http://www. sexworkersproject.org/media-toolkit/TakingThePledgeVideo.html). As a former AIDS activist, I’m sure you appreciate the fact that harm reduction is a better approach toward preventing the spread of HIV than punitive measures for groups such as intravenous drug users, sex workers, and others. Of course, the collapse of AIDS prevention programs isn’t the only reason women are suffering from this new criminalization in Cambodia; as Melissa Ditmore said, women are now routinely rounded up and jailed (in “rehabilitation centers”), and raped and beaten by police and guards. Any woman carrying condoms is assumed to be a sex worker and can be arrested (which, by the way, is also the case in much of the U.S.), and women are routinely denied anti-retroviral drugs in detention. You can see a video of Cambodian women protesting the MTV Exit Campaign against trafficking and exploitation here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=c35ZXL_2oNc. You can also read a letter by Cambodian sex workers to the prime minister here: http://www.sexworkeurope.org/index.php?option=com_content& task=view&id=217&Itemid=217. Finally, you can read a news story about Cambodian prostitutes protesting police treatment and alledging physical and sexual abuse in custody here: http://a.abcnews.com/International/comments? type=story&id=4996865. Although in my opinion no prostitute deserves such treatment, it is important to note that trafficked women/sex slaves are most likely among those women rounded up in raids. This is certainly the case in the United States, where trafficked women (now federally recognized as trafficked) say they have been rounded up by local vice raids and arrested many times without ever being identified as coerced or trafficked. The U.S. raids are traumatizing for all the women arrested and can be accompanied by human rights abuses. For more on trafficking raids in the U.S., please see the Sex Workers Project’s new report, which was just released last Friday, “Kicking Down the Door: The Use of Raids to Fight Trafficking in Persons” (http://www.sexworkersproject.org/publications/ KickingDownTheDoor.html). I would like to encourage you to discuss this issue more thoroughly on your show. As a woman who has experienced coercion in the sex industry, I feel very strongly that any solution to sex trafficking must be victim-centered (the SWP report lays out some very good ideas) and that the criminalization of sex work, such as that seen in the U.S., does great harm. Many women who work as prostitutes are raped by the police, and pimps, traffickers, and abusive clients (not to imply that all clients are abusive) are able to use the threat of arrest or deportation to prevent prostitutes and trafficked women from reporting crimes against them. If you are looking for guests who could discuss these issues cogently I would suggest Sienna Baskin, a staff attorney with the Sex Workers Project. She helped author the report I mentioned earlier, “Kicking Down the Door,” and works regularly with sex workers of all types in New York City, including trafficked women. I wish you all the best and am a huge fan of the Rachel Maddow Show.
    Sincerely,
    Robin
    Sex Workers Action New York
    Sex Workers Outreach Project -NYC

  78. nathan
    nathan February 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    As far as nuanced writers go, I’ve always liked bell hooks. She brings in so many intersecting topics – racism, sexism, classism, issues around sexuality, community building, activism, art, pop culture, the list goes on – and is able to see diverse points of view, stand her ground on what she thinks, and yet also show the complexities behind how people are acting or the ideas they are expressing.

  79. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    In restropect I would change a few of those “women” to “people.”

  80. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    I quite like bell hooks nathan too. But some of her stuff, is, dare I say it here, a bit anti-men… or anti-masculinity at least.

    I think she still puts too much store in ‘the patriarchy’ whatever that is!

    But she writes well and her perspective from an afro-american background is fascinating.

  81. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    Also see this video by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Work Projects (MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51X6xr-Mwa4&sns=em

  82. RD
    RD February 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    If you have seen that video before you may want to watch it again (newer version).

  83. Doug S.
    Doug S. February 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm |

    I suspect that “derailing” of online conversations might be as much a problem with the structure of the technology as it is a social problem. Most blogs have “flat” comments that simply appear, one after the other, in the order that they were posted. That makes it hard to discuss several different topics at once. If you instead use a threaded comment system, when discussion goes off on a tangent, the tangent tends to separate itself somewhat from the rest of the discussion, which makes it easier to keep talking about the original topic. (Threaded comments do have other drawbacks – it’s harder to find new posts, for one, but it does seriously reduce the impact of threadjacking, whether deliberate or accidental.)

    I’ve found the structure of the site Less Wrong to be very good at facilitating meaningful discussion. (I think it’s based on the system used by reddit.) In addition to threaded comments, it also lets registered users “vote up” and “vote down” individual comments. Each comment has a “karma score” that’s equal to its upvotes minus its downvotes, and each user has a karma score that is equal to the sum of the karma scores of all of his or her comments. I find the feedback this provides to be very helpful, both as a reader and a commenter; good comments tend to end up with high scores, while poor ones get downvoted into oblivion. (Comments with a karma score of -4 or less are hidden by default – you have to click to expand them.) It’s certainly far from troll-proof, but I think it’s better than most other online discussion systems I’ve seen.

  84. Jadey
    Jadey February 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm |

    David: @Jadey
    I know I’m not a paragon of on-topicness, but I think it’s fine for a conversation to stray from time to time. Speech is organic. We shouldn’t feel the need to stay confined to one field of thought simply because it’s on topic. David

    I’m responding to this belatedly because I missed it previously, but it makes a point I strongly disagree with. Depending on the circumstances, sending a thread off-topic can be quite rude and counterproductive, and it’s important to be aware of the expectations for any given thread/blog. On this thread, Clarisse has given fairly free rein (with some notable exceptions that she has made quite clear and for which I understand her reasoning), which is in part why I feel comfortable making this reply (and because I think it goes back to the very general topic of how do we make blogs run well). But blog threads can be seriously complicated conversations, happening asynchronously between a relatively large number of barely-acquainted people on highly complex and contentious subjects. A conversation in meatspace between a few friends who know each other fairly well can probably range all over the place without hazard or incident (although, again, if the subject matter is intense and even highly personal, introducing tangents could still be rude and unproductive). The purposes of guidelines and commenting etiquette are not first and foremost about restricting expression, censorship, or limiting natural conversation – they are about introducing a sufficient semblance of structure and order that actual dialogue can take place without the signal drowning in noise. That’s why “derailing” is such an effective anti-activist tactic – because it clouds and exterminates the conversation people were trying to have. Some derailing is unintentional, of course – accidental threadjacking happens all the time, which is one of the things that mods, y’know, moderate. But it’s important to recognize that it is not a benign action. Again, it depends on the thread/blog if it’s an issue or not, but I really don’t think it’s a good idea to assume that off-topic is always okay.

  85. QLH
    QLH February 19, 2011 at 5:26 am |

    QRG, you are welcome to keep commenting here [...] as long as you don’t make anti-feminist statements (“rape culture doesn’t exist” etc)

    followed by

    I think she still puts too much store in ‘the patriarchy’ whatever that is!

  86. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 19, 2011 at 7:43 am |

    RD – fair enough. But I agree with you about Kristoff.

  87. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 19, 2011 at 7:44 am |

    QLH this is why I asked who is moderating this thread? is it up to Clarisse if I comment here at feministe, or Jill and the feministe moderators?

    Thanks.

  88. groggette
    groggette February 19, 2011 at 9:25 am |

    Doug S.: In addition to threaded comments, it also lets registered users “vote up” and “vote down” individual comments.

    Feministe tried a system similar to this not all that long ago and a lot of commenters started immediately downgrading and “hiding” the comments of woc speaking out against the status quo. I think they also managed to hide some of the comments of the woman who wrote the post they were commenting on before the mods shelved that experiment.

  89. groggette
    groggette February 19, 2011 at 9:30 am |

    QRG,
    Any of the mods can ban you if they feel you’ve stepped over a big enough line. But Clarisse never said anything about you not commenting at Feministe, she laid out specific rules for this post which you immediately thumbed your nose at like QLH pointed out.

  90. Quiet Riot Girl
    Quiet Riot Girl February 19, 2011 at 9:46 am |

    Thanks for the info grogette!

  91. Tony
    Tony February 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    groggette:
    Feministe tried a system similar to this not all that long ago and a lot of commenters started immediately downgrading and “hiding” the comments of woc speaking out against the status quo. I think they also managed to hide some of the comments of the woman who wrote the post they were commenting on before the mods shelved that experiment.  

    What about uprates only?

  92. Tony
    Tony February 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    @RD: Thanks, I checked out the links.

  93. groggette
    groggette February 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    Another downside (for me at least) for up and down voting comments is that half the time the most popular comments are great stand alone comments, but the other half are usually part of an ongoing conversation that would get lost when you only see the upvoted comment.

  94. logoskaieros
    logoskaieros February 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    “And if feminists tend to come from a background of feeling shut down, ignored, or even attacked or violated, then isn’t it worth asking about whether we’re extra likely to replicate those patterns against others?”

    Thanks for the great article. I think about the following all the time: Since realizing the powerful misogyny behind the word “bitch” I don’t use it lightly anymore. But now there’s been a few times where I’ve wanted to knock a guy down a few notches for saying something sexist. I’ve been tempted to use the word “bitch” against men precisely because I know that equating them with the feminine is one of the most demeaning things I can do. Demeaning people is mostly a shitty thing to do, but sometimes when I feel backed into a corner I feel like these oppressive words are my only ammunition. Is it okay to use misogyny to combat misogyny? My intuition is no, it’s not, but in my personal experience, when I feel like I don’t have any other option and someone is demeaning me, I feel like I shouldn’t have to suffer feeling helplessness because I refuse to fight fire with fire. Could the ends justify the means here? I’m not sure. This is one of the biggest questions feminism and oppression has raised for me. Is it ever okay to use the very weapons you are fighting against? When does my physical or psychological well being trump my commitment to fighting against oppression? Is it naive to think you can fight oppression without getting your hands dirty, or is it jaded to think you have to fight domination with more domination?

  95. Mary Tracy
    Mary Tracy February 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    The very concept of “privilege” should be ditched. It’s not useful anymore.

    It’s time to come up with something new and more effective.

  96. QLH
    QLH February 20, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    I’ve been tempted to use the word “bitch” against men precisely because I know that equating them with the feminine is one of the most demeaning things I can do.

    Which only serves to reinforce misogynist notions. It’s not worth it, it’s too counterproductive to be useful.

    when I feel backed into a corner I feel like these oppressive words are my only ammunition.

    I know that in the moment it can be hard to find the right words, but you can try using more descriptive words. You can thumb through a thesaurus to fill your arsenal ahead of time. We’re so used to using specific terms to degrade people that those are the ones that come to mind first, but if you toss out “bitch” to insult people, you’ll have a hard time getting people to take you seriously when you speak up on feminist issues, ask them not to use it, etc.

    The very concept of “privilege” should be ditched. It’s not useful anymore.

    The entire concept? May I ask why?

  97. Angelique
    Angelique February 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley:
    And I think that’s a big thing, a lot of these people come into feminist discussions with absolutely no understanding of even the basic framework of the movement but yet feel they are equipped enough to tell us why we’re wrong. They don’t come in asking nicely for information they come in roaring for a debate and then as soon as someone used a concept they don’t understand they cry foul and demand we stop the discussion an educate them on that concept, all while still telling us we’re wrong. It just comes a time when enough is enough and we need to ask them to at least learn the basics. It might seem cruel but if we’re constantly having to explain 101 to everyone we’re never going to talk about anything else.  

    I have found that, when discussing feminism with people that know nothing about it, bringing the conversation to a screeching halt and refusing to argue with them until they get a basic understanding is he best way to handle it.

    If a person doesn’t know what the Madonna-whore complex is, has never heard of privilege, doesn’t know what rape culture is and doesn’t know that 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, then what sort of discussion about any aspect of feminism can you have? Without some basics there is literally nothing to talk about. All you would do in that case is spend pages explaining that short skirts don’t cause rape, sexual assaults are not awkward mis-communications of how much guys like you, the patriarchy didn’t suddenly cease to exist in the 70s and how the question of whether fetuses are people is off-topic when you’re discussing bodily autonomy of women.

  98. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos February 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    then what sort of discussion about any aspect of feminism can you have?

    Isn’t that the point, though? People who know nothing about it, or are flame-baiters or wev, are trying to stop such a discussion. They want their views replaced for yours. The Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

    And everything you mention in the later portions of your post is exactly what does happen, whenever such discussions are attempted.
    ____

    sometimes the word “privilege”
    or the idea of “privilege” can be used to
    silence people who have good intentions and
    valid critiques.

    And who decides which are a privileged person’s “valid criticiques” and “good intentions”?

    The privileged person? What could possibly go wrong there! ;)

    In all seriousness – I’m having trouble digesting that statement. In what way would a privileged person be “silenced”? Don’t they have the entire world already backing them up? Don’t they already have the ability walk away, without a further worry about whatever issue is under discussions?

    I’m definitely interested in further clarification of this idea, because right now it just sounds like a variation on “feminism is sexist against men!”, or “reverse racism!”. And, here on this blog, that can’t be right. I’m missing something. Will continue to read in hopes of understanding.

  99. RD
    RD February 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |

    Rare Vos:
    Isn’t that the point, though?People who know nothing about it, or are flame-baiters or wev, are trying to stop such a discussion.They want their views replaced for yours.The Dunning-Kruger effect in action.And everything you mention in the later portions of your post is exactly what does happen, whenever such discussions are attempted.
    ____
    And who decides which are a privileged person’s “valid criticiques” and “good intentions”?The privileged person?What could possibly go wrong there!;)In all seriousness – I’m having trouble digesting that statement.In what way would a privileged person be “silenced”?Don’t they have the entire world already backing them up?Don’t they already have the ability walk away, without a further worry about whatever issue is under discussions?I’m definitely interested in further clarification of this idea, because right now it just sounds like a variation on “feminism is sexist against men!”, or “reverse racism!”.And, here on this blog, that can’t be right.I’m missing something.Will continue to read in hopes of understanding.  

    Privilege is not a binary.

  100. RD
    RD February 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    It is not a set of binaries either imo. More like a set of spectrums and matrices for the most part I think.

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