Friday, September 30, 2011

Feeding the Trolls: an Anti-Choice Douche

If you know almost anything about feminist blogging, you know that it attracts some of the worst trolls. Even small time virtually unread bloggers like me get them. That's why I've gone to comment moderation. I mean, seriously, I get all of 1 or 2 comments a month, and I had to go to moderation because of haters. How dumb!

On my recent "Choice Matters" post at the other blog I write for, I attracted a troll. (As I knew I would. Trolls love talking about abortion. They love it oh so much.) Here's what "anon" said:

You left wingers LOVE abortion. Jesus christ! Obsessing over it so much. It wont go anywhere, so let people have their opinions. Why should I be okay with a woman being a careless slut and waltzing into an abortion clinic on MY tax dollars. Not going to happen. No friggen way. I would rather be called a "narrowminded asshole Republican", which I have before, than support something that seems SO wrong.
A good policy when dealing with trolls on your blog is to ignore, delete if necessary, and move on. Engaging them them only makes matters worse. More mature bloggers than myself follow this policy. I'm not sure what their comment moderation policies are over at The Progressive Playbook, so I'm not going to remove it or draw much attention to it. On my own blog, I can do what I want. So, I've decided to take this battle to where I feel safe--right here. If any hater comments come through, trust me, they will be deleted, not published, unless in a manner similar than this (to mock and deconstruct them.)

Without further ado, I will now break down why every single thing this person has said is wrong.
  • "anon"--Lord knows I can agree that it is often unwise to tie your "IRL" identity to your online persona, but to be completely anonymous is cowardly. If you truly believe something enough to come at the author like this, have the guts to at least represent your online persona.
  • "You left wingers LOVE abortion. Jesus christ [sic]!" See, right here, I know you didn't even read what I wrote, so it's no wonder it's all downhill from here. I specifically tackled the myth that feminists love abortion. You just saw "choice" and went off the deep end, or perhaps your reading comprehension skills are lacking. Also, isn't it your type who gets really mad when the Lord's name is taken in vain?
  • "Obsessing over it so much. It wont [sic] go anywhere, so let people have their opinions." OK with this line, I'm literally chuckling at my desk. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We're the ones who won't let people have their opinions? This must, again, be attributed to a lack of basic reading skills and comprehension. We are the side of CHOICE. Like I said in my original peice, if you're against abortions don't have one. On the other hand, "anti-choicers" quite literally want to pass legislation which disallows women who want to have an abortion from exercising their free will.
  • "Why should I be okay with a woman being a careless slut and waltzing into an abortion clinic on MY tax dollars. Not going to happen. No friggen way." There is so much wrong here that I'm afraid my head might blow up trying to even re-read that ignorance. It all rests on the huge misconception that anyone who accesses abortion services must be a "slut." Seriously? You believe that? Every pregnancy is the result of promiscuity? Even if they were, why the need for slut shaming? I thought the right was all about personal liberties and freedoms. If someone wants to be slutty, isn't that her right? I guess I've stumbled on yet another conservative hypocrisy. And, back to your reading piece in no way tackled the funding issues surrounding abortion (while I DO hold an opinion on this topic, I was simply advocating for there to still be a choice, not how it's paid for). But while we're going there--fact check, please. Not that I suspect you will be able to adequately grasp the content of those links either.
  • "I would rather be called a 'narrowminded [sic] asshole Republican', which I have before, than support something that seems SO wrong." Well, while it sounds like people are calling you an accurate title, where did those quotes come from? Did I say that? Huh...weird. And a bit paranoid? Anyway, you know what? You can TOTALLY think that abortion "seems SO wrong." That's cool. Let me make this as clear as I possibly can: You can be opposed to abortion. That's your prerogative. I only have a problem when you try to use this belief to control the actions of others. Hence CHOICE. Do you get it yet? I'm not sure what else I can say. I mean, there are tons of stuff that I think "seem SO wrong" but would never try to totally outlaw. Some examples include: Gun ownership, female oppressive religions, irresponsible food production, driving an SUV, voting Republican, listening to Glenn Beck. How am I able to understand that ALL of my personal convictions aren't meant to be law, but you aren't?
Oh trolls--you say so much without saying anything. That's the real problem, isn't it? You don't actually represent any real viewpoints. You just spew myths and venom. If you did respectfully disagree with me and bring some substance, we'd be able to have an actual discussion, free from sexism and hate. I'll just be over here waiting for that to happen. And getting old in the process. And having 30 million abortions, because I just LOVE EM.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sexual Assault and Peace--Opposites, Yes?

Apparently not to some people out there.

I just learned on Feministing that Julian Assange has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Lori, at Feministing, asked their readers this question:
What do you think about Assange being nominated for the peace prize? Is it a slap in the face to opponents of rape and assault? Or a well-deserved nod to his role in helping to spur the Arab Spring, among other things, through information sharing?
I thought for sure--on an extremely feminist website (perhaps the leader of the feminist blogosphere) with full comment moderation, I would see a lot of people saying something along the lines of "Well he hasn't been convicted, but if the allegations prove true, then this is really problematic." However, I saw this comment, which has received quite a bit of support:

There’s nothing contradictory at all about Assange being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He did work possibly deserving a Peace Prize and he also possibly raped two women. Doing one doesn’t mean he didn’t do the other; people are more complex than that.

Roman Polanski was a really good director (and won awards for it) and also raped a girl. Mike Tyson was a really good boxer (and won awards for it) and also raped a woman. Julian Assange did some really good humanitarian work (that he may win an award for) whether or not he raped two women. None of that is any kind of insult to their victims because none of that has anything to do with their victims.

I feel like I'm constantly grappling with this critical question: If someone does something really shitty, does it negate the good stuff they've also done? This is undoubtedly an ethical dilemma and I still think there's no clear cut answer. It seems to be much more of a case-by-case personal opinion thing.

But COME ON. Does this commenter really not see that the comparisons he* has drawn don't hold up with this case?

I get that Assange hasn't been convicted and that is a big part of this situation, but let's put that aside for a minute. Let's just take an example in which someone DID rape two women and then won a Noble Peace Prize. Is this not obviously contradictory to anyone else? It's not the same as Roman Polanski winning Oscars or Mike Tyson winning boxing awards, at all. Rape is inherently the opposite of peace, so why should a rapist be honored for peace? I can see how a rapist director could make a good movie. Personally, I wouldn't watch it--I'd avoid his works like the plague, but from an objective view point I can see how it is possible that a rapist could create great art. Or how a rapist could be a really good boxer.

In this way, a rapist could do peaceful things, but to honor him for peace? Seriously...come on. I'm not saying that Assange hasn't done some great things for the world. I'm not saying that his charges mean we should forget that. I am saying we don't have to give him a freaking Nobel Peace Prize.

Ah well it's just a nomination, so I suppose I should just get over it for now. I mean, after all, this also happened...

Adolf Hitler, was nominated once in 1939 by E.G.C. Brandt, member of the Swedish parliament. Brandt changed his mind, however, and the nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939.

*I say he because the commenter had a stereotypically masculine screen name.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cookies for Racism, Hooray!

Have you heard about anti-Affirmative Action bake sales? Yeah, they're a thing.

The most recent one, which went down today at UC Berkeley was hosted by the College Republicans. According to their Facebook page,
The Berkeley College Republicans firmly believe measuring any admit's merit based on race is intrinsically racist. Our bake sale will be at the same time and location of a phone bank which will be making calls to urge Gov. Brown to sign the bill. The purpose of the event is to offer another view to this policy of considering race in university admissions. The pricing structure of the baked goods is meant to be satirical, while urging students to think more critically about the implications of this policy.
(However, the original event details read a little differently...) You ever notice how the ones who are actually pretty racist are the first to play the race card? (See: Mr. Hear No Evil.)

Basically, the bake sale hopes to make the point that Affirmative Action is wrong by charging racial/ethnic minorities and women less for exactly the same baked goods. So very clever.

I won't lie--Affirmative Action is, no doubt, a tricky issue. I remember writing many a paper on it during my stint as a Poli Sci undergrad in the race politics classes I took. While I have lost my reasoned, academic thoughts on the topic, I can still figure out why these bake sales are as stupid as they are overdone. Simply put, the analogy just doesn't hold up. I mean, Affirmative Action doesn't get minority students into college, no questions asked. As famously quoted in the Houston Chronicle these bake sales:
...reinforce the common misconception that affirmative action policies give academically unqualified minority students a get-into-college free card, and they ignore historical discrimination that denied nonwhites opportunities to be successful at any price, no matter their talents or intelligence.
In actuality, justly applied Affirmative Action looks at similarly ranked students (along traditional academic standards) and seeks to create a diverse student body. It acknowledges the well proven obstacle of racism often faced by minority students. It also includes measures of diversity beyond race, such as geographic representation and socio-economic status. It takes race as one consideration and thus strives for true diversity. (And almost anyone who has gone from a non-diverse setting to a diverse one can tell you what a resource diversity is in the classroom.)

Affirmative Action is not the same as racial quotas, which mindlessly require certain numbers be met. So in this way, the bake sale really doesn't make sense as it is much more a critique of a quota system. For example, an academic admissions quota situation might require 15% of the student population to be black, so the school would just admit the students necessary to fulfill this quota without paying attention their individual attributes. In bake sale land this translates to all black people receiving a standard discount on the cookies.

If the bake sale analogy commonly used was to actually make sense, it would utilize some kind of fair-pricing/sliding scale fee by looking at each individual customer as a whole. For example, a very poor customer might only be charged 10 cents. However, if the bake sales were to take this method, their message wouldn't be so controversial. Therefore, time after time this silly attempt to vilify Affirmative Action policies is utilized.

What always boggles my mind about the fear mongering surrounding Affirmative Action is the myth of the highly qualified white male who gets a shit deal (let's call him Rick, for simplicity's sake.) In this myth, Rick is this amazing scholar and young man, who somehow gets left behind because some under-qualified minority (and probably female) student took his place. He is a hard-worker and now he's left to, I don't know, attend community college or something. His life's ruined. Oh how unfair!

Except I've never met Rick. No really--have you? For every highly qualified and hard working Rick there seems to be a place for him to learn and grow and turn out just fine. Affirmative Action's been around a while. If this myth was true there should be some Ricks out there, yes?

Now I have actually met plenty of sorta racist underachieving blame-it-all-on-someone-else white males (let's call them Bob.) Bob is that guy who will say that a minority or woman got a promotion or opportunity over him and claim reverse discrimination, but then not actually be able to back up in any substantial way how he was more qualified than the other person. Interesting. Maybe I just know the wrong people--or maybe Affirmative Action is often used as a scapegoat. It's sort of like, once it exists, it's an easy thing to blame you own shortcomings on. You're not the one who's insufficient--no, that other person just had Affirmative Action on their side!

At any rate, all I know is that of all the things a student group could come together and protest (like rising tuition or racism) Affirmative Action should be super low on the list.

Choice Matters

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

You’ll have to excuse my brief absence. First I was sick and then I took a trip for my birthday weekend which had me driving from my current home in Austin, TX to my childhood home in Indianapolis, IN. The good news is that this jaunt gave me quite a bit of inspiration, although not in a pleasant way.

If you’ve been keeping track lately, you are aware that Indiana has the most restrictions against abortion. And Texas ain’t doing so hot either. So it should be no surprise that the drive between these two cities was littered with billboards, bumper stickers, and other advertisements all telling me how extremely terrible abortion is.

When you make the same 18 hour drive twice in five days, you have a lot of time to think. My mental wheels were turning as the physical wheels also spun, and I couldn’t help but mull over my thoughts on choice. Read more...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Be Back Soon!

It's my birthday weekend and I'm out of town. So I won't be posting until mid next week. Happy birthday to me!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Awkward

I have a problem. I watch crappy TV. It's a guilty pleasure... I just love so many shitty shows. Made for TV movies, reality shows, game shows, even infomercials. And I regularly watch MTV. Still. (Even though we can all agree that the "music" part of their name is absolutely a lie.)

In watching MTV, I often see the crappiest TV of all. When I heard of "Awkward" I thought it would be like that. However, having watched quite a few episodes now, I think it's safe to say that Awkward isn't the worst thing teen girls could ever see. Here's the premise:

The series is based around social outcast Jenna Hamilton who, following an accident that rumors misconstrue as a suicide attempt, starts being noticed by all the students at her school. By making changes and embracing her misfortune, she becomes well-known by her peers. While having to deal with a new, not-so-fun stigma, she still has to manage the daily drama that comes with being a teenager.

I missed the pilot, but when I tuned in Jenna was definitely dealing with the fallout of what everyone assumed was a suicide attempt. It definitely was awkward. But that's not what interests me about the show. There are a few plot points here and there that are infusing atypically reasonable messages for girls. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Jenna accidentally hooks up with her best friend's crush. The best friend treats Jenna like crap for a few days, but then realizes that she had let the guy off too easy and took all her anger out on Jenna. Message: Sisters before misters.
  • Jenna's bully, Sadie, is not thin. Instead of simply making the butt of all jokes about her size, an episode highlights how very low Sadie's self-esteem is and how her mom makes her keep a food journal and puts pressure on her to lose weight. Message 1: Bullies have their own stuff going on. Their mistreatment of other people usually comes from a deep place of insecurity. Message 2: Putting your kid on a diet and scrutinizing their weight really messes them up.
  • Throughout the series so far, Jenna has been trying to get the guy of her dreams. In the most recent episode, she realized that her crushing dissatisfaction with herself was holding her back. Message: You've got to love yourself before you're ready to love others.
  • Jenna's parents had her when they were teenagers. They are often very misguided, although well meaning. But overall they are a loving, supportive family. Message: Being a teen parent isn't the worst thing you could ever do.
Overall, the story is Jenna just trying to figure it out, and even though I'm much closer to the age of the out of touch over bearing guidance counselor, I could relate to it. It's not a heady show. It's definitely a guilty pleasure, but at the end of the day teens could be watching something much worse. Like Jersey Shore.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning to Tolerate Zooey Deschanel: A Feminist's Struggle

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist.

So let’s take a moment to talk about a pop culture icon of a woman, who seems to be nearly everywhere, shall we? Let’s talk about Ms. Zooey Deschanel.

Deschanel is tricky territory for me. She is someone who on a fundamental level just rubs me the wrong way, which is absurd, of course, seeing as how I’ve never met her. But in ever-presentness (she’s not only an actress but also a singer and fashion icon) I have found there to be a quality about her which doesn’t mesh well with me.

I’m not sure what it is. We can all agree that Deschanel is cute. Maybe it’s that she’s too cute. From her doe like eyes, to her hip vintage style, her hypnotizing folk band singing voice, the hearts on her cell phone, and her website’s URL ( she is undeniably adorable. Even her first name has a favorite childhood fieldtrip destination hidden right in it! Read more...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Um, We're Still Saying "Wife Beater?"

Why do people act like words don't matter? I'm so sick of hearing "wife beater" used in such a nonchalant way that normalizes it as a concept.

Listen people...they are tanks or A-shirts.

Not only is "wife beater" incredibly misogynistic, it's also classist as hell. How many times do I have to assert words matter? They really do.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Everything's Bigger in Texas, Including My Disappointments

I truly have no idea, but somehow, this news slipped through the cracks and didn't make it to me until today, when a friend posted the story on Facebook.

After nearly 40 years of partnership, the state has cut its ties to Planned Parenthood of Austin, defunding its East Seventh Street clinic, which provides basic reproductive health care and family planning services to low-income and uninsured women. The clinic last year received $474,000 to provide services to approximately 3,700 women; now it will get nothing, and neither will its clients. Notice of the cuts came just four days before the beginning of the new fiscal year, leaving area providers scrambling. "We didn't expect zero funding with four days' notice," Sarah Wheat, interim co-CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said at a press conference last week.

My sadness and anger at this situation is...well, I'm not sure there are words for it. I work in the nonprofit sector, closely with Planned Parenthood. I know most everyone in their Health Education department, personally and professionally. They are a team of dedicated, compassionate, intelligent educators who care deeply about spreading good information to young people and their parents. I have had meetings to discuss sexual health programming for Central Texan teens in the offices of that very clinic on East 7th Street--where they house not only the standard clinic, but also their teen center.

Thinking about the implications of a loss of almost $500,000 to their organization is heart-breaking.

However, this situation has ramifications well beyond the employees (even though they are at the forefront of my mind since I know them.) Like Ms. Wheat said later in the article, "The impact is going to be even bigger than we can even calculate at this point." Yes, the impact is incalculable, but for anyone who has access Planned Parenthood's vital services when they needed them the most, knows personally about the cost.

Let me give my personal anecdote, from when I regularly accessed Planned Parenthoods in Indiana (another story of disappointment!) I was 22, and I had discovered a lump in my breast. I was petrified of the possibilities and I didn't seek medical treatment for quite some time. Finally, at my annual exam with the nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood, I felt comfortable enough to ask her about it. She checked me out and calmed me saying that it seemed to be a hormonal cyst, with the kindest words and soothing care. She referred me to the Indiana Breast Center where they confirmed with an ultrasound that it was nothing serious. It was because of accessing affordable, compassionate care that I finally confronted my biggest fears and was examined.

I am so lucky. My story turned out to have a very positive ending. But somewhere out there, there was a nerdy feminist who didn't have an affordable, trustworthy health provider to turn to, who continues to fear the abomination growing in her breast, and has no idea if it will someday kill her. Nowhere to turn.

Women who need to access low cost, reliable health care have so very few options. Unfortunately, they are often caught in a highly politicized environment, which sways to the whims of zealots over continuing to grant them life saving services. I am pro-choice, there is no question about that. But the greater purpose of an organization like Planned Parenthood is to actually prevent the need for abortions in the first place by not only making birth control accessible to a much wider audience, but also with good, solid information provided by those community health educators. It amazes me that this fact is almost always overlooked.

If you are able, please consider donating to the downtown clinic to continue to provide a litany of life saving reproductive and health services to Austin's neediest individuals. And if you are not in Austin and you prefer to support your local Planned Parenthood, you can do so here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ditch Your Love Hate Relationship With Street Harassment

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

“Hey girl, you look good.”

They’re pretty innocent words, and most women have heard at some point in their lives. There is a certain risk in “walking while woman.” This risk is called street harassment. Street harassment, as explained by Hollaback!

is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay.

The fact of the matter, however, is that if you ask some women how they feel about the comments they receive, there is an inherent love/hate relationship. In many circumstances, it can be sort of nice to have someone holler at you, tell you that you’re hot, or ask for your number.

However, there is a point where each person feels that a line has been crossed into unacceptable advances.

I’m not talking about being at a bar and sharing in mutual flirtation or friendly banter at the bus stop. Most of us know inherently what is innocent and what is problematic. Sometimes you feel it in your gut when the situation just isn’t right and begins to feel a bit threatening. Other times, there is absolutely no question when the line is crossed.
That was the case for Jenna Sauers over at Jezebel who recently wrote about a terrifying experience in a subway tunnel. A man masturbated in public, for her to see, for over 10 minutes. She called NYPD but it appears that no one ever came. Her story is a great example of how problematic street harassment is. She wrote,
Women are taught so many messages about how we need to behave in order to “prevent” sexual assault and sexual harassment in public spaces. How we need to look, how we need to dress, how we need to walk, how we need to make ourselves small and unremarkable, how we need to anticipate the behavior of others, how we must not “attract” the wrong kind of attention. Even though I resent that these messages fundamentally imply that women bear responsibility for insuring sexual assault does not occur, I still, almost in spite of myself, take all of these things into account when I get dressed and when I go out in public. To have already engineered your behavior to meet the threat of assault and then to still face criminal harassment just feels like an added injustice.
Like I mentioned, Jenna’s case is extreme. But when you really think about it, all street harassment is a problem. There is no reason that a woman shouldn’t be able to pass through her city or neighborhood without hearing lewd comments about her body or be subjected to groping from strange people on public transportation. That’s a huge violation of one’s autonomy, but oftentimes we accept it as a fact of life. This mindset must be reversed. No person, regardless of their gender, race, sexual identity, ability, or another other identifier should be afraid to simply exist in public streets. And the truth is that it is the same culture that normalizes more innocent comments which creates extreme situations like Jenna’s. So…what can we do? There are a few easy steps to help end street harassment:

1) Don’t participate in it! (Pretty simple, indeed.) This mean agreeing to not make unsolicited comments at others. We, as women, must also end our love/hate relationships with cat calls. Despite the momentary flattery associated with some street harassment, you’ve got to remember the bigger picture is much more scary. When you feel that you are able, do not passively accept these comments as sweet talk.

2) Hollaback for yourself. If you have a run in with street harassment (and even if you don’t and you just want to learn more!) check out their website. There you can share your story, pictures, and experiences. Hollaback! is using 21st century technology to create a crowd-sourced initiative to end street harassment. They’ve got some pretty great stuff going on over there. I would wager that most women have their own story of “walking while woman” and can see that there is a big difference between our experience in the streets and our male friends and family members’.

It’s about time for a culture shift, because as Hollaback! says, “Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence OK.” If you don’t believe me, go back and read Jenna’s piece again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Feminist Blogger Covering a Feminist Blogger who Wrote about A Feminist-ish Blog

Warning...feminist blog meta-ness to follow

I stumbled across this interesting piece at Feminists for Choice which has one central thesis: Jezebel is bad for feminism. The author, Amy, makes her case by citing times that Jezebel has participated in a lot of really un-feminist stuff: slut shaming, fat shaming, cattiness, and general assholery to other women.

Anyone who spends about 2.5 seconds around here can see that I read Jezebel. A lot. And for the most part, I really enjoy it. I am not someone who does a lot of research. I'm not a reporter or creative writer out there gathering my own original material. So my main focus is to serve as a reactionary writer. I pull material from all over the internet, mostly from other feminist blogs, and put my own analysis on it. (Which is what's happening right now.) Because Jezebel is part of a media conglomerate (Gawker) I let them do a lot of leg work for me. I mean, they're the ones making money off blogging. I'm the chick with a day job.

So while I do read Jezebel unapologetically, I can definitely see what Amy means. Oftentimes the topics at Jezebel can tread into the cringe worthy. But while I understand her view, I don't think that Amy is giving Jezebel enough credit for what it really is.

I see Jezebel as a feminist-ISH blog, and I see it frequently described in this way. At the end of the day, Jezebel describes its self as about "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion. Without Airbrushing" for women. No where in there do we see the word feminist. Sure, many people at the blog write about feminist topics and identify as feminists, but the reality is that it's owned by Gawker and is not a small, grassroots activist site. Full stop.

I see Jezebel as a sort of primer or introductory place for budding feminists. I've written before that I do think there is a place for 101 feminism, and Jezebel is this place of sorts. It's still accessible to the mainstream by focusing on less serious topics (like celebrity gossip) but it does infuse some legitimate feminist content and spin. Like anything, it's not perfect, and it does have its drawbacks, like Amy so thoroughly pointed out. I'm not saying that Jezebel is craftily bringing covert feminism to the masses--they directly reference feminism on the regular. But I am saying that their look, topics, and voice appeals to a much wider, and often younger, base than Feministe, Feministing, Shakesville, Pandagon, or Tiger Beatdown. This allows Jezebel to open a door with individuals sympathetic to feminism, who learn and eventually move to those other sites when they have their horizons expanded a bit.

This in no way excuses or justifies the cattiness and other issues that are often present, but it does better explain how I view Jezebel. Sometime they fail at feminism because it's not a feminist blog that discusses pop culture; it's a pop culture blog with feminist elements. Like I's feminist-ish.

One point that Amy makes which I do not agree with is about the Jezebel commenters. She writes:
The Jezebel comment section is a locked community, meaning that you must practically “audition” to become a Jezebel the comments policy they note that “Ganging up on commenters who don’t share your point of view is not only unnecessary, it is tacky and contributes to a cliquish atmosphere that is not in the spirit of this blog.” But ...isn’t that what happens on a daily basis in the comments section? The comments section is a whole other beast than Jezebel’s editiorial offerings – it is as cliquish as it can be, and dissenters are attacked and yes, ganged up on. To these “Jezzies,” Jezebel’s words have become law. And that’s a problem. Dissent from the Jezzie ranks is a capital offense, and it’s discouraging those with different viewpoints from participating in the conversation.
This has not been my experience at all. While I do feel it's really weird how commenting does have an audition feel, the actual cliquish nature of the commenting at Jezebel is neither unique nor exclusive to their blog. Most feminist websites experience this piling on against those with differing view points. In fact, the "commentariat" at Feministe has a pretty strong reputation for being unnecessarily cruel and that website is valued as a fully legitimate feminist blog staple.

I guess what I'm getting at is that while I understand the complaints about Jezebel, I'm not ready to write it off. I still can see Jezebel's place. That is not to say we shouldn't challenge Jezebel to be better, while still knowing it for what it is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Speak Up September!

Well, well, well. It seems after my short trip to Chicago, I have come back to a whole new month. My favorite month! September!

As I was catching up on my feminist reading, I stumbled upon this story at Jezebel. The gist, long story short, is that when women confronted men about sexism, they didn't get all pissed off and hate the woman. They actually replied with basic nice-ness. Sweet!

This shouldn't come as a surprise...but I'm someone who calls people on their shit. I use a few different tactics from jokes to "Really? ...Really?" amongst other things. All in all, I have found the result to be generally favorable. I try not to come across as an asshole when I say these things, so people tend to not reply as assholes--usually. I get it can be extremely hard to speak up when someone says something problematic. Some people really will come back at you with anger, and there's no way to change their minds. However, I really think that, in most cases, the whole situation can go smoothly and everyone can stay friends.

Of course, as I've noted before, the ultimate irony is that when you're an outspoken feminist, your not-really-feminist friends will continuously try to offend you so you’ll hear more jokey pseudo-sexist stuff than if you weren’t an outspoken feminist. It’s ironic-but their attempts are also futile because the real assholes are the ones who aren’t intentionally trying to piss you off. Just so you know. As they say in the Lion King, be prepared. (And consider saving your speaking out efforts for the people who weren't trying to make you mad, because they're the ones who didn't even know they were being sexist and need your perspective the most.)

Anyway, my point is that with this news, and this new month...I'm thinking we try to take the "Speak Up" stuff to the next level. Let's make it "Speak Up September." For this month, when someone says something that just really offends you, but you're maybe feeling a bit too embarrassed or worried to say something, try saying it anyway, with whatever method works for you. Check out what happens, and if it works, continue to speak out. You might like what happens.

You try that, and, now that I'm back home in Austin, I'll be trying not to go up in flames.