Showing posts with label language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Is "Slut Shaming" an appropriate term?

[Content note: discussions of slut shaming]

That title is not rhetorical. I am literally asking.

Is "slut shaming" an appropriate term for feminists interested in intersectionality to use? I've been thinking about writing about this topic for a long time, but a recent article at the Atlantic finally prompted me.

Over on Tumblr, where I post the bigoted stuff people say on social media every day, I often tag submissions as "slut shaming." I've received numerous comments that this term is problematic and sexist and I should probably stop using it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When did we lose our understanding of "satire?"

When you run a public shaming blog, you run into all types of bigots and trolls. Perhaps the most boring to me are the ones who try to claim that everything is a joke. The increasingly more popular take on this is "it's satire therefore it is OK and you shouldn't be offended."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Revisiting the "Friend Zone"

About a year ago I wrote "A Primer on the Friend Zone." My basic premise is that this phenomena is sexist and should die a quick death. Mostly, I hate it because it:

1) It ignores the actual wishes of the woman
2) It displays an entitled attitude to a woman's body
3) It posits that the worst thing ever is to be "just" friends with a woman
4) It's a go to complaint of guys who are actually deeply misogynistic

Since publishing that piece, it's been linked in a few different places and has received more attention and comments than my average post. Some of the comments shared a view I've heard frequently...that the real reason men complain about the friend zone is because they've been the victims of manipulation by women. Let's take a closer look at this idea for a moment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gender Neutral Language Modifications

I write a ton about language, because I feel strongly that the words we use both influence and are influenced by our reality. In other words, language is important.

I love words. I love writing. I love vocabulary. I love crafting an argument...but beyond that I am someone who would never bemoan "political correctness" or accuse someone of being the "PC police." If you can afford someone a modicum of respect by simply shifting a few words, why wouldn't you?

So in this realm, I'm almost always thinking about how the words I use can be more inclusive. Lately, one thing in particular has been bugging me, as I quickly mused in a post on Tumblr last night:
I’ve become really attuned to unnecessarily gendered language lately like, “access to abortion is so important for women.” Or a commercial I saw recently about factory work appreciation (I can’t for the life of me remember the product but) the sentence it ended with was something like “in appreciation of hard working American men and women.” 
Why can’t we just say “access to abortion is so important” or “in appreciation of hard working Americans.” First and foremost above all, these options are more inclusive to trans and non binary people, but also the alternatives I suggested just sound like stronger statements to me. So, like, be more efficient AND include everyone all at the same time. Why not? 
Almost every time I hear someone say a sentence that includes "men and women" I find myself wondering, WHY? It's such a long way of saying people, and since people, as a word exists and it runs little risk of bugging anyone, why not just go with that? For the same reasoning, I love terms like police officer, fire fighter, mail carrier, etc.

I would encourage everyone to think about this for a while and try to move away from describing groups with any unnecessarily gendered terminology. As I've mentioned numerous times before, feminism is one of the biggest offenders of this when we constantly frame reproductive/family planning services as necessary for women and thereby erase people who need these things and don't ID as female.

The false gender binary is taught from an early age, especially in how we describe and work with students in classrooms. As someone who was a substitute for a while, I had to conform to the structure the teachers had in place for their kids. In elementaries that was almost always walking in two lines in the hallway, one line of boys and one line of girls. I couldn't control that, but I could refrain from saying "boys and girls!" when I called them to attention. It was a small, easy shift to something totally neutral like, "I need everyone's eyes on me." Teachers could and should think about the implicit messages sent. Hallway lines can be arranged by last name instead of gender. Students can be called students, kids, everybody, etc. without reference to the false binary.

Again, these are small things...micro shifts that, if enough people think about them can, over time, reshape how we view and approach things.

Just some mid week musings.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Always Needing More

So I'm watching the live stream of the "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can Choose" fundraiser to support abortion access organizations here in Texas, given the dire situation of our laws. It's an interesting thing...activists in New York, led by Sarah Silverman and Lizz Winstead, are holding an online telethon for us (Texans.) It's kinda great because, let's be real, many of us here in the Lone Star state working on this issue are fatigued--emotionally, financially, and physically, and we need the help and support. (Especially the support from celebrities who can draw a lot of attention.) And it's nice that it's not totally framed in a condescending "ew, we hate ass-backwards Texas" feels like a fairly genuine gesture of friendship and goodwill and that's awesome.


On the other hand, I'm just watching all this and cringing so hard.

As as intersectional feminist, I am really, deeply disturbed by ALL the ableist and cissexist language. There's all kinds of "crazy"-s being thrown around. And the whole night has been framed as for Texas WOMEN, down to the hashtag, #TexasWomenForever. It's a lot of the same issues that the original coalition this summer faced.

Let's be clear about it: when we feminists play by the same exclusive terms as the patriarchy, our work is incomplete and perpetuates oppression. 

When I mention these things, I'm often met with a lot of hostility from other feminists. I'm told that I should be thankful for the progress that is being made and that I should accept the "at leasts." At least they're doing something. At least they're trying. At least their hearts are in the right place...and while all that might be true...I can't help it, I DO need more.

I need a reproductive rights movement that acknowledges that trans* and non-binary people exist and access these services too. I need language which doesn't shame, stigmatize, OR erase anyone. I can offer that feedback and demand better while still expressing thanks and appreciating the spirit of this event and its fundraising successes, right? I mean, if even just one person hears my "complaining" and modifies their language to be more inclusive, that's a win, right?

So sorry, not sorry. I will always need more from mainstream feminism. No one's perfect. It's OK to ask more of each other.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three Dangerous Mythical Creatures

Please forgive the Buzzfeed-ish structure of this post, but I've been thinking about some some various concepts lately, and I realized the connection they all share...they're totally made up, and yet most people believe in them, often to the detriment of other people.

Let's take a deeper look...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Being Fat Positive in Fat Negative Spaces

[Content note: weight talk]

I know everyone is probably blogging about the VMAs today, and I'll just leave that for them because I have nothing special to add. Instead, I'd like to talk about a recent personal experience. On Friday, I was at a training with some of my coworkers and several people we did not know. As we are apt to do, talk between my coworker and I turned to plus sized fashion during a down moment. We were describing how certain trends fit our bodies. I noticed one of the fellow trainees we did not know listening to our conversation with a perplexed look.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

She's Someone vs. Narcissistic Fatherhood

[Content note: dehumanization of women, misogynistic slurs, slut shaming, verbal abuse, fat shaming. Just a whole lot of triggers, really.]

Often in discussions of sexism, well intentioned (but misguided) people will resort to the whole, "How would you feel if this were your daughter they were talking about?" or "These women are someone's mother, sister, and daughter. Think about it that way" narrative.

As has been articulated many times, this train of thought--while perhaps a step in the right direction from flat out woman hating--is far from perfect. There's been an image circulating around Tumblr for months that nicely summarizes why:

[Image text: an image of a presumably female identified person with her back to the camera. Text overlaid reads "she's someone's sister/mother/daughter/wife." The "sister/mother/daughter/wife" part is crossed out in red and "she's someone" is circled for emphasis.]

Monday, July 29, 2013

Language Already HAS Power

Just a quick thought. You know the type of troll/bigot who says, "It's no big deal to say [slur X]! You're the one giving it power!"...?

I just need to vent about this mentality. Are the people who say this seriously suggesting that language can exist in some kind of vacuum separate from our society? Do they truly not understand that slurs are inextricable from their bigoted histories which, in many cases, were (and still are!) used along side very real violence and murder? We can't just wake up today and deem slurs to carry no meaning or a neutral meaning. It is not the victims of the slurs who "give them power." It was the oppressors when they used them as ways to demean and dehumanize others. There is no ignoring that.

People who tout this mentality just want to put the onus of oppression on the oppressed. They suggest, "If you weren't so offended/upset/fixated with this, then it couldn't be used against you." (A close cousin to "just ignore it!" people.)

But coupled with it is an underlying implication that these trolls want to use this language themselves, or perhaps to justify their past use of this language. And it's not just that they want to use it, it's that they want to use it without repercussion, so they position the victim of the slur as the one who has a problem (ie the one who is "giving it power.")

I get that people can and will ultimately say what they want, so bigoted language is NOT going anywhere. But to suggest that the reason that slurs are offensive is because marginalized people have given it power is at best laughable.

The People You Meet When You Write About Race
Some guy thinks that saying sexism = power + oppression is "giving men the power."

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Just Ignore It!" is the Worst Advice

I can't emphasize enough that for the most part, my interactions with people online in feminists spaces are very positive, educational, and rewarding. That said, there are MANY individuals out there who just like to shit on other people. And being a feminist online means that you get the worst of that on a pretty regular basis.

Recently, a few of my posts on Tumblr were met with reactions like, "Get over it" or the ever popular "Complaining about this stuff won't make it better! Just ignore it."


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Intersectionalism Has a Long Way to Go, Even on the Left

I promise, someday, I will write about something other than my experience standing in opposition to the omnibus anti-abortion legislation here in Texas. Someday, but not today.

Yesterday was another long day at the capitol. I worked from 9-2 and then assisted with whatever Planned Parenthood needed including managing lines and feeding volunteers from 2-midnight. If I may whine for a minute, my back has really taken a hit from being on my feet all day. It's started spasming, which is a new and scary thing.

Anyway, my experiences yesterday (and over the course of this process in general) have reminded me that feminism and progressive movements are still unfortunately far from inclusive. Here's a quick run down of several things I have noticed:

1) The main coalition of prochoice organizations has run off shirts that read, "Stand with Texas women." While this is better than the antis' condescending "Protect women," it is still cissexist and denies the reality that many people who do not identify as women need access to abortion. This exclusive phrasing of the entire campaign I'm sure has felt very disheartening to many who are not represented under the label "women." I think the organizations involved are wary of politicizing words like "choice" but "Texas stands for choice" would have been a better alternative, in my opinion. (Edited to add: It's also been pointed out to me that the "stand" verb is abelist, so I feel we must take that into consideration too.)

This concern is a big problem that I see with mainstream prochoice politics in general. For example, I saw a tweet going around the other day that said something to the effect of "This isn't just a reproductive issue, it's a women's issue." I believe the intent of this was to help people see how reproductive access is inherently tied into gender politics as a whole, but the reductionist language of "women" perpetrates trans* erasure.  As Jane Doe, MD tweeted earlier today,
Trans* inclusiveness to me is inherent to feminism, bc biological determinism & essentialism is the unthinkable alternative...Feminism needs to not just be trans* inclusive, but explicitly advocate for trans* people. Otherwise we let gender based oppression prosper.
2) So. Many. Ableist. Slurs. As someone who is handing out food, I occupy a space of special joy in many tired, frustrated prochoice activists' minds. As such, they come over to grab a bite and vent about what they're seeing and unfortunately, that frequently dissolves into calling antis every possible version of "crazy" they can think of. (One person even ranted to me about how "the other side is truly mental.") I try to mirror back non-stigmatizing language in regards to my own frustration with antis, but there's so little than I can do in these 20 second interactions to address the issue.

Too often words like "crazy" have become short hand for people who we disagree with or don't like. We see antis with signs that say incredibly offensive things, so the visceral reaction is to attack them back. But the result when the words we use have an ableish intent is that the non-neurotypical prochoicers who are all around us feel isolated from the movement.

And while we're talking about ableism, can we just stop for a minute and acknowledge that Wendy Davis wouldn't have even been able to filibuster last week if she was not physically able to stand for those 13 hours. Seriously. It's in the Texas law...a senator MUST stand to conduct a filibuster, regardless of their personal physical circumstances. Furthermore, I read that there were accessibility issues for the buildings and rooms involved, which presented real challenges to citizens participating in this process.

How messed up is that?

3) Tons of people feel the need to share their thoughts on the nature of the food donated, usually with the intent to fat shame and body and/or food police. So as a food passer-outer, I have a front row seat for all the weight/food related comments. Every 5th person makes some comment about how they "shouldn't take another cookie" or are "going to have to run an extra mile after this." Others bemoan that we need more "healthy" options or go with the whole, "well I guess I can be bad today" angle. As a happily fat person, who has learned to embrace who I am despite the chorus of "you're not good enoughs!" it is particularly frustrating to have so many people share their very personal food and health related values out loud over and over and over. The food that is provided by generous people from all over the country is to help sustain us as we engage with the political process. As such, it needs to be cost effective, easily available for delivery, and come in mass quantities.

That means that it's not going to work for everyone...and that's OK. What's not OK is sharing possibly triggering food/body thoughts with everyone else around the table.

As I've said before, I have been infinitely impressed with how diverse the people who have come together over this issue are. I've interacted with people of so many backgrounds, ages, and gender expressions, who hail from all over the state.

But if our movement is still marginalizing people, then we're doing it wrong.

I do not intend to needlessly criticize my fellow prochoicers who have been out there day after day...I admire our spirit and I'm proud to be a part of this. I just want us to be better, because the fact of the matter is that unless this movement addresses all of its own oppressive elements, it is inherently flawed and incomplete.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Language of Rape Culture

[Content note: detailed discussion of rape culture, rape threats, trivialization of rape, slut shaming]

Never a dull day in the rape culture. I swear...just when I think, "oh hey, we're making SOME progress!" a ton of new, horrible stories pop up.

Some of the ways that rape culture operates are obvious (to those who are willing to engage in these discussions, at least.) For example, that list of rape threats that Lindy West received (linked above) for speaking out against rape jokes.

Other artifacts of the rape culture are less obvious.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Yes But..."


I've just got to get something off my chest.

I'm done with the words "yes, but..." I'm done with them in a general way but especially in social justice circles. I'm talking about things like...

"Patriarchy really oppresses women."
"Yes, but it hurts men too."

"Society is so fatphobic."
"Yes, but there's body shaming of all women."

"White privilege is everywhere."
"Yes, but I'm white and I've experienced racism too."

It makes me want to scream for 72 hours straight. But instead I'll try to get through this calmly. Basically, "yes, but..." is a way of essentially negating everything just said while trying to not look like a total jerk. But furthermore, when you enter discussions of oppression and social justice and you carry a privilege, it's not your place to bulldoze and talk over others. Instead, it's your opportunity to listen and learn. When you use "yes, but..." chances are that you're treading into privilege denial and a derail. It gets the discussion no where.

And someone tell me WHY oppressed people, in their own spaces, must stop and consider the dominant group's perspective? Like I've said a million times, no one needs to be taught about maleness, straightness, whiteness, stereotypical attractiveness, able bodiedness, etc., because society teaches us ALL those lessons daily. It positions the straight, white, male experience as the default, so we need places to discuss the experiences of those who are traditionally othered without further oppression.

So forget "yes, but..." It is a worthless approach and neither you nor your listeners will benefit from the road that'll take you down. Just try listening for a minute.

Related: How to Enter Feminist Discussions at the 101 Level

Friday, April 5, 2013

Check Your Privilege, Mr. Obama...a Country Full of Boys is Watching

Last night I caught Zerlina Maxwell schooling the heck out of Politico's Dylan Byers for tweeting, "How did it become so difficult to call a woman good-looking in public?" I learned that this comment was in response to President Obama saying that Kamala Harris is California's best looking attorney general, and the backlash against those comments.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stupidest Metaphor of All Time

I've found it! I've uncovered the stupidest metaphor of all time. It had some stiff competition, but it has won! It's the lock/key metaphor to justify the sexual double standard. Exhibit A:

[Picture description, sic on all of this: Facebook status from Miriam Perez reads, "is is odd how society see things. lets say if a guy sleeps with all these girls, "hes a the man!" or a stud. but if a girl does, she's a total slut or whore? is society sexist?" Comment from Mathew James reads "well think about it this way. if a key can open a bunch of locks, its viewed as a master key, and is awesome to have. but if a lock is opened by a lot of different keys, well thats a pretty shitty lock if you ask me."]

Friday, February 15, 2013


[Content note: misogyny, mentions of murder case.]

Dear Media,

This is Reeva Steenkamp.

She has a name. And she was a living, active person who had her own thoughts and life. When you are reporting about her murder, I'd really appreciate if you would give her the dignity of calling her by her name. STOP referring to her as "Oscar Pistorius' elite model girlfriend."


A. Lynn

This topic was brought to my attention last night by Jill Filipovic's twitter. As she pointed out, the New York Times wrote 23 paragraphs about Reeva Steenkamp's murder, and mentioned her name once, in the 8th paragraph. Not to be out done, the Washington Post referred to her as a "leggy blonde" and said, "While known for her bikini-clad, vamping photo spreads, she tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape." As Filipovic rightfully pointed out, it's hardly like those things are in opposition to each other.

I went to bed last night with the idea for this blog but on the way to work this morning I heard not one but three updates from NPR news about this murder case, all of which named Pistorius and just referred to Steenkamp as his girlfriend never stating her name.

Needless to say, at the point of writing this, I'm verging on rage. Is it really so much to ask that we refer to women by their names and not their relationship to men? Especially a man which might have murdered her! I've written before about the importance of names to me as well as the fact that our society far too often reduces women to their relationship to men and boys. But Steenkamp's case has made this trend abundantly more clear and all the more disturbing.

Even allies like President Barack Obama mess up on this front. As was pointed out by many feminists live tweeting his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama frequently frames women's issues by stressing the importance of helping our "mothers, sisters, and wives." It's as if we can't decide, collectively as a nation, that women matter in and of themselves. 

I truly believe that the way we use language shapes our reality. When we describe women by their relationship to men, we are again and again affirming a sense of male entitlement and ownership. It could be easy to brush this under the rug and talk about how it's "no big deal" but I absolutely refuse to ignore this trend. I mean--really, I'm in the year 2013 and I'm lobbying for a woman who was murdered to be called by her own name and not by her relationship to a man? Seriously?

I'm not even sure what else to say. The importance of this simple request should be self-evident.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Who Wants Flies Anyway?: Standing By Using the Term "Thin Privilege"

It still kind of amazes me when self-described feminists have blind spots for intersectional privileges.

It shouldn't; but it does.

Earlier this week someone jumped all over me for posting something about thin privilege. Her comments are all kinds of fail, so click carefully if you are sensitive to thin privilege denying.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Will Call out Female Sexists

[Content note: misogynistic slurs]

I've seen a few things lately referencing internalized misogyny as less egregious than male sexism and therefore not deserving of public shame or calling out. (Mostly in reference to projects like my Tumblr.) 

As the title of this post so succinctly summarizes, I have absolutely no problem calling out women who are deeply misogynistic. I agree that if we are creating some arbitrary scale of "awfulness" women who have internalized misogyny aren't "as bad" as men who are flat out misogynistic. But that fact isn't a good enough reason for me to give all women a pass on the sexist stuff they say.

Peruse the "sexism: ladies do it too" or "internalized misogyny" tags on my Tumblr for a moment. Or better yet, just take a look at these choice gems:

[Female tweet that reads "I don't like most other females. They are bitchy, jealous, stuck up, sluts, or just fucking stupid."]

[Female Facebook comment: "Get off his dick you attention craving slut. Seek attention from someone who's single.]

[Female Tumblr post: "Sorry. I'm only a feminist when it comes to me. 95% of women are fucking stupid. I'm not being sexist i'm (sic) just realistic."]

Listen, I am going to call this stuff out. Yes, I am ultimately more concerned about the hate-filled and frequently violent misogyny that comes from many men in this world, but I'm not going to look the other way on this stuff because it's posted by girls and women. Why in the world should we implicitly affirm misogyny when it comes from a woman? We won't get anywhere unless we take the time to call out and examine all sexist comments. 

I'm sick of girl on girl hate, the continued disparagement of femininityencouragement of "cat fights," and the special snowflake syndrome BS. Really. I'm over it. So sorry, not sorry. 

I'm not saying that these women deserve some kind of horrible punishment, but internalized misogyny must be addressed and understood. Let me put it this way, who wins when we ignore it? What message are we sending younger girls who observe this behavior going unchecked? 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Male Allies and Feminism: Leadership in the Movement vs. Personal Identity

I've been reading/watching closely the Hugo Schwyzer-fest happening at a few lady blogs this week. (I mean specifically, Persephone and xoJane--the former which I read regularly the latter, I do not but went that way when I saw several Tweets exchanged with and by the author Lesley Kinzel.)

I don't even want to touch the Schwyzer stuff specifically. If you want to read about that, go to almost any prominent feminist blog, search for his name and read and read and read. (Oh, and there's this Tumblr about him too.)

What I do want to touch on is the idea of male feminists and their place within the movement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Wrong Idea of "Equality"

So often, I see people with privilege talking about "equality" and fairness in a way where the terms are taken in the most unexamined, uninformed way possible. I have a few examples about what I mean:
  • A thin person tells a fat person that she is equally oppressed because she's been made fun of for being thin.
  • A man states that if women want "real equality" then they can't expect to take maternity leave or be given time at work to breastfeed.
  • A white person claims they face just as much racism as people of color because they swear they've been called a "cracker" one time and real fairness would mean the elimination of all slurs.
In each of these cases that chief problem is the denial of the cultural context in which we operate and the history involved. In other words, stuff just ain't the same for different groups of people. Yes, all body shaming is a problem, but the cultural context is repeatedly telling us that fat bodies are wrong. Therefore, thin people benefit from thin privilege on a daily basis and simply because they have experienced body shame, doesn't mean their experience is anywhere similar to that of a fat person. The same goes for the white person who benefits from their white privileged literally every day. Their isolated incident with the slur does not remotely compare to the daily oppression people of color face and our long, violent national history with racism.

And as for the example of with the man who is talking about "real equality" for women, the problem is that his version of "real equality" is again ignoring the world in which we operate. It takes a man's situation as default and denies the sexism that women face on a daily basis. As I've said before, I feel strongly that you can't achieve an actually equitable society through expecting women to behave and think like men in order to be seen as legitimate, to get ahead, and be successful. My brand of feminism has never been about this. Instead, it is about making systems (which have always favored men in the past) also work for women. If we take how men do things as the standard and expect women to conform to that, we're simply validating patriarchy.

It's so much more important in each context, that we examine the "-isms" at play--the existence of oppression and the history of discrimination. The real problem is that when people benefit from white, male, thin, able bodied, straight, cis, etc. privilege, they don't want to compromise that position. So they deny the situation and instead talk about this false notion of equality which ignores the real world we operate in.

To me, it is much more important to think critically about how privilege affects our world and how we can work toward the eradication of various oppressions than to try to figure out some arbitrary standard of "equality."