In Which I Take A Side (or, When Feminists Don’t Get It)

I haven’t been long for reading the feminist blogosphere. It’s been maybe a year or so, but as with everything else I do, I’ve thrown myself into it pretty whole-heartedly, despite my late bloomer status. So I started off somewhat enamoured of the big names. I’m also a white twenty-something, well-educated and raised in a middle class family, so initially the issues they confront and their style suited me just fine.

In general, I’m not much for confrontation, which is on the list of reasons it’s fortunate nobody knows who I am. Being mostly invisible, it’s not like anybody’s looking to me to say “hey, I wonder what Purtek thinks of this?” so I have no obligation to write on whatever standard stuff is going around. And blog or no blog, I have no illusions about the fact that if anyone does read me, it’s not really because they’re that interested in me per se.

Which sets up both my irrelevance and my naiveté well enough, I hope, that I can now ask: how is it that feminists can manage to miss the point so freaking badly? How is it that they can’t see just how much they sound like all the men who have ever dismissed women as hysterical, irrelevant, special issues? So that when WOC start pointing out that claiming that a book about “empowering female sexuality” is not exactly the be-all-and-end-all of rape prevention that the marketing suggests, and that a book talking about how only yes means yes is unlikely to include stories of rape used in environments of blatant hate, in war, by authority figures, on reserves, and, given the publicity the book might get, that a book like this certainly acts to help in privileging the voices of a certain kind of feminist, certain kind of voice, certain kind of woman.

And excuse me, but fuck that. How can we not hear ourselves when we say “You’re not the target audience of this book” to WOC, when the subject of the book is why feminism is relevant today, in real people’s lives? How can we not hear that when we say “Go write your own”, or “The next one will be about you” that we’re might as well be quoting our own fucking bingo cards? What the hell is wrong with people who are well-versed in the impact vs. intent theory — for fuck’s sakes, the book Yes Means Yes emerges practically verbatim from discussions of this concept — but who still say things like “You’re really arguing more with the rhetorical posturing than the idea behind the book. I don’t think they’re trying to promote feminist in-fighting or denying radical feminist theory at all.” (Amanda Marcotte, over here).

I have a number of related thoughts I want to explore, but in this post, maybe I’m just expressing my feminist coming-of-age or something…I’ve been embarrassed recently to admit some stuff that’s been sparking those lightbulb moments (embarrassed that it’s happening only now, embarrassed at the many that are still to come) but whatever…the problem I’m getting at here, and it’s one that’s been striking me for quite some time now, is: How the fuck is it that feminists, activists, brilliant people, can become completely incapable of holding that mirror back up against themselves? I fundamentally do not understand how some of these words can unironically emerge from the mouths of people who know. I just don’t understand, and maybe I hope I’m never going to be important enough (in whatever little corner of the world I operate) that I can even try.

For reference:
Magniloquence
Firefly
Black Amazon
Sudy
Sylvia

That’s not a comprehensive list, and there are links within those links, or follow-up posts by those same bloggers. But it gets you started, if that’s what you want.

11 thoughts on “In Which I Take A Side (or, When Feminists Don’t Get It)

  1. [...] In Which I Take A Side (or, When Feminists Don’t Get It) by [...]

  2. BetaCandy says:

    I find this whole book concept totally troubling. I left a response on Tekanji’s blog, but basically I’m troubled that once again “the rape culture” means “the adult female rape culture, probably white and middle to upper class”. I don’t understand how anyone can talk about rape generally without including the rapes of children and men. If you want to talk specifically about the rapes of women, say so. And if your focus is even narrower than that, be aware of it and acknowledge that, too.

  3. BetaCandy says:

    Er, let me rephrase my first sentence: I am not troubled by the substance of the book. I think it might be very valuable. I’m troubled that it presents a very narrow segment of rape experience as “the rape culture”. Thus excluding all of us who have experienced something different.

  4. purtek says:

    Agreed. I’m currently writing a longer post on the substance of the book itself (likely to go up tomorrow), and I have some thoughts that go back to my “Feminist Victim-Blaming” post on the Hathor feminism site.

    I mean, isn’t ignoring the rapes of children, men and all these other aspects of rape culture kind of about ignoring…the rapists?

    I didn’t see your comment on Tekanji’s post, but I’ll go back and look.

  5. baby221 says:

    I’m glad everyone else has picked this up and blogged it. It’s helped so much to see where everyone else is coming from — because originally, although I agreed with Tekanji’s analysis, I couldn’t quite see what the big deal was. And the comment thread just lost me altogether … *makes an ashamed face* And then it was like ooooooooooh, like a really big friggin’ lightbulb, and, well, now I get it.

  6. tekanji says:

    I didn’t see your comment on Tekanji’s post, but I’ll go back and look.

    It should be up now. I’m on vacation so moderation is going slowly.

    Btw, welcome to the blogsphere :)

  7. purtek says:

    I couldn’t quite see what the big deal was. And the comment thread just lost me altogether … *makes an ashamed face*

    You know what’s funny? It kind of helps that you struggled to get it as well, and that you’re a little ashamed of it. Because I always figure I must be the *last* person to get it, and it must be just so easy for everybody else, so these lightbulb moments had to have happened like, fifty years ago for all of *you*. Well, that’s funny to me, anyway, but I mostly only amuse myself.

  8. baby221 says:

    :) I guess I’m good for something. Most of my problem stems from the fact that it takes me a while to get into a “listening” kind of mood, you know? There was one comment at tekanji’s that really set me off, something about “well you’re really just blaming the victim again by expecting her to bounce into yes yes yes yes GOD YES YES” or something, and I just spluttered and tuned out, and left snark about how women screaming GOD YES were not victims. Roy, as it happens, did an excellent explication of that comment and its response, and then I felt silly for not having listened because once it was clarified it made more sense.

    So yeah, I’m bullheaded and stubborn (and self-righteous), and that’s one of my single greatest flaws when it comes to anti-oppression stuff. Even if you’re on my side I sometimes can’t make myself willing to really hear you once you say something that reads ignorantly to me.

    *cough* So don’t feel so alone :) I guarantee you I’m probably right there with you.

  9. purtek says:

    I guess I’m good for something.

    Don’t kid yourself. You’re good for lots of things. :)

    The thought process reminds me of what Betacandy was talking about on the “Opt-Out Privilege Card” post, in response to Jay’s initial struggles with the concept. It’s comforting to watch other people going through the same thing, because these dialogues are about our own struggles to let go of assumptions (whether the be privilege-based or not) and without the ability to see that we’re all just, you know, human and learning and all that, then we’d be trapped in the dichotomy of “already get it” vs. “defensively not bothering”.

    A couple of these things have hit some larger and larger frustration chords with me, though, as I’ve mostly been an observer in these conversations. Seriously, the “how do people not listen to themselves in these incidents” question is one I cannot get past.

  10. [...] BetaCandy First I read Purtek and followed her links. I pored over the article and comments on Tekanji’s blog. Then Purtek posted [...]

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