Waking Up

After having directed all of my brain energy into my end-of-term papers, I feel like I should have something to say about something here, but I seem to have lost track of all those random things I said I would write about, at some abstract future point and never bothered noting.

First of all, though, general thanks to the Creative Revolution types for the existence of the Canadian F-Word blog awards, and particular thanks to Mr. matttbastard for nominating me even if I never say much at all, let alone anything of relevance. There be lots of good readings over there, anyway.

The one thing I do recall from the list of thoughts I couldn’t get around to blogging was this YouTube clip from the apologetics organization “Answers in Genesis” that, although a couple of years old, was actually new to me. That thing seriously freaked me out – it’s just incredibly jarring and cold, which I assume is pretty much the point. And really, of all the possible things wrong with it, I honestly think that’s the biggest one. It’s trying to advocate for Christianity by instilling fear in them, which is nothing new, but instead of the old kind of wrath-of-God fear, what we have here plays on something a lot of people fear very genuinely – isolation, abandonment, their own unworthiness and irrelevance to others.

Obviously, I think that is absolutely the opposite of the point of the gospel, which is that you matter to God, whether you think you do or not – and if you’re not so comfortable believing in God, I frankly don’t see much wrong with an evangelical Christian message that’s based primarily on ‘you matter’. Not “you will matter if you meet the following criteria, make the following promises and accept the following beliefs”. Not “we will accept your unacceptable self if you change in certain prescribed ways and appreciate that we will be policing your meeting of said conditions near constantly”.

This is, as usual, not rocket science. There is no ‘if’ here, and I absolutely cannot imagine anyone responding to this ad with the sincere desire to walk into a church and expect to find a place where they would be welcomed and embraced. While I’m not sure I fully believe the saying that ‘where there is faith, there is no fear’, I would certainly figure that any kind of ‘faith’ growing out of this particular brand of fear would be brittle, defensive and incredibly strained. I think there are a lot of reasons to find this ad offensive (and believe me, I do), but I can’t help but also notice that it’s likely to be extraordinarily ineffective, and that actually makes me sad.

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Something I’ve Been Meaning to Do for a While…

I’m doubtful anyone is still out there, and it seems a little strange to write this when I haven’t been around all month, but for my own reasons, I wanted to note that this quaint little blog joint turned a year old towards the end of last month. And sentimental old fool that I am, I have to note that it’s been quite the year for me, and that this blog thing – and related internet enterprises – have turned out to have been really good for me.

I started this place in a state of chaos. I started it, in some ways, because I was running away from other spaces, virtually and metaphorically. And in that way that people who don’t live in this sphere can never quite understand, it’s been a huge part of me pulling myself back together. I’ve had space where I can think concepts through and connect them to emotions and have that be okay with the nebulous community I was doing it in and then be able to actually think those emotions through. I’ve found this little environment in which I can challenge my own thoughts and be challenged by brilliant people and come to a lot more solid understanding of where I stand on a lot of issues. When I started this blog, I was pretty wishy-washy on the not wanting to piss anyone off, not even really trusting my own opinions. Through the people I’ve encountered and befriended to some extent, I’ve learned a hell of a lot and come to a lot more courage on shit that I think needs to be said.

I’ve come to love this blogging thing, and I really should try to write a thing or two, even in my crazy state of busy, because it’s been therapy, it’s been social, it’s been education, it’s been energizing, it’s been catharsis. And on a much more shallow note, I think it’s really eased the transition back into essay-writing academic mode. Kept my brain mostly sharpened, it has.

Thanks, y’all.

Talk Like A Man

Caroline’s at Uncool has had a couple of posts recently that caught the attention of the linguist portion of my brain (which the blogosphere seems to be trying desperately to rouse from its dormancy).

First, Language of Feminists covers a lot of similar ground to a post I was going to write a while back based on the same comments (one of many posts that exist only in my mind, but that are brilliant and revolutionary, and if only I didn’t have to do my dishes, could have changed the world).

Then, she also linked to the Gender Genie, a tool that will analyze your text to determine whether it was written by a man or a woman, based on an algorithm developed by a couple of computational linguists. The programmer who wrote the code (and who has presumably seen lots and lots of data from the demographic survey attached to the Gender Genie site) admits:

Despite having written the program, I didn’t come up with the algorithm and believe that the Genie works no better than the flip of a coin.

She goes on to say that because “serious academic study” went into the algorithm, it’s not a complete waste of time to think about it and to describe how the linguists in question did their work:

Using complicated formulas, they determined that male writers tended to write more about specific things like an apple, a book, or the car. In contrast, female writers wrote about connections to things like my apple, your book, or our car.

Memo to the world: complicated formulas, mathy words like “algorithm”, academic credentials and serious, intense study don’t mean jack shit if the results of your hard (and probably well-paid) work don’t predict reality any better than the flip of a coin. (Also, that paragraph misrepresents the linguistics of determiners and possessive pronouns, but that’s just me being pedantic.) Apparently, even though the damn thing is, you know wrong about real people and real conversation, this programmer has received a number of letters thanking her for helping authors to write the speech of male or female characters more realistically.

Which brings me back to the accusations of “violent”, “pornified”, “masculine” language that have regularly been used to dismiss arguments made by the wrong kind of feminist (/the wrong kind of woman). Caroline’s points are all great, but in combination with the “Gender Genie” bullshit, this quoted comment, originally by Maggie Hayes, stands out:

“laughing like a super villain”? “wank worthy fantasy”? I agree that these comments were totally inappropriate. This makes me think: this kind of language is awfully similar to the sort of language a porn-using abuvive ex-boyfriend of mine was often using when talking to me.

Apparently, so is “the”.

I know I’m being overly dismissive, but this language shit really gets to me, and the above comment really shows how the arguments are becoming all layered on top of one another, such that it’s now impossible to actually have a discussion about the issue of how to stop or deal with the abuse she suffered from this ex-boyfriend, because instead we’re talking first about the fact that he used porn and further about the language he used to talk about the fact that he used porn. I know language can be triggering, I definitely know that language can be violent, but those of us who are survivors of abuse and assault and violence need to learn to see words and expressions in context, lest we start conflating the use of words like “wank” or “supervillain” with assaulting people, no matter the meaning behind them, as long as they’re not being used by us/against people we don’t like.

Because, see, if we’re going to actually start getting uncomfortable with “masculine” language, and we’re going to continue to assume that “masculine”=”aggressive” (a point that is far from uncontestable or unproblematic), and we’re going to create linguistically “feminine”/nurturing/comfortable spaces, then the Gender Genie and its complicated algorithms inform us that we’re going to have to make sure people stop using words like “the”, “is” and “to”. Because who cares about pesky things like “meaning” and “context” and “reality”, anyway?

(By the way, the Genie thinks the author of this post is male).

Feminism, Hierarchy and Self-Aggrandizement

A few days ago, I posted on the recent attention drawn to the issue of the appropriation of WOC writing and thought by white feminist authors. I’ve been trying desperately to read most of what’s being posted on the subject, and I’ve commented a few times, but I ended up deleting that post because I saw reference to a request not to mention names or write about the individuals involved. At the point that I saw it, I didn’t have a lot of time at all to research the specifics of the request or to go back and fine-tune the post in order to conform to exactly what was being requested, so my attempt to respect that request came in the form of full deletion. That post included a whole bunch of links to other blogs that have written on the specifics of this incident, while this one is my attempt to get at some of the more general issues it raises. If you need some background on the specifics, belledame has some great links (follow them), Sylvia lays down some serious awesome in specific takedown form, and Black Amazon addresses the deeper core issues that are at stake here.

A lot of the following philosophical soliloquy is stuff I’ve been thinking about for a while, and that I’ve written about in bits and pieces before.

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Quick Linking: Posts that made me smile this morning

Sudy, from WAM a few days ago: The Truth About Feminism:

The truth is about feminism is the same truth about media: we trap ourselves when we soley focus on our individual liberation…Feminism is the question, the deepest question of all curiosities that rises and falls to the beat of the unanswered, “Are we free?

Philomela, taking as a point of origin the story of Mary Magdalene weeping and saying “They have taken away my lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”: Feminism and Christianity:

What did they do with the man who loved women, tax colectors, protitutes, the disabled, the poor? they westernised him, sanitised him turned him into a middle class, mysognistic conservative. I do not know where they have laid him, he will never be where they say he is.

It’s the same question.

Carnivals!

Carnivals are a blessing and a curse, in my world. Mostly, they just make me want to read *more stuff* and then I find posts from great blogs that I want to read *more later* and then they also make me realize how everything I could possibly want to say is being said by others, only better and faster and funnier.

And then I’m grateful for that little dose of much-needed humility, in carnival form.

Two new ones up in the past couple of days:

The first ever Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy at Uncool

and the 44th Carnival Against Sexual Violence at, as usual, abyss2hope (honestly, that woman has far more stamina/stomach for this stuff than I can even imagine, and for that the world is a far better place).

I think those titles go nicely together: Good = sexual freedom and autonomy. Bad = not.

There’s a post of mine included in the latter  that one, which I didn’t actually submit myself, and that only scares me a little (seriously, every so often I have these little “oh shit” moments where I realize I’m actually on the *internet* and people *read that*).

The Oppression in Question

The thread following that Feministing post I linked to earlier ended up being absolutely horrifying. I almost regret mentioning my experience of the general social pressure to have children, because it certainly makes me feel like I’m part of the problem demonstrated in that thread. Basically, in sum (and generally speaking, since a few people on both sides were quite reasonable), childless women told stories of that pressure, referred to mothers as a privileged group in society, and thereby justified mocking, criticizing and evaluating their choices. Oh, and threw in a hefty dash of class privilege by repeatedly saying that people who couldn’t afford to have children should damn well stop doing it. When mothers, stay at home and otherwise, expressed shock at that kind of “discussion” on a feminist board, still more childless women came out to say things like this:

I wish I could say I’m surprised at the number of commenters who’ve somehow taken the existence of childfree people as a direct attack upon themselves and their desire for children.

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