"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Monday, August 14, 2006

More List Food for Thought

Nobadges was kind enough to give us some ideas to bounce around, with his list of things that "fem-bloggers" could do to please him.

I hope you don't mind if I take your list seriously, even though it has a bit of a snarky tone itself...I'm hoping that all of us better understanding what we might want over here at FA, at least, might be a good exercise. Since you and I have butted heads before, I want to make it clear that I really do think we might all be able to learn something from further examination of your list, as well--and that is something that explicitly probably ought not be done on various feminist blogs (i.e. you're definitely turning the discussion back to what bothers you....)

nobadges list points are quoted:

1. If you don't like what someone is saying, but they are being polite and reasonable, don't assume they are uneducated.

On the face of it, sounds great. Two problems, one minor, one not-so-minor. Problem one: Seems pretty 'strawfeminist' to me. Can you cite an example where this happened? I haven't seen it much, but this could just be the particular feminist blogs I read. Problem two: Polite and reasonable are, of course, subjective terms, and their definitions are often what is at issue regarding disagreements about who's 'trolling' and such. For some, being reasonable means not even marching out the tired old platitutes about 'reverse sexism', just as a for-instance. So, as a rule, without exposition on what it means to be polite and reasonable on one's blog, it doesn't get you very far. Sure, common-sense can take you pretty far, but not all the way. And presumably people are using common-sense without the explicit rules anyway.

2. If you don't like what someone is saying, but they are being polite and reasonable, don't assume they are conservative or of some other particular political affiliation.

Depends on what they're saying, doesn't it? As an extreme example, if they are saying "I am a conservative and a Republican," then you can easily take what they say and assume they are conservative and a Republican. But this is, of course, a limiting case. Still, if somebody comes along and starts spouting 'that's sexist tripe', it's pretty clear from they get-go that he or she doesn't like the same flavors of feminism I do, and probably votes more 'conservatively' when it comes to women's issues than I do. So, the context is all important, which sorta makes the rule again, common-sense, which will only take us so far.

3. Be aware that there is an entire branch of the social sciences that does not consider "patriarchy" to mean "the big boogey man that oppresses all women", that is, anthropology.

You've brought this up before, and it still puzzles me as to why you think its relevant. Every discipline (including feminist theory) has technical terms, and may use those technical terms even if some other discipline uses those terms for different ends and in different ways--even if that discipline started using it that way 'first'. In philosophy, for instance, "Idealism" has a couple of very definite technical meanings that have nothing to do with, say the Idealism talked about in Political Science. But we don't have a bunch of Poly Sci people complaining about it.

In addition, I'd hazard a guess (just a guess!) that there has been more written in feminist theory on patriarchy than there has been in anthropology. What do you think? Should antropologists stop using the term? ;)

4. Be aware that the way fem-bloggers talk about "the patriarchy" is not really even consistent with academic feminist literature.

This is overgeneralized (and not backed up by you, here at least) to such a degree to be pretty not useful. Who do you include in academic feminist liturature? What flavors of patriarchy that feminist bloggers are using are you talking about. There are differences across the board, at every intersection. Which isn't suprising. Patriarchy can be a very complex concept. The academic feminist literature I like and agree with the most (i.e. bell hooks, for example) gels very well with, say Jill at Feministe, but not so well with Lesbian Separatist bloggers.

5. If you have a moderation policy, apply it evenly to people who both support your views and who argue against your views. Hugo (more) and Ampersand (less) are both guilty of looking the other way when the fem-bloggers get snarky in the comments. Standyourground.com, an MRA site, is absolutely awful in this respect.

Great rule, though again, the devil is in the details. "Evenly" is the problem word. Is it 'even' if you let 10 men come into a discussion on rape and say 'she asked for it' if 10 men and women say 'no, she didn't'? I don't think so. Sometimes 'even' means 'a safe place for women because there aren't enough of them on the interwebby'. I think your examples of Hugo and Ampersand are interesting, because they've both been accused of looking the other way when anti-feminist commentors get snarky, too.

6. Read something, anything, besides pop feminist books and the feminist blogosphere.

Condescending much? ;) You seem to be sort of violating your own rule #1 here, aintcha? I've found the bloggers I read to be pretty well-rounded, though you probably woulnd't consider me well-rounded enough to make the judgment.

7. Don't label men who don't toe the fem-blogger groupthink line as MRAs reflexively.

This is the best rule you came up with, I think, and one of the things that Feminist Allies has taught me. There are lots of positions that a feminist man can take, and not all of them are as pro-feminist as I consider my own to be (and Dave is proably 'more' pro-feminist than I am, so it works both ways). Of course, it depends on which part of that line you aren't toe-ing, nobadges. When people come in and say things like 'that's sexist tripe!', it's easier to place them within the MRA box. Maybe not the main, MRA box, but one of 'em. Still, I think this advice is great.

8. Don't tell second wave feminists that they aren't feminists.

Well, this one is either problematic or not too useful, actually. I don't think discussions about who gets to be 'a feminist' and who doesn't only get us so far, so saying 'you aren't a feminist' isn't usually the tach I like to take. However, if you're a feminist who doesn't think that, say, people of color have some legitimate axes to grind with second wave feminism, than it's likely we're going to disagree on lots and lots of things, and doesn't seem too far out to say that we're in 'different waves'. And that third wave is better than second wave, in that it incorporates lots that second wave left out that ought to be included.

9. If you are a lawyer/doctor/expert and you participate in an open discussion that is not specifically meant only for experts of your type, do not expect everyone to be a lawyer/doctor/expert. Also, do not expect anyone to care, or take your word for whatever you are proclaiming to be the truth.

This is a complaint against feminist bloggers? Seems to me that if it's a legitimate complaint at all, it ought to be against a large cross-section of bloggers. Who did you have in mind, though? I've actually had run-ins with piny regarding workplace issues of sexism, and been told that I don't undestand law offices, so to some degree I sympathize. Still you've got some work to do to convince me that feminist bloggers are more guilty of this than others.

10. If you think that every change to culture that blurs any distinction between women and men is a good thing, that's great. Be aware that many feminists do not share this view. Refer to #1, #2, and #7 above when you encounter this line of thought.

Feminism can be quite full of complexity, a tapestry of various views, that's for sure. But again, I call 'strawfeminist'--there aren't many who profess--at least explicitly--that every change to culture that blurs any distinction between men and women is a good thing. You have somebody in mind?
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