"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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pick a Gender

Today, two comics which embrace gendered stereotypes without actually keying in on gender. That is, they both struck me as sexist-ish, but then I recognized that gender, while invoked implicitly, was explicitly left out of the equation. Still embracing gendered stereotypes? Hmmm...

First, Mr. Boffo has a backseat driver:

I had to take a closer look at the person in the backseat to realize that there seems to be some (purposeful?) gender ambiguity there. It's interesting to note that women in Mr. Boffo tend to be variations on a theme of tall, pretty, skinny white women with ponytails, so it may even be more likely that the person in the backseat is meant to be a guy (I doubt Mr. Boffo understands that there are myriad genders, so I'm going binary in my discussion of it). My first reaction is now nixed by a mixed reaction. More importantly, this ain't one of the funniest strips I've seen.

Next up, one of my new-ish favorite strips, Savage Chickens, takes on the whole men-want-sex-women-want-love trope:
Thing is, these both seem to be hens, not roosters. So am I projecting the stereotypes? Maybe. Or perhaps, to give Savage Chickens more credit, Doug Savage, who writes and draws the strip, is defying the stereotype, and just commenting on how sometimes people (chickens) want different things than they profess to want. Or maybe he just doesn't know how to draw a rooster? Or maybe they're both roosters, and he can't draw hens? Or maybe he's a gender outlaw, and purposefully doesn't draw gender in at all...?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Being An Ally -- How Hard Is It, Really?

Sudy has a great post that includes some words about how it really isn't that difficult to be a good ally (and why people should stop asking her how to be a good ally):
Being an ally is not as dramatic as people paint it lately. I mean, how difficult is it to decenter yourself and your own life and absorb someone else's for a few minutes of your day? Do you realize it's not just about you? It's not just about YOUR definitions of what is an ally. DO you know acknowledge the larger systematic boot of violence against womyn of color and the knife of economic violence that shoves womyn of color into corners of poverty, rape, and silence? (I mean, really acknowledge it.) Being an ally is not ripping the mic from someone else and thrusting it in the face of WOC. Because, in the end, fast forward 60 years from now, the only person who can answer if you led a life of transformation and solidarity is you. Why ask me?

I think she's right, but I think there are some good reasons why potential allies look to those we are trying to be allied with for some answers. If I sit around and talk about how to be a good feminist ally (for instance) with a bunch of feminist men, we're going to be missing out on some of the answers, just by virtue of blind spots of privilege that we may not be able to even know are there. This isn't to say that we can't come up with good, interesting, varied answers to our questions, or that we shouldn't try to, that we shouldn't do the work required to figure this stuff out. I don't want to make it Sudy's job to teach me how to be a better ally. And yet, I want her views on it, so what to do?

Well, that's where the above quote comes in. Decenter from my own life and soak up her views for a while. Read her, and not just what she has to say about allies. Shut up and listen more often. That's some of the advice I'm going to keep giving myself, even though she, and others, have given me the inspiration to do so.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Embracing the Enormity

One reason that I've stopped posting regularly was that the enormity of the various tasks at hand are sometimes overwhelming. Fighting sexism? Ongoing, huge battle. Fighting classicism? Ditto. Fighting racism? Yet another seemingly impossible task. All the while, finding a space to do this as a white, middle-class man? Sigh.

Add to that a growing understanding that communities of protest, communities that seek justice, often aren't very good allies, well, that makes one take a few steps back, reassess and rest.

But of course, 'resting' can be privilege-driven, can't it? I can stop posting, sure, but here I am, living in the US as a white, middle-class man...putting down my pen (so to speak) just means I get a break, to a large degree (though I would claim that men don't get a break from the hardships that patriarchy places on them, either). When BFP stops posting, and takes down her site, because she's understandably fed up, she still has to face a racist, sexist world.

So I'm starting to feel like my hiatus here, while fueled by understandable concerns for my own mental and physical health, is also a way of letting my white/male/able-bodied privilege win out. And, while I think that shutting up can be a lot of what an ally ought to be, I also think that there are ways that I can raise my voice without shouting down those-who-I-would-be-an-ally-of.

So, to start off, howabout a little checklist for myself, to combat the desire to take another break?

1. But it's hard to hear that one isn't being a good ally.
Yep. Sure is. Getting called out feels like shit, especially since people are much more likely to blame than praise in the world o' blogs. You work really hard on trying to bring social justice, and you get called out for what, to you, might seem like small things. But you know what? You don't get to judge what counts as a 'small thing'. These are communities we're talking about, and we're all in it together, so if enough people call you out and say it's important, then it is.

2. There's just too much work to do.
Also true. But keep in mind that you're not doing it alone, and you're not even facing the most daunting challenges--others are. You post about comics and men & feminism, for goodness' sake, not systematic rape in the congo. Maybe you should be posting about other, more important things, but to claim that posting about comics and gender is too daunting, as one of your tasks, is to embrace your privilege. Fight that.

3. But I'm Not Welcome.
Not in every community, not all of the time. That's why this space exists, in part. And there are those who value your voice, and who value what you say. Seek them out. Nurture them. And continue to understand that it's ok that you're not welcome some places. Keep the righteous indignation at a minimum, because it is so often a reflection of your privilege.

There's more, of course, but this is a start.

What to Say

One feels the need to respond to the controversy, but really, there isn't so much left to say that hasn't already been said, and said better than I could say. I guess I'll just say this:

Feminism and anti-racism ought to be inextricably intertwined. Lots of times, they aren't seen that way. That's something we ought to work to change.

Other than that:

First, just go see what BFP has to say abut the whole thing.

Then, take these words from Lauren to heart:
What I don’t get is how so many of us that were irritated by what often seemed like an intentional oversight are suddenly scandalized to be called out on our own biases, blindnesses, and lenses of privilege. Put your big girl panties on and take notice.

Update: Ok, go read what Twisty has to say as well:
You feel that, white feminists? That’s your obstreperal lobe telling you that feminism and good intentions do not a get-out-of-racism-free card make.

Restrained Amusement

In yet another example of one of my favorite comics annoying the crap out of me: XKCD Thinks Restraining Orders Are Funny...

Thing is, I get that this is funny, conceptually. At the risk of going Monty-Python-esque, the humor is found within pushing the boundaries (no pun intended) of the concept of a restraining order--normally, it's just meant to keep people away, so a restraining order as described in the comic is antithetical to what restraining orders are for. The cognitive dissonance provided by holding the original concept and the revised concept in one's head helps create the humor. And yet, for me, it can't help but conjure up the women (and men, and people of all genders) who have to get restraining orders, for various reasons, which helps the funny slip away quickly and quietly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Family or Prison?

Mr. Boffo:

I could be playing basketball right now. Y'know, instead of looking out the window ignoring my screaming wife while she screws up my dinner and doesn't keep my kids in line very well.

Also: Make some insights about gender roles, but make sure you bring it all back to body issues, because, you know, that's what women do:
For Better of For Worse: