Y’all may have missed the two humongous feminist “controversies” this past week–Twisty calling the blow job a tool of patriarchal oppression and Linda Hirshman taking elite women to task for not doing enough to advance feminist goals–and so you probably also missed the very interesting comments about those controversies.
When I was walking Mrs. Wigglebottom this morning, what struck me is that many of the comments surrounding both issues can be boiled down to this: “If you don’t validate my life choices, I won’t be a feminist. So, you’re ruining feminism.”
I’ve long thought this was bullshit on the level of “Oh, sure, you’re willing to take all the hard-won benefits of feminism–your job, your education, your name on your own credit card, your ability to go about unescorted, etc.–but you don’t have the courage to honor the folks who won you those benefits. Nice.”
But what I realized this morning is that it’s bullshit on another level, too, because, inherent in these criticisms of particular feminists is the idea that these women aren’t being careful with the feelings of others. Just let this sink in for a second. I’ll say it again, the objections to these women’s arguments often center around the fact that these women aren’t being careful with the feelings of others.
Here we are, a bunch of… let’s say women with progressive ideas about gender roles (since we can’t say “feminist” because some of them appear to threatening to turn their backs on feminism in order to punish the individuals they don’t like) who all think that a valid criticism of a woman is whether or not she’s being careful enough with the feelings of others.
Y’all, this is how deeply some of these ideas are ingrained. In our example, even women who should know better are unreflexively complaining that other women aren’t taking care of them. Women who should know that it’s nobody else’s responsibility but her own to take care of herself are hurt that these particular feminists aren’t being careful enough with them.
On the other hand, that’s not to say that there hasn’t been some good critique of these controversies. Check R. Mildred’s take on the blowjob controversy, for instance. But I think the important distinction here is that, rather than being all “Oh, you hurt my feelings, because you aren’t taking care of me,” R. Mildred is pissed off (hurray for anger) and she and the commenters in this thread have smart, substantive critiques.
So, ha, suddenly I feel like I’m undermining my own point or not being clear. But what I mean is that there’s a way in which too many of us are avoiding the intelligent pissed-off rant in order to continue the pouty, flouncy “but you hurt my feelings” bullshit that is very bound up in traditional gendered expectations of women–both in terms of how women are always supposed to consider the feelings of others and how our reaction to conflict is supposed to be either to resolve it or to flounce off in a cute little huff, leaving the real work for the grown ups.