I’m Left Twisting in the Wind

A lot of folks I read have been coming to the conclusion that now is the time to stop linking to “I Blame the Patriarchy.”  In a recent thread, a few readers descended into froathing-at-the-mouth trans…beyond phobia, but let’s call it transphobia because I don’t know of a word that properly gets at the level of seething hatred being expressed towards transgendered people.  There was some contention that we “real” women should never be forced to go to the bathroom with those “fake” women and then this bizarre claim that transgenderism is just a way for men to infiltrate and ruin everything about womanhood (If you’re curious, Belledame has some links and a really thought-provoking discussion over at her place about it).

I think the complaint most folks have is not just that people would dare express unpopular ideas, but that those ideas are never challenged or even discussed by Twisty, the site’s owner, and so one doesn’t know if she agrees with those ideas or not.  And folks who are not transphobic, I think, don’t mind commenting at a site where some commenters are transphobic, but don’t want to continue to comment at and support the discussion at a site where the writer might be transphobic and unwilling to discuss it, and since unwilling to discuss it, unwilling to change.

It’s an interesting discussion for me to follow and one that gives me a lot of pause.  I won’t delink to someone just because I disagree with their commenters, because I don’t believe a person ought to be held responsible for their readers.  We have a lot of cantankerous discussions here and people say things that piss other people off.  Hell, I say things that piss you off and you have said some shit that’s made me so angry I wanted a door to slam in your face.

But I have never once felt like these conversations weren’t incredible.  Sometimes very, very difficult, but incredible.

Still, there are costs.  People who aren’t into fighting or who don’t feel like backing up their every claim with fourteen different scholarly sources stay silent.

Anyway, my point is that I don’t hold Twisty accountable for what’s said in her comments because I don’t want to be held accountable for the things said in my comments.  Each person must, in the end, bare responsibility for her choices.

And I’m also unsure how it gets decided that so-and-so is an important feminist blogger.  And once one’s a big important feminist blogger, how it is decided what things you’re held accountable for.  I think we have a tendency (humans, not feminists) to make rules for how folks ought to behave and hold them to those rules, without ever informing folks of those rules or even discovering if they consent to being governed by them.

I think a lot of this goes back to trying to figure out how to wield power effectively.  For so long, we’ve been fed some bullshit line about how our power comes from our willing submission to men and that women who want to or attempt to wield real power are bitches who’ve overstepped some important boundary and who need to be put back in their place.

I think we’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that this is not the case, but we’re still stuck in this rut of an idea that “power” equals “power over”–power that rules the group, not power that protects and trains the group to protect itself against outside threats.  There’s strength that keeps others weak and strength that helps others be strong.

It’s a simple truth and one we should know and one we have to be told time and time again.  We have to constantly choose which kind of strong we’re going to be–the strong that relies on others being weak or the strong that helps others be strong as well.  One will be exchange and one will be change.  Which are we working for?

I don’t want power over Twisty.

I don’t want to be able to dictate how she runs her site or what she does there.  And shoot, if only for bringing the term “empowerful”  into people’s minds, she deserves some kind of award.

But I also don’t think that means that everything that happens at “I Blame the Patriarchy” is above reproach or beyond comment.

So, what recourse is left for a person who’s complained but doesn’t feel like their complaints have even been heard, let alone taken into consideration?  All you can do is delink, I guess.

I love Twisty because she’s wickedly funny and she makes me think about things I normally don’t think about in ways I normally don’t think about them.  I also understand the criticism that her comments become either a long series of folks telling her how brilliant she is or bizarre tangents, like the transphobic one, that are left unaddressed by the site’s proprietor.  And I often think that many of her commenters are not as smart as they think they are.  (But then again, who is?)

And I do feel like she’s very influential in introducing certain types of difficult critiques into the feminist blogosphere.

But yeah, I wonder.

Today, Twisty has a post about a comment the head of RAINN made about male rape victims:

When someone goes through it, the effects can be devastating, especially if you’re male.

She makes some snarky comment in the post title about how, if you’re a woman, you just kind of expect that it’s coming and then links to the news article in which Lynn Parrish was quoted.

But it seems to me implied in the above-quote and clear in the context of the article that Parrish is not talking about the rape itself, but the whole process of reporting a rape.  And it seems clear to me that reporting a rape can be devastating for anyone, but is especially difficult if you’re male.  How can that be controversial?

Being raped sucks and the process of reporting it and then prosecuting it is its own kind of hell.  We all know that.  But at least we acknowledge (however half-heartedly) that women get raped; we have victims’ advocates who are trained to help women through the process; there are support groups full of other women; there are whole and apparent networks of help that women can access.

To whom does a man turn?

And isn’t such turning to made more difficult by our cultural expectations of what being a man means?

And yet, the thread quickly turns into calls for writing RAINN in protest of Parrish’s comments, and worse, into mocking male rape victims.

There are a million useful feminist insights to be made about the fact that it’s harder for men to get through the whole “after rape” process, insights about our culture, about our narratives about manliness, about how rape functions as an act of violence that is intended to punish and ruin the victim in some way, and so on and so on.

“They don’t even have vaginas, so how can they really be raped?” is not one of them.

In fact, I find it so offensive that I feel like taking some action, but again, I can’t figure out what kind of action to take.