It’s come to my attention that even well-meaning men still believe that feminism is somehow all about them–that it’s about hating men or how we’re the victims of men or how we’re trying to be the same as men (I mean, seriously, Bob Krumm wrote a postbasically mocking women’s desire for equality and not one person gave a shit enough about what Krumm thinks of women to point and laugh, which is something, considering that it proves two of my points simultaneously–1. That women aren’t sitting around waiting with baited breath to hear what men think about feminism and 2. That there are some folks who still think that basic things like equality between the sexes is a joke*.).
Anyway, yes, Slartibartfast, who’s over at his place complaining about how I’m forcing him to “accept ‘feminism’ (which is left undefined, so I assume we have to accept the whole movement – even the extremes), or acquiesce to wife beating, pay inequity, and general enslavement of the female gender.”
Aside from missing the point of my post, he clearly missed who the post was written to.
But let me put it simply. Unless I specifically say that some post on feminism is addressed to men, you men are not the primary audience. You’re welcome to read along and join in the discussion, but if you imagine that I am talking specifically to you when I’m talking about feminism and feminist concerns, you are missing a basic nuance.
I love you, but you are not my default reader**.
I’m talking to other women.
Listen, Exador is, by any measure, a handsome man, fun to be around, and, in his own way, charming. I think it’s reasonable to say that being with him is, in its own way, pleasurable.
When a handsome charming man who heaps pleasures upon women insinuates, even teasingly, that, if only those darn feminists weren’t ruining it, all women could live happily with a man like him?
Well, good god damn, I’m only a person with a wet and welcoming cooter and that’s a person it’s hard not to want to invite in and make feel welcome.
And it’s not just Exador. Every day we’re faced with men we care very deeply for who define feminism how ever the hell they want and then ask us to renounce those kinds of feminists, if not all feminism.
And when they’re looking so charming and smiling so sweetly and scooting so close you can almost imagine the warmth of their breath on your neck?
But it’s also ridiculous. Feminism is not some scary monster movement full of man-haters. It’s a movement that has immeasurably improved the lives of women, men, and children. And the point of my post was a humorous reminder that, if there hadn’t been feminism, life would be very different for all of us.
I bring all this up because Ivy sent me a link to a story about her daughter that just ripped my heart out and pissed me off.
Is this story about men? No.
Does Ivy want to castrate all men and tie their testicles to the bumper of her car and drive all through town laughing like she won the lottery? No.
Does Ivy hate men and want to mock and belittle them at every turn? No.
Ivy wants to be able to walk into McDonald’s and get for her daughter a toy without it turning into a lesson in how either 1. Boys get all the cool toys and girls have to learn how to put up with shit. Or 2. Because you’re a girl, you usually only deserve the girl toy, which sucks, but because someone has pointed out that you are “exceptional,” you might be able to get the boy toy.
See how nothing about this has to do directly with boys? This isn’t an anecdote about boys. No one is suggesting that any boy should have to suffer or put up with a shit toy. There’s nothing in this story directly about boys.
This is about a mom who wants her daughter to be able to eat a god damn meal without being taught that shitty things are for girls and cool things are for boys and that, if she wants the cool thing, she has to accept that it’s not really for girls.
That’s feminism. That right there. Wanting your daughter to be able to eat a meal without it turning into a lesson on how to eat shit, metaphorically.
That’s all. It’s both revolutionary and ordinary and I’m embarrassed for you and furious with you that you fathers would mock a movement your own daughters still need.
*It’ll be interesting to see if Krumm finds this as amusing when it becomes his own children who are affected. Not that I’m in love with the “exceptional woman” exception to women’s shit, but enough “exceptional women” go on to become feminists that I feel it’s a net gain after an initial setback. I guess you could argue that, though.
**I know it bothers you to have to talk about “male privilege,” but really, gentlemen, getting to assume that you are the primary audience for everything you read and feeling hurt and confused, and feeling that those feelings are justified, when you are not? That’s a damn big privilege.
Damn, B. Well said.
Yep. We don’t eat at McDonald’s much, but when we do, it’s always the same drill. Kid wants the red and black robot that walks around and makes noise, not the big-eyed pastel pink plastic cat that looks like a feline Bratz doll and sits there doing nothing. The counter staff always acts like this is a real big deal, and either crazy or cute, that a girl would want a “boy’s toy.” She’s eight now and understands the concept of stereotyping (being smart and slender and cute and blonde in a world that expects people who look like her to be dumb is getting to be a burden as well), but c’mon people. It’s just plastic crap in a bag — I didn’t come in for remedial instruction on gender normativity in American society. My kid just wants a damn hamburger and a robot. I want her to have that without having to be made feel like a sex-deviant freak.
In a world where laser tag birthday parties are for boys while girls get stuck being princess divas at Libby Lu’s, where every time she gets a drink someone is sticking a damn pink straw in it, when she’s guided by the librarian away from the non-fiction section and architecture books (which is what she really likes) and towards the fiction section where she’s told she’d probably like the American Girl series…day after day, each of these little sexist raindrops are drowning her in a flood of prescriptive information about who she is expected to be. If you don’t want to help me stop the rain, fellers, at least stay out of the way while I teach her how to swim.
I think you broke it down.
For some men, they don’t understand the definition of feminism. That’s it’s not the stereotypes they’ve been brainwashed to believe.
I think Slarti means well, I do but there is some indication that he doesn’t understand the root system, for lack of a better word, about what it means to fight every day just to be treated equally. I make less money than my male counterparts who have the same job as I do. When I do something strong and decisive, I’m called a c*nt (edited because John H. hates that word so I’m being nice)or a bitch. Many times when men at my office do the same thing, the very same action that I do, they are called a leader. I deal with this everyday. When I bring this up about pay inequity, I’m told the men have families. “WTF???”
Hacks me off.
As I said over there, I think his post tries to understand but his language is pointed but I guess my question to him is does he realize that some words are pointed. I really do think Slarti is one of the good guys, but he doesn’t understand that there are obstacles for women that lie under the surface of what looks like calm water on the ocean surface but underneat the glasslike surface are sharks and these prejudices are taught as the norm and ingrained into the infrastructure of our society.
The question I ask myself is how do we educate and change this? That’s one I just don’t know the answer to.
Sorry to hijack.
So many men have a sort of infant’s sense of object impermanence when it comes to sex inequality.
If they never saw it, it didn’t exist.
If they don’t see it anymore, it doesn’t exist anymore.
You’re so predictable, B. I knew that you would be the first commenter.
So here are my questions about the ERA:
1. What are the problems that the amendment is supposed to fix?
2. How does this amendment fix those problems?
Bob, you should stick to writing about things you know something about, like toads. I think you’re missing the point of B’s post. She’s not talking to you and flopping your questions on the table with a pouty demand that we all rush to answer YOUR questions (as if what we’re talking about already is politically irrelevant and you’re helping steer us back to something “real” and “important”) is indicative of how much you aren’t getting what she’s saying.
But, as I am a constitutional scholar, I will indulge your question.
Constitutional amendments don’t “fix” anything. They have no remedial mechanism. They are a general statement of poltical principle and are used as a test — does this law, this organization, this event contravene the letter and spirit of the amendment or does it not? Plaintiffs and defendants come to court and ask judges to evaluate (based on amendment language and prior interpretation) what lawmakers in the legislative branch, policymakers in the executive branch, and citizens going about their daily affairs do. So, for example, if we asked the same set of questions about another constitutional amendment:
What problems was the 14th Amendment designed to solve?
How did it fix those problems?
We could say that it, in and of itself, didn’t fix anything. Over the next 150 years, however, it gave a group of formerly disenfranchised people a little legal ground to stand on so that they could assert themselves against a hostile majority that for the most part did not wish to cede them civil equality. The articulation of a commonly shared principle is the beginning of a legal and political remedy, not an end in itself.
I will also note that many states did not embrace (and still might not fully embrace) the core sentiments of the 14th amendment. HOWEVER, that’s why we have a federal constitution, courts, and congress which can protect federal civil rights despite what this or that state thinks should be extended.
You call it predictable. I like to think of it as consistent. Either way is fine with me. At least people know where I stand. Right now, the women you love depend on “judicial activism” to interpret that 14th Amendment broadly enough (nice pun, huh?) to include us. I’d think you’d be all over taking power out of the hands of those activist judges and making equality settled law.
(poking my head in the door)
I have no reason to be here, really, as my views on Feminism are completely enlightened ones. But I had to pop in and say Damn! Bridgett just bitch slapped Krumm so hard I heard it way the hell out here!
If there’s one broad definition of feminism that all, or most, feminists believe in, I’ve yet to be told about it. You yourself have posted about struggles between second and third wave feminists to define feminism.
It’s pretty common to define a group by it’s more extreme members. Which is why many men think of women as man-haters, etc and get defensive immediately. Fear of feminism is also based on that old adage, “for me to succeed others must fail”.
It’s a pity that so many people’s sense of success is based only on a presumed innate superiority to others in some defined group.
I heard it too, Mack.
Ahem. Yes, for the most part you are, Mack; however, even for those who are, there are still subtle signs that more enlightenment is needed. For instance, (Disclaimer: you know I luv ya, so don’t get upset with me for referring to this–I do this because it is a great example of where women still are in the scheme of things), yesterday at lunch, when you asked a question about our company, you immediately directed it to the male at the table. I found that to be very puzzling since the question was not a question only the male lawyer could have answered, and I have been with the company as long as the male has been…and I was sitting right next to you…I dunno…it just was interesting to me.
My point is not to call Mack out personally, but to say that even someone as enlightened and pro-feminist as Mack can even subconsciously “go there.” We still have a long way to go. A long way.
Ready for the retort. I’ll get my popcorn.
Not to take Mack’s part as I wasn’t even there and admittedly have no idea what the hell I’m talking about…
But it could have been that he was just trying to draw the guy into the conversation. Everyone else (presumably) knew one another and had previous context. Mack strikes me as the type of guy who knows how to work a room–not a bad thing and not meant as an insult–and he was probably just using the tactic of bringing up a topic of conversation the dude was comfortable with in order to make him feel like part of the group.
So, yeah, I can see how he may have been well-meaning, even though it inadvertantly made you feel like a feminine byproduct.
Kat, I can definitely see that being the case–especially knowing Mack–but yes, there was a little cring in me that made me feel like, as you say, a “feminine byproduct”. It is something I am a little sensitive to because being a “bubbly blonde”, I get that quite a bit in general…I like being bubbly, I like being blonde (ask my hair stylist), but I also am pretty damn intelligent and have always had to fight the perception that I am a Jennifer Marlowe.
For you young’uns, Jennifer Marlow was the buxom blonde secretary on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” a tv show back in the 70s.
“…as my views…are completely enlightened ones”
That’s beautiful. I’m going to insert that in front of everything I say.
If you want to look for something to be offended by, you will always find it.
As a side note, I have nothing to do with McDonalds’ policies, and really don’t care who gets what Happy Meal toy, although I think it’s significant that this is the new front lines in the battle for equality.
With that, I’m outta here. I know how it goes when y’all get your feminist dander up.
Good point Ginger, but I’m pretty sure Kat nailed it. Diploma boy looked out of sorts, and I was drawing him out a little. (I spend so much time teasing him, a break seemed in order)
I was being facetious about my total enlightenment, of course. I’m sure some of the women over at TGW would issue me a flunking grade. In fact, I remember getting scalped over my position on the assault of your daughter. And there it is, really, I think it’s ok for us to differ. What I don’t think is ok, is for males to be threatened by the conversation, particularly when it is seldom directed to them. I appreciated Slarti’s use of the term binary thinking, but B was right, it didn’t apply to her post, not at all.
Now, go back to answering the phones and filing. ;)
“Bob Krumm wrote a postbasically mocking women’s desire for equality”
Err, no. He mocked the ERA. Which should be mocked, for being stupid.
Easy enough for you to say, Uncle. ;)
LOL! Mack, you tickle me.*
*Copyright 2007, Aunt B.
I can’t file right now, because my nails are still wet from polishing them right here at my desk. Oh, and I can’t answer the phone because my makeup might smear from holding the phone so close to my face.
“Easy enough for you to say, Uncle”
It is stupid. An amendment mandating equal pay? No private clubs discriminate on gender? Lame.
Now, go back to answering the phones and filing. ;)
I was a secretary for a lotta years, and I always thought it was kinda funny. I mean, here’s this job that nearly everyone–even some feminists–demean as a sort of idiotwork. But when you think about it, what does it say about the traditional bosses that they were so unable to cope with the basic tasks of speaking to people and putting stuff away that they needed to hire Office Mommies to clean up after them?
Because really, that’s what many secretarial positions are. You are the Office Mother. You are the one who makes sure everyone is fed [lunch orders], everyone has their drinks [coffee service], everyone has their proper toys and all the playdates [meetings] go smoothly. You have to pick up after other grown-ups [filing] and deal with the scary monsters [photocopiers, network printers, MSOffice].
If bosses were grown-ups and professionals, they could handle life without a surrogate mommy. Right?
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”
Where does that say anything about private clubs discriminating based on gender?
Hey, I resemble that remark!
But seriously. It’s the same damn thing over and over. People who don’t like what we have to say paint it as shrill, repetitive, useless… but until something changes in the circumstances, we’re still going to have problems.
We talked about the privilege thing before… and the more I think of it, the more I agree that your reframing of it as not (only) [dominant-group] privilege but (also) [oppressed group] detriment is a useful one. (Though yes, the ability to automatically assume one is the target audience of any given statement and be offended if one’s preferred viewpoints aren’t supported or acknowledged is a pretty straightforward privilege) No one is saying the boy should have crappy toys; we’re saying the crappy toys shouldn’t exist. No one is saying men suck and we hate them lets never have anything to do with them again; we’re saying the current system isn’t fair and doesn’t work right, and that unfairness is gendered. Yes, that might mean having assumptions challenged, or looking at your actions differently… but it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
And it just floors me that someone who spends as much time here, listening to Aunt B. and the rest of us, and who generally strikes me as rather intelligent and capable of basic reading and reasoning skills, would do something as outright dumb as coming over to pat us all on the heads and tell us that we’re being hysterical and reading it incorrectly. Even if, upon reading the article and digesting what it said and the way it said it (which I find hard to believe, for reasons I pointed out already) , you still thought that our interpretation was incorrect, the high-handed patronizing tone was uncalled for. You know better than that, Slarti.
I think that’s what bothers me the most about all of this, actually. I’m all for nuance, really. I mean, have you read my stuff? Working out the details in spite of the dogma is a Very Good Thing. Being able to look on both sides of the ideological fence is a Very Good Thing. But what was said wasn’t anything nuanced or balanced or accepting, it was “You didn’t read it like I am and therefore you are being dogmatic and binary, instead of an Enlightened Thinker like I am.” When one takes into account the actual text of the article, the words that were used, their placement, their prevalence (do I really have to count? Because I could make charts and sentence diagrams and break it down bit by bit if you want… but you don’t even need to do a close reading to understand the tone and point of the article; you only need to read the whole thing.) … the evidence is pretty strong to support an interpretation of the article as mis-reporting the results of the survey. And again, even if one accepts the premise that the title was misleading, the fact that it was given as the article title, in the way it was, and bandied about in the first paragraphs means something. Article titles aren’t chosen willy-nilly, and there’s a reason things appear where they do and in the manner they do.
It isn’t just Slarti, of course… all the others mentioned have their faults too. I suppose I’m just more hurt by those who profess sympathy than those who simply think we’re wrong. Intellectual dishonesty is frustrating in opponents, but downright maddening in self-styled “allies.”
Kat, I prefer to refer to myself as the “Office Wife”, thank you. I not only get to do those womanly tasks you listed, but I also get to help them with their coloring [designing print materials], spelling & grammar work [proofreading], math work [accounts payable/receivable/budgets], comfort them if they’re sick [coordinate their health benefits], and be sure their future is secure [coordinate their 401K & pension]…and the list goes on & on. Oh, and if one the husbands doesn’t show up, I get to track them down, as I did last week when Diploma Boy was AWOL.
The secretary thing has always bugged me as well. I dislike my current position, but not because of the work I’m doing. While a lot of the individual skills are easy to learn, it is difficult and time-consuming to do well, especially because of the gendered nature of the job. Not only are you supposed to keep everything running, you are to do so invisibly, anticipating desires before they become evident. If they have to ask you for things, or know what you’re doing, you’re not doing it well enough.
A good secretary isn’t just a mommy, s/he’s a facilitator. And absolutely vital to the proper functioning of an institution. The phones and the filing are scut work, true… but making sure everyone gets all the information they need and is in the right place and the vendors know what they’re doing and all of the proper people get scmoozed with on the phone… that’s important. Moreover, while there’s a lot of unnecessary division of labor (really, everyone’s day would go faster if my boss would make single copies on his own, instead of making me do it for him), there’s a level at which it makes a lot of sense, especially in a larger setting (I’m lumping “Secretary” “Office Manager” and “Assistant” into the same pool, because depending on the organization and the person, those thinigs will overlap to different degrees…. as they should). If you don’t have to hunt for the stapler, you can get back to what you’re doing more quickly. If someone can run the copies for you, you can give your lecture faster. It’s not always done right, but when it is, it makes a big difference.
And, of course, there’s the larger bit about the systematic devaluing of traditionally feminine roles anyway – mothering, teaching, “soft” versus “hard” sciences, etc. – as “easy to do.” ‘Oh, anyone can write a paper, but not everyone can write a proof.’ ‘Anyone can be a secretary… all you do is sit around and file all day. You need real skills to write code’, and so on. Different skills, yes. Skills that are differentially diffused in society, yes. Skills that are differentially trained for (everyone’s had to speak on a phone at some point and most can master the keys in a pinch, but not everyone has been exposed to formal logic), and which require differential amounts of time/effort/money to have access to, absolutely. But those are systematic, societal differences… the fact that we think it’s easier to be a janitor than a CEO doesn’t mean that the CEO does more absolute work than the janitor, but that we value those skillsets differently enough that it is reflected in the entire structure of what we do. That strucutre is real, of course, and it does mean that certain skills are more easily acquired (and thus more common) than others, which should absolutely be taken into account… but it doesn’t mean that it’s innate, that it has to be that way, that it should be that way, and it doesn’t mean that the reward inequalities built into that system are fair or should stay constant.
Right.. back to my phones. And files. And… field trip permission slips. *sighs*
“Where does that say anything about private clubs discriminating based on gender?”
According to its own supporters in congress, it does.
Why the use of cryptic, one line responses? That, in itself, smacks of condecension. Take the time to write out your response, either with facts that support your assertions, or at least some explanation as to why you feel the way you do. It could be that it is a ploy designed to hide your true feelings about the subject at hand, maybe? Clearly you have feelings about this, or why hang out on the thread?
Bingo, magniloquence. The reason I refer to myself as the Office Wife is because the stereotypical role of what society thinks a secretary does is in direct correlation with the stereotypical roles of what society thinks a wife should be. In other words, do it all, whether you get any glory for it or not.
The female readers of this blog are not easily offended, Exador, we just call a spade a spade as we see a spade to be. If I’m wrong, I will be the first to admit, apologize, see a different viewpoint, or come back at it having considered other angles. Evidently, that is an unacceptable feminist trait.
Your turn on my questions was fair enough:
What problems was the 14th Amendment designed to solve?
How did it fix those problems?
But your response, (a) doesn’t answer the first question, and (b) contradicts itself within the space of a paragraph. You claim that the 14th “didn’t fix anything,” but then say how it fixed it by giving people a “little legal ground to stand on”.
However, to ignore the first question is preposterous. The 14th was necessary because it gave blacks an equal footing before the law. Prior to it, there was no “legal ground to stand on,” because there was no guaranteed right to equal citizenship, nor guaranteed access to the ballot box AND (and the “AND” is important), blacks were actively denied those things in significant parts of the country.
However, the 19th Amendment already gives to women the franchise, AND (there’s that word again) there is no location that I’m aware of where women are actively, or even passively, being shooed from the American voting booth. In fact, if memory serves correctly, women actually vote in higher percentages than men.
I think Eugene Volokh gets close to the truth on this proposed amendment. He believes it redundant “given that the Supreme Court’s sex equality jurisprudence is now itself decades old, and pretty clearly not going anywhere.” Furthermore, he notes the issues which may resurface as a result of the ERA (women in combat, sex-based affirmative action, sex-based athletic teams, same-sex marriage). I would also add same-sex institutions.
Now you may think that those issues should be remedied by the Constitution and not at the polls. Fair enough. But I don’t, mainly because they can be addressed at the polls. This again is where the 14th and ERA differ. Blacks were not in a franchised position–either de jure or de facto. They simply could not legislatively address discrimination. And even with the vote, there weren’t enough of them in most areas to overcome the majority. Women, however, are in that position, and there are more of them.
If the ERA is all about simply enshrining already agreed upon equal rights for all that’s one thing, but if it’s really about forcing change that can’t be delivered legislatively because it’s unpopular, then let’s dispense with the innocuous rhetoric, and have a substantive discussion over what it is that this amendment is really supposed to accomplish.
Let me also counter the argument that an amendment defining women’s equality is necessary on the grounds that the situation may, at some point, reverse and we may find ourselves in a future where women are purposefully discriminated against before the law. If that is the case, then it is also possible that we are just as likely to find ourselves in a future where it is men who bear the brunt of prejudice. Would then not men be equally deserving of a parallel amendment guaranteeing their rights against some potential future invasion?
You could counter that it’s unnecessary since this amendment guarantees “equal rights” for both sexes, which on its face and in its plain language it seems to do.
But that is not what its supporters argue:
The ERA would not make all single-sex institutions unconstitutional – only those whose aim is to perpetuate the historic dominance of one sex over the other. Single-sex institutions that work to overcome past discrimination are constitutional now and are likely to remain so.
In other words, it’s not equal rights, but corrective and separate rights for one sex and not the other.
All in all, ERA sounds too much like a solution in search of a problem. That is trivializing with the Constitution, which, if I remember, was a significant (and correct) argument against the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Now, I’ve got some toads to catch. . .
Pingback: Bob Krumm » the new era of e.r.a.
Bob, the amendment itself didn’t fix anything. There is no remedy in it. It is an articulation of principle which then has been put into practice through law, enforced in court, and incorporated in policy. This really isn’t a hard concept to get. If the amendment magically did anything, we would have no need of subsequent law, court cases, executive orders and the like. (See section 2 and 3 of the proposed ERA amendment, saying as much.) The idea that the 14th amendment made blacks citizens is absurd (nearly as huge a misreading as believing that the Emancipation Proclamation liberated slaves — since the EP explicitly only applied to places where it could not be enforced at the moment of its instigation and was directed at people over whom its author had no current political authority). The 14th amendment did lay the groundwork whereupon later civil and political battles could be waged, but those battles and the law, jurisprudence, and social practices they wrought were what defined and continue to shape the meaning of black citizenship in the US.
The ERA is not about voting. Refer to the text. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Personally, I don’t see why that’s such a scary principle to articulate. It seems to me utterly reasonable that women and men should be treated equaly at law. And if we all already agreed upon this principle, wouldn’t this be a lovely world? It is clear, however, that double standards exist all over the place — some of which adversely affect men, some of which adversely affect women. Men’s rights groups complain all the time about the unfairness of divorce, custody, and rape proceedings. You can think of others, perhaps. I’m not sure why men would want to perpetuate systematic sexism under the law, as it seems to break against them in harmful ways that intrude on the enjoyment of their life, liberty, and property. I’d like to see a national discussion take place about the issue and see what our national sentiment really is, where we can advocate for our different positions, learn something from one another, and perhaps come to agree that we can say together out loud that women are now and should be full citizens, just like our brothers and fathers. And then we can take it from there, to work to interpret what that citizenship will look like for all of us. But I’m just kind of a common-sense person that way.
I’ll use that common sense to interpret your pull-quote:
“The ERA would not make all single-sex institutions unconstitutional – only those whose aim is to perpetuate the historic dominance of one sex over the other. Single-sex institutions that work to overcome past discrimination are constitutional now and are likely to remain so.”
To you, that means that Say Uncle’s He-Man-Gun-Toters-Club will be disbanded automatically while the LPGA will be left to its own woman-loving, girlie tee using devices. In the way I read this, however, neither will be affected, as neither exists to perpetuate the historic dominance of one sex over the other. On the other hand, single-sex educational institutions which receive public funding might have to enroll women. (Right now, the courts must be persuaded that women’s exclusion has worked to women’s detriment; in a post-ERA world, the burden would rest on the institution to prove that the single-sex enrollment does not have an intentionally discriminatory effect.) Likewise, to use a hypothetical example, a society that exists to promote men’s participation in the nursing profession and to provide scholarships to men who wish to pursue careers in this historically female profession would be on solid ground, constitutionally speaking.
Volokh is a smart guy, even if he bats for the wrong team. However, in this, he’s raising unfounded spectres of future disasters, dogs and cats living in sin, and so I take him as seriously on this point as I would Bill Murray in CaddyShack. Sex equality jurisprudence rests, as Aunt B. points out, on a patchwork of stretchy readings of the 14th amendment and narrow constructionists are on the ascendancy in the federal judiciary. That’s good in some ways, bad in others, depending on what your politics are. But wherever you stand, the common sense of the matter is that sex is not race; the history of harms is different, the salient actionable issues are different, and the legislative and policy history is different. Therefore, continuing to rely on an indulgent reading of an amendment which an originalist correctly would say never contemplated women seems unwise. Under the current composition of the federal judiciary, in fact, it would be stupid NOT to pursue clarifying language. So I don’t see that this is trivializing the Constitution whatsoever.
Bob, I’m not a lawyer. My PhD is in American legal history — so I have the equivalent training of a couple of JDs but I am not licensed to practice law.
You say: “The idea that the 14th amendment made blacks citizens is absurd . . . ” But the text of the 14th Amendment says: “Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States . . . ”
While you are correct that the amendment “did lay the groundwork whereupon later civil and political battles could be waged,” you’re making a distinction without a difference. It was the 14th amendment that made them citizens. It took future laws to say, “Yes, damnit, and by ‘citizens” the 14th amendment means that they can vote.” If anything, it was those laws (and, if you want to be technical, the 15th Amendment) that were redundant, though, sadly, not unnecessary.
Bottom line: I think ERA is unnecessary because everything you want to accomplish has already been accomplished, or can be accomplished, legislatively. It’s just that those last few remaining tasks can’t be accomplished–not because discriminatory practices prevent them from being addressed, but because they’re not popular (yet). So, supporters would rather bypass the legislative process with a feel-good “everybody is equal, who could disagree with that amendment” that will be more far-reaching than few of its supporters would like to let on. That is trivializing the Constitution.
There are far too many other things to remark on over this, but unfortunately work calls. That, and the fact that for the thirteenth straight session of Congress, this resolution is going nowhere, so it’s not worth putting too much energy into it. So we’ll just have to put each other in the “agree to disagree” column.
Oh, but I can’t let one last thing slip. You said:
“Under the current composition of the federal judiciary, in fact, it would be stupid NOT to pursue clarifying language.”
I’d like a dime for every supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment who said essentially the same thing. Both sides can’t be right about their use of that statement. But both sides can be (and probably are) wrong.
That’s silly. Or, at least, that’s a fallacy. Saying “two camps have argued something with this structure, and therefore they can’t both be right” only works if the two camps are in direct opposition to each other (which the ERA people and the FMA people are not, ideologically, even if they may overlap substantially in demographics), and the structure of the argument is such that its sucessful use on one side logically invalidates the other (which it does in a pro-FMA vs. Anti-FMA argument, iff the only or primary argument on the anti-FMA side is that pursuing clarifying language, ever, is bad). Since neither of these things are true for this argument, you’re… just being kind of silly, honestly.
Context matters. In this case, the context is as Bridgett lays it out; “…sex is not race; the history of harms is different, the salient actionable issues are different, and the legislative and policy history is different. Therefore, continuing to rely on an indulgent reading of an amendment which an originalist correctly would say never contemplated women seems unwise.” Even though you can cobble together a bunch of things from different segments of the law to make the general point, it’s still cobbled together, and still resting on something that needs to be interpreted exceedingly generously to be applicable. Given that, and the fact that gender inequality does exist and is a problem and will continue to be a problem (even if it’s only because, as you so flippantly put it, “it’s unpopular”), it seems only natural to seek clarification at all levels of the problem, including the top.
One might argue about whether this particular wording is the way to do that. I can understand that, and don’t know enough about the specifics of what’s proposed to have much of an opinion one way or another. But the mere fact that the problem exists, persists, and is actively contravening other, provided for rights (life,liberty, pursuit of happiness) seems to indicate that something ought be done about it. While an amendment doesn’t change anything on the street, an inability to change all aspects of a problem is no excuse not to change the aspects of the problem that are within one’s grasp.
Those things are the context. In this case, the applicability of an argument of the structure “hey, there’s a problem that stems (at least partially) from a gap in the law; let’s clarify that” rests on the existence or nonexistence of said problem and gap. Regardless of whether the FMA people are correct in their assertion, ERA supporters clearly have the right of it to point out that such a gap and such a problem exists. Whether or not their proposed wording will fix it is another argument entirely. Don’t conflate the two.
To go back to the earlier derailment, I found this article amusing and vaguely frightening. Remember, you don’t just need an Office Wife to take care of all the little details you can’t be bothered with, you need an Office Wife so you don’t bother your real wife with silly things like emotional intimacy!
Slightly off topic: what is it about my personality that makes people coddle me? I’m a 42 year old man. If I’m a rat-bastard, I’m a rat-bastard. Of course, I don’t think I am. But if anyone says so, I can handle it.
Anyway, I’m never clear when speaking of feminism, or race, or any other “group” politics. I used a ridiculous example to try to profile extremes. Sometimes I get too cute by half. Sorry about that.
But I still think we’re talking past one another. My credo, my ideal which I aspire to is this: always treat other people, every single person I encounter, with respect and dignity. I actually throw in “with love” as well, but that is part of my Christianity and not relevant to this discussion. I also am commanded in my religion to fight for the oppressed. Anyway, the point is, if I live up to my credo, I am “living” everything you wish to accomplish. If anything, I’m helping things along. We are certainly allies,if I am able to live up to my ideals.
But why is it so important that my actions be included in an umbrella of “feminism”, or “race”, or “the poor” ? Why can’t I just treat everyone with the exact same respect and dignity, and fight against those who don’t, and leave it at that?
I don’t like group politics because they never allow for reconciliation, healing, and other things I hold dear. They keep walls between us, B, that don’t need to be there. And they, in my opinion, don’t go far enough. They let us off the hook. We can be as rude and mean as we want to people who aren’t in the prefered groups. I’m sorry, I want more.
I want a world where everyone treats everyone else better than themselves. Anything else is just busywork.
“why is it so important that my actions be included in an umbrella of “feminism”, or “race”, or “the poor”?”
Because paying attention to feminism, or race, or the poor, and to how individuals are treated as members of groups may help you notice better when some of your peers treat women, or racial minorities, or the poor badly enough to keep them out of your profession. Because ignoring the group can make you blind to how members of the group are treated.
I’m not sure dropping a passing “silly girls, being dogmatic and reading it wrong!” with no actual engagement of the issues aside from a trackback echoing the same lamentations that those silly women aren’t as evolved as you are counts as “treat[ing] other people, every single person I encounter, with respect and dignity.”
And while a respectful “I really don’t see it that way and find your framework puzzling” isn’t exactly rude on its own, it is awkward, at best, to see it echoed over and over again, especially in the midst of professions of sympathy. If every time we say “X is a problem” you say “I don’t think X is a problem, and furthermore your obsession with naming things like that is a problem,” you are not being an ally, you are not being helpful, and you are not being respectful. At that point, the tone doesn’t matter – you’ve set yourself up as someone whose only purpose in the conversation is to derail it, or proselytize for something at best orthogonal to the debate.
I know Aunt B. loves you, and I think you can bring up interesting information in conversation. The “why can’t we all just get along” rhetoric, coupled with the “but I think you’re all overreacting” rhetoric, however, wears thin for me.
To follow what nm said, acknowledging group level dynamics is important. Even if you treat every single person you come across exactly the same, and that treatment is lovely and beyond reproach, that will not change the systems of oppression in this world. If you are truly called to fight for the oppressed, this willful blindness only hampers your goals. The fact is that other people do use these group dynamics unfairly, and that even when there aren’t individual oppressors or oppressive classes to point out for their bad behaviors, the systems we have privilege and oppress groups differentially on the basis of these traits. Acknowledging that that happens is absolutely integral to changing it.
To be nitpicky, “feminism” “race” and “the poor” are not all the same kinds of things. If you had said “gender” “race” and “class” that would work, or “feminism” “anti-racism” and “[your class conscious movement of choice],” that would work. While the semantic difference is slim, it’s kind of important. The latter class of things are movements or ideological umbrellas (though I’d point you to Tigtog’s place to sort out the numerous things contained under the umbrella of ‘feminism’… and the different things in the other sections are just as diverse). As much as we loosely band together under the umbrella of feminism, the specifics of that vary. Nobody is asking you to sit there and brand all of your ideas under any banner.
In my specific reference to you and your behavior, I wasn’t asking that you call yourself a feminist, nor was I saying that your ideas are better understood under that rubric. I was, however, pointing out that what you had done has a specific meaning within this community (and others of its type). You’ve been here long enough to know that, and to have heard why that was wrong and hurtful. I was calling you out not for being insufficiently feminist, but for being insufficiently conscientious as a member of this community. It’s wrong under the feminist rubric; it’s offensive because you should know better.
Moreover, your continued insistence that we just do everything on an individual level is, beside being ineffective, a gigantically privileged viewpoint. I could cite so many articles, but this is the first one that came up for me: “Privilege Is Driving a Smooth Road And Not Even Knowing It”. The more privileged you are, the more you can allow yourself to think that you did everything and got everything all by yourself. Your privilege lets you not look at the structures that keep other people down. It lets you dismiss all of our pain, our problems, our anger and fear and stupid, stupid obstacles, as individual failings of us, the people in our lives, the universe, or what have you. Because the systems work for you, generally, and allow you to get what you want (with appropriate effort), you assume they must be so for everyone. So if everyone was just nice, then the problems we experience would magically go away.
That’s not true, and it’s not fair, and it’s not helpful. It doesn’t allow for reconciliation, healing, or anything else, because not only is it not going to make the problem go away, it trivializes it. At best, it’s an isolated incident perpetrated by mean, mean, people. At worst it’s our fault for not being good enough, strong enough, nice enough, determined enough…. for not being enough like you (or Hellen Keller, or Martin Luther King, or whatever ‘person who triumphed in adversity’ you want to hold up). Do you see why that’s insulting? Do you see why that hurts?
Magniloquence – respectfully, you don’t know me. If you want to assume I come from a postition of privelege, OK. But you would be wise to know a little more about me before making that assumption. Perhaps, one day I can be in your neck of the woods, and we can sit down over coffee and learn about each other. I would like that very much. There is much I could learn from you.
I have had personal interactions with many of B’s readers; they have somewhat of a context, if only limited. You may ask any of them, and B as well, if I have ever treated any of them with anything but respect when we have met. If I am a mysoginist, I hope they tell us both – it will be something I need to pray about.
You read far too much into what I say. I’ve said before, B is reckless and fearless with her writing (thus, my very unlikely blog-crush). I, on the other hand, am far more measured. I chose my words precisely. When I say *I*, I do not mean anyone else. My question was exact: in effect, it was, “If I agree with you, but it is through a universal Christian framework, why can’t I play?” I think it would be little silly to ask a non-Christian to behave in a Christian way. I never meant to imply that.
But you must understand, my religion drives everything in my life. Most people do not understand why Jesus’ interactions with the Samaritan woman at the well were revolutionary, radical even. But here’s where I take his lead: he never trumpeted to his followers, “I am talking to a Samaritan, even though they are considered the lowest of the low. I am even talking to a WOMAN, who is even lower than a regular Samaritan. Not only that, but I am talking to a SINNER, Samaritan woman, and treating her just like a regular person! Hurray for me!” No, he simply had a respectful conversation, of weighty matters even, things like the nature of worship and Truth. And through this quiet conversation, her life was changed forever. And she spread the word, and more lives were changed.
Judas was a Zealot. Many believe he betrayed Jesus because He wouldn’t join their political and military revolution.
Jesus was all about the personal. And He changed the world. Political movements are temporal. Many kingdoms have risen and fallen in the last 2000 years, revolutions were staged, regimes came and went, political trends came and went. But Jesus spoke to, and still speaks to, the person – and He’s still going strong today.
Jesus changed the world. I think that’s a pretty good model. It leads me into nursing homes and prisons, into legislative halls and music halls. Where is my brother, and what can I do for him? That’s enough to keep me busy for the next hundred years.
I didn’t mean to get all religious on you, but B has a bad habit of assigning motivations to those she disagrees with, and you were falling into danger of doing the same. I wanted to make perfectly clear where my motivations lie.
I’ll address one more thing:
“The more privileged you are, the more you can allow yourself to think that you did everything and got everything all by yourself”
Thinking that ANYTHING I have, including my next breath, is my own, is an extremely un-Christian thing. It is something I actively fight against. Oh, sometimes in the past I would take things for granted, until the day I stood in the burned-out rubble of what used to be my home and all my possessions; all of it gone. Clarity ensued.
No, I do not think that anything I have is my own. All of my accomplishments are as filthy rags. I feel priveledged just to have been saved from myself.
Like I said, I’d like for us to take time to get to know one another better; it would give each of us more context. If you want to know something about me, please ask. I only care about someone’s political views insofar as it gives me insight into them. I want to know YOU, not your views.
Anywy, B, I’m sorry I soiled your comments with all this talk of my imaginary friend. [bows low]
Slarti, you’re right – I don’t know you. But privilege is privilege, whether acknowledged or not. You said things that were hurtful, in a dismissive manner. The specific manner was one that has been remarked on in this specific forum at other times in the past, and one that is tied up in a framework of certain types of privilege. You may not have meant to hurt anyone, but it happened nonetheless.
I am also Christian and quite familiar with the radical aspects of Jesus’s life. But He didn’t just do things personally; He also worked to approach the systems in which people were operating. He criticized the power structures that were causing the inequalities that he saw. He argued for change. That He was (or at least claimed to be) the Son of God helped too. All of the recorded works, speeches, etc. come to us in the framework of Him speaking in His official capacity, as well as His human one.
The only question in your tracked-back post was: “Has the whole world divided into camps, and all issues must now be viewed through the prism of Camp myopia?” You had no question at all in your solitary comment. Neither the post nor the comment was anything like “If I agree with you, but it is through a universal Christian framework, why can’t I play?” I am not talking about everything you’ve ever said (though I do reference a pattern of similar interjections), I am talking about your specific behavior in this specific context, which I, personally, found to be offensive for a particular set of reasons.
Even acknowledging that all things come from God, your continued insistence that group-level dynamics are irrelevant is an assertion that very much fits the rubric of a privileged group. Just because you personally do not see them happening does not mean they don’t exist. It is hurtful when you argue that the things we say are not happening, or are not important, or are not linked. We can differ on what to do about them, but the accusation of oversensitivity wears thin. I would send you to Nezua’s space for more on that, but I don’t think it would do any good.
Slarti, I have to admit that you’re the one reader I have who actually makes me distraught. I just don’t see how to fix that. But I’m going to try.
To start at the end, you say, “Anywy, B, I’m sorry I soiled your comments with all this talk of my imaginary friend.” I sincerely hope you understand my typifying of the gods that way as a joking defense mechanism. My relationship to the sacred is deeply meaningful to me and I have great respect for others’ relationships. But it’s also not something that fits easily into discussions where one might be worried about appearing like a nutjob. That dynamic, of me wanting to acknowledge that importance to me while also being honest about others and my own discomfort in talking about it is what leads me to make jokes. It’s not intended to be dismissive, but instead a way to open up space to talk about something deeply private to me without me feeling too vulnerable and to offer a way for other people with different beliefs (or non-beliefs) to do the same.
The other thing you say that leads me to believe that you lack the ability to be even remotely empathetic with me is this, “B has a bad habit of assigning motivations to those she disagrees with, and you were falling into danger of doing the same.” If you take away one thing from this exchange, I am begging you to try to understand that a.) I assign motivations to everyone and b.) (and this is the part I am begging you to try to get) I cannot live safely in the world without doing so. For you to judge me and judge me so harshly based on what is a survival skill?
Slarti, damn it, I could just shake you.
Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone met everyone with a blank slate and we all judged each person only on his merits. And yes, I believe with all my heart, that we should work towards that day.
But in the meantime, I believe it would be, at the least, masochistic for me to live like that and, at the most, suicidal. For better or worse, for right or wrong, when a woman meets a man, she has to make a snap judgment about him. It would be nice to not have to live that way, but that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where, for the most part, the “bad” guys look the same as the “good” guys and we have to find some way to hedge our bets.
And the third thing that makes me just want to throw up my hands is this, “You may ask any of them, and B as well, if I have ever treated any of them with anything but respect when we have met. If I am a mysoginist, I hope they tell us both – it will be something I need to pray about.” Dude! Nobody thinks you hate women. The theory is that the game is rigged–even men who mean well and who love women dearly are shaped by a system that tells them they’re better than women.
You can fight against that however you want–in a Christian framework, in a feminist framework, in whatever framework you want–I don’t give a shit. But the thing is, if you think you’re doing right, and folks are saying that they’re still hurt at your hands, that’s not just between you and Jesus. That is between you and us and Jesus.
It funny how he say “Blacks” like we ain’t got no women.
Magniloquence – you are correct, and I am sorry.
It’s not an excuse, but as of last night, I was running on 0 hours sleep in three days. (Anybody know a sleep aid they can reccomend?) Sometimes, when that happens, I write lucidly, sometimes it’s garbage, sometimes it sounds lucid, but the argument itself is garbage. This was the case this time. Plus, two commenters that I care deeply about spoke about me in a patronizing manner, and it pissed me off. Advice to self: NEVER write to Aunt B when you’re pissed at someone else.
The whole “food to idols” argument in the New Testament is helpful in this case. When Paul warns us not to make our ways “cause anyone to stumble”, I should take heed. You used the word “hurtful” twice, and I ignored it. I beg your forgiveness.
I will try to never use the “universal love and respect” argument in this context here again. I should take my own advice, and if B says something I agree with, I should just say “I agree”. Who cares what my motivations are? Again, please accept my apologies.
B – this is interesting. I was actually going to post this morning an example of why it is best to get to know someone before assigning motivations to them, based on your “it’s not all about you” statement in the original post. I have thought better of it and will keep it “under the radar”.
You posited that when “we” butt into your conversations, we are doing it from a patriarchal position. That may be true for some, but my narcissistic tendencies spring from an extremely hurtful childhood: for twelve years, I was the kid all the other kids laughed at. I was the boy in high school that the sororities made pledges ask out for initiation. I was “white trash”, trying to fit in at an upper-class high school. No prom, no dates, few friends. Just twelve years of humiliation. It’s a wound so deep, even my conversion to Christianity, and growing a loving family hasn’t totally healed it yet.
I have a very annoying habit of butting into every conversation. The hurt little boy in me thinks that if I am the center of attention, “they” can’t be somewhere laughing at me and plotting my next humiliation. Even today I imagine my readers emailing one another, laughing at what a dork I am.
But you had no way of knowing that. When I express disappointment when you “flirt” with other conservative bloggers, but not me, this is where I’m coming from. I was the boy who was told his entire life: you’re not invited. I guess I still have my arms in front of my face, wincing about the next snub I’m sure is forthcoming.
Now, the fact that I am insane is not your problem.
I think I understand your defense mechanism a little better now. Reckless words, guarded heart. I think I’m drawn to your writing because I’m the exact opposite: guarded words, reckless heart. Mine is a defense mechanism, too, BTW.
Anyway, I don’t mean to be hurtful, really. This is why it’s important for me to get to know the people I interact with. Certain aguments may be OK in one forum, but they strike a nerve and do harm in others. But, I can’t get to know people without first throwing myself out there. So, if I say something that really ticks you off, and you let me know, that’s OK – we’re making progress. Once I know where you’re coming from, then we can have a REAL conversation.
Anyway, thanks for putting up with this sleep-deprived jackass.
I like you, Slarti.
Damn. Slarti, that was the most personal, honest and transparent comment I have seen in awhile. I don’t have the smarts to keep up with this entire thread, but I will chime in to say that I thought the thrust of your post (original post) was very good. Of course, being male, I barely noticed the dismissive tone, but, even if I had felt it was totally dismissive, it probably wouldn’t have affected me quite the same way as it would a female reader. I think.
It’s interesting that I think you employed the same tactic by preemptively assigning mockery to B’s reaction to your Faith. It was a defensive move on your part, maybe done subconsciously. We may all do this when our most cherished beliefs are even slightly threatened. Perhaps thats what leads to binary thinking. I always look to others when I don’t have a handle on an issue. Feminism=Aunt B. Matters of Faith? You and Kat. Conservatism? Roger Abramson. So on and so forth. I pick the smartest people I know to help me empathize with others that feel the way that they do. I have no idea where I am going here….better go have that second cup.
I should have just said “I like you, too.”
Slarti, I absolutely adore you and I have the same reaction that B. does that you are one of those guys here in the blogosphere who I really care what you think. I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings because I didn’t mean to if I did with my comment.
Over at your house, when I wrote that long sprawling comment to your post, I meant it to be a bridge. I wanted to tell you that despite our political differences, we are very similar in many ways as well.
Let me explain, and I can only speak for myself from an emotional standpoint.
As a woman, I have worked primarily in a male dominated field. At this moment, I am the lowest paid person with the most experience. It’s upsetting to know that and expected to just accept it. But, I have accepted it and in all honesty, that’s my problem but I’m not given a lot of choice.
A couple of years ago, I made my company a huge amount of money. They gave the bonus to the only guy on the team and tried to hide it. I wrote the proposal, made the presentation and did the follow up. This guy came to one meeting. Then he had the cajones to let me know just because he knew it would upset me. (There was no talk of bonus during the prep here. No one expected to get a bonus. We were just doing our jobs.)
You are probably thinking there is more to this story, but that’s pretty much it. Recently I was at a business meeting and was basically told to go make coffee even though I was the highest ranking employee there. I didn’t mind making coffee because I drink it too but it was said in a degrading way. It was the tone of “Hey, get the chick to make coffee.” I might add I was the only female there.
These are emotional responses, I’m well aware, of why I want people to understand that there is a system in place that puts women in diminished roles. Not everyone does it, but a lot do because they think it’s acceptable. I’ll also say I don’t see you doing this.
As you and I are both proponents of a dialogue, let me also say this. Dialogue is hard. Sometimes minds won’t be changed, but there is value in the response that women do endure small cuts to our worth. We have to talk about equality to enact change and enlighten folks who might not understand the depth of these wounds.
And we have to be open to other’s responses as well.
We are learning. We are making progress. But occassionally we have to raise our voices to be heard because sometimes that’s the only way we can get people to pay attention. It’s a fine line we as feminists walk. We say nothing, then nothing happens. We say something and we are regarded as shrill. I realize I painted that very black and white but you get my point.
Now, with that said, you are one of those people I go to read everyday. I do feel safe at your little place on the web and that is of the good. I read your perspective. I think about how thoughtful you are even when I disagree with you. You give food for thought.
So get some sleep (Ambien, Tylenol PM, a hot bath and classical music, whatever will heal you) and know that this dialogue is good.
Slarti, I’m glad we had this conversation. It reminds me that sometimes, when I’m feeling most defensive and hurt and pissed–when I most want to just tell someone to fuck off and feel justified in it–that the opposite impulse, to be open and honest, is the more productive way.
And your comments remind me of something that I’m still having a hard time understanding, and yet, I see it happening. Often times, we’re attracted to certain bloggers’ writings because we feel some kind of kinship–your talking about being poor and alienated and shit on by those girls for instance, that resonates with me and I’m sure I’ve written some things that resonate with you–and yet, there seems to come a point (and I’m as guilty of this as the next person) where we begin to not just relate to the person’s writing, but admire it.
And as much as I, as a writer, love that moment, where someone doesn’t just read me because they relate to me, but because they enjoy it, I think it opens up a space in some of us who’ve been deeply hurt to make a big mistake (and like I said, I do this too) where we assume that we’ve misjudged. This person isn’t someone we can relate to–they’re not like us–this is someone who we admire–it’s someone better than us. But really, and I hope I’m explaining myself here well, the truth is that I am very much like you and I’m coming to accept that there are things about me that are admirable, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve misjudged me; it means you continue to misjudge you. I am worthy of admiration and, because I am like you, so are you.
Do you see what I’m saying? I hope so.
Thank you, Slarti. I know it can be difficult to unbend, especially when one has a lot of one’s own issues to work through. And I definitely know what it is to post with no sleep. *extends a hand* Friends?
Heh, it’s kind of funny. A lot of the reason I reacted the way I did was that I feel like I do know you. Not in person, but in general. I mean, Breviloquence and I met online… in World of Warcraft, no less. On the strength of that, I moved out of my parents’ house. On the strength of that, he moved across the country. I’ll grant that’s sort of unusual, but it’s getting more common every day. Heck, I was only doing what my grandfather did; after his year and half of mourning for my grandmother, he met a lovely woman online and moved to Missouri and married her.
Which is not at all to suggest that this is romantic, but rather to point out that connections can be real and true online.
(I think there’s a bit of disciplinary bias there as well. I’m not just a sociologist; I’m a sociologist of the virtual. I spent the last four years of my life studying the connections and communities we build online, and the way they map into our real lives. That’s actually what drew me to Tiny Cat Pants in the first place… the way everybody knew each other, and most of you had actually met. I thought that was deliciously cool.)
And I wanted to clarify… I think the universal love and respect argument, and/or the personal actions arguments, are perfectly good as far as they go. In terms of immediate return and potential per-person, I think one of the most powerful things that can be done is to live deliberately, and to work to treat every single person you come across with love and respect.
The problem I have with it is the leap that occasionally gets made (not just by you, but by a lot of really nice people, both online and off), which is that personal action is the only necessary action, or that the causes of the problems are personal as well. They stem from a deeply ingrained (and not entirely historically inaccurate) view of the kinds of problems faced as the results of Bad Acts. In feminism, that can be called the “foot on our necks” model (much thanks to Joan Williams*); we’ve been held down by someone else stepping on us. Being a nice person and not doing bad things is the perfect counter to the Bad Acts argument. If I don’t do bad things, I’m not a bad person, and things are okay. Which, again, is good as far as it goes. But it doesn’t do anything to deal with the system that tripped us in the first place.
That pain is generally the one we’re talking about. Of course, there are the many many moments of actual bad acts. All of us can come up with examples of when we were hurt by other people. But when we talk about feminism, or systems of power, or group-level issues, we’re talking about the fact that the way the world is set up is damaging us. ‘Coma’s coworker may have been a jerk, but the system that’s made it so that she’s expected to put up with that crap is the real problem. The system that makes it so that for a variety of reasons (some logical, some not), women’s work is devalued, contributions are ignored, and personhood is steadily chipped at. The personal sleights of smallminded people are given force and allowed free reign by a system that does not care and does not want us.
If you are a nice person, and I think you are, then… you’re not the problem. Don’t identify with the problem. When we’re talking about bad acts by a group, then if you haven’t done those bad things, you are not who we’re talking to. And when we’re talking about group issues that you have no control over (privilege, detriment, statistics), then realize that those are things happening on an entirely different level. We’re not saying “you walk around thinking you’re better than we are,” we’re saying “people in privileged groups have the luxury to not think about things that affect less privileged group. They can if they want to, and some do, but if you want to pretend it doesn’t exist, you can, and it won’t affect you nearly as much.” We aren’t saying “all men had it easier than all women” or “all men want to hurt all women,” but “men as a group are more likely to have things work in their favor than women” and “things are set up so that men who want to hurt women can do so with relative ease.” Does that make sense?
It doesn’t mean you have to run out and join the nearest feminist group, or start campaigning for the ERA, or yell at your wife’s boss to pay her more… what you are doing as it is is meaniingful. But it’s also not the area we’re really talking about. There are all sorts of levels and nuances in the conversation, and not all of them deal with the way you, specifically, live your life. You seem to have that one under control. ;)
* “Gender power may well feel like men with their feet on our necks in the context of rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment, but in the work/family context it more often feels like a force field pulling women into traditionally feminine roles by making them implausible in traditionally masculine ones.” (Williams, 95)
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I know I’m not the primary audiance; although why is it every time a man writes to men about legitamate male issues every feminist arround mocks the said men? In my experience I’ve gotten “poor man tears” from feminists. You want a truce then try making one.
Oh lord, nothing says “I’m not really invested in learning anything, I’m just fixing to say something asshole to someone” like posting at the end of a dead thread on a five year old post. Nice job, Derek. We did have a truce, but you ruined it. Now it’s back to beheadings and castrations. I hope you’re happy. Men’s blood is on your hands.
No offense but I just read this, and commented. I actually liked the article. Nothing says drama queen like missing the context of a comment that actually agrees but points out similar problems on your side. I’ll give you the last word so say whatever you want.
You’ll give me the last word on my very own blog? Thanks, mister!