It’s Weird, but It Makes Me Think

I’ll admit, I’ve been reading over at Sadly, No!the enormously long thread that was supposed to be about Chris Clarke, but then devolved into how much Amanda Marcotte sucks, by way of her evil influence on me, until it then re-evolved into a somewhat interesting discussion about how much feminists suck and how divisive identity politics are.

I just want to talk about this a little bit because this is really the first time this has happened to me–that I’ve been lumped into a group with people I admire and talked about as if we all have the same agenda (as dictated to us by Marcotte).

I’m kind of a terrible blog commenter.  If there’s one thing I’ve realized having a blog, it’s that this part–which I think I do well–and the commenting part (especially not on one’s own blog) are two different skills entirely.

Some people do both well, post and comment.  Most of the rest of us, though, have a talent for one or the other, I think, and I know where my talents lie.  Every time I comment on someone else’s blog, I feel like a complete idiot.  So, I rarely do it.

Which means, frankly, that, though I read Pandagon and other blogs, I don’t feel like a part of their community.  I don’t feel like I have anything really invested in them and I don’t feel like they have anything invested in me.

So, it’s weird for me to see myself talked about as if we are some kind of monolithic feminist blogosphere.

I do admire the work of the folks I’ve been lumped in with and I read them and feel like they give me a lot to think about and mull over, but it’s weird to be lumped in with them, as if we are all on a team and making team-like decisions.

And it’s weird for me to watch people making assumptions about me and my politics and what kind of person I am based on their reading of one post I wrote.

Anyway, so I have been reading this whole thread over at Sadly, No!, about identity politics, with the tangent about how much I suck, and then back on track to the problems with identity politics.

I want to think about this some more, but I remain convinced that both sides are right and that both sides are wrong.

I think it’s true that it’s often a bullshit move when someone says, “hey, the way you’re acting right there is racist, sexist, whatever” and the person accused is all like “Hey, not me.  I didn’t intent to be racist, sexist, whatever, therefore it is impossible for me to have acted in such a way.  If you perceive that I have acted in such a way, you must be wrong.”

But, as I’ve said before, and as we’ve talked about in many iterations here–feminism isn’t a moral position and people who are feminists (just as people who do race or whatever) aren’t more moral than people who aren’t (at least, not by virtue of them being feminist) and we definitely aren’t more knowledgeable (by virtue of our feminism) than others.

So, it’s entirely possible that someone could say “What you’re doing is sexist” and the person doing it could say, “No it’s not,” and the first person could say “Yes, it is” and be wrong.

In my perfect world, we would take all claims of bias seriously, but there would also be room for someone to say, “Hey, I’m sorry.  I’m just not doing what you think I’m doing for the reasons you think I’m doing it.  And, I’m doing the best I can here and, if it’s not good enough for you, again, sorry, but that’s all you’re going to get from me.”

Oh, fuck, I am late.

But I do want to think some more about this.

And whether it can be brought back around to pleasure that doesn’t hurt myself or others (can we call that ethical pleasure?).

Okay, more later.

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19 thoughts on “It’s Weird, but It Makes Me Think

  1. Every time I comment on someone else’s blog, I feel like a complete idiot. So, I rarely do it.

    Seriously…I thought it was because you didn’t like the way I write and so you didn’t read my blog. :( (Wait. That still could be the case–LOL!) hahaha

  2. I go through periods of commenting on other folks blogs. Sometimes, when I’m feeling insecure, I don’t.
    It’s weird, this blogosphere thing.

  3. One thing I like about that thread: the handful of commenters who are able to distinguish between the statements “action A is racist/sexist/whatever” and “you are racist/sexist/whatever because you did action A.”

    One thing I dislike about it: the majority of commenters there who think that this distinction ought to be applied to JG or Brittney, but not to both.

    There’s also the notion that “we’re important commenters on a big blog and possibly smaller blogs and their regular commenters shouldn’t try to get involved with us” that skeeves me out.

  4. *winces* I’m sorry B, but I can’t go over there and look. I have enough trouble with S,N! and FDL and such when I agree with their general premises… but I couldn’t even get past the jump this time.

    That said, you know me…I’m all about the specificity. More people should be able to make distinctions between things like “you did a bad thing” and “you are a bad person” and “this action had these consequences in this context” and “you meant to do something racist/sexist/whateverist and are therefore a bad person” and so on.

    Heh. I’ve decided that I can comment or blog… but not usually both in the same day, unless I’m really hyper. So I can either follow threads in a bunch of different places and comment a whole lot, or I can do post after post of my own (or one big long one)… but very rarely both. And I’m awful about commenting on my own blog.

  5. What more is there to think abt what you’ve said? That’s nailed. There’s always room for someone (or a group of someones) to be wrong when making an -ist or -ism accusation. There seems to be a closing of lines of communication rather than opening them. It is important that we hear the response to the accusation and judge it on the merits. In the end we’re still free to hold to our original position. I don’t see the good in closing the mind in situations where it is possible for reasonable people to disagree.

    It’s also possible for a generally “okay playa” to have committed a serious faux pas, having said or done something that is an -ist or an -ism without that person being condemned as an -ist. When you get into these battles where ego is at stake, people don’t like to back down.

  6. Ha, Mark, leave it to you to cut right to the chase. True enough.

    I think this is something I have trouble with–allowing for reasonable people to disagree. I keep thinking that, if I can only explain myself or my position better, folks will be all “Oh, yes, we see now!”

  7. So, it’s weird for me to see myself talked about as if we are some kind of monolithic feminist blogosphere.

    I have to admit that’s one thing that was initially odd-seeming to me about the progressive side of the blogosphere, and I think that was the seed of many of our early disagreements, as well as some of my early disagreements with Brittney.

    Prior to becoming heavily involved in the Nashville blogosphere I had very little exposure to the Progressive side of things.

    One of the slight cultural differences between the Prog side and the conservo side I’d been hanging with previously was the way that Prog blogs tended to more readily identify others as “Like-minded friends” based on little other than one or two commonly-shared ideas.

    It was–for a very long time–confusing to me, because based on the language used in blog posts I OFTEN inferred that people had more of a unifying organisation than they really did. I remember Brittney getting frustrated with me for assuming (wrongly, it turned out) that you and she were going to Big Feminist Meetings and hanging out all the time.

    I guess a better way to explain it is that sometimes when reading ProgBlogs I’m struck with the sense that I’d get if I were reading blogs written by different members of the same Sunday School class or non-profit organisation.

    It took a while for me to realise that everybody DOESN’T know each other, and everybody doesn’t always speak for everybody else.

  8. Hunh. When I talk about “the feminist blogosphere” or any other group like that, I’m making a social distinction (or perhaps more accurately, a demographic one), not an ideological one. I’ve noticed that most people read this entirely differently… I may actually have to explain this at my place at some time.

    To me, it’s pretty much exactly as if I were to say “the Nashville blogosphere” … even though y’all don’t always agree, and there are people in the social group that aren’t from Nashville (or even Tennessee), as a descriptive term, it covers about who I want to cover and highlights the main thing that functions as a barometer for group identity (or content congruity… either one is sufficient; the jury is out on necessity).

    So the feminist blogosphere is comprised of the people (overtly) identifying (themselves or their blogs) as feminists, the people (consistently) writing about explicitly feminist or metafeminist topics (even if they don’t actively identify as feminists… though explicitly not counting those who write about explicitly feminist or metafeminist topics for explicitly antifeminist purposes. How many more times can I include the word “explicitly” so it will line up like that in the comment box?), and people using the internet for feminist or metafeminist organizing/activist purposes, as well as communities where feminism is discussed (so bulletin boards where the majority are feminist and the topics are feminist but threads are not always feminist), communities or blogs proselytizing for feminism (where feminist ideas might not be explicitly discussed very much, but might be offered in the form of concrete suggestions for action), etc.

    More importantly, however, the thing that makes it the feminist blogosphere (as opposed to ‘the set of things on the internet which talk about feminism’) is the connections making it a community. (Here used in the way that geographic communities are formed, rather than in the more voluntary way that friend-groups form.) Even though we don’t agree on a lot of things, under this conception, you and Amanda are both parts of the community, and so are BA and BFP (even if they don’t identify as such for obvious reasons), and so on and so forth.

    This, of course, makes sweeping ideological statements generally dumb. It’s useful for other types of analyses, however, and that’s the way I use it; you can talk about the way two people’s ideas send ripples through the community, even if they don’t know each other and didn’t link to each other. You can talk about ideological divides within the group, and the things that tie people to the group even when they deeply disagree on just about everything.

    Heh. Okay, that was a bit of a tangent. But (although I doubt it), it might be the kind of framework some of the people doing the lumping might be working in. My guess, however, is that it’s more of a ‘you all look alike’ kind of thing.

  9. “…allowing reasonable people to disagree.”

    Perhaps the hardest thing for me to deal with is how often people with a recognizable liberal or conservative (or eco- or feminist- or christian- or whatever) argument on their lips are immediately held responsible for defending every outrageous belief or statement that their “side” has uttered.

    For almost every belief I hold, there is someone out there espousing it who I’d be embarrassed to have to defend. This gets to B’s post earlier in the week about the importance of the presentation. Every person who agrees with my position but does it in an offensive or disrespectful way in effect silences me. They silence me in the sense that others’ ears are temporarily closed to me. I realize that is harsh and unfair, but it’s the reality I experience.

    I think unreasonable people, to the extent they exist, can’t be reached in that state. So the goal there is to make them more open to reason. Where people are reasonable, they have to be and feel free to disagree, else they feel they are being coerced and will react defensively. Reasonable people *have* to be able to disagree.

    I’m very much attracted to what Mark said (as on the long post at the start of the week, where I did notice his earlier comment – which encouraged me to comment as well). I’d go so far as to say that I think most people are good; most feel misunderstood; most get their political identity not so much from what they believe (where as Kat says, there is often much less cohesion on one “side” than it seems from outside) as from what has offended them in the past; most political indoctrination consists of learning to be offended/threatened by that which we don’t understand and attributing that offense/threat to a monolithic “side”; that by helping someone understand what offends or frightens them about our a position we hold, we allow them to feel safe and at home with it and with us.

    That’s why I think the reaction of “hey you are a -ist!” is almost always counterproductive. My test is what would I say if my child said the offending remark? I would focus on making them understand the negative impacts of their actions, without passing judgement on their character. Create an expectation that I assume they are good people who care about those impacts. Personal invective can create a self-feeding narrative of “those think they know me to be bad, but they don’t know me, I’m not a bad person, any badness must be in them.” Etc.

    Most politics is about the creation of enemies. It’s a hell of a skill to learn how *not* to be another’s enemy, while firmly and generously speaking the truths you see.

  10. Huh. WordPress eats things that look like tags but aren’t. Lemme try that paragraph again.
    ——
    That’s why I think the reaction of “hey you are a [insert bad label]-ist!” is almost always counterproductive. My test is what would I say if my child said the offending remark? I would focus on making them understand the negative impacts of their actions, without passing judgement on their character. Create an expectation that I assume they are good people who care about those impacts. Personal invective can create a self-feeding narrative of “those [insert us] think they know me to be bad, but they don’t know me, I’m not a bad person, any badness must be in them.” Etc.
    ——

    Not much better, but the other OCD’s will understand.

  11. Huh. WordPress eats things that look like tags but aren’t. Lemme try that paragraph again.
    ——
    That’s why I think the reaction of “hey you are a (insert bad label)-ist!” is almost always counterproductive. My test is what would I say if my child said the offending remark? I would focus on making them understand the negative impacts of their actions, without passing judgement on their character. Create an expectation that I assume they are good people who care about those impacts. Personal invective can create a self-feeding narrative of “those (insert us) think they know me to be bad, but they don’t know me, I’m not a bad person, any badness must be in them.” Etc.
    ——

    Not much better, but other OCD’s will understand.

  12. I try not to speak up in comments too much because I’m kind of a comment killer. Which means this thread is now officially dead.

    Sorry. :(

  13. Every time I comment on someone else’s blog, I feel like a complete idiot. So, I rarely do it.

    I had a long comment written up, addressing some similar feelings I’ve had regarding me and the Nashville blogosphere, but I preemptively felt stupid.

    Just want to let you know you’re certainly not alone.

  14. This is a very enlightening thread.

    I will often refer to an individual as “an asshole” or “a piece of shit.” I will even go lower sometimes, and call them “a wingnut” or “a reactionary.” This pejorative discourse is usually based on something the individual has said or done, and I usually offer up such a characterization while on the internet (or while driving). I understand that only certain special people go out of their way– with regularly practiced word and deed– to earn the permanent honorific “Asshole” or “Piece of Shit” (Henry Kissinger comes to mind, as does Madeleine Albright and Rudy Giuliani and…). So when I toss out such a label on someone, I’m usually responding to a specific word or deed. I understand, at least on some level given my emotional investment in the moment, that I am not labeling the person an asshole so much as I am labeling their actions or words as assholery.

    That’s why it’s better to make the distinction, especially in writing (I need to work on this). If I perceive that someone makes a sexist remark, I shouldn’t say “you’re a sexist.” I should say, “that remark came across as sexist, dude.” By doing so, I give the person both respect as a valuable if flawed human being and the benefit of the doubt for having meant well. It gives us both the opportunity to clear the air without hostility (or it gives him the chance to prove that he is a sexist asshole). But I have to realize that the burden of starting the exchange on the right foot rests with me, the tentatively offended. This requires some of that old Christ-like, Beatituderific, turn-the-other-cheek kind of restraint. Not always easy for me, especially if I’m feeling like a reactionary piece of shit at that moment.

  15. Hello Aunt B,

    New “fan”, first time caller. I too ran across the self proclaimed ‘historic’ (ha!) Sadly No thread after it was well under way which came off as being a bunch of 30 year olds using a secondary wave excuse to openingly bash by name a group of ladies, collectively no matter what the degree of separation that normally they wouldn’t be able to easily get away with without virtually walking funny in this newest round of online Rockem Sockem. Granted I have no idea what the range of ages were but there is still an amusing/not so amusing aspect of observing them all battling for Teeshirts, at least from those of us that actually lived through Watergate whom know what tear gas really is all under the shadow of the real danger lessons of Kent State, with our closets being hard earned full of them.

    Or, as my 80 year old mentor told me in a delightful special story saved for the right day years ago on my 40th birthday of what his 80 year old mentor said to him on his 40th birthday: “Son, you haven’t even pissed in the stream yet”.

    I found your open letter thread to be much more absorbingly fascinating and amazing, all done in a more concise and admirable civil fashion under the circumstances of addressing the real time disturbing events of more know-it-all self proclaimed elitists run amok giving you a hard time what they needed to hear. Well done. Unlike the Sadly No thread that I had to force myself to plod through their exercise of…what exactly. Gah!

    There is nothing wrong with your writing or wise commentary that does stand out, along with many others, as the calls for where’s Aunt B attested to all over the place it wasn’t difficult to see why for those of us discovering your corners of the multidimensional linear planes of the blogosphere. After a few days went by I finally let out my Goddess Inner Bitch for the hell of it (perhaps it was my ancestral Chippewa Cooter speaking to me from Her place ringside at the Cooter of Delphi council ;) and wrote a post about what I had witnessed happen to you.

    I also don’t comment often unless I’m in an inspired mode. Speaking of being lumped in, I made one for the first time a couple of days ago on a blog and was warmly welcomed with such informed ad hominems in a sole response to me that a commenter tried to insult me by saying deliberately, “Y’all suck. Go away”, for merely bringing up the dreaded word sexism barely in passing as part of my insights of the events from all week. Apparently he assumed I knew all of you well and was a part of your groups even though I’ve never heard of any of you until last week, didn’t use any name except Brittney’s once, was discussing a completely different set of facts on topic of the post itself agreeing with the author about SEK getting screwed, why and what lead up to it being familiar with some of the other people or blogs involved, from my viewpoint up here in Michigan. But he zeroed in on that one word which my comment was not about. Of course he did not try to refute anything I said as being factually incorrect either. Mental giants all aren’t they.

    So it is very nice to meet you. It should be an interesting summer indeed.

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