Change v. Exchange, again

I had a big fight with the Man from GM on Sunday, though it was one of those fights where I’m sure I hung up the phone going “Whatever, motherfucker,” and he hung up the phone going, “Yep, B. just has to do x, y, and z and she will be on her way to blogging superstardom.  Glad we solved that.”

I tried to explain to him that I didn’t want blogging superstardom and he actually said to me, “Oh, you’re always slowly backing away from things.  But it works for you, so, I’m sure this will work for you.”  Which stung me to the core, which probably means that it’s true, but god damn it, I could have driven up there and ran him over three times and gladly sat on his carcass in front of the police station until someone came out to arrest me and felt okay about it.

The thing is, as I’ve said before, I believe the system is fucked.  It needs to be different for the health and well-being of all of us.  But, growing up in the system and being schooled by the system, I am fucked up by the system.  I do not know what the right different is.  I don’t know.  I just know that this is not right.

I’m sorry.  This is going to be very jumbled because there are about four different situations in my life to which this is all applicable and focusing just on one to try to talk about it is proving to be difficult.

But let’s take the feminist blogosphere.  How I understood it was that, in the beginning, there were a few self-identified feminist bloggers.  And slowly, large readerships started accumulating around some of them.  Not because those bloggers were the best bloggers (which is not to say that they weren’t, just that it wasn’t a meritocracy), but because they were the easiest to find or great at self-promotion or they had a lot of time to comment around the blogosphere and link and build readership.  They were, in fact, not “the best” but in many ways, the most fortunate.

There’s nothing wrong with being fortunate, except when you mistake it for reflecting on your merit.  But that, from my perspective, seems to be what happened.  Yes, of course, the people who are successful do deserve their success.  But I cannot help but wonder if they understand that other people, who are not successful, also deserved that success.

I said over at Lauren’s that I felt like we have a lot of leading feminist bloggers, but not a lot of actual leaders.

But, honestly, I don’t know what a feminist leader looks like.  I guess because, in my heart, I feel like “feminist leader” is a contradiction in terms.  At least now, at this point in the system, I just don’t believe that any urge to lead feminists isn’t problematic.  Women need to learn how to lead our own lives.  It’s not the only goal of feminism.  But I think it’s an important one–that women learn to first live ourselves for ourselves.  Swapping out whoever’s the boss of you now for some feminist leader to boss you around in the future just doesn’t cut it with me.  That’s meet the new boss same as the old boss shit.

And I don’t want to be a leader.

But, you know, of course I do.  I’m in the system.  I’m fucked up by the system.  I believe that, if I’m good enough, I will be rewarded with power and fame and riches and happiness and it will be great!  And it will prove my worth as a human being.

But that is fucked up.  It’s so tempting, but it’s fucked up.

And I do wonder, once you start with the book deals and the media appearances, or shoot, even the meetings with politicians or the fund-raising campaigns, once you start using the system to get ahead, how easy is it to forget that the system itself is the problem?

I don’t know.

I do want real change, but I also want to be the one on top for a while.

I know that’s only human, but I want to be honest about those competing impulses.

I don’t know.  The thread over at Lauren’s has stirred up a lot of things for me I don’t quite know what to make of or do with.

So, who knows?

10 thoughts on “Change v. Exchange, again

  1. …once you start using the system to get ahead, how easy is it to forget that the system itself is the problem?

    If there’s a better summation of the aspects of human nature that propel self-destructive politics, I have yet to see it.

  2. I’m torn. As Sam said, that quote is brilliant.
    Listen, I’m just going to lay it out here as I see it and I could be so wrong.
    So very wrong.
    On my blog today I’m talking about a woman who is dying. She’s never smoked a day in her life, never had a drink and she has lung cancer.
    Damn.
    She’s been important to me all my life. She’s just always been there. Back during WWII, she was the editor of the competing newspaper (I used to work there as well 50 years later.) She typed on ancient machines with little to no help and put out a newspaper once a week.
    When the men returned from war, she was “let go” and thanked for her involvement. The end.
    I can’t shake that. I don’t really write about feminism because, well, I just do it.
    God, that sounds arrogant. I don’t mean it to and you know me, you know that’s not where I come from.
    But, I think there is no A-List for blogging anymore on any subject. There is business and there is blogging and sometimes the two meet. (Getting off topic. Sorry.)
    Yeah, we get a link by Dooce or Peter Tao or whomever (and you do much better than I do) but sometimes it’s about just being ourselves, staying true to the message that we feel at the moment, not someone else’s message and remaining clever.
    I know this is off the topic but I just want to express I understand.
    Maybe, just maybe, instead of looking to find what a feminist is supposed to look like, we just do our own thing and hope we do well.
    My feminist, the one I see in my mind, is the lady I spoke of above. She helped create the path for me, as did my mom.
    They just did.
    Sorry for hijacking. I guess these two post from Lauren and you impacted me as well.
    Much love.

  3. I have many thoughts that I can’t seem to get organized. So right now I am merely going to assert two very general claims with no help on how to believe or live them well.

    First, there is nothing wrong with making money. Money is essential for survival in this modern world. It is not a measure of your worth. But having some doesn’t make you not worthy or responsible for others having none. (oh, that’s probably 2 separate claims)

    Second, not all instances of earning money from art or from your passion are instances of selling out.

  4. This one is just as brilliant:

    There’s nothing wrong with being fortunate, except when you mistake it for reflecting on your merit.

    Needs to be stitched on a sampler and hung up.

  5. I agree with you B (btw, for me, you’re one of the big ones – I get so much out of reading you).

    I just wanted to throw one thought out there, which is something you’ve touched on in this blog. Blogging has already made huge strides in allowing “alternative” women’s voices to be heard and sometimes broadcast mainstream. The fact that I can read you and other feminist commentators on a daily basis – how could I have done that before blogging existed? And you and the other feminist bloggers, big and small, do so much to keep me sane.

    I know this doesn’t address the economic who-is-writing-a-book-and-who-is-living-hand-to-mouth issues, but it is a true measure of success. You, Aunt B, through your writing, help keep people thinking, smiling, and sane. You are successful blogger. How you get to eat and feed your family every day is an important issue, but doesn’t distract from your current success.

  6. Aw, CassieC, thanks.

    I think a lot of things about this all, but the thing I keep coming back to is that I think the thing is to move forward tentatively. Marching forward in surety that we are doing the right thing repeatedly gets us humans into trouble.

    But an unsureness that keeps moving?

    There’s value in that approach, I think.

  7. AuntB: I went to bed thinking about this, and how it meshed with my ideals. After throwing my hat into the latest bruhaha about BDSM in the radFem world, I have to point out one thing.

    But, honestly, I don’t know what a feminist leader looks like. I guess because, in my heart, I feel like “feminist leader” is a contradiction in terms. At least now, at this point in the system, I just don’t believe that any urge to lead feminists isn’t problematic. Women need to learn how to lead our own lives. It’s not the only goal of feminism. But I think it’s an important one–that women learn to first live ourselves for ourselves. Swapping out whoever’s the boss of you now for some feminist leader to boss you around in the future just doesn’t cut it with me. That’s meet the new boss same as the old boss shit.

    I agree, but there are loud voices that do not. Some elements of feminism have significant amounts of Authoritarian (left) DNA in them, and see themselves as the vanguard of feminism. They think they are leading the poor women who have been deluded by the Patriarchy out of the watered down and corrupted version of feminism which is the mainstream. Cath Elliot’s post “Me Me ME” and most of the comments on it are perfect examples of this.

    As an anti-authoritarian, I really struggle with the conflict between wanting to be heard with it’s attendant selfish desire for validation, and the fact that I think people should be able to make their own decisions without undue influence from outside factors (including me). I’m going to sit and mull over what you’ve said a bit more, because it is so familiar to me, yet is from another perspective.

    Also, I love your blog as it is. It is one of my favorite reads, and one that I read almost immediately as it pops into my feed reader. Cheers ;)

  8. I find the mention of the following to be interesting: “There’s nothing wrong with being fortunate, except when you mistake it for reflecting on your merit. ”

    I wonder if people are directing people like Obama or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Steven Spielberg to this quote. Hmm, scratching my head, I cannot seem to recall the denizens of the feminist blogosphere reflecting on the lack of true merit of these chaps. But, why? Could it be that they don’t have vaginas? Nope, can’t be, feminists would never impose a double standard…

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