The other day on Twitter we were joking around about the latest mini episode of Tanis where Nic’s friend, Geoff, asks him too many pointed questions about who he might be sleeping with. One dude was like “I think Geoff has a little crush on Nic” and I said something like “Hey, you can’t expect a guy to see twenty women eating a cake and not be curious what the cake tastes like!”

And I’ve been thinking about that since then. I was trying to be funny, but I wonder if there’s something to it. We tend to talk about prohibitions on promiscuity being about some kind of evolutionary need to know that the kids we’re raising are ours. And there’s also some talk about fear of women’s agency and pleasure.

All of those thing sound nice in theory, but I guess I think there are kind of fundamental emotions, like raw, primitive emotions, and then more sophisticated emotions.

No thirteen year old boy who calls a girl a slut is worried that her kids aren’t going to be his kids or that she’s got too much agency and pleasure. I think those responses are too sophisticated for him at that point.

So, what’s the core feeling promiscuity engenders in us? And I think it’s anxiety that, if the person we’re with has a lot of experience, they have a lot of experience by which to judge us: i.e. they will know we suck, whereas, if we’re the only person they have sex with, however bad we are will just have to do.

But I also think there’s a mixture of curiosity and shame at that curiosity. If a lot of people want to sleep with your friend, aren’t you curious about what it’s like to sleep with him? But, with strong taboos still on homosexual experiences, how can you satisfy that curiosity?

Best to not have it raised in the first place.


Fortunately, I don’t normally get a lot of trouble on Twitter. But yesterday, one of my friends was talking about how People has this new initiative to get women to share their dress size so that we can all see that beauty comes in every size or some such nonsense.

The thing that struck me about it, though, is that, because it’s about beauty, the women whose pictures are included, by and large, are striking “beautiful” poses while dressed in “attractive” ways while holding up the number that represents their size (because I guess they all have access to more consistent sizing than the rest of America?)

I rolled my eyes, because, of course, we can’t just have “You’re fine at whatever size you are,” because what’s that sell? We have to establish what a “beautiful” body at that size looks like, so even if you make peace with being a size 16, now you can feel anxious that you’re not the right kind of size 16 because you don’t compare to the chicks People has deemed properly representative. And buy the products necessary to relieve your anxiety. That’s the point.

Pit women against each other, set us up to compare ourselves to each other, and then sell shit based on the anxiety that unwinnable competition produces.

But it also struck me that there can’t be any eating disorder specialist who would endorse putting pictures of women up with some number attached so that other women can see how they stack up or if they need to try harder to get to the “right” number or be extra cautious about not “letting” yourself get to that undesirable number.

So, I tweeted at People something to that effect.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. A dude I don’t know @-ed me and some other dude I don’t know. No message. Just drawing other dude’s attention to the fact that I exist and then other dude began hurling insults (though most insultingly, really stupid insults) at me.

A dude sent another dude after me. The first dude, I assume, was monitoring the replies in the People twitter feed to see who had “wrong” opinions and needed to be dealt with.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to downplay how creepy this is and I do feel a little weird now having come to the attention of a person like this.

But overall, I find this so ludicrous it’s almost delightful. If society is going to have arbiters of what is and isn’t okay to talk about and who can and can’t participate in those conversations, shouldn’t those arbiters be super awesome? Shouldn’t they show great discernment and judgment?

But no! There’s some dude whose set himself up as arbiter and he monitors the People twitter feed.

I will listen to wisdom from my betters, but the dude who monitors the People twitter feed, as evidenced by the fact that he monitors the People twitter feed, is not better than me.

Gawker is Not Alone

Over at Medium:

In August 2014, Jezebel published “We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It.” I remember when it appeared because I thought it was exciting to work at a company where people were directly questioning authority on their own site — rather than waiting for another outlet to pick up the story — while also recognizing how fucked up it was that they’d had to resort to this. “In refusing to address the problem,” the post read, “Gawker’s leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel’s staff and readers.” When I spoke to several Jezebel staff writers about their decision to publish it, the same narratives came up over and over.

“It took me four years to build up a callus where I didn’t care anymore and I was able to not read how much people hated me. That was so awful psychologically. It’s way worse for women and it’s way worse when you’re writing about women’s issues and it’s way worse when you’re forced to look at graphic images of sexual assault,” former Jezebel senior writer Tracie Morrissey told me about the rape gifs that were littering Jezebel’s comment section. “No one did anything about the rape gif issue until we wrote a public story and called them out for it.”

Old Friends

Elias pointed out that Furiosa has one arm. Max doesn’t have one eye, but he’s hanged, upside down, is chaotic, and at the end, he wanders off.

Oh, hi!

I was thinking on our walk this morning, both how amazing it is that these formations stick with us for so long–thousands of years–and how cool it is that women can inhabit these roles now. But I did wonder what ancient stories we tell about women, if there are similar age-old stories with women at their centers we could recognize now?

A Little Eye-Rolling

I don’t want to end up in any round-ups or in any big way a part of the larger discussion, but I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s comment here and I just want to say that, when you get to a certain age, you recognize the ways that good people who don’t consider themselves sexist reinforce some pretty sexist notions. A big one is that, when a man “upsets” a woman in a professional context, it’s a private matter to be worked out between the two of them, and when a woman “upsets” a man in a professional context, her (male) boss may need to weigh in on it.

And here we are.

Who Does to and Who is Done to

This week I read about two different instances where football teams were shut down due to sexual assault–on younger players. As a part of hazing.

This, I think, is the hardest thing to fight about rape culture. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. We live in a culture where power is sustained through doing things to others they do not want done to them. The football coach tells you to run up the hill and you don’t want to, but you do because he said so. He has power over you. But you don’t have to be powerless. You can stick a broom up a 14 year old’s butt, even though he doesn’t want you to. You have some power.

I don’t know how we undo a culture like this by only insisting men stop raping women. They are only doing to us what’s been done to them.

It’s depressing.

Not Seeing What Side You’re On

I’m really glad that Mallory Ortberg wrote this response to Elizabeth Ellen’s utterly confounding post from last week. I mean, when you’re nervous about writing a post because you’re afraid it’s going to piss feminists off and not because you’re revealing that you molested three children when you were a child (when he was talking about his new memoir on NPR, Charles Blow said that, actually, the majority of molestations happen between children–the average age of a molester is 14 and the average age of their victim is 4. Doesn’t make it any less traumatic.), you are not operating on the same plane as the rest of us.

This whole part:

When I was a young person I molested three children younger than myself; a boy and two girls, one of which was my half-sister. Granted, I was, to the best of my knowledge/memory, nine or ten and the children were all about three or four years younger than I was. I know you’re going to say this doesn’t count. But think of finding me in your five year old’s bed. Think of my grandmother finding me on top of my sister in hers. I was shunned. Rightfully so, I thought. Separated from my sister (I was never caught in the other two cases). I remember being sent down to the swimming pool (who knows the logic behind this) while my grandmother comforted (?) or talked to my sister. I remember feeling like a monster. Ashamed. Crying alone in the water (in my memory it was evening, dinner time; maybe there were other people but in my memory I am alone). I don’t remember if this was the last time it happened. I don’t remember being molested myself (that is the logical next thought, I realize). I don’t know why I did it. I still don’t understand why. (My sister and I don’t talk. I never see her. I don’t know if this is based on what happened then or if this is based on any number of other reasons why half-siblings or any siblings may or may not talk as adults. I have often wondered how much or if she remembers; if it was a traumatic experience for her. I have never asked. I’m still too afraid; feel too much a monster.)

Where she seems unable to imagine that her grandmother might, indeed, be comforting her sister, unable to imagine that this might be why her sister doesn’t talk to her, and, frankly, unable to imagine that her sister might not want her to tell people what happened to her. It blows my mind.

And then the idea that you could know you molested three people, find yourself sympathizing with people accused of rape, and think you have some unbiased insight into the realities of these situations, instead of, you know, you identifying with the accused and not wanting to think that what you did was that bad.

The impulse to believe that, when you tell someone you molested three kids, they’re going to tell you that what you did wasn’t that bad… just holy shit.

When Everyone Knows and No One Says

I don’t really understand what alt lit is. I think I’m too old for it. But I sure as fuck understand how fucked up it is when someone is like “Some one, who I’ll call ‘Stan,’ did something really fucked up to me” and everyone is like “Oh, was it so-and-so?” and they all guess the same guy.

The thing I most “admire” (I wish I could think of a better word, like “admire” but with repulsion.) about dude’s approach is evident in the comments. Any woman who’s older than 25 knows that, if a dude invites you to stay with him and share a bed with him, when you don’t even fucking know him, he’s a creepster. That knowledge may not be enough to help you when you need someplace to stay because you have to make connections and you’re desperate and he’s a “famous” editor and you really want to be a writer. But at least it’s knowledge you have.

And it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t always knowledge that you had. But I slept with people non-sexually in high school. Churches had lock-ins where you non-sexually got to sleep with people! Or you fell asleep on the couch together. Or whatever. You went to camp. You slept in close quarters with people you didn’t know. You sleep in the same bed as friends on trips. Whatever.

You literally don’t yet know that there’s a great luxury to an empty bed, that strangers don’t want you in their luxurious empty beds just so that you can have a soft spot to rest. That a stranger trying to get you into his bed doesn’t have platonic designs, no matter how much you make it clear that that’s all you have.

So, there’s this choad, hiding himself in that vulnerable spot for young women–finding women just out of high school–and then sitting back and letting even other women be all “But how could they not know what he was up to?”

Here’s the important thing, though. And I’m glad Sophia Katz was willing to write about it in such detail, even if it meant people were going to be all “How could she not know?” Because the one thing that’s obvious from her story is that her non-consent was an important part of it for him. He got off on “pushing through her resistance.” He kept setting up situations where she would say “no” and he would keep going. And I’m sure he enjoys seeing people take his side, like she should have “understood” what he was up to from the moment he invited her into his bed.

But, really, no matter what, when you’re invited into someone’s bed, even if you think you’re going to have sex with them, you don’t expect them to rape you. But it’s clear from her story that he wanted her to turn him down–that was part of the ritual for him.

Two Boots Pizza

I went there for lunch and it was fairly busy. There was only one guy in the place at one point. Otherwise, it was all women, just shooting the shit about how to season cast iron and whether you could make a fish have sex with a kernel of corn (obviously not).

It was strange, but nice.

My Role as the Thing That is Judged

I love this piece by Rebecca Traister so much. This part, especially, hit me in the gut:

But at its heart, it was a story about how women are assessed: by disciplinary committees, police departments, their friends, the public, and by the people they identify as their assailants. It was about how female availability and consent and intoxication are appraised based on how women look, dance, dress, and act, even when those appraisals are at odds with medical evidence, eyewitness accounts, inconsistent stories from accused parties, and certainly with the woman’s own interpretation of her experience or intentions.

This comfort with group assessment of femininity in turn reminds me of the ease with which women’s choices regarding their bodies, futures, health, sex, and family life are up for public evaluation. Women are labeled as good or bad, as moral or immoral, by major religions and “closely held corporations,” whose rights to allow those estimations to dictate their corporate obligations are upheld over the rights of the women themselves by high courts.

More and more, I can’t escape the feeling that I am public property, that I am always up for assessment, that power in our society is granted to the people who sit in judgement and, while some people’s “natural” role is that of judge, a whole lot of other people have figured out that they can make a way in this world by working themselves into positions where they prove their ability to judge, and thus given some power.

Don’t get me wrong. I think discernment is an appropriate skill to develop. Discernment can save a person a lot of heartache. But sitting in judgment, as a mode of entertaining oneself? That concerns me.


Man, that comment on that other post has me thinking about how Twisty Faster used to make such fun of that term–empowered. She’d call something, like, oh, say, women “being given the opportunity” to pay for their own birth control out of pocket instead of having it covered like any other prescription by their insurance as being an “empowerful” event. We women were going to be so empowered by all these opportunities (let’s call them “character-building obstacles”) that it would be better than simple, legal equality.

Empowered. At this point, it’s just the polite way of saying women need to be taught a lesson.

Thoughts on the Kool-Aid Afghan Yarn

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer's eyes.

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer’s eyes.

The wool I found at Haus of Yarn is perfect. It’s very natural feeling and looking. It has a kind of homey vibe. It just seems like the kind of yarn someone would hand-dye in a very half-assed way. But they only had five skeins! But they will order me more. So, my goal for this weekend is to get the yarn dyed (check) and then work up some squares so that I know how many more skeins I need so that they can get them for me. I dyed four and left one natural because I want to do a border on each square, so that it doesn’t look exactly like the one I did for B. I’m only now trying to decide if I want all the same sized colored parts or different. See, each row of a typical granny square has three rounds. So, I could do some squares where the colored part is only the first round and the rest are white, some squares where the first two rounds were colored and the last is white and some where all squares are colored.

I’m leaning away from that, though, because I’m trying to strike a balance between the business of the variegation and my desire to not make the whole afghan seem too busy. I want it to be cheeky, not tacky. So, in order to pull that off, if it’s possible to pull that off with bright, fruity colors, I think the trick is to give a person’s eye a place to rest–the white space. And to give the eye some uniformity. You might encounter a lot of variation, but it will be in a regular, predictable pattern.

Ha ha ha. I probably worry too much about the aesthetics of something no one else experiences as an aesthetic object. But man, I really love to sit around an imagine how an afghan is going to look and then I love to see how it actually turns out. It brings me such pleasure every time I piece one together on my bed and am like, wow, damn, I really love this.

My dad asks me all the time about selling my shit, but it’s so ridiculous. I mean, for an afghan I make with just yarn you can get at Walmart, my materials expenses run me $50 and then, if I even paid myself minimum wage, it probably takes me sixty hours to put one together. And something like this–wool is a lot more expensive and the labor costs expand once dying is included. And the idea of charging people hundreds of dollars for afghans that I make? It just seems ludicrous.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. If some rich person came along and asked me to do them up a Kool-aid dyed afghan, I’d sit down and actually figure out what it was costing me and go ahead and charge them the $500 and think nothing of it. But I guess what weighs heavily on my mind is that our culture kind of values handmade things–especially handmade things that are made by women–as being some kind of frugal alternative to real things. You can have a real shirt, or your mom can sew you one. You can have a real blanket or I can crochet you one.

But those are only more inexpensive choices because our work is not taken into account.

And I guess my feeling is that I’d rather do this as a gift to people I care about and feel like we all got value out of it–me, because I got to see if I had predicted in my head a good form for the afghan to take, and the person who gets it, because they got a gift–than I would want to do it as something that needs to pay for itself, because I just don’t believe you can actually get paid what it’s worth. Even on Etsy, I don’t see an afghan for more than $200.

And, like I said, looking at the yarn they’re using, their materials costs are probably less than $50, so, if you never account for labor, $200 is a nice amount.

But it does make me feel, overall, like, if you’re not getting something out of it yourself, it’s not worth it.

My Process

Over at Pith, I wrote about how I suspect Melverina Elverina Peppercorn is not a real person, at least not under that name. It pretty much walks you through how I go about finding out anything about any historical figure–I first just broadly Google them to see what other people believe about them (sometimes, nothing, because I’m often curious about people who’ve been forgotten), then I look for them in Google Books. Then I turn to to see if I can find them in the Census. If I’m looking for a woman with a distinctive first name–like Melverina–I’ll sometimes just broadly search the census records to see if Melverina X might be a plausible candidate.

If this all fails, I take a step back. And this can fail, especially with women. If they have a distinctive last name (or hell, I’ve done this for the Phillipses) and I know an approximate area where they lived, I search Find-a-Grave for plausible people for my person. Find-a-Grave isn’t going to catch every Peppercorn, for instance, but it sure gives you a big-picture look at the Peppercorns in the U.S. who appear to have been mostly Catholic and, broadly, came through Ohio into Kansas and Oklahoma. There are a couple of male Peppercorns dead outside that swath, but in port cities. This doesn’t really fit with what we know of the lives of most Tennesseans, especially most Tennesseans who felt strongly enough to fight in the Civil War. Those tended to be people who had lived in the South for a generation or two (or three).

If I had found a cemetery or two with Peppercorns in it in the South, that’s where I would have started looking for Melverina. If I had found Peppercorns in Nashville, for instance, that might be when I take a trip to the Nashville room or either Archives to see what they might know about the Peppercorn family.

But, curiously enough, I couldn’t find anything that suggests there were Peppercorns, let alone Melverina. Hence why I suspect that’s a pseudonym–thought, god, what a delicious pseudonym.

I’m also just speculating, but I kind of believe Meriwether was trying to give some clues about the real woman. Somewhere, I believe, is a woman with a similar name–Amelia Bedelia Hopscotch (or something)–with a brother with a great leader’s name–George Washington Hopscotch, Julius Caesar Hopscotch, something–and two sisters with ordinary names. But I’m not looking for her!

Incoherent Thoughts about Jimmy Page

I won’t watch Woody Allen movies. I don’t intentionally listen to R. Kelly. Michael Jackson, who played such a formative part of my youth, is out.

I still listen to Led Zeppelin.

Which is why, really, I’m not going to look down on you for listening to R. Kelly.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think you can seek social justice through elaborate rule-writing and prohibition-enacting. Yes, in part, it’s the change/exchange problem. Deciding our problems are solved by careful enactment of proper rules of behavior means someone gets to put herself in charge of those rules of behavior. But, more than that, in terms of changing people’s minds, rule-making short-circuits that. It puts in place a practice rather than a change.

(I’m trying to thread a needle here, so let me be clear that I think rule-making serves many a useful purpose, especially in terms of drawing and maintaining healthy boundaries.)

But what I mean is that, I don’t think “If you’re a feminist, you don’t watch Woody Allen movies” is a useful thing for feminists. Sure, it gives a way to police all feminists and make sure that they’re “following the rules,” which, sure, we can disguise as “being supportive enough of victims” but really, it’s just about keeping other women’s behavior in check. “How can a feminist watch a Woody Allen movie?” once you get over the initial “with her eyes” part, is a useful question.

“How can I keep listening to Led Zeppelin, knowing what I know?” is a hard question. But a useful one.

I don’t, honestly, give a shit at this point if people think I’m a good feminist. I am, at best, an imperfect ally. And I’m not interested in signaling to others that my politics are right and getting the signal back from them that they have found my politics acceptable, because I just can’t get over the feeling that it’s a lie, a performance.

I care that, when I settle down in my bed at night, and it’s just me and my thoughts, that I can make sense of and make peace with my thoughts.

Last night, some twitter account started just to harass my friend tweeted at him and me and this other dude about what’s it like to know your wife is sleeping with a murderer. I tweeted back that I was shocked to learn my wife was cheating on me.

So, here’s the thing. I still don’t know how to deal with this. Do I still consider myself his friend? Yes. What does that mean for my friendships with folks who are directly impacted by his behavior, because they now, still, have to deal with the fall out from this? I don’t know. I feel weird about it.

But being tweeted at by an anonymous account didn’t make me feel ashamed to be found associating with him or something. Which I think was supposed to be the intended outcome. It made me feel like I’m already lumped in with the bad guys, so fuck wrestling with how to be a good guy. Which, I have to tell you, in this case, would be a mighty convenient way to view the situation.

I just don’t think it’s the right way. I don’t know if there’s a right way.

I guess the thing I’m trying to get at is that, for me, in all these cases, there’s a line, a moment when you’ve gone too far and you can’t get back to your familiar shore, so you have to stake out some new position. Like, you kind of knew about the Woody Allen thing, but you didn’t really pay too much attention, and you loved his movies, but then, maybe, you read Dylan Farrows account and it just rang true. And maybe you read all the other counter-arguments, hoping that they’d convince you that you could, once more, feel okay about watching Woody Allen movies, but they all seemed to be making excuses or missing the point.

And that’s it. This thing you loved? You can’t love it easily anymore.

Someday that’s going to happen to me about Led Zeppelin. Maybe it will be when one of my friends has a 14 year old daughter and I have to stare right in the face of how young that is. Or maybe it will come when my niece turns 14 and I try to imagine what it would be like to learn some rockstar asshole had his roadie kidnap her so that he could rape her.

I don’t know. Putting it that way, it makes me wonder if today might be the day, when one of their songs comes up on shuffle and I don’t say “Wow,” but instead say “Yuck.”

And, you know, fuck Jimmie Page for that.

Bah, This Crap

I’ve been trying all morning to figure out how to respond to this. It really bugs me that the response to finding out that people have devoted months, if not years, to focusing solely on the ways that someone has failed is to argue over whether we agree or disagree with them, not to wonder what the fuck kind of asshole would do that?

Blame the Victim

We caught the last hour of ‘League of Denial’ last night and I’m glad we didn’t watch the whole thing, because it just made me viscerally sick. So, I don’t know if they mentioned Chris Benoit, but I’m guessing not. And I think that’s a shame, because even the way the documentary was set up, you can kind of see the argument the NFL is going to make in the future–yes, the game is dangerous and men are hurting themselves in the brain, but they know the risks to themselves when they sign up for the sport.

And I get that talking about kids with traces of CTE maybe makes the same point I want made–that you don’t always know what you’re signing up for or you’re not the one initially signing up for it–but I want it made more explicitly. You’re not just making, or having made for you, a decision that only destroys you. It destroys families, sometimes to death. You might have the right to do to yourself whatever you want, even if it gives you brain damage, but I’m completely unconvinced that you have the right to do something to yourself that might make you a killer.

But I was also struck by the part that Jessica Luther’s taking about:

This kind of call for a larger context in which to study the cause and effect of football playing and CTE becomes for many who want to downplay or deny the possibility of that connection an easy out. Multiple times in the documentary there were doubters (of course, all of them somehow associated with the NFL) who said that we need to look for other possible connections between these football players beyond the fact that they all had CTE at the time of their death. And once we have crossed off the list however many (how many exactly?) other possible connections between the 45 players in McKee’s study, then we will know that the cause of CTE is playing football.

Just in the time we watched, the Butcher and I noted three different NFL-related people who seemed to be suggesting that CTE is somehow the fault of the players, something they just happened to be doing to themselves–like taking steroids or other drugs or that they all have some similar genetic disposition or something. As if those things aren’t related to football. It’s arguing that football is safe, it’s just the things you have to do to be a football player that are dangerous. As if that lets football off the hook.

It strikes me though, we all pay for this kind of victim blaming. If people are trained from a young age that they have to do what more powerful people tell them, that they have to give their bodies up to the whims of people with more money or more power than them or risk losing something important to them (their jobs,their lives, etc.) AND that, if they can’t keep themselves safe in such arrangements, they are to blame, of course this echoes around our culture in increasingly damaging ways.

Here is Why You Don’t Get to Be Done Talking about Hugo Schwyzer

It is apparent that most of the big feminist sites he wrote for or who were friendly to him have decided that they’re done talking about him.

I want to point you to this post by Flavia Dzodan, quoting Tamora Pierce and this post from Angus Johnston.

And then I want to say this–he is actively and right now harming the students he fucked. Most of us do not have enough clout to bring pressure to make sure he stops teaching and stays done teaching. But places like Jezebel and the Atlantic and xoJane do. And it is true that, if you speak out against Schwyzer, you’re going to take a heap of earned, legitimate criticism for your failure to address any of the actions that have brought us to this point. But, my god, is your discomfort really more important than the safety and well-being of his victims?

Because, if it is, then you have learned NOTHING from any of the discussions. Nothing.

The Cat Has Feelings

Yes, I posted this at Twitter. In my defense, the look on her face is hilarious and I wanted to share it with y'all.

Yes, I posted this at Twitter. In my defense, the look on her face is hilarious and I wanted to share it with y’all.

I have many feelings. My parents arrive today. This marks the midpoint in some bizarre visit that the Butcher is having with them that involves him driving to their house, driving with them to our house, driving with them to their house, and driving to our house again. I’m not even going to ask questions at this point. Except for how, if he’s driving back and forth across the middle of the country, I’m getting my groceries.

I have a short in my dining room light. It just shuts itself off randomly, but if you walk toward the switch, it comes back on. I am dealing with this potential fire hazard by just not turning on the light in the dining room. I need new tires and for nothing else to fuck up until 2015. This is going to be too much to ask. On the other hand, if the electrician brings down the ceiling in the dining room while fixing my short, insurance will cover it. Still, I’m not calling the electrician until after I get tires. I think this is the right call–bald tires have to be more dangerous than a dark dining room. But I admit, I’m not sure.

The older I get the more I’m taken aback when, on the internet, you can be having a conversation, even a contentious one, but a good one where everyone is at least of the agreement that “people do x for their own reasons, which we may or may not agree with” and someone has to come in all “I don’t do x.” Okay. Um? Was it just getting too much for you that people were talking and it wasn’t about you? One million conversations on the internet and you have to jump into one you acknowledge isn’t applicable to you and make sure we all know it? It’s funny.

The man who Googles his name and sends his supporters to harass his critics admits he was doing yet another thing a bunch of us thought he was doing. Johnston makes a point I want to reiterate: the man admits to fucking his students and lying about it. Where’s the outrage? The man has a “breakdown” on Twitter and there are a million stories throughout the blogosphere and interviews with him. Dude admits to fucking students he’s teaching and… nothing… silence. Why? It is simply not possible that there’s anyone left who believes these were wholly consensual relationships–or frankly, even capable of being so. The man has a track record of manipulation and grooming and, while I respect that his students might at the moment feel like they consented, I think it’s also obvious that the man presents to people a truth about himself only so far as it helps him get what he wants. And there’s simply no way that a sexual relationship between a student and a professor he or she currently has is free of issues like “can I say ‘no’ and not have it affect my grade?”

So, why won’t the places that now claim they can understand how terrible he is step up and help make sure he doesn’t have access to young women anymore?

I put “breakdown” in quotes because, while I believe he has genuine mental issues, they have changed over the years to always be the diagnosis most likely to garner him sympathy. His breakdowns neatly coincide with his need to get out of trouble. He’s using people’s desire to be compassionate toward people with mental illnesses as cover to continue to abuse. Convenient.

He also continues to put himself in a position of control. Notice at the end of Johnston’s piece where he’s offering his employer advice on how to deal with him. Like the ball is still in his court, like he’s still in charge of the outcome of his life.

Here’s my bet. When all is said and done, it will come out that his employer was on the verge of finding out he was fucking his students–something went wrong and he wasn’t sure he could keep the student in line–and they’ve been clear to him that, if he got caught fucking students again, they were going to fire him. So, he needed to have a huge public breakdown, something so big and dramatic that it would drown out this student and make her, if she did come forward, seem like she was picking on a man at his rock bottom. Thus we get this whole thing. And now that he’s obviously “crazy,” and he thinks they can’t fire him because he has a medical excuse, he’s admitting that he fucked his students.

Everything before this was the controlled burn to try to keep this from being a wildfire he couldn’t put out. That’s my sincere belief. We’ll see if it’s borne out.

You Don’t Get to be Grand Marshall of Every Parade

I’ve been mostly ignoring the FemFuture because I feel like I get to be old enough now that I can ignore things that annoy me.

But I have learned of this and I have to take a moment to laugh. You want to come to Texas, in the middle of an ongoing Texas movement, declare the movement over, and tell people in Texas, some of whom are still participating in the ongoing protests, how to keep up momentum now that things have died down?

I just have this mental image of a huge crowd of Texas women doing their thing while so many of us cheer them on and they get 3/4 of the way down their particular parade route and here come the Big Name Feminists rushing to the head of the parade, trying to get their uniforms in order, declaring the march just about over and begging for someone, anyone, to tell them where the crowd wants them to lead them.

Feminism as a philosophy will continue to be popular. Women want equality. But third-wave feminism, as a movement, is stalling out. And it is exactly because of that old change/exchange problem. The Big Name Feminists just want to be the ones setting the cultural agenda for a while. They don’t actually see how changing said agenda would involve not leading the parade, but just marching in it.

The Thing about The Thing

I know I’ve said before that, when I moved to North Carolina, I regularly heard black people making cracks about Strom Thurmond’s black daughter. It came up fairly frequently, in all kinds of situations. It was an open secret. I thought it was an open secret among all Carolinians, North and South, because the knowledge was so wide-spread and so openly discussed.

And yet, finally the “secret” got out and a ton of white people were stunned. Some white people I knew in North Carolina, who I think must have been present for some of the jokes I heard, were stunned.

This was my first direct observation that people of color could say things outloud to white people’s faces, repeatedly, over a long period of time and it just not be heard as a real thing.

Watching the discussion going on about Schwyzer in the feminist blogosphere has been a second, harder lesson in the same thing. I know even I thought he was creepy (I looked back here to see if I’d written any posts on him back in the day, and the few I have are filled with me feeling like there was something fucked up about his line of reasoning, even as I was continually giving him the benefit of the doubt–like maybe he just didn’t know better.) I failed until the infamous Feministe thread to connect my feelings of unease to him willfully doing things wrong.

People had long before that put two and two together and were sharing as much information as they could collect about him with each other in order to try to protect themselves from him. Who he was and how he behaved was an open secret. Open in the sense that these folks were doing whatever they could to share the information they had with whomever would listen. Secret in the sense that, because of racism, they didn’t have enough cultural authority within Feminism to have their knowledge taken as legitimate.

I’m not blaming others. I’m saying–this is how it worked for me. I knew something was not right and it still took seeing it spelled out the however many hundredth time for it to finally click that the “something” was known and widely available for the knowing. Because I am not socialized to accept the testimony of people of color as legitimate.

It’s racism. It’s not the kind that’s evil intent in your heart, which we all recognize as bad. But it is what it is. Whose knowledge you respect as legitimate and who gets the benefit of the “maybe s/he just doesn’t know any better” or “you know s/he’s not well” is deeply ingrained and changing it is lifelong work.

And if, in a situation where you have the direct observations and testimony of women of color who aren’t self-admitted attempted murderers who intentionally target women to try to publicly ruin them and the word of a self-admitted murderer who intentionally targets women to try to publicly ruin them, if you’re looking for ways to sympathize and understand the dude, you need to do more of that work.

The Redheaded Kid Isn’t Going to See The Lone Ranger

As you recall, The Redheaded Kid spent a great deal of time thinking he was dying, and so he’s not our most concerned with details friend. When you think thirty is the end of the line, you don’t sit around worrying about a lot of shit that doesn’t pertain to you. So, it’s been interesting to watch him, so late in the game, suss out what kinds of things apart from the immediate concerns of life he’s going to be troubled by.

But, last night, we saw a commercial for The Lone Ranger and the Redheaded Kid got this weird look on his face and he said, “I just don’t think I can see that movie. I mean, it just seems like it’s making fun of Indians.” Then he kind of paused and he was like “Okay, I mean, that just seems old-school straight-up racist–a white guy pretending to be a ‘kookie’ Indian.”

And this made me kind of marvel. Because the Redheaded Kid finds racial humor funny. But he also said something which I’m not going to get right, so I’m just going to paraphrase, about needing to feel like the person or group whose the butt of a joke would also find it funny and not wrong or insulting. I think this is a kind of interesting way of thinking about it. Because you can immediately see how this would still lead to problems. A white person might be really wrong about what other people would find funny and not insulting. But I like that it centers empathy–that it’s an aesthetic standard that tries to take into account what it must be like to be the person the joke is about.

But I feel like the Redheaded Kid is about as close to Joe Average White Guy as you can come. He’s not very political. He’s not very concerned about being PC. And hearing his obvious discomfort with The Lone Ranger made me wonder just who is going to see that movie. If the Redheaded Kid is too squicked out to go, who’s left?

Hansel and Gretel: Terrible Movie, Critics’ Wet Dream, or Both?

Holy shit! We watched that Hansel and Gretel movie with that dude in it last night and it was amazing. It made me wish I were a dual historian/women’s studies professor so that I could spend a week in all of my classes watching this movie, turning to fifteen to thirty people and saying “What the fuck? How is this possible in this day and age?”

I mean, I expected to feel uncomfortable as someone who enjoys a little woo in her life, watching witches as bad guys. But this is not an anti-witch movie so much as it’s just a–and I do not use this word in this instance lightly–misogynistic blow-out. You want to see women getting punched, shot, kicked, smashed, decapitated, tortured, burned alive, and threatened with being raped to death? Were you hungry to relive the days in which every powerful woman simply must be a creature of Satan? Perhaps, among all the violence against women, you wanted to see a light-hearted sequence where a teenage boy tries to touch the breasts of an injured and unconscious woman and it’s played for laughs?

And, even the violence against women aspect aside, the biggest problem with the movie is that it’s not some great think-piece, but by the end of it, it’s not clear that the witches are wrong about people and our best use maybe being as witch food. I mean, the witches are terrible, but they are terrible to everyone equally. The things the villagers do and allow to happen in the name of “justice” or “safety” are laughably vile. These are the shits we’re supposed to be in sympathy with?

For instance, one of the witches starts a rumor that Hansel and Gretel’s mom is a witch (this is true because every adult female character in the movie with the exception of one is, but the villagers don’t know this). The villagers burn her alive and then hang to the death Hansel and Gretel’s father. Then, a bit later, Hansel gives a brief speech on revenge and you think, “Oh, great, he also got revenge on the village.” But no! Just killing the witch that started the rumor was revenge. The sick fucks who would actually kill a couple who have never harmed them, against whom they have no actual proof? Those guys I guess just need to be understood.

The whole thing was just bizarre. But I reiterate: if you’re looking for something to show people that illustrates how these kinds of historical slanders work, this is a great contemporary example.

Controlling Girls

It’s not just that it’s obviously a lie that having sex with eight people makes you like a cup everyone in a classroom has spit in that angers me. It’s that, at this point, not a single sex-educator in this land can pretend like he or she doesn’t know how terrible this rhetoric is for victims of sexual abuse, because Elizabeth Smart has said so. So, as of right now, even if they weren’t smart enough to get that before, they now know. Which means that, when they spout this shit, it’s literally more important to scare kids out of having sex than it is to have compassion for abuse victims.

Never mind how gross I find it that a woman who is in charge of a place that convinces girls to give up their babies for adoption gets a platform in public schools to convince girls to give their babies up for adoption and no one seems bothered by her vested interest. Of course these women are opposed to abortion and birth control. They need desperate pregnant girls to supply babies for them.

It’s in their best interest for teenage girls to have no knowledge about how to keep from getting pregnant and no option but to carry the pregnancy to term if they become pregnant, because they want those babies.

And they still get framed as the good guys.

Just as we all benefit from these resources, we all benefit from healthy babies that have the best chance to become future contributors to society. Why should being rich or having a certain type of job be a prerequisite for health care security? Why should everyone else have to live in fear of what could happen and whether we can afford it?

I find this whole situation preposterous. It goes beyond the middle-class squeeze: it’s disrespectful to women. A woman’s reproductive options are dangled over her head: access to contraception is threatened; abortion rights are constantly under attack. When a woman gets pregnant, unless she is wealthy or covered by private insurance, there is little help for her to raise children without going into debt. And the medical bills start piling up before she even start pushing.–Mira Ptacin