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Tony Grist

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A False Step [Jun. 17th, 2008|12:51 pm]
Tony Grist
I got a savaging on a Feminist forum the other day. It was my own stupid fault. I'm too old to run with that particular crowd. Besides, I didn't study the subject at university and I don't use- or respect- the jargon.

I consider myself a feminist. If feminism means believing in the equality of the sexes, I'm enthusiastically for it. 

But I should have realised that the gnomic, slightly mischievous comments I go in for aren't going to wash on this particular site (with its ginormous rulebook)- and that you can't challenge someone (especially if if you're a white male) in that culture of victimhood without being accused of  "exercising privilege" and "silencing" them. 

A black American woman had accused a white European woman of racism. The white European woman had replied that the black American woman wasn't taking cultural differences into consideration and that her view was "US-centric". At least I think that's what had happened. The mods then intervened to rule that if a black person accuses a white person of racism that is gospel and no comeback is possible. The white person must take her whipping in patience and humility and afterwards kiss the rod.

I said I thought this was unfair- and that US-centrism is a real issue.  Are black American women really so fragile that they need protecting from all disagreement? Isn't it kind of insulting to assume they can't hold their own in debate?

I'll admit I didn't express myself as clearly or fully at the time. I spoke off the cuff. I should have been more careful- not that it would have made much difference if I had.

I thought I'd stir up a bit of controversy. I was wrong. The pack turned on me and tore me to shreds.

I am- among other things- a white, cracker racialist who likes to wave his dick around.

I'm talking about this here because after a while I realised there was no point in trying to explain myself over there. No-one  was interested in debate, only in parading their righteousness and calling me names. When you're in a hole it's foolish to go on digging.

I'll admit I felt a bit sorry for myself at first- but I'm over it now. I took a nice walk round a lake yesterday and had fish and chips in a garden centre and visited with my niece and nephew and that sort of cleared my head. 
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: mummm
2008-06-17 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'd say that you got involved in an extremist situation that really is a pretty silly/vicious group. They are a horrible representation of "feminism", and humanity for that matter if they behave in such a way! They sure are not doing themselves any good.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:23 pm (UTC)
I've been calling myself a feminist since the late 70s. The shadow side of the movement was always there- but I did a great job of averting my eyes.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2008-06-17 01:38 pm (UTC)
I think you did the right thing. Sometimes walking away is the best answer.

It's a tricky issue that you were discussing when it all blew up and I think you made a valid point, but I can also see why they turned on you, even if I don't feel they should have done so.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 02:49 pm (UTC)
I can see why they turned on me too. I was asking for it. I should have known better.

I was way out of line.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-06-17 01:45 pm (UTC)
Are black American women really so fragile that they need protecting from all disagreement? Isn't it kind of insulting to assume they can't hold their own in debate?

Depending on the group, it's not just black American women. There is most certainly a carefully cultivated sense of victimhood in American culture that nearly everyone feels entitled to. It's not too difficult to tease out of a genuine concern and grievance over oppressions past and present. All you have to do is look for the "I'm more oppressed than thou" mentality. Or do what you did - wade into a community where you either conform to an ideology/opinion as dogmatic as anything white landed Christian patriarchy espoused, and attempt to call for a calm, reasoned, objective critique/discussion. For future reference, Tony:

- As a male your opinion counts only half as much.

- As a Caucasian you must halve that half again.

- You may score some points for having been pagan once, but you also were once fully invested in organized Christianity. Halve it again.

- Finally, you're straight. Your opinion is now worth 1/16 that of, say, a lesbian woman of color who practices Dianic Wicca.

To be fair, I suppose the argument can be made that like many derivatives of political correctness, such groups are not designed for open and honest discussion. They are there to provide a shelter, an identity, and a therapeutic palliative to those who may or may not have been hurt by "The Mainstream" (however one may define that). They are not there to create a sense of equality with those different from them, at least for the time being. If you feel it's worth your time to express a view in such society, then good luck to you. For me, I've got perfectly good walls to beat my head against in the privacy of my own home.


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 02:59 pm (UTC)
That's an excellent analysis.

You're right. The community is as much a refuge as anything. People are there to have their wounds bathed, their frazzled nerves soothed and their opinions validated. It's not a forum for frank and open debate.
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[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2008-06-17 01:51 pm (UTC)
If feminism means believing in the equality of the sexes

In my experience, it means nothing of the sort.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2008-06-17 02:52 pm (UTC)
Nor in mine, alas.
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[User Picture]From: mazzie
2008-06-17 02:04 pm (UTC)
Well, maybe you've opened up a can of worms here, then.

The reality, as ever, lies somewhere in between the extremes.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:02 pm (UTC)
Well, yes.

One takes an extreme position in the hope that a compromise will be reached by reasoned debate.

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[User Picture]From: unbleachedbrun
2008-06-17 02:12 pm (UTC)
"Culture of victimhood," real or imagined, explains it all.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:03 pm (UTC)
It's a newish idea to me. I'm going to have to explore it further.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-06-17 02:24 pm (UTC)
I agree with many of the comments above me. I read the rules to that community -- that's a nasty environment all around.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:05 pm (UTC)
The rules keep piling up- and they make free discussion almost impossible.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2008-06-17 02:43 pm (UTC)
I'm really sorry you had that experience. Like you, I feel that US-centrism is a real issue.

I've ceased to call myself a feminist any more, precisely because of encounters like this that make me realise that I know too little about feminism to identify with the movement, and because I fear it may be an exclusionary, repressive white ideology in itself. If I'm not fighting both against male oppression and against feminist blindness to their own privilege, I should just shut up and call myself an overpriviled white European middle-class woman, and be done with it. So that's what I'm doing now.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:10 pm (UTC)
I'm loathe to drop the label. It's precious to me. When I was a vicar I used to go round with one of those clenched- fist-within-a-female-symbol badges pinned to my cloak. I was a freakin feminist before most of these women were born.

But I can see that I'm well out of the swim. There's a whole literature out there I haven't read and- quite franlky- don't want to read.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-06-17 02:46 pm (UTC)
You read my blog, so you know that I am one of the most feminists women out there. I will tell you. I would have gotten the same treatment for that one (well, more or less, since I technically don't have a dick to wave around). You can't go there with that crowd. It is a no-win situation. It is, sadly, one of the reasons why I left the Dianic Tradition (that, and the fact that I had a bad habit of studying magick with men). This falls under the category of "unwritten rule that is strictly enforced". As a male, you have virtually no status in that group... and, my status is suspect. Don't take it personally.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Your support means a lot.

I've been in denial. I knew I was low status. But I've been creeping round that site, nodding sagely every once in a while and I guess I'd got my confidence up. I guess I thought I'd been accepted. More fool me.
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[User Picture]From: jubal51394
2008-06-17 02:55 pm (UTC)

Well!

This "US-centric" is mortally offended!

I wanna know why... if you're such "a white, cracker racialist who likes to wave his dick around", how come I never once got to see it?

You playing UK favorites... or what? ;)


(if you post a picture, I'm "unfriending" you, fair warning)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 03:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Well!

No chance of that. I think we'll keep those pictures under lock and key :)

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[User Picture]From: mazzie
2008-06-17 05:10 pm (UTC)
There's some uncomfortable twisting going on.

I think that a backlash of resentment is predictable when those used to having the only voice that is heard and that truly matters in the grand scheme of the paradigms of real power are told that the status quo is no longer acceptable. I think it's extremist to say that your voice is halved and tenthed and even erased by your whiteness and your penis but, again, sometimes good points get through in extremes.

From a non-radical perspective, your skin and your gender provide you with unseen and unacknowledged privileges every day.

Some challenges to that are brutish and untenable, but they don't minimize or even mitigate your real-world power.

As for not wanting to call oneself feminist, that kind of shame saddens me. Rather than abandon the truth of feminism, why not reclaim it? It is and always has been about equality.

Edited at 2008-06-17 05:11 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-06-17 05:43 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's extremist in the slightest to point out the extremism of some perspectives/groups. A white hetero male's opinion is going to be devalued or outright dismissed, implicitly or explicitly, in certain feminist groups for the exact reason you state - he represents the status quo, and it's the status quo they are rebelling against/critiquing. It is no different, in terms of social dynamic, than how a white supremacist group would view the opinion of a Jewish or black man. That does NOT imply the two groups are on an equal moral footing, merely that the dynamic of exclusion stems from the same psychology. "We feel wronged by your group - why the hell would we offer you an equal place at our table?", so to speak.

The issue becomes whether said groups are attempting to create an atmosphere of objective, honest, self-reflexive discussion. For reasons I stated above, most of them are not interested or motivated by that, and therefore there is no use in attempting to interject it. Best to gratify that need in more neutral territory.

You bring up an interesting sidebar re: reclaiming labels. At another political spectrum here in the States you see this movement going round trying to reclaim the label "Republican" and/or "conservative" to mean something apart from what it's now perceived to be. While I don't discount the social value and psychological need to label and identify oneself, I wonder if that energy who be better served in simply acting on one's convictions rather than scrambling to codify titles for them.
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[User Picture]From: white_hart
2008-06-17 06:53 pm (UTC)
I left that community a few weeks ago after a mixed-race British woman of my acquaintance was told she was exhibiting "white privilege" when she tried to explain that racism in the UK is seen in a different context to the US. I think that the idea of privilege is a useful one; I've been called "oversensitive" when calling someone out for sexist behaviour before now, and the concept of privilege clearly says no, you can't do that. However, in that community it seems to be mostly used as a way of refusing to listen to any dissenting point of view, and I really don't like that. That's not my kind of feminism.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 07:11 pm (UTC)
I think the unpleasantness I got caught up in was an aftershock from the one that caused you to quit.

I agree about privilege. It's a useful concept. But I think too many people are using it as a handy piece of reach-me-down dogma to flatten their enemies with.



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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-06-17 07:47 pm (UTC)
I am still laughing.

There is no way to win sometimes. The agenda is there, waiting to pounce.

The white person must take her whipping in patience and humility and afterwards kiss the rod.


Hahahaha!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-17 08:25 pm (UTC)
Sometimes you just have to smile and walk away.
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[User Picture]From: butterscotch711
2008-06-17 11:25 pm (UTC)
I've stopped reading that community.

Everything there seems to turn into incredibly technical arguments about who should be allowed to talk when, how and why. Maybe an lj group with a giant membership just isn't the forum for real discussion.

There's a university queer group in Sydney who use this very technical code of hand signals during meetings. The code is designed to mitigate privilege. Maybe it does and maybe some people have found it very useful. Or maybe they're just a bunch of wankers sitting around signalling each other with clicks and eyebrow movements and making sure no newcomvers can challenge their insularity without buying into it first.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-18 09:14 am (UTC)
I guess it's a classic thing that "revolutionary" groups quickly morph into exclusive elites. I've seen it in the politics of the far left- how groups dedicated to the betterment of the working class become obsessed with internal feuding- and lose sight of the main picture to bellyache over the intolerable slight that Comrade X offered Comrade Y and how this proves that Comrade X is nothing but class traitor and should be purged from the party.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-06-18 01:45 am (UTC)
I never joined any feminist community because way back when I went to some meetings of NOW, when feminism was newly emerging as an issue, just after the racial issue was settling down after the Civil Rights Act was passed. I broke with NOW very quickly because their agendas were not mine. Like you, Tony, I was a feminist before they were born. How do I define a feminist? Equal rights and equal opportunity for all, including men. The same way that I define civil rights for persons of all colors, including whites. I have been a victim of reverse racism, laid out in lavender for speaking out on injustices of a racial nature to anyone at all. Feminists of the NOW variety resent me for staying home and raising my youngest son - you see, I was supposed to pursue a career and demand high wages with the rest of them. They also did not appreciate the fact that I really enjoyed having a close relationship with a man. Except for one thing -- I really dont think in material terms, never did. Whites have resented me for having so many good friends of color. Some men have resented me for my female liberation, and also have criticized me as being "too smart" for them because I refused to play the "stupid woman" game tha was taught to girls of my generation.
Anyway in sum, I like men a lot, my best friends are men. I believe that (almost) "anything you can do I can do..." but not everything, and the same is true of you. And finally I really detest extremism of any kind, whether of religion, race, gender, age, or whatever.
So, my friend Tony, I like you and I dont think you are a "sexist pig". Nuff said!
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-06-18 01:51 am (UTC)
Also, I hate, hate, hate people demanding political correctness of me in my speech, in my writing, whatever. In speech it ties my tongue. In writing it ties up my hands. I do not use words that are meant to hurt or injure others, labels that are unkind, and it's OK with me if someone wants to tell me that I am "part of mankind" because I am.
And so forth.
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