a strawfeminist speaks up a bit

i am laughing at dave winer
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

So, to explain a bit why I was incredulous at Dave Winer saying that he wanted to write about feminism, but not get yelled at or criticized… and why I was even more incredulous when he said “I live in fear”. I respect Dave and think he’s nifty for organizing this conference and inviting a bunch of different communities. I give him mad props. And I also like Dave for his ability to talk without a filter and just say whatever. That’s so useful for everyone else! It gets a lot of conversations started! It’s often painful to be that kind of person. And I should know!

But! (I have a big but!)

It’s bogus to think you get a free pass to say whatever you want about women or feminism without getting called on it… just because you are condescending from your position of privilege where you don’t have to think about it, and bothering to think about it, which is so scary! Sorry. There is no free pass! I don’t get one, and neither does Dave! I am interested in what he has to say, though, and will read it and talk to him. For me part of going to conferences like these is that it’s a commmitment to dialogue.

Dialogue does not mean I don’t get to point out stuff that seems messed up to me while I listen to guys saying how afraid they are that women might be offended by their attempts to understand feminism.

So when Dave said “I live in fear” I cracked up and I think I might have heckled him by squawking “oh yeah, because feminists are so powerful and scary!”… If you cannot see the irony I will have to explain it more in another post… I hope this is not fearsome criticism – in case anyone hasn’t noticed, I’m not scary: I’m just a blogging blowhard like everyone else. Anyway, “I live in fear” was so over the top. Perhaps it was a joke… well… that’s not funny. (As the punchline goes.)

This question of fear kept coming up. In fact, later, in the “core values” discussion, the major theme was guys talking about how hurt they were by trolls and people being mean in their comments. And there were some stories of actual scary situations. but mostly, actual physical violence, threats, and stalking was conflated with …. mean comments on your blog. So, I think it’s important to be clear that we are making distinctions between people being rude assholes on the internet, and scary, psychotic stalking.

I would also like to add that stalking and violence, and its threat, is something that every woman lives with even when she is not an A list or a Z list blogger from the age of puberty or earlier. So think about how that sounds, to us, to have Chris Pirillo or Mike Arrington or Dave Winer or Steve Gillmore talking about their blog-comment PTSD. I want to validate their feelings of being hurt, and of feeling the pressure of celebrity and public scrutiny, which I’m sure I can’t imagine since I’m not a bigass famous person, and yet on some level, I have trouble hearing their plaint. Especially when as a woman, when I am offended, hurt, or threatened, and then I say so, my feelings are trivialized and I am told that I’m being too sensitive, and that I shouldn’t be feeling the way I’m feeling, and that in fact (as so often happens) my being annoyed or offended is more harmful to the annoyer than their (non)offense could ever be to me … Oh, you know what I mean. Or do you?

Or is the point of Blogher being invited to Bloggercon, in a way, that some of the big boys are tired of being big boys and not crying? Maybe a little bit! Thus the sessions on emotional life being mostly about guys talking about how it was a new big thing for them to have emotions on their blog and then to talk meta- about their emotions on their blog. And that’s amazing and cool… It reminds me of something really good I was reading on ap_racism on LJ lately, on this post, On being an ally, in a comment by holzman on the stages of cluefulness white people go through when thinking about racism:

# Racism? Didn’t King fix that in the ’60s?
# Wow, racism is still a problem. I hope those minorities fix it soon.
# Gee, racism is my problem, I’d better lead the charge in fixing it.
# Hm, racism is my problem, but my assuming I can lead the charge is part of the problem, so maybe I’d better let those minorities know that I’ll be their ally if they ever get back to doing anything.
# *headdesk* No one was waiting for me to announce I was ready to be the center of attention, and there’s work to be done, and people are doing it, so I’m going to go get involved in helping them do it in a way that is useful for them.

That progression could be useful to many of the intelligent, questioning, sympathetic men at bloggercon.

I passed out that a-zone essay by someone named Mike… in paper handout form… figuring it was a cool men’s lib thing and might be the sort of thing these guys would never read otherwise, just because they’d never come across it. Also, in between the advice on hugging each other and learning to deal with emotions, there was some great stuff about not putting the burden of your emotional work on women to do for you, and also on stepping back, inviting women to take the lead on a project, shutting up, and doing the shit work for them for a change. I know a lot of the men at bloggercon won’t be able to hear this sort of statement for how I mean it, because they were not even at a place where they could hear the statement “Sexism exists” and agree with it. but, anyway, some of them will hear it and go “Oh! hmmm!” Dave clearly has thought about that kind of thing or has listened to someone who has. As SxSWi also did… with great results.

Unlike people who last-minute go “shit, we don’t have any women in our conference… let’s ask a couple of them, except we don’t know anyone good enough, but we’ll ask them anyway. Wonder why they said no?” And then you end up with a panel with 4 expert old men with beards and one bright young woman with no experience or authority, carrying the responsibility to represent for womanhood on her shoulders… so annoying… tokenism… arrrgh.

I should write more about what I leaped up to say about conflict and aggression, but maybe in the morning. In short though… Heated exchanges can be productive. A commenter on my blog can be an asshole, and personally insult me, and yet still have a valid point that it benefits me to listen to, if I can get past the personal reaction. The angry person may not be persuaded, and yet the exposure of the angry exchange can be productive for a community. We don’t have to take abuse, and yet we don’t have to completely dismiss anger and demand (or enforce) civility. I am suspicious of civility and its function: it’s great a lot of the time, but not all of the time, and it can function to suppress legitimate anger. Anger can also be the proper response to a situation, a good response. Finally, and this is unfortunately the part that Mike Arrington cut me off at: We can get angry, but it should be part of our “core values” as bloggers that we can also APOLOGIZE. That is an important part of a commitment to an ongoing conversation, which is what blogging is.

5 thoughts on “a strawfeminist speaks up a bit

  1. I Know that you can read in spanish…
    Spot invitación en video
    Siendo la vida en esta sociedad, en el mejor de los casos, un
    aburrimiento total, y en modo alguno relevante a las queers, a la queer de actitud cívica, responsable y deseosa de acontecimientos no le resta sino derribar el gobierno, eliminar el sistema monetario, instaurar la automatización completa y acabar con la heterosexualidad compulsiva.

    (SCUM Manifiesto o algo parecido, Valerie Solanas, 1967)

    Y siendo el día del Orgullo el día en el que nos atamos la corbata, nos engalonamos para seguir el espectáculo mundial, seguir la estética, la mercantilización en una compsotura banal y marcada; decimos que no, decidmimos que no. Que nuestros cuerpos no son apropiables, que se expanden por los márgenes, que escupen al capital y se rebelan contra la marcas, se vuelven impostura. Se devuelve el sentido de una política queer; más que nunca, el día del orgullo es un orgullo politizado, es
    un orgullo de lo que podemos ser, no de lo que se da por hecho que somos.
    Y nadie sabe lo que puede un cuerpo.

    Las feministas, descocadas, las fieras corrupias, las ciborgs, las
    histéricas, las camioneras, las frígidas y las salidas, las de tacones quebrados y las desclazas asaltando el supermercado, la tienda de artículos del mundo, rechazamos el jardín privatizado y la ceremonia de boda como nuestro sueño más querido.

    Y queremos celebrarlo: mujeres, feministas, transexuales, bolleras, degeneradas, redichas, innombrabbles, maricas, osos, y torcidos y retorcidos en general.

    Gran fiesta en la sala Caracol, Sábado, día 1 de Julio desde las 24h hasta que la noche aguante. Con gran súper actuación sorpresa y las mejores dj’s.

    Organizada por la Eskalera Karakola, para amortizar la gran deuda que acumula por las deudas de su nuevo local. Encuéntranos en:

  2. Liz, this is Dave Winer here…

    It’s not generally women who attack when I express an opinion.

    Thought I’d add that little bit of data, to keep the conversation going.

    Anyway, I have to catch a train. I’m glad you were at BloggerCon, and I’m glad I’ll be at Blogher. Maybe we can continue the conversation..


  3. *waves* I’ve been reading your blog regularly (subscribed via the LJ RSS feed) since I saw your commentary and responses via the Tiptree award issue (and remembered how much I liked your review of Venom Cock). This piece is wonderful enough to pull me out of lurking–you connect such great thoughts on gender issues, communication issues, internet issues, majority/minority (based on any aspect of identity) issues–and the ideas on communication and activism apply to some of what goes on in fandom (my main area of internet activity) as well though you don’t foreground that here (no reason to, of course–I gather Bloggercon was about the issue of public/media kind of blogging?)?

    A number of us in the LJ community who are aca-fans (work in academia as well as being fans, and do scholarship on fandom) are interestd in the gendered ways in which the media and many people construct “blogs” vs. LJ (journal) styles of writing. I’m going to recommend this piece to people I know to read!

  4. Dave, now I’m picturing a lurid B movie poster with blogging feminists coming at you like mutant sharks. WHEN WOMEN ATTACK!

    But, well, if that’s not what you meant then I had no idea what you meant. There’s a good example of the assumptions I can make!

  5. “It’s bogus to think you get a free pass to say whatever you want about women or feminism without getting called on it… just because you are condescending from your position of privilege where you don’t have to think about it, and bothering to think about it, which is so scary! Sorry. There is no free pass!”

    This is exactly the dynamic of certain parts of the cultural appropriation discussion, I thought I’d note.

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