112 posts tagged politics
- Hole, ‘I Think That I Would Die.’
It’s not that I don’t want the movement to connect with people, so much as that I want people to connect with feminism for its ideas and insights – not because “OMGZ being a feminist is the coolest thing ever, and you should totally jump on board if you have a vagina.”
As Flavia Dzodan puts it: “I do not conceive feminism as the end in itself. To me, feminism is the vehicle I use for the journey, not the end point where my journey ends.”
Publications like Jezebel don’t take ownership over the “f-word” – despite the fact that feminism flows through the site’s veins – presumably because they are afraid it will put readers off. (And, more cynically, because not being a “feminist site” means you don’t have to answer to “feminist criticism.”) And I think there is a place for “feminism by stealth”: the kind that wins people over through its ideas, without naming itself or worrying about whether people adopt the label. I’ve engaged in plenty of it myself.
But feminism by stealth needs to exist alongside feminism that is named and owned. Fear of feminism isn’t just a fear of “man hating,” “hairy underarms,” and other clichés. It is a fear of being political. A fear that having strong opinions, is not sufficiently agreeable or feminine.
And that (surprise, surprise) is a form of sexism itself.
Related: Does a feminist by any other name smell as sweet?
Ask Rachel: Why do you write for women’s magazines?
Elsewhere: Debranding feminism (Feminist Times)
What does rebranding mean for feminism? (Branch)
Semantics regarding feminism vs feminist critique (Red Light Politics)
The many misguided reasons famous ladies say ‘I’m Not A Feminist’ (Jezebel)
"Growing up I was a target. Speaking the right way, standing the right way, holding your wrist the right way. Every day was a test and there was a thousand ways to fail. A thousand ways to portray yourself to not live up to someone else’s standards of what was accepted."
Powerful words from a newly “out” Wentworth Miller at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner in Seattle this weekend.
And though it seems like half an hour
Since I stumbled into power
It’s time for me to say goodnight
- Keating, The Musical
As I write this post, the first votes are being cast in the Australian election. Shortly after I wake in London tomorrow morning, it is likely my home country will have a new prime minister and government.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook expressing fear and loathing over an impending Abbott government, comparing “amazing” Labor policies with “rotten” Coalition ones, and bemoaning the stupidity and selfishness of would-be Liberal voters. And I get that. I don’t like Tony Abbott either, and I don’t particularly want to live in a country that he’s in charge of.
But what breaks my heart this election isn’t that my fellow Australians will almost certainly vote out the Labor party today. It’s that the Labor party has given them such good reason to do so.
I still remember the sense of possibility and elation I felt six years ago, when Kevin Rudd and Labor were elected in a landslide after 11 years of conservative Coalition rule. Truth be told, my expectations weren’t all that high. All I hoped was that a Labor government wouldn’t leave me as ashamed and despondent as their predecessors had. And to be fair, in many ways Labor exceeded my expectations! Not only did they not make me ashamed until relatively recently, but at times, they even sent chills down my spine.
But in other respects, they disappointed beyond belief. They ousted a popular leader without warning and before his time, and then ousted his success when they grew convinced that she would not win the election. They lacked conviction, changing their minds on climate change, the mining tax and gay marriage, depending on what they thought would win them votes. The factional leaders pulling the strings behind the scenes (see: likely future leader Bill Shorten) seemed selfish and underhanded. Their behaviour barely befit an opposition, let alone a government.
Maybe this stuff shouldn’t matter. Government is about governing, after all, and they mostly did fine on the policy side of things, if you come from a centre-left perspective. But politics is also about emotion, and the to-ing and fro-ing, the tantrums and willingness to throw each other under the bus, left them seeming ultimately untrustworthy. And all that means is that it is too simple to cast Labor as the good guys, and the Liberals as evil. There may not be good reasons to vote the Coalition in today, but there are good reasons to vote Labor out.
Australia deserves better than a Labor party that relies on people to vote for them simply because they are the “least awful” option. We deserve a party with conviction; that stands behind its leaders and its principles rather than blowing whichever way the polls do. We deserve a centre-left party we can vote for with anticipation, rather than because we fear what the alternative might look like. We deserve a centre-left party that does the notion of being left wing proud. And that party is not the Australian Labor Party of today.
But still I dream
That the stars will be aligning
As our fates are intertwining
Until every heart is shining with goodwill
Shining like the light on the hill
Shining like the light on the hill.
PS For the record, I voted Green.
Stepping briefly out of my self-imposed book editing exile (it’s more fun than you’d think!) to say a few words on the latest Hugo Schwyzer controversy. Probably not anything that will come as a great revelation to anyone on Tumblr, but comments I feel a need to make nonetheless, because they fly in the face of much of what has been said in mainstream forums about his “retirement” from the internet.
Specifically: Hugo Schwyzer was not controversial in the feminist blogosphere because he is a man. He was controversial in the feminist blogosphere because he was Hugo Schwyzer. That is to say, because he was a particular type of man, with a particular combination of traits: one with a history of gendered violence and sexual exploitation; one whose recent commercial writings have been marketed primarily at young women (rather than at men); and one whose presence and promotion in mainstream feminism made many women feel uncomfortable, violated, and angry.
I say all this as someone who has been a quiet supporter of Schwyzer’s. I’ve never hired him and I haven’t shouted his praises from the rooftops, but I have tweeted him, emailed with him, quoted him and met with him for coffee last year in LA. And at times I will admit I have felt uncomfortable doing so, just as I feel uncomfortable writing this paragraph now.
Bloggers whose work I enjoyed and respected – Flavia Dzodan, for one – had written multiple posts against him. People I knew “IRL” had tweeted about what a douche he was. What were they seeing that I wasn’t? But I discovered Hugo’s work back in 2009 or so, when he was just another person blogging about what I thought were insightful ideas on sex and gender; before he was either a pariah or a feminist posterboy. And that was the Hugo I couldn’t bring myself to turn on – the one who was more human than he was Professor Feminism.
But my professional relationship with Hugo Schwyzer isn’t really the point of this post. The point is that despite that relationship, I think that stepping away from the internet, and from feminism more generally – if he can manage it, which he hasn’t yet – is exactly the right thing for Hugo to do right now. Not just for his own mental health, but for the movement at large. (The wrong thing to do? To give interviews to major internet outlets and continue posting to your blog after you’ve said you’re quitting the internet.)
Here’s why. It goes without saying that if you position yourself as a public figure – particularly one who talks about politics – there are going to be people out there who do not like you. Hugo has acknowledged this himself: he may be a target of continued derision, but he hasn’t been threatened with rape, for example, the way that many female feminists have.
But there is a difference between being attacked by people who are your political opponents and being attacked by people who you perceive to be your comrades. The latter is a more bitter rejection, I would argue. I know I’ve felt it: “Can’t they see that we’re on the same side???”
But if it happens over and over and over, as it has for Schwyzer over the past year and a half, it’s a good indication that maybe you’re on the wrong track. If the people you profess to be speaking for – if not in the sense of “on behalf of,” then at least in the sense of “in service of” – keeping telling you that you don’t represent them, maybe you should take that as a sign that you don’t represent them. Maybe you should find new people to talk to; people who do want to hear what you have to say, and to whom your words can be useful.
There is a certain (read: strong) strand of narcissism to commercial internet feminism, as there is to all internet celebrity. And there is a lot of repetition of ideas. It’s not that the ideas themselves doesn’t matter – of course they do, and in sum they matter a lot – but that, particularly in the churn of online debate, a lot of us are just recycling the same ones, because the emphasis is on being heard, rather than on saying anything useful. But this emphasis on being seen and heard above all else leaves us ultimately replaceable. Remove one voice, be it Hugo’s or anyone else’s, and the void will quickly be filled with another.
All this is to say that I don’t think the Hugo Schwyzer story is the story of a man run off the internet by some angry feminists who don’t want men in their movement. I think it’s the story of a man who had particular traits that were abhorrent to many women within the movement, who persisted in writing nonetheless, and whose contributions eventually became more about the shoring up of ego than about the sharing of ideas. (Which to be fair, is the case for many writers.)
I’m a feminist because I care about women’s experiences, of course, but I’m even more so a feminist because I care about the effects of gender on experience. And gender isn’t the sole provenance of women. It’s something that impacts men as well. I suspect this is a position many modern feminists share, and I think that if Hugo had been a different man, he would have been received differently.
So, I absolutely think there is a place for men in the feminist movement. I want men in my feminist movement, reflecting on the role that gender plays in their lives. I don’t want men in my feminist movement telling women what to do. And when Hugo Schwyzer does return to the internet – which I hope for his sake won’t be for a while – I hope that the former is the role he chooses to play. Helping to popularise gender politics in the male sphere, rather than writing for women who have indicated loud and clear that he does not speak for them.
“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights…America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being.” - Hillary Clinton
“The comings and goings of different cohorts of voluntourists results in the children experiencing constant instability and inconsistency in their emotional care. They are also left with empty promises, as many volunteers promise to return, but the majority do not keep in contact and are soon…
What Lyrian said. See also.