Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Letter to a Young Commentor

Greetings, ducks! In today's edition, I answer comments, specifically this comment from new reader Tamogochi! Hello, Tamo--let's hear what you have to say:
I've followed to your blog from INFJ forum. It seems that feminism is quite a big portion of your life and the article you cited is indeed stupid.

You are correct on both counts--I congratulate you on your perspicacity!
My comment is more on the general topic.
Uh-oh. Nothing good ever follows a lead-in like that.
What I don't get about that whole feminist attitude is why are you so infuriated (as it's in a subtitle of your site)? The aggressive feminism worked a 100 years ago, but now is quite outdated.
Why am I so mad?

Well, first, am I all that mad? I don't think I come across as indiscriminately angry. No. I choose my words (or try to) with great care, and there's a reason I chose infuriated. For me, my fury is a low-grade, constant resentment of how messed up the world remains, of how we continue to play primate dominance games imported out of our misty prehistory, of how our culture plays lip service to the ideas of equality, justice, and change while trying to keep everything the same.

That is the source of my fury, as I documented previously, here and here, and it is why I am an implacable foe of unearned privilege.

Also, we live in a world where an ESPN reporter is filmed changing inside her hotel room and it gets thrown all around the internet (and the coverage never fails to note that But She's Totes Hot and Playboyz Luvz Her so she kinda was asking for it, right?) and you're telling me that my fury is out of date? That I shouldn't be outraged a lot? That given the racist, sexist, classist imagery spoon-fed to us every day on television and radio and the internet that I shouldn't be--I dunno, upset?

Perhaps this will clear a few things up:

That aggressiveness is the very thing that turns men away instead of trying to help women with their problems. It actually acts as an excuse. And a lame one.
Oh, Tamo.

It's amazing what you managed to do there--pack so much privilege into a few short sentences. You are to be commended!

OK. First. Women aren't asking men to "help them with their problems," as if feminist concerns are issues that apply only to women. Feminism is not the "Sanitary Aids" aisle at the supermarket; it--or at least, the feminism I believe in--is a movement that must by its very nature try to bring true freedom and equality to all humanity, male and female. Feminist women need the help of feminist men, sure--we need everyone to realize they are trapped in a system that is forever geared towards generating inequality and systemic discrimination. But feminists are not begging for help, not wheedling like a 50s sitcom character trying to get her husband to buy her a new dress. Feminists are standing up as proud activists trying to realize their dream.

Second--seriously, dude, weak is just as good a four-letter word, conveys the same sense, and doesn't offend anybody. Using lame is pretty weak.

(See how easy that was?)
How can you ever achieve anything genuinely positive if you just fight for one side and treat the other as disposable objects? That seems so wrong to me because feminists repeat the same old mistakes of patriarchalism. The only thing different is that roles are reversed now.
And how are we supposed to achieve anything genuinely positive if we hide our anger, stay meek and demure, and never demand anything? How the hell are we supposed to become equal if we stay subservient?

As for repeating the mistakes of patriarchalism--speak for yourself. That's not the kind of feminism I support and advocate for, and it never has been on the short history of this blog. I firmly believe we have to tear down the entire privilege system and find something better--and soon, before the human race lurches into its final chapter.

And seriously, roles reversed? Are you saying women are more powerful than men? Cause that might actually make me mad.

Given the horrors our mad world continues to lurch through--the endemic poverty, the billions who are hunger, the millions who are starving, given how the First World continues to support itself on the slavery of the Third, given how even here in the Wonderful West we are plagued with massive amounts of sexism, racism, religious bigotry, looksism, and countless other oppressions, I think the question isn't: why am I outraged?

It really should be, why aren't you?


  1. How can you ever achieve anything genuinely positive if you just fight for one side and treat the other as disposable objects?
    That is an interesting question (Or: not so much "interesting" as "a question to which the answer is obviously 'you can't'"). But its applicability to feminism is a matter of some confusion for me, I must admit. Is feminism supposed to entail treating men like "disposable objects," and I've just been doing it wrong all this time? If so, just how do I go about treating myself like a "disposable object"?

  2. I miss Tamogachis. (Assuming that's what I think it is -- those little eggy virtual pets that were all the craze sometime in the 90s.)

    But really, I'm pretty sure Tamo just won blackout on some type of (anti) feminist bingo card all by hirself!!

  3. I'm disappointed in you, darling. Your tone reeks. You said "You are to be commended?" Really?

    "how we continue to play primate dominance games imported out of our misty prehistory" . . .



    "Strengthened to live, strengthened to die for
    medals and positioned victories?
    They're fighting, fighting the blind
    man who thinks he sees,—
    who cannot see that the enslaver is
    enslaved; the hater, harmed. O shining O
    firm star, O tumultuous
    ocean lashed till small things go
    as they will, the mountainous
    wave makes us who look, know

    depth. Lost at sea before they fought! O
    star of David, star of Bethlehem,
    O black imperial lion
    of the Lord-emblem
    of a risen world—be joined at last, be
    joined. There is hate's crown beneath which all is
    death; there's love's without which none
    is king; the blessed deeds bless
    the halo. As contagion
    of sickness makes sickness,

    contagion of trust can make trust. They're
    fighting in deserts and caves, one by
    one, in battalions and squadrons;
    they're fighting that I
    may yet recover from the disease, My
    Self; some have it lightly; some will die. 'Man's
    wolf to man' and we devour
    ourselves. The enemy could not
    have made a greater breach in our
    defenses. One pilot-

    ing a blind man can escape him, but
    Job disenheartened by false comfort knew
    that nothing can be so defeating
    as a blind man who
    can see. O alive who are dead, who are
    proud not to see, O small dust of the earth
    that walks so arrogantly,
    trust begets power and faith is
    an affectionate thing. We
    vow, we make this promise

    to the fighting—it's a promise—'We'll
    never hate black, white, red, yellow, Jew,
    Gentile, Untouchable.' We are
    not competent to
    make our vows. With set jaw they are fighting,
    fighting, fighting,—some we love whom we know,
    some we love but know not—that
    hearts may feel and not be numb.
    It cures me; or I am what
    I can't believe in? Some
    in snow, some on crags, some in quicksands,
    little by little, much by much, they
    are fighting fighting that where
    there was death there may
    be life. 'When a man is prey to anger,
    he is moved by outside things; when he holds
    his ground in patience patience
    patience, that is action or
    beauty,' the soldier's defense
    and hardest armor for

    the fight. The world's an orphans' home. Shall
    we never have peace without sorrow?
    without pleas of the dying for
    help that won't come? O
    quiet form upon the dust, I cannot
    look and yet I must. If these great patient
    dyings-all these agonies
    and wound bearings and bloodshed—
    can teach us how to live, these
    dyings were not wasted.

    Hate-hardened heart, O heart of iron
    iron is iron till it is rust.
    There never was a war that was
    not inward; I must
    fight till I have conquered in myself what
    causes war, but I would not believe it.
    I inwardly did nothing.
    O Iscariot-like crime!
    Beauty is everlasting
    and dust is for a time.

    - "In Distrust of Merits" by Marianne Moore. Copyrighted 1944.

  4. Thank you for dedicating your time and answering my comment in such detail - I enjoy a discussion even if my views are somewhat different. English is my third language so occasionally I might use words with emotional context that was unintended from my part like the word "lame" for example. I will take greater care to avoid them and I'm not trying to pick a fight here.

    I would like to answer you on why I'm not outraged.

    That is because I see mistreatment as universal problem in our world: it happens in families, at workplaces, due to gender, race, social status, religious differences and ultimately between nations. It begins when one side expresses some kind of want/need towards the other. For example some people of the white race wanted to have free labor and had enforced slavery on another race. Similarly some men had been oppressing towards individual or all women. For them it didn't seem like a problem at all because they felt entitled to that (I think your term "privilege" might fit here). The other side wanted quite a different thing - not to be oppressed and equal rights. That seemed quite reasonable and fair to them but presented a real problem to the oppressors. And thus a conflict was born.

    How can it be resolved? The easiest and the most popular way throughout the history has been by the use of force. The predator eats the prey and the strong enforces the weak. Men had been doing it for ages and they enjoyed the privilege they granted themselves even if they did not admit to having it. But there's also another and a much better way - cooperation/symbiosis. It happens when parties peacefully agree: you provide us what we want and we provide you what you want. That way rights and responsibilities are born.

    And now we come to the issues of feminism. The way that I understand it is this: it's an organization that focuses on the problems of women and tries to solve them. Whether actively standing for women rights when necessary or trying to encourage them to reach more and to realize their full potential. And here I see a fundamental problem: if you focus your attention only on one side of the conflict you become subjective and might start to mistreat others. Then it's very easy to slip into a mode: you give us (women) what we want (rights, respect, power) and we don't care about your (men) problems. And they can get away with it because now they have a real power of an organization at their side that no single man can oppose. The way of enforcement of privileges in other words and the very thing feminism swore to fight.

    "But we don't oppress men and only want to have certain rights and responsibilities for women" you might say. Is it too much to ask after all we do for them? We want to cooperate but men sometimes are not willing to participate and we have no other option than to fight.

  5. Let's look at an example of what's really happening: a problem of verbal abuse at the workplace. The conflict is obvious: men want to use certain sexually loaded words towards the other gender and women don't want that happening (or to be more specific they want respect and equality for themselves). And the solution for it? Feminist movement gathers enough political strength and a law is passed that prohibits that kind of discrimination. A great victory for the human race. But is it really?

    What most tend to overlook is that it has really solved the problem only for one side of the conflict. Men did not have a problem of verbal abuse from women so the law solves nothing for them. And did anyone care to listen to what they really wanted? What has caused them to be sexually abusive in the first place? Nobody was interested in that. It was much easier to put a label "animals", "primates" and not to care at all. What took place afterwards is that men pushed their unsolved problems deeper and it has resulted in a more sophisticated and undetectable ways to discriminate women. The women once again retaliated. And now I, as a man, am viewed as a potential abuser everywhere I go - like I am responsible for what others of my gender had done in the past. I constantly hear things "men are pigs, aggressive, insensitive, uncaring, unemotional, bloodthirsty" and so on. This passive form of discrimination hurts me and makes me feel like a second rate human even if I've never done an abusive thing towards women. Come to think of it I too might easily become outraged because of this. I might even go as far as join a movement of masculinists who fight feminists. But what another senseless war would ever accomplish?

    It could have been a much different outcome if both sides listened - men and women cooperated towards solving their shared problems. Maybe what was best in the situation was not to punish the abusers but to provide them help in dealing with their emotional problems? Maybe what needs to be done is to change how women treat men (in removing that passive discrimination I spoke about) and how are they up-brought by their mothers by teaching them a value of empathy and compassion? If we really thought about it we would have probably came to even better ideas than that.

    That's why I feel being outraged is not good - it hinders our ability to listen and see the situation clearly and invites us to mistreat other people just as we have been mistreated ourselves. I don't consider myself feminist or masculinist - I would rather be humanist.