American Culture

“Leftists” and their sexism

So a woman on Fox said a dumb thing. Raw Story wrote about it. And, as usual, a “liberal” site’s otherwise enlightened readers didn’t hesitate to respond with misogynist asshatery.

Women and men alike called the women of Fox News “blond bimbos.” A “bimbo” is defined as “an attractive but stupid young woman, especially one with loose morals.” Did these commenters not know the meaning of the word they used? I find it more likely that they damn well did know precisely what they were signifying – I know from my feminist training that one of the oldest tricks up patriarchy’s sleeve is to try to silence a woman by questioning her morals. Also, notice the emphasis on blondness in the comments. We all know about the stereotype that women with blond hair lack intelligence (but just as there is no male equivalent to “bimbo,” there is no equal belief that men with blond hair lack intelligence.) One commenter even posted a cartoon of a woman being whipped across her face with a large penis, the caption reading “DICK-SLAPPED!” (exclamation point from the original). Nineteen “liberals” “liked” that comment – of a woman’s face being whipped by a penis…

This latest example at Raw Story is, unfortunately, just another example of a more widespread phenomenon. When people of the left criticize the women of Fox News or Sarah Palin (or fill in the blank here), all too many of them apparently feel free to let their sexism flag fly in a way that I contend writers on a liberal blog would not dare with racism – I guess sexism is still safe territory even on the “left.”

It was exactly this phenomenon that caused me to finally split with the Huffington Post a few years ago. I was already sick of their hopelessly over-trolled comments section and their flagrant click-baiting, but the final straw came when a prominent writer at the site attacked a conservative woman in very sexist terms. I was outraged and submitted a comment saying just that, asking why this was tolerated on a “liberal” blog. There were only five comments on the post at the time so it was straight-forward seeking my comment, but it was never approved. The following day I submitted an angry follow-up, demanding to know why my pointing out blatant sexism at HuffPo was apparently not allowed while they routinely let trolls shit all over their page. Still no response. No more me reading HuffPo.

Sexist bullshit caused me to part ways with another “liberal” blog on which I was once quite active. This time, it was Daily Kos. I will let Kos’ own words set up the scenario:

So over the weekend, certain segments of the community have erupted in anger over the TBS ad for their reality show, the Real Gilligan’s Island. Apparently, having two women throw pies at each other, wrestle each other in a sexy, lesbianic manner, then having water splashed on their ample, fake bosoms is degrading to women. Or something like that.

Why, yeah, I am offended by an ad appearing on a “liberal” blog, which should be feminist-friendly space, objectifying women. The ad placement, however, was not my primary concern (I never saw it at the time it was appearing). My outrage stemmed from the rest of the statements from Kos:

Whatever. Feel free to be offended. I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst. I don’t care for such sanctimony from Joe Lieberman, I don’t care for it from anyone else. Some people find such content offensive. Some people find it arousing. Some people find it funny. To each his or her own.

But I am not Lieberman. I won’t sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is “appropriate”, and what isn’t.

And I certainly won’t let the sanctimonious women’s studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I’m somehow abandoning “progressive principles” by running the ad. It’s a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

Me, I’ll focus on the important shit.

Good to know, oh famous king-maker of the “left” and much celebrated member of dood nation, that for you, the continuing exploitation and objectification of those of us born with two X chromosomes is not “important shit.” Thanks for making your position so crystal clear. Kos keeps his focus on important shit. Oh, what is important shit? Perhaps teh menz (deliberately misspelled that way by feminist bloggers) of the left can explain it to us women!  Furthermore, notice the shocking strikethrough of “women’s studies” as he actually calls women formally educated in issues and academic theories of their own patriarchal oppression – me, yes, me, over here, women’s studies grad – the “sanctimonious set.” Fuck you Kos. I could use my $80,000 women’s studies training to do better, more academic analysis of Kos, his blindness, his privilege, his betrayal of liberalism as I understand it, but, no, I think this time that just plain “fuck you” works. Oh, and since I’m being hostile, I will add that “lesbianic” is not a word and that titles of television shows should be italicized or put inside quotation marks.

Shakesville (a great blog – if you haven’t checked it out before, I really encourage you to do so) broke it down:

Kos has a right to disagree with the sentiments of women who are offended by his decision. He also has a right to be condescending…

“Apparently, having two women throw pies at each other, wrestle each other in a sexy, lesbianic manner, then having water splashed on their ample, fake bosoms is degrading to women. Or something like that.”…dismissive…


“I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst.…insulting…

And I certainly won’t let the sanctimonious women’s studies set play that role on this site.”…egotistical…

“Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.”…and demeaning…

“Me, I’ll focus on the important shit.”…every right to be all of those things. (As do his merry band of groupthink wankers, many of whose own sexism is put on display in the comments thread associated with the main post). And I have the right to declare him a wanker and remove him from my blogroll, which I’m sure would give him a good laugh, considering I’m a Lilliputian to his Gulliver. But damn it, I won’t stand for that shit. Someone’s gotta stand up to those on our side who would continue to relegate us to the margins, treating our concerns about fairness and respect with mockery and scorn. The liberal sphere is a not a place where strong women should be branded as hysterical or over-reactionary for being concerned about the possible appearance of support for the denigration of their gender, even if there are those who disagree. Disagreement is not the same as ridicule. It’s thoughtless, and worse than that, it’s bad politics.

With friends like these, who needs Republicans?

After outrage in response to his remarks, Kos followed up with one of those seems-to-be-an-attempt-to-apologize-but-just-makes-it-worse-you-should’ve-just-shut-up things:

Update: Hmm, after considering the early feedback, it seems most people didn’t have a problem with the ad, but had a huge problem with my sweeping generalization of the “women’s studies set”.

It’s a fair critique, and duly noted. I stand by everything else written, which is offensive enough to some people as is. But I honestly didn’t mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women’s studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock. So yeah, a poor choice of words that cast the net far too wide to cover the people that have, in fact, pissed me off.

Sorry about that, but not sorry about my broader point — that being sanctimonious about this ad is no different than the sanctimony we decry from people like Lieberman, Dobson, and the Family Values Coalition.

Didya catch this one – there is a “small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock!” Our numbers are “small.” We are “extremists,” you know , those of us screaming from the rooftops about the systemic oppression of our kind, so says another “liberal” site. And, finally, we are “looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock.” Funny, but I find more signs of subjugation every fucking day of my life and I don’t have to look under rocks to find it. In fact, as the ad in question well illustrates, I can easily find it just by logging into a “liberal” blog which, again I say, should be feminist-friendly territory. How very often conservatives claim that members of racial minorities just look for racism under every rock and that that is precisely – and only – why they constantly find it. Would someone with high liberal cred like Kos dare to make such a claim about a “small, extremist” group of people of color looking for racism “under every rock?” And the answer is “fuck no.” When it comes to racism, good liberals get it that it is systemic, that it is, in fact, everywhere.

It is so frustrating that women can’t count on similar understanding from the “left.”

18 replies »

  1. Bigotry, racism, and mysogyny run deep, far deeper than most of us realize and come out in ways and at times that few of us expect. It’s worthwhile to call us on it. I’ve certainly improved over the years in those areas because friends of mine have pointed out behaviors and comments that were either unkind or inadvertently prejudiced.

    But it’s a fine line–making us aware in a manner that helps us change attitudes and behaviors vs. doing so in a manner that creates defensiveness and thus cements the behavior. I think the issue many of us have had from time to time with “women’s studies types” is that too often it seems the feedback comes wrapped in so much anger and negativity. One is left feeling that there’s nothing one can do, short of dying and being reincarnated as a different sex, that will be enough.

    Just as a data point, I’m married to a feminist, father of a feminist, and grandfather to two who I hope will one day become feminists.

  2. Dear Otherwise,

    Good day. Hope you are well. Thanks for the comment.

    Are you white? Do you ever feel that people of color are angry and let you see that they are? I answer yes to both. Now, how do you deal with anger from people of color? Does it somehow scare you away from trying to be a white ally to them? Does it make you feel guilty and like the best you can offer them is to die and be reborn black? OR…do you, like me, recognize and respect the righteous anger of people of color, work out your private feelings of white guilt yourself because you realize that your guilt is a luxury people of color can’t afford for you to take time indulging what with them dying in the streets and shit, look to their righteous anger as a source of your own potential education rather than as a personal attack, and keep plugging along at being an ally even if you’re called out sometimes for getting it wrong and even if the anger sometimes hurts?

    Well, we women are NO DIFFERENT. Just like people of color, we have legitimate issues, historic and current, about our oppression. Some of us have finally, in our frustration, gotten angry and don’t mind letting it show – notice how the terms “angry black man,” “angry black woman,” and “angry feminist” are TOOLS used for larger cultural SILENCING. It’s bullshit. “Why are you so ANGRY?” in a generally concerned, puzzled voice – common, clueless, and silencing. Oh, and privileged. There are so many legit reasons to be angry and there are also legit reasons why those of us silenced for so long CHOOSE now to let our anger show (and for me this has been very much a road of evolution in thought and feeling and a path deliberately chosen in recent years). It is healthy for our hearts, minds, and spirits to let our anger show. Furthermore, it serves to put the privileged class on notice that we’re not eating shit anymore – which is precisely what I mean my writing to convey, like I said, a choice I have made just in the past five years.

    And what I want to ask you most of all is this: Do you 1) concede that oppressed people have a right to be angry and, if so, do you 2) just wish that their anger, which you concede is legit, would not be expressed in polite company? And can you see that setting yourself up as a gatekeeper of any sort when it comes to oppressed people’s anger is a hallmark of privilege? For 20 years, I tried oh-so-sweetly and patiently explaining feminism – I found that 1) it wasn’t actually the healthiest choice for me and, even more importantly, 2) PEOPLE OF PRIVILEGE WHO ALLOW MY “TONE” TO AFFECT WHETHER OR NOT THEY CHOOSE TO JOIN THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY WERE NOT SERIOUS ABOUT BEING ALLIES TO BEGIN WITH. No, if you can’t deal with the righteous anger of oppressed people, you are not ready to be an ally – being an ally requires thick skin, among so many other things. The best male allies and white allies I have known KNEW how to deal with that anger – they didn’t start out that way, but they tried and thus learned.

    Finally, my favorite professor from my college days, a native American man who taught lots of diversity related sociology classes, told us so often that “when a subject makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s what you need to follow down, stay with that.” So, I would respectfully pass that advice on to you…if feminist anger is something that makes you uncomfortable, stick with that, dig deep, try to find out why it’s uncomfortable. Is it anger generally? Is it angry women (why?), angry people of color? Many, I would venture to say most, liberals accept anger from people of color but not from women. There are volumes of feminist physch theory on this. One I quite like, “The Mermaid and the Minotaur,” argues that because women are usually the primary caregivers of early childhood, women come to be psychologically linked in the unconscious with the feeling of being helpless and relying on woman for our very existence. Then, Dinnerstein says, we gradually discover that mother can not or even sometimes just will not come running with our every cry…we grow to discover that our mother is actually her own person too, setting up a lifetime hostility towards women, “irrational, infantile” rage at encountering women in positions of power (like mother was)…and also an extreme discomfort with an angry woman, which, based on the mother-child dynamic of our childhoods when our very survival depended on a woman, evokes old terrors of abandonment from the childhood stage when she stopped appearing each time we cried.

    Wishing you peace and light,

    • Women have every right to be mad. If I were female I’d probably stay mad, truth be told. So when you, or any other woman, expresses anger over any number of issues, I get it fully. (Also, there are few better places to find a dumbass that in the comment thread of pick a liberal blog, any liberal blog. I have had to swear off ALL of them, and I’m not even a woman. So I’m REALLY with you there.)

      There is one thing about how these conversations can play out that bothers me, and your timing couldn’t be much better. I have been a member of a number of liberal communities through the years, including THE community, Townhouse. I co-founded the Dirty Hippies list. And a few months ago I co-founded another one, Lower Left. I ran screaming from TH. I left DH swearing I was done with liberal communities forever. And I only got drawn back into LL because I was asked to by the other co-founder, someone I respect immensely. I recently said fuck it to them, too, because they did what I predicted they would. The short version is no crowd in the world is more committed to transforming allies into mortal enemies than the activist left.

      In this case, the blow-up was over Hillary Clinton. If you have been on a list like that one, you can probably imagine exactly how it went down. The thing that I anticipated, and that I was unable to head off, was how it slowly but inevitably got meaner and more personal. Now, I have been moderating online discussion environments of all stripes since 1993, so I have a well-defined back of tricks. Nothing really worked to remind everyone that we were friends, though.

      Finally it hit a sort of inflection point, with multiple women getting angry over language from a couple of the male members that was more or less what you’re writing about here. None of the men reacted in anything like the way you note with Kos, for sure – if they had I’d have thrown them through the window without so much as a hearing. We tried to found LL on mutual respect and a basic assumption of good faith, and up until this point we were doing fairly well.

      I crafted as honest and collegial a moderator’s statement as I could. And I might as well have tossed gasoline on a grease fire. I used a word or two that triggered an extremely nasty backlash. And while I understand that these women may well have heard these words in offensive contexts before, they were the same words I have used on men. So the women heard a word that men think nothing of as a major put-down. Context is everything. My intent was as good faith as it comes, and yet the words were taken in a way that didn’t begin to reflect the mindset of the guy doing the writing.

      Okay, fine. Listen, I grew up working class in the South, which means I grew up racist and sexist and homophobic and the gods know what else. It has been a long, long road from there to where I am now. Are there still remnants of those behaviors that I have not yet found and eradicated? Almost certainly. Do I keep trying? Every damned day. If I say something that reflects that patriarchal assumption I was raised in and a woman points it out, I will do everything I can think of to never repeat the mistake, and also to pass the wisdom along to other men.

      The problem is that, if I might abstract for a second, there are two kinds of men: asshole sexists who hate or are terrified by the idea that women are and should be treated equally in every way, and men who get it and are trying. Unfortunately, that distinction isn’t always acknowledged. In the case I’m describing here, I got attacked pretty quickly and in a fashion that refused to accord me any credit at all for decades of trying to be a better feminist and for the fact that I have, at every turn, been an ally for the causes those attacking me championed (to say nothing of the impossibility of moderating a powder keg of an online argument).

      It took me a couple hours to find someone willing to be the interim moderator, then I deleted myself from the list. And I am now 100% done, for the rest of my life, no matter what, with any environment where this might happen again. I will not stop believing the principles and I will certainly not shut my mouth on these kinds of issues, but the last semi-activist cell in my body died that day. I will never again lift a finger to help that “community.”

      I understand that women are more than justified in being angry, and I am angry for them. I understand that even the best of us do not have the experience of being of the wrong end of the patriarchal system and as a result we don’t always realize when things are happening that reinforce the system, and we’re certainly not aware when we’re doing it ourselves. And when we do it, we need to have it pointed out to us so that we can cut it the fuck out.

      I just wish that those instances weren’t treated the same as the egregious, malicious offenses of those who hate idea of equal rights. Personally, I guess, it’s hard being treated like the bad guy when you try so hard to be a good guy.

  3. Well said.

    There’s also an interesting discussion to be had about when anger is helpful and when it isn’t.

    There surely is a time and place, and anger (or seeming angry) has been a gambit that has served me very well over the years in any variety of situations. It clearly has value in political situations. One of the black militants of the sixties said something to the effect, “They only talk to Dr. King because otherwise they’d have to talk to me.”

    Personally, I think anger is only useful when there’s an implied threat, as in, “I’m so angry I’m going to walk away from this deal,” or “I’m so angry I’m going to burn the city down.” I think absent that threat, anger is self-defeating, since it’s too easy to eliminate the unpleasantness of anger through avoidance.

    “I’m angry.”

    “OK, I guess I’ll go talk to someone else,” he says, making a bee line for the volleyball game in the backyard.

    I think anyone who wears anger on his or her sleeve probably ends up in a room devoid of anyone but other angry people like themselves. That’s what has happened to angry old white men. Those are called Tea Party meetings.

    So, OK, maybe you have a right to be angry. I’m not completely convinced of that by the way, since life is a tricky thing and people in bad situations were often complicit in creating those situations–remember the ERA would have passed if women had voted for it—but justified or no, I’m in no way convinced it’s useful to reveal that anger.

    • Here’s where I disagree with you a little, O. If you ever want an extended oration on the role radicals play in social reform, and especially their critical dynamic interaction with “moderates,” let me know. Th short version is that both are necessary. MLK would have gotten nowhere without the Panthers and Malcolm X.

      So those seeking change can choose their role and their method, and there is plenty of validity in both ends of the spectrum. Now, you may be right about what happens to the angry ones, but in truth whether you end up in a room with bitter folks or you get invited to every cocktail party in town, that’s your choice. I don’t presume to tell people how to serve the cause.

      And, as I indicated in my previous comment, it’s entirely possible that serving the cause a particular way is going to alienate me at a personal level. Again, that’s fine, and it doesn’t change how I feel about the collective and the cause itself.

      As a side note, it’s damned disappointing that after all these years we still need radical feminists (or radical blacks or radical Latinos or radical gays, etc.) But it seems we do.

      Props to ceejay, though, for sparking a conversation that’s way different from what you’d find on any number of political blogs.

  4. That’s fair and thought-provoking. I think of anger as self-indulgent, which of course it is, but it’s also self-sacrificing in its own wierd way. Interesting.

    • Anger can and will eat you up inside over time. But without the expression of anger, with a threat behind it, as you noted, change doesn’t happen. Dictators and oligarchs and theocrats and bullies don’t cede power because they think it’s the right thing to do.

  5. OK, I’ll ignore the platitudinous nature of your last response and stay on topic: Where’s the threat that makes feminist anger a valid catalyst for change? I just see anger, no threat. At least the Tea Partiers have a valid threat–block voting in local elections. Anger without a threat is just petulance.

    • Somebody is in a mood this morning.

      Ahem. This may well be why we’re still fighting the battle for women’s rights several decades after it should have ceased being an issue. In short, women perhaps lack the kind of power that other groups have or had. White America is terrified of black people, so when you started seeing massive unrest in the ’60s there was an incentive to deal with it before it got to your door. Ferguson and Baltimore demonstrate that it hasn’t been fully addressed – understatement of the day so far – but women have not done a lot of rioting and the interests that keep them second class citizens aren’t afraid of them.

      So no, you’re right, there isn’t really the same kind of threat. Perhaps this is one of the great triumphs of the right, which has erected an ideological platform that has gotten millions of women to buy into their own subjugation on religious grounds. In a parallel universe somewhere that didn’t happen and women in the US organized politically around a platform of equal rights. This blog thread isn’t happening in that universe.

      As a side note, I’m not 100% comfortable with the fact that this discussion is being carried on primarily by two white guys, so I’d love to hear from any non-white guys reading along.

      • Good question. The fact that this is basically an all old-white-male thread is interesting. Does that say something about the issue, S&R, or is it just the luck of the draw?

        And I’m not sure if “ideological platform that has gotten millions of women to buy into their own subjugation” is sexist, but it sure as hell is patronizing. “Hi girls. We’re here to free you whether you want it or not. Why don’t you ladies just go freshen up while we settle this?”

        I remember getting in screaming matches, literally, with women in the South over ERA. In my entire life, I’ve never heard dumber arguments than those against ERA. Perhaps that’s part of my discomfort with CJ’s piece–the anger seems to be directed against the usual suspects–old white males. Why be angry at me? I’m not the one who voted against women’s rights. Get angry at other women. If women block voted, like evangelicals, discrimination against women would drop by 90% in a nanosecond.

        Btw, for the record, my great grandmother was black, which under the old laws of the Confederacy would make me black. Does that count? (Probably not.)

        • To clarify a bit, my comment on that right wing ideological platform ought properly be expressed more generally. It has seduced a LOT of people into working very hard against their own interests, men and women alike. Basically the entire class I grew up in, the southern working class, swallowed the poisoned hook. So no, it isn’t just about women. That said, I see no way around the basic facts of the issue. Millions of women do lend their political support to interests that actively and aggressively work to keep them from enjoying true equal rights.

          I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to what is actually happening.

  6. Hi CeeJay, while the two geniuses duke it out I’ll just mention how I deal with valid anger. I shut up and listen and try to walk a mile in the angry party’s shoes. Sometimes I can see their point and sometimes not but I never puff up and I never it take it personally. Nice piece thanks!

  7. As I noted above, I tried very sweetly explaining feminism for over 20 years. I did not come out of my Women’s Studies program particularly angry – just raring to go as an optimistic activist. And I did the activist thing for so long, but I’m 46 now and the change isn’t happening. Even worse, we have begun losing ground we had gained in the seventies. I have moved from having high hopes for my own lifetime to just hoping things finally shift in my daughter’s lifetime. My favorite quote anywhere is now from Andrea Gibson’s rape poem “Blue Blanket” – “Bury me in a blue blanket, cut off my curls so their god doesn’t know I’m a girl, I WANT PEACE WHEN I’M DEAD.” It’s come down to that, that there won’t be freedom from the patriarchy until I am dead. So I am frustrated. As a result, I am becoming more radical. It is actually pretty historically typical for a feminist to become more and more radical as she ages (Stanton, Daly, etc). The kids are grown. We finally get that “room of one’s own,” sometimes literally and at least mentally, that Woolf encouraged us to have. We have more time to read feminist works and think and write. We care much less about what people think of us – for we have aged out of the fuckability requirement for members of the sex caste. We feel that invisibility and begin to stretch out into it, speaking truth to power and not worrying so much about offending or, dear heavens, perhaps alienating any of teh menz.

    What I do want you to know, Otherwise, is that letting the anger out in controlled bursts – especially channeled into something creative like writing – is a better choice than death, and, yes, sometimes, for oppressed people, it really comes down to that. Try to imagine what that is like. It is literally true that the worst of the patriarchy nearly killed me. I was married to an abuser from the time I was 17 until I was 42. He raped me more times than I could ever possibly count – the other horrors are too vast to go into here. By the time I left him, I weighed just 97 pounds – from stress – and couldn’t walk without a cane. After I left him, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Five years ago, I was having severe trauma episodes where I would become hysterical but was afterwards unable to recall any of it. I was once a law student (I did one year), but my memory is so ruined by PTSD that I will now never be an attorney. I was cutting myself with razor blades regularly – it felt good to me to give the unbearable spiritual and emotional pain a PHYSICAL spot of pain on which to BE, to focus. I was hospitalized three times for suicidal tendencies (love for my daughter was sometimes ALL that kept me here). Now, after five years of pure hell, I walk without a cane. My weight is back up. I don’t have trauma episodes anymore and I’m not suicidal (well, with the help of the right combination of psych meds). Just the last few months, I have finally turned a corner as far as my mental health and can again experience love and joy and, sometimes, even little glimmers of peace.

    So I come by my anger the HARD way, via near death. And I still don’t think that the passion of oppressed people should in any way affect how we respond to their plight. This is definitely how I, a white person, deal with people of color and it would be really helpful if the men of the left would meet feminists on similar terms. I disagree that if you’re angry you end up in a room by yourself. My goal is to end up in a room with some dedicated allies and the allies I imagine are able to deal sympathetically with the pain of woman qua woman – and that’s all the big, scary anger really is…just one aspect of the terrible pain. I hope you can see it that way.

    My writing has turned out to be an important creative outlet for me. In fact, I think it is why I’m doing a bit better now. I am grateful every day to the S & R team for giving me this platform, for their support, and their kindness. Sometimes I write about things other than feminism, but when I do write about the wellness or lack thereof of women, the passion pours out from my heart, the passion of one nearly killed by the worst of the patriarchy. Given that background, I think it is reasonable, healthy, and even helpful (to writer but also to reader) that the fire sometimes finds its way onto the screen.

    Frank, I like your attitude!!!

    Sam, I am sorry your intentions were so misunderstood and that you were hurt by it. It is hard being an ally in person, but I find the online medium to have great limits and being an ally there is especially difficult, maybe damn near impossible. Online, we don’t see faces and body language. We can not hear the tone of voice in which the thoughts expressed were offered. And so too often, we expect the worst, read the worst into each other’s writing. And even worse are the written online responses in which we say hurtful things we would not, simply could not, say to a person’s face. I have concerns about where the online medium is taking us.

    Thank you, Sam, for your other points (and all of you for joining in!), especially the one about patriarchy not being afraid of women. I couldn’t agree more. Feminists far more eloquent than I have argued the point that woman is the most internally colonized of all oppressed people. A few years back, my mother sent me an extremely interesting article, a work of fiction imaging the results when all American women, at a predesignated hour, withdraw all their money from the banks, causing financial collapse until their demands are met. I have thought about that or something like it ever since, how to make society take this shit seriously.

    Peace and light, gentlemen,

  8. Oh, shoot, I knew I forgot something. Sam, as far as the idea that ideally we should not need radical feminism or feminism generally – kind of like some of us wouldn’t need to keep protesting war in the streets if the fuckers would stop war-mongering already… One day, if and when women are recognized as fully human, maybe we can all become humanists. I am not pleased, right now, however, when I encounter a man who says, “Why feminism? I’m a humanist!” because the change has not yet happened and so, for women, for now, humanism doesn’t cut it. My Women’s Studies profs always told us that our department was different because our profs and the department had as a goal putting themselves out of business entirely. They hope that one day, women will be so fully integrated into other coursework that they, Women’s Studies profs, will no longer be needed. I mean, why DOES Gonzaga have special classes on literature by women, lit classes cross-listed with Women’s Studies? Clearly they KNOW that their regular lit classes are lacking something and, ideally, that should be fixed so we don’t need special coursework.

    Feminism is defined as !) the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men, and 2) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women. So, it is both doctrine and movement. Hopefully some day, as you say, we won’t need the movement anymore, but just bear in mind that feminism defined as DOCTRINE will always be needed.

  9. Argh – was just about to close this tab when I saw a comment from Otherwise that I hadn’t seen before. So here goes third comment of the day.

    Otherwise, respectfully, um, how on earth can you read this piece as being directed at old white males? It was clearly about liberals online. In my paragraph about the Raw Story commenters, I specifically pointed out that those making comments I found offensive were BOTH men and women. Then I wrote about Huffington Post, which involved a male blogger but at a site run by a woman, Arianna Huffington. And Kos definitely does not fall into the old white guy camp – he is most definitely a new breed of…well, whatever he is…young, tech-savvy, hip, the face of the “new left.”

    I am also just mouth agape that while you are married to a feminist, you make the following comment: “Why be angry at me? I’m not the one who voted against women’s rights. Get angry at other women. If women block voted, like evangelicals, discrimination against women would drop by 90% in a nanosecond.” First, who was or is angry at YOU personally and why take it personally? Are you one of those white people who asks why people of color seem mad at you when, after all, YOU’RE not racist, you’re one of the good guys? Are you not already familiar with the concept of privilege, which is to say that you indeed benefit from racism and sexism even though you don’t personally promote it (I too benefit from white privilege even though I don’t perpetuate racism)? Do you not know about the millions of ways, the thousands of years of history, in which women have been internally colonized by the patriarchy to go against their own self-interests? It’s so bad that that asshole Freud actually came up these crazy theories about women’s “masochism” – the dude actually believed women enjoy being hurt in a way that men do not (WTF?). Why would you ask why women can’t just organize and fix SYSTEMIC oppression against us any more than you would follow a conservative down the tired, well worn road of asking why African-Americans can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and why there is still much black-on-black crime? You couldn’t be more wrong about our needing to “get angry at other” (oppressed) “women.” Patriarchy already does such a fine job of cutting women off from one another. We do not have the power on our own to make the changes needed for our well-being for the simple fact that we don’t have the clout to get men to listen to us – we need like-minded male allies stepping in and challenging / changing MALE behavior, redrawing the boundaries of the acceptable in MEN’S culture. Is racism a white problem to be fixed or a black/brown one? I would say it is very much a white person’s problem to fix – only white people have the clout to tell other whites that racism is unacceptable, and the same is the case with men and sexism.

    That was a summary of some very first principles. Exploring these very first principles is just too much to do here. And I’m not hostile, honestly, just totally gobsmacked.

    For first principles, I would recommend to you this website, called “Finally, Feminism 101:”

    You might poke around in their “topics” tool bar on the right hand side. It seems the best way to navigate the site.

    Because, from what I gather, you somehow got the idea that somebody somewhere is mad at you and because you somehow got the idea that this post was about being mad at old white men, when it clearly wasn’t, I would recommend starting here, at

    “FAQ: Why do you feminists hate men?

    Feminists hate misogyny, not men. Kinda like that “hate the sin, not the sinner” thing, sometimes it’s easy to separate the behaviour from the enactor and sometimes it’s not.

    But we know that not all men are pits of misogyny, so if you aren’t acting out misogyny, then it’s not about you. We also know that men who sometimes fall into minor unthinking habits of misogyny are not comparable to men who are violent and irredeemable misogynists. It’s understandable how sometimes criticisms of misogynists come across as generalisations about all men, when read by someone who isn’t used to the jargon shorthand and feminist perspectives. Time to lurk and learn.

    Ilyka’s post: Occasionally conversations with my man are instructive is instructive here.

    “A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do.””Then don’t identify with them. It’s not about you! You stand to pee, they stand to pee, beyond that, what’s the commonality?”

    Of course, the man-hating accusation is not always made by bewildered men of general goodwill. It is frequently made by men who simply don’t want to hear any criticism of their privileged status-quo.”

    Finally, I would recommend for first principles two books, classics, both, importantly I think, written by men:

    1) Allen Johnson’s “The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy”
    2) John Stoltenberg’s “Refusing to be a Man”

    Wishing you peace and light…and hopefully good reading!

  10. What an interesting tapestry of thoughts. I just reread the thread again and there are some delicious bites of savory brain food in here as well as a few pieces of putrid mystery meat…”Spit it out Willie, it’s an asshole!”

    I don’t believe cutting off news and opinion sources because of cognitive dissonance is a good idea. Maybe I’m just a voracious reader but I love seeing how everyone thinks, especially those that disagree with me. Cloistering oneself with like minds only is a sure way to lose all resiliency of thought. Moderating flame is a different matter Sam, I understand why you’d chuck that thankless responsibility.

    CeeJay your description of living in terror with a monster all those years is heartbreaking. I know you’re a pacifist and I won’t demean your torture with idle threats of bodily harm against the perpetrator but frankly my dear, if there was ever a son of a bitch that deserved killing, that waste of skin sounds like the one. I’m very glad for you that love and adoration has finally come into you and your daughter’s lives. It was supposed to be that way from the beginning but life plays cruel tricks sometimes.

    The seque from your initial thesis that some liberals are faux allies into white on black racism was puzzling to me on several levels. The first is scale. Women are half the population of the world. Just playing a numbers game places their subjugation as a much larger problem than racism. Sexism also transcends color. Poor women are much more likely to be abused sexually, economically, and psychologically. It’s one of those things that if we look at it too hard we could almost lose faith in humanity.

    Yet I don’t lose faith because things are changing even if it is two steps forward and one step back. Think, speak, vote, we’ll get there. If not in this life then the next.

  11. Dear Frank,

    I caught your comment right as I was heading to bed last night. I ended up in bed all teary eyed – the sweet kind of tears though, the kind sparked by kindness. Thank you for what you wrote. Deep breath…one just never knows what a small kindness might really mean to someone.

    I understand what you’re saying about my jumping back and forth between sexism and racism in my comments. I was doing that because I have found it to be very common that people on the left can “see” and “get” racism in a way that they somehow can’t with sexism. Sometimes I have found using examples from racism helpful, but, yeah, I see what you mean, I did a lot of back and forth this time.

    You said that the sheer numbers game places women’s subjugation as a larger problem than racism. Um, since YOU said it first, I feel okay about agreeing with you – LOL, white guy gives me cover!!! There is an understanding though among activists to try to respect each other by never engaging in what is called “the oppression Olympics,” which means comparing and rating one’s own set of problems as more serious than another group’s. I’m sure you can see why it would be problematic if I, a white feminist, claimed that sexism is a greater problem than racism – many people would be offended and hurt by that and I totally get it. As you spell it out though, just going by the numbers, it IS clear that with sexism, we’re talking about a little over half the population. In some situations, I do better than black men, such as in the job market. In others, black men are more privileged than I, such as when so many men of all races feel free to objectify and cat-call a white woman like me walking down the street.

    And that brings me to a fabulous book title, “All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of us are Brave” – women of color, which is a topic you mentioned. What they deal with – god…sigh… I have read as much black feminist, sometimes called “Womanist,” literature as I possibly can. Their work is the most profound and most thought-provoking stuff I’ve ever found and I am deeply influenced by their thought as well as deeply indebted to them for thoughts of my own. Black women are “the servants of the servants,” which is to say that they have been subordinate to BOTH white women and black men. Yes, by every measure of well-being, their situation calls for the attention of their country (possible candidate for one of the biggest understatements ever). The stereotype of the “strong black woman” doesn’t help, as Melissa Harris-Perry points out in her newest book – somehow we, as a culture, have this idea that black women are tough enough to take it, whatever “it” happens to be. And while it’s partially true – women of color HAVE had to be survivors (like what choice did they ever have about it anyway) – it’s not fair to assume that their survival under the barrage of shit thrown at them means they don’t need and fucking DESERVE change.

    Thanks for reminding me to keep hope alive. Yes, as you say, maybe it’s two steps forward, one step back – I hadn’t considered it that way, so I am feeling a little more hopeful again after reading your comment.

    Good “talking” to you as always, Frank, and thanks again for your kindness. It will be on my mind for the rest of the day.


  12. my old white males riff was picking up on sammy’s thread. although i do think it remains generally true that OWM’s are seen as the problem…probably because they are (to steal a joke from Ron white.)

    your basic point, that people are often sexist, or racist, or anti-semitic without meaning to be and are completely and utterly blind to it, is incontrovertible. as is your conclusion that unless they’re called on it, they’ll never get better.