Big Girl Update

The thread which has been the subject of debate here and elsewhere in the blogosphere has been moved again and can now be read here. By way of follow-up, what appears to be John Aravosis’ final word on the matter is as follows:

Guys, anybody who isn't happy, please leave this blog and don't come back. I'm serious. Get out.

Our Constitution is on life support and you freaks have spent over 24 hours worrying about two words in a title, and you're still obsessed over it. None of us have the time to deal with your weekly fit of hysterics, whether it's over Katherine Harris' photo, Cynthia McKinney being a wackjob, commenter Miles being upset that I "made a big deal" about a hate crime that almost killed a gay couple, you being upset that I criticized Howard Dean for his insensitivity to gay issues (which I was proved right on a week later), and on and on and on.

It took me a while to realize it, but there are a minority of my readers who are never going to be happy. Rather than fight our common enemy, you'd rather sit here and beat me up because somehow you get off on that. That's fine. You're no longer welcome. Please leave. And spare me the emails about how you used to love the blog. The blog is the same it's always been. You however have become increasingly nasty and shrill.

I choose to spend my time fighting the enemy. You choose to spend your time fighting friends. Well, you do that. On someone else's blog. You're no longer welcome here, so get out.
I find it extremely disappointing that one of the leaders of the progressive movement in the blogosphere has chosen to be so willfully shut off from a legitimate discussion about the use of a phrase that is offensive to many of his readers—and that, once again, addressing sexism in progressive blogging is being viewed as an either-or proposition. Either we can talk about Pat Roberts’ opinion of our civil liberties, or we can talk about sexism, but not both.

The irony about this position is that it mirrors one of the complaints many of us have about the mainstream media, of which blogs such as AMERICAblog seek to be a useful critic, if not an alternative—that the MSM fails to maintain coverage of multiple issues at once. Stories, sometimes big ones, are lost to the ether as a new story comes along. We moan that there’s no need for 24-7 coverage of the latest missing white girl, to the exclusion of stories like the Downing Street Memo. And yet here we are being told that engaging complaints about an important issue—sexism—cannot be done while we also fight the encroachment of our rights. This is a sad state of affairs indeed.

In comments, I was asked why the use of the term “big girl” to denigrate a man bothers me so much. Why does it upset me; why can’t I just let it roll away like so much water off a duck’s back? I will repost my response here, in the hope that those who would reduce this latest conflagration to an example of PC-ism run amok, in the hope that someone who doesn’t understand why some of us react the way we do, might.

The word that's coming to my mind as I try to explain is history. And I don't mean history in an academic sense, as in the history of the feminist movement, but as in my own history—a thousand threads of experience that come together to weave the fabric that I regard as my life. That history contains lots of wonderful and not wonderful things, related and unrelated things. And when I read someone using a term like "big girl" in a derogatory way, irrespective of motive, it pricks at a particular thread as though it's a guitar string, but instead of producing sound, it produces memory. The memory of gym teachers who nastily said to the boys, "Come on ladies, hustle!" The memory of boys at recess excluding me with the explanation, "You're just a girl." The memory of men asking my father if he was disappointed to have had two daughters and no sons. The memory of being told that girls don't behave this way or that way, when I was only being myself. The memory of finding out a male coworker with less experience made more money than me. The memory of every right-wing nut who has tried to steal my bodily autonomy...

I don't carry these things with me because I want to. I carry them with me because they have left indelible prints upon me, affected my understanding of who I am to other people.

I don't want to be bothered when I read things like the post in question. I don't want to feel hurt by them. But it doesn't matter what I want. To protect myself against this reaction is to deny my experience, to deny part of myself.

I am a girl who has been affected by sexism. And I feel weak admitting I've been hurt by it, but, in reality, it's much easier to admit anger. I have to dig much deeper to confess the pain it has caused me.

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