Rape Culture 101 can be found here.
On Divorcing Slurs from Their Contexts: There are men (and women) who would swear up, down, and backwards that they're not homophobic, and may even genuinely be supportive of full LGBTQ equality, but nonetheless continue to use the word fag to malign other men—or use "gay" as a negative descriptor. They just like the words. They don't want to give them up, because they haven't found anything else that feels quite so good rolling off the tongue as "What a fag!" and "That's so gay." Who's it hurting? I totally don't hate gay people! And that's why we get these tortured explanations of how they're not using them "in the gay way."
On Off-Limits Humor: Here's the main reason I object to the use of "politically incorrect" humor at this blog: There's a whole fucking world out there where women and gay men and trans wo/men and racial minorities and the disabled and the overweight and people who are intrinsically and inescapably "different" for any reason are made fun of, marginalized, turned into punchlines. There's a whole fucking world out there which expects us all to be perfect according to some arbitrary definition and seeks to punish us if we're not. There's a whole fucking world out there where people who don't conform to that standard are not only ridiculed and made to feel not good enough, but can also find themselves at real risk of physical harm. Where they're denied rights, job opportunities, friendships, votes, equality. If you want to use "politically incorrect" humor that targets those people, you have the entire rest of the bloody world to do it, but you can't do it here. This is a safe space.
On What Angry Men Can Learn from Girls and Queers: For straight men, who exist in a culture largely structured to accommodate male primacy, pulling apart the intrinsic nature of men from the socialization borne of a society that reinforces the privilege of maleness, is exponentially more difficult. And thusly, lots of men cannot dissociate their rigid understanding of manhood from the societal influences which are largely mutable; they've had no reason to question whether a society that so perfectly suits them has created a definition of manhood that isn't "real," and so attempts to change society are inextricably linked to attempts to change men in ways they believe they cannot be changed. And that makes a lot of men angry.
On Hazing, Misogyny, and Homophobia: While we might hope that being forcibly effeminized and summarily raped would generate some sympathy for the women and gay men whose stereotypical accoutrements were employed in one's shaming, the reality is more grim. Even those violently hazed who don't engage the instruments of hazing outside the explicit milieu are generally not left with sympathy, but increased contempt, for the others to whom comparison served as the basis of their indignity. It's a dreadfully destructive cycle, and, at its center, the definition of masculinity predicated on contradistinction to and supremacy over women and gay men becomes increasingly, unavoidably, indurated.
On Men Being Part of the Solution: To a woman whose every post on sexual assault and domestic abuse has prompted untold numbers of women (and some men) to share their stories of having been raped or otherwise violently abused, that the subject could never come up among men is simply astounding. And yet I am assured by the men in my life, it does not. Of the issues with which they concern themselves, sending them into tumbling debates about what should be done and how best to solve the problem—the environment, poverty, encroachments on civil liberties, etc. etc. etc.—the fact that one out of four women will be raped in her lifetime, and many more yet victims of domestic abuse, rarely, if ever, makes the list. How can it be that so many men and women live such different lives? I dream of the day when we don't.
On Cunts: Pachacutec could have just said "Yeah, I called her a whore. So what? Fuck you." to anyone who disagreed with that language. As Tammy Wynette might say, stand by your sexism. But instead, the argument became, as it always does, that the language wasn't sexist at all, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a hypersensitive, hysterical loser. Tom was deemed "Ned Flanders," and Pachacutec told him to "Face it. We do punk rock posts and you're into Guy Lombardo." All I can say is that if punk is challenging the comfortable conventions of the bourgeoisie, there's almost nothing less punk than demeaning a woman by calling her a whore and pretending it's not sexist. That's the Milli Vanilli of blogging—derivative and radio-ready, pretending to be something it ain't.
On Rape Not Being a Compliment: Rapists are not merely men with heightened libidos; they are men who seek to possess and control, and sex is the weapon they wield—not the ends, but the means. To think that rapists all rape for one universal reason is to think that murderers all murder for a single reason, and to think that rapists all rape because of sexual attraction is to think that murderers who use guns all murder because they like the smell of gun powder.
On Humorless as an Insult and Thick Skin: Feminists Can't Win 101: When identifying oneself as a feminist to a non-feminist, the non-feminist is likely to make a gesture or comment that is trite and uninspired. When the feminist reacts to the "joke" with the resounding dearth of laughter it deserves, the non-feminist's presumption that feminists are humorless is thusly reinforced.
On Being Publicly, Shamelessly, Unshakably Fat and Happy: It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America, especially if you're a woman (for whom "jolly" fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.
On Natural Allies and Privilege: Realistically, the breadth of allies in a comprehensive challenge to the patriarchy is vast and varied. Though all of us, sans rigorous philosophical exertion, are hapless conduits for every limiting and oppressive archetype upon which the patriarchy depends, conveying the bars of our own cages, very few of us are its unconstrained beneficiaries. Even the average straight, white, middle class American man exchanges privilege for severe limitations on his personal expression and emotional life—and he is encouraged never to examine that devastating trade-off too closely, lest the veneer on the alleged bargain prove thin enough through which to see. We all serve the same callous master, and there's little to celebrate in being the favored slave—especially compared to a life of freedom. It is foolish to believe that there is more feminist, gender-queer cisgendered straight women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and the Ts don't all have in common culturally and politically than that which we do, given the particular restraints and prejudices of the patriarchal structure and its rigid notions of sex, gender, and sexuality conveyed in all its aspects. We struggle to achieve and/or maintain, to varying degrees, autonomy over our own bodies, and, crucially, freedom of choice with regard to what we want to do with those bodies. Life- and identity-changing events hang in the balance for us all—parenting, marriage, gender reassignment, being legally able to keep a job in spite of prejudice. The only question worth asking is how willing any of us are to secure rights for some of us at the expense of rights for the rest. Because we are in this thing together. We are natural allies. We must be fierce together.
On "Bitch" and Other Misogynist Language: Life is hard enough without my unexpectedly smacking people in the face who trust me not to be a jerk, and it's in that same spirit that I've tried to convey how misogynist language is uncool—hey, I don't want to get blindsided with shit like that from an ostensible ally. When I highlight the use of sexist language at a male-authored blog, it's because such language is alienating and demeaning and infuriating and I'm operating under the assumption that those bloggers don't want to alienate, demean, and infuriate their female readers. But that, as it turns out, usually tends to be a faulty assumption.
On Allegedly Looking for Things to Get Mad About: The truth is, if I actually spent my days actively paying attention to every example of misogyny around me, I would be a profoundly unhappy woman. Not bitchy or grumpy or short-tempered, but paralyzingly depressed. Women have to train themselves to avoid consciously reacting to every bit of misogynistic detritus permeating the culture through which we all move, lest they go quite insane. I write about the things I can't not write about. If I wrote about all the examples of sexism I see every day, I'd never sleep.
On Circular Firing Squads and One's Vote as One's Own: This oft-wielded cudgel to silence feminists who cry foul at sexism expressed by political allies is wrong for the following reason, which I cannot state any more succinctly than this: When someone engages in divisive behavior, any resulting division is their responsibility. It is, simply, not the duty of any person who is repeatedly subjected to alienating language, images, behaviors, and/or legislation to nonetheless never complain and pledge fealty from the margins. If women, men of color, gay/bi/ trans men, et. al. are valued, then they should not be demeaned—and if they are demeaned, they should not be expected to pretend it does not matter.
On Periods: Let's put this shit to bed right now: Women don't lose their minds when they have period-related irritability. It doesn't lower their ability to reason; it lowers their patience and, hence, tolerance for bullshit. If an issue comes up a lot during "that time of the month," that doesn't mean she only cares about it once a month; it means she's bothered by it all the time and lacks the capacity, once a month, to shove it down and bury it beneath six gulps of willful silence.
On Being a Progressive: Feminism is an integral part of progressivism. If you're not a feminist, you're not a progressive. You're a fauxgressive. End of story.
On Being Shakespeare's Sister: I cannot walk away from misogyny for a moment, and so I cannot for a moment walk away from feminism, either. I cannot set it aside any more than I can set aside my womanhood. No—I will not. The choice is mine, and I choose to face the world equipped at all times with the only tool of self-defense I have against inequality. Feminism is my sword and my shield, which I carry because the world is hostile to me, not the other way around. I fight because I have to. My obligation. My muse. That is the context of this room. It was built by a woman. A feminist woman. Shakespeare's Sister, carrying the weight of all of Shakespeare's Sisters with her, as she clumsily stumbles toward making long, greedy use of the opportunity they provided her, sucking up every last drop of the chance she's been given to do what others could not and pay forward with interest the chance to another sister of Shakespeare who may just now be warily peering into this room and thinking there's something I like in there…
On Feminism and Humanism: As long as there are men, who would ostensibly be part of the "humanist" movement, yet retain a visceral and violent reaction to the feminine, there is no foundation for a sexless, "humanist" movement. Generally, those arguing in favor of a "humanist" movement won't say they're arguing for men's inclusion, instead citing what they perceive as the limitations of feminism/womanism—"But what about gay people or people of color or the disabled or the poor or…?" they ask, as if there is something intrinsic to feminism that precludes also fighting other biases. The truth is, if one is genuinely concerned with the betterment of women, one is necessarily concerned with fighting biases against any marginalized group, because, half (give or take) of all such groups are women.
On Shoez and Getting Personal: Making the personal public and political is serious business. Because women's stories aren't told, it's incumbent upon female feminists to tell their own stories, to fill that void, to be unrepentant and loquacious raconteurs every chance we get, to talk about our bodies, our struggles, our triumphs, our needs, our lives in every aspect. It's our obligation to create a cacophony with our personal narratives, until there is a constant din that translates into equality, into balance.
On Owning the Context: Ultimately, if you want to punch Hillary Clinton for being Hillary Clinton, or because of the sound of her voice, that's your prerogative, but you ought to at least have the integrity to own it wholly, which means owning the entire context: Irrespctive of whether it's specifically because she's a woman, the desire to punch a woman necessarily carries with it particular cultural baggage, including, for example, that women are disproportionately victimized by domestic violence and that women's voices and tones are routinely singled out as prohibitively unbearable. That's the context of womanhood.
On Objectively Assessing Sexism: Becoming intimately, actively involved with the methods by which sexism is conveyed is not unlike becoming fluent in another language. And just like how people who speak Arabic are better translators of Arabic than people who don't, people who have immersed themselves in the critical theories of gender are better translators of what is and is not sexism. Identifying and defining sexism is not, as "sexism is a matter of opinion" suggests, a speculative chore. There is an existing framework for recognizing and characterizing expressed sexism—and those who have made it their business to become fluent in it are the closest thing to objective experts as exist in any discipline.
On Anger: If you have even the merest capacity of imagination, it shouldn't be difficult for you to conjure your emotional reaction if you were, for example, told your entire life that you are equal, only to have the opposite be communicated to you in big and small ways every minute of every day, or if, as another example, there were people who argued that they should have control over some significant function of your body, that they needed to rob you of personal autonomy because they can make better decisions for you than you can for yourself, or if, for instance, you made less money for doing the same job someone else is doing for more, just because of some arbitrary physical feature, like, say, the color of your eyes. If you are indeed in possession of the capacity of imagination, you have no doubt concluded by this juncture that these scenarios, coupled with a lack of immediate recourse, might make you angry. So the idea that a feminist/womanist with demonstrable anger is somehow nutz is actually quite stupid.
On How Feminism Works: Individual women don't have to earn a feminist's defense from sexist attacks; it is offered because a feminist recognizes how sexism works—against the collective. As Echidne says, it "hurts all women, all little girls, all old ladies, women everywhere." If you grok how sexism works, and you fail to defend a woman because you don't like this or that about her, or her politics, you don't grok how feminism works.
On Using Projection to Turn Women's Real Fears into Men's Fake Ones for Yuks: For a very long time, women really have entered male-centered spaces at their own risk, and it really has been like entering a war zone for a whole lot of women—women who wanted the right to vote, women who wanted to work in mines, women who want to play sports for which there's no organized women's league, women who want their basic goddamned equality in every space—who were brutalized and subjected to all manner of indignity for their trouble. Mr. Hilarious AP Writer turns that history on its head to make jokes about how tough it is to be a guy going to see Sex and the City. That, he calls a war zone. The women there, he calls a plague. That shit verges on eliminationist rhetoric—and it's in an entertainment article. This is what we're dealing with on a daily basis; it's teaspoon versus dumptruck, and for every one of them using massive machinery to move shit one way, there's got to be a hell of a lot more of us working our teaspoons to move it the other way. That's the privilege of privilege.
On Blaming Liberalism for Rape: Evidently, people who say that rape is "the inevitable result of the collapse of sexual morality" are unaware that rape pre-dates the Pill, or whatever equivalent boogeyman they'd cite as the linchpin of moral decline. Not only does rape pre-date the Pill, the sexual revolution, miniskirts, Madonna, and "hysterical ultra-feminist propaganda" (as Peter Hitchens loves to refer to the idea that rapists are solely responsible for rape), it also pre-dates marriage—and whatever other accoutrements of Hitchens' "sexual morality" he fancies protect women against rape. The rape of women is as old as penises.
On Perfectly Logical Calculations, and Why They're Actually Not: Because feminists/womanists have increasingly resisted taking a backseat to issues like social security when their very value as human beings is up for debate, those using this rhetorical strategy have learned that nothing is quite so effective as using Roe v. Wade as a threat, thus reframing the argument from "Vote for the Democrat to get what you want" to "Vote for the Democrat to not lose what you've got." It's a nasty little bit of blackmail, which fails utterly to take into consideration that the veiled threat of losing legal abortion because of one's uncompromising belief in one's own equality and autonomy is so bitterly ironic that it would be laughable if it were not so profoundly sad.
On Objectification Not Being an Expression of Love: The USB Pole Dancer is an item for the bloke who loves women, can't you tell? The sort of bloke who thinks it's outrageous he has to actually pay strippers for their services, who thinks being able to manipulate a female figure into performing a sex act with the press of a few buttons is "hilarious," who thinks this sort of thing is fine for a work environment that includes female coworkers, who thinks that any woman who might object is just a humorless, hysterical prude. There's so much love for women there, I hardly know where to begin. ... There are plenty of men and women who quite understandably love the female body. They don't show it by putting a plastic stereotype on their desks to be enslaved to their cruel and objectifying whims.
On Women Supposedly Being Their Own Worst Enemy: 1. Men not being sexist shouldn't be contingent upon women not being misogynist. They should stop being misogynist just because it's the right thing to do. 2. Men and women are misogynistic for different reasons: men to marginalize women, and women to ingratiate themselves with the men trying to marginalize them. Neither one is justifiable, but one is oppressive and the other is a (bad) strategy to deal with that oppression. 3. One thus sees that if the men who are misogynists weren't, the women who are misogynists wouldn't have any reason to be. Ergo, exhorting women to stop being misogynists so that men will stop gets it precisely backwards.
On the Mommy and Daddy Binary: Men are there to provide and discipline; women are there to care. This lie is the foundation for every damnable binary about sex and emotion in our culture—men are rational; woman are emotional—and it is on what we've based our pernicious refusal to regard the most destructive versions of emotions like anger, jealousy, possessiveness, vengeance, apathy, and selfishness as not emotions at all, but merely biological evidence of strength, as long as they emanate from men. Every man and woman reading this post who was raised in a house with a father who did not see "caregiver" as part of his role, who couldn't have a bad day without the whole house having a bad day, who called his sons and daughters emotional or hysterical or weak if they cried, without a trace of irony as he stomped around the house in a fit of pique that no one could ignore, unable to properly process his emotions because he's not supposed to have any, knows intimately the damage done by narratives that tell men they aren't meant to care and that only girls and pussies show emotion. The "daddies aren't there for caring; that's what mommies are for" meme can't die soon enough or hard enough. It hurts the men who believe in it, it hurts the boys and girls they raise, it ain't a picnic for Mom (or second Dad, or Grandma, or whomever else may be a secondary care provider). It's bad for families, and every member in them, and it's bad for the country when writ large. Men are designed to care, too—and they should, for themselves as much as anyone else.
On the Feminine as an Insult: I have played video games with men who refused to play female avatars; I have been with a man who was miffed that I classified his predisposition to copiously pre-cum as being "like a woman"; I have been talking about some female bodily function to a male friend or lover only to have him make a face and inform me he's so glad he's a man; I have heard male coworkers grousing about how "being a woman sucks," because of another male coworker with a groping proclivity; I have been exhorted to "not be such a girl" about things; I have known men who refuse to wear pink; I have been told by men who consider themselves feminists that they won't be raising their daughters "to be girls" but instead raising them "to be people"; I have been told flatly that women are inferior in intellect by virtue of our biology; I have been "complimented" by being told how very much like a man I am in my humor, or rationality, or some other quality; I have listened to men express directly to my face in every way imaginable that they would never want to be a woman. And most of them have been surprised when I had a problem with that—because, you see, we're all supposed to take it as read that no one would want to be a woman, given the choice, since we all know they're the inferior model.
On Gendered Language: Terms like "She's all girl!" and "He's all boy!" (much like "man's man") create a tremendously limited definition of both sexes. To inextricably associate being "all boy" with toy trucks and tumult, and being "all girl" with dollies and diffidence, limits both the boys who like trucks and girls who like dollies and the boys and girls who don't, the latter of whom are not somehow "partially" girl and boy, or not girl and boy at all. Our insistence on reducing children to these incomplete and hopelessly retrograde definitions of sex and gender does them no favors. And, besides that, it's about as sophisticated as believing girls really are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys of snakes and snails and puppy dogs' tails. Surely, we're cleverer than that.
On the Fundamental Difference Between the Anti- and Pro-Choice Positions: Anti-choicers and homobigots have been playing this game for decades, pretending that both sides of the abortion issue and the same-sex marriage issue are equivalent, and they are not. The pro-choice position does not force anyone to get an abortion who does not want one; the anti-choice position, however, prevents women who want abortions from getting them. The pro-marriage equality position does not force anyone to marry a person of the same sex, nor require that any churches perform same-sex marriage ceremonies; the anti-marriage equality position, however, prevents same-sex couples who want to get married from doing so and prevents churches who want to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies from doing so. The progressive position allows for individual choice; the conservative position does not. The progressive position expands freedom; the conservative position limits it. The progressive position treats women and LGBTQIs as autonomous, rights-bearing human beings deserving of full equality; the conservative position treats women's bodies as state property and LGBTQIs as second-class citizens.
On Persistent Pursuit and the Rape Culture: In a culture where no doesn't mean no, you've just got to be a "persistent motherfucker" until a woman relents—and then you can claim victory and convince yourself you're some kind of awesome Casanova who owes his sexual conquests to "poetry" and not the wholesale rejection of every women's right to say no and then be left the fuck alone instead of wooed, pressured, cajoled, coerced, manipulated, or otherwise convinced to have sex. Or "have sex."
On Girl Math: 1 girl = Acceptable token. 1 girl + 1 girl = Catfight. 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl = Slippery slope. 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl = Emasculating vortex. 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl + 1 girl = War zone.
On "Realness": Some women have noticeable curves. Some women have less noticeable curves. All of them are real women. Some men hew quite closely to traditional male stereotypes. Some men's gender expression is wildly different from traditional male stereotypes. All of them are real men. ... I am a real person. And so are you.
On Projection and Natural Alliances: The Gay Predator and the Female Rape Victim Who Was Totally Asking For It operate on different sides of the consent equation, but we are both demonized via lies told about consent. For gay men, the lie is that they don't seek consent. For women, the lie is that consent is an implicit constant, by virtue of our bodies being public property. (Keen observers will already have noted that both mendacious narratives are spawned of projection, arising from the ugliest manifestation of straight male sexuality, which itself is predatory in nature and has no respect for consent, having intractably objectified women into beings whose value is wholly contingent upon the provision of sex.) ... And, in another swell little marriage between projection and the reliance on contradistinctive definitions of manhood, the straight man who invents a sexual assault out of whole cloth benefits from the overwhelming narrative that it is women who routinely make false rape claims in desperate bids of self-preservation (or vengeance). Wonder not why that pervasive accusation against women exists; it exists for the same reason narratives about predatory gays does—because the patriarchal male who is treated since birth as The Norm (from whom all Others deviate) imagines Others to have his motivations.
On Language and the Commodification of Sex Via Humor: It all seems so innocuous, the jokes we make offering ourselves, our bodies, our services to men (and other women, irrespective of our sexualities, or theirs) to compliment them: Marry me… I want to have your babies… I totally want to fuck you, blow you, make out with you, be your slave… If only I were straight/gay/single… Oh, it's harmless, you may be thinking—and I wouldn't blame you, as I've thought the same thing, too. ... But how can it be, knowing what we know about women still being valued (or not) primarily for their bodies and sexuality? There's nothing innocuous about playing into the idea that the greatest contribution any woman has to offer is her body as a sexual reward or or babymaking machine. ... Okay, but it's ironic! But how can it be, knowing what we know about women forced into sexual servitude around the world? It's only ironic if women (all women, women full-stop) have agency. If they don't, it's merely privileged—a proud display of agency that we have that other women do not, tinged perhaps with the anxious fear that we are not as far away from forcibly bearing babies against our wills as we'd like to believe that we are.
On Evo Psych and Women Dressing to Impress: The women-do/men-don't framing, especially in a modern setting, is a throwback to the days even before Malinowski and his "savage society," in which observational ethnographers would view as distinct from their own cultures the "uncivilized" behaviors of their "primitive" subjects—that is, decorating oneself with paint and feathers was ritualistic and purposeful, but decorating oneself with a squire top hat and frock coat was just getting dressed. Except now the Other isn't a newly discovered tribe, but women.
On Where We've "Gone Wrong" with the Girls: Where have we gone wrong with girls? By allowing womanism/feminism to be rendered to the margins—ignored, demonized, ridiculed, caricatured, dismissed. By allowing its advocates and practitioners to be harassed, threatened, intimidated, mocked, abused. By treating as a "ghetto" all the spaces in which young women might come to the ideas that underlie a belief that violence against women is wrong, that no woman "deserves it." By expecting girls to somehow be above a culture that keeps its boot firmly planted on their goddamn throats. We, we feminists/womanists, are a fractured, disorganized contingent, for whom the solidarity we seek is often elusive—and yet we are nonetheless treated like a virulent virus that must be destroyed because our ideas are powerful. And they are also, for so many young women, inaccessible. Where have we gone wrong with girls? By treating as a plague the antidote to what ails them. By pretending we want them to live their lives in a way only womanism/feminism can allow them, but withholding the tools at every fucking turn.
On the Rank (and File) Bigotry of the GOP: "Tradition" is the kind of word that appeals to people for whom the world is changing more rapidly than they can comfortably adjust, who are too busy to or socially discouraged from reading or thinking about things too much, who have heard some things about how feminism is responsible for the breakdown in the family and gays want to redefine marriage and immigrants are taking all the good jobs. "Tradition" is a word that plays well with people who can't be bothered to examine anything too closely, or were never taught how to properly think, how to analyze and assess information in a way that teases out the truth. And it's an even better word for speaking to the unabashed bigots of the base, obliquely reassuring them that they're right to hate women and gays and brown people, those three separate monolithic groups of faceless enemies, and implicitly promising them they'll be protected from the onslaught of the radical hordes. America's great tradition of conferring undeserved privilege on you won't fail. Not on our watch. That has been the sacred covenant between the Republican Party and its straight, white, patriarchal, Christian supremacist base for a generation: Vote for us, and we'll protect you.
On Safe Haven and Clean Slates: When I fuck up, the only concern is fixing it. My slate ain't been clean in 34 years; I'm not especially worried about a new chalk mark. But the born-agains intend to keep those slates clean. They carry around their erasers, fastidiously erasing any sign of a mark on their shining slates and bemoaning the states of ours, messy as they are. The only good slate is a clean slate. They don't just see you and I and everyone else as a sinner, a criminal, separate from themselves; they see themselves in two pieces—the sinner, the criminal, the dead self that was bad, now gone through being born again, replaced with the new self who is good, and God-full, and gifted with the ability to avoid the same pitfalls that the old self knew so well. And they see other people the same way. Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. That's just not a practical or sensible option in a world all too full of people who want to use exactly that kind of blind faith as cloak to mask their life-fucking predation.
On Expecting More: I expect more. I'm not ironically detached, I'm not apathetic, I'm not resigned, and I'm not contemptuous of bleeding hearts. I am a greedy bitch with voracious expectations, and I dream long and lustfully of a better world that is both my muse and objective. I want it like the cracked earth of the desert wants rain, and I will neither apologize for nor amend my desire because of its remove from the here and now; its distance encourages my reach.
On Good Kids: I'm not sure how many times we, as a culture, are going to have to do the shock-that-a-good-white-boy-could-do-a-bad-thing before we finally lay in its grave at long last the idea that a characteristic we privilege confers an inherent goodness upon the people who exhibit it. Decency is a choice—a choice we must make every day, every time we face a decision where there is opportunity to do the right thing or the wrong thing. One may be a Good Kid in one moment and not in the next; we all have the capacity to help carry groceries and we all have the capacity to throw someone through a window in hatred. There are no "Good Kids" who lack the facility to do terrible things—only kids whose privilege is presumed to render unnecessary the lessons of compassion that make the commission of terrible things vanishingly unlikely.
On Rational Empathy: Progressives recognize that we're all in this together—even the people who won't get our backs, the bullies who attack us just to feel less put upon themselves, the self-loathing enablers who harbor foolish dreams of being invited to the table of privilege one day, the barrel-chested barons of a new Gilded Age who stand astride the bodies of those condemned to less fortunate fates, singing the praises of social Darwinism, bellowing about the superfluity of a social safety net, and declaring "The government never gave me anything!" as they deposit seven-figure bonuses made possible by a taxpayer-funded bailout. Progressives know we are all in the same leaky, creaky, unreliable boat. And knowing that means understanding even the most voracious self-interest is best served by egalitarianism: A fortune is worth nothing at the bottom of the ocean, less than a single penny carried safely to shore.
On Safe Spaces and High-Hoping Fools: Talking about this space as anything else, calling it by some name other than the concept to which we aspire, is like talking about freedom by another name. There is no whole, perfect freedom, either, but no one fights for freedomish. The objective serves as inspiration to get as close as we can. Audacious ideas are a compelling muse. … Resignation is a sanctuary, but having high hopes is a risky business indeed. Trying to create the change one wants to see in the world means risking disappointment, heartache, frustration, failure. It means wanting something desperately—wanting it with abandon, wanting it fervently and urgently and recklessly, wanting it with clenched jaw and knitted brow, wanting it despite the fact that it is always easier, always safer, to expect nothing, because nothing is so frequently all that we get—and risking looking like a fool if the centerpiece of that ardent, public desire never materializes. … Expecting more is a brash act of courage, and it is also an extraordinary act of generosity. I am a better person than I once was because people gave me the gift of expecting more of me, of setting a higher standard and encouraging me to reach for it, of challenging me not to settle into the well-tread grooves of my socialization, of admonishing me to reject the vast and varied prejudices and myths with which I'd been indoctrinated, of urging me expect more of myself and persuading me to believe I could be the change I want to see.
On the Patriarchy Prohibiting Men's Progress: Masculinity has defined itself exclusively in contradistinction to the feminine for so long that a serious challenge to the idea of inherent male superiority has left millions of American men floundering—and the best answer most of them have found for the question "What is my role if not a keeper of women?" is "I am a victim of oppression by women." Femininity has become the center-pin around which masculinity pivots—on one side there is dominion; on the other side, subjugation. … The men who resent that the bar has been raised, their unearned privilege undermined and replaced with an expectation to achieve to the same level as women who hadn't their head start, can now do naught but whine about victimhood. They haven't yet realized that they are not victims of women, who only want the equality that's been denied them, but victims of a patriarchal culture that has spoiled men with the promise of success without effort, and robbed them of the will to expect more of themselves. What American men are lacking are great expectations for themselves and of themselves.
On the "Domestication" of Men: If you're still a selfish, immature asshole who thinks blackout bachelor parties in Vegas are awesome, and you treat getting married or being a father like it's doing someone else a favor, just being a stand-up guy, then you're not doing the right thing. Not even close. You're doing the expected thing. And there is a vast chasm of difference.
On Feminists Being Alleged Man-Haters: Implicit in womanism/feminism is not only the belief, but the expectation, that men are not brutish nor infantile—nor stupid, useless, inept, emotionally stunted, or any other negative stereotype feminists have been accused of promoting—but instead our equals just as much as we are theirs, capable not only of understanding feminism (and feminists), but of actively and rigorously engaging challenges to their socialization, too. Feminists, of course, have the terrible reputation, but it isn't we who consider all men babies, dopes, dogs, and potential rapists. The holders of those views are the women and men who root for the patriarchy—which itself, after all, takes a rather unpleasantly dim view of most people.
On Why Rape Isn't a Hate Crime: I suspect there are a lot of answers to that question, all of which have merit and varying degrees of relevance—like, for example, the extraordinary number of people who consider rape a compliment—but perhaps the most important of these many reasons is the fact that the people tasked with making hate crimes law are overwhelmingly male and ergo: 1.) Are significantly less likely to be victims of rape; and 2.) Don't live their lives quietly but persistently terrorized by the ever-present possibility of sexual assault.
On the Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck: My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man—the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonization of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language. … Misogyny can come out of nowhere, and usually does. Which leaves me mistrustful by both necessity and design. Not fearful; just resigned—and on my guard. More vulnerability than that allows for the possibility of wounds that do not heal. Wounds to our relationship, the sort of irreparable damage that leaves one unable to look in the eye someone that you loved once upon a time. This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: Men are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.
On the Alternative to the Terrible Bargain: The imperceptible slamming of an door to close off access to part of one's self is masked by the quickening footfalls of walking away, or by the gnashing of gritted teeth which accompanies a self-imposed silence; either way, the door closes with a heave of resignation, after one too many ruined afternoons, when the balance of trust has shifted from hopefulness to despair: I've got no traction here; I mustn't bother, and instead endeavor to protect myself. That is the Terrible Bargain, and it is struck in either the silence obliged by or the loud conveyance of an obdurate refusal to examine one's privilege, and the sloppy buckshot of its careless expression. Iain's taken a long look at the Terrible Bargain from its other side, and doesn't want the easy comfort of unexamined privilege at the cost of my trust. And so he does his best to quell that reflexive defensiveness and listen. And in those moments of listening, we forge a new bargain, lovingly struck: He looks inside himself for the hardened bits of internalized misogyny that yet linger, unexamined; I hand him in exchange the crumbling bricks of a protective wall built long before we met. The rubble collects at our feet, and we kick it away.
On "What About the Men?": It's just the most amazing thing that the jack-booted enforcers of the patriarchy can't stop demanding, "What about the men?" in every feminist thread on the planet, but when there's actually a place in which it is not only appropriate and useful, but necessary to ask and answer the question, "What about the men?" there's a yawning cavern of silence.
On the Thought Police: I am not the thought police. I am challenging you to think about things in a way in which you may have never thought about them before. The entire rest of the world, with its privileging of men and heterosexuals and cisgender people and thin (but not too thin!) and tall (but not too tall!) and able and healthy white bodies and religious people and people who have sex and people who can and want to be parents and the wealthy and the educated, and all the ways in which the rest of the world facilitates and upholds that privilege, and all the ways in which the rest of the world marginalizes and demeans and treats as less than all the people who deviate from those privileged "norms," and all the ways the rest of the world has indoctrinated you into that system of privilege, and socialized you to believe it's the natural and right and immutable state of the world, and all the shills for the kyriarchy who fill the ether with self-reinforcing rubbish on a constant loop so you swim in a sea so thick with the detritus of Othering that you don't even notice it on a conscious level anymore, and all the bullies who appear to kick you back in line if you do, if you have the temerity to question the message, and all the other bits and bobs of the brainwashing to which we are all subjected since the day we're born as part of scheme, nearly incomprehensible in scope, to ensure that challengers to these traditions are never made, and, if they're born, are squashed with the weight of mountainous tidal waves of blowback in the other direction…? The purveyors of that shit are the goddamn thought police. And you know what one of the biggest lies they tell you is? That it's the other way around.
On Leaving the Fight for Gender Equality to Women: This is the hard truth for progressive men who care about gender-based inequalities: When you leave the public fight to others, you're leaving it mostly to women—which is itself a perpetuation of gender-based inequality. I'll give you a moment to contemplate the many ways in which treating feminism as "woman's work" is some fucked-up irony, right there.
On "Racism" as a Dirty Word: The assertion that charges of racism only work if racism is a dirty word, that it can only be effective as "the scarlet R," or a badge of shame, is a straw-argument. In fact, the more that people internalize the idea that all of us are socialized to be racists, and can express that racism (against and within multiple ethnic/racial minority groups) even without realizing it, the more likely they are to be not defensive and open to accepting criticism on that basis, which makes them more likely in turn to examine their internalized prejudices and let go of them. Which is ultimately a much more effective way of tackling racism, meaning that we should be making racism a word we all use matter-of-factly, instead of treating it like "the scarlet R." The word isn't supposed to be used as an insult. It's supposed to be used as an opening salvo for a discussion on how someone is engaging in disordered and irrational thinking, rooted in fear/hatred/bias.
On "Real" Christians and Christian Privilege: I understand, really I do, why liberal Christians want to think of this as somehow "different" from other issues of privilege. I understand why they don't want to be associated with people with whom they share a label but little else. But requesting this exception, asking to receive the benefits of Christian privilege while accepting none of the responsibility of Christian supremacy, is not only unfair; it's flatly not progressive, because it ultimately serves to more deeply entrench Christian supremacy and privilege. Asking me to make distinctions about "real" Christians is asking me to participate in my own marginalization. That is a request I cannot accommodate.
On Being Fat: Iain watches me bounce around the store like a coked-up pinball. I complain about the cuts of the clothes; I point out how the biggest sizes are the first gone; I grouse that the prints aren't flattering to large bodies; I note the preponderance of empire waists and the lack of diversity in lengths and shapes of clothes, as if fat female bodies are all shaped the same, as if fat women shouldn't even try to make their bodies look good. I'm trying to be analytical, to intellectualize what, precisely, about this experience is anxiety-provoking. When we get to the car, despite my best efforts, I cry.
On Screaming (or Not): I have dreams, all the time, in which I need to scream but can't. Sometimes it's because I'm being attacked, sometimes it's because I'm lost, sometimes it's because I'm in a fight, sometimes it's because I'm trying to yell a warning to someone else who's about to be hurt. I open my mouth and I try to scream with all my might—and nothing comes out but silence. These are the only dreams I have that really terrify me.
On Teaspoons as Empowerment: It's not that I can't "let stuff go." The reason I take action, the reason I lift my teaspoon, is because it's part of the way I process and let go of the occasional stuff that does get under my skin. Being a member of a marginalized population means, literally, being out of control. And it feels that way. Taking action in response to the means and methods of one's oppression is a response to being and feeling out of control. Encouraging survivors of trauma to "let it go" is actively, if obliquely, discouraging them from healing.
On Diversity: Charges of political correctness are little more than an attempt to mask precisely this reality: If women move in a male-dominated world, and people of color move in a white dominated world, and queers move in a straight, binary-sexed, cisgender world, and disabled people move in an able-bodied world, and straight, cis, able-bodied white men move in that world, too, and rarely venture into the sub-cultures or explore the intersectionalities of the marginalized without external pressure or guidance, how can it possibly be that straight, cis, able-bodied white men are de facto the best prepared to represent us all? The one thing privilege doesn't freely give a person is insight.
On Multiculturalism: Corporate American culture still strongly privileges whiteness, maleness, straightness, cisness, able-bodiedness. When "diversity programs" don't include a concerted, comprehensive effort to undermine the kyriarchal culture of a firm, people hired in as part of a diversity program will continue to be marginalized. … Diversity without multiculturalism is just hiring people who look different and expecting them to act the same. If companies want to get serious about diversity, then they need to reflect that in their culture, not just their hiring records.
On What Makes a Family: We started a family the moment we decided to spend our lives together. We committed ourselves, long before we were married, to build a life with one another, and our shared life looks like that of any other family—we love, we fight, we make dinner, we go on holiday, we rake leaves, we pick out a paint color for the bathroom. But for the intentional absence of children, the snapshots of our life are totally unremarkable. We are a family. To ask when we will start a family is to miss the point entirely. It's not that our family hasn't been started; it's that our family is already complete.
On Privilege Breeding Insecurity: Insight isn't the only thing that undiluted privilege doesn't freely give its members; it also robs them of an internal, dignified security that isn't predicated on treating rights as a zero-sum game. Every layer of privilege serves as proxy for the self-assurance hard-won by struggling to be proud despite one's marginalization. Privilege tells its members they need not reflect, or justify, or earn, or question. They needn't even bother themselves with the business of being good, because unexamined privilege assures them they are good, by virtue of their privilege. ... Their pride was unearned, and they're left with a cavernous void of self-esteem if that tower crumbles beneath their feet. They are nothing without their privilege, because their privilege has allowed them to live a life never having to be anything, other than privileged.
On the Radical Notion That It's Okay for a Fat Person to Be Fat by Choice: Maybe it's all right for you to think it's okay, if someone chooses to be fat, rather than thin. Maybe it's all right for you to acquiesce that you cannot tell just by looking at hir for what reasons zie is choosing to be fat, or even if it's hir choice at all. Maybe it's all right for you to treat fat people with dignity either way—and let fat people sort out for themselves the business of their being fat.
On Values and Faith: As it happens, I'm a values voter: I deeply value autonomy and consent. I deeply value reproductive freedom. I deeply value equality and justice for people who are marginalized. I deeply value marriage equality. I deeply value stem cell research. I deeply value the separation of church and state. I deeply value science being taught in schools. I deeply value universal healthcare. I deeply value a robust social safety net. I value lots of other things, too, but those seem to be the ones which make me not a "values voter." Not as far as the GOP is concerned. Despite their reflexive and compulsive intoning of the word "values" during every election year, as if it's a magical incantation that can be uttered only by those who understand its complex truth, it doesn't really mean anything, in and of itself. It's an ethically neutral word. Everyone has values. What matters is not that you have values, but what values you have.
On "Bitching" as a Synonym for "Complaining": There are, literally, dozens of appropriate words available for your use to convey the same idea—complain, whine, grumble, moan, grouse, groan, whinge, gripe, object, bellyache, bother, fuss, yap, wail, etc.—that do not unavoidably smear feminine-identified people by necessarily implying that they've got the market cornered on complaining. By necessarily implying that bitches bitch while men endure.
On the Use of "Emotional" as a Dog Whistle: Implicitly juxtaposing "emotion" against "reason/rationality" treats the two as mutually exclusive processes, which they are not. The human response to many things is both emotional and rational/reasoned. The damnable lie that reason without emotion is the only reasoning worth shit is one of the most pernicious myths of the Patriarchy, inextricably tied to the woman- and man-hating presumption that women are emotional and men are reasonable (and thus is reason superior to emotion). Men are emotional creatures as much as are women. And every man I've ever heard deny that truth has spent no small amount of his life living and dying by the fortunes of his favorite Ballsport Team.
On Invoking Christian Privilege to Avoid Accountability: No one would be making excuses for any multi-national corporation, no matter how much other "good stuff" they'd allegedly done, if that organization had been found to be disproportionately staffed with men eminently capable of committing or concealing child rape, corruptible from guy in the local franchise straight to the CEO at the top. That corporation would be DONE. But claim to have a direct line to God, and suddenly everything's different. That is Christian privilege of almost inconceivable proportions, right there: As long as you assert a belief in divine justice, you're more likely to escape human justice. It's a particularly cruel irony that those who assert moral authority are given the most latitude to behave in immoral ways without the inconvenient bother of being held accountable for their crimes."
On Abortion Exceptions: What's rage-inducing about the Exceptioneers is that they obviously haven't given any thought at all to the inconsistency of their position (or spoken seriously to anyone who might inform their opinions with some "facts") if they're willing to concede that being forced to carry to term a pregnancy created by rape can totally fuck you up, but don't understand how being forced to carry to term a pregnancy that you didn't plan and don't want can totally fuck you up, too. How ridiculously incapable of self-reflection can one be that one is able to acknowledge that rape (forcing a woman to do something with her body she doesn't want to do) is a Terrible Thing, but the denial of abortion (forcing a woman to do something with her body she doesn't want to do) is a Moral Imperative? I'm really hard-pressed to see why I should be any less contemptuous of a man who sits at a big mahogany desk in Washington making decisions about my body without my consent than I should be of a man who used physical force to make decisions about my body without my consent.
On Privilege and Being the Default Norm: America being the best place it can possibly be for educated, wealthy, white, straight, cisgender, thin, able-bodied, neurotypical, highly privileged men does not de facto mean it's also the best place it can possibly be for an un/der-educated, poor, fat, disabled, trans lesbian of color. That seems like it ought to be obvious, but, as evidenced by David Brooks' column, it's anything but. Cloaked in his privilege of "normalcy"—male is the norm, white is the norm, straight is the norm, etc.—and fully invested in the idea that he is not merely the "normal" human, but a specimen of humanity to which everyone aspires, Brooks can do nothing but blink gormlessly at any suggestion that individual humans don't want to deny their intersectional identities and contort themselves to fit into the world that privileges him. He doesn't understand (or won't) that the world was designed to his specifications, and trying to fit into his tailored culture is the emotional equivalent of wearing an ill-fitting suit every day for one's entire life.
On Intersectional Bigotry: Any highly privileged white man in a public career can literally talk about women on a daily basis as nothing but fuckholes, as second-class citizens, as hysterics and sluts and sexual objects, as less than men in every conceivable way, with special condemnation for women who deviate from the white thin straight cis young able-bodied neurotypical Beauty Standard in any way, can make rape jokes and domestic violence jokes and murder jokes and Lorena Bobbitt jokes and deceptive tranny jokes and feminazi jokes on a nonstop basis, can malign men by comparing them to women, can demean women day in and day out, using gendered slurs right on the air because "bitch" is just A-OK according to the FCC, and he can even personally rape or hit a woman, maybe a couple, all without any fear of consequence in his professional life. Understand, I'm not playing the Oppression Olympics here. This isn't an argument that racism, or any other bigotry, is dead—or even that the same people can't get away with a heaping fuckload of other kinds of bigotry, too. Quite the opposite: Much of the bigotry expressed in these same venues is tied to misogyny. "Nappy-headed hos." "Tranny or Fatty." Militant Michelle. Ann Coulter is a man. John Edwards is a woman. Feminists are dykes. Brown-skinned immigrant women are breeding machines. Welfare queens. Fat bitches. Dumb sluts. White women are all this. Black women are all that. Latinas are all this. Asian women are all that. Bitches are all crazy! Heather Mills doesn't have a leg to stand on HAR HAR. Et cetera et cetera ad infinitum. If I were a more cynical type, ahem, I would suspect that the dirty little secret of broadcasting bigotry with impunity is: Just make sure it's intersectional bigotry—tie your hate to a little high-larious sexism and you'll get away with it a lot easier.
On Lynndie England and Women Being Just As Bad: The invocation of Lynndie England as a Requisite Sober Reminder that "women in power can be as ruthless and self-serving as men" has become laughably trite. Margaret Thatcher is positively livid that she's gone out of fashion as Exhibit A in any respectable Requisite Sober Reminder, and the female equivalent of Pol Pot paces anxiously as she waits to be born into her long-overdue existence. I'm no apologist for England or her condemnable actions, but in an article detailing the inherent corruption in insular, hermetically-sealed, male-dominated institutions, picking as evidence that women are Just As Bad a woman on the ass-bottom rung of an insular, hermetically-sealed, male-dominated institution who served as a scapegoat for her male leadership is just bad goddamn writing, apart from anything else.
On Trigger Warnings: A trigger warning does not promise to protect readers of potentially triggering material, but provide them with the opportunity to decide whether they need to protect themselves. We provide trigger warnings because they give survivors of various stripes the option to assess whether they're in a state of mind to deal with triggering material before they stumble across it. I don't view my readers as children at a party. I respect them as adults, with autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent—their own best decision-makers, their own best advocates, and their own best protectors. The provision of a trigger warning is not one-sided. It is an exchange. It is a communication: I provide the information, and my readers assess their own immediate capacity to process triggering material and proceed accordingly.
On Feminism and the Luxury of Disdain: The idea that partnership/kids is some kind of mystery to modern women thanks to feminism is patently silly. There are plenty of feminist women who have well-developed internal selves and successful careers and great partners and/or kids, and manage to integrate it all into one big messy life, if imperfectly and with occasional sacrifices they wish they didn't have to make, sometimes small and sometimes almost inconceivably huge. And there are plenty of feminist women who don't have everything they want, and maybe never will. And, in either case, those feminist women look at the ways in which their lives have been limited, their goals made elusive, the balance of their interests made infinitely more difficult than it needs be, and they don't advocate for less feminism, but more.
On Real Americans and Immigration: There's nothing brave or innovative or hopeful or confident, nothing reflective of a fervent belief in freedom and autonomy, about xenophobic nationalism, about the promotion of personal avarice above social conscience, about contempt for the marginalized. This country, a beautiful mosaic of people and cultures and ideas, still infused with a spirit of exploration and invention, really does have the potential to be a land of opportunity for everyone who arrives on its shores or crosses its borders, if we gave that notion half the chance it deserved. But that chance is precisely the thing that the GOP endeavor to crush, turning America into a nation where anyone who does not look and sound and behave like its self-appointed True Patriots is de facto threatening, where the natural and philosophical resources are pillaged and destroyed in the acquisition of wealth, which is itself concentrated among only the most privileged, where philanthropy and empathy are relegated to little more than cute, clichéd memories, the habits of silly activists and dirty hippies, where the barrel-chested barons of a new Gilded Age stand astride the bodies of those who have been condemned to less fortunate fates, singing the praises of Social Darwinism and bellowing about the superfluity of a social safety net, declaring without a trace of irony, "The government never gave me anything!" as they deposit their million-dollar checks from their latest no-bid Defense Department contract then head off to Tiffany's to get The Little Woman a bauble with their fat tax returns. They know only the soul of Corporate America. When the soul of their Ideal American Citizen stares them in the face, they suggest kicking it out of the country (but not before microchipping it first).
On Calling Racism What It Is: A reluctance to incorporate the word racism into discussions of structural inequality based on race is part and parcel of privileged people trying to turn accusations of bias into an equivalent offense to expressions of bias; that is, we are now meant to regard being accused of racism as just as horrible an experience as being targeted by racism. (Poppycock.) Thus is any use of "the R-word" axiomatically treated as radioactive—or, conversely, the claim is made that its overuse will render it meaningless. These are straw-arguments of people who desperately want to avoid honest, sophisticated, productive discussions of racial injustice, lest that injustice which privileges them be replaced with an equality that robs them of their unearned advantages. Racism is a word and a concept from which we cannot shy away if we are genuinely interested in challenging its effects. Social justice is not the time for whispered tones and circumspect politeness, lest we offend the privileged.
On the Self-Sustaining Nature of the Rape Culture: Such obligatory displays of menacing tribalism—get out of our way—are a creation of the rape culture, which depends on its monstrous progeny for its continued survival. The rape culture creates the narratives which sustains it, then sends its horrible little memes out into the world, where they insinuate themselves into every last nook and cranny of the larger culture, disguising themselves as conventional wisdom and jokes and other deceptively reasonable things. And anti-rape advocates hunt them down, teasing them out of the various strands of the culture, wrenching them from the shadows where they lurk or revealing them hiding in plain sight, deconstructing them, picking them apart, exposing them to anyone standing nearby. That's when the jack-booted enforcers of the rape culture show up to silence us. And so it goes. Tidal wave against teaspoon.
On Reaching Out to Potential Feminists: Women sometimes do convey the bars of our own cages, hoping by some sort of magical alchemy that the self-defeating service of transmitting the marginalizing narratives upon which the Patriarchy depends will someday be rewarded. But one can never be an unconstrained beneficiary of one's own oppression, no matter how devotedly complicit, no matter how tantalizing the promises of a system that sustains itself with the energy of desperate captives eternally chasing the dangled carrot of exceptionalism. When the veneer on the alleged bargain wears thin enough through which to see, feminists/womanists must be waiting on the other side with compassion, not judgment. It's no fun realizing you've been a sucker.
On Coming to Feminism: It wasn't until I'd arrived at university and started taking classes in women's studies that I finally began to understand what set me apart from the girls who hated Nora: I am a feminist. I'd heard of feminism before, and I had a cursory understanding of it as a belief in gender equality. But as the concept of a comprehensive feminism began to really take shape for me, I realized that my relationship with other women, especially women I admired, was different because I viewed them as complements to me, not competitors. Suddenly, here was this explanation for my intuitive (and totally unconscious) rejection of the endemic idea that women cannot appreciate and cherish each other's strengths, cannot be role models for one another, but instead must regard each other mistrustfully and competitively. I saw a distinction between the warm and aspirational envy I felt toward Nora, and the destructive jealousy that I saw directed at her by our peers. Women, contrary to nearly every message on the subject I'd internalized since birth, could be inspired by other women they respected; women did not need to axiomatically feel threatened by the kind of women they wanted to be.
On the Unfulfillable Promises of Privilege: Our culture has progressed enough that most people cannot trade exclusively on their privilege, but not so much that the desperate, obdurate, and still-plentiful enforcers of the kyriarchy have stopped selling that possibility nonetheless. The result is a lot of men who have been sold a bill of goods, and don't understand why everything's gone pear-shaped, and don't have the tools to set a new course, because the kyriarchy assured them their whole lives they didn't need those tools. They only needed to be men. Privilege has robbed them of the means to succeed in a changing world.
On the Gap in Perception Between Privileged and Marginalized Populations: A person born into a world in which his humanity, agency, dignity, autonomy are not in question views achievement as a personal and individual pursuit—"I want to get an education, I want to get a good job, I want to succeed in my career, I want to attain certain material possessions and comforts." A person born into a world in which hir humanity, agency, dignity, and autonomy are in question, philosophically and often legally, on the other hand, often views achievement not merely in personal and individual terms but also as a collective pursuit—"I want [all members of the marginalized group(s) to which I belong] to have access, opportunity, respect, equality" because attainment of those things on a personal and individual basis, with rare exceptions, is elusive.
On Single-Sex Activities: There's a line between enjoying the company of other wo/men in an affirmative and celebratory way, and enjoying the void of wo/men because you define your wo/manhood in contradistinction to its opposite, and the line is not all that fine. Men who can't really feel "like a man" except in the absence of women have notions of what constitutes both manhood and womanhood so rigid and narrow that the only way to defend those boundaries is gender segregation; the slightest evidence of a woman behaving in a "masculine" way (enjoying the fine sport of machine-gun training, say) is a threat to their masculinity. Which, really, is pretty tragic. I'd be sad for them if these buttholes weren't the jack-booted enforcers of the Patriarchy.
On Fat Making One Invisible: A lifetime of being not seen because of being fat has taught me the difference between someone who simply doesn't recognize me and someone who doesn't see me.
On Female Friendship Myths: The truth is that excellent friendships are hard to come by and require effort to nurture and maintain. Most of the people any one individual meets won't be worth that effort, simply by virtue of the enigmatic combination of straightforward compatibility and mysterious chemistry. Some friendships will be finite, combusting spectacularly in a short space of time or fizzling almost imperceptibly into nothingness over time, and some will last a lifetime. Some friendships will be intimate and intense; some will be casual and easy; some will come and go, and come and go, a favorite song on a bad radio signal. Some will become romances; some will come from romances. The best of them will make you a better person. These are the boring realities of one of the most exhilarating and consternating parts of human connection. Being a woman doesn't have a whole lot to do with it. It's what kind of woman one is that matters. That is an inconvenient thought for an institutional oppression predicated on denying individualism and humanity. Which makes just being friends with a(nother) woman a radical act.
On the Rehabilitation of George W. Bush: There were more than twice as many billionaires in America when Bush left office as there were when the Supreme Court escorted him in, and in the time of their making, we saw soldiers die, felt our rights be stripped away, experienced widespread joblessness and food insecurity, watched an entire American city drown—saw those for whom conservatives have the greatest contempt turn to their government for help in a time of crisis and quite literally be left stranded by the callousness of conservative philosophy. And all the while conservatives wailed about how hard they've got it, and when the hoi polloi turned against Bush and his unfettered pursuit of conservative policies, conservatives wailed some more that their principles were betrayed by the very man they tasked with building their own El Dorado. But Bush didn't part ways with conservatism; Bush realized its destiny. And in the great tradition of so many martyrs who have gone on before them, that was conservatives' cross to bear, no matter how much they tried to distance themselves from him by retreating into some retro definition of conservatism that hasn't been operable since controlling women became more important than protecting their privacy and bodily autonomy.
On Public Romantic Gestures, or Not: We root for the guy to get the girl, and cheer on gangs of strangers enlisted to help a Nice Guy win the affections of the Girl of His Dreams. Thus are people inclined to get caught up, in real life, in the same kinds of stories—because we believe in romance and have a fiercely-protected policy of silence about how some "romantics" are actually stalkers/predators. Charming men later discovered to be serial rapists and/or killers have blagged their way into access to their victims not merely because their race/sex/sexuality/class are privileged, and assumed to confer upon them some statement of their ethics, but because we are exhorted from every corner of our pop culture to insert ourselves into romantic stories.
On Rape Jokes: No, one rape joke does not "cause" someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times. It exists in a culture in which rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors. It exists in a culture in which rape is not primarily committed by swarthy strangers lurking in dark alleyways and jumping out of bushes, but primarily by people one knows, who nonetheless fail, as a result of some combination of innate corruption and socialization in a culture that disdains consent and autonomy, to view their victims as human beings deserving of basic dignity. That is the environment into which a rape joke is unleashed—and one cannot argue "it isn't my rape joke that facilitates rape" any more than a single raindrop in an ocean could claim never to have drowned anyone.
On Projection and Homophobia: Nowadays, objecting to bunking with gay peers is "politely" couched as a "moral concern," as if a religious (ahem) Marine's delicate sensibilities can tolerate killing another human being but not sharing sleeping space with a man who kisses other men. But the reality is that what underlies their fear are pernicious narratives about gay recruitment and the stereotype of gay men as predatory and sexually aggressive. Which itself is a projection created by straight homophobic men, who—by virtue of socialization in a patriarchal culture that casts women's bodies as men's property, to which they are rightfully entitled, and frames straight sexuality as a game between male hunter and female prey—assume that all men are sexually aggressive and indifferent to the concept of consent. In short, they fear gay men treating them the way they treat women.
On Being Regarded as a Man-Hating Angry Feminist: Sometimes, I am angry at a man, or specific men, because they have earned my ire, via some expression of male privilege or display of misogyny, or some other kind of bigotry. I find those are the men who are most inclined to accuse me of man-hating, because it is easier to believe I have a blanket hatred for all men than a justifiable anger toward them, for which they hold the responsibility, rather than I.
On Going Down the Rabbit Hole Together in a Mixed-Power Relationship: To feel known is a precious gift—and not an easy one to give. Knowing another person truly, as much as another person can ever truly be known, requires not just compassion, but empathy. And in inter-sex relationships—as in any other between two people on either side of a privilege divide: interracial relationships, inter-gender (trans/cis) relationships, partnerships formed between a person with a disability or disabilities and a currently abled person, between a fat person and a thin person—empathy requires conscious effort, an authentic and committed willingness to self-examine, particularly on the part of the privileged person who has not, unlike hir partner, been socialized in a world designed to treat hir partner's perspective as the objective reality. ... The most basic, and yet endemically disregarded, expression of esteem by a privileged person in a mixed-power relationship is simply this: Your perspective and experience are as valid and valuable as my own. Examining one's privilege, going down the rabbit hole, is thus not merely an act of love; it is a radical act of respect.
On "Woman" as an Implicit Insult: When a man does something totally despicable, as part of a long pattern of contemptible things, and people comment on it, they often start their comments with a turn of phrase like "That asshole..." But when a woman does something totally despicable, as part of a long patterns of contemptible things, and people comment on it, they tend to start their comments like "That woman..."
On My Body Being Mine: My body is mine. All mine. It is my domain into which none may enter without my explicit and enthusiastic consent. ... My choices for and about are not empirically "right." They are right for me. Because I am an adult woman who fervently believes in the radical notion that my body is mine.
On the Alienation of the Progressive Base: Politicians are not entitled to our support. They have to earn it. And if they don't understand how failing to vociferously champion the repeal of DADT, and asserting "that presidential assassination orders of American citizens should be treated as a state secret, and thus not reviewable by any court anywhere," and erasing choice from the party platform, and utterly failing to defend Roe for years, as but a few examples, aren't the sorts of policies that earn progressives' votes, then they've really got some nerve implying we're the daft ones who don't understand how politics works.
On Voting Affirmatively vs. Voting Defensively: That feminists/womanists and queer activists are not regarded (or even discussed) as having a legitimate reason to feel alienated, demoralized, and conflicted about casting an affirmative vote for a party that has failed utterly to protect and/or extend their basic civil rights, underlines the very marginalization that creates disaffection in the first place. Every election, that snake eats its own tail again. And 'round and 'round we go.
On the Hypocrisy of Partisans: When I wrote passionate criticisms of a Republican administration and Republican Congressional majority who failed to champion LGBTQI equality, assailed women's bodily autonomy, treated Roe as a suggestion, refused to disclose lobbyist visits to the White House, invoked the separation of powers to protect themselves, called for spending freezes on social programs, legitimized rightwing extremists, advocated for offshore drilling, pushed HSAs, escalated a war, thumbed their nose at due process, engaged in black ops, treated scientists with contempt, expanded the executive's extrajudicial powers, demeaned liberal activists, and invoked state's-secrets privilege for bullshit reasons, I was a principled progressive. When I write passionate criticisms of a Democratic administration and Democratic Congressional majority who do the same, I am a stupid ingrate who doesn't understand how politics works.
On "Hating the Sin But Not the Sinner": The philosophical contortions in which many Christians like to engage, claiming God only hates homosexuality but doesn't hate homosexual people, does not absolve them of your responsibility for believing and preaching and teaching that gay kids are inherently abominable to God. Treating people as though their humanity is somehow separate from their intrinsic characteristics is not merely absurd bullshit; when you seek to wrench apart the components of people's whole selves and throw away pieces of their identities, it's just eliminationist rhetoric dressed up in its Sunday best.
On Pro-Choice as a General Philosophy: Quite evidently, we each have a responsibility to think critically about our individual decisions, and not pretend they happen in a void even when we make choices for no one's pleasure or security but our own. just because one is doing something for herself doesn't magically turn it into a choice without cultural implications. But it's eminently possible to critique the culture in which individual choices are made, and the cultural narratives that may affect our decision-making processes, without condemning those individual choices. Or the womanists/feminists making them. Not every feminist/womanist will make the same choice, nor should they be thus obliged in order to prove feminism's value. Feminism has sufficiently demonstrated its own worth by providing that spectrum of choice in the first place. And even though not every one of those conceivable choices is implicitly feminist, having a choice is evidence of feminism's reach.
On Learning From My Dog: There are things I had hoped for and things I expected when we adopted Dudley—but though I have read abundant stories of people who learned something from or experienced something profound with their dogs, that was not one of my hopes nor one of my expectations. I hoped and expected to love Dudley vastly and boundlessly, and I do. But I never imagined how capable of moving me, how able to exhort me to a better self, such a silly, awkward collection of legs and ears could be.
On Living in a Bubble of Privilege: In Jon Stewart's world, where there are "real" war criminals and "technical" war criminals, elite conservatism is populated by people who are only anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-affirmative action for political reasons, but personally want access to abortion, don't give a fuck about gay marriage, and hire people of color without having to be required. But in THE world, James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, and Dr. George Tiller are dead.
On the Two Americas: All the nonsense about abortion rights and kissing boys is just subterfuge, designed to get gullible US workers to vote against their own best interests. Deregulation, privatization, corporate personhood, the veneration of avarice, the conflation of wealth with morality, and the myth of a market that solves all problems. That's what got us here. The US public has told itself a lot of lies. The truth is this: The invisible hand belongs to a thief.
On Bathroom Panic: One of the memes deeply associated with conservative (and fauxgressive) projection is the OH NOES BATHROOM PANIC! meme. There are a bunch of variations on the same theme; just look for "man in a dress" and "what about the children?!" and some vague implication that trans women (in particular) just go through a lifetime of experiences ranging from Challenging to Sheer Hell for the explicit purpose of getting access to cis women in ladies' rooms, behind doors that magically don't let in cis men determined to do women harm. Or something. Basically, all you need to know about this general argument is that it's stupid and cruel and has no rational basis. And that Phyllis Schlafly was using it to tank the ERA before my ancient ass was ever born. OH NOES BATHROOM PANIC! is so old it's got brontosaurus shit in the treads of its sensible shoes. Is what I'm saying. It's a fantasy, a conservative fever-dream that keeps alarmists up at night clutching their pearls and praying to the Baby Jesus on behalf of victims of trans bathroom violence who don't exist. There is no endemic danger associated with trans people using public bathrooms. ENDA is not a slippery slope. Spoiler Alert: Trans people use public bathrooms already all the time. BOOGA BOOGA!
On Surviving Trauma and Assumed Weakness: There's this persistent idea that identifying as someone who is vulnerable to trauma- and/or disability-born triggers is evidence of weakness (and/or immaturity, or frailty), but I cannot begin to explain how much easier it would be to not publicly identify this way. ... It would be infinitely easier if I were not forthcoming about who I actually am and what I've actually experienced and what that actually means in terms of living in a culture that is hostile to people who are demonstrably vulnerable in any kind of way. But easy would be dishonest. I don't have the luxury of easy. Not anymore. Easy is a relic of the childhood I left behind long ago, in a pool of blood on my bedroom floor.
On Men's Rights Activists and Reproductive Justice: Men's rights activists complain that men aren't getting a "say" in reproductive rights, which is a mendacious argument of epic proportions. Men have plenty of "say" over reproductive decisions—but it all happens before the pregnancy. They have "say" in choosing the women with whom they choose to have sex. They have "say" over whether they choose to discuss in depth with a partner what they would do in the case of an unintended pregnancy—and what their partners would do. They have "say" in determining what kind of sex they have with a partner. They have "say" over whether they put a condom on, if they choose to engage in PIV sex. Once a woman is pregnant, men's legal "say" ends. They don't have the right to demand abortion, and they don't have the right to demand carrying the fetus to term, because conferring those rights would allow them to exact control over another human's body, which is simply an untenable position. That's why making wise decisions in the first place is key. And if men's right activists don't like that, they need to take it up with the Almighty, or the Intelligent Designer, or Mother Nature, or whatever, which in its infinite wisdom decided that only some bodies (generally female bodies, but not always) should have the ability to get pregnant.
On Apologists' Auditing Women's Responses to Harassment: The assertion that violence is an appropriate response to harassment is made by people (usually men) who make it explicitly because they are auditing the responses of people who are harassed (usually women) and find them lacking. People who feel entitled to audit others' responses to harassment don't stop auditing even if their recommendations are taken, which means, in practical terms, that a woman who takes their advice and responds to harassment with violence will not be commended, but judged, her actions investigated to see if the (previously recommended) violence was warranted. Spoiler Alert: It never will be.
On Intolerance of Survivors: It is my obligation, you see, to stop being so sensitive and STFU so that people who like rape jokes can enjoy them without their amusement being dampened by knowing there exist people on planet who don't share their good humor, or something. Yeah, I've heard that before. And I am struck, once again, by this thought: Even if complaining that survivors and their allies weren't "tough" enough were a legitimate argument, one would think that the champions of fairness and justice making it (such as my correspondent) would direct their ire in the right direction—at the fucking rapists who create survivors (and their triggers) in the first place.
On Being the Person You Want Someone to Love: "You have to be the person you want someone to love," I blurted out. I couldn't help myself. The Cosmo had rendered my filtering mechanism nonfunctional, like some kind of glossy, perfumed Kryptonite. They looked at me, at my face reddening with shyness. "If you want a partner who loves you with unshaven legs, stop shaving your legs. I think, um, you only find someone to love the person you want to be by being that person, by giving someone the chance to fall in love with you with hairy legs and all."
On Rape Charges Against Famous Men: I know—Maude help me, I know—that governments and corporations use terrible and unethical tactics to discredit whistleblowers and critics. But I wasn't born yesterday, either. And when around 12% of men have, by their own admission, committed sexual assault or rape, it's not remotely difficult to imagine that rape charges are not routinely invented to use against powerful men, but simply paid attention to when politically expedient.
On Both Sides Supposedly Being Just as Bad: Conservatives, who vociferously argue against the language and legislation of social justice, on the basis that it all "normalizes" marginalized people and their lives and cultures (it does!), are suddenly nothing but blinking, wide-eyed naïveté when it comes to their own violent rhetoric. They have a great grasp of cultural anthropology when they want to complain about progressive ideas, inclusion, diversity, and equality. But when it comes to being accountable for their own ideas, their anthropological prowess magically disappears. Only progressives "infect" the culture, but conservative hate speech exists in a void. That's what we're meant to believe, anyway.
On Saving Fat People From Themselves: The true absurdity of Jamie Oliver walking into people's homes and lives with the confidence that they will reverently follow his empyrean advice, then getting miffed when they don't, is that he is frequently asking them to change things about their lives over which they have no control, which he hasn't bothered to learn. Yet, even appearing to be completely oblivious to the reality that his expectation entails their being able to overcome poverty, food access, and time constraints, and casually abandon the eclipsing, importune comfort of cultural tradition, he scolds them about how easy it all should be, which is some fucking chutzpah coming from a bloke who can't be arsed trying to understand the basic facts of a life he wants to change. ... The irony is that Oliver, and those who share his outlook, want individuals to solve systemic problems, and yet he refuses to acknowledge those people as the individuals they are, with individual circumstances and individual perceptions and individual needs. All of the individual responsibility; none of the individual respect.
On Violent Rhetoric: Free speech isn't about the actual words you use; it's about the ideas that you convey. There are many ways to express the same idea. The only idea that must be conveyed using violent rhetoric and imagery is violence.
On the Inherent Violence of the Anti-Choice Position: I know I'm just an exhaustingly tedious feminist hysteric and all, but I actually find the anti-choice position inherently violent, no matter how politely it is stated. If anyone else suggested that I should be forced to submit my body against my will to nine months of potential discomfort and pain, followed by an act that might include the skin and muscle between my vagina and anus being torn open, I don't think we'd mince words about whether they were using violent rhetoric. But because we can couch it in the bullshit terminology of "a pro-life position," that's supposed to be evidence of civility.
On Abortion Legality vs. Practical Access: A lot of progressives treat legal abortion like an on-off switch and Roe as a magical abortion access password, but it's not remotely that simple. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it. That number is dwindling: By 2000, less than a third of the incorporated counties in the US had abortion clinics. That's not just inconvenience—between travel expenses and time off work along, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden. And instead of the national conversation about abortion access getting louder in the wake of this assault on women's rights, it has gone virtually silent.
On Coded Misogyny and Institutional Prejudice: When we hear people dismissing whole slices of culture, without caveat or exception, using the same sorts of language that misogynists use to dismiss women—or when we catch ourselves using that language, thus more deeply entrenching the ubiquitous trope that anything coded feminine is inherently less than—we should question why that is. Just as we question why specific classes of people are privileged over another, we must question why specific institutions are privileged over others, and how that privileging might actually exist in service to a patriarchy.
On Bootstraps: My present concern is with the working poor, and the way they are regarded by the architects of the Ownership Society. Those men—and they are indeed almost all men, most of whose lives have been dictated by inherent privilege and family connections, which we're not meant to note while admiring their shiny bootstraps—believe quite firmly, and without seemingly a trace of irony or compunction, that one gets what one deserves in life. From the imposing height of their handsomely recompensed sinecures, they will assert with the particular condescending authority bestowed only by unearned success that, with a little hard work, anyone can be a productive member of their magnificent Ownership Society. Now, I don't feel inclined to get into a whole Marxist discussion about the means of production here, but what these insufferable, vainglorious, classist captains of self-aggrandizing bullshit seem never to grasp, or possibly just acknowledge, is that if you want to live in a capitalist society that gives you the opportunity to get nasty rich, then we can't all be wealthy. And if you want to be the kind of person who doesn't pump your own gas, or make your own sandwiches, or clean your own house, or manicure your own fingernails, or drain your own dog's anal glands, then there are going to have to be people who fill all those jobs.
On Courting Controversy: That the SNL piece is insensitive, dehumanizing, marginalizing, and contemptible is so self-evident to anyone with a shred of decency or an infinitesimal trace of a social conscience, I won't belabor outlining in this space why it is hateful garbage. What I want to point out is this: It's so blatantly hateful garbage that its creators cannot have been expecting anything less than for trans* people and their allies to react with outrage. In the age of viral video, it seems deliberately designed to provoke controversy. And that is more shameful than ignorance.
On How Being Offended Is the Worst Thing to Be: Somehow, it's still worse to be offended than to offend anti-rape advocates and trigger survivors. Leaving aside the reality that many of the people who object to this shit are not offended, but contemptuous, I just love (where love = disdain with the fiery passion of 10,000 suns) the idea that to be dismayed by trivializing rape and mocking survivors is evidence of moral failure but telling and defending rape jokes makes you some kind of fucking hero.
On the Sanctity of Life: No one can argue, with any honesty or credibility, that they give a fuck about the sanctity of life if they would force a woman to carry to term an unwanted or unviable pregnancy against her will. That is the opposite of a respect for life, if the definition of "life" is to have any meaning at all.
On the Anti-Choice Movement: The anti-choice movement, which includes a decades-long campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence directed at abortion providers and abortion seekers, is the most brazen, unapologetic terrorist campaign in America, its co-ordination and orchestration done right out in the open, where no one in the media or politics will call it what it is. It is terrorism, in defense of an inherently violent ideology. I refuse to mince words about this anymore.
On the Patriarchy and Male Insecurity: There are plenty of men whose male identity is not frail, not in constant need of nurture and reassurance, not held in thrall to a compulsion to display their masculinity in order that it may be acknowledged and admired. Those men, however, tend to be feminists. It's the men who listen to the dictates of the Patriarchy whose male identity is most insecure. ... Patriarchy limits the definitions of manhood and masculinity; Feminism throws them wide open. And as Feminism successfully redefines womanhood and femininity every more expansively, reactionary patriarchal imperatives to define manhood and masculinity in contradistinction to womanhood and femininity are necessarily closing more and more doors to men who hew to traditional manhood.
On Alarmism and Myths about Rape Prevention: Abiding and indulging false notions about what inoculates children (and adults) against sexual violence has the inevitable effect of giving communities an excuse for not being vigilant about the things that actually support endemic sexual violence. Rape myths enable predators, who count on the reliable investment in comforting myths to create opportunities they can exploit.
On Heroes, and Bob Herbert: There are a lot of people in the world whom I admire, in whole or in parts, but I don't have heroes. It seems such an unfair thing, to call someone a hero, to put someone on a pedestal and lionize them to the virtual point of dehumanization; such a terrible way to recognize the rarity of a person whose work and principles and decency are so abundant and meaningful that I aspire to follow their lead. Instead of heroes, I have people, flawed people, who I respect, whose humanity I acknowledge as a fundamental part of what it is that makes them admirable in the first place. After all, they live in the same shitty world that we all do, and have the same human foibles, but manage to be kind and wise despite the cultural cacophony of disincentives to be either. To call someone a hero, it seems to me, steals them of the hard work they do to be good and replaces it with a distancing exceptionalism, which is really just a way of excusing ourselves from achieving the same goodness. So I don't have heroes. But if I did, Bob Herbert would be on that list.
On Situational and Relative Privilege: Unexamined relative privilege in particular destroys social justice movements by subverting solidarity. This goes back to what I mentioned here, and about which I've written in more detail here, regarding practicing a feminism that never obliges a woman to wrench apart pieces of her identity in exchange for my alliance. Those of us with privilege who participate in any social justice movement must be conscious of the reality that we have relative privilege to other members of our community.
On Surviving and Sex Ed: I had deeply internalized the Christian narratives about premarital sex sullying my very soul, and such was the lack of discussion surrounding consent in my young life that the idea nonconsensual sex might not "count" to whatever galactic referee was keeping score of such things never even crossed my mind. I had also deeply internalized the cultural stereotypes of raped women being irreparably broken, women with broken minds and broken bodies. Regarding myself as damaged goods, in both spirit and flesh, I figured it didn't matter if I engaged in sexual activity henceforth. And, beyond that grim calculation, that horrible, sad, shrugging relinquishment of my decision-making regarding sex because the decision had been made for me, was something yet worse: I didn't feel like I had any value anymore. I'd spent my life learning that my worth as a female person was attached to my virginity. My value as an unsullied cunt was gone; I tried instead to find value as a girl who knew how to give great head. And, you know, that almost worked for awhile.
On Fat People Being Strong: People who accuse fat folks of indolence, or pusillanimity, or weakness (particular of the emotional sort) have, quite evidently, no idea of what being fat, living the life of a fat person, is really like. At least not the life of a fat person who has the unmitigated temerity to believe fervently in hir own right to exist, to participate, to live in a space, internally and externally, which isn't ruled by self-loathing. It takes an indomitable will to live life while fat, in the shadow of ubiquitous reminders that we're doing so in direct contravention of the expectation that we should be secreting ourselves away, and the incessant grim predictions of an allegedly imminent demise.
On the Rape Culture Being a Spectrum of Hostility to Consent: Rape culture is not, as it is continually misrepresented, a culture in which one can trace a direct line from every rape joke to an actual act of rape, but a culture in which there is endemic hostility to the notions of consent, autonomy, and respect of individual boundaries, privacy, and dignity. The rape culture is not just about actual and attempted acts of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, but also about all the other ways in which contempt and/or indifference toward other human beings' consent, autonomy, boundaries, and right to halt any unwanted interaction in their personal spaces are violated.
On Leaving Reproductive Rights Activism to Women: This is the hard truth for progressive men who care about reproductive rights: When you leave the public fight to others, you're leaving it mostly to women. I'll give you a moment to contemplate the many ways in which treating the feminist/womanist fight for reproductive rights as "woman's work" is some fucked-up irony, right there.
On Birtherism: Birtherism, in which both conservatives and liberals are engaging, is a terrible and intrinsically misogynist game to play, entirely dependent on a belief that policing women's bodies and reproduction is an acceptable recreation. And, further yet, reviving old tropes about "legitimacy" at a time when single parenthood is rising and national leaders want to draw reprehensible distinctions between those who deserve social services, like young men who lost their fathers, and those who don't, like children who had the terrible judgment to be born into poverty to single mothers. Everything about the birther game feeds narratives that Other and narratives that support the institutional misogyny that underlies the anti-choice movement. Everything about it serves the interests of those who want to limit choice, and those who want to marginalize women and the children they birth/raise who aren't born in the "right" circumstances. There is nothing about the birther game that serves a decent purpose, and certainly nothing that advances women's agency or autonomy.
On the Love and Respect of a Daughter by a Misogynist Father: t is terrible—terrible—to be a woman in a relationship with a man who does not reflexively and uncompromisingly respect your inherent worth as his equal. It is terrible, too, to be the sister or friend or coworker of such a man. But there is something uniquely painful about hearing one's own father communicate you are less than. There is something uniquely demeaning about being told by a man who brought you into this world, and/or brought you up in it, that it is not a world to which you deserve equal opportunity, equal access, your fair share, but a world in which you deserve less. Less respect. Less dignity. Less agency. Less autonomy. Less opportunity. Less voice. Less ownership of self. Less of your humanity, because humanness is a zero sum game, and a little of yours must be given to him. That feels like something less than love to a daughter.
On Conflating the Patriarchy's Definition of Manhood with Being a Man: It isn't being male, nor being a man, that is a problem, but believing that to be male, or to be a man, is to have to project a very specific and rigid definition of masculinity—which defines itself in contradistinction to the feminine, thus forcing men to conceal and deny any part of themselves that anyone could call feminine; which limits men's emotional spectrum to anger; which forces men to exist in a permanent state of insecurity, constantly monitoring the boundaries of their masculinity and engaging in displays of bravado to prove their self-worth; which considers sheer brawn and physical toughness the only acceptable kind of strength, while the kind of strength which informs one's character, what might be described as emotional strength, the kind of strength that means walking away from a fight, or being patient, or showing empathy, isn't allowed to play much of a role at all in the definition of masculinity—which leaves men, whose physical attributes of masculine strength will wane with time and age, keenly aware that their masculinity is ever threatened by their own mortality, because they haven't been encouraged to cultivate a compassion and resiliency that can't be measured in kilos or KOs. That's not about being a man. That's about being a man in a Patriarchy, who's never been offered an alternative paradigm.
On Immigration Stereotypes and "Deserving" Immigrants: Most US workers aren't competing for the same jobs generally held by undocumented immigrants, and not because they're "jobs no American wants to do," as John McCain would have us believe, but because the employers actively seek out an exploitable workforce comprised of people who don't know their rights and who can be easily controlled via the threat of deportation, a category out of which most US workers would self-select in favor healthcare benefits and livable wages, even if the crummy employers who exploit migrants would consider hiring citizens in the first place. Iain came to the States not because his life was dreadful or his family was starving or because he couldn't find work. He came on a fiancée visa (a resource, btw, still only available to us because we're straight) because he fell in love with an American. He had the great fortune of being born in a country with lots of opportunity, and moving to one with the same. He doesn't need to be here to survive—and yet he is routinely regarded as "deserving" to be here specifically because of the fact that he was privileged in the first place. At the center of the immigration debate is a profound lack of generosity, a stinginess and smallness that sneers at the straw-immigrants who are just here to TAKE and contribute nothing in return—which doesn't sound like any of the immigrants I know (undocumented or otherwise).
On Double Standards: Context matters. That doesn't mean it's not allowed, or impossible, to speak about female public figures who simultaneously benefit from lingering anti-feminist tropes and the feminist activism that has afforded them the public platform from which express their privileged disdain. It just means that discussion has to have some nuance. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass to constantly be aware of marginalizing tropes, but, in moments when you may be inclined to feel a harrumph of unfairness, consider that I would happily give up 80 biebillion fucktons of institutional misogyny in exchange for your right to say whatever the fuck you wanted without having to take two seconds to think about it first.
On Policing Femininity, and the Right to Be Wrong: There has not been any point at which my personal feminism is/was "right" with regard to my expressions and/or rejections of femininity, according to every other feminist on the planet. It is a moving target, even for me, finding some balance between my feminism and my femininity. All I have learned is not to judge, not to audit—because I have no idea where any other feminist is on her journey. I don't even know where I am on my own. I don't want to be the police, and I don't want to be policed. What I want is the presumption I'm fumblefucking my way through this thing in good faith, that I don't want to make life any harder for any other person during my time on this rock. What I want is the freedom to fuck up, and the right to be wrong.
On Men Using Comparative Aggressions Against Women to Silence Feminists: Contemptible is the embedded premise that the marginalization of women is a series of unrelated injustices that exist in competition with one another for attention and concern, as opposed to a spectrum of injustices on which exists both women being creeped on in elevators by strangers and female genital cutting. The abject suffering of the world's most vulnerable women is thus used as rhetorical weapon to silence feminists—and feminism is treated as some sort of finite resource that is meant to be kept under glass, broken only in case of a "real" and "serious" emergency, as determined by men who want to silence feminists. Men who police feminism and feminists, and judge the worthiness of feminist complaints on a sliding scale, don't recognize oppressive acts as interwoven strands of the same rope, and they don't respect the reality that most feminists can multi-task: I can write about a sexist t-shirt being sold to little girls at Wev-Mart, and I write about the rape epidemic in DR Congo in the same day. And do, frequently.
On How the Rape Culture Benefits Rapists: Contrary to pervasive narratives about women who "feel guilty" after a consensual act inventing rape charges, the reality is that women who feel shame, or fear, or regret after an actual rape frequently re-imagine the encounter as consensual, because admitting rape even to themselves is so difficult. Rapists are exponentially more likely to indirectly benefit from women "consenting" after the fact as a survival strategy than are innocent men likely to be victimized by false rape charges.
On Hearing Every Woman Instead of Any Woman to Justify Trolling: It occurs to me that there would be far fewer obnoxious thread derails on feminist blogs (and this concept applies to all social justice spheres and intersectionalities, with the appropriate adjustments in language) If there weren't so many people who misconstrue: "If you don't [like/respect/admire/spend time with/consider your equal/appreciate/enjoy talking to/otherwise positively engage with] any women, then you've got a misogyny problem." to mean: "If you don't [like/respect/admire/spend time with/consider your equal/appreciate/enjoy talking to/otherwise positively engage with] every woman, then you've got a misogyny problem."
On Treating Women Like People Versus Treating Women Like Not-Men: Men who treat women like not-men are incapable of acknowledging women's different experiences from their own without using that as the basis for treating women like a different species. They use any woman's failure to please as a strike against the entirety of womankind, and they annihilate the individuality of a woman beneath the crushing weight of their own biases about women, and then accuse women of being all the same. They treat a woman's personhood and her womanhood as mutually exclusive constructs, while treating manhood and personhood as synonymous, and then they wonder how it is that women can complain of different treatment, of lesser treatment.
On Utterly Refusing to Credit as Ignorance What Is Manifest Dishonesty: I am a human being, and I am a privileged human being, and I know how to recognize the presence of bias within myself, and so does That Guy. All I got anymore for That Guy is this: Don't tell me you don't fucking know. Don't try to claim, with a straight fucking face, that you don't know the difference between treating a woman as an individual person and treating her as part of some ladyperson monolith whose contours are drawn in demeaning narratives by seething oppressors. Don't even feign that infuriating haplessness in which you profess to be unacquainted with the cavernous divide between treating women as your equal and treating them like garbage. You want me to trust you're an intelligent and decent guy who believes me to be his equal for whom he has some modicum of respect? Then you can start by jettisoning the aw-shucks routine and give me the respect of truth. Tell me you do indeed know that you view women differently, treat women differently, hold women to different standards than you do men. Then we can have an honest goddamn conversation about how to fix that.
On Harassment and the Marking of Invisible Womanhood: It is a conversation I've had before with trans women, with fat cis women, women with noticeable physical disabilities, and with a women who has severe craniofacial deformities—the "I don't want to be treated like a piece of meat or an object or a possession, but because Visible Women are treated like pieces of meat and objects and possessions, the fact that I'm not makes me feel like I'm not even a woman" conversation. … This, of course, is not a commentary on women—objectified or not, feminist or not. This is a commentary on the Patriarchy, and how unfathomably fucked-up it is that a failure to be treated poorly—not in exchange for being treated well, but as an alternative to not being acknowledged at all—has the capacity to make women feel worthless. What a choice: Acknowledged but harassed, or ignored and denied recognition of one's womanhood. … I can think of few things that more poignantly underline how truly and comprehensively woman-hating the Patriarchy is than its creation of an "envy" to be hurt, just to feel like a complete woman.
On Disbelief's Role in the Rape Culture: I cannot speak for other survivors—not Jane, and not anyone else. I can speak only for myself, and, for me, to be raped was to be hurt, terribly hurt. To be disbelieved and abandoned by the people entrusted with my safety, sent away to be raped again, and again, was to be destroyed. The latter was harder to recover from than the former. Rape, argue my disbelieving correspondents, happens in a world full of people. You'll never stop all rape from happening, they tell me. Maybe not. Maybe that classmate would have raped Jane even if we didn't live in a rape culture. But he wouldn't have been allowed to rape her again.
On Men's Complaints About Being "Profiled" as Potential Rapists: There is a distinction to be made between "assuming a strange man to be a potential rapist," which implies a sort of malice, and "acknowledging the reality that many men are rapists and none of them wear HELLO MY NAME IS RAPIST stickers." But setting aside discussions of nuance unappreciated by people determined to be aggrieved, the observation I wanted to make is this: If there are men who are annoyed by the fact that women to whom they are unknown may be needlessly cautious around them, and it makes them feel bad, perhaps instead of taking it up with the women who are working to dismantle the rape culture, they should direct their ire at the approximately 12% of men who have, by their own admission, committed sexual assault or rape against at least one woman. They are the ones who necessitate our suspicion.
On Keeping On Keeping On: Were I in the business of seeking out things that make me angry, I'd never have to go further than the emails designed explicitly to scare me, to dehumanize me, to silence me, which arrive like clockwork in my own inbox. All of their furious bravado, and the genuine threats, are meant to terrify me, of course, but I am not the one who is terrified. The men who misrepresent my life in order to justify harassing me know, in some deep down place, that they are wrong. They know that my fat, disabled, feminist self is, in truth, everything that the Patriarchy tells them men are supposed to be: They know that I am strong, that I am tough, that I am resilient, that I am smart, that I am independent, that I am brave. They know that I fuck, that I influence, that I do not yield. And that's what prompts their terroristic missives in which they try to mask behind their rage a derisible fear of the powerful feminine. Not that they believe that I am weak, but that they know I am strong.
On What It's Like to Live as a Woman in a Rape Culture: You want to know what it's like to live as a woman in the rape culture? Watch that video, and imagine being a woman in the room, listening to a man tell a humorous anecdote about raping a woman to a room full of cheering men, while male comedians onstage make jokes that reveal they know it's rape but won't say the word, won't stop him, do not express compassion for his victim, do not react in any way at all to the admitted rapist in their midst, except to observe that the women in the room are shaking their heads with disgust. Imagine how unsafe you'd feel. Imagine how angry you'd feel. And then imagine that it's not a room you can leave.
On Fat Hatred and Eliminationism: I will never be not fat. To get rid of my fat body, you have got to get rid of me. Fat people are not only tasked with finding individual solutions to systemic problems; they are, in many cases, asked to somehow overcome their very physiologies and make their bodies do things that they are simply unable to do. We are literally asked to be people we are not. That is eliminationist. Plain and simple.
On Listening as a Feminist Act: Not listening to women is a misogynist act. Actively tuning out women is a misogynist act. Passively failing to seek out women's perspectives is a misogynist act. Shouting down or talking over or reflexively contradicting women is a misogynist act. Treating women as though they are not experts on their own lives and experiences is a misogynist act. Appropriating women's ideas is a misogynist act. Tokenizing women in lieu of making room for meaningful participation is a misogynist act. Marginalizing women's voices, through systemic and deliberate exclusion or a careless failure to practice diversity, is a misogynist act. Not listening takes many forms. That is hardly a comprehensive list. There are, unfortunately, many ways to not listen to women. … This is not an argument that women are always right, or wise. It is an argument that, even if a woman is wrong, the wrongest that any wrong person could be, she still deserves to be heard, and her wrongness dismissed on its merits, which requires listening in the first place. To be heard is to be valued. This, then, is also a true thing: Listening to women is a feminist act.
On Forgiveness Versus Accountability: Despite all the emphasis on forgiveness, there was never a clear pathway to fully own that for which I was meant to seek absolution. I confessed my fuck-ups to God every week in a monotonously recited plea with the rest of the congregation, and I meant it—but I didn't know how to apologize to the human beings I'd hurt, not really. I didn't know how to accept criticism, or make amends. And I sure as shit didn't know how to examine my privilege. God may have loved me, and sent his son to die for me, and forgiven me—but he taught me diddly-shit about being a privileged person with internalized prejudices. Love one another. Well, swell. Except loving someone doesn't always prevent me from hurting them. And getting right with God didn't get me right with the people I'd hurt. The message of the savior was that I could sit back and be saved with minimal inconvenience, not to mention negligible self-reflection. I could be stingy with my willingness to admit to anyone other than God my wrongdoing, my mistakes. If it was selfish to let other people live with the pain I caused them, it didn't matter: I needed God's forgiveness alone. I was learning how to get into Heaven. I wasn't learning how to be a good person.
On Treating Vulvas as Shameful: If "misogyny" is to have any meaning at all, a product that encourages women with vulvas to treat them as gross, as embarrassing, as less than, that implicitly exhorts us to rip our womanhood from our humanity, that admonishes us to deny, to be ashamed of, our womanhood, in part or in whole, thus requesting of us to subvert our own humanity, must be regarded as deeply, and evidently, misogynistic. This is why I am a feminist: To ignore subversion of my humanity is to participate in my own marginalization. And that I cannot, will not, do.
On Anthropomorphized Gender Essentialism: Of course, there is no such thing as a girl's disposition, or a girl's appearance. Girls—and women—come in all different shapes and sizes, their faces with an endless variety of bone structures, their personalities as unique and plentiful as there are girls and women in the world. But when someone tells me that Dudley looks like a girl, to explain their own assumption, they are not talking about any sort of real girl, or real woman; they are talking about stereotypes of girls and women, and they are speaking in the language of gender essentialism.
On Forced Ultrasounds: Forcing a pregnant person to look at an ultrasound will not change the circumstances that made hir seek an abortion: If you don't want a child, if you can't afford a child, if you had a contraceptive failure, if you were raped, if you just lost your job, if you found out the fetus will die as soon as it's born, if you're pregnant by someone who became abusive, if you've been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or a non-life threatening but life-changing illness or disability, if your existing child has become ill, if your spouse has become ill, if your parent has become ill, if your psychiatric medication is incompatible with pregnancy, if you lost your health insurance, if…if…if a million other variables, if any of a million reasons why women seek abortions, looking at an ultrasound will not matter.
On Revolution Fail: If your revolution doesn't implicitly and explicitly include a rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations, then you're not staging a revolution: You're staging a change in management.
On Magical Intent: This is one of the most harmful—and common—manifestations of accountability deflecting language, rooted in the false contention that intent is more important than effect. It is a most curious habit, given that most of us would readily acknowledge that "I didn't mean it" isn't an excuse for not having to apologize when we bump into someone or accidentally step on someone's foot. Yet we have nonetheless created an entirely different standard for things we say that inadvertently hurt other people. Intent does not, in fact, magically render us unaccountable from the effects of our communication, no more than not intending to step on someone's toes magically renders us unaccountable from the effects of our movement. Pain caused unintentionally is still authentic pain.
On the Terror of Female Imperfections: It's incomprehensibly fucked up that evidence of a woman's humanity is considered "scary," by any means of observation. But this contempt for visible humanness in close-up reveals something extremely ugly about the nature of objectification: People who want to fuck Zooey Deschanel express repulsion at seeing her face up close. "Eww—you got intimacy all up in my remote objectification! Gross!" The real problem with these images, and their insistent revelation of humanness, is not that they are "scary." It is that they challenge the viewer to embrace the humanity of women. Which I suppose might be terrifying, if you're not used to thinking of women as human.
On Normalizing the Rape Culture: Mainstream straight men's magazines normalize the narratives of the rape culture using language indistinguishable from that of actual rapists, which not only communicates to sexual predators that their predation is normal (functioning the same way as rape jokes), but inures the rest of the male population to the horror of sexual violence and encourages sympathy with predators rather than victims, thus creating a culture disinclined to believe victims and hold predators accountable. … The misogynist content of straight lads' mags normalizes the attitudes and narratives that rapists use to justify raping women—and that as long as men who aren't rapists share those attitudes, they are much less likely to convict rapists, because to do so feels like indicting themselves.
On Mandated Vaginal Probes and Meaningful Choice: A person who cannot access a legal medical procedure without submitting hir body to a vaginal probe cannot be said to be meaningfully consenting. Consent requires a choice. Consent requires a choice, because consent without a choice is not consent; it's coercion.
On My Manifatso, and How Fat Hatred Kills: I want to be in the world, and I will participate, and I will take up the space that I need without apology. Also: I may occasionally eat butter. But mostly: I will be publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy. Happy-Go-Lucky, in fact! I am a fat woman, and I will matter—to me and to you.
On How Treating Birth Control as a Wedge Issue Concedes Ground to Conservatives: Sure, great wedge issue, except for how it concedes the extremely anti-choice (and, not coincidentally, the pro-rape culture) position that the bodies of women et. al. and the governance thereof are subject to public debate, ownership, and exploitation as a political tool. Am I really supposed to give a fuck that Democrats can turn denial of contraception into a "winner" if I have to negotiate away the concept of absolute autonomy over my body in the process?
On What Constitutes Consent: No means no. The absence of a yes also means no. The absence of a no does not mean yes. The only thing that means yes is yes. And if you are privileged enough to be a neurotypical person who hasn't any problems interpreting non-verbal communication in a long-term relationship with another neurotypical person who hasn't any problems interpreting non-verbal communication, and the two of you have managed to define and maintain good boundaries around sexual activity, have ongoing conversations and negotiations about consent as your relationship grows and changes, and have developed an intimate shorthand of verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate consent that would almost look like "implicit consent" if there were such a thing, congratulations to you! You are very lucky! But that doesn't change the fact that you're saying yes. And it really, really doesn't change the fact that the only thing that means yes is yes.
On How I Cannot Truly Want What I'm Told I Must Have: I have never been more acutely aware of my reductive purpose as a babymaking machine, more subject to incessant, inescapable, insistent reminders that my personhood is debatable, that I am nothing if I don't use my body to have children, that I am a uterus with some meat attached in service to its reproductive capacity. And comes the realization from deep down in the darkest depths of me that I do not want children, that I have never wanted children, because of my desperate yearning to be a whole person, to matter, always and only, on the value of me and not the other little people I am supposed to create. … I have understood, intuitively, from a very early age that, in this culture, in the spaces in which I move, to have children is to dilute one's value as a human, even as it is to enhance one's value as a woman. To have children, in this culture, in the spaces in which I move, has felt and feels still like a concession to a destiny in which I felt I had no choice, unless I chose childlessness.
On Women Having Rooms of Our Own: I was peering into a room of their own, into one room in a secret world of women that most men don't know, and not known to too many women who fear the woman-centered spaces plethoric narratives convey disincentives to us to avoid. The secret world of affirmative, safe, noncompetitive womanhood in which the makers of pop culture don't venture, save for the occasional tourist, even though rooms like this one are like oxygen in many women's lives, the only place we can really breathe.
On Demeaning and Marginalizing People by Implying They Are Mentally Ill: The suggestion that mentally ill people are dangerous and unstable makes an already vulnerable population even more so, and creates a toxic environment in which people deemed "crazy" aren't considered reputable advocates for themselves and their needs, and wouldn't need to be listened to even if they were, because crazy don't get a place at the table.
On "Crazy" Talk and How Their Bootstraps Made Them Do It: Just a series of lone gunmen and bombers, none of whom are connected by anything. Except for how they are connected by all being men living in the same culture—a culture that is increasingly conservative, increasingly tolerant of violent rhetoric and actual violence, a culture hostile to consent, a culture that asserts state ownership of marginalized bodies, a culture that advocates individual responsibility and sneers at collective responsibility, that treats as a punchline concepts like "universal healthcare," underlining the fact that even if these men are indeed mentally ill, it is nonetheless our shared responsibility for not providing comprehensive services to address that health crisis before other people get hurt.
On Bootstraps, Triumphalism, American Individualism, and Privilege: If there is one person born to poverty, one person with disabilities, one person who has survived profound abuse, who can be held up as an example of achievement, then everyone else is failing to thrive. Even as we devour barfinating narratives of triumph over tragic circumstances, we pretend that terrible beginnings don't really matter, except insomuch as they make great first acts for Sandra Bullock Oscar vehicles. This intractable belief in bootstraps manifests the racism starkly represented above because it encourages the lie that history doesn't matter. And neither does present bias. It encourages the lie that every life happens in a fucking void. Except, of course, when it suits us to judge an individual by our prejudices about an entire class to which they belong. When you're a non-privileged person, you're as bad as the worst conceivable member of a shared demographic, and only as good as your own personal achievement. That is the gross underbelly of American Individualism. Its story only really works for privileged people, among whose privileges include being seen as an individual, whether they fail or succeed.
On Feminist Allegiance as a Campaign Strategy: The United States would be a very different place if everyone cared this much about misogyny when there wasn't a presidential election in which appearing to care about misogyny could score a political point. Not that I don't love the "feminist" outrage when it's politically expedient and all, but it'd be nice if the same voices were raised occasionally with equal amounts of passion just because women are humans deserving of respect, dignity, autonomy, and equality, too.
On How the US' Free Speech Laws Entrench Privilege: With our reflexive reverence for a policy of "free speech," a minor restriction on a privileged person's unfettered right to engage in hate speech is considered a more burdensome encroachment on freedom than the right of people at whom hate speech is directed to live a life free of rhetorical terror. And actual terror, given the preponderance of evidence across cultures that violent hate speech in the public square begets actual violence within the square. … The damnable lie that makes restrictions on hate speech so difficult to find support for even among US progressives is that we have absolutist free speech. We don't. We're just eminently more willing, in continuation of our grand history of giving the finger to marginalized people, to turn an indifferent eye to the patently fucking obvious relationship between uncensored hate speech and hate crimes. And we're dishonest enough to slap a "free speech" sticker on it.
On the Importance of Remembering People's Invisible Disabilities: To have to repeatedly remind someone who ostensibly cares about you that you have a disability is aggravating as hell. More than that, it puts people with disabilities into the awkward position of having to disclose our disabilities over and over (and over and over and over and over), which is tedious and can be humiliating, depending on the circumstances in which one is obliged to disclose personal information we expected you'd remember. … We often struggle to strike a balance between making sure people around us are aware of our disabilities and not playing into perceptions of attention-seeking, and "forgetting" makes finding that balance all the more difficult.
On How the Patriarchy Fails Men: The world is changing, but the Patriarchy isn't. This is putting men who most buy into what the Patriarchy tells them they should be at the greatest disadvantage in almost every professional and personal situation. That's the sexism that most stands to hurt men. And it ain't women who are the primary gatekeepers of that bullshit. It's other men.
On Liking Fat People: There are people reading this, privileged people, who don't understand what it's like to live in a body like mine, who are thinking: Of course you like fat people. You're fat. Because they don't know. They don't know the self-hatred to which we are exhorted in big and small ways, and how it can turn into hatred of other fat people. They don't know the ways in which the shaming, the bullying, the body policing, the rank hatred, the disgust disguised as concern can make a fat person maintain a physical and psychological distance from other fat people, especially people just that much fatter, because we are keenly aware that proximity is guilt and grotesquery by association. They don't know the contemptuous stares of patrons at a cafe when two fat people walk in together, or, Maude forbid, even more of us, like some kind of freakish human herd that storms across the countryside devouring the resources that belong to decent folk. They don't know how difficult it is to hate yourself as much as this culture tells us we should hate ourselves for being fat, but love other fat people.
On Being a Thin Friend to Fatsronauts: If you react differently to a thin friend's self-policing than to a fat friend's, if you figure that a thin friend wants to hear, "Oh, I hate my body, too!" and a fat friend wants to hear, "Oh, but your face/hair/blouse is so pretty!" that's also a big problem. Not only does it convey that fat friends should hate their bodies, but hey here's a weak compliment, it also conveys to fat friends that the body policing which is an invitation for inclusion in a sisterhood among thin women does not extend to us. Your flaws are so big or multitudinous, we don't even know what do to with you. Often, thin women, in a failed bid at sensitivity, exclude fat women from self-policing with platitudes, instead of just not doing it at all. One of the least obvious but most common ways thin women hurt their fat friends is with pity.
On "Prudishness": Central to the dismantling of the rape culture will have to be a solid rejection of the idea that anyone who expresses any kind of discomfort about nudity is a prude. It is absolutely possible to reject narratives of shaming around human bodies while simultaneously embracing the idea that there should be boundaries around our bodies and other bodies, which need to be respected. Boundaries around access to human bodies honors those bodies. Respect elevates their value.
On the "Rape Turns Ladies Into Superheroes!" Trope: Women who have survived sexual violence and gone on to do amazing things directly related to sexual violence exist. There are female prosecutors, cops, social workers, counselors, activists, writers, actors, artists for whom victims' advocacy is central to their work. Many of them are as close a thing to superheroes as there are in this world. But they didn't arrive at that point by magic. And they aren't where they are because sexual violence filled them with some kind of special superhero-making pixie dust. They are there by virtue of their own strength and resilience and tenacity. To credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency. And, worse yet, it gives the credit to rapists.
Helpful Hints for Dudes Series:
Part One: On communicating more effectively with female partners, friends, relatives, and colleagues during good faith conversations about feminist issues.
Part Two: On how male ownership of women is expressed via Exceptionalism, Breach of Consent, and Failure to Respect Agency.
Part Three: On the effects of rape humor.
Part Four: On how to be an effective ally in rape prevention.
Part Five: On why obliging women to play along with misogynist games can be incredibly alienating and, ultimately, a grave breach of trust.
Part Six: On how to be nice.
Fatsronauts 101 Series:
Part One: "Everyone who is fat is fat for the same reason."
Part Two: "I can tell how someone eats all the time, because of how they eat around me."
Part Three: "Fat people are jolly/mean, and fat people are shy/loud."
Part Four: "Fat people eat enormous amounts of food."
Part Five: "Fat is axiomatically ugly."
Part Six: "Any fat person eating a salad or exercising is trying to lose weight."
Part Seven: "Fat people are permission slips for thin people to eat what they want."
Part Eight: "Fat people don't deserve anything nice."