This discussion is going to take several more years.

What happened was that my mother, knowing I’m an unrepentant nerd for Game of Thrones and its source material, brought home this book from the library (where she works) that was all about analyzing the female characters of the series. It appeared to be someone’s doctoral thesis, or something, and the question it endeavors to answer, is basically whether the series—both books and show—are sending a feminist message, or whether it’s just more patriarchy.

I read a little bit of it, and I found that little bit rather tedious. Not that it was wrong, just that all of what I saw was stuff that either a) I have already written about, in quite a lot more detail, on this blog, or b) didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m not sure whether the author is keeping in mind that comparing GRRMartin’s characters to archetypes is likely to be complicated, as GRRMartin is committed to fucking with popular fantasy tropes, rather than honoring their traditions.

But like I said, I only read a very little bit of the book before putting it down. So perhaps the author understands much better than I do the extent to which GRRMartin is successfully fucking with our tropes the way he intends. I think the real problem with trying to give a definitive answer to a question like this is not that the question isn’t worth asking (I seem to have some strong opinions on the feminist/patriarchal dynamics in the series), but that, at this stage, there are too many moving parts to bring the discussion to a resolution.

Shorter version: the series isn’t finished yet. We still have two more books and three more seasons of the show before we see how all these characters turn out.

How thoroughly can we analyze what kind of messages we get from the character arcs of Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Asha/Yara Greyjoy, et cetera, when we don’t yet know how these characters end up? I have some ideas of what’ll happen to Cersei, Arya, and so on, but making predictions is a separate issue from feminist criticism. For those of us who are interested in social justice and like to talk about Game of Thrones, we’re analyzing the story’s messages based on only 5/7ths of the story. That certainly doesn’t stop us from taking part in the conversation, but we expect to keep having that conversation until after we’ve experienced the story to its end. We try to answer a question based on incomplete information, we get an incomplete answer.

 

Well, there’s your problem, SXSW.

You may have heard about a panel on online harassment getting cancelled by SXSW because the conference was getting harassed about the panel. Not exactly a surprising turn of events. The anti-feminist brigade is constantly demonstrating to us why we need feminism.

The note went on to explain that “[f]or this reason, we have also cancelled other sessions at the 2016 event that focused on the Gamergate controversy.”

By “other sessions” SXSW actually meant only one other session, a putative discussion of “the Gaming Community” featuring a panel of Gamergaters.

The panel on harassment, while featuring Gamergate critics/targets Randi Lee Harper and Katherine Cross, was not intended to be an anti-Gamergate panel as such, but a wider discussion of harassment online.

If we’re just talking about the fact that they cancelled the panel, I understand that much. You get threats of violence against your conference, you might want to eliminate the locus of those threats, even if it means the terrorists win in the short term. Terrorism can be effective that way. That’s why terrorists keep on terrorizing.

Here’s where they go off the rails, though. It’s the statement they released to explain the cancellations:

[P]reserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.

Oh, it’s that “big tent” again. I’m all in favor of big tents, when implemented appropriately. But here’s the thing: there is no tent big enough to accommodate both harassers and their targets. The prevalence of online harassment has already established that some people are not interested in civil and respectful dialogue. There’s no “marketplace of ideas” with sufficient space for, say, feminist women writers, and those who think feminist women writers are scum who should be bullied off the Internet. There’s no middle ground between, “We belong here and we deserve a space to share our ideas,” and, “no, you’re garbage and we will keep on hounding you until you disappear.”

If your “big tent” is an enabler of harassment, then you need to take a side.

I’m one of those Western Cumsluts.

Something called #HowtoSpotAFeminist happened on Twitter recently. Okay. Dave Futrelle gives us the edited highlights. Mostly it’s boring. They froth on and on about how we feminazis are ugly, fat and smelly. Yawn. And then it gets to the anti-Semitism. That’s…special.

Here’s the thing, folks: you can try and lecture us about “real feminism.” And we’ll probably point and laugh. OR you can call us “Western cumsluts.” Or anything involving “cum” or “slut.” And we’ll likely point and laugh.

But there is no universe in which you can be taken seriously while saying both of those things in the same breath.

Angry feminazis love telling people to go fuck themselves. It's the only sex act we don't define as rape.

Angry feminazis love telling people to go fuck themselves. It’s the only sex act we don’t define as rape.

They don’t really want us to leave the cities.

Yeah, I’ve been quiet lately, but I’m not dead. Tauriq Moosa has brought us the news that Scott Adams, known sock-puppeteer, is still talking, this time about street harassment. He still hasn’t learned anything.

There’s the initial bout of condescension towards feminists and feminist-sympathizers, which is especially rich coming from this guy because let me remind you: known sock-puppeteer. He seems to think that feminists don’t know how our movement is received by men, and therefore his opinion will be valuable to us.

Okay, so, quick note to any male readers who might be new (to this blog, to feminist discussion in general) around here: if it seems like feminist activism is insufficiently responsive to men’s objections, or insufficiently sensitive to men’s feelings, or just generally not saying what men think should be said, it’s not because we don’t hear you. Trust me, we hear you. We hear you much better than you hear us. We have different priorities. If our priorities were in line with men’s priorities, we wouldn’t be feminists.

With that in mind, his whole post is worthless before it begins. He’s giving us his take on the recent (infamous) street harassment video by Hollaback, in which a young white or white-passing woman walks through the streets of New York, mostly Harlem, and gets tons of unsolicited, inappropriate, sometimes threatening attention. (If you don’t already know which one I’m talking about, put “Hollaback video Shoshana B. Roberts” into a Google search. You probably already know it.) He looks at this video, first complains that it’s deceptively edited, and then starts screaming at all us uppity females to move somewhere else. Yeah, that’s what he says. Over and over. There’s a bit of concern-trolling about racism and classism, but mostly he’s just screaming at us to move out of wherever we’re experiencing street harassment now. Here are some edited highlights:

MOVE!!! JUST FUCKING MOVE!!!

Okay, I know, your family lives in New York City and your job is there and….JUST FUCKING MOVE!!! MOVE!!! STOP MAKING IT MY PROBLEM!!!

[The video] makes women look like idiots for living in such a place voluntarily.

The creepy stalker guys were just scary. MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!

Mr. Certified Genius Adams’s angle is that he’s telling us feminists how to handle our message to make it more appealing to men, and if he’s thinking that way, this reaction to the issue of street harassment is probably not unique. There are a lot of reasons why this advice is unhelpful, such as a) There are some careers that are impossible to pursue outside of New York and Los Angeles, b) There’s basically no such thing as a safe neighborhood for women, c) The men who appear in that video are probably much more aggressive towards black and brown women who live in their neighborhoods full time, d) Moving somewhere else is fucking expensive and risky, often prohibitively so, e) Therefore, the women who are likely getting the most egregious harassment are the ones who can least afford to move and have the most limited options for other places to live, and f) Wait a minute, why is it that the women have to move? Women are not the problem here.

There are all those issues, and now I want to add that Scott Adams, and anyone else who thinks the solution to street harassment is for women to go live somewhere else, isn’t really serious about that. They don’t want us to move out of the cities. Even if there are some places where women can live and work without harassment (which…no, honestly, there aren’t), nobody actually wants us to follow this advice. If all the women currently experiencing street harassment in New York City cut their losses and moved out to the Land of Safe Streets, that would be a very serious problem for NYC, and nobody wants that to happen. Nobody wants New York, or LA, or DC, or San Francisco, or Chicago, or anywhere else where creepy stalker guys exist (which is…everywhere that humans live) to become a sausagefest. A city without women is an unsustainable city. Demographic devastation is not the answer to street harassment.

They don’t want us to move somewhere safer. They want us to shut up and pretend there’s no problem.

Paris Lees deserves better.

I am sitting here cringing in solidarity with Paris Lees for having participated in a “debate” with Julie Burchill at the Spectator. It didn’t go well, but she seems to be dealing with the horror of her experience much better than I would. She has some handy, astute things to say about progressive concepts such as intersectionality, which seems to be catching a lot of flak from British white cisgender feminists lately. I will share her insights, as she is much more gracious than I am.

Intersectionality is a fairly unattractive word to describe a fairly useful concept. People face multiple forms of prejudice and intersectionality is simply about recognising the difference, say, between being called a “slag” and being called a “black slag”. Burchill says she doesn’t “like” intersectionality – but it’s not a case of liking. You either accept that some people have more to struggle against than you, or you don’t. And you either wish to help them, or you don’t. What she really means is that she doesn’t like transgender people objecting to her cruel and inaccurate jokes – just as some people say they “don’t like” political correctness because really they don’t like gay people asking to be treated with respect.

I see nothing unattractive about the word, but whatevs, it’s a term that’s in use for the discussion of social justice issues, and you’re either invested in those issues, or not.

Also, this happened:

Burchill also accused me of being a privileged graduate who probably spent my time at university learning academic jargon at sit-down protests. The truth is that I’m even more common than she is and turned to prostitution to put myself through higher education. It was more “lie down” than “sit-in”.

I’ve seen a screencap of Burchill’s writing in which she says that sex workers should be shot as collaborators with capitalist patriarchy. Maybe she’s developed a more nuanced view since then. For some reason I’m not interested in extending the benefit of the doubt.

Solidarity, the sort that Burchill says her dad believed in, was about everyone who was less well-off helping each other to achieve a more equal society. It’s a lovely idea but it wasn’t always successful. Increasing rights for workers didn’t necessarily apply to women, for example.

And fighting for better conditions for women doesn’t necessarily work out as improvements for women across the board. It’s like, some marginalized people are less marginalized than others, and the less marginalized aren’t necessarily interested in the concerns of those who deal with multiple oppressions. Working-class white cis women aren’t necessarily standing up for the rights of homeless trans women of color, for example.

On Road, the organisation that manages All About Trans (a project that introduces media professionals to young trans people), also works with homeless people, undocumented migrants, travellers and people with mental health issues. Intersectionality isn’t a competition, it is about promoting equal rights for everyone. I suspect that Burchill knows that, deep down, and couldn’t care less.

I think the qualifier of “deep down” is too generous.

Privilege is Never Having to Say You Screwed Up

See all those retweets in my Twitter feed with the tag #solidarityisforwhitewomen? Yeah, it’s trending and I’ve been glued to it for the last day and a half or so. I see a lot of (white, upset) people wandering in and demanding to know what in the fresh hell is THIS shameless new TT. To describe the purpose of the tag, in brief: it’s about exposing the ways that mainstream (read: white-dominated) feminism excludes, marginalizes and tokenizes women of color. We could call it an airing of feminism’s dirty laundry, which is desperately needed because the laundry has been wafting toxic fumes all over the house.

The founder of the tag is Mikki Kendall, which you wouldn’t know from reading Jezebel’s rather belated coverage of the tag. For the background of this discussion, I greatly encourage you to read this Storify:  On Hugo Schwyzer, White Supremacist Feminism and Its Abuse of WOC*

(*Women of Color)

If you don’t have time, perhaps I can sum up: Hugo Schwyzer is an asshole of fractal proportions, has been ESPECIALLY destructive to WOC feminists, and high-profile white feminist writers and sites such as Jezebel supported his career and enabled his assholery up until his very public, very dramatic meltdown last Friday. Still, when you can spare a bit of time, read the Storify.

So, all that happened, and so Ms. Kendall started up the #solidarityisforwhitewomen discussion because this shit needs to be said. Earlier this evening, after more than 24 hours of the tag going nuts on Twitter, Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel FINALLY posted an article that acknowledged the discussion’s existence.

Acknowledged its existence. Not much else. Didn’t mention the founder. Didn’t dare say anything about the role Jez played in Schwyzer’s abusing WOC feminists behind the scenes. Just…listed a bunch of good Tweets. I suppose it’s better than nothing at all.

 

Ryan Holiday, please take this aloe for that BURN.

Oh, dear. If you’re going to accuse Irin Carmon of being Part of the Problem, you’d best have an honest angle on the issue, your facts had better be solid and your argument had better be airtight. Otherwise she might do this to you:

But in Holiday’s formulation, sexism or discrimination aren’t real, they’re just something he uses as a way to sell products. No one actually believes in what they write or the issues they’re writing about, because, Holiday claims, we are all motivated by a desire for attention or money. I’ll freely admit that like most writers, I prefer my work to be read and I like to be paid for my labor. But you know what reliably gets more traffic than articles about gender or, the beat I’ve been on for several years now, politics and reproductive rights? Cats and iPhones. You know who reliably makes way more money than journalists? PR people and authors of self-aggrandizing tell-alls.

With that in mind, it’s somewhat ironic that Carmon advises Holiday to “punch higher next time” rather than focus on a small fry like her. Any higher, and the punch-back will knock his head off.

Satire in Search of an Audience

*blinks* Well. There’s an article at Jezebel today that’s generating nothing but nonplussed WTFs in the comments. Kat George begs the cute guy at the cafe not to smile at her when she’s not made up:

Men should not publicly smile at women who have just rolled out of bed. Yes, this sort of behavior is romantic and sweet on Sunday mornings when you’re falling in love and the naked man next to you tells you how beautiful look in the dappled light, bare-faced and hair tousled. But in any other moment, attention on an intentionally sloppy looking lady in public reflects an extreme breakdown in communication; a man is acknowledging her existence before she has prepared herself to have that existence acknowledged. I’m not ready for that smile, buddy. I’m wearing last night’s eye makeup and comfy pants, and you’re supposed to see right through me. Please.

Most of Ms. George’s rant goes on in that vein, and it is that attitude which is getting a universally unimpressed reaction in the comments. Can’t a guy do anything right, he’s just being pleasant and friendly, not necessarily coming onto you, he can’t read minds, and so on and so forth. All astute criticisms, assuming the rant is meant sincerely and that the target of her annoyance really is the cute smiley guy at the cafe.

However.

Am I alone here in spotting the satire?

It is not at the beginning of the rant, but at the end, that the true statement comes out:

Moreover, all the ladies’ magazines keep saying […], that if I feel good about myself — and that is to feel pretty, to perform my ritual — that will translate into my everyday ability to achieve various life goals that have absolutely nothing to do with the way I look.

So this is a note to Cute Smiley Guy In Local Café. Do not smile at me when I’m not wearing makeup. It makes my rituals meaningless. I mean, come on, dude, help me to feel like the time I put into taking pride in my appearance is worth it.

Emphasis mine.

If my reading is correct, this isn’t really aimed at the cute smiley guy. It’s a statement directed at the culture of femininity that says we’re supposed to sink inordinate amounts of time and money into looking decorative so that (among other things) men in public spaces will notice us. The implication is that if we go outside without “putting our faces on,” the menfolk will act like we don’t exist. (Although, as a personal aside: fine by me!)

The question, therefore, is really: if there’s a good-looking guy smiling at her even when she’s put absolutely no effort into her appearance, then, wait a minute, why does she have to put on mascara and lipstick, again?

Hence, the last sentence makes sense:

And one more thing (also directed at Cute Smiley Guy In Local Café): Call me.

Yeah.

There are some women who really like being oppressed.

To the ridiculous person who pathetically attempted to come onto Mark Wahlberg, Sadie Stein at Jezebel urges:

Young beauty, whoever you are: you are better than this. You shouldn’t be defining yourself in relationship to the nearest man, and you shouldn’t buy into a world that pits “mistresses” archaically against wives. We hope that seeing this item will serve as a wake-up call. You’re not “the single girl” — you’re a person! A person with opinions and history, and value. You deserve to be not just in the VIP section, but in the VIP section of life!

I disagree. This “single girl” is a moron. She likes this world of pitting mistresses against wives. She likes the idea of being the mistress to a famous, married man. Opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has them. Most are not very interesting. (Yes I am aware of the bar I have just set for myself with that assertion.) Seeing this item will show her that she is getting the attention she craves. The best thing (where the rest of us are concerned) to do with women like this is allow them to remain invisible.

If Mark Wahlberg shouldn’t be given credit for rightly turning this idiot down flat, then no energy should be wasted on encouraging the idiot to realize her potential. There are ways in which the patriarchy benefits a small number of women. Feminism needs to keep in mind that many women are perfectly happy to reap those benefits. It doesn’t mean they’re being duped, or that feminism needs to rescue them from themselves. Sometimes, they know exactly what they’re doing. They are part of the problem.