“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”
I only just discovered Chally’s blog on the Feministe U.S. website; and today she writes she is giving up blogging there. She explains that it has taken up too much of her time—especially the reading of and responding to comments—and she needs to concentrate on paying work. What writer can’t relate to that? But she goes on.
As a “young, disabled, non-white person,” she was not “accepted” on the site for more than a year. Much of the “pushback” from commentators came from this underlying discomfort with her (overlaid, I am guessing, by their feelings of superiority to her.) No one is more smug in their specialness than an ideologue—and the aging white women who believe they define feminism are that.
“I don’t want a feminism which defines us all monolithically”—with everyone who doesn’t fit into the narrow parameters of acceptability left to fend for themselves. I want a feminism with integrity, a feminism about all of us. I want a kind of feminism that doesn’t scapegoat people outside the mainstream, or disown forever individual activists who didn’t do it just right. I want a feminism that is about all of us.”
A poignant statement that took me sharply back to being a young wife and mother in southern Illinois in the 70s, espousing the cause and values of equal rights, yet feeling marginalized from the feminist movement because I was a young wife and mother at a time when my peers were opting to delay marriage and parenthood.
Years later when I was living in New York City and writing about sex, I felt marginalized again because the sex I wrote about and enjoyed having was heterosexual sex—and I wrote for Penthouse and Cosmo, neither on the approved feminist reading list. The feminists supported the sexuality of lesbians and gays, transvestites and transsexuals, anyone except a lusty woman who craved a man inside her. (If you are well read in women’s studies you know that Andrea Dworkin’s claim “all intercourse is rape” was discussed quite seriously while my response was, “Oh, come on.”) The anti-sex feminists and the Christian right women back home in Illinois seemed more alike than different in their self-righteous, mean-spirited, judgmental ways. As Chally points out, feminists reduced reproductive rights to the right to get an abortion—and the Religious Right reinforced the definition.
“They can’t even understand how for someone like me, it is the right to bear a child.”
She received violent threats, insults to her family and her racial background and “the more mundane forces of attempts to hijack almost every single conversation and make it about something closer to feminist and social norms, which seem curiously aligned at times. (Yes, feminists and Sarah Palin, separated at birth!)
Examples of that proliferate right now in cyberworld as feminists and celebrity haters (the opposite side of crazed fans) slam Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher for their efforts to reduce child sex trafficking. The critics say: celebs don’t know what they are doing and should not get involved in causes; we have to be careful not to make adult sex workers by choice feel like they are being attacked; we shouldn’t use the words “slavery” and “slave” unless we are referring to African Americans before the Civil War; the problem is intractable and the solution is not simply to increase awareness by wearing a t-shirt.
Anyone hearing Moore and Kutcher speak on the issue would come away feeling they are well-informed, know the problem won’t be easily solved and passionately care about saving the girls. I don’t get that passion in the nit-picky, academic territory-protecting, down-the-nose-sneering pronouncements of the self-anointed chosen ones. Moore and Kutcher are focusing on changing attitudes, both in society and particularly of the guys who pay for sex with children. That is a new approach. Their video, “Real Men Don’t Sleep With Girls” is targeted to that audience. The critics, of course, are upset that is it not a standard boring PSA.
This controversy is not unlike that which boils up periodically around Western activists working (with African activists) to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). African American feminists, particularly the academic sisters, insist that we don’t understand the culture and have no right to intervene, that change must come however slowly from within in those countries where the practice still thrives. How many little girls will be cut and mutilated waiting for that to happen? In the West, we should be doing more, not less, to protect children at sexual risk.
“What gets me is the profound lack of loving kindness displayed towards fellow people,”” Chally says of the modern tendency to “respond” to another’s theories by derisive name-calling, not by creating the respectful, and more intelligent, dialogue between people of diverse thinking.
Yes. I’ve had my share of hate mail (delete, delete, delete) and death threats. Chally, they are idiots. The most important lesson of having a public life: People you don’t care about can’t hurt you. Don’t let the trolls get you down.
And I have a suggestion: Write more about sex. That really drives the uptight ladies of every ideological persuasion straight up the wall. You and me, a new cause: Sexing Up Feminism.
Read Chally on her own blog, Zero at the Bone.
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