What Mia reads when she reads the Internet. This might get long.
The impetus behind starting the book club that became this blog was my realization that most everything I knew about feminism, I learned on the Internet. I mean, a sprinkling of feminist thought had found its way into my education over the years, sometimes through books, but I wanted to get down to basics and explore gender issues in-depth. So I’m slowly plowing through the new translation of The Second Sex for my own edification, and Lindsay and I have a growing book list lined up for future Canonball posts.
Still! The Internet is pretty great. And far be it from me to forget that for even a minute. I also feel the need to be transparent about how much feminist blogs have influenced my growth as a feminist, as well as my writing style. In our guest post yesterday, a male author grappled with a bunch of Lady Questions, and tomorrow’s (also male) author will do the same. So for them – but really, for all of us – I’ve compiled my favorite online writing about feminism. This list isn’t exhaustive, and the selection speaks largely to which blogs I read on a regular basis (and it was put together with a little help from a friend). But these are articles I’ve wanted to (and probably have) shared with people as a way to say, “This is what feminism is to me.”
“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh
Privilege – whether white privilege, male privilege or otherwise – is invisible, and our traditional education leaves us unprepared to recognize it. But McIntosh does:
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
Read the whole list and then scroll down for the Male Privilege Checklist by Barry Deutsch. It ends with this doozy: “I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.”
“Feminism for Young Dudes” by Matt Ealer (The Awl)
Now that we’re all on the same page and agree that privilege exists and that it’s something we have to deal with, here’s some concrete advice. Specifically for progressive, young, “cool” dudes who are probably more or less feminists anyway but don’t know how to show it:
Luckily, there are some great, easy ways to start! Is there a girl you know who regularly has consensual, healthy sex with other unattached and willing participants — with no “drama,” nobody hurting anybody or “dicking anyone around”? Do you sometimes think of this girl as a “whore” or a “slut,” even while thinking that the men she’s sleeping with are just “getting lucky” and “hey, good for them”? You should really stop this. You should stop thinking it, and you should especially stop saying it to other people.
In fact—and this is for the white boys in the audience, mostly, but I trust you’ll all get the point—you should think about it in the same way you do “the n-word.” Look at that! I can’t even write it out, as I am theoretically talking about it! And this is a good thing. Mainly, what I am saying here, is that maybe one day, you will think of these words as the “w-word” and the “s-word” and you’ll be uncomfortable ever using them at all. You’ve just got to work at it.
Really, the message of this article is perfect: “What I would like is for you to stop thinking about women with an 18th-century disposition while you chill on your iPad in the future.”
“Systems Not People” by Silvana (Bitch Ph.D.)
Before you worry that I’m going to blame you specifically for Misogyny and all it has wrought, read this article from the venerable (and – sadly – newly defunct) feminist blog Bitch Ph.D.:
One of the things a feminist has to constantly contend with is the accusation that she hates or dislikes men. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to field many of these complaints, but that’s probably because I spend most of my time around like-minded people. Any time there is an allegation that a particular cultural artifact is sexist or misogynist, a sharp and hot-burning defensiveness comes to the fore: I am not a sexist. I am not an oppressor of women. I, me, my friends, my family, my colleagues, my co-workers, my frat buddies, my children, my parents, my mentors—are not bad people.
And I always want to say: it’s not about you. It’s about the system in which you a willing and/or unwilling participant (usually both, in different ways).
“Rape Culture 101” by Melissa McEwan (Shakesville)
The above article cites Shakesville, a site whose Feminism 101 is a really great resource. (They’ve practically done the work for me! Also note the Shakepeare’s Sister reference in their name. Team Woolf!) This post on rape culture highlights how our society normalizes rape – for real, read the whole article:
Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.
“Crank It Up to 11” by Melissa McEwan (Shakesville)
Of the many other posts by McEwan I could recommend, I present this piece on why allies are so important. McEwan talks about how she stands up for her trans friend when internet threads on trans issues take a nasty turn because, she writes, “I wasn’t the one being attacked; my life wasn’t being treated like a tetherball.”
Often the most important thing an ally can do is just be willing to stand in front of a friend and take a few arrows in the armor made thicker by degrees of distance, to give the priceless gift of: “I got this one.”
If, my esteemed male feminist allies, you don’t want to be part of the problem, these fights have got to be your province, too. Giving yourselves the permission to not get publicly involved, or to get publicly involved only when it’s convenient and not all that risky and not all that hard, is the ultimate expression of privilege.
“The Rule” a.k.a. The Bechdel Test by Alison Bechdel
This is a litmus test you’re sure to come across on feminist blogs. As the character in this Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip summarizes:
I only go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements. One, it has to have at least two women in it, who Two talk to each other about Three something besides a men.
Passing The Bechdel Test isn’t a guarantee that a movie is “feminist,” but it’s a fairly good indicator of whether the movie’s female characters are, you know, complex. And it hearkens back to our cause of making sure that women’s stories are told.
“Street Harassment” by Barry Deutsch
Another comic for you, on how harassment isn’t a compliment and how men are privileged enough to not always see that.
“How Bigotry Works” by Twisty (I Blame the Patriarchy)
Oh, getting back to privilege (aren’t we always?), in this piece, everyone’s favorite Internet spinster aunt Twisty bravely reads the How Stuff Works (.com) article entitled “How Women Work” and comes to this conclusion:
The only real, appreciable “difference” between men and women is the fact that one group is privileged over the other. Physiology, biology, chemistry — none of these things is as absolute as women’s oppression. Take me for example. As a result of primitive cancer treatments, I possess very few of the most popular woman-specific attributes. No boobs. No estrogen. No uterus. No ovaries. My “difference” from men has been drastically reduced. I fucking look like a dude. That I am still considered a woman has nothing to do with “How Women Work.” It has to do with how patriarchy works.
“Do You Trust Women?” by Bitch Ph.D.
The bottom line about abortion is this. Do you trust women to make their own moral judgments? If you are anti-abortion, then no. You do not. You have an absolute moral position that you don’t trust anyone to question, and therefore you think that abortion should be illegal. But the second you start making exceptions for rape or incest, you are indicating that your moral position is not absolute. That moral judgment is involved. And that right there is where I start to get angry and frustrated, because unless you have an absolute position that all human life (arguably, all life period, but that isn’t the argument I’m engaging with right now) are equally valuable (in which case, no exceptions for the death penalty, and I expect you to agonize over women who die trying to abort, and I also expect you to work your ass off making this a more just world in which women don’t have to choose abortions, but this is also not the argument I’m engaging right now), then there is no ground whatsoever for saying that there should be laws or limitations on abortion other than that you do not trust women. I am completely serious about this.
“Casual Sexism is Nothing But Misogyny” by Bidisha (The Guardian)
I noted the other day that The Guardian tends to post some pretty great, pro-woman stuff. Bidisha’s articles are always the best:
For men and women alike, casual misogyny is the climate and context of all their interactions. It is unconcealed and automatic. It affects the way women are received, portrayed and considered as colleagues, friends, workers, mothers, artists, thinkers, public figures and victims of male violence and discrimination. Apart from outright slander, jibes, names and insults there is: talking down a woman’s work, interrupting her, teasing her, mocking her, talking over her, patronising her, sighing or rolling one’s eyes when she talks, invading her personal space. The misogynists’ approach to women can be summed up thus: sneer, leer, exploit, ignore.
“SEXIST BEATDOWN: For Thee, Fair Maiden, I Would Punch A Thousand Faces Edition” by Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess (Tiger Beatdown and The Sexist, respectively)
As a young lady with a fondness for enthusiastic Capitalization and Exclamation Points (!), I obviously adore these two ladies and their (now defunct?) Internet chats. I’ll just make a blanket recommendation for the entire Tiger Beatdown archive. Hess used to blog at The Sexist, which is no more, but you can now find her at TBD. Here, they discuss chivalry:
SADY: Right. I mean, people object to “chivalry” all the time on the grounds that it infantilizes women. WHICH IT DOES! The idea that I can’t open a door or pay for dinner or walk on the side of the street that is nearest to traffic (this is actually something someone told me once: It’s the dude’s duty to walk on the outside, to protect a lady from traffic-proximity and, one supposes, mud from horse-drawn carriages spattering her dainty gown) makes it seem like you think I’m a freaking toddler. But it’s also a way for dudes to reduce ladies to chips in the ongoing poker game between dudes, the stakes of which are deciding Who Is The Most Manly.
AMANDA: To me, chivalry is shorthand for “How can we treat women like they’re not full humans in the most seemingly complimentary way possible, so that they can not object to not being treated like humans?”
“SEXIST BEATDOWN: Tell You My Name, F-U-C-K Edition” by Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess
This is a topic both Lindsay and I want to delve into more in the future: sexism in subcultures and how indie rock dudes aren’t always as woman-friendly as you hoped they’d be:
AMANDA: So on the one hand, you’d think the subculture would be totally interested in accepting women – how rejecting of mainstream values is that! – but on the other hand, the subculture is also about building a culture around the primacy of the sensitive rocking Kurt Cobain haircut boy’s particular flavor of marginalization, and when women come in with some other shit to talk about it tends to threaten that dynamic.
SADY: Right. I mean, not to re-iterate an old cliche, but: The guitar is a tried-and-true way, not only for Wussy Guy to become Charismatically Sensitive Guy, but for men to sort of build hierarchies outside of the gym class where they are all getting wedgies. And I think women are drawn to rock or indie rock or whatever the kids with the cool haircuts are doing these days – and I’m not even trying to exclude other genres, this is just the genre in which I have the most experience – because, they think, “a-ha! Outsiders! As a lady, I am kind of BY DEFAULT an outsider, in that I am not a dude!” But the dudes are like, “you don’t get it. We WERE outsiders. But we built a WHOLE NEW INSIDE, for us specifically, so that we wouldn’t have to be outsiders any more. And now you are not invited.”
“The Revolution Will Be Mansplained: Ross Douthat Trumpets The Triumph of Feminism” by C.L Minou (Tiger Beatdown)
Okay, one more Tiger Beatdown post. I want to include this one because there have been a lot of conversations recently about Sarah Palin and other conservatives calling themselves feminists. And it’s So Painfully Obvious they’re not, but for some reason, a lot of people are having a hard time saying why. And this post lays it out clearly and succinctly:
Because she’s the beneficiary of feminism. Not a feminist.
There you go. Being a women and living in the year 2010 do not automatically make you a feminist. Just because Palin has power our grandmothers didn’t have doesn’t mean she isn’t deeply ideologically invested in supporting policies that hurt women.
I’ll leave it at that for now. Leave your favorite articles on feminism in the comments, particularly ones that fill in some of the gaps that I’ve left. Again, this list obviously doesn’t cover Everything About Feminism, or about gender issues in general or queer studies or trans issues or the experiences of women of color – these are all things that I am looking to read more about, so please, share some links!