It’s been a while since I’ve written, in part because I am participating in that most frenzied of literary pursuits this year, NaNoWriMo, and I have been directing most of my words and my mind to that.  But then I saw something that I couldn’t set aside.

Jezebel is not one of my favorite feminist resources, I’ll be honest.  I too often find myself thinking that they’ve just slightly missed the point, even if an article holds a promising idea.  So I can’t say I was entirely surprised when I saw this article.  In it, a man discusses his time in Paris and the interactions he saw there, finally coming to the conclusion that the idea of consent is holding American women back.

The final passage sums up his ideas very well, and I think shows how much he seems to be missing.

It would be asinine and anti-feminist to argue that consent doesn’t exist, or that the complete disregard of consent has no repercussions (because it most certainly does). But our language reflects and enables our sexual repression, and that in turn causes us to do damaging, disempowering things (like perpetuate a double standard on promiscuity), and it may be inadvertently enforced by how we refer to sexual choices. I’m not suggesting that a woman have sex with someone she doesn’t want to, but I’m hoping we can start having more guilt-free sex by any means necessary. If we turn the volume down on consent, perhaps we’ll get closer to this kind of liberation.

The assumption is that it is the idea of consent that enables sexual repression, perpetuates double standards on promiscuity, and causes us to feel guilty about our sexual interactions.  The fatal flaw in this logic, of course, is that every single one of these things was an issue in the days when the idea of needing a woman’s consent for sexual interaction was not really a concern.  Needing her father’s consent, perhaps, but not hers.  It is my opinion that the disregard of consent contributes to these problems, not the requirement of it.

Consent is a powerful thing, an empowering thing, and it in no way means that one has to agonize over every sexual encounter.  Making consent a standard increases the ability of women to step outside the roles that have been chosen for them and pursue their own desires.  Perhaps for the men of which the author speaks — the men who don’t respect the boundaries of the women around them, who don’t value the knowledge that the women they have sex with actually want to have sex with them — an environment in which consent is not required or wanted is preferable.  However, for the women who are left to fend off the unwanted advances of these men, I cannot see it being so.

The Yes Means Yes philosophy of consent (which is the one that I prefer) does not require you to constantly receive reassurances from your partner that they are still consenting.  It doesn’t require you to get a verbal confirmation at all.  It tends to be pretty obvious when someone is actively engaging and when they are not.   The boundaries that each person sets up are incredibly important, but it is easy to work within those boundaries.

The idea of consent is not by nature weighty; it is only the disregard for the idea that consistently harms women.


The other night, two of my friends were telling me a story about a group of women who participated in the (literal) torture of several men.  One friend referred to these women as simply “feminists,” the other “extreme feminists.”

This isn’t a personal failing on the part of my friends.  The women in the story took the term for themselves, although their actions went against the very definition of feminism.  The stereotype of the man-hating feminist, as erroneous as it is, is often what people connect with feminism.  Those women were extremists, certainly, but extreme feminists? Absolutely not.

There isn’t just one way to do feminism.  I know feminists who are married.  I know feminists who believe marriage goes against the ideals of feminism.  I know feminists who long for old-fashioned, courtly romance.  I know feminists who prefer polyamory.  I know one particular feminist who embraces both in her marriage.  I know feminists who work full-time.  I know feminists who stay home to take care of their children.  I know Christian feminists, pagan feminists, atheist feminists.  I know male feminists, female feminists, feminists who don’t accept or fall into the gender binary.

Feminists take many forms, but anyone who works for the domination of one gender over the others is not feminist.  There is a pretty standard dictionary definition for feminism:

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

But, I prefer the definition from Alas!

A feminist:

  1. Advocates for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
  2. Believes that there is current, significant, society-wide inequality and sexism.
  3. Doesn’t believe that men are the primary victims of inequality and sexism.

Navigate over to read Amp’s reasons for the second two aspects of the definition.  I’ll wait.

Now, I’ll give the same disclaimer he did — I know that I do not (and should not) have the power to raise a staff Gandalf-like in the air and say “I declare this the only acceptable definition of feminism for anyone, ever!  Let it be so!”  (I will say that I believe any definition of feminism that doesn’t aim for equality is not feminism, and should really go by another name.)  However, I think this is a great working definition of feminism.

The idea that feminism is a movement that requires change is an especially important one.  If one does not believe there is a need for a change in the disparity of power, is there really a need to label yourself feminist?  If feminism had accomplished all it needed to, if the ideals of feminism were in fact so much ingrained in our lives that working toward change was no longer necessary, there would be no need to declare your support for feminist ideals.  It would be met with a resounding “So?”  Therefore, the belief that there is a problem that must be changed is necessary, in my mind, to being feminist.

I really like the way point three is phrased as well.  I think a great deal of the time people look at feminism and ask why feminists don’t worry more about equal rights for men, and think that it’s exclusionary not to do so.  While it’s not the responsibility of the feminist movement to be a catch-all for egalitarianism, feminism does work toward gender equality.  Every feminist I have ever met does believe that feminism helps men (which is not to say that every feminist thinks this, just the ones with which I’m acquainted), but men are not the focus of feminism because men are not the primary victims of inequality and sexism.  They are still victims of it, though I’d say to a different degree.  This ties into the change involved in point two — the problem is discrimination based on gender.  Because this, on the whole, tends to manifest itself in a way that harms women, the main focus of the efforts to level the playing field is directed toward gaining rights for women.

But neither definition — even when you increase the criteria that must be met in order to be feminist — involves the domination of one gender over another.  Neither involves saying that one gender is inherently bad or good (or more or less capable).  Neither definition involves hatred or violence.

And yet what do most people think of, automatically, without any effort, when the term “feminist” is mentioned?

There are no easy solutions to this.  I try to raise awareness of the true meaning of the term without going into a lecture on feminist theory every time this comes up.  But, almost without fail, when the fact that I am feminist is dropped into the conversation I must go into detail — not in a way that says, “I’m not one of those feminists,” but in a way that says, “Those beliefs aren’t actually feminist.”

Yesterday I spent an incredibly ridiculous amount of time attempting to have a discussion about feminism with someone who, it become obvious as the discussion progressed, did not actually want to discuss feminism, but rather explain to me — feeble minded lady that I am — what feminism is and how feminist discourse should be carried out.

I should know better.  I’ve read Derailing for Dummies time and time again.  I’ve laughed over the sad truth of the contents, and this entire conversation was like filling out a promising Bingo card.  And yet I just let myself get involved in this discussion.

I think it’s harder to avoid getting involved in discourse with derailers when the derailer is someone you know — someone with whom you’d like to foster a mutual understanding.  This is how too many of my pointless discussions come about.  Random people can be infuriating, but are ultimately — for me, at least — easy to dismiss.  But people I know, people with whom I’ve spent years building relationships…I want them to understand.  I want them to at least attempt to see my point of view.  And when discussions devolve to the point where I’m left shaking in anger and frustration, I remind myself not to get involved in the cycle again, but, somehow, the next time around they always drag me in.

I hate that I let this happen.  I hate that the personal nature of these issues makes it impossible for me to just overlook certain behaviors.  I don’t regret discovering the truth in feminism, but I won’t deny that personal relationships were much easier to handle before.

Over time, I have gained the ability to pick my battles, and let certain things slide.  This makes things easier and harder.  It’s easier because it lowers the rate of repetitive conversations in which I engage.  It’s harder because it involves holding my tongue on issues about which I am passionate.

I have a loose formula for making the engage or not to engage decision.  This involves the amount of exposure I will have to a person, how open I think they will be to what I’m attempting to tell them, and whether or not a particular sort of behavior is common in them.  It’s tricky — if I spend a great deal of time with someone, repeated sexism is going to start to get to me; however, if the discussion takes a bad turn, dealing with the possible hostility fostered by it on a daily basis would not be pleasant.

Sometimes engaging is successful.  I try to approach it in non-accusatory ways, although that isn’t always possible.  (Side note, this article by Dan Savage got my father to stop using “pussy” as a derogatory term.  You can never tell what will make things come together for people.)

The original point of this post was actually going to be a discussion on how inappropriate it is for men to attempt to dictate the terms of a conversation about feminism — not because men are bad, or because they don’t have a place in the discussion, but because they are coming at a conversation about their privilege and wanting exercise that privilege within the conversation.  But, I think it might be better if I gave my personal guidelines for having discussions about privilege when I am the privileged person.  I’m white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, and middle-class, and I’ve engaged in discussions about all of these things.  I understand that it can be uncomfortable, but I’ve learned that there are a few very important things to keep in mind in these situations.

1.  In most cases, the discussion is not about you personally, nor is the discussion of your privilege meant to make you feel bad about yourself.   It’s meant to make you understand so that you can begin working to change the inequality around you.  If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

2.  There will be things brought to your attention that you have never seen and do not understand, because you have not experienced them.  In some cases, you will wonder why these are such a big deal.  This is because you have never experienced these things.  Remember that it isn’t your place to comment on the importance of something if you’ve never had to deal with it.

3.  Shut up and listen.  If you think you understand the situation of a marginalized person better than that person can, it’s because you’ve been taught that your outlook on life is superior.  This is because you are privileged.

4.  If someone refers you to a link explaining a concept, do not take it personally.  These people not only deal with these concepts in action every day, it’s also a safe bet that they’ve attempted to explain them to people several times over.  There are resources out there for a reason — if someone is actually taking the time to try to help you learn, read the material they send you.

5.  Realize that they are going to be passionate about this subject.  They are going to take it personally, and you are going to fuck up and say things that piss them off.  Try to understand why, and, once you do, own up to making a mistake.  Plowing forward in an attempt to prove why you were right is not the correct course of action.

Putting yourself aside in order to have these discussions isn’t easy, but it’s also important to examine why it isn’t easy.  A large part of this is because, when it comes to whichever area you are discussing, you are not used to having to put yourself aside.  Society has ingrained in you that you are the correct and rightfully dominant side of the equation, and that listening to the “wrong” side is beneath you.  It ceases to be a conscious decision — you try to dominate because this has become the default course of action.  This isn’t right, of course, but it doesn’t mean you should become a ball of self-loathing when you realize you’ve done it.  Working to change behaviors and the dynamic of relationships is much more useful than self-flagellation.  Apologize, and then move on.  Going on about your own guilt just forces everything to focus on you, which, again, means you are dominating the conversation…and this really isn’t about you.

Self-examination is an integral part of discourse on privilege, and the willingness to honestly engage in it is vital.  If you aren’t capable of doing that yet, do some more research on your own before attempting to break into a discussion.  And always remember that, as an ally inside of the privileged group, your opinion will hold sway with others like you.  It’s a sad truth that men discussing feminism will be taken more seriously than women (and the same holds true for white people and racism and heterosexuals and LGBTQ rights).  If you are truly willing to be a part of the conversation, get educated, ask questions of those willing to give you answers, and don’t be afraid to be a vocal supporter.

“I noticed that everybody who is pro-abortion has already been born…”

– Ronald Reagan

A friend, with whom I’ve had several heated arguments on this subject, posted this quote on his facebook.  I have been making an attempt not to respond to such statements, although he is making them increasingly often.  But this quote, in particular, makes it difficult not to respond.

First, there is the scare-tactic term, “pro-abortion.”  I think Hillary Clinton put it well when she said, “I have met thousands and thousands of pro-choice men and women. I have never met anyone who is pro-abortion.”  Those of us who are pro-choice are advocating for just that — choice.  We aren’t advocating using abortion as your primary form of birth control, or running campaigns to abort every fetus we can get our hands on.  But in order for women to have any sort of agency in their lives, they must have the choice of when and whether to have children, and “Don’t have sex at all unless you want children” really is not a viable option — is not an option that provides agency at all.  Every single pro-choice advocate I know is also an advocate of thorough sexual education — education that helps to prevent unwanted pregnancy.  But when a pregnancy a woman cannot handle either emotionally, physically, or financially occurs (whether because other methods of birth control fail, she did not receive proper sexual education, or she found herself in a situation where the use of birth control was prevented by the other party), then her only options should not be pregnancy and child-rearing, or pregnancy and adoption (I’ll spare you the rant on our over-crowded adoption system).  Either of those two options involves at the very least nine months of medical bills, some pretty intense body changes (which include decreased mobility and self-reliance), and, toward the end of the pregnancy, time out of a job that the woman may not be able to afford (I don’t think I even have to mention giving birth…but yes, painfully delivering a mini-human is also a negative).  It seems to me that those who assume that women should go through with a pregnancy they can’t afford are generally on the privileged end of the spectrum — they have money, and they have support systems, and either can’t wrap their minds around the fact that some people have neither, or don’t care because they don’t think it’s their problem.

And then there’s the rest of the sentence.  Can I tell you how utterly ridiculous it is?  Because, honestly.  Unless we are going to give fetuses voting rights that they don’t have the sentience or capacity to exercise, of course everyone who is pro-choice has already been born, and this should not be changed even if it could be.  I can’t even begin to understand why someone thinks this is a viable argument.

In short: I am tired of so-called arguments that rely on nothing more than a self-important notion of morality.

I’ve posted about this pretty much everywhere I do any sort of social networking.

I have, for some reason, been especially emotional today.  I’m not sure whether it was better or worse that my strings happened to be so easily plucked on a day like today.  When I read the ruling, I cried.  Good tears, happy tears, but I’m not generally the type, and so it was both surprising to me and a bit exhausting.

Perhaps I’m just not used to feeling hope, and my body didn’t know how to handle it?

Lately, for some reason, one particular issue keeps surfacing in my life: the supposed war between the atheist and Christian populations.  First it was this article from CBN (which resulted in a debate with a friend of mine), and now it’s this piece from Chrissy Satterfield.

I can’t help but notice that our very existence is considered an attack, and that when we have the gall to request that we be no longer treated like second-class citizens, we are accused of waging an outright war.  No one seems to be able to see that there is a difference between asking for equal consideration and trying to eliminate Christianity.  Restoring the Pledge of Allegiance to its original version does not require anyone to renounce their god and religion, it merely prevents people from being forced to profess belief they do not hold.  Asking for holiday decorations to be inclusive does not force Christian decorations out of the mix, it merely takes into account the diverse beliefs of the American population.  Enacting legislation that is not based on the principles of a certain religious sect does not force the members of that sect to act in opposition to their beliefs, it merely prevents others from being forced to act in opposition to their own.  We are broadening horizons, not fighting for the dominance of one group over another.

The Chrissy Satterfield piece has had me seething all day.  I’ve spoken before about the disconnect that appears to be inherent in Christianity, but there is certainly evidence for how it works socially here – Christian billboards are acceptable, while atheist billboards are purposeful acts of spite which infringe on the rights of the Christian population.  The author openly gloats over the fact that the purpose of the billboards – which was to be a Fourth of July demonstration depicting the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance – was made ineffectual by the vandalism.

There is also a certain self-importance in her reaction.  She claims:

This billboard campaign was a calculated insult to Christians, and the atheists thought it was appropriate.  That shows you how spiteful this organization is.  They took an American celebration and made it about them.

Right.  We can clearly not be atheist and American at the same time – the two are mutually exclusive.  Only a Christian expression of patriotism is appropriate, never mind that what was depicted was the original Pledge.  As in, the most historically accurate means to honor the Pledge of Allegiance on Independence Day.  It’s funny how it never crossed her mind that, just maybe, this was a way for the atheist population to show unity with one another, and really had nothing to do with attacking Christians.  Yet another example of how simply not shutting up and accepting the status quo is seen as an assault, rather than a peaceful act of togetherness.

Oh, people know you exist all right.  Any time you have a problem, the Left is ready to hear you out.  But anytime a Christian has something to say it gets swept under the liberal rug and dismissed like our rights aren’t important.

Can I just address how utterly ridiculous this is?  Because, honestly.  We’ll even ignore the fact that the Right doesn’t hear out the atheist agenda, and expecting the Left to hear out the Christian agenda despite that fact is all kinds of privileged.

The majority of liberal politicians (of all politicians) profess Christianity as their faith, and the Christian agenda gets so much attention.  In fact, it’s pretty damn hard to get anything that the author would deem the “atheist agenda” (whatever that may be) any positive attention.  The Christian population has been in charge of things for quite some time, and to think that they are oppressed and downtrodden is just absurd.  It is true that the human rights side is, thankfully, getting a little more consideration these days than in the past, but it is still not the dominant force.

Yet another passage to prove that she really, truly Does Not Get It:

Atheists are always saying how offended they are by, well…everything.  How is this billboard not offensive to me?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Where’s my PC?  And who’s protecting my right not to be offended?

I can tell you right now, I’m generally not “offended” by the treatment of all who are not Christian as lesser citizens.  I am pissed the fuck off.  I have spent my entire adult life respectfully biting my tongue and trying to reason with the Christian population, and I am dead tired of trying to be reasonable about the fact that they don’t seem to think I have a right to exist in their world.

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the man or woman responsible for this vandalism.  I appreciate the action you took.  Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone.  It took a lot of guts to do what you did – and the fact that you haven’t stepped forward to take credit makes you a hero.  It shows everyone that you are more devoted to the message than you are to the spotlight.  I encourage you to keep your cover.  Don’t give the secular world a reason to call your name; instead, let them call for our God.

Oh, where do I start?

How about this: vandalizing a billboard that expresses a view that opposes your own, and not owning up to it, is not an act of bravery.  I’d say that not coming forward is the intelligent move, but it isn’t heroic, and it isn’t a sign of devotion to “the message.”

Then there’s that part thanking them for reminding her that she’s not alone.  Exactly what reminder does she need?  The majority of the population professes Christianity.  Most of the messages we see and people we encounter as we go about our everyday lives are Christian.  Perhaps she doesn’t notice because she assumes that it’s the default, The Way Things Rightly Are, whereas people who are outside that belief system realize it is The Way It Should Not Be.

I also need to extend a thank-you to some people in Sacramento and Detroit.  In February, 10 atheist billboards were defaced in the Golden State and a slew of atheist bus ads were vandalized in Detroit.  My dose of honesty this week: I am not happy that vandalism seems to be the only way to get an atheist’s attention.  I’m happy that I can count on other Christians to stand up for themselves and for Christians everywhere.  It gives me hope.

Really, Chrissy?  Really?  Even if the Christian population did not have our attention, vandalism is not the only way to get, and it is certainly not the best or most effective method.  It is a good way to piss us off, though.

The fact that we are speaking out is a pretty big indicator that the Christians have our attention.  That we are not bowing under is not a sign of ignorance – we have heard the other side, and we have rejected it.  By responding to this incident with claims that you are the one being oppressed, you have revealed your true goal, which is to silence and dominate.  And congratulations, you are quite good at pursuing that particular objective.  But every time you attempt to silence rather than converse and coexist, I become less willing to hold my tongue and be polite when discussing my right to live in this world without being forced to pay lip service to a faith I have not held since I was 14.  I truly hope that mutual respect comes before my patience runs out, but some part of me can’t help but wonder…if a request for common courtesy is seen as an attack, how would you handle it if we treated you as you treat us?

From the same woman who said what Roman Polanksi did wasn’t “rape rape,” we now have Mel Gibson isn’t racist!

Perhaps, in the interest of fairness, I should add that Whoopi said she wasn’t defending Mel, and didn’t agree with what he did.  But that’s a small defense when you’re saying a man who has repeatedly and unapologetically used racial slurs as insults isn’t racist, and that he only made anti-Semitic and sexist remarks against the police officers involved in his 2006 DUI because he was drunk.  That sounds a lot like defending his behavior to me.

Whoopi, we need to have a heart-to-heart.  There comes a time when you have to accept that friends and people you respect can hold extremely fucked up views and do extremely fucked up things.  Perhaps you cannot keep them as friends once you admit this to yourself.  I know I couldn’t – not once we get into the Mel Gibson level of fucked-up-ness.  But the denial has got to stop.  Perhaps he hasn’t been overtly racist toward you.  And really, that’s great.  But my bet would be you’re the exception to the rule, and I imagine a large part of this is because you seem to have no problem with ignoring his racism and abusiveness.  This works in a very similar way to rape apologism – which, incidentally, you’ve also engaged in!  You make excuses for his behavior, don’t call him out on his racism, and downplay all incidents in which his bigotry rears its head.  He has now pegged you as an ally.  He now knows that, when it comes down to it, you will not turn against him when he continues being a racist asshole.  So, Whoopi, here’s the deal.  If your friend consistently spews racist bullshit (especially when he gives every indication that he means it), it’s pretty damn safe to say that he’s racist.  Therefore, you need to accept that he’s racist, and decide how you want to approach the friendship from there.  I would suggest approaching it in a way that doesn’t perpetuate bigotry and rape culture, but I really can’t make that decision for you.  Most of all, you absolutely have to STOP BEING AN APOLOGIST.  Perhaps you could say, “Mel seems to hold some very racist views, but I would like to continue the friendship and try to influence his views for the better.”  I would find that response perfectly acceptable!  “I know Mel, and I know he’s not a racist,” however, is not.  It would be really, really nice if one day the “Whoopi on The View” headline was not followed by a summary of you spewing apologist crap.