Sassy Feminist Friend
Things have suddenly gotten busy in my world, so I apologize for not posting as regularly. There are five more items in the dreaded Mr. X list, and thus two more posts. Today, I’m tackling three (count ‘em: THREE) points of his, mostly because they are rather absurd, and it won’t take me long to respond.
As always, I welcome new ideas for posts, so if you’ve run across items like Mr. X’s list or arguments you just wish you had an argument to debunk or a topic you’d like me to address, hit me up. Send me a buzz. Whatever the lingo is you cool kids are using these days.
…you think including a female body part or the word “slut” in your nom de plume is somehow empowering.
When Bitch magazine was started in 1996, it signaled a turnaround in the feminist relationship to the word “bitch.” For decades, the word “bitch” had been used as a means to derail and dismiss feminist argument because, well, if you couldn’t be NICE when making an argument, then what good is your argument? A bunch of feminists in Portland, OR, realized the subjective nature of this word and decided, “Hey, you know what, yeah, I’m a ‘bitch’ because you think I am. This is okay with me because it means I’m riling you up.”
And the word “bitch” was pretty successfully taken back. The new ownership of the word meant that it could no longer be used effectively as an insult. Calling a feminist a bitch, now, just meant that she was doing something you didn’t like and the power of the word disappeared.
The new word feminists (and the culture as it stands) moved onto is “slut.”
What defines a slut? Seriously, give me an answer: how many men does a woman have to sleep with before she’s labeled a slut? 2? 5? 10? 20? 50?
Or does she merely have to dress slutty or behave in a sexual suggestive manner you disapprove of? Does the nature of the relationships in which she has sex matter? What if the “partner” count for a girl is, say, five or six, but each of those instances were in the course of a committed relationship, the last of whom she married? Is she a slut? Or what about a girl who has reasonable fears about the commitment of marriage (due to family history or some other life experience) and instead chooses to live with her boyfriend in a commitment that is like marriage, but not legally so? Is she a slut?
Because guess what: Slut isn’t a word just reserved for women who have had multiple sexual partners. Or even for those who have had sex. “Slut” is flung around as a particularly anti-feminine insult, often implying that a woman who exhibits sexual agency is “whorish” and therefore not to be taken seriously.
Much in the same way “bitch” has been and still is used. So, much like Bitch magazine, feminist bloggers who happily use “slut” in their nom de plume are trying to take the power from the word. They are happily letting their freak slutty flag fly, as it were.
It is like when Christians in the 90s decided that “freak” was a good thing to be called (thank you dc Talk) and took back the power of that word by saying “I don’t really care if you label me a Jesus Freak / there ain’t no disguising the truth.”
Current feminists are attempting to turn “slut” around into a term of empowerment, just as that meeting of feminists in Portland, OR, turned “bitch” into a word of empowerment for women and undermined its power in the feminist community.
So, Mr. X, my question is this: How is it not empowering, when we have evidence of words that have been taken back by marginalized groups and turned empowering? You, again, have the burden of proof of telling me that when someone calls me a “slut” for wearing a low-cut top that it’s somehow not empowering for me to reply with, “Sure I am. So?”
It seems to me like you want to retain these words as insults (I know the other one you’re thinking of – the c-word, right? Right?), and therefore allow language to continue to act as a form of oppression. Awesomesauce for you, but the feminist community doesn’t much like arguments being boiled down to epithets.
…you constantly use the terms “cisgendered” and “privileged,” usually as epithets.
SPEAKING OF! It seems you are mistaken as to what an insult or an epithets actually is. And it seems I cannot avoid the question of privilege any longer – you’ll notice, Mr. X, that I have not mentioned privilege in any of my arguments thus far because I recognize that we have a tendency to rely on this as an argument (not only in feminist discussion, but in all areas of argumentation about oppression).
And here’s the rub: I know from experience that you do not believe privilege exists. For people who don’t know what it is, here’s a primer. Essentially, privilege is the advantages that the majority group has in a system that privileges one and oppresses the other. For example, when applying for a job, a white person doesn’t usually have to worry about their race getting in the way of being hired. Or, in a more relevant example, a man doesn’t usually have to worry about covering or watching his drink when he goes to a bar for fear of being roofied (I know three women in the last six months who have been roofied when out for a drink with friends, by the way).
But there is no way I can convince you that systemic privilege and oppression exists on a large scale. I cannot make you see that you are privileged as a white male – this is a revelation you must come to by yourself. And while it is possible to address arguments without mentioning the principle of privilege, it’s also very hard. And you know, feminists are people, too, and we get tired of responding to the same terrible arguments over and over. We, like a lot of people, get tired, and lazy, and annoyed, and temperamental. And when we see the same arguments presented over and over again (“There is no wage gap because of x factors that women have that men don’t,” or “Women should just endure an abusive husband because the husband is the head of the family,” [actual argument made by John Piper] or even the simple “Free speech dur I can tell a rape joke derp”), we tend to get sick and tired of repeating ourselves. So we, for better or for worse, informed the person arguing to check his privilege at the door and come back without being condescending.
It’s a crappy style of argument, I know, but, as your list shows, not all of us are inclined to put a whole lot of time or evidence/fact-finding into an issue we’re sick and tired of talking about, especially if the discussion has been going around in circles for ages.
So, yeah, we do tend to rely on the concept of privilege, for better or worse, but what needs to be noted is this: There are some arguments in which privilege is a real barrier to productive discussion and if you are being condescending in your privilege to a marginalized group, members of that group are not inclined to react nicely. You can deny privilege all you want, but don’t put the onus of problematic discussion on us when we get tired of explaining things to you like you’re a three-year old asking “WHY WHY WHY?”
…you dream of a Matriarchy.
Hah! Hahahahahah! Haha! *snorts and wipes eyes of tears of laughter* Oh that’s a great one! I love that joke!
You weren’t joking, were you?
You seriously think that “dreaming of a matriarchy” is a goal? You seriously believe that feminists want to gain power and oppress the men we are trying to work with?
What are you ON and can I have some because it sounds like one hell of a drug.
Okay, that wasn’t the nicest response, but, y’know, Mr. X, for this one, the burden of proof is entirely on you. Even of the crazy radical feminists I’ve encountered, I don’t know of a single one who dreams of a Matriarchy. And I find it extremely humorous that you claim to know our hopes and dreams. I suppose my secret plan to dominate all the men in my life and force them be put out to pasture like stud horses only used for breeding more feminist drones has been exposed. That’s it; I’d better pack it in.
Seriously, this point is so, so ridiculous that I don’t know if I can even deign it with any response except laughter, but I’ll try: A system which would simply flip the areas of marginalization from women to men would still be a broken and dangerous system and feminists recognize that. I, for one, love the men in my life – always have, always will – and would never wish for them to be oppressed in any fashion and would never seek to have Queenly power over any of them. And every feminist I have ever read who is taken seriously feels the same way. Sure, there may have been some militant feminists with crazy views back in the day, but it’s your responsibility to demonstrate how feminists of the current time dream of a Matriarchy, not just accuse us of it.
At this point, it seems that you have encountered the crazies (as in, literal crazy people) of the feminist world, and ascribed them to a much large sphere of influence than they actually have and that scares and hurts you. And with this point, I’m inclined to laugh and tell you to write a sad poem in your journal and move on.
Try again, buddy. Try again later.