Monday, May 30, 2016

A Young person speaks out against online feminism

Confessions of a Recovering Tumblr Feminist
When I was in middle-school, I discovered feminism. Always a voracious reader, I devoured every book on it that I could find — eagerly eating the words of feminists like Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, and Naomi Wolf. When I was done with books, I turned my attention to the interwebs, where communities of social justice warriors congregate.
I was exposed to feminism piecemeal; I never had a “click” moment. My grandmother had a lot of disdain for “women’s libbers" because she thought they were taking away men’s jobs. To her and her sisters who waited tables or worked in factories, staying home to raise kids seemed like a luxury, so I don’t blame her. I read Blacklash and The Beauty Myth in high school, and later Greer and Friedan, but I also read women critical of feminism like Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Katie Roiphe. I thought they were part of the same system, not the enemy. I never took a woman’s studies class, for which I’m thankful now. Either way, I love when posts like this one pop up in my newsreader.
For me, feminism was an enticing religion. Raised in a home devoid of faith, I eagerly accepted its philosophy as my ticket to salvation.
Any ideology can function as religion when you grant it enough power.
Social justice theory also taught me about microaggressions. Rarely did I go a day without interpreting what someone said as such, as a personal affront to myself or one of the 7 marginalized identities that feminist social-justice Tumblr gifted me.
I snorted a little at this.
The advent of conservative speakers being de-platformed or harassed by screaming social justice warriors is a logical consequence of an ideology that equates conservative opinions with physical violence.
Except that it’s not only conservative speakers being de-platformed. (And even if it was, I would still think that’s wrong.) The greatest vitriol has been leveled against other liberals who don’t pass ideological purity tests.

(Reblogged from, ironically, Tumblr)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Identifying out of womanhood

Helen Lewis in the New Statesman:
Because we have smudged together the categories of “transsexual” and “transgender”, is every youngster who questions their gender – and, frankly, every youngster should, because gender is restrictive bollocks – getting the message that they must bind their breasts or tuck their penis? I wince when I read oh-so-liberal parents explaining that they knew their toddler son was a girl when he wore pink and played with Barbies. Is there really anything so wrong with being a boy who wants to dress up as Elsa from Frozen? Or a girl who would rather be outside getting muddy than wear skirts and be “ladylike”? Toys and children’s clothes are becoming more gendered: when I was young, we played with Lego – not “Lego” and “Lego for Girls”. As we have shrunk the boxes, is it any wonder that more and more children want to escape from them?
For those of us over forty, this trend -- and I don't say this to discredit anyone who feels their gender differs from their assigned sex, but it is a trend in the sense that there has been a measurable increase in girls calling themselves non-binary -- looks a lot like identifying out of womanhood. Particularly for those of us who now find ourselves fitting the "non-binary" category, which didn't exist in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and instead turned to feminism to validate those feelings of being "not girl enough." Until I read this, I didn't even know Lego made a "Lego for Girls" lest the original Lego require testosterone. And it's frustrating because to even talk about these things is subscribing to a kind of bigotry.  Rather than expanding what it means to be a man or a woman, we're just creating more boxes.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The New Yorker on coddle culture; campus activism

The New Yorker has a lengthy feature on the current state of campus activism, particularly at liberal arts colleges. (The focus is on Oberlin, which is sort of ground zero for this kind of thing.) The whole thing is worth losing an afternoon for  but there are a few points I need to make:
Whatever job they’re doing, they appear to do it diligently. “In class, sometimes I say, ‘Is your identity a kind of knowledge?’ ” James O’Leary, an assistant professor of musicology at the Oberlin Conservatory, told me. “The answer, for forever, has been no.” But his current students often vigorously disagree. In the post-Foucaultian tradition, it’s thought to be impossible to isolate accepted “knowledge” from power structures, and sometimes that principle is turned backward, to link personal discomfort with larger abuses of power. “Students believe that their gender, their ethnicity, their race, whatever, gives them a sort of privileged knowledge—a community-based knowledge—that other groups don’t have,” O’Leary went on. The trouble comes when their perspectives clash.
One of the most dangerous products of an identitarian, post-structuralist, whatever-you-want-to-call-it culture is the exchange of intellectual honest for identity. Lived experience is important, but it shouldn't be the sole qualification of whether someone's opinion has merit. Which brings me to my next point:
“It’s just a massive catastrophe,” Eosphoros reported of the microaggressions he encountered even in his work-study life. “You get your supervisor monologuing about how everyone is just here for ‘pocket money,’ and you’re sitting there going, ‘You cancelled the shift on Sunday, and, because of that, I can’t pay my rent.’ ” He feels that he’s been drawn into a theatre of tokenism. “It’s always disappointing to be proof of concept for other people,” he told me.
But it's all part of the same system that got you there. When we're nothing but a collection of "identities" tokenism happens.
“Students are coming to campuses today with mental-health challenges that in some instances have been diagnosed and in some instances have not. Maybe, in previous eras, those students would not have been coming to college.”
No, a lot of them still would have gone to college. They would have gone undiagnosed. Maybe for another decade. Maybe some of them would have dropped out, but it's hard to guess the rates of mental illness among undergrads when in past decades, things that now are considered pathological would have been dismissed as bad behavior. Those of us who collected our diagnoses in adult have had to walk back a lot of adolescent and post-adolescent crazy to determine what was disorder and what was just... adolescent crazy. And it's still hard to determine.

Okay, this just sounds like the Onion:
I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!” She shrugs incredulously.
But old people still don't get it:
Hyman started college in the eighties. Her generation, she said, protested against Tipper Gore for wanting to put warning labels on records. “My students want warning labels on class content, and I feel—I don’t even know how to articulate it,” she said. “Part of me feels that my leftist students are doing the right wing’s job for it.”
This has been one of the hardest things to swallow for us “olds” who grew up with a concept of censorship that was decidedly right-wing. Yes, Tipper Gore is part of the tribe, technically, but the PMRC was still viewed as “conservative" to leftists in the 80s. (We had punk rock on our side, damn it!)

I do think a lot of this is generational, but with the added development of social media as a tool for activists. PC existed when I was in college, but it was routinely mocked, and often by the people it was supposed to help. There was no Facebook, no Twitter. When you couple that with liberals fear of being seen as anything less than tolerant, a free exchange of ideas seems a little less free.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Shakeup at Demos

So Bruenighazi is a thing that happened. It’s unfortunate because Matt Bruenig is one of the few leftist bloggers who isn’t afraid to talk about white working-class voters without dismissing them as bigots or rubes. The series of tweets that got him fired, apparently, seems more unprofessional than downright abusive, although I’m not that aware of his past behavior or how it factors into the larger culture of women's online harassment. It shouldn't, but with everything online being easily cataloged and referenced with a few clicks, it's impossible to ignore it. And the “scumbag steve” reference is lost on anyone over forty who doesn’t hang around 4Chan (myself included).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Quoted: Dani Shapiro on writing what you desire vs writing what you know

There is a tremendous difference between writing from a place that haunts you, from the locus of your obsession and fear and desire – and writing about what you yourself have been through. We know more than we think we do. I am not, for instance, a sixty-four-year-old male psychoanalyst Holocaust survivor. But in my third novel, Picturing the Wreck, that is who I became. I was Solomon Grossman. “Emma Bovary, c'est moi,” said Flaubert. I didn’t question whether or not I could get inside the heart and soul of a man more than thirty years my senior, who had suffered in ways I hadn’t suffered, taken pleasure in ways I hadn’t. In the first pages, Solomon wakes up in the morning and masturbates. How did I give myself creative license to write such a scene? Because I knew. I knew what he would do, and how it would make him feel, before, during, and after. We are limited only by our capacity to empathize. We have all experienced sorrow, grief, loss, joy, euphoria, thirst, lust, injustice, envy, a broken heart. — Dani Shapiro from Still Writing: The Politics and Pleasure of a Creative Life
There has been a lot of talk lately about who gets to “own” a particular narrative, and the answer should be a simple one: the person who wrote it. Unfortunately, many people would disagree with this. Recently, I read a review that stated emphatically that only an alcoholic knows what it’s like to be an alcoholic, therefore a non-addict shouldn’t write a character with a drinking problem, This makes me sad. And angry. The only criteria for whatever identity group your characters can belong to should be “can you write them well?” If answer no to this, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve “experienced” something or not.