Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Can't We All Just Fucking Get Along?

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  • BenWilson,

    Kyle, no. I'm just saying that I don't think direct personal experience of oppression is the paramount part of the definition of feminist. If it is, then the most oppressed women are the most feminist, and powerful unoppressed women are not at all. Regardless of what they think or do on the subject. That seems wrong to me. I think Helen Clark was some sort of feminist, even though she was the most powerful person in NZ for almost a decade. I don't think it was her personal sense of oppression that made her so, but rather her choice to raise the priority of women's issues under her reign.

    However, I do concede to what I consider to be the spirit of Gio's point, that if you don't have direct personal experience, you are perhaps not a very good witness about it, you don't have very much credibility. Also, it's not likely to be a cause that will even rouse you in the first place. But that does not make it impossible.

    Unless it's impossible by definition. Which is just some group making an entry in their dictionary (and getting bitter on people for not using it). It doesn't change anything.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Possibly more than slightly tangential, but today this post from one of my favourite blogs has been going round and round in my head, sparking a lot of 'yeah, maybe, I dunno, maybe'.

    That post built up to a rather cracking finale.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Good god, what to say after four pages of postings on this topic so very dear to my heart. I think firstly, as Deborah has pointed out : elsewhere the personal is political and so each woman's experience of womanhood and the stance she takes on feminism is intensely personal and unique. Not all women are feminists, and not all feminists are the same, as Hilary pointed out. I'm one of the old school sort of second wave - Unifems, the whole nine yards - and I do respect that each women who calls herself a feminist has a standpoint. And yes, feminism is about choice, essentially. About womens' right to live their lives the way they see fit. To be in this world in a way that is equal to their male counterparts. For me, however, the choices made are not always ones that further feminism, and more importantly, some choices do not empower the individual woman who makes those choices .I still struggle to see how selling your body by appearing in a nudie magazine is empowering, nor will I ever see that young women using their femininity to get what they want is empowering. If a woman wants to express her womanly being with lipstick and all the accoutrements, that does not damage her power as a woman. I used to wear fuckme black stilettoes, and it made me feel incredibly powerful. But I also know what it is to give your power away. And that, I will never condone. Feminism, to me, is all about the power. The power to make choices that add to your mana, your sense of self, and that do not rob your soul. And that to me is the bottom line.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Glad I'm not alone in entering on page four. Not being a big fan of labels either, perhaps men are not so much feminists as feminised. Yes I know this term is also loaded, but I am trying to think of what makes us, as men, see how the things we think and do might curtail the freedom of women around us. We can't 'walk in your shoes', in any meaningful sense, but haven't we the faculties to achieve a degree of empathy, and therefore just fucking get along a bit better?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    To be in this world in a way that is equal to their male counterparts.

    I liked your post, Jackie.

    I can't identify with SATC but I did bristle at a Hubbard's View cartoon in the Northern Advocate this afternoon that was based on the Australian football team being dubbed the "Sheilaroos".

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Because, not unlike other ideologies, it is meaningless without lived experience.

    @Gio: There's something niggling me about that. Fran Wilde and Katherine O'Regan have precisely zero "lived experience" as gay men. Still rather pleased they stepped up and put their names on the legislation that makes sure my private, consensual intercourse with an adult of the same gender won't land me in prison, on the dole line or dossing down in a door way because I've been thrown out of my home.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    You don't need to be gay to support gay rights. There are people who died to uphold the rights of groups - racial, socioeconomic, religious, based on gender or sexual orientation - that they didn't belong to. Yet anyone can be a black rights activitst, but to be a black activist you probably need to be black. On one level it's just semantics, yes (Larry Wilmore on Louis Gates - and I'm paraphrasing: "That whole episode, the being arrested, was great for him: he hadn't been black in thirty years!") but on another it recognises that the subjects of identity politics are also real.

    One of the most vilified actions of organised feminists historically has been the creation of women-only spaces, which I'm all for. And they recognise that in some circumstances it makes sense to distinguish and it makes sense to exclude. And that "let's all get along" is very often the answer, but not always.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Another four-page-reader first-time-poster. I've been copying quotes to respond to for the last.. well, four pages. I have SO MUCH to say on this subject it could easily turn into a 6-month treatise.

    I've only recently fully embraced the "feminist" epithet, after most of my life being a kind of naive post-feminist. As a woman who has been subjected to very little misogyny or oppression, I also take issue with the experience requirement. I think it's simply driven by the presumption (reinforced, I admit, by being widely - but not universally - accurate), that people without experience can't have sufficient understanding of gender discrimination to be able to call themselves a feminist.

    Firstly, I think the conflicting factions within feminism are indication enough not to demand perfect understanding (which would require first-hand experience plus possibly multiple personalities) in order to call oneself a feminist.

    Secondly, as mentioned in a previous post by who's-even-keeping-track-now, there are plenty of women who are first-hand victims of gender discrimination that still haven't graduated feminism 101. Thoughtlessness or bad assumptions may make one a Bad - or at least cringe-inducing - Feminist; not lack of experience, just there's a correlation.

    Lastly, after years of interacting with a lot of smart women* and being the recipient of many many patient explanations about how & why feminism is still relevant, I believe I've now come to grasp sufficient understanding of gender discrimination to feel strongly about identifying as a feminist, albeit within a quite specific scope. If I can, anyone can.
    * I admit, the only man who has made any visible contribution to my education to date is Dan Savage.

    Yeesh, I now have a whole stack of other rubbish in my head related to being female, Maori, straight and bourgeois, but I can't even go there now. Upshot is that I think the "what the hell would you know" mentality isn't entirely unfair, especially since common experience is a powerful unifying force, but ultimately it's not helpful.

    By the by, I see no problem - and every benefit - in adding a qualifier to the label, just to frame the debate you're willing to have. An "I'm a feminist because I believe..." kind of thing. It's probably easy for me to say given I have a pretty clearly defined soapbox. "I'm a feminist because I believe that there are deeply-ingrained presumptions about how women and men can and can't express themselves sexually, and I believe those expectations are a large part of the foundation of a great deal of bad policy, bad advice, even such problems as the animosity directed at solo mothers, and the low conviction rate for rape cases. I want to be one of those patient smart women who can help other people - men and women - understand what it is that's wrong, and start on fixing it." FWIW I do think action is an important part of identifying as feminist.

    (No doubt that wee description will trigger memories of various online conversations on PAS & elsewhere, so thanks to every smart patient woman that's contributed to my ever-continuing education.)

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Golly, who are these women?? I dunno if they're feminists or not, but they sound a smidge deficient in the etiquette department, not to mention the persuasiveness stakes. Do they doorknock, or do you meet them at social events, or what? Seriously.

    I'll answer this on Emma's behalf. Go check out any of the many threads on Boobquake. I was told, to my face, that the only thing I was achieving by supporting it was 'giving men a free look'. Whenever Emma or I mention Tits Out For Ourselves day (hereafter known as TOFO) there is always someone who wants to tell us why we are wrong, and why what we are doing is bad for women. Usually because we're making other women feel bad about themselves, or we are buying into what The Patriarchy wants us to do.

    Seriously, where is this Patriarchy? 'Cos wouldn't, like, fire bombing its offices just make life easier for everyone?

    FWIW I do think action is an important part of identifying as feminist.

    (And not to pick on you Heather, a couple of people have said this, you're just the most recent)

    Yeah, but what does that mean? Someone else mentioned 'collective action', in which case I am going to have to hand back my membership card.

    I've never joined a 'women's' group in my life. I've never marched on anything for women's rights. I doubt I've ever signed a petition. Until last year, I'd never written a letter.

    I am the office stroppy bitch. The one who pulls people up for using gendered language, casual sexism. Who points out problems with headlines, and who complains about the word 'spinster' being used in a news story.

    I read, and I watch, and I vocalise. And if anyone thinks I am not doing enough, they can bite me. I actually will hand back my card.

    One of the most vilified actions of organised feminists historically has been the creation of women-only spaces, which I'm all for. And they recognise that in some circumstances it makes sense to distinguish and it makes sense to exclude. And that "let's all get along" is very often the answer, but not always.

    But I still don't understand how that means men can't be feminists. Some of the best feminists I know are men. Certainly there are men better versed than me in feminist theory. And there are men who advocate harder and do more.

    I avoided the women's room at Canterbury for precisely the reason Emma describes with the letters. If we say you must have had Experience X to belong, then I don't see how any of us can claim to be a part of a movement. Because that's going to end up with some fairly narrow criteria.

    The thing is, gender discrimination hurts _everyone_. It's not just a women's fight. And if there are men willing to stand up and say "I am a feminist", then more power to them.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    As per example, this dude.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Go check out any of the many threads on Boobquake.

    Ah, I see. What I saw of those particular threads looked, to me, like healthy and contentious debate, at the interface of two very strong and interesting arguments. But I see how it felt different to others.

    P'raps we need a quick round of the teapot game.

    I was told, to my face, that the only thing I was achieving by supporting it was 'giving men a free look'.

    Yikes. Again, someone who's either mega-etiquette-deficient, or amazingly self-confident. Blokes say uncompromising stuff like that all the time. But I would hope not an indictment of an entire movement?

    Plus, what a dimwit - they missed the fact that you were giving women a free look too :-) Equal opportunity cleavage! I'm a daily advocate. Life is too damn short not to exhibit our beautiful bits in a tasteful manner while they're at their peak. As it were. [Gutter, gutter, looking at the stars.]

    Whenever Emma or I mention Tits Out For Ourselves day (hereafter known as TOFO) there is always someone who wants to tell us why we are wrong, and why what we are doing is bad for women.

    But... and not wanting to dismiss the feelings such a pronouncement might raise, because I can feel my heartbeat rising just reading about it... isn't that always kind of true of everything anyone does? That there's always someone with an opinion? And really, all that particular someone is telling you is that they think you are wrong, and they think what you are doing is bad for women. They don't own the facts.

    The arguments, the debates, I think they're good. We may not agree in the moment, but we can agree to disagree, which can be very empowering in itself. And minds can be changed hours, days, sometimes years later by something that was said and seemed to have been ignored at the time.

    Plus, without the arguing, and the questioning of premises (like the whole "bad for women/good for women", which is where the womanists and the radical dykes and pretty much ever feminist splinter group started digging - which women, kemosabe?), we'd never get to the next level.

    From where I sit, it's all good. It's a sign that the debate is alive. Feminists have been arguing with each other since the beginning (reckon Eve and Lilith had the same take on original sin, let alone which fig leaves were more flattering?). The minute we *stop* arguing, that's when I reckon feminism is dead.

    That, or the SATC3 movie, heh.

    Arguing well while fundamentally getting along, though, is undeniably an art, and takes more than one lifetime to master... s'OK to occasionally fuck up in the meantime, though, eh? In the pursuit of truth, happiness, and really good shoes?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Did somebody say TOFO? I just got my new Bravissimo catalogue. I may be some time...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    As per example, this dude.

    SATC2 is giving rise to some impassioned reviews.

    Isn't that a good thing?

    IF SATC2 is a foolish film, where can I find a good film about women and their lives?

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    IF SATC2 is a foolish film, where can I find a good film about women and their lives?

    Kind of obvious I suppose, but maybe this; Topless Women Talk About Their Lives. Is that TOFO enough? Was made by a man but, so possibly not.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The thing is, gender discrimination hurts _everyone_. It's not just a women's fight. And if there are men willing to stand up and say "I am a feminist", then more power to them.

    I might just have to concede the point, you make a pretty tight case.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Yikes. Again, someone who's either mega-etiquette-deficient, or amazingly self-confident. Blokes say uncompromising stuff like that all the time. But I would hope not an indictment of an entire movement?

    Sure. But I don't really understand how telling me I am doing something Bad for Women can really be good for women. Or that telling me I am a bad feminist makes someone else a better feminist.

    Because in these examples, it's not about debate. It's about someone telling me something I, me personally, am doing is wrong. And bad and dangerous.

    Any my boobs can do a lot. But they actually can't make anyone think anything, or do anything.

    I'm all for debate. But sometimes I get the feeling the other side isn't listening. It doesn't feel like people are arguing with me. It feels like people are telling me.

    And maybe I am a little sensitive, but the implication that cleavage and red lipstick make me a slut will do that.

    IF SATC2 is a foolish film, where can I find a good film about women and their lives?

    You know, that's a bloody good question.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    I might just have to concede the point, you make a pretty tight case.

    See, the concerning thing about how I spend my days is that I can not tell if you are being sarcastic or not. :)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    But sometimes I get the feeling the other side isn't listening.

    Isn't that the problem with every broad-church progressive movement, though? We gather around in little groups to endlessly rag on each other and eat our young, while the actual douchebags often get a semi-free pass. (See also: pinko commies, etc.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    See, the concerning thing about how I spend my days is that I can not tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

    I was not being sarcastic. (Oh, reaaallly? And so forth, ad libitum.) (But really, I wasn't.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    IF SATC2 is a foolish film, where can I find a good film about women and their lives?

    You know, that's a bloody good question.

    It is. This is interesting:

    The Bechdel test:

    http://bechdeltest.com/.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    (And not to pick on you Heather, a couple of people have said this, you're just the most recent)
    Yeah, but what does that mean? Someone else mentioned 'collective action', in which case I am going to have to hand back my membership card.

    Wouldn't dare speak for the borg, but I don't just mean "action" in narrow activist terms (otherwise I'd score a big fat fail as well), but in exactly the sense you're describing as the office stroppy bitch. Perhaps "action" invokes too strong a picture - how about a willingness to engage. I kind of only added that as a half-formed side-thought to the "men can't be feminists" argument - that maybe it's also prompted by the relative passsivity of men who - when pressed - might say "sure, I'm a feminist".

    ...& thanks, your post is exactly what I was trying to convey, only far more effectively & succinctly.

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Meanwhile our universities are cutting Gender and Women's studies departments and with them any opportunity to explore these ideas in an academic environment. Victoria has one lone staff member marginalised to an outpost in the Karori (education) campus, and currrently fighting for course survival.

    Several men have taken GWS courses, including John Campbell who sometimes mentions Victoria's then Women's Studies department and what he learned there about objectifying women.

    But this thread shows how important discussions about feminism(s), media, identity etc still are. I wish the committee deciding VUW's GWSs fate could have read this thread.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The Bechdel test:

    Yes, and it's a pass for SATC, at least in the olden days.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    God, Hilary, that's dispiriting. Just when women's, gender and sexuality studies are getting really exciting. At least, they are over here.

    John Campbell who sometimes mentions Victoria's then Women's Studies department and what he learned there about objectifying women

    I think I know what you mean, but something about the syntax isn't working in your favour :-)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Thanks Hilary, I was thinking about that a couple of pages ago but forgot to mention it.

    The Bechdel test:

    Yes, and it's a pass for SATC, at least in the olden days.

    Yeah, but SATC II fails the Wegan test for being unconscionably stupid. (Which is not to say anything, except I am still a bit pissed that I wasted $16 and nearly 3 hours of my life on it.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

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