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March 13, 2006

Comments

The Happy Feminist

I have to say, I don't really get the whole notion of some internet spaces being "safe" for women and others not.

I like the idea of having a diverse selection of blogs and chat groups-- some that are for feminists only, others that welcome people with opposing views. I feel pretty "safe" in any forum and I think there is a lot to be learned from listening to feminists and MRAs talking to each other.

Even if some commenter is clearly anti-feminist and/or obnoxious, such comments tend to reaffirm for me why feminism is so important and so necessary.

The Gonzman

The one big problem with defining something too rigidly is you wind up with what I call the "Purity Wars." My own experience, belonging to a Traditionalist Catholic chapel is that there are a few who are excessive; they want to go back to the days where Jews were "Christ-Killers" and get their nose out of joint when a woman sits in mass with her head uncovered.

No matter where you go, there is a danger of excess. People looking for a safe place should lock themselves away, and disengage. I find that on the MRA side of the aisle - too many don't even want to talk to the other side even for debate. They're sick of it. Put a friendly female in a discussion, and they find fault with their prescence except as "Shut up, be sorry, and apologize on cue."

Sound familiar?

The other side of that is "He who tries to please everybody winds up pleasing nobody."

I'm sure Cloven-Hooved me is lumped in with the Miosogynists and trolls so often decried by ginmar and Co.; and I personally don't give a hoot. Thing is, though, I can find self identified feminists at IWF and IFeminists who agree with me 99.9% of the time. According to the glib "Believe in social, legal, and economic equality of the sexes" even *I* am a feminist, which is laughable. The bulk of the .1% of difference between me and the iFems and IWF girls is I don't self-identify as one. Well, that and being an icky boy.

The feminarian is right, though. And ginmar and the like are right in spirit, at least. Your big tent can only go so far, and if that means kicking me, Dr. E., Mr. Bad, and such to the curb here, that is what you have to do. Yes, I will see it as just another echo-chamber of opinion - I mean, hell, I ain't even banned She-who-is-not-to-be-named-here, though I pretty much only allow her to stay as my jester - but you can't let being seen as a nice, reasonable guy by your political foes be a factor in your decision, especially if your decision is "Is my blog a place of dialogue between opposite sides of the fence?"

I decided what the Bar and Grill was a long time ago; I don't pretend to be a nice guy there, I'm blunt and sarcastic, and as far as I am concerned of the posters, if you can't run with the big dogs or stay under the porch - and I'm perfectly happy for someone, if they wish to be a damn fool, to climb up on stage and take the open mike. I'll shine the spotlight, silence the crowd, and turn up the volume - maybe even especially so.

How big is your tent? Someone says "Safe space" and I hear "Echo chamber where I can speak baloney without being contradicted by inconvenient logic." Someone says "Pro-XXXXXX coments only" and I hear "My mind is made up, have the courtesy to not confuse me with facts." "Troll" used to mean "Gadfly" and was a high bar indeed to meet - now most places, anyone who disagrees with the common "wisdom" is one.

What to do?

A couple of sundays ago, someone brought up Cardinal Mahoney at my church, and someone said "If the DNC came out tomorrow with a resolution that the Virgin Mary was a temple whore, you can bet money that Cardinal Mahoney would preach it as gospel next Sunday from every pulpit in his diocese." While it may be over the top rhetorically speaking it underlies a profound truth, that Traditionalists view Progressives with deep mistrust, and believe of them that their progressive politics are more important than their theology, or as one person put it "If the Archangel Michael appeared in their church and pronounced a Republican tenet as God's truth, they'd become Buddhists en masse."

I have not the same problems as you - If someone can not answer with an unambiguous, unadorned, and unqualified "Credo" to the Nicene Creed, to me they are not a Christian, period. Since obtaining, providing, or procuring an abortion incur a latæ sententiæ excommunication, I find "Pro-Choice Catholic" to be an oxymoron as well.

And I'm not saying there aren't down sides to taking a stand one way or another.

A big tent is one thing. And engaging those ideologically opposed, or not, is a detail. Even whether to engage them with words or bullets is a detail. But you have to have a core set of beliefs - and anathemas - or it's meaningless. Feminarian is right - I cannot reject Christ, and be a Christian. Universal salvation, to me, is a dangerous heresy.

From the other side of the river, though, the tired old "Not all feminists think alike" is an evasion - it's seen as not wanting to take a position, because in doing so one would have to defend it, and the position is indefensible. More sophistry. More dodges. Another ideologue who won't say what they mean, because they are ashamed of it, because it is something to be ashamed of. And I am not even talking about interactions and debates with us, I'm talking about among yourselves - when we see this, we chuckle at "There go the feminists again, rationalizing cognitive dissonace away, and attempting to believe in two mutually exlusive principles." And that's not even adding in the subtext of "How easy it must be to do when you have no principles to begin with" among your more vehement detractors.

The Gonzman

And I have to say, after Reading Robert Jensen's essay, I'm in complete agreement with the Feminarian. He's using the sacred for the profane, and I would find it an abomination; we are not working towards the same end, and there is no doubt to me that this guy would toss the church under the bus if it came to a choice between it and his politics - he's like the snake who asks the duck to take him across theriver - I'm sure you heard the punchline before "You knew what I was when you agreed..."

Noumena

I've long insisted that Christianity and feminism are compatible because they are both fundamentally concerned with the dignity and value of the human person; male and female and intersexed, we are all not only equally beloved of God, we are all called to equal (and interchangeable) service in the Kingdom.

I'm really confused by that parenthetical. It seems to run counter to everything else in the post, and particularly the subsequent paragraph. In particular, read this post as a whole as saying 'everyone is going to have their own perspective on things, and the more healthy perspectives and discussion we're going to have within our feminist/Christian big tent, the better'. But that parenthetical seems to want to eliminate this diversity -- we're no longer individuals, but several identical cogs. Certainly some theologicans and philosophers have liked to think this way, but it seems a weird thing for you to say, Hugo.

Hugo

Gonz, that's one of the better comments you've put up here, and much for me to masticate upon. It makes me think of an anecdote I'll put up this afternoon.

Nomnena, my intent in the paragraph you quote was to say that in the final analysis, after everything else, we are all loved and all called to do equally important things (though not the same things). I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

ginmar

So one of the first comments is bitching about me and others and you call it perceptive. Then we have a long series of straw men about feminisn, which you don't refute.

I can't imagine why in hell anyone doubts your sincerity.

Oh, and comparing Xtianity to feminism? One of the things feminism is rebelling against is hypocrisy. Xtianity is full of it.

sophonisba

When the only person you quote from that discussion is one talking about "safety," it makes it sound like everything everyone else said went in one ear and out the other. If you read the comments from me and zuzu and Ginmar and others, you will see that we left (mostly) not because it is "unsafe" to talk here, but because it is pointless. Change your policies if you want, or don't, but if you do, don't do it to protect women from the big scary MRAs. Do it to make your blog in reality what it is now in name only: a place where respect and civility flourish.

Happy Feminist: Even if some commenter is clearly anti-feminist and/or obnoxious, such comments tend to reaffirm for me why feminism is so important and so necessary.

Yeah, and every time I go outside and don't go spinning off into space, it reaffirms for me that gravity exists. At some point in early childhood, however, since I am not afflicted with sporadic spontaneous amnesia, I figured out that I don't need that affirmation every day to keep the fact fixed in my mind.

Medium Dave

I believe that we should listen to people who have different priorities, different opinions, different beliefs, sure. But people who are intellectually dishonest, petty and spiteful? Nah. There's no point.

Jendi

You've put a very important question out there, Hugo. I've come to a similar conclusion, namely that it's usually more productive and less threatening to depersonalize the issue. Instead of saying "You are not a Christian", better to say "What you believe is not Christianity". One has to ask WHY someone who doesn't believe the basic doctrines (e.g. the existence of God) wants to call himself a Christian. Fear of being excluded and judged by ANY group? Admiration for Christ? Appropriating the goodwill that surrounds Christ's image? The answers will vary by individual, and can lead to some very interesting dialogues - which rarely get initiated because we leap to the "what are you" without ever asking "what do you want to be and why?"

Uzzah

If you read the comments from me and zuzu and Ginmar and others, you will see that we left (mostly) not because it is "unsafe" to talk here, but because it is pointless.

It must be nice to be so absolutely sure you are right that you don't need anyone to challenge your thought process. I'm a pretty hard headed guy, but even I *like* hearing other people's opinions. I find, now get this... That I am occasionally wrong. Not often mind you, but I have been in the past.

I think it is possible to completely close my mind off to dissenting opinion, but I doubt I would benefit much from it.

But perhaps Feminism does.

Hugo

Well, heavens, I'm frequently prone to intellectual dishonesty, and sometimes to pettiness on this blog. Can someone explain to me how to construct a clear-cut set of rules for commenters that eliminates arbitrariness? One that encourages debate but always distinguishes between the thoughtful and the inflammatory? Can someone point me to a blog where those rules are displayed in writing and where they are rigorously enforced?

I don't like the whole Potter Stewart "I can't define what's worthy of being banned, but I know it when I see it approach." That's why I only ban nasty personal attacks using specific "fighting words."

aldahlia

Hrm. I *did* notice the larger fighting going on. And, I actually got into it with Amber Rhea last week about the whole "sex positive" thing. But, I didn't realize just how widespread the Angry Orgasm Liberation Front battle had gone. That's what I get for taking Alas, Pandagon, and Feministe off my bloglines. I missed a whole kerfuffle.

On another point, what do you think it says that your MRA 'debaters' (and, the are *yours,* btw, you've take them on--they're a part of this blog, now) are generally not seen as adding to the discussion, but are considered trolls? I mean, do you include them in the discussion for your own pleasure? Do you see how someone might think that letting them take over so much discussion on *your* site (they seem to dominate every damned post's comment thread, btw) means that you're not so committed to feminism? It's not an unreasonable conclusion to decide that this place oughta be titled 'Hugo and Some Loud Men get together to debate the Little Ladies.'

Hugo

So, do we suggest limiting the number of comments per day? I could do that -- everyone gets a total of three comments per thread per day? Would that help?

sophonisba

I *like* hearing other people's opinions.
.
Yes, it makes logical sense to pretend to believe that I don't, because feminists aren't other people. Why, it's really an illusion that more than one of us exists, much less that we argue all the time. Talking to each other is like arguing with a mirror; all women share a hive mind; we're one person with many bodies.

-- This, Hugo, if you have any interest whatsoever in understanding what people are sick of, is what we call a "case in point."

aldahlia

(And, more politely, I know that I would personally comment here more often if it weren't for the fact that every discussion eventually boils down to a man repeatedly declaring "All women are conniving sluts/prudes.")

sophonisba

"I don't like the whole Potter Stewart "I can't define what's worthy of being banned, but I know it when I see it approach."

That's a great pity, because subjective, sensitive, intelligent human judgment is the only way to moderate a blog that doesn't lead to sheltering of rules-lawyering, endless complaints, and polite bigotry.

Hugo

The other thing, folks, is that I barely read the comments on the weekends. I don't have a co-blogger. Some threads get well over 100 comments, and I can't keep up. Some hatefulness will slip through the cracks. I'm not willing to moderate/approve every comment before it goes up, largely because I'm away from the blog for extended stretches.

I grieve that I've lost one group of voices on this blog. I want to find a way to bring those voices back without banning those who have made what I think is a good faith effort to follow my rules. I have seen how Gonz writes at his own blog; his language is very different than it is here. I am grateful that he has made concessions to my rules, and I respect his effort to make his message (a message with which I generally disagree) palatable.

TestSubjectXP

Even if some commenter is clearly anti-feminist and/or obnoxious, such comments tend to reaffirm for me why feminism is so important and so necessary.

Which reaffirms for those people why anti-feminism is so important and so necessary. And thus the cycle goes, never making anything better for anyone. What a great philosophy! lol!

Hugo

That's a great pity, because subjective, sensitive, intelligent human judgment is the only way to moderate a blog that doesn't lead to sheltering of rules-lawyering, endless complaints, and polite bigotry.

Ouch. Sigh. I haven't been this depressed since I started blogging.

aldahlia

These are my "rules."

http://aldahlia.net/m/rules.php

I actually took them (with permission) from a very conservative guy in Montana.

TangoMan

Hugo,

I've been following the Feministe fracas and IMO you're getting a raw deal over there. The crux of the criticism is that you don't subscribe to a particular branch of the faith. People like ginmar brook no dissent from their feminist axioms even if the axioms can be challenged or interpreted differently. I haven't been following this debate, other than catching snippets of it at Feministe, but I haven't actually witnessed the critics mounting a case for why their axioms are superior to competing axioms. Relying on fury to carry the argument is a losing tactic. It's exactly the types of critics that you're facing that I had in mind when I wrote my essay The Turning Of The Tide which tied the blind faith fanatacism of gender warriors to that of deeply fundamentalist Christians.

rejiquar

You haven't been this depressed since you started blogging? What a shame.

I didn't self-identify as a feminist for many years, certainly not while in college. I've become more recently interested in it, via Alas. Since then I've started reading a lot of other blogs on this topic, and even, cautiously thought yes, I must be one.

But all the carping, backbiting, and furor can get awful off-putting, awful fast. Sure I wonder why some of your posters bother, but evidently *something* compels them to keep coming back; (probably the same thing that has me scratching my head as to *how* two of my own brothers could come to believe women should no longer have the vote) and for whatever reason I seem to be equally drawn. Maybe we need the Patrick Henry radical types to make the mainstream message more palatable; but I find your writing, and ideas, very sympathetic.

It seems to me you're doing the best you can. Maybe it's different from so-and-so's best, but I like it, and I hope you'll continue.

Medium Dave

Hmm. Why does the verse: "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," suddenly come to mind?

Hugo

Aldahlia, I like those rules. I'll give them some thought!

ginmar

Gee, and look---it's Tangoman, right on schedule.

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