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June 15, 2006


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Hugo, the issue is not that becoming more progressive is "a process", or that people generally don't go from nonfeminist to feminist instantly. The issue is that you didn't really challenge Pete's excuses--that being pro-feminist will kill his sex life, or that treating women as people is something he needn't worry about until he's older. You have the luxury of telling Pete to treat women as jizz dumpsters--it doesn't affect you much.


Mythago, I simply didn't say that -- I challenged him to work at changing his life, with an end goal of treating women as radical equals. The end result is the same, but the pace may be different.


The Christianity/feminism comparison offends me more every time I hear it. It's not that you occasionally compare them for tactics, it's that you talk about them as being similar in a very deep way. Let me make it very clear that the offense is not dependent on my being a non-Christian; in fact, for the purposes of this comment I will assume that Christianity is right and true.

But it's a matter of faith.

One in ten can have an intense conversion experience, one in a hundred can have a mystical revelation, one in a thousand can think they hear the very voice of God, let's say. But for the majority, faith is the whole point. God is not going to take literal, corporeal form and argue with you about the composition of the Bible for hours on end. God is not going to come to all your parties. and turn water into wine for a party trick. That's not how it works.

Women are not like God. The fact of women's equality stares you in the face each and every time you talk to one, which you can do any time you choose. The existence of women's humanity and equality is not a mystery, sacred or otherwise; it can be seen, felt, heard, and experienced by anyone who has any kind of contact with any woman.

Feminism isn't about faith. You need faith, perhaps, to believe that feminism will ultimately triumph - but not to be a feminist right now. The truth is not hidden. Women's humanity is not hidden. The more you talk about how hard and uncomfortable it is to treat women as equal humans, the more some of your students are going to think, hey, wait, it's not hard for me, it's instinctive. I must be doing it wrong. The swimming pool metaphor makes feminism into a religion, as if common sense has nothing to do with it. Becoming a feminist takes observation, logic, direct experience and honesty. Not revelation, and not faith.

So you may have other ideas in mind about what infuriates some of your allies about your writing, but for me, this is it.


Thanks for clarifying that, Sophonisba. My faith and my feminism are so inextricably linked that to untangle one from the other would be to try and undo the old Gordian knot; I don't know that I had understood until now how exasperating that is to other folks.


Hugo - I think there's a fundamental flaw in your comparison, one that's been bothering me since the original post:

There's no such thing as a meaningful deathbed conversion to feminism.

From an admitted outsider's perspective, Christianity seems very focused on the end result: it doesn't matter if one is devout from birth, or "lives a life of sin" and later converts (assuming their conversion is sincere). Feminism, on the other hand, is more concerned with the harm that sexism does *now*, and a later reformation doesn't mean that the prior acts never happened.


Here's part of how Hugo 'didn't' challenge Pete, according to the original post:
"An aspiring pro-feminist man still gets to express his desires and his wants; he doesn't get to keep a sense of entitlement that tells him that women exist only to meet those desires and wants."

"Of course, I did tell Pete that the purpose of becoming a pro-feminist man is not to please women or to "get" women into bed. Indeed, doing so only reinforces the worst stereotypes about male feminists! "

"I reminded Pete that I hadn't tried to sell pro-feminism as a "tool" for using and exploiting women."

These sentiments don't seem to be anywhere close to "telling Pete to treat women as jizz dumpsters". If one wants to argue that these sentiments, while combined with an incrimental technique, aren't enough, that's an argument that can be made. But that argument isn't the same as arguing that Hugo told Pete to treat women as jizz dumpsters, in my opinion.


True, Jeff -- but I'm not saying that they are identical; I am arguing that they are compatible, and that the tactics used in missions work and in feminist classes ought to be similar.


I think there is at least one more thread you might address (there are, of course, lots of threads you might address!): piny's point over at feministe about not explaining to Pete that women aren't an undifferentiated mass...

It's good you took some time before responding; I think your response lacks the defensiveness that it might have had given the vehemence with which your points (and, in some cases, your character) and your flavor of feminism have been argued against.


Hugo: what I'm saying is that the difference between being focused on future conversion and being focused on immediate reform are a fundamental difference that implies that the tactics ought *not* to be similar - this is why statements like "one day at a time" are inappropriate with respect to feminism.


Jeff, thanks. JFP, I do think that becoming a feminist is a process measured in small steps. It's how it happened in my life, and I've seen it in the lives of others. Unlearning sexist behavior just doesn't happen overnight. It begins with a decision to become a feminist, but that decision is lived out in countless smaller decisions every darned day.


I don't understand your swimming pool. Fine, some people do it as a slow process, some people jump right in. But what does it mean that you can't be in the pool forever -- that it's important or necessary to take little breaks when you (phew!) get to be an anti-feminist?


No, you can be in the pool forever, but you can't breathe underwater. It means no one can be a perfect feminist all the time. Our human need to breathe forces us to the surface; the fact that we live in the culture that we do forces us to make at least the occasional compromise.


In confronting Pete (and talking of it) I think it important to distinguish between:
1.) Talking TO Him - to TELL him - a clear message, vs.
2.) Talking WITH Him - hoping to Reach Him - where he is at at now.
3.) Talking to Others (such as us) through Him

In considering the differences:
1.) Often might come from Our Own Issues - e.g. The CRITICAL Importance of Misogyny and Feminism - e.g. "I've been badly Hurt and it's important that you hear this NOW"
2.) Recognizing how 1.) - might serve Your needs, but may simply turn Pete off and may indeed support him moving - away from Feminism
3.) Dealing with All of Our Perceptions and Issues - and various other things.

When I did Men's Anti-Rape work - 1983-1987 - we had a weekly informational booth - where Men saw us every Saturday in the warm weather months. We also were visible at other events. Men often came to us with: "aha" insights and support - after seeing us multiple times and sometimes getting our brochure more than once. We - as men - and indeed women as well - often don't see things immediately - we see them as we can take them in and as we can move with them - at our own pace.

Yes - it is good to confront Pete - but How you could have done it most effectively isn't necessarily - the "politically correct" way of doing it. Pete needs to hear the truth, but hearing "all the truth" may be too much for him.

There is a time and a place for - bluntness and being "out there". Only you - can determine what is best with your student.


geo - www.geoisphere.blogspot.com


Not sure about the Malcolms and Martins thing. Both of those men were courageously confrontational, and the latter went to jail a whole lot directly confronting people about racism.


And Tammy, I'm not advocating disengagement -- I'm advocating a gentle challenge that is, in its own way, quite confrontational. Read my posts about porn -- I push hard, but I push hard with an appreciation that transformation happens slowly.


No, you can be in the pool forever, but you can't breathe underwater. It means no one can be a perfect feminist all the time. Our human need to breathe forces us to the surface; the fact that we live in the culture that we do forces us to make at least the occasional compromise.

Okay - wow. I experienced and continue to experience feminism as liberating, freeing, and wonderful. It is a relief and a way out and forward from a history and a culture that says horrible things about and does horrible things to my half of humanity. Most women feminists do. To experience feminism as suffocating, cold, denying of human needs? I can't even begin to understand where this is coming from. In your metaphor, feminism isn't the cold water, it's the air. And yes, it's our humanity that forces us to come to the surface. It's feminism that allows us to breathe.

punkass marc

I am arguing that they [feminism/Christianity] are compatible, and that the tactics used in missions work and in feminist classes ought to be similar.

Oy vey.

If you had a racist in your class, would you gently, calmly nudge-nudge-know-what-you-mean slowly try to bring him along, or would you more assertively confront him? I don't think you'd tolerate racism the same way you might be tolerating sexism, Hugo. I think you would, perhaps not rudely, but sternly, set someone straight on race. Why should women be treated differently? Because you think it's still more socially acceptable to be a woman hater?

These are some of the many reasons your Martin/Malcolm comparison made me throw up a little.


Gently confrontational is euphemistic. The myth that MLK was less confrontational than Malcolm X won't die but let me put it this way: Malcolm X focused pretty much exclusively on speaking to black people about racism, and MLK aimed for a larger social message and direct confrontation with white racists. Radical politics are not about tactics, they are about politics. In tactics, the reason Malcolm X was remembered as more radical was he took a hostile tone a lot more than MLK did, but that's not really why he was more radical. He was more radical initially as a black separatist but eventually it was more that he had a full scale view of black empowerment as something that had to be economic and personal as well as political.

MLK, by the way, came around to Malcolm X's view on this in a lot of ways.

The Happy Feminist

Here is my question:

Has "Pete" seen all the blog posts and comment threads in response to your initial post, Hugo? Has he said anything to you about them?

(Apologies if I asked this already in another thread. I don't think I did.)


I have had no word from Pete yet. Pete?


Sophonisba, the different ways we read the metaphor of water and air are very instructive and interesting to me. Thanks.


You know, punkass marc, I think you're making a good point there, although not the one you might have meant. If Hugo had a student who said a racist thing in his class, I do hope that he would slowly try to bring him along.

The alternative being 'to sternly set him straight'--which accomplishes what, exactly? Creating one more white person who refuses to talk about race, at all, because they're afraid of someone getting mad? Who becomes a bit alarmed whenever any topic relating to racial relations is brought up and tries to change the subject or says 'well I have black friends' or 'oh, I'm probably just not politically correct, watch out!' and who ultimately perpetuates racism because dealing with it requires talking about it, which they are too scared to do anymore?

Looking at the state of white liberals and progressives who nervously dance around the issue of race and talk about an ideal of being colorblind, can you honestly say that the whole calling-someone-out-sternly thing has worked out the way it was hoped to? I sure don't think so. In fact, I would argue that the whole phenomenon of white people being more afraid to be called a racist than to be a racist, discussed in depth a while back on pandagon, might be the fruits of that approach.

I sure as hell don't think that people who have had to deal with racism day in and day out should have to hold some white person's hand while they ask stupid questions and try to figure out how and why they are racist and how to stop being so. I think that's white people's job. What's so frustrating to me about this whole kerfuffle is that what Hugo was doing is exactly what I think should be happening: it shouldn't be women who have to hold men's hand and slowly lead them to feminism. It should be men, talking to other men, being patient and answering the dumb questions that reveal sexist biases. I'm glad it's Hugo, because it's not my job as a woman to explain this shit to men, and by and large I'd get too pissed off to be effective.


What's so frustrating to me about this whole kerfuffle is that what Hugo was doing is exactly what I think should be happening: it shouldn't be women who have to hold men's hand and slowly lead them to feminism. It should be men, talking to other men, being patient and answering the dumb questions that reveal sexist biases. I'm glad it's Hugo, because it's not my job as a woman to explain this shit to men, and by and large I'd get too pissed off to be effective.--AB
What a great point...and not one I've seen brought up so explicitly.

Just sayin'.

Carlos Rios

This is "Pete." Hugo didn't use my real name, Carlos. In his essay he mentioned I am of Greek descent, which I am am. I am also half-Mexican, which he didn't point out. I think I can guess why: Hugo knew that "Pete" was a white sounding name, and if he gave my real name, his readers might connect wht I said to him with my race. I guess that is a whole other issue though.

Hugo sent me an e-mail and asked me to come on here. I read his original post which was accurate and have been really angry at some of the comments that come his way. If you are going to get angry get angry at me, I am the "fella" (Hugo always says "fellas") who is not so sure about being femnist.

I am not a hard player. I was asking why I shouldn't try to be one! But I am not sure whether I am a profemnist! I'm 20 years old and I want to do well in school, have fun while I'm young, and find a respectable woman to marry in a few years. Hugo has successfully talked me out of many of my double standards for girls. I used to say I wanted a virgin when I marry, and now I accept that women can have the same experiences I do. I treat my little sisters with much more respect now.

Hugo is right: becoming a feminist is hard work. The water is very cold. Hugo keeps wanting me to go deeper, and I keep standing on the shelf up to my knees. I expect I will take another step, and then another, and then another. Hugo is very good about encouraging that. I disagree with him about some things, like his oppositon to pornography, but I respect what he is trying to do. People should sit in his class before criticizng him. (And Hugo, I did not tell you, but based on your essay here recently, I thought I'd tell you I thought you were completely gay when I first took your class. Your clothes were what made me think that more than any thing, but that is another subject.)


This is frustrating because I can sense your good will and integrity.

But simply "regretting" being "pompous and patronizing" is not the same as apologizing for it. You know, I regret I didn't invest more in Microsoft and Cisco way back when.

The intellectual act of not apologizing for being patronizing is another (subtle but yet more aggressive) form of being exactly that, pompous and patronizing.

What makes me uncomfortable with both your expressions of Christianity and your Feminism here is the implied sense that these are marketing campaigns that need to be tuned and massaged. Because of this packaging (of salesmanship), I feel I'm being sold on something. Which means there's an implied cost somewhere.

But there is no cost in seeing women as human. ALL of the cost is in NOT seeing women as human.

There is no cost in not being a JERK and in not PLAYING with women. ALL of the cost is in living life as a JERK and a PLAYER and thinking that's life.

And I would never attempt to sell God in any of Her many narratives.

Lastly, when ANY of the formal religions openly accept women as priests and formally withdraw every form of the assertion that women caused the Fall, then I will consider the possible logic in your assertion of the gordian knot interrelatedness of Christianity and Feminism.


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