Because the only women who matter are white ones

Linda Hirshman — who, on top of thinking of herself as the matriarch of all women/feminists is responsible for making up the term “choice feminist” so she could have a convenient strawfeminist to attack — thinks she knows what’s causing division among feminists. And, unfortunately, what she sees isn’t people like her.

No, what Hirshman thinks is hurting feminism is any anti-oppression activism that acknowledges that gender is only one of the factors that affect women. Jill summarizes Hirshman’s argument as:

Linda seems to be arguing that feminism has lost focus by way of intersectionality — because we’re so busy looking at things like race and class, we’ve forgotten about women.

I can’t bring myself to quote Hirshman’s actual arguments because I feel like displaying such words from someone who calls herself, and is regarded as, a feminist would dirty this blog. If you can stomach long quotes full of racist, classist and other bigotry, Jill’s takedown is probably worth a read. I would say “definitely”, but I wasn’t able to read it myself because I got as far as the first paragraph of the first quote and had to leave the page. If you’re like me and can’t tackle this subject without the filter of someone else who has graciously read through the shit, I would highly recommend BfP’s post on the issue.

There are people trying so fucking hard to create a semblance of unity within a diverse movement and it’s people like her who get to be the well-known feminists. What. The. Fuck.

No, Ms. Hirshman. Just… no. Get off of my side because you’re making my side look like a bunch of bigots.

At this rate, there won't be any games left for me to play

I have been feeling rather unhappy with Capcom for a while, but this takes the cake:

Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi tells Kotaku that calls of racial insensitivity haven’t affected the game’s design. Takeuchi tells the site that the team didn’t “set out” to make a racist or political statement and he feels there was a misunderstanding about the initial trailer.

Takeuchi says there are Arab and Caucasian targets for Chris Redfield’s bullets in RE5 and insists they were always going to be included in the game — despite the initial trailer showing a less ethnically diverse group of zombies. We’ll have to take a “wait and see” approach on whether Japanese developers will continue to fuel the fires of black/white racial tensions across the ocean.

I know Japan is pretty racially ignorant (from my experiences, but here’s a wikipedia entry on the matter), but Capcom is an international company, serving an international audience. The fact that it seems that their research only involved going to the location (without, you know, spending like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from) is bad enough. Takeuchi’s tactic of “it’s not racist because I didn’t mean it!” is infuriating, but expected. I am also not appeased by the inclusion of Arab and Caucasian zombies, because:

  1. An American killing an Arab. UH, HELLO? How is that not problematic given the current anti-Muslim (which, to the average anti-Muslim American translates to “Arab”) climate in America? And, I mean, with the Afghanistan and then Iraq wars, which made international news, it’s not like Takeuchi has an excuse not to know about those tensions.
  2. Adding a sprinkling of whities to get gunned down isn’t some magical panacea for racism. It doesn’t address the What These People Need Is a Honky problem, and it doesn’t change the way that the black people, even pre-infection, are portrayed as savages.

I have loved the Resident Evil series, even with all of its problems. I have done my best to play the games, even though I suck at survival horror (mostly because I spend most of the time thinking, “OH NOES TEH ZOMBIE IS GOING TO GET ME!!!111eleven”). I could tolerate stupid shit like Jill being sexualized and put in a dress for RE3, Ashley being completely useless in RE4, and the fact that they apparently thought there’s no difference between Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish. I didn’t even mind so much that all of the protagonists were dayglow white (after all, it isn’t like that’s unusual). The abominable trailer for RE5 wasn’t even enough to convince me to not buy the game.

But I can’t take it anymore. I feel like I have no other choice but to boycott Capcom because I simply cannot support what they’re doing.

Capcom/Takeuchi no longer have an excuse. They can’t claim ignorance, because they’ve been made aware of the issues and still chose to ignore it. They quite simply don’t care that their game is problematic from a racial angle. And I can’t support that. I can’t support people who willfully engage in racism even after the racism is pointed out to them by multiple people because they can’t fathom that, in their lack knowledge regarding racial tensions/issues, they could unintentionally create something racist.

I’m about to be twenty-six fucking years old. I’ve grown up. Is it so wrong for me to wish that the games I love would grow up with me?

Give that man a cookie, er, Klondike!

Wow, a man refrains from violating the terms of his relationship agreement with his wife? Totally worthy of a reward. Give that man a cookie Klondike! <insert massive eyeroll here>

Actual analysis of Klondike’s latest series of commercials can be found over at The Hathor Legacy, in sbg’s post, Normal Behavior Rewarded as Extraordinary.

Good reference for the non-apology apology

While discussing Clinton’s non-apology over the RFK incident Mark Liberman of Language Log references a post, Pete Rose and sorry statements of the third kind, by Geoff Pullman regarding the usage of the word “sorry”:

People aren’t being sufficiently sensitive to the grammar of the adjective sorry.

It should be clear that an apology has to be in the first person, and in the present tense. But it is not enough to utter something in thefirst person that has sorry as the head of an adjective phrase predicative complement. The word sorry is used in three ways.

First, sorry can be used with a complement having the form of what The Cambridge Grammar calls a content clause:
(1) I’m sorry that the the political situation in the Holy Land is still mired in violence, because I wanted to go to Bethlehem at Christmas.

If I utter (1), I am not apologizing; I have never caused or defended any of the violence in the Middle East. It’s not my fault. I just regret that the situation persists. This use can constitute an apology (as Jonathan Wright reminded me when he read the first version of this post), but only when the content clause subject is first person as well: I’m sorry I hit you is an apology, but I’m sorry you were hit is not, so watch for that subject.

Second, sorry can be used with a preposition phrase headed by for with a complement noun phrase denoting a sentient creature:
(2) I’m sorry for that poor little kitten, which seems to have figured out how to climb up a tree without having any idea how to get down.

If I utter (2), I am not apologizing; I never suggested to the stupid kitten that it should climb fifty feet up into a beech tree. I’m just expressing sympathy, as a fellow mammal, for its present plight.

And third, sorry can be used with a preposition phrase headed by for where the preposition has as its complement a subjectless gerund-participial clause or a noun phrase denoting an act:

(3) a. I’m sorry for doing what I did; I behaved like an utter pig, and you have a right to be angry.
(3) b. I’m sorry for my actions last night; I should never have acted that way and I want you to forgive me.

Only this third kind of use can constitute an apology, as opposed to a statement of regret about the truth of a proposition or a statement of sympathy for a fellow creature.

Liberman furthers the analysis when he looks at the “I’m sorry if…” syntax:

The “sorry if” pattern is a syntactic structure that Geoff didn’t include in his taxonomy. It might be a form of the conditional “If my referencing … was in any way offensive, (then) I’m sorry”, with the apodosis put in front of the protasis. Or maybe sorry has developed an if-complement, as in structures like “I wonder if …” or “I don’t know if … “.

In any case, from a communicative and emotional point of view, Senator Clinton’s sentence clearly belongs with Geoff’s sorry statements of the first kind. And in fact “If my remarks were in any way offensive, I’m sorry” is even weaker than “I’m sorry that my remarks were in any way offensive”, since it doesn’t even grant that it’s a fact that the remarks were in any way offensive.

We should also note that being sorry for causing offense is itself a rather weak form of sorriness, since it doesn’t necessarily imply being sorry for the actions or words that caused the offense. It’s perfectly appropriate to take a stance like “I’m sorry for offending you, but what I said was true and had to be said.” Senator Clinton didn’t go so far as to express regret for having referenced the RFK assassination, only for the fact that referencing it might have caused offense (and only, she feels, because it was misinterpreted).

Given how often non-privileged groups are subject to non-apology “apologies” after being subject to sexism, racism, and other oppressive behaviours (Harlan Ellison, anyone?), both Pullman’s and Liberman’s posts strike me as a useful resource for pointing out exactly why those so-called apologies fall so far short of the mark.

How not to be "That Guy"

Synecdochic wrote a how-to post on privilege: Don’t Be That Guy.


This word gets thrown around a lot, and I think everyone uses it a little differently, which is one of the reasons why I have so much difficulty putting it into words. Let me try with: If you approach me with the presumption, stated or implied, that I owe you anything — my time, my attention, my energy, my conversation, my acquiescence to your desires — that’s entitlement. If you make me think that you think you can express a wish and I will fulfill that wish, that’s entitlement.

Women don’t owe you anything: not their bodies, not their time, not their emotion. Hell, not even their attention. (Nobody owes anybody anything except basic courtesy, respect, and trying not to be an asshole.) A lot of guys walk into a situation and give the impression that they have the right to take these things, through outright force or through a more subtle coercion. Giving someone that impression makes you That Guy.

Earning the privilege to be trusted

Following up on some thoughts that relate to what I said in Feminist Infighting, I wanted to talk about something that karnythia said in her post, Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand:

I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist.

karnythia, and indeed every woc, have no reason to take calls of solidarity from white feminists seriously and every reason to mistrust them. It’s not even like this string of incidents was the first one ever, or even the first to occur in the blogsphere; it’s just the latest blow up in a long, racist history of uneasy tension between white feminism and woc feminism.

Most white feminists, yes even the ones who are protesting the loudest here, understand that men aren’t automatically entitled to the benefit of the doubt. They get that, in order to be an ally, a man has to put his money where his mouth is and actually act like one. He has to deal gracefully with the mistrust of feminists who have been hurt one too many times by men professing to like women and to be an ally. He also has to accept that some feminists will only ever view him as an interloper because of the long, sordid, and often personal history that comes with gender relations. No one is saying that it’s fair, but part of being an ally is understanding that the little unfairness that he suffers not only is rooted in real, valid causes, but also doesn’t outweigh the unfairness that the women treating him unfairly have suffered.

And yet, while white feminists are more than happy to apply those standards to men who are trying to be allies, they are all too often unwilling to apply them to themselves. Their white privilege tells them that the root of all oppression is gender oppression, and that it’s the almighty vagina (ie. the possession of one) that creates a solidarity between women. The myth of “universal womanhood” is a powerful one, to be sure, but it is also a convenient way to shield yourself from having to question your own privilege — whether that be white, hetersexual, able-bodied, cissexual, or whatever combination you fall under.

Frankly, it’s up to us white feminists to earn the trust of woc feminists by actually being allies. If we want to earn the privilege of using words like “solidarity” and “sisterhood” then we — not just some individuals, but white feminists as a whole — need to stop giving lipservice to the idea and actually, you know, stop defending our racist behavior. We need to stop thinking only in terms of ourselves and our own personal oppressions, hurts, unfairness, whatever.

Feminism isn’t about you. It’s about all women from all backgrounds and that means that sometimes you’re going to have to suck up your own wounded pride and admit that you did something racist. Or ableist. Or transphobic. If you want to be on your high horse when you talk about sexism, then you need to walk the walk when it comes to areas in which you have privilege. Full stop.

And, until white feminists get to that point, woc feminists like karnythia will have every reason to mistrust us.

Feminist Infighting

I was just reading An Open Letter to the White Feminist Community and was struck following arguments:

WE ARE ALL WOMEN FIRST and every one of these women who call themselves feminists seems to have forgotten that infighting doesn’t further the feminist cause.

This kind of divisiveness hurts us. And it drives away young women of all races and classes who feel that such discussions, with nothing more, serve little useful purpose.

The letter translates the real meaning behind how those arguments are used (“When you complain about racism in the feminist community, you cause divisions. So shut up and don’t complain.”), but I want to directly address how those arguments relate to privilege.

Privilege means not having to look past your own oppression to see the ways that you are oppressing others. It’s easy to see the ways that we’re disadvantaged because it affects us, but it’s much harder to admit that there are ways in which we are part of the problem. Especially if we believe that our oppression is the most important, or at least the most pressing, one out there.

In this case it means that you can use say things like “we are all women first” without realizing how dismissive that is to women who experience more than just gender-based oppression. Gender might be the most pressing oppression to you, but that’s not necessarily the case for other women. It also is a means for avoiding self-critique. By trying to force a certain amount of homogeneity in order to create a sense of harmony (eg. “universal womanhood”), then you never have to look at what you, personally, are doing to alienate women/feminists who aren’t part of the white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied (etc, etc) force that is the dominant voice of mainstream feminism.

Yes, infighting sucks and, frankly, I think we could all do more to educate ourselves on how to discuss differences in a mature fashion rather than engaging in the mud-slinging that happens on sensitive issues (and I’m not just talking about intersecting oppressions here). But, ultimately, when it comes to matters of intersecting oppressions, it is the feminists with privilege (whether it be white, heterosexual, cis-privilege, etc) are the ones who bear the primary burden of listening to those without, and from that foundation trying to create the kind of bridges that will help strengthen the movement.

The art of being consistently compassionate

From talking about privilege by Steph:

So these days, I believe in some guidelines, things like this list. Not because I think that we all need to be nannied whenever we cross our various social boundaries, not because I believe that we necessarily need to go seminars and training sessions in order to learn how be friends or interact across such boundaries. But there’s an art to being a consistently compassionate person, and there’s an art to challenging injustice, and we don’t achieve these things just by meaning well.

The problem with feminism lite

I apologize for rehashing an old debate, but I came across a Facebook cause yesterday called Forward Feminism. Their tagline states “Bring back the true values of Feminism” and they say that they are “[b]ased off the book Full Frontal Feminism”.

Full Frontal Feminism is what I’m going to call “feminism lite” (BetaCandy calls it Spice Girls Feminism). To my knowledge, the book is aimed at being a non-threatening introduction to feminism for those “I’m not a feminist, but” types. I can understand the logic and I can’t say that I wholly disagree. But at the same time this feminism lite gets marketed as the feminism (not always intentionally, but often through poor wording choices or just because the book becomes popular).

This is especially problematic when the rhetoric is targeted at highly privileged audiences, like FFF was. Many aspects of this have already been covered, especially the white and class privilege aspects (link roundup), but I’d like to address the underlying culture of privilege that feminism lite is a part of and perpetuates, using the Facebook cause that started this post off. Continue reading

Debunking a "female privilege" list

Over on her LJ, Rachel Edidin debunks purported “female privileges” one by one:

Let’s take a closer look at some of these “female privileges”:

1. I am physically able to give birth to another human being, and then do my best to mold her or him into the kind of person I choose.

My sexual choices are more likely than a biological man’s to have life-altering consequences. As a result, the responsibility for birth control is tacitly mine. However, I am less likely to retain custody in the event of a divorce.

2. I am not automatically expected to be the family breadwinner.

If I am not contributing financially to my household, is assumed that I will be a parasite, or, at best, confined to the domestic sphere. In exchange for financial support, I will be assumed to “owe”

3. I feel free to wear a wide variety of clothes, from jeans to skimpy shorts to dresses as appropriate, without fear of ridicule.

If I am harassed or assaulted, it is likely that I will be blamed because of my choice of attire and/or adornment. My culture perceives many styles of dress as inviting extremely invasive and/or personal commentary by strangers, and the style of my dress will have a much more profound affect on my personal and professional opportunities.

Read the rest of the 25 point list here: When I Say “Check Your Privilege”…