In which I am (yet again) shamed by the behaviour of liberal bloggers

I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t posted on this. Mostly because I didn’t have the time to do it justice. Not that I’m going to do it justice here, ’cause I’m just so pissed off about the whole thing. But I’ll include a link lineup at the bottom so you can read people who say it better than me.

I’m sure most people in the feminist blogsphere have heard about the Althouse incident (the roundup done on this blog can be found here). Well, what some of you may not know is that the lack of people of colour (POC) in the lineup also brought some criticism. How, pray tell, does the liberal blogsphere respond? By supporting the POC who, having seen this kind of thing countless times, have raised this issue? Of course not.

One blog, Firedoglake, put up a post that personally attacked one blogger, Liza, for daring to question her “betters” (yes they did go there).

As far as I can tell, the only basis for their “jealousy defense” (proof that we never truly leave elementary school behind, I suppose, that presumably respected bloggers could think that calling Liza jealous was appropriate for a blog post) is this quote:

I am just shocked at the glee with which Peter Daou has shown his disrespect for Pam Spaulding, Steve Gilliard, Louis Pagan, Chris Rabb, Earl Dunovant and me when he decided to not invite neither of us, or for that matter, any other black or latino bloggers.

Sure, one reading of that is that she’s miffed that she — and other POC weren’t invited — but that misses the point. The point, of course, being that there weren’t any POC on the panel because the effort to reach out to them was non-existent (and, no, sorry, but no cookie is given for “effort” because the person set up to be the “token minority” declined the invite). And, no, it’s not because there aren’t excellent political bloggers who aren’t white, either. Yet again, the privileged section of the blogsphere was given a chance to examine their privilege and go, “Huh. That is unfortunate. Next time we gotta do better,” and, yet again, they passed it up and instead went with the familiar comfort of racism.

According to Kai at Zuky the “good intentions” monster reared its ugly head (reminding me that I need to add that to the list of things I need to post about). I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t buy the “good intentions” line anymore because it’s so often used to silence dissent from the minority group or person in question. Hey, dissenters, if your intentions are so good, put your money where your mouth is and actually listen to what the POC bloggers are saying! Seriously, how hard it is it to translate good intentions into good actions? And I’ll give you a tip: personally attacking a POC blogger for speaking out isn’t the way to prove to the world the purity of your intentions. Neither is de-linking them, as seems to have happened over at Kos’ blog.

Not to mention that Liza also gets the “women are just attention whores” attack in the comments section:

Then Jane Hamsher (another Firedoglake blogger) said in comments: “[Liza’s] exploitation of a very real problem for personal gain is quite shameless.”

Apparently these “very real problems” only exist in theory, because every time an actual person brings up actual incidents like these they are just “exploiting” the issue for “personal gain.” Right. Not to mention that this is a pretty common theme in minority discussions — especially when women are involved; I hear this all the time from people trying to discredit women who bring up sexual harassment suits and I’ve seen it around sometimes when people are talking about rape.

If people want to know why racism won’t die, it’s because of crap like this. Seriously. Too many white people seem to live in some fantasy where “good intentions” are more important than the results of actions, and where it’s okay to use ad homs on POC who dissent.

Dear liberal blogsphere: Check your fucking privilege already. This is just embarassing.


(This is only a small representation of what is out there — most of the links have links to other great posts on this matter, and I urge people to read them, too.)

Excuse Me, But Your Pants Appear To Be On Fire

What do you do when someone makes a claim of personal experience that just isn’t believable? Specifically, do you accuse them of fabricating the claim?

I’m sure many of you have heard by now about the anti-choice blogger who mistook an Onion article for a serious editorial. In a response to that article, he made the claim that the reason he thought the article was genuine was because he would “meet people like her in the field all the time.” Most readers of feminist discussion forums have encountered other experiences of dubious veracity, such as the tale of the poor man harangued for opening a door, or the malicious women’s studies professor who lowers the grades of her male students.

With most of these stories, I suspect they never happened, and are just invented to support the author’s point, but of course due to their nature I can never prove this. The best I can do is look for supporting evidence – an earlier mention of the experience, for example, or similar experiences reported by other (perhaps not so biased) people.

The options I can see for dealing with someone who makes an unbelievable claim to support their point:

  1. Give them the benefit of the doubt and treat the claim as true.
  2. Acknowledge your doubt, but treat the claim as conditionally true.
  3. Express your doubts to the truth of the claim, suggesting that the story may be misremembered or incomplete.
  4. Accuse the commenter of making up the story to support their point.

The consensus usually seems to be to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt, at least in the immediate discussion. The basic idea is one of creating richer discussions: with respect to verifiable data, requiring everybody to constantly cite their sources for everything they say bogs down the discussion (and indeed, is a common tactic for derailing a discussion). When it comes to claims of personal experience, where often no verification is possible the rationale is one of quid pro quo: if we acknowledge others’ experiences as genuine, people will give us the same benefit when we bring up our own personal experiences. This will create a more productive discussion than one personal data it is off limits, at least when we’re talking about a subject where there is not going to be much “hard data” or where “hard data” is likely to be biased.

Accusing someone of lying throws that social contract away, and opens the door to counteraccusations of lying, or of ignoring truth in favor of ideology. But what does saying “if she really said that, she’s wrong” accomplish? The impression is that of a “no true Scotsman” fallacy – that we’re just sweeping the inconvenient feminists under the rug.

Obviously, calling someone out on a fabrication isn’t going to convince them of the rightness of your position. The usual rationale for it is to appeal to third-party readers. However, these readers are also going to be able to come to their own conclusions; if that were the sole purpose, it probably wouldn’t be worth raising the point. However, the introduction of the fake anecdote tends to do more than just appeal to the people willing to believe it; it derails the conversation as other commenters respond in order to distance themselves from it.

So, readers, what do you all do when you’re confronted with this? How has it worked out?

One thing I would not ever advocate is accusing someone making a claim of rape, assault or abuse of making it up. These sort of claims should *always* be taken seriously, because victims of these crimes have had a long history of being ignored, or called liars, and because they’re intensely personal – it does a lot more harm for a victim not to be believed about these matters.

What does your t-shirt say? (now with MORE dumb t-shirts!)

With the popularity and availability of screen printing and selling t-shirts over the internet, seems like everybody’s got some idea, phrase or illustration they want to market in t-shirt form. So for anywhere from $7-25 bucks, you get to wear not only a piece of clothing but something that says something to everyone else. It’s what you want other people to read or notice or learn about. For that moment, whether it’s a wayward glance on the subway or the start-up of a conversation in line from a deep gaze, the t-shirt and its modern storytelling (oh, lets say in the past couple years) reveals another form of violent backlash and aggression by men to women.

The t-shirt: It’s about half-way between a bumper sticker and a tattoo. With a bumper sticker you face a limited landscape where simple text is the main projection and chances are you don’t see the person whose politics are being espoused unless you drive up and give them a good stare-down. With tattoos, you don’t know what you’re getting because it’s a tattoo. Some people hide them, other display, some mix and match. Now, with a classic t-shirt with illustration/text on the chest area, you’ve got something that says “this is what I think, this is what I think is cute/funny/cool.”

Now, I could give a shit what people wear on their t-shirts, skin, cars or whatnot. If you want to wear a tattoo with the Pythagorean theorem, great. A t-shirt with all species of marine life? Even better. But lately there have been a growing number of people and companies cashing in on misogynist, homophobic, and racist “humor” meant to be funny or worse yet, rebellious and gutsy. In other words, while what Ariel Levy calls “Raunch Culture” oppresses women (and men) through hegemony by co-opting sexual degradation and objectification as liberation and empowerment, for men, the passive-aggressive sexual aggression to women whether in t-shirt form with something like this or in street harassment with “cat-calls” and lewd sexual gestures, the patriarchy of men’s control and power over women is reinforced yet again.

So when a man wears a shirt that reads “If you’re already this close, why don’t you just suck my dick?” what are we to make of this? Is this just crude and typical guy humor? No, I don’t think so. Men, women, everybody engages in stupid, crude humor but when it becomes an immediate projection of sexual aggression similar to street harassment, that’s not funny, witty, rebellious or charming. It serves no purpose other than for men to exert their patriarchal bullshit sense of physical and sexual power over women. This is essentially delusional and idiotic men from the normalized pornographic culture that says treating women like you would a doormat, a sexual object of no humanity or worth, likes being treated like this. In many ways, such shirts become mental Viagras, immediately creating this impressive yet ultimately fleeting and hallow masculinity for men to be crude and somehow held unaccountable for the words on the shirt. “Hey, I didn’t say anything, you read it sugah.” In other words, its what they’re thinking, what they believe, what they think is appropriate and an acceptable way to talk to people, namely women.

But this isn’t just for gender issues and men’s sexual aggression against women. Just as in any areas of patriarchy you find sexist oppression, there are elements of racism through stereotypes. Can you start to sense who these shirts are marketed towards? A very specific demographic, isn’t it? And where there are issues of racism and discrimination are often the general glorifications of physical violence as well as generally being “rebellious” by deliberately being insensitive and “un-PC.” As a culture, we don’t encourage sensitivity. With how stigmatized Politically Correct has become, the cool thing isn’t to use a respectful words, its cool to go around with the “I don’t care who I offend” Eminem/Carmelo Anthony/Avril Lavigne/Ozzie Guillen type attitude that operates under the guise of being raw, real, and unfiltered.

Warming Up: For Exhibit A we have the obvious offender in Urban Outfitters. You’ll remember that they carried the infamous “Ghettopoly” board game a while back so these people aren’t very bright. Anyways, they chime in with some fratty type humor with these losers. “Down with panties and “Let’s make a dirty movie.” hahahah awesome shirt, Brad! Dude those panties will drop real quick when these chicks see it! Idiot.

Head on over to the women’s section of print t-shirts and you find….nothing remotely like what they got at men’s. Surprise? The only t-shirt I could find objectionable was one that just had the first names of famous supermodels which was just blah. This presents an interesting situation. Sexual aggression becomes extremely gendered because it’s a man only thing to street harass, to wear crude sexually charged t-shirts. In that sense, it becomes a sort of unearned gender male privilege to not be subject to sexual harassment or the visual filth of these types of t-shirts. But even so, as you’ll see below, there are a few t-shirts geared towards women to essentially “wear t-shirts like a man”/”have sex like a man”/engage in raunch culture.

Now we’re jumping straight into the icy water with this group. Presenting, the people of Santorum over at T-Shirt Hell.

Let’s see, where to start? How about “Ladies don’t spit” or the aforementioned “If you’re already this close, why don’t you just suck my dick?” or how about “Thousands of my potential children died on your daughter’s face last night”. Obviously these folks are going straight for the jugular with flat out offensive material under the guise of being funny, over-the-top and “we’ll say anything, fuck the FCC!” (raises fist).

How about
“I like my women like I like my coffee (ground and in the freezer).”

”If this is on your floor tomorrow…WE TOTALLY FUCKED (now go make me some breakfast, bitch)”

”Pirates do it for the booty.”

”Save a horse, ride a cowboy.”

”Soldiers need hummers. Please support the cause.”

”Everything is bigger in Texas.”

”I’m ready for a female president [to sit on my cock]”

Or, if you saunter over to the idiots at how about some t-shirts poking fun and celebrating the rape cases involving famous celebrities? Free Kobe. Free R.Kelly. Or if mass-murder is your calling, how about Charles Manson?

If those aren’t to your liking, the “Anti-PC” “Anti-establishment” band-wagon is gathering steam. The conservative case here with these t-shirts is essentially that the world has gone soft and that actually having and respectfully recognizing difference, different likes and preferences and lifestyles and cultures is a bad thing.

”I Hate The Environment.” Real witty.

Don’t like the spirit of America, I mean, “illegal immigrants” coming to the US? How about this shirt. How about some more latino stereotypes?

Remember those Burger King and Jack In The Box commercials celebrating macho meat-eating men? Now this.

How does the old saying go? “To not know is bad, to not want to know is worse”? Disturbing to see how that motto doesn’t resonate anymore.

Remember how I was talking about Raunch Culture being celebrated and normalized? Kinda like how that Pussycat Dolls “Dontcha” song is so popular?

“I taught your boyfriend that thing you like.”

”I taught your girlfriend that thing you like.”

Women pressured to make out with other women at parties? Girls Gone Wild normalization, anyone? In comes this bs.

Or how about jokes about rape or even child-rape, or those who are pro-choice?

T-Shirt Hell obviously creates a majority of the crap you’ve seen thus far. They’re fully aware of how offensive this is, but for the sake of the almighty dollar (and from what I imagine to be a crappy sense of rebellion and ego) they produce this shit at the expense of women and inevitably, men.

Even with all this, I mean god it’s just a t-shirt isn’t it? Obviously these people aren’t being serious. It’s just a joke. You’re taking this too seriously.

It is a t-shirt. So just as long as you put it on a t-shirt means its free from hate-spewing, sexism, racism, homophobia? If we’re going to be critical of oppressive legislation, the media, the tv shows we watch, the movies we buy, the music we listen to…why not the t-shirts that we see day-to-day?

What can I do? Seems like these crazies aren’t going to listen to reason so what’s the point of arguing. Aren’t you just promoting their website and giving more attention to them?

It’s true, I am giving attention to these websites and so I’ll try to offer some alternatives in the process.

A. You can write them to protest their garbage with something along the lines of: –

Urban Outfitters –

YQue –

One Horse Shy –

B. Spend your money elsewhere. There are plenty of great people out there making anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist, conscious, responsible t-shirts that don’t pull Andrew Dice Clay shtick and actually have something meaningful, original and funny to say. is one famous for their “I will not love you long time” t-shirts. I know there are more out there…let’s hear everybody’s favorite t-shirt joint 🙂

###UPDATE: Hey everybody! Found some more dumb t-shirts.

Dirty Shirty is a real piece of crap. Basically, this whole gimmick is trying to cash in on the Christina Aguilera drrty bit (which the video itself, I know to some has potentially redemptive qualities if you take it as a satirical piece criticizing the double-standards of sex, gender and music) and the idea that women who participate in Raunch Culture are then more attractive as women. Look at the shirts for men and women, many (6) of the t-shirts for women loudly display “DIRTY” while for men, only 3 do. For men, we have some frat-type humor t-shirts. That is where in comes in with this t-shirt in the men’s section: Because men think with their dicks, dude. You know, and those women always think with their hearts.

Just One Month…

I want one month in the feminist blogsphere in which none of us attack each other because someone engages in an activity that we personally don’t like. I want one month in which feminists who have differing views on porn, BDSM, and other sexual practices can come together and have a civil conversation that examines the patriarchy’s role in all this instead of flinging shit at each other. I want one month in which we don’t privilege one set of oppression over another, but rather realize that the dynamics of oppression creates a complex and interconnecting web that needs to be tackled both as a whole as well as one thread at a time. I want one month in which the need to be the sole arbiter of Truth is less important than creating a community in which we listen to each other and realize that every person takes a different path to happiness. I want one month for us to celebrate our differences instead of using them to divide us.

For one month. Just one. Fucking. Month. I want us to blame the patriarchy instead of blaming women.

Why isn’t that possible?

"Tramp Stamp"? How classy of you.

Update: I’ve been in touch with Tian (which was basically why I was waiting to make a final decision… which I meant to mention in the original post and totally forgot). Apparently “moderated” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing on Blogger than it does here — as it was set up to filter spam. Since he agrees with me that the comment was inappropriate, he has removed it. I’m keeping the original post below, although I no longer have any question on whether or not to keep it on my blogroll. Thank you all for your replies.


I’ve had a few qualms with Hanzi Smatter in the past when it’s come to women’s issues, but they were always minor enough to be outweighed by the good I see it as doing. You see, the purpose of the blog is to poke fun at the (mis)appropriation of Asian language (specifically Chinese and Japanese) for tatoos, products, and other items. It’s not exactly the hotbed for critical analysis of race relations or oppression, but I see it as fluff for a good cause.

Except, a recent post has made me rethink whether or not I want it on my blogroll. It’s not what Tian says, but rather what he has approved in the comments. For the link-phobic, the picture in question is of a woman who has a lower back tatoo.

The first one is from Pappi:

It reminded me of 貞 when I first saw it, maybe she’s aiming for “unfaithful” (as in “player” or “cheater”)? The location of the tattoo and the picture certainly don’t contradict that guess O.o

Although I wince at the stereotype that a lower back tatoo on a woman (it’s always a woman, you see) is slutty, that one itself wouldn’t be enough to cause a strong reaction from me. After all, it can be argued that the argument, while tasteless, is based on the tatoo and isn’t attacking the woman herself.

Emily’s comment, however, makes me wonder what Tian’s criteria is for moderation:

I can’t believe people are still getting tramp stamps. In addition to simply being ugly and skanky, having one is like wearing a sign around your neck that says I DO WHATEVER’S TRENDY.

Gendered slurs like “tramp stamp” and “skanky” are specifically attacking the woman herself, not commenting on the tatoo quality. In fact, they have nothing to do with the tatoo hanzi smatter at all, but are instead making a moral judgement on the woman in question, shaming her for being (assumedly) slutty, which of course is bad because good girls don’t enjoy sex.

I fail to see why this is an acceptable comment, and because Tian believes it is, I’m wondering if it’s worth my time (and my link space) to endorse his site anymore. Gender is not the only important issue, but I would be no more accepting of a feminist who allowed racist comments to be published unquestioned on her site. I don’t believe that you can fight one type of oppression and ignore the other one — even if the expressions differ, oppression is oppression and I don’t think you can rightfully battle one while endorsing another.

So, what do you think, folks? I’ve taken people off of my blogroll for less. In my position, what would you do?