This is why I hardly read blogs anymore

In the past year the amount of (feminist) blogs that I read regularly, or even on an occasional basis, has shrunk to fit on one hand. Literally, aside from keeping up with Iris, the only blogs I regularly read are Hoyden About Town, The Border House, Geek Feminism, Sociological Images, and Shakesville. That’s it. There are a few more that I’ll browse when I’ve already read everything on the above blogs.

Until today, Tiger Beatdown was on the latter list. Now, the writing style of the blog has always rubbed me a bit the wrong way because of how easy it is to cross the line from pointed sarcastic critique to being just plain mean. The posts I had read had seemed to be careful to keep it pointedly sarcastic, though, so I figured I’d stick to a casual readership until I had reason not to. Continue reading

Update on AmazonFail

First off, it has been noted that the de-ranking wasn’t limited to GLBT issues and erotica, but also notably affected books on disability and sexuality as well as feminist books, books on sexuality, and books on topics such as suicide prevention and rape.

In terms of the massive PR fail that has been going on, Amazon went from the vague and not very credible “glitch” explanation to this:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Here are some good posts that point out the flaws with Amazon’s explanation:
This Is Not A Glitch, #amazonfail
Seattle PI has new #amazonfail statement
Amazon’s censorship sparks angry protests
Amazon Rep: This was not a “glitch”
Amazon Is Embarrassed By “Ham-Fisted Cataloging Error”

There’s also the disconcerting parallel between the pattern of the feature/glitch/whatever showing up on books from smaller presses first and only after some time has passed does it start showing up on books where people are likely to notice. As Lilith Saintcrow explains:

Now. Do you remember the Amazon POD fiasco? Cliffs Notes version: Amazon tried to take over a significant chunk of the print-on-demand industry by quietly removing “buy” buttons from small-press POD publishers who didn’t use Amazon’s POD service. The buttons would come back–if you switched to Amazon’s POD service, in essence giving them a bigger cut. It was greed pure and simple, and they started it with smaller presses and only backed off when there was a bit of a hullabaloo and larger presses (who still use POD technology) banded together to tell Amazon where to stick it.

We have the same pattern with AmazonFail. First very small press/authors are targeted, probably to gauge how big of a stink they’ll raise. If Amazon is not convinced the outcry will outweigh the (perhaps perceived) profits, it slowly mounts until Amazon has captured what it wants. The fact that Amazon has shot itself in the foot with this does not mean it wasn’t a deliberate step taken with another end in mind.

We also need to examine the implications behind Amazon having paid someone money to code this feature — regardless of whether this incident was a policy, a “glitch”, a mistake or whatever. Patrick does this in his post Amazonfail & The Cost of Freedom:

Think for a second about what Amazon did here. In the world of ecommerce, the search is king. Almost everybody who shops online visits a site to find a specific product. By intentionally obscuring and manipulating the search results of your site, you are making a clear statement: We don’t want you to read these books. I can tell you from experience that if something is difficult to find through a search, it will not sell. Not only was this a suspicious action on Amazon’s part, it had the potential to be very “successful” (ie, it would’ve greatly decreased the sales of those titles).

After quoting the above, Lilith Saintcrow responds with:

Exactly. This powerful weapon was created FOR A REASON. No company spends money on a tool that powerful that they don’t intend on using. A huge squawk over it being used improperly one time will not stop it from being used improperly in the future as soon as the hubbub dies down–but greater choice in Internet suppliers might.

In terms of how I’m feeling about the issue, Amazon isn’t getting my money even if it does offer an apology. I feel pretty much the way that are pretty much summed up in Kelley Eskridge’s take on Amazonfail from a managerial perspective:

Amazon is perceived right now as everything from deeply clueless to desperately stonewalling to deliberately deceptive. And of all the errors you can make as a manager, this is the worst — to communicate in a way that distances people even further. Amazon will never fully regain credibility with many of its customers, and they have no one to blame but themselves. They gave a generic “Daddy’s working on it” answer to a deeply divisive situation; they communicated “at” stakeholders instead of directly to them, on their own online turf; and they have so far refused to engage with the notion that people aren’t just curious or concerned, they are offended.

Lilith Saintcrow’s amazonfail-related entries is probably the most comprehensive breakdown I’ve seen yet and I would highly recommend reading through all of them.

This is as serene as I get

I have been a semi-regular reader of the blog Feminist Gamers since its conception, but after reading this post I don’t think I’m going to be going back there anytime soon. I admire that Mighty Ponygirl wants to foster a stronger bond between feminists (don’t we all?) but I disagree with her chosen methodology.

If we’re being perfectly honest here, I have to admit that I take her words personally because I’m pretty sure that I was one of those “internet feminists” she was chiding. I say this because she and I exchanged words on a post where I said that I was strongly considering dropping the “feminist” label because I feel that a failure to address privilege in all of its forms is fundamentally incompatible with the feminist quest for equality. If you notice, she pretty clearly references the term “retard”, which was also referenced in the ableism discussion.

Mighty Ponygirl’s attitude is actually a pretty good example of what frustrates me about the mainstream feminist movement. Over the past few months, I would say that the Feminist Gamers blog has become the representative feminist gamer blog to the greater gaming culture. As such, MP has the unique power to influence (to a certain extent) mainstream gamers’ opinions of feminists and female gamers in general. As I see it, she is the gamer version of famous internet feminists such as Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti. Like them, her success is owed to various factors such as being intelligent and witty, passionate, knowledgeable about her subject matter, dedicated to regular/semi-regular posting, and — of course — that ever present element of luck.

However, I would also argue that part of what makes her popular is that she’s a more palatable version of a feminist than, say, I am. As much as I would like to believe myself to be a middle-of-the-road type, I know that I get placed firmly in the “hardcore”/”militant” category because of my steadfast insistence that, while focusing on gender equality is a good thing, it’s not good enough if we don’t also acknowledge and incorporate other anti-oppression movements into our theories and actions. Simply put, someone like me is too scary to be the face of feminism.

Sure, there are times when Mighty Ponygirl can be scary (like when she’s ripping a troll a new one), but that’s a kind of scary that gamers can relate to. The way that she’s scary is the way that they’re scary: ready and willing to lob snark at people who earn their ire. In a lot of ways, she fits in with gamer culture. This is, of course, a good thing; she fits in so people like her, when people like her they listen to her, when they listen to her they begin to understand the fundamentals of feminist thought, and when that happens for enough people feminist thought begins to be normalized.

But when it comes down to it, part of why she’s palatable is because her message doesn’t rock the boat too hard. Although she does help familiarize gamers with the fundamentals of feminist critique (thus giving them the tools to better understand misogyny and sexism and how they operate in gamer culture), ultimately she is asking more for the inclusion of a certain group of women into the clubhouse rather than for gamers to understand oppression and how they (wittingly and unwittingly) contribute to it.

Despite all the words about unity and understanding in the second paragraph of her post, the first paragraph is basically saying that those of us who believe in anti-oppression activism aren’t allowed to express our anger/disappointment over mainstream feminism’s seemingly inability to recognize that women come in more combinations than just straight, white, able-bodied, middle- to upper-class (etc etc). According to her, we should just STFU and accept that some people are assholes and some feminists will only see feminism as a fight for gender equality (which somehow doesn’t include groups like women of color or women with disabilities).

But, you know? I can’t do that. I don’t sit down and shut up like a good little girl when some jackass is spewing misogynist shit in my face, and I’m damned well not going to do it when I see someone who’s supposed to be a feminist contributing to the image of feminism being for rich, cissexual, straight white women only. Women of color? Women. Telling them to take race out of the oppression equation and only focus on gender is like telling them to pretend that they are white and that their experiences as women of color are the same as those of white women (hint: they’re not). Transwomen? Women. Are you really going to tell them that they should keep quiet when some asshole feminist says they shouldn’t be allowed in women’s spaces because they’re really men? What about the woman with a mental disability who has to deal with taunts of “retard”? You gonna tell her that when internet feminist #49058 called an ideological opponent a “retard” it had nothing to do with her?

If it were just one or two assholes, then maybe I could follow MP’s advice. But it’s not. It’s Seal Press and Michfest and how it feels like every month there’s another woman of color being trampled on by some well meaning white feminist who can’t bloody get over her damn self and admit that maybe she was acting from a position of privilege. As long as feminism is “just about gender equality” it will be hurting women. I took on the feminist label to help women, not just to further my own equality.

Maybe I’m just not a very good feminist. But, then, isn’t that the problem?

Feminists are fine with being bigots if it's just ableism

This is a subject that’s been sticking in my craw for a long time now, ever since it became an issue on Iris’ forums over a year ago. It was from the conflicts that arose there that I realized that most feminists — even ones who are aware of intersections such as racism and homophobia — are steeped quite deeply (and happily) in their able-bodied privilege. A rundown of what happened on Iris’ forums can be found in my Ableism thread, but suffice it to say that it prompted me to create other posts to help promote a better understanding of ableism: Yes, it is offensive to the targeted group and Guides to using non-bigoted language.

However, I haven’t really talked about ableism on this blog or elsewhere. Except for sometimes linking the above threads to some of my LJ friends who have used “crazy” or “retard” or whatnot, I have generally avoided calling people out because, well, it’s harder to deal with people’s able-bodied privilege in another person’s space, especially because I am able-bodied myself.

But today I broke with that pattern. Jill of Feministe, a blogger I very much respect, used ableist slurs such as “crazy” and “nutbag” in a post about an anti-choice leader named Jill Stanek’s bizarre, inflammatory, and racist language. Since I respect Jill, and know that she understands that fighting bigotry with other kinds of bigotry is bad, I made the following comment:

I agree that what Stanek said was both ridiculous and vile, but the sheer number of times you casually threw around ableist slurs like “crazy” and “nutbag” really doesn’t sit right with me. Whether or not Stanek actually has a mental illness, it’s still not cool to use slurs degrading people with mental illnesses to attack her. I would recommend reading the quotes and visiting the links in this post: Yes, it is offensive to the targeted group

Jill replied graciously with, “Thanks for pointing that out, Tekanji. I will check that in the future.” However, the other replies I’ve received so far were not so encouraging.

A commenter named “ThickRedGlasses” quoted most of what I wrote and then added:

Are you confessing something here?

Although I’m not entirely sure what was meant by the comment, I am confident that it wasn’t an agreement or show of support, but more likely intended as an insult or a way to invalidate/discredit what I was saying.

“Dana” took the standard approach of denial:

Wow, that woman is insane. And yes, while I hate the word retarded I don’t see “crazy” or “insane” as ableist. Maybe I should, but I really don’t see people using “insane” or “nutbag” for that matter to insult people with actual mental illnesses. Whereas retard is a bloody hideous word that is used as a weapon against disabled people. That’s the difference in my head.

Her reply makes me wonder if she followed the link I gave, which specifically cites the people who are actually directly affected by ableist rhetoric explaining why slurs such as “crazy” and “nutbag” are, indeed, harmful to people with mental disabilities.

As of yet, no one else has directly responded to my comment. Maybe no one will. But commenters continue to attack Stanek by conflating her illogical and inflammatory arguments with being mentally ill (in addition to the words used in the original post, another commenter added “lunacy” to the mix). I have to say that the unwillingness of many feminists to address their privilege — especially when the type of privilege is not one usually discussed, even in feminist circles where intersectionality is valued — continues to disappoint me.

I believe in feminism. I respect the history of the movement and am grateful for all the hard work that feminists have, and continue to, put in to the struggle for equality.

But it’s getting harder and harder for me to identify and ally myself with feminism when so many feminists don’t fucking care about any oppression but their own. It’s not just all the casual ableism that hardly ever gets called out, or that feminists like Linda Hirshman get paid by well-known newspapers to revel in their privilege. It’s everything.

I feel like I spend more time trying to educate other feminists than anything else. How can I in good conscience continue to ally myself with people who are so fucking selfish that they are more than happy to let other groups get run over as long as their own issues are addressed?

Maybe it’s time to stop trying to work from the inside; maybe I need to just drop the “feminist” label and declare myself an anti-oppression activist and nothing else. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s looking more and more to be the only acceptable one.

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.

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.

Feminist blog historical record

Liz at badgerbag is looking for information on the history of the feminist blogosphere.

Here’s what she’s looking for:

– When did you start finding feminist blogs?
– What were the first ones you became aware of?
– Which ones did you read, and how did you think of them? How would you describe the character of the blog, its evolution, and the evolution of your thought about it?
– Which feminist blogs are part of your regular, or sporadic, reading now?
– What were the top 10 , or top whatever, or most important, feminist blogs of 2005? What are the most important now?
– If you would like: what is a feminist blog? what makes it feminist?
– What issues are/were important on feminist blogs (and, if you can remember, when were they important)
– What controversies, surges of discussion, did you see begin/continue?
– How have feminist blogging and anti-racist blogging combined, enhanced each other, or not done well enough, in your view?
– How about forums, wikis, mailing lists?

You can answer there, via e-mail (see the original thread), or in the comments here. Liz and I are in touch on the matter, so anything you say will be used to great purpose. Great purpose, I say!

Anyway, please participate even if you consider yourself to be a feminist blogging newbie. The more data we have, the better of a picture we can form of how the blogosphere has grown and changed over the years.

UN Commision on the Status of Women: 52 Session

So, the report for the Fifty-second Session of the UN Commision on the Status of Women has just been released.

Here’s an excerpt from the ‘It Is Time For The World To Make Women A Priority’ press release:

“It is time for the world to make women a priority,” said Safiye Cagar, Director of Information, Executive Board and Resource Mobilization Division, United Nations Population Fund, who stressed that “everything possible” must be done to reduce the feminization of poverty and unleash the full potential of half the human race to advance peace, development and human rights. She was among the nearly 55 delegations taking the floor today who discussed action plans to promote women’s advancement, or called on Governments to increase emphasis on the gender dimensions of development.

She recalled that, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders had agreed to key policy actions to advance women’s empowerment, including increased investments in universal education to close the gender gap in schools by 2015, and promoting women’s rights to own and inherit property and have access to resources such as land, credit and technology. To accelerate action, those leaders had also agreed to increase the representation of women in Government decision-making. Real investment in women could create ripples that brought about waves of positive change, and such change was urgently needed and long overdue, she said, calling on Governments to stand by their commitments.

Hat-tip: Feminist Allies.