Sunday, June 11, 2006

just in case someone other than me is interested in reading it.

so, the good news is i actually did get that article submitted to Bitch magazine by their June 1 deadline. the bad news is that they didn't want to publish it. now, i am actually not at all surprised by this and kinda don't blame them - by those last few days in may, i was just gunning for sending them something rather than something good. so i recognize that the piece isn't nearly as strong as it could be, and i learned that i need to give myself a little more time to write and revise an article than, oh, one week. with all that said, though, i figured i'd throw it up here for your perusing pleasure. it's longer than my usual posts, but hey - it balances out those posts of four or five sentences that i'm so fond of lately! so here it is:

Fighting and the Feminist Blogosphere

The internet: like cell phones, TiVo, and shorts with the name of your alma mater emblazoned on the back, it is an invention that most young women can hardly conceive of living without. It has been a boon to feminist organizing in particular, allowing women to come together in ways that were practically inconceivable even ten years ago. These days, all you have to do is power up your iBook to have thousands of feminist websites and blogs at your fingertips. However, the sheer enormity of the feminist blogosphere has exposed a reality that had previously been cloaked in secrecy, an activity that mostly took place in hushed tones and behind closed doors. I am speaking, of course, of feminist in-fighting.

The blogosphere is full of feminists who actually – gasp! – disagree about things from time to time. That feminists sometimes fight with each other is big news, even to some feminists, who seem to have bought into the idea that there is a right and wrong way to be a capital-F Feminist. The internet, though, gives lie to the idea of towing the feminist party line, because there are constant disagreements among bloggers over feminist theory and practice – over the questions of what feminism is, what its aims are, and how it should be lived out. I offer up the recent, rollickingly good feud started at the popular feminist blog I Blame the Patriarchy as an example of why it’s a good thing when smart, funny, feminist people pick a fight with each other.

It all started when Twisty Faster, self-proclaimed “spinster aunt” and proprietor of I Blame the Patriarchy, posted about a study concerning testosterone levels. A commenter named Freeman took a well-meaning shot at the study, saying, “[t]he assumption here is that high-testosterone men are naturally less intelligent or discerning, which is bull. I’m a high testosterone male with a 160 IQ. AND I’m a diehard feminist, AND I have a certain soft spot for pornography, so you figure it out.” And that’s when the train jumped the tracks. Regular commenters sarcastically chided Freeman for his thinly-veiled chest beating, Freeman got indignant and angry, and the whole thing degenerated into a virtual mud-slinging match.

One of the major issues that arose was the fact that Freeman had been treated with such scorn and derision, in part because he lacked a perception of how his “feminist” position was completely at odds with the way he was acting in the comment thread. At turns pompous, snarky, and contemptuous, he displayed a distinctly holier-than-thou vibe that was not going to win him any admirers on a site that functions on a pretty high patriarchy-blamin’ level. But certain commenters, perhaps feeling a twinge of remorse over how thoroughly he was being schooled, noted that perhaps it would be better to try to help Freeman understand where he went wrong. To that charge, Twisty had this pointed reply:

“Since it is my blog, I am under no obligation to coddle liberal white males who wag their liberal white ring fingers at me, rebuking me and reviling me and telling me that I should be ashamed of myself for ridiculing their asinine views. If liberal white males want to know how to become feminists, I couldn’t care less…The good news for liberal white males who genuinely seek enlightenment is that libraries are free. I suggest beginning with Dworkin.”

After the dust had settled the next day, Twisty took a moment to reflect on the melee. Her assessment of the situation was that it was an interaction of the broken record variety:

“Dude…[e]nlightens me that porn empowers women. Gets defensive. Says he is too a feminist because he watches porn with his wife (whom, he’ll have me know, he doesn’t even beat). Gets on high horse. Informs me that I’m not a real feminist, because he happens to know some real feminists, and they love pole dancing, and porn, and of course, him…Then demands that I explain what, if it isn’t about equal pay or the freedom to pole dance, feminism is. Can’t understand why I’m so mean. Gets on higher horse. Bitches about my sentence structure, calls me ‘shrill,’ deploys a few boring clich├ęs, and accuses me of ‘not doing anything’ to change the world.”

For Twisty, that was that. Her stated position is that she’s not blogging in order to change the world; she’s blogging in order to blame. So, she essentially labeled Freeman up as “crap I’ve seen before” and moved on. Through the beauty of the feminist blogosphere, however, someone else was willing to step up and issue a challenge to Twisty’s feminist leitmotif. The brave soul was Sara, proprietor of the feminist blog f-words. Twisty’s out-of-hand dismissal of Freeman, and by association her dismissal of any responsibility toward enlightening those of a less-evolved feminist perspective, didn’t sit well with Sara, and in her posted response to the imbroglio she said:

“We're not here for revenge or sympathy or parades thrown in our honor. We're here to stop rape, stop domestic violence, jettison the patriarchy and make the world a better place for all people, even men…The patriarchs and misogynists and rapists and sexists and dudes who won't sleep with fat chicks are part of the world we live in, and they don't disappear when we curse at them. We don't get new ones if the ones we have aren't as easily-plied as we'd like. Unless feminists are committed to keeping the world a shitty place until we can slip seamlessly into a morally-unambiguous, universally-appreciated utopia, I think it would be wise to welcome Freeman into the fold.”

Twisty, Freeman, and a variety of commenters showed up at f-words for round two (or twelve, depending on how you’re keeping score at home) of the is-Freeman-an-idiot-or-not debate. No more progress toward consensus was made, but really, at that point I don’t think anyone expected consensus. They expected lively, intelligent debate, and they got it.

This particular feminist smackdown is just one incarnation of a bigger phenomenon, which is the way that feminist bloggers are opening up huge, public spaces for discussion and disagreement. A stroll around the feminist blogosphere will quickly relieve anyone of the notion that we all graduated from the same feminist bootcamp, or that we all walk in lockstep when it comes to feminist issues. The Freeman dust-up showcases an online demographic that is serious about feminism, and is eager and willing to discuss what feminism is, how to educate people about feminism, and how to further the feminist cause.

The sheer breadth and depth of the feminist blogosphere raises not only the profile of these debates, but the quality of these debates as well. And on an internet swimming with porn sites, scam artists, and, we need all the feminist perspectives we can get.


Toast said...

"The patriarchs and misogynists and rapists and sexists and dudes who won't sleep with fat chicks"

Uh... One of these things is not like the others.

Roni said...

Hmm...well I'm not a writer and I thought that was a pretty good piece. Bitch reader, it seems to fall short of the length I usually get in Bitch. I wonder if you revised it, lengthened it, and resub'd it might have more life? Of course, I also have no idea if they gave you any feedback at all.

But good job at submitting in the first place! You're a braver gal than I.

cinnamon said...

Congrats on getting the submission to happen. Step 1 has been completed. And I wouldn't give up on it. I would consider it a rough draft for a longer piece. It's possible for an editor to make something shorter and impossible for them to add significant length.

I think if you balanced the one example with smaller tastes of other (different) examples you'd have a stronger piece. For example, what about when two female feminists get into a writing match? Or an older feminist gets upset with a younger feminist? Or a woman of color gets upset with a white woman?

It's a good start, and an important subject, and I'd encourage you to lengthen it and try agagin.

kate.d. said...

length-wise, i was aiming for their front-of-book word count, which was 1000-1500 (this was about 1200, i think). if i were pitching them a feature, i think i'd definitely pitch them the idea before i drafted 3000 words or more :)

on that note, they also told me that they liked the writing and content but they already had a pitch in development about the feminist blogosphere. i don't think that negates the fact that it wasn't the strongest piece, but at least they weren't like "hell no we're not publishing it, because it sucks!"

so i guess we'll just have to keep our eyes out for the blogsphere piece in an upcoming issue (because i'm sure it'll be good), and i'll have to come up with another article angle...

dorothy rothschild said...

Are there other places where you might submit an expanded, revised version? Just because Bitch has a piece planned doesn't mean some other magazine does. But it's cool that they let you know so quickly. And hey, you've had your first rejection! You're officially a writer now!