29 July 2008

The Assholes Ride Again

So, I realize this post is rather late to the party, but it has some points I'd still really like to make, so I'll throw it up here anyway. I should really stop putting half-finished things in 'drafts' and then going AWOL for days on end.


There's another interwebs shitstorm brewing. This time, it's about a rather problematic cartoon being used to bolster anti-porn arguments by Nine Deuce and Heart. Belledame's got a good play-by-play and lengthy comment thread going on here, so I think I'll skip the summary. A lot has already been said about the numerous problems with the cartoon itself, and I'm really more interested with ND's and Heart's responses to other people's concerns about it.

Briefly: I didn't immediately read the cartoon as racist, transfixed as I was by the no-way-in-hell-this-is-feminist representation of a dumb blonde in the centre of the image. That's likely due to my own frame of reference--I've been on the receiving end of that stereotype enough times to be hypersensitive to it, and it immediately called to mind this gem of a "feminist cartoon". I saw it as soon as it got pointed out (even if some of the men's features read as "white", the whole light=good/dark=evil dichotomy is obvious and has been closely tied to racism for a long time). I think it's offensive for many reasons: it's misogynist, misandrist and dehumanizes sex workers--a real winner.


What really gets my goat is the way that both Nine Deuce and Heart (but especially Heart) reacted to others' politely-phrased concerns about the cartoon. There was no stepping back and re-evaluating the image, not even any acknowledgement that such concerns were worth considering. There was no real discussion. Instead, the whole post devolved into defensive ass-saving and, "but, but, but I can't be a racist, I married a black man!"

In other words, it got personal.

This is the point where I saved the post as a draft and left myself the following notes for when I took it up again:

-closed-minded non-intersectionality
-it's not all about you, you fucking jerks
-image vs substance

That sums it up rather nicely, really.

To elaborate: my first point* refers primarily to Nine Deuce, as the whole "i removed the cartoon as the thread was getting derailed by concerns of racism" thing really irked me. Just because you're fighting for the rights of one particular group of people doesn't mean you get a free pass on offending/dismissing another group. If, say, POCs (or anybody else) respond with concerns about something they identify as racist on a feminist site, it's probably a good idea to actually listen to their concerns and make room for a bit of anti-racism in your work as well. Telling them that their concerns are invalid or are a distraction--not so much. Besides it just being rude and dismissive, it alienates women who are also feminists ; from a purely pragmatic point of view, alienating your allies or others on your side is just poor politics.

The rest is largely directed at dear Heart, but certainly applies to miss I-have-the-giantest-brain-in-the-whole-wide-world as well. Any feminist or otherwise socially/politically motivated writing is going to have a bit of the author in it: we write largely from our own experiences, and we certainly have unique perspectives on our particular cause. I'm not suggesting that there should be no personal aspect to anyone's blog, because that would make the whole business a bit faceless and creepy, not to mention that it wouldn't really be blogging anymore. But there are certain cases *cough cough* where the personality of the writer--their image--becomes so overbearing as to completely draw attention away from that person's chosen cause. If your response to people raising concerns about one of the pieces of evidence in your argument (as often happens in debates) is to start talking about how you are not in any way a racist, and therefore could never possibly use a racist argument, you're missing the point in precisely this way.

It's not all about you. It's about the intersection of sexism and racism; it's about being careful about what kind of images we want to associate with feminism; it's about respecting the concerns of all elements of a community; it's about looking critically at all media, including "our own". The fact that it's your blog that the discussion is taking place on is not completely irrelevant, but please don't turn concern about an argument and an image that has been put out there into ad hominem attacks. Because, really, when you start using your feminism as a jumping-off point for a presidential campaign, or as singular proof of your amazing genius, people are going to start to wonder what your writing is really about. And when the egotism shines that bright, they're likely to move on to greener pastures and try to find feminist (or any other -ist of choice) writing that really is a space about women, and not one particular, fabulous woman.

* Interesting typo here: I originally wrote "porn". Shows where my mind goes pre-coffee on a workday.

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