Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

23 August 2010

I'm not a feminist but I sure can stick my foot in my mouth

Karoli at MOMocrats was trying to respond to an anti-feminist attack by Dana Loesch and instead stuck her foot in her mouth and offended feminists. Her offense? Her opening paragraph:

I am not a feminist. I am a woman who has assumed I have the same right as anyone else to choose my own course, make my own future, and do so on equal footing with men. I believe the government exists to serve citizens, not to act as an authoritarian axe or discriminate against one class of citizens over another.  I really don't care if moms stay at home or work. I've done both, both have advantages and disadvantages, and I'm not out to overturn patriarchy. I actually like men. I'm married to one. I get along well with them. Those who act like idiots don't get any attention from me. 
To which I tweeted:
Thanks to peeps sending me @Karoli's post but I stopped reading after she equated fighting patriarchy w hating men. *sigh*
Karoli and I had a good discussion on Twitter about this which resulted her in editing the paragraph and striking out some of the offense:

I've done both, both have advantages and disadvantages, and I'm not out to overturn patriarchy. I actually like men.  (see note below) I'm married to one. I get along well with them. Those who act like idiots don't get any attention from me.
Sadly this still leaves the whole "I can't be a feminist because I like men!" feel to it as one would hope you liked men enough to marry them. Good try though.

What I don't get is why someone who doesn't even call herself a feminist gives a damn what Dana Loesch has to say about feminism? I'm not linking to Dana's op-ed because it robbed me of precious time and brain cells and I love my readers too much. So in order to school Dana, Karoli dips into the well of feminist stereotypes:
  1. "I believe the government exists to serve citizens, not to act as an authoritarian axe or discriminate against one class of citizens over another." So feminists believe the government should discriminate against guys then, eh? 
  2. "I really don't care if moms stay at home or work"Ah, the mommy war card! Double points. 
  3. "I'm not out to overturn patriarchy. I actually like men. I'm married to one. I get along well with them." And the cherry on the top of this sundae. 
I've spent way too much energy wrestling with "I'm not a feminist but..." types. I don't do it anymore. I usually say, "Fine, don't call yourself a feminist. Your actions will speak louder than your label." Unless they slam feminists as a way to distinguish themselves as "not a feminist."

Karoli said that she was just trying to use snark to combat what Dana had said. This is why I hate snark. Snark is hard to control. I didn't read Dana's op-ed until AFTER I read Karoli's post. And even then, I didn't get most of the snark. I'm kinda un-hip in that way...Ditto for LOLCat talk.


Karoli knows that this post is coming, so I'm trying hard not to be a total bitch. She even apologized and I accepted it. But I'm trying to better explain how I felt when someone posts to an awesome blog like MOMocrats, is trying to freaking defend feminism against Dana Loesch and I feel more offended by her post than anything Dana said. If feminism needs defending, please leave it to the professionals, the women and men who do call themselves feminists, people who can rip Dana to shreds (hell, my 7yo can do that) without denigrating the people you are trying to defend.

9 comments:

As I mentioned on twitter, what shocked me more than anything in Karoli's post was the fact that anyone, especially a woman, could NOT be against the patriarchy.

Saying that you are not against the patriarchy is like saying "oppression is okay." I know (from our twitter conversation) that that isn't what she intended to say, but that sure is how it read to me.

Um, I think you get the snark just fine since you used it quite effectively in this post!

("Ah, the mommy war card! Double points.")

The "I'm a feminist" vs "I'm not a feminist" always leaves me feeling vaguely nervous.... I don't know why.

Thanks so much for writing this...the struggle continues, huh, but voices like yours are, as always, so appropriate.

Your points are well-taken. In fact, I've been thinking about them all day. In retrospect (and with 20/20 hindsight of course) I would have deleted the first two paragraphs altogether before publishing. They were distracting and irrelevant.

But the bell has rung and I just don't believe in deleting what has been published for all to read...it feels dishonest. So your criticism is well-taken and fairly applied. And appreciated.

I do have one rebuttal, however, in thinking about it more, and ironically, it's your last line. "Leave it to the professionals..."

Isn't feminism, at its heart, a search for equal treatment of women in all contexts? Not only with regard to men, but with other women? Being able to make life choices as each individual believes and sees fit? If it is, then I'm at a loss to understand why you would create a false distinction between the "professionals" and the "amateurs".

My 2c: I saw Karoli's opening paragraph as a rhetorical strategy to defuse or duck the wheel-spinning, definitional morass of what a feminist is. Which is precisely the kind of "she said, she said" game that Loesch's op-ed and pieces by other conservative women claiming feminism want. They want a useless argument over what feminism is so--in my humble opinion, we're too busy shadowboxing over that to get down to the real policy differences that define conservative and liberal women.

Perhaps I'm reading Karoli too much with my own litcritty lens, or maybe because I know her fairly well in real life and respect her writing as carefully crafted, but her demurral in the first paragraph didn't present an obstacle to taking in the larger argument. I'm usually not bothered by who does or does not take on a label when the overall intent of the piece, I felt, was completely in keeping with asserting feminism as a social justice movement. This is a key difference, as I understand it, from conservative women who seem to be about female exceptionalism and "I've got mine" achievers who have no notion of a communal good.

Thanks everyone. It's late and I need to get in bed, so let me address karoli's question about the "professional" line. As I wrote it, I pondered if I should use the word professional. But I had hoped that saying "professionals, the women and men who do call themselves feminists," would be enough to show that when I say "professional" I just mean someone who claims the label. Not PhD, academic, etc. But as those who know me know, I think anyone who is a feminist usually goes about their work in a feminist manner.

cynematic: Another danger of snark. You know her, I had no idea who she was. Plus as I said, I don't care if she doesn't call herself a feminist, but by using stereotypes to differentiate herself from feminists, she offended me.

others will have to wait for tomorrow! peace

Karoli,
The way I took the "Leave it to the professionals" line is that in your piece you were speaking for the beliefs of liberal feminists and values of feminisms in several places, but you do not identify as a feminist. I agree, leave it to people who understand the complexities of feminisms and live/act/know through a feminist lens to address critiques of feminism.
-A woman who understands and appreciates feminisms and is not afraid to identify as a feminist :)

@Annie: I am also puzzled, but as I said in my post, I'm kinda over figuring out "I'm not a feminist but" people.

@Serenity: Busted!

@kmteig: Thank you.

@BreAnna: Thank you for expressing my intent so well! You are awesome.