Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Sexism Fatigue"


Lindy West, writing for Jezebel, explains exactly the state in which I find myself: Sexism Fatigue.

The definition of "Sexism Fatigue" according to Lindy:

Sexism Fatigue: When Seth MacFarlane Is a Complete Ass and You Don’t Even Notice

Sexism Fatigue struck her as she watched the Oscars last Sunday night, and interestingly, it had struck me just the week before.

I have been involved in a great online community of thinkers and debaters for the past year and a half.  It is composed of Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, NeoCons and more.  We have debated almost everything under the sun, and for the most part have come to a balance of: vehement opposition,  respect for each other, and a sense of humor.  That is, we had come to a balance.  But then, the flood-gates opened.  In an effort to keep the group from growing stale, the decision was made to open up our small private group on FB to the masses. We could now, without any moderator vetting, invite our friends, our friends could invite their friends and those guys could invite any old ass-hole they chose.

And indeed, the assholes arrived.  After the group grew approximately 250% in about two weeks, things took a turn for the worse.  Much, much worse.  Petty fights erupted, name calling began, people were blocking each other's comments (which is not conducive to rational, educated and civilized conversation).  It was a royal mess.  Those of us who had a fair amount of time and energy invested in the place, tried to self-regulate and reign in the chaos.  We were holding it together, but then, I decided to post about rape in the military.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Immediately upon posting about the (AMAZING, BRILLIANT) Academy Award nominated documentary film, The Invisible War, the sexist comments started rolling in.  At first it was subtle, more about tone and less about direct comments.  Then came the accusations that I was too "emotional," soon followed by multiple men discounting the film altogether as "propaganda" full of "lies."  Finally, the coup de grace:  after sharing a story about a friend of mine who had experienced the very situation that the film profiles (all details and personal information omitted) one of the men, a career military man, accused my friend of leaving out details of the story in order to gain "sympathy."


He said this after assuring me that he believes rape in the military is a problem and that he had sat in on many "seminiars" and "trainings"about rape risk factors and that the military was taking the issue very seriously.


Meanwhile misogynist # 2 (also a military man) accused me of being a "bully" for bringing gender into the discussion (I know HILARIOUS, right?) and then said to me (and this is an actual quote):

Diane...your assumptions regarding rape are based on what...having a vagina? You just invalidated yourself.

Yeah, he went there.
But perhaps the most insulting thing of all to happen was the chain of events that occurred during the aftermath of that train-wreck.

The moderator shut down the thread and insisted that no comments be added until the following day.  Needless to say, the discussion was over for good.  Now, this might sound reasonable, and on the face of it, it is, except that the post was about women who are raped in the military not getting justice and being silenced by the military heirarchy and legal process.  And, now, in a thread where ONE woman decided to bring attention to the subject, the obnoxious and misogynistic behavior of three military men was enough to shut down the discussion completely and RE-silence those victims and me.

Needless to say, I was seething in rage.  RAGERAGERAGERAGERAGE.

I was told by the (male) moderator after the fact that I had been beating a dead horse with the topic...  Well, you know what, the horse clearly ISN'T DEAD.  In fact, that fucking horse is running wild and trampling all over my garden (see the metaphor where you will).  Is it beating a dead horse to say, "Prove it? You are calling this documentary lies well point out the lies."  (by the way he never did).  Is it beating a dead horse to say, "You have crossed a line by calling my friend a LIAR about her own rape?"  No.  Sorry.  No horse beaten here.  What you have is a woman refusing to shut up and take it.


And what made it worse, was it was a friend who was now telling me to be quiet. Two days later, he told me to "be quiet" again by shutting down the very next thread I started.  Ironically, the thread was a question about why more women were not speaking up in our group.  The exact wording follows:

This one is for the WOMEN of the [group]: I, and others have noticed throughout my time in the [group] in her current and previous incarnations that we are lacking the female voice. Currently, there are 40 women in the group and 80 men, so women represent 1/3 of the [group] population. However, we do not in any way represent a third of the posts nor a third of the comments. So, I am wondering, why? Please vote, even if you don't comment! And, feel free to add a category!
(the voting options were) 
I don't have the time to participate
I feel I do participate proportionately (incidentally, this was my answer)
I prefer to spend my Facebook time on non-political matters
I am not interested in the subject matter
The group feels like a "boys club" and is unwelcoming to the female perspective
I don't participate online much at all anywhere, including my own FB page.

I was asked in the future not to post questions regarding the internal operations of the group without first running it by the moderator.  Now this struck me as odd as over the course of a year and a half of membership in the group, questions about group participation and opinions had been asked multiple times and never censored.  In addition, two of the three (new to the group) military goons from the rape thread had made independent posts regarding what they saw as the proper running of the group, how people should word their posts, what types of sources were acceptable etc. and not one word had been mentioned to them.

Why was I being singled out?  Could it be...BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN?  I think the answer is, quite frankly, yes. The moderator was a friend.  He wanted to step-up control of the group, he wanted to prevent another train wreck and, well, I was his friend and a woman and he knew I would understand and could be trusted not to fly off the handle.  I am, after all, pretty nice.


Once again I found myself at a crossroads. Would  I:

1. Take up the banner and open a can of whoop-ass on the group pointing out all of the overt and subtle sexism that had gone on in the course of three days and risk blowing the place to bits and losing friends


2. Walk away

I chose to walk away.  I left the group.  I was too frustrated and too upset and too disappointed to stay. I left, not entirely quietly, there were a fair number of private messages zinging around, but ultimately, I was tired.  Fatigued.  Sexism Fatigued.  As Lindy West says:

To put it simply, I AM TIRED OF TRYING TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT. ... I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school. Asking people to think critically about some hacky jokes from a dancing cartoonist? You might as well wear a sandwich board that says, "Yell at Me With Bad Grammar."
I am tired of being called a shrieking harridan for pointing out inequalities so tangible and blatant that they are regularly codified into law. I am tired of being told to provide documentation of inequality in the comments sections of a website where a staff of smart women documents inequality as fast as our fingers can move. Like, you might as well write me a note on a banana peel demanding that I prove to you that bananas exist. I am tired of being asked to "cite sources" proving that sexism is real (that RAPE is real, even!), because there is no way to concisely cite decades and decades of rigorous academia. Allow me to point at the fucking library. We can't cite "everything," and our challengers know that. It's an insulting diversionary tactic, it's an attempt to drag us all backwards, and fuck it. Do your own research like the rest of the grown-ups.

I was on the warpath, but I was expected to be a "grown up."  I was supposed to take the moral high-ground and be nice and polite, because, I was the woman.  I honestly believe that. But I was tired.  I was tired and I am tired.  I am tired after a respectful forum that I loved was destroyed in two weeks by a group of sexist assholes, I am tired after a lifetime of sexist cuts (some big, some little), I am tired after inheriting a history of misogyny from all of the women who have lived on this planet in this Galaxy in this Universe.  I am fatigued.  Sexism Fatigued.

If you haven't read Lindy's article I stongly recommend that you do.  It is at once hilarious, insightful, and inspiring.  And, it woke me up.  It roused me from my fatigue when I was almost asleep. Thanks, Lindy.

* There is a happy footnote to this post!  After discussions among members and the moderator, some necessary changes were made to the group.  Without going into detail here, suffice it to say, I am happy to be back in the group and among friends.  I haven't yet, however, regained enough energy to chime in much on the discussions there.

** Second footnote to this post:  several days after posting "Sexism Fatigue," a friend in the UK sent me a link to another, very informative article about rape in the US military.  It was written by Lucy Broadbent and published in the Guardian in December of 2011.   For those of you interested in further reading, I recommend it:  Rape in the US Military: America's Dirty Little Secret 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Late To The Party

So, I'm late to the party.

This whole "blogging thing," well, I hear it's past its prime.  The universe of the blogger has been taken over by twats.  Or should I say, Twitterers?  Yes, my dear friend who finally (finally!) convinced me to start a blog signed me up for Twitter too. I suppose she figured if she left me to my own devices, I might miss that party altogether.  I still don't know how to use it though, Twitter, I mean. I feel lost among all the witty "pound-hashtags."  I want to shout at my iphone:  "Who are you talking to?  What did they say?  How do I follow 5 million conversations at once?"

I know, you are confused, right?

I describe myself as a rock and roll volcano, but I don't know how to Tweet with the twats?  I'm a whole decade late to the mommy blog, for goodness sake.  What the hell kind of misleading marketing is this?

And now you know how I feel.

See, that whole "blog description" thing gives me only 500 words to sum up what I am doing here.  And you know, I felt I had two choices.  The first option was to say:

I have no fucking clue what this blog is about.

The second option was to try to craft some artsy-fartsy, metaphor-laden, description that was full and concise and brilliant.  Buuuuut, what you see is what you get.

And, at least it is TRUE.  I mean, I am in a constant state of inner - tornado.  The various aspects of my personality whirl around each other trying to decide if it is best to knock each other out cold or hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Can you imagine living with this brain?

My quest for inner-peace has taken me to yoga classes, meditation seminars, women's studies classes, a professional life as an actress and choreographer, years of therapy, peace rallies, anti-gun rallies, shooting ranges (no really), rallies against domestic violence and child abuse and finally, wonderfully to the creation of my own darling family.  I have argued in political science courses, online forums, and over dinner tables in the US and abroad.  I read and I cry and I meditate and I drink some wine and I go take a pole dancing class and I am still lost.

I know I believe in compassion.  I believe in kindness and generosity and nurturing.  But I also believe in shouting from the rooftops and fighting back.  I have learned in my complicated life that too much passivity in the face of adversity does me no favors.  So how do I work toward compassion, kindness and gentleness without losing my voice or my nerve?  How do I protect myself and those more fragile and innocent without a little bloodshed?  These are the questions that keep me up at night and have led me to this party a little late, a little backward, a little upside-down, but no less ready to rock and roll.