The case against douchebag

Posted in Being a Feminist, Language by Dizzy on March 31, 2009

I’ll be honest, I love saying douchebag. I love the way it sounds, the way it stings. I love that there’s a punchy insulting word for a completely self-unaware fool who doesn’t know shit about what he’s talking about but tries REALLY HARD to seem like he does. It’s about freakin time.

I had long refused to go anywhere near that word for obvious reasons, but then I noticed feminists were using it in their blogs. Some commenters responded with genuine confusion about it, to which supporters posited the following argument (as I understood it): a real vagina-cleansing douchebag is a literal, physical patriarchical tool, so calling a dude a douchebag is really the same as calling him a tool except with loads more ironic feminist derision.

There were some words about reclaiming and such that I willfully didn’t grok, but that didn’t matter cuz I was sold. Douchebag had been feminist-sanctioned! I could say it and not feel like a total hypocrite! W000t!

So after work one night I was with a group of my cool co-workers at a pizza place talking about this guy who had gotten fired that day for essentially being a complete effin tool. Seriously, if ever there was a human that deserved to be called a douchebag, this guy was it.

And I did it. For the first time since my feminist awakening I called someone a douchebag. Out loud. In mixed company. I felt pretty cool for a second as I felt it out – the word came out with confidence and power and at exactly the right moment – but then I got a little sick to my stomach and I felt my face get red.  What did I just do? The woman next to me gave me an odd look – one that I have since interpreted as disapproving and confused.

I immediately wanted to explain why it was okay for me to say it,  as in “No, no, it’s okay, I’m a feminist! I’m allowed!” but I realized that would require a dinner monologue about dirty vaginas and the patriarchy. No one was in the mood for that, not even me.  I just wanted to tell funny stories about the dude that got fired.

So the moment had to pass without context or explanation.  None of them were ever the wiser about the tool argument.  They just thought I was someone who, like most of the world, feminizes as insult.

I’m not.  Today a woman at work asked this guy if he was a girl because he wanted paper towels to clean barbeque sauce off his pork ribbed fingers.  I kicked her in the back of the shin out of reflex.  Hard. She yelped and I felt bad for resorting to violence.  But whatever.

When someone around me calls someone else a pussy or a bitch or they make some tired old gender generalization, they very often look at me right away to see how I’m gonna react and then either apologize to me before or after I say
Hey!” or ask why they shouldn’t say that.  Which is weird to me, really, but I am truly comforted that my presence, at the very least, makes people (those that know me at all, anyway) recognize sexist language when they hear it.

So much of the world’s mysogny is expressed so very non-chalantly in modern language.  Recognizing and not using the words that ultimately hurt women is a small thing we can do to fight this ugly bloody battle against us.  The words we choose to use when we talk to each other is the very easiest thing we can change about ourselves as we get prepped for smashing this shit up.

All of us here know what a douchebag represents.  Yes, it’s a tool of the patriarchy in every sense of the word.  But getting comfortable with the douche insult and its derivatives in the feminist sphere inevitably results in comfort with it in the non-feminist world, and people generally aren’t privy to the whole feminist take on the term.  Calling an Australian politician a douchebag in the comments of IBTP is one thing,  but out-feminists calling people douchebags in the company of folks who haven’t come around yet isn’t exactly going to do anything to bring the world closer to treating women as the human beings that we are.

I would bet that it makes those folks think that, holy crap, even feminists don’t have a problem with insulting someone by connecting them to a soiled vagina.  Unless the feminist name-caller can fully stop and explain the douchebag-tool connection and why other feminists have embraced it – which is, let’s face it, not typically an appropriate turn to a conversation – then she has only further contributed, perhaps even more significantly, to the mysgony that we battle against.

So I’m done with that word, and that’s that.


And why are you not?

Posted in Being a Feminist, Language by Dizzy on August 25, 2008

I saw some good friends the other day, a married couple that I adore and haven’t seen in a while. They introduced me to their parents/in-laws and announced to the mother that I was also a feminist. Mother explained that she was active in the early stages of the movement, I gave her the fight-the-man fist salute and joked about the non-existent special handshake of the feminist club. It was all very light-hearted and perfectly fine, these people are absolutely lovely, but it did get me thinking.

It’s not like this woman and I both went to Cornell or are from the same small Idaho town. No, we just both believe that women are not the sexy supporting characters that leave the real business of life to men or that child-rearing is the sole reason for our existence.

I think I have a hard time understanding why any sane and humane person out there wouldn’t be a feminist, so it’s always weird to be singled out as one by people that I consider sane and humane.

I’ve decided that the next time I get introduced as a feminist to a group of strangers, I’m gonna ask the introducer why they’re not.  Should be interesting.  Hope I don’t get beat up.

Enlarging the Space vs. Changing the System

Posted in Being a Feminist, Feminism, Sex, Women's Bodies by Dizzy on April 22, 2008

I’ve been trying to figure out sex-positive feminism for a while now, I’ve read a bunch about it, but ever since this Twisty post and this post at Rage Against the Manchine I’ve been preoccupied with figuring this shit out.

I’ll admit that I’m a total n00b when it comes to this topic – it took many years of considering myself a feminist before I could meaningfully articulate what that meant to me, so understanding and being able to take a side on all the controversies ostensibly existing inside the feminist sphere is this whole other level of challenge.

What I do know is that this sex-positive feminism thing has never sat well with me. I suppose it’s partly because my sexuality isn’t really that important of a thing to me and expressing it isn’t anywhere close to the top of my list of things to do in a day. Sex is fun sometimes and the freedom for women to be sexual is paramount, but I don’t understand the preoccupation with needing to turn and be turned on. Maybe other women understand feeling sexy and having orgasms as an important part of their identity and their mission. Okay, that’s fine. I’m not against sex, just a little sex-neutral (as defined here)

But now I’m realizing how much sex-positive feminism rankles me, mostly because the mainstream world seems to think it’s the cool young sexy fun and entirely non-threatening part of the whatever Wave we’re riding these days. And also because it has the word feminism in it. (And from this point on, I will call it sex-positivity).

I dunno, but trying to make misogyny work in our favor doesn’t feel like any kind of a feminist movement to me. I know that women as a class do this every second of the day for various reasons and at all levels of oppression, but doing it is one thing. Calling it a feminist movement just because some women choose it/enjoy it/feel sexy and empowerfulled because of it – well, that feels like delusion.

Female sexual empowerment in the form of lap dances and porn parties and hawt women making out for the sole purpose of titillating the menz as a path towards gender equality? Whatever. I think true sexual empowerment would look a whole lot different than a 16-year old boy’s Tila Tequila-inspired spank bank and from where I sit, equality has very little to do with sex. Gender equality, or as I like to envision it, gender devaluation, would have to come before any meaningful sexual empowerment for women.

I read this today, which is from John Fisk’s book on the politics of popular culture via an essay collection called “Third Wave Feminism and Television”:

Radicalism’s “progressiveness is concerned with redistributing power within these structures (family, work, education) toward the disempowered; it attempts to enlarge the space within which bottom-up power has to operate. It does not, as radicalism does, try to change the system that distributes power in the first place.”

So first of all, I guess that means I’m radical, because everything that I believe can be done to combat the woman-hating that presents itself in the form of CSI and 14 year old girls cutting themselves and bikini babes on boat-selling websites and 13-year old pregnant FLDS commune wives – they all revolve around changing the system entirely and most certainly NOT around believing that the solution to the problem of mysogny is to make it work in my favor.

Anyway, the Fisk quote makes sense to me. Sex-positivity may be considered a progressive movement because it’s attempting to give a form of power to a traditionally oppressed class. Feminism, on the other hand, wants to change the system that distributes such power and not simply redistribute it.

OR… the alternate way to read this is that it’s all under the feminist umbrella, but the progressive faction is defined by its so-called female sexual empowerment and the radical sect is concerned with making sexual empowerment of women moot because there would be no distinction among gender-specific power and roles in the sexual sphere.

Aw shit. I don’t know what to think right now.

I can’t reconcile myself to calling sex-positives anti- or non-feminist because I just can’t believe that the feminism I believe in is the only thing that can truly be called feminism. That makes me uncomfortable. But I also can’t embrace sex-positivity as a feminist movement because it goes against so much of what I think feminism is. So much of what I feel it is.

All I know for sure is that feminism is a fight and sex-positivity feels to me like an admission of defeat. It’s like the back door to the club with the sketchy dark twisted hallway that distracts you with all its mirrors but then stops at the velvet-roped dance floor where the burly bouncer tells you to go back to the mirrors and check your makeup.

ETA: I realize that sex positivity encompasses far more than the Pussycat Dolls characterizations I’ve made here. I know that it’s about sexual agency and subverting the patriarchy via personal choice and liberation from conventional notions of femininity and female sexuality. That said, I still think that the belief that it’s possible for a woman in a patriarchy to become a sexually empowered subject by choosing to embrace misogynistic objectification is what results in things like Girls Gone Wild being considered the new feminism.

Idealogical rhetoric on dominant reality perceptions

Posted in Being a Feminist, Dudes, Feminism, Language, My Favorite Feminists by Dizzy on November 4, 2007

My blog has of late been inundated with critical comments from folks who think that feminism is sexist and that feminists are kinda dumb. They tell me that they’re right and I’m wrong, declare my blog a pointless waste of time, and proudly claim that I’ve proven their arguments about feminism because I don’t engage them in a healthy discussion about how brainless and robotic feminists are. Aha! They say. Gotcha!

I am obviously under no obligation to respond to the criticism levied at feminism on my blog, what with me being my own actual thinking person and not, in fact, the press secretary for the international feminist club trying to take over the world, but I have to admit to being mildly titillated by all these attacks on feminism based on what I write here.

It would be justifiable to dismiss it all as part of the feminist backlash/product of male privilege and move on, and it may very well be those things, but I also think that there’s something way off about the whole thing and I want to figure out what it is. Maybe there’s a fundamental misunderstanding at work here?

Flimsy and unsupported endlessly-regurgitated hypotheses, psycho-socio-jargon, ideological rhetoric, dominant feminist discourse, sense of intellectual superiority, lens of theory. All phrases used in critical comments about me and, directly or implicitly, all feminists.

Hmmm. It appears that my blog (and many like it) has become akin to an intro women’s studies class where a few tardy, unprepared, dialogue-dominating, self-righteous freshman boys, who are taking it in order to get what they think will be an easy A and to sharpen their debate skills, only listen to female voices in anticipation of finding a faulty theoretical argument to attack and use against them.

So first of all, what the hell is the dominant feminist discourse? Can someone point me to the Wikipedia article on this? I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Wait, now that I think of it, I’m not sure I know what most of those things mean. Ideological rhetoric? Lens of theory? Psycho-social jargon? What the fuck? None of those things mean anything to me. You wanna talk about jargon? Well that’s just about the most jargony jargon I ever heard! So who’s regurgitating what now?

Hey, I think we’re on to something here. Perhaps the Freshmen, as I will call them, think feminism is just a debate topic. An academic exercise. A set of well-defined theories, held uniformly by all of it proponents, for them to intellectually process and refute. And I’m getting the sense that they think women experience it that way too.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I experience feminism through my revulsion to popular misogyny. When I see a beer commercial about a man’s inner struggle with his hot blonde twins in bikinis fantasy versus his naggy brunette girlfriend reality, I don’t think about it, I feel it. When I watch 37 trailers to upcoming movies and don’t see a single one about a woman, I don’t immediately come up with “regurgitated” rhetoric that explains it, I feel it first. When I hear a CNN newscaster tell me about the sexual history of a rape victim, my heart beats fast and my tummy hurts.

This has nothing to do with intellectual processing, everything to do with my aversion to being instructed to hate myself and my refusal to accept that women are peripheral to the human experience. Feminist theories on gender and patriarchy have given me the ability and the language needed to put it all into perspective, but the raw, unfiltered physical reaction I have to such messages, along with the resounding ‘Fuck Yeah!’ feeling I get when someone voices a frustration that I haven’t been able to put words to – those are the things that make me a feminist.

This is why it’s hard for me to respond with any measure of understanding to the men who come at me, guns a-blazing, ready to debate feminism as if it’s a fun little academic exercise, all rife with “you’re all the same” declarations. I don’t respond well to those attacks because I don’t understand feminism or misogyny as theoretical in nature.

Misogyny is my enemy, men are not, and telling whomever will listen that it’s rampant and painful, in a time when its many manifestations are vehemently denied as being harmful, is how I’ve chosen to participate in the battle against it. Denigrating me for that is a fantastic waste of time.




The Context

Posted in Being a Feminist, Dudes, Feminism, Misogyny, Mysognistic Bullshit by Dizzy on July 20, 2007

I was recently informed by a friend, via a note passed to me at a party after I had reacted negatively (or, as he explained, like a chihuahua) to some sexist comment he made, that feminists are “bored and abused” chauvinists who have nothing better to do than to attack men and that I should not let anti-woman words have any kind of power over me. To be offended by misogyny is my choice and to do so makes me weak, apparently. (Now there’s a topic for another day).

And because I did not want to hear the same defensive, woman-hating bullshit that I’ve heard a thousand times by yet another man who claims absolute wisdom and righteousness in all matters human, I stopped reading about halfway through and gave the note back to him. I was then told that, by not being open to his opinions about feminism, I am essentially unwilling to grow and evolve and that I will tragically fail to achieve in my life the full and rich human experience because I refused to give credence to and appreciate his anti-feminist viewpoint.

Super! Not only does being a woman make me less-than, but being unwilling to listen to the defensive voice of male privilege tell me how wrong my beliefs are makes me even more less-than.

The thing is: From the minute I leave my house in the morning I am inundated by misogynistic messages, from the things I hear people say to the images I see all around me. For every one time that I make any sort of comment on these messages there are approximately 1,172 times that I’ve recognized something as sexist and not said anything. There are about 5,249 messages that I didn’t even pick up on.

Once I first really understood what the patriarchy was, it became the Framework. The Context. Everything fell into place and finally began to make sense. Once I was at that place, there was no going back to when I didn’t see and hear and feel a seething hatred of femaleness all around me. Feminism became the lens through which I viewed the world. And that’s that.

I am happy, or at the very least willing, to debate whether or not a certain act, behavior, word, or belief is inherently sexist or misogynistic. I am not, however, willing to debate the importance or necessity of feminism. Honestly, if you really truly think feminism is wrong, or that women just have it made these days and that we should suck it up and be grateful for the rights men have already granted us, then you’re a complete fucking tool. Period. No discussion necessary. I won’t ever entertain the notion, no matter how passionately you argue or how solid you think your points are. To try and argue with me about this would be like trying convince Neo that there is no Matrix.

I know it must be hard to fathom that a girl doesn’t care what a smart man thinks about the thing that she cares most about in the world, or that there’s a movement that exists that doesn’t much take into consideration what men have to say on the topic. I know I’m supposed to 1) nod thoughtfully as I process your wisdom, asking clarifying questions about your points just in case I don’t immediately understand something you say, and then 2) offer up some powerful and intelligent argument on why feminism is important, and then 3) try to prove my point with examples from women in politics and a few stories about my grandmother, but of course, in the end, 4) concede that yes, you have some very good points that I will certainly think about, and thank you for educating me about feminism and correcting me on those things I didn’t fully understand about women and the world.

Well, that conversation has been had before and is a bullshit boring ass waste of time that does absolutely nothing for anyone. Pretending to be open to the possibility that I’m a fool for believing what I do is wrong, dishonest, and disrespectful to everyone involved. Being polite and feigning interest, when I’m really thinking “Holy crap, what an indoctrinated, privileged prick he is. Where’s my beer?” is simply no good. Watching an ESPN poker game that I’ve already seen 3 times would be a far more productive, enjoyable, and and honest thing to do.

Patriarchy, among other things, needs to encourage the abuse and mistreatment of women on a heartbreakingly tragic scale and then make them entirely responsible for it in order to maintain the male-dominated status quo. The words, ideas, behaviors, and images that support the misogynistic gender roles that keep the patriarchy thriving must be acknowledged as such and then eliminated if we ever want to live in a world where women’s bodies and souls aren’t abused to such a horrifying extent.

That’s my entire motivation and the broad context to every feminist argument I make. I really don’t see a whole lot to argue about there.