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Too Much Information?

2 Dec

I was going to write a different blog post. For some time now, I had a text in mind that, in the wake of Jacquelyn Friedman’s new book on ‘feminist’ (obviously, broadly spoken…) dating and sex, concerned itself with the question many people who are attracted to men™ have asked and discussed and never answered: feminist men interested in heterosexual relationships – anyone? Anywhere?

Obviously, this has been debated a lot (e.g., on Feministe when Jill posed the question how people “date while feminist”) and is a complex issue; for me, due to personal reasons, especially regarding heterosexual relationships and all the negotiations and potential deal breakers they can entail. Thankfully, I have not yet had to deal with super special misogynistic snow flakes (…and being fat helps when it comes to weeding out the people who do not deserve to get laid in the first place…), and since my private environment is either in support of feminism or at least somewhat aware of my political base line (albeit due to my snarky comments or raised voice or the combination of the two… *ahem*), I can be quite happy to report that overt, unchallenged sexism is something I seldom have to deal with in my immediate (male) surroundings now (…it used to be different).  And having any sort of (intimate) relationship with someone who does not share key features of this basic value system, i.e., “leftist” or “progressive” policies or whatever you want to name it, is a clear “deal breaker” and dude would neither get a second glance nor open ear.

Notwithstanding, as “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” has just recently shown yet again, defining yourself as a progressive or even explicitly feminist man does not mean that you actually are one. I think this is a problem due to a lack of individual reflection and comprehension (and here is a fantastic piece about the horrors of “faux feminists”), but also a structural complexity: of course, overcoming socially engraved beliefs and practices is hard, especially when you are living within the culture and society that reproduces and reinforces said beliefs and practices every single day, and belittles or threatens you if you refuse to play along. I expect you to try damned hard, however – it is your responsibility if you claim to support gender equality (that should be an integral part of your “progressive” stance).

I was now going to start dissecting the question as to how feminist exactly a man has to be (and in which regards), so one can “work with” that – clearly, certain issues that I would deem feminist in principle are somewhat relational negotiations in practice, and although the slogan “the personal is political” holds true, intimate relationships tend to not function satisfactory for either person/people if handled as party conventions where the goal is to push your political wing’s programme to the fullest extend (…although I’ve heard that works for some people – and I’ve once tried… hard… ;)).

Yet, right in the middle of the classic thought about how much (anti?-)feminist compromise is justifiable and how to write about that, something else happened, and kind of caught me off guard.

As said above, feminism does not come as a surprise to virtually every man I know on a more personal level, is somewhat common in the professional/humanities/academia surrounding I am working, and I am far from ‘hiding’ it in daily interactions (although, apparently, simply stating a differing opinion is still considered radically feminist, even totally akin to the SCUM manifesto… :: eye roll ::), although I do not roam the streets yelling about it (yet) or wear batches (anymore). This blog is written under a pseudonym, nonetheless, because I actually like to not be identified for once, would find it a bit too revealing to share things like these under my real name with the internet, and think that words can carry without names (although most of my friends and some of my colleague actually know who occupies this virtual space :)). As I had to experience, however: in times of googling people, privacy is just shot to shit anyway.

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Seriously: Stop Talking.

18 Nov

The last couple of weeks, feminist bloggers have publicly collected the most hateful comments thrown at them on their own blogs and/or when they spoke up publicly, and those all too familiar insults can be seen on Twitter: #mencallmethings. Sady Doyle summarised them in a great post here, and in The Independent, Laurie Penny wrote about her experiences as female journalist and the gender specific reactions she faces, not only but particularly online.

[Since this is such a horrid and personal topic, I think some random pics are in order, so that’s why they will be popping up in this thread… ;)]

Despite the fact that this blog is very tiny and unpopular :), especially compared to major feminist and other blogs concerned with social justice issues, I have already received and deleted my fair share of the kind of comments Sady and Laurie mention in their articles. Most of them, no surprises here, actually popped up in the wake of the post on so-called Men’s Rights Activists and the ones specifically dealing with rape culture.

It has been argued by feminism’s Second Wave (TM) over and over again that the attack on women’s looks, sexuality and specific skills, the belittlement, the condescension, the mocking, the rage, the threats, etc. is merely a way of keeping them from talking, from questioning, from recognising oppressive social structures and, subsequently, challenging those, and from feeling confident and safe in public space; additionally to actual physical violence.

And although this seems to sound dramatic to people (…one might just look at the reactions of many men who’d consider themselves somewhat progressive and are very baffled when reading #mencallmethings and other articles about this topic) and many advocate the theory that people are particularly mean-spirited when they feel anonymous and outspoken on the internet, this actually does not take anything away from the problem. Actually, the mere fact that people are completely uninhibited in certain frames is not only a very bad excuse, but makes matters even worse, since they apparently suppress their rage “in the real world” (more or less successfully), but still hold the very same ideas they then express in writing.

Furthermore, the supposed anonymity (which obviously is more of a myth than actual reality nowadays) does not seem to be the main reason for being all liberal with rape and death threats: many people show very little concern with posting violent threats or disgusting insults under their actual names, and the ability to track IPs is either unknown or uncared about by the commenters who could possibly be living in the apartment next to mine, if I can believe their internet providers.

So: why the seemingly reckless dumbassery? Why the need to take the time out of your day to specifically show up at someone else’s blog and virtually yell at them, call them names and leave with a threat? Although boring insults are definitely far from being a male speciality (Kerstin_P and all, and that was really harmless…) and are most certainly not limited to publicised opinions by women and/or opinions on feminist matters, the average raging, white, anti-feminist male troll seems to have a peculiar quality about him that his female version is missing – and things come down to structural issues, again.

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Whiteness, Whiteness, Everywhere, and not a Drop to Drink.

18 Jul

“Images of Whiteness: Exploring Critical Issues” – that sounds like an interesting conference, doesn’t it? More than 70 people from around the world spent a couple of days at the University of Oxford last week, to talk about the various fields where people (think they) are undertaking research into Critical Whiteness Studies. Besides being all panicky about finishing my paper a day before I had to present it, I thought it was a mostly thought-provoking experience.

However, as you can probably sense from the tone, there is a But, as there almost always is when academics (and pseudo-academics like myself ;)) come together, and even more so when academia (especially the humanities which are predominantly white, at least in their canonised works, self-presentation and perception) occupies itself with critically assessing structures of discrimination. Whereas the “habitus”-issues were reduced to a minimum this time (e.g.,  I wasn’t the only one unsure about which of the forks to use next at lunch…), my hopes to enjoy a mostly racism free conference for a change were quite quickly stifled, due to several factors.

I’d like to visualise one of them subtly here:

I was quite curious to see how many POC were attending the conference –  and out of roughly 70, there were 6  (including myself); which, I have to admit with a lot of unhidden resentment, was the highest ratio of POC I’ve ever experienced at an academic conference in Europe. In any case (and however romanticising that might sound): it was a very relaxing and energizing experience to be able to socialise and talk to other POC academics for a change; something I, as I realised again, too rarely have the possibility for. Furthermore, it most certainly helped to digest the racist BS that was about to happen (…if only because one doesn’t have to constantly and elaborately explain why something is racist to other people of colour).

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Get Your Dogma Off My Cookie.

30 May

Recently, friends of mine told me an anecdote that was supposed to make me laugh (I guess), but was more of (yet) an(other) example to me how beauty standards and misogyny still go so well together:

He (lets call him Tim) and she (lets call her Tom) were working together on updating the university’s noticeboard, when one of the professors came out of his office and wanted to share some cookies with them. Tim (to be polite, as he said) thankfully accepted, but Tom is allergic to wheat, so she declined. You’d think the professor might be able to go on with his day after this, having handed out a cookie, but her response apparently startled him. His go-to-response was: “Ah, sure, you’re trying to watch your diet.”

Tom did not laugh (because she actually did not hear what he said), Tim gave a little chuckle… This made the professor so uncomfortable that he finally buggered off after some awkward seconds. Tim then implicitly told Tom that she was kind of rude and that her behaviour made the professor feel awkward.

As I get annoyed rather easily (…so I’ve been told ;) ), I am naturally annoyed by this – and with reason, I think. I’m also fine with adding that, as a person who has been put on her first diet when she was seven years old (with no eventual benefit whatsoever), I am probably more receptive to this kind of stuff.

Not only was “diet” the first thing that popped into the professor’s head when Tom did not want a cookie, although there is a multitude of explanations available (…maybe Tom does not like cookies, or does not like the professor’s damn cookies, or does not want to eat cookies right now, or has just eaten cookies, or is actually allergic or nauseated or just not in the mood), he actually thought it was worth commenting on her decision; even more so, in a fat-phobic and sexist fashion.

First of all, and most importantly (and I don’t think you can get that message out often enough): A person’s body and (life style) choices are none of your fucking business. Not mine, not yours, not a family’s, community’s, economy’s or of national or even global interest. Don’t get me wrong, certain individual looks, behaviours and choices are most certainly presented as a matter of the public and of policy; many people behave really horribly, downright violently, and have no sense of boundaries when it comes to weight and size. Sometimes things get rather funny and truly preposterous, as the “But I care for these fatties”-tantrum throwing TV chef Jamie Oliver has shown. My personal favourite, however, is the “scientific” revelation that fat people are one of the major causes of global warming and would save the planet if only they’d exercised more – you couldn’t make this shit up…

From Michelle Obama’s war on fatty terror concern for fat children to germany’s federally launched “Fit statt Fett” (“fit instead of fat” – and let me just say: the german word “fett” conveys more negativity than “fat” and is a deliberately derogatory term that could have been replaced by more humane alternatives) campaign, weight is framed as both a concrete political/fiscal and societal/symbolic issue: national security and prosperity vs. decadence and decline; discipline and fiscal success vs. laziness and over spending due to supposedly preventable diseases that allegedly put a stranglehold on health care systems.

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