Saturday, April 14, 2007

So I was chatting to verte over at Trin’s place and I left a comment, and then I though about it later and realized that in my drunken haze (don’t ask – basically booze makes Mr Cassandra sleepy and me hyper, so here I am, wide awake!) I actually articulated something oddly profound about the whole radfem vs sex positive dynamic (or maybe it just feels like a profound insight to me because I’m pissed).

Here’s the original comment…

And now I sound really anti-Brit...sorry! I do love my homeland really, I just get a bit frustrated with the resistance to change sometimes. Hanging out on some of those blogs you mentioned feels like being trapped in the kitchen with a bunch of your aunties lecturing you about your skirts being too short and wearing too much eyeliner...while you're trying to talk to them about big things like the war in Iraq. It gets tedious pretty quickly.

And then I thought…you know, that’s kind of what talking to the more inflexible kind of radfem makes me feel like in general. Like I’m at one of those awful family events where you end up stuck in the kitchen with all the old folks and that one cousin you never liked who always gave you the evil eye any time you seemed to be enjoying yourself, and they’re all lecturing you about your choice of clothing and that terribly boy with long hair you keep hanging out with and why you can’t settle down and get a sensible job like your cousin Tina and for God’s sake why do you have to dye your hair such weird colors! What are you thinking? Why can’t you just conform, God damn it?
Who do you think you are, young lady?

And then I got to thinking about a certain spinster aunt…I’m not sure if she was deliberately playing off of this dynamic in naming her online persona or if it’s just one of life’s lovely little ironies, but I’m betting I’m not the only person who’s noticed this dynamic.

The interaction between radfems and sex-positive feminists positions the radfems as the nagging kill-joy aunties and sex positive feminists as those crazy kids with the funny hair who need to stop pissing around and go out and get a real job. And it happens all the damn time.

Is that a healthy dynamic? Probably not. Who’s to blame for it? Probably both sides to a certain degree, although of course from my perspective I’m going to be a bit biased in favor of our lot. What’s to be done about it? Can anything be done about it?

Now that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Anyone have any ideas?

Original thread is here, BTW.

Note - points at image. I like him. I REALLY like him.
What's the bets that if some of the kind of radfems I'm talking about here stumble across this post they will...
A. Assume he's a girl
B. Yell at me about exploiting women for posting a pic of a poor, helpless, stocking clad woman (man) who is clearly being exploited (exploiting himself for fun and profit).


Zan said...

Makes perfect sense to me. (One day, I swear, we're gonna find something we disagree on.) It reminds me of all those Sunday school lessons I had and of my parents who just wanted to avoid the subject of sex altogether because wouldn't life be so much easier without it?

Trinity said...

right on.

Renegade Evolution said...

No. We can't. The eye to eye common ground thing? It's a pipe dream.

verte said...


I finally gave in to temptation and started a specifically feminist blogger too so I can rant about porn at length...

Sorry I didn't reply earlier - it was a busy weekend. You didn't sound anti-brit at all.

I always feel that my feminist-ness makes me into a bitter old auntie no matter that I'm not radfem. I still glared at a barman the other night for calling me 'sweetie' and the man he served next 'sir'.

I got scolded in a workshop at the weekend for suggesting that men are not inherently 'privileged'. Maybe we scold back? I'm not sure.

Cassandra Says said...

Oddly enough I never feel like a bitter auntie. I think it's the way my parents raised me - I was brought up to assume that I deserved to be treated with respect and had a right to be pissed off when respect was not forthcoming. Usually the only time I get ranty is when someone is invading my physical space, and I think the way I respond to that is less feminist-aunty and more straightforward "what the hell do you think you're doing, and were you raised by wolves?".

The issue of the terms on is addressed by is an interesting one. In general I have no problem with people calling me honey, sweetie etc, especially if they're older than me. I think it's a result of spending part of my childhood in the South. I'm always sort of looking at them and reacting based on whether they seem to mean to be patronising or whether that's just how they talk to everyone. One of my buddies calls me "babydoll" and I don't really mind - he's from Florida, that's just how he talks. I call most of my friends babe.
I think I would find it a bit suspect if someone called me sweetie and then the next person sir. I'd find it bit odd to see a bartender call anyone sir in general unless it was a much older man, in which case I'd expect them to call women the same age ma'am.

It occurs to me that that's an intersting case of sexism in language. There really isn't a proper female equivalent for sir.

I actually do think that men are privileged in many situation. Then, I think that white people are privileged too, and so are people who grew up with money. I think there are all kinds of privilege that intersect with each other in interesting ways.

Octogalore said...

"positions ... sex positive feminists as those crazy kids with the funny hair who need to stop pissing around and go out and get a real job"

So true, and ironic, because I think if you looked at it, the jobs are just as "real" in pretty much all senses of the word, on both sides. I'd love to know, in fact, what the spinster aunt really DOES.

Renegade Evolution said...

octo: except my job, where the work part is always put in quote marks, kind of like "feminists" who aren't "good" enough.

belledame222 said...

OG: she's a "gentleman farmer." formerly a restaurant critic.

Octogalore said...

BD: I had the sense both of those were more like pastimes. Not sources of income for bill-paying, the way most of us would view a job. Still, possibly I am mistaken and she is, as we speak, milking cows or pruning tomatoes.

Ren: I think what they're deliberately missing is that if it comes with having to be somewhere at a set time, projects, deadlines, and (hopefully) paychecks, it's a real job. Quacks like a duck, and so forth.

of course, in the radfem lexicon, various things that fit the definition above are still not real jobs. eg if it involves using femininity, it is not a real job. Further, if it involves using capitalism and succeeding (it's OK if you don't, then you're a victim of the P, which is a defensible stance), then it is not a real job.

So just like there can be REAL feminists and SPF feminists, there are also REAL jobs and SPF jobs.

Cassandra Says said...

Indeed, Octo is correct - if one exchanges labour for financial compensation, that is what is known as a job. The fact that one may not approve of that job does not mean that it is not in fact A JOB.
Except if one is an idiot.

Cassandra Says said...

Also...I really need to write something about radfem as a subculture that's a bit clearer than what I was babbling about at Trin's place when I was drunk. Because that's what all this boils down to really, radfem as a subculture, other feminists aren't allowed in because they aren't following the dress code.
Which would make sense if we were all teenagers, but amongst adults it's pretty pathetic really.

belledame222 said...

bzz bzz bzz!

belledame222 said...

actually as i understand it the quaint outdated term "gentleman farmer" means someone who doesn't do the labor himself; i assumed it was her tongue in cheek way of saying she's a gentlewoman of inherited property and leisure.

Ravenmn said...

"as those crazy kids with the funny hair who need to stop pissing around and go out and get a real job. "

Yeah, I do hear echoes of that "get a job!" heckling I receive whenever I participate in an antiwar rally. We are assumed to be lazy, disrespectful, uninterested in learning anything and unreasonably crticial. Oh, and totally into the menz.

Translation, please, for SPF.

Cassandra Says said...

Ravenm - Yep. It's the same dynamic playing itself out in a different situation. In both cases it's based on assumptions, and you know what they say about assumptions...
As for the SPF translation, you mean sex positive feminist? I'm not sure I've ever seen a good translation/descriptions of that one either. To whatever extent I'm describing myself that way it's more by comparison than anything else - kind of "well, clearly I'm not the OTHER kind of feminist".

PS The totally into the menz assumption is particularly funny when levelled at, say, Belle, who's really not that into the menz at all unless we're talking about the gay best friend, and I'm pretty sure that's not what they mean.

Ravenmn said...

SPF = Sex Positive Feminist!

That's what I missed. Duh!

I was totally stuck on sun screen. Heh.