This week, my good friend David Ellis Dickerson commented on a feminist blog entry against Boobquake. He was castrated (figuratively of course). I came to his defense, and was attacked with perhaps as much ferocity for defending a man. It was like I was evil to point of Nazi sympathizer, suggesting that a man had a valid point about a feminist issue. I mean, yeah, Dave should have known you can’t tell a radical feminist to “lighten the fuck up.” But in his defense, he didn’t lay that on her until the fifth paragraph, and had made lots of good points in defense of Boobquake first. You can read the whole shebang here. (My favorite was the woman who called him a “mainplaining dood.”) At this moment, the writer of the original post, “marybullstonecraft” has made nice with Dave, but some of the other participants in the discussion are still very angry that he (a man) voiced his opinion (an opinion that didn’t match theirs) on this feminist blog. The thing is, his opinion, although for Boobquake instead of against it, was a feminist response that would not have ignited such anger if the name associated with his comments had been Diana Ellis Dickerson instead.
I hate that some of these feminist women have this knee-jerk reaction to men. One even told me that men can’t be victims of sexism. Really? How can that be?
Most men have women in their lives. Many men were raised by women, maybe grew up with sisters, have women and girls as friends and relatives, have chosen to create lives with women. Lives are interconnected, plain and simple. Whenever a woman is ill-treated, everyone around her suffers on her behalf, unless she bravely keeps it under wraps (and even if she keeps it inside, it will take its toll). When a woman is denied a raise, her family’s quality of life suffers. When a woman is denied a job, her family’s quality of life suffers even more. When a woman is denied medical care or coverage . . . well, you get the idea.
A woman saying that a man can’t or shouldn’t speak up about feminism is counter-productive and just plain inaccurate. It’s like saying Sarah McLachlan has no right to speak on behalf of the animals because she’s not a dog. Or that I can’t be angry about racism because I’m white. Sarah can be an animal activist and I can refuse to shop at stores run by racist shopowners because this is my world too. This is the world that I live in, and I don’t want it to be a racist, sexist, or abusive place. So my friend Dave, and all men who so desire, should be welcomed with the warmest of hugs into feminism. The current cold, hateful attitudes held by some feminists towards men is not only counter-productive, it’s confusing to me. It’s doctrinaire and strict, and makes feminism seem like it’s only for radical man-haters, which makes men and women, especially young women, hesitant to identify with feminism. Anti-male attitudes are no different than the Augusta Golf Club’s policies. And if it’s true that men’s attitudes are still held in higher regard than women’s, in general, then why in the world would any movement want to silence the members with the most clout? (I’m only half-joking with that question).
So what to do? There’s no easy answer. For tops, feminist women, I implore you to rethink your anti-male attitudes if you’ve got them. Argue with them when the situation warrants it, call them on their sexism if they’re showing some, but be willing to listen to them, too. Learn to detect when the good ones are around. Don’t just assume every man is a “dood” who is “mansplaining” something to you. These dismissive comments are no more constructive than when a man calls a woman a “bitch.”
Men, women, and girls who believe in equality, please recognize that you are a feminist. Believing in equality– Yes!– that’s all it takes to be a feminist. Don’t be afraid to tell people. Consider this: you know how the Republican Party has been hijacked by the Christian Right, Fox viewers, birthers, and now Tea Partiers? We perceive them as complete whackadoodles, right? The moderates are being silenced for not being conservative enough; they’re dismissed as RINOs. How many of those moderate Republicans can you name? (I can name Meghan McCain, who is not a politician, and Christine Todd Whitman, who’s been out of politics for years). So just like how the Republican Party wouldn’t seem so loco if the moderates reclaimed their party, if more of us sane, reasonable feminists called ourselves feminists, loudly and proudly, the movement overall wouldn’t seem so extreme.
Remember, it’s the Sarah Palins and the Michele Bachmanns that get the attention, but we need to remind people that the radicals are the exception, not the norm. Only a handful of feminists are man-haters. Only a handful of feminists are bullldykes. Only a handful of feminists aim to silence every other voice but their own. Only a handful of feminists are militant. Being a feminist is not an ugly thing. COMON GIRLS! Let’s be positive, proud, and inviting.
I hear there will be a protest for the “protection of marriage” Thursday at George Washington University because Meghan McCain is speaking there, and she’s for equal rights for gays.
The GOP cracks me up. The most pleasant Republican I can think of is Meghan McCain, she’s their best bet for winning over younger Americans, and instead of kissing her bodacious ass as they should, they protest her, mock her, call her fat (see my post “Laura Ingraham: Quit Talking about Our Bodies) . . . that’s a party that should fire their bouncers and hire new ones who have a better concept of what kind of people to let in.
For years, I was told that all conservatism means is “less government.” I heard it everywhere: my dad, my brother, a guy I (very) briefly dated. “Less government” should mean that conservatives wouldn’t think that government should be concerned about sex, marriage, or whatever. Newsflash: Liberals and progressives are the ones who believe in protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I like that Meghan McCain’s presence is a near-constant reminder of the hypocrisy and overall suckiness of the GOP, but I do wish she’d switch teams. I’d take her out for cosmos.
Here is the email verbatim that my mom sent me this week . . .
If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn`t buy one.
If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.
If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn`t eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.
If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he’s in labor, and then sues.
If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.
If a black man or Hispanic are conservative, they see themselves as independently successful.
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of government protection.
If a conservative is down and out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.
If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!)
If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.
If a conservative reads this, he’ll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will delete it because he’s “offended.”
When I received this email, I immediately began composing a fiery response, which, to my credit, I deleted and replaced with a simple “Come on, you’re better critical thinkers than that.” I also mentioned that I forwarded it to some of my liberal friends, so we could also have a laugh to make that last item false.
Of course, lots on this list is false, or at least very, very simplified. For example, most of the liberals I know don’t want Fox News to go anywhere, if only because Glenn Beck’s theatrics are better than telenovelas and we love the way The Daily Show exposes Fox’s tricks, like using old crowd footage to make it appear that thousands of people turned out for a healthcare rally and Sarah Palin’s book signings.
Normally, email forwards from my mother don’t hurt my feelings. In fact, usually when I get a forwarded email, I look up whatever the message is on snopes.com and then hit ‘reply all’ with the link. Or I might instead send a simple message like “there is no such thing as Obamacare.” But this particular email, with the message on the top added by my mother: ”This shows the difference in our thinking,” did kind of hurt.
Our relationship has often been difficult. We clashed early and often as I was growing up. We both try to get along, but it seems that we’re never giving the same amount of effort at the same time. I’m a complicated person, as are most people (of all political affiliations, I feel). I am quick to judge and I have more than my fair share of sass, But in my defense, instead of thinking of me as I am (writer, teacher, thinker, compassionate person, occasional philanthropist, a woman in her thirties who’s spent time since the Reagan administration analyzing her positions) my mother sees me, according to this email forward, as these things: whiny, greedy, doctrinaire, litigious, and slimy.
How can she chat with me on the phone, cheerfully tell me she loves me as we hang up, and then send me this email the very next day?
I can only reply to most of these sweeping generalizations with “Well, I only want certain guns, like assault rifles, harder to get” (really, does anyone need a machine gun? really?) or, “I’ve never sued anyone,” and “I can’t speak for all liberals, but I see Afghanistan as much more complicated than either winning at all costs or backing out slowly with our tails between our legs.” However, I admit that there are things on this list that are true for this particular liberal. For example, when I was newly vegetarian I was very obnoxious about it. I never wanted meat to be illegal (veal maybe, but not meat in general) but I did indeed lecture people, I made vats of vegetarian chili to bring to cook-outs hoping to fill people up before the burgers were off the grill. But I’ve always been much more annoying in my anti-smoking crusade, to tell you the truth. After a year or maybe less of a vegetarian lifestyle, I chilled out and pretty much decided that people could eat whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t try to force me to eat to their preferences.
(A sidenote: the people who are rudest to vegetarians are generally the ones who feel guilty about eating meat, often times failed veggies themselves. Or they’re just plain rude. Once, the daughter of a South Dakota rancher found my presence offensive, as if I had spit on her family photos by not eating meat. Another sidenote: my mom used to sneak meat into my food, such as lying to me that the potatoes were not made with chicken broth. She also used to make me go to church when she knew I was an atheist. She couldn’t live and let live, and really, that turns numbers one and two back on her as a conservative, don’t you think?)
Another point that reflects on me is the one about health insurance. I’ll admit it; it’s true. I want a public option so that I don’t have to have a full time job to get health benefits. I was laid off in June and have only been able to work part time. (My parents, btw, are on social security and Medicare. Interesting that people with socialized medicine are against it for the rest of us). I’m worried about losing my COBRA. But this conviction is not just for me: I think everyone should be covered because I don’t think healthcare is a privilege, like a driver’s or a gun license. It’s a right. And interestingly, I’ve noticed that poor people pay taxes. Now really, do you have to be a liberal to prefer seeing your neighbors able to take their kids to the doctor over seeing crooked bankers take home millions in bonuses? Or millions of taxpayer dollars lost on a pallet somewhere in Iraq? Are these just liberal preferences?
I’m struck by the double-standard stereotyping in this list. I mean, usually the Right paints liberals as Hollywood types, snooty academics, or wealthy Eastcoasters, out of touch with reality. But in this list, liberals are poor, whiny takers waiting for handouts. Don’t try to have it both ways, Righties: consistency is step one towards selling people on your point. Color the enemy one way for clarity. And if you’re going to stereotype liberals, it makes more sense to go with the original; it is an established fact that liberalism goes up with one’s level of education.
I’m also struck by some of the assumptions in this list. For example: ”If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life. If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.”
So the assumption is that gay conservatives live under the radar *by choice*. It also suddenly turns demanding respect into a bad thing. I was always taught that the only way to gain respect is to deserve and demand it. This statement also assumes that you have to be liberal to want gay rights. Plus, it also assumes that only gay people fight for gay rights. Not true, as shown by this awesome kid in Arkansas. These are the extreme views that so many members of the GOP are fighting against. Ask Meghan McCain if you have to be gay or liberal to believe in gay rights (which is really just a more specific way of saying “human rights”). Actually, you don’t have to ask her. I’ll show you right here what she said about it in her most recent column, found in its entirety here at The Daily Beast:
The problem I have with my fellow Republicans is why gay marriage is the trump card in any situation. It seems that as long as you are against gay marriage, any scandal in your life can be overlooked or overcome. When you are in favor of it, however—and I have been very vocal about my support—that position defines you.
President Obama is giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame on Sunday. How totally cool for those graduates, right? I have no idea who spoke at any of my graduations because the speakers (and, frankly, the events on the whole) were non-spectacular. Ninety-five percent of the students who’ve written into Notre Dame’s paper, The Observer, approve of the school’s choice of speaker. But, as is usually the case, a very radical and very vocal minority of students, combined with some obnoxious members of the community and many more visitors who have nothing at all to do with Notre Dame, are making a federal case about Obama speaking there. For example, Alan Keyes (along with over 20 others) was arrested for trespassing on campus.
And what’s the hubub? Barack Obama is pro-choice.
As a woman who was raised Catholic, I understand how important the concept of Life is to Catholics, but most thoughtful Catholics I know (including myself in my younger days when I was a practicing Catholic), understand that this issue of Life is much more complicated than whether or not abortion is legal and who thinks it should be legal. (In fact, NPR’s All Things Considered today reported that Obama’s approval rating is several percentage points higher among Catholics than it is with the general population, which pushes it well into the sixties).
This catch phrase “the Culture of Life” that the Bush administration was so adept at tossing around is meaningless. A true culture of life is anti-war. A culture of life is against the death penalty. A culture of life believes in providing food and healthcare for post-birth fetuses. A culture of life supports scientific advancements to save lives and improve quality of life for the sick and injured. A culture of life cannot only care about American fetuses. Iraqis, after all, were once fetuses. So were undocumented immigrants. As was Saddam Hussein and every inmate at Guantanamo Bay.
I’m pro-choice, as are many of my friends and members of my family. We share some common beliefs, mainly that abortion is an unhappy, yucky thing. Everyone with whom I’ve discussed this issue agrees that abortions shoudn’t occur. But we understand that making abortion illegal will do nothing to prevent abortions. Those who can afford them will stil receive them safely. Those who cannot afford them will attempt to receive them, many of them unsafely or fatally. Others will have unwanted children. The way to prevent abortions is simple: prevent unwanted pregnancies. Pregnancies are prevented by comprehensive health and sex eduacation and access to affordable birth control. Even my favorite Republican, Meghan McCain, has expressed this view. (See her great article for the Daily Beast called The GOP Doesn’t Understand Sex.)
But I digress. My beef isn’t really about pro-lifers in general, it’s with the annoying people who are cluttering the streets of South Bend like they own the place that are pissing me off. Protesters are gathering to show their disapproval at Notre Dame’s choice of speaker. An airplane has been flying over campus for the past few weeks, pulling a banner with an image of an aborted fetus. Students have called this plane annoying, and I don’t blame them. While the students of Notre Dame are trying to study and take finals, their environment is all atwitter. Students, already nervous and excited, deserve to enjoy their last weeks of college and graduation without having their lives disrupted even more by protesters. Geez, people, go home. Get lives. And if you really care about life, wouldn’t your time be better spent distibuting condoms to at-risk youths or volunteering to care for victims of domestic abuse?
And I can’t help but think that those few students who skip commencement to attend a prayer vigil elsewhere will one day regret missing their chance to hear an American President (one who can actually speak) give a speech. It’s like when my cousin invited me to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead at Soldier Field. I was never a deadhead, but I figured one day I’d be happy to tell my kids that I saw the Dead. I bonded with my cousin and everyone else there, and it’s a cherished memory. My mom skipped class when she was a freshman to hear Robert Frost at the University of Minnesota. My dad woudn’t skip class to hear Frost, and guess which one of my parents remembers that day?
I didn’t go to Notre Dame, but I worked at another prestigious Midwestern Catholic university, Marquette, for four years. And I can tell you that while Marquette’s Catholic foundation is important to the school, its academic reputation means more. And what kind of institution that wants to be taken seriously would construct a checklist of rules and voting stances, and only invite speakers whose history follows that criteria exactly? A school that doesn’t welcome discussion, critical thinking, or diverse viewpoints. And that’s the kind of school that offers its students a crap education. Notre Dame is not that kind of institution. Just the fact that their football coach (probably the best paid employee there) has a huge potty mouth is proof enough of that.
So well done, Notre Dame! Nice voice, and nice vision.
P.S. In your face, Arizona State! You wouldn’t give President Obama an honorary degree, but he’s getting a much cooler one from Notre Dame. Oh, which is also a reason the protestors are ticked. If I went through the list of people who’ve received honorary degrees from my alma maters, I’d probably be pissed too. Shoot, I got my master’s at FSU. It’s just best to leave it alone.