So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

25 August, 2007

Living in Theory

(This has been kicking around in my head since the beginning of the month, so is not directly related to the current dwama that some fraction of my eleven and a half readers are aware of. Nonetheless ... same old, same old.)

There's a one-liner that drifts around talking about the Land of Theory. "I'd like to live in Theory. Everything works there."

There's also "The difference between theory and practice is that in Theory, there is no difference."

A while back, on one of those link-chasing festivals, I wound up reading the recent posts of one of the Big Feminist Blogs, and the comment threads on them. And aside from folks I knew, what I read mostly ... was something I could link to and say, "This conversation is pretty much distilled essence of why I don't call myself a feminist". If I wanted to invite the sort of response that I'm still pretty sure I'd risk even after waiting the two, two and a half weeks after it went off the front page of a busy blog.

This is hard to write about, trying to pull out the assumptions and the things I react badly to. Because, yeah, I can go through and pull out bits -- in one of the drafts of this I did -- like 'Men who fail to hate you are rare' -- but the more of them I pull out the more likely it is that the ravening hordes will come in and how-dare-you at me. And one of the reasons I dropped the word from my identity was that I hated the internalised warfare it brought to me. The occasional bickering about why-don't-you-call-yourself-a is still warfare, even if it's outside my head, even if it's someone else attempting to impose on me an obligation to adopt a label that doesn't like my kind. And if I'd gone into that thread to post, I'm pretty damn sure that I'd have been assumed to be a man, because apparently penis-possession leads to the sort of blindness that's a part of where my head is at. According to what I read, at least.

It just ... I'm honestly afraid to write about this. I've seen the way the harpies come in onto people. It reminds me of some of the first feminists I 'met', who were big believers in the 'men can't be feminists, and any man who disagreed is blinded by his privilege', who so graciously insulted a transman I know by saying that he wasn't a real enough man to be thrown out of their club. (He pointed out that he'd been raised to be a good little feminist daughter by a mother who was in their club, and her reaction to his transition told him all he needed to know.) And at the same time, I rail about it, I resent this sense that this supposed community that's supposed to be supporting me because I happen to have been born with a woman's body is both so shockingly alien to me and is willing to express such venom to people whose experiences are much more like mine. I'm reminded of how someone who spoke up about one of that crowd got a sneering, "Well, I feel silenced" from one of them, never mind that he (and, for that matter, she in response) had the guts to actually speak up against her bullshit and I run off to my little semi-anonymous space on Blogger and angst about whether I dare speak up.

I saw a later thread on the blog that was actually within one of my realms of reasonable expertise, another link-chasing experience, and I considered offering some of my thoughts ... and didn't. Because ... I know that that space isn't my community, and is unlikely to ever be so. Inviting being noticed that way is ... not ... safe.

My ex read the thread and said (quoted with permission), "You know, it occurs to me that I _don't_ want to live in theory. Sure, everything actually works there, but the men are all really pretty horrible people."


Anonymous said...

I do call myself a feminist, but I think I understand where you're coming from with this. Now please post something argumentative so we can get in a big (respectful) fight about it, wouldja? ;-)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Heh. ;)

Honestly, on this particular subject I'm running far too scared to try to lay out in any detail where I'm coming from.

Every so often I try to, and get, "No feminist would ever say that. Name me names. Prove it."

And so much of my experience is the culture I grew up in, not named people -- stuff with the same citeability as the friend of mine who had a conversation on a bus stop or something that went:
"So what do you do?"
"I'm her mother." *indicating toddler in baby carriage*
"No, what do you do?"
"I'm her mother."
"But aren't you a feminist?"

Or involving ordinary people I've talked to in various places, not Oh So Published people. Because Oh So Published is apparently the only way this stuff gets real and out into the culture -- except if you're a Patriarchalist, they have complete control over everything else.

It's not the patriarchy that scares me into running away to blogger rather than responding to these people where I see them.

Juliet Kemp said...

I also call myself a feminist, & it always depresses me when I see this sort of discussion - not because of your take on it, but because of the "our way or not at all" crowd you describe.

For myself, I concluded in the end that not calling myself a feminist because of the existence of people who call themselves feminists & who are idiots would be a bit like not calling myself a person for the same reason - there are, sadly, plenty of idiots out there. And not calling myself a feminist because other people who do disagree with me on various things would feel self-defeating.

I can understand other people choosing differently, but it saddens me, because it feels like leaving feminism to be identified with vocal idiots.

For me, I'm a feminist because I believe everyone should be equal, and I believe that currently that isn't the case & that women get a raw deal (& also that men get a raw deal, in different ways, for the same reasons). And if someone says I'm *not* because of [whatever it is this time that is "anti-feminist"] then they can sod right off.