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He Says, We Say: The Moves that Matter in Blogosphere Discussion

9 Jul

There’s been some recent discussion about male violence and the feminist response from Mike Meginnis, based in part on a discussion from Feministe that addressed the prevalence of male violence and how this is rarely discussed.  Today, Jamelle asks people to weigh in, so I figured I’d toss in a few thoughts instead of breaking up discussion between the comments section of two different blogs.

What’s interesting about this exchange is what it suggests about the limits (or starting points) of some forms of online discussion and within some online communities.

The biggest problem seems to be the way Mike framed his comments, as a quick reread of the comments section reveals commenter Anna brought up essentially the same observation a few comments before Mike:

Is it derailing too far to bring up how rarely we do talk about men as the victims of violent crime as well?

Because, as you say, there is no gender applied to “shooting victim” but there will be to “female shooting victim”.

We don’t talk a lot about violence this way so people arguing with me about feminism will often bring up “men are the victims of violent crime more than women!” without responding to the point of “and that violence is caused by other men”.

Leaving aside the last part (which is a bit awkwardly formed, but you get the gist) this is what Mike seemed to be addressing, except that he began his comment thusly:

Ashley, I agree with much of what this post is trying to do, but it also deeply frustrates me. You’ve noted correctly – and this is something I try to push myself – that men commit the vast majority of violence. But what you haven’t noted, whether because it would complicate your argument, you feel it’s irrelevant, or you simply don’t know (but I assume you do know), men commit the vast majority of violence *against other men,* even if we discount violence in war zones, which intellectual honesty would suggest that we shouldn’t.

Mike’s comment was directed directly at Ashley and began with a note contention (“it deeply frustrates me”).  From there the responses (while measured and civil) were easy to predict: some defensiveness and rhetorical moves that were dismissive of Mike’s concerns on the grounds that he was speaking from a position of privilege and taking a position that asked “what about teh MENZ?” This is a rhetorical move that you see in a lot of online discussions (and a not altogether illegitimate one either). There are lots of discussions where people in a community or with a certain familiarity with a topic will cut off further discussion along those lines because it’s a flawed or downright spurious argument they’ve dealt with before-it’s a kind of rhetorical efficiency (e.g. For many feminist discussions how often have you heard: “But why can’t we be humanists?”; for race, “Why can’t we just be colorblind?”).  But it also has its drawbacks, in the same way teaching people cognitive biases can lead people to easily dismiss the content of an argument once any sort of bias is identified.  Mike’s point-that the dominate conception of masculinity and the violence it promotes-is most often directed against men themselves isn’t really much of an issue, nor does anyone at Feministe really take issue with it.  Instead, the problem becomes the way Mike addresses the topic.  I think most of the disagreement could have be waived away by responding with something like “Fair enough, but in this discussion we’re going to focus on women as objects of violence (because that’s what we’re most interested in/that’s the implied focus of many of these posts/that’s just what we feel like right now).”

For my part, although I understand that a lot of these rhetorical moves are often are useful, from a stylistic (as well as argumentative) perspective, I’d like to see less of them.  Yes, some unremarkable conservative probably said something wrongheaded or guffaw inducing, but does every response have to be “WTFBBQ!1!11!!!!11!”?  Yes, yes, we get it; you’ve saucily mimicked someone’s digital overreaction or outrage-wonderful.  What’s that?  You have your own prepared word or phrase to describe a certain position or person that ends with (TM)?  What a clever skewering of well-rehearsed debates and a trenchant critique of consumer culture and corporatism run amok!  At least read someone like Belle Waring who does this better than most and still manages to wrestle with content of the argument to get a sense of best practices.

Someone at The American Prospect Please Give This Kid a Job Already

8 Nov

I was going to write a post in response to Susan Faludi’s new book, The Terror Dream, but Young MZ did one better and got himself a spot at TPM Cafe’s book club discussion with Faludi herself.  His post is a strong rejoinder to the sort of weak socio-political analysis that tries to suggest causal relationships from nationwide events (in this case, 9/11 and the War on Terror as an excuse to advance the narrative of masculine strength at the expense of women everywhere).

And TAP better hurry, before someone pages Franklin Foer

Jessica Valenti Addresses Her Acolytes

25 Sep

“May the Spirit of the Blogosphere bless you and keep you safe from Ann Althouse, or at least her readers from your comment fields.”

Okay, so that’s not what’s going on here. In actuality, she’s talking with Devon Ward-Thommes and Rachael Lyons, the non-fiction and poetry editors, respectively, of George Mason’s feminist literary journal, So to Speak, after her Fall for the Book talk. It was a good introduction to modern feminism for a lot of the freshman women (and men) in the audience, who were either just beginning a Women’s Studies course or interested in learning more about her book. There was even a Power Point presentation and everything! (Including a mention of this great rock n’ roll camp for girls). Rock on young feminist women, rock on.

Feministing At George Mason

24 Sep

Tomorrow, George Mason’s Fall for the Book Festival will host the talented author, blogger, and feminist Jessica Valenti at 1:30 in the Johnson Center Cinema. If anyone out there in Blog Land has any questions for the mind behind Feministing, leave them in the comments section and I’ll try to ask them, as long as they don’t make me look stupid. For example, you could ask if she ever runs into Garance Franke-Ruta, and if Garance ever mentions you. Of course, that’s just a suggestion–feel free to ask your own questions.

The Trouble With Radicalism

10 Aug

I disagree with Quixote’s assessment that several male commentaries, including my own, about men and feminism are somewhat illegitimate. While I’m mindful of reinforcing the “feminists hate men” narrative, that the lowest common denominator (or some misogynist tool) would turn “men can be feminists too” into “those broads are femi-nazis!” is largely unavoidable. Also, I don’t think of these comments as broadly representative of either Feministe or its commenters; I just used it as a jumping off point to discuss a debate I thought, in popular discourse, had been settled.

But I shouldn’t have been so surprised that there were still women out there asking if men can be feminists, as feminism–like so much else–isn’t a monolithic movement. My reaction should have been “Wow, there are still those sort of radical feminists out there? How quaint.” Our beef is with radicalism (or at least a particular strain of it). Continue reading

Apparently, I’ll be Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy

9 Aug

I ran across this post on Feministe while clicking through blogrolls¹. While the post is a fairly unremarkable reflection on dating a hetero guy (after years of relationships with female and transgendered partners) and said hetero guy’s open embrace of feminism, many of the commenters’–er–“skeptical” comments made me wince:

And yes, I’ve seen this. We’ve all seen it, repeatedly, if we’re honest. And maybe it’s just that that pathetically grateful relief that women can act out when we’re confronted with one man who seems even halfway not-a-shithead illustrates like nothing else just how very, truly fucked we are by this society. Christ, we meet one guy who WON’T defend gang-rape and might be talked out of thinking that all rape victims are lying, drunk sluts, and we fucking capsize ourselves kissing his goddamned ass. It’s that bad. IT’S THAT BAD. THIS SOCIETY REALLY IS JUST THAT BAD.

I know sometimes hyperbole tends to have it’s own momentum. But gang-rape-defending momentum? Who is seriously going to defend gang rape? Oh, you mean the Duke lacrosse rape case? Yeah, no–pick something else.

More on the topic of men as potential feminists or feminist allies: Continue reading