A couple of friends have been blowin up my dash with Doctor Who talk in the past couple of days (cough Dorian and Natalie I love you cough) and I wanted to call some attention to this piece by Sady Doyle, which clearly enumerates some of the more gender-y problems with “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
In the end, the reason I stopped caring comes down to one moment. Five simple words: “But what do I think?” Just like that, I was done. That was the moment that Doctor Who officially ceded its claims to its own title, and became a very different, much worse show — the show I’ve come to think of as Nurse Rory.
The thing is that I agree with a lot of what Sady says… but I’m still going to keep watching, because Eleven is my hella problematic jam. Unless next week is as horrible as LKH was. Then I might stop.
[Also, I was tagging this, thinking ‘okay, eleventh doctor, amy pond, rory… pond?’]
When we talk about the young feminists, and their image problem, and whether their “clumsy,” bad-PR-move feminism is RUINING IT FOR EVERYBODY, we’re ignoring the fact that, well, they’re doing something. They’re not like most people; they’re not standing on the sidelines, contributing their very useful comments on how THEY would NEVER fuck up in that particular way, they’re too smart, they’re too sophisticated, they know what’s wrong with everything, that’s why they never do anything, you see, they are such geniuses it has made them weary. Nobody likes to feel like a fuck-up. And when you fuck up feminism, you fuck up something that a lot of people need. But the only option, other than going out there and giving it a shot and potentially fucking up and RUINING EVERYTHING, is to stop trying. And imperfect efforts can actually pay off. If, for example, you want to make the point that calling women “sluts” who deserve to be raped because of how they dress is screwed up, and you put together this silly protest by the seat of your pants, well, sometimes that goes nowhere. And sometimes folks end up having conversations about your point. In the pages of the New York Times.
I would rather see a bunch of imperfect people fucking up for the right reasons than see a bunch of perfectly competent, brilliant people doing nothing because they don’t want to take a risk or represent feminism “incorrectly.”
like a boss.
I want to be clear here, because you seem to be unclear.
You should, undoubtedly, take care of your own health. But
There is no “but”. People should take care of their own health. But is where you get into policing other peoples’ abilities, and you do it again
If your response to this is debilitating, of course you won’t do it. That’s understood. If you can’t do something, then you can’t do it. But
I cannot speak to anything else that might be covered under “disability,” because I don’t experience those things. But
you should take your own health and abilities into consideration, judge wisely, and if it’s impossible, don’t do it. But
Is it so hard for you to say, People should take care of their own health. If your response to this is debilitating, of course you won’t do it. That’s understood. If you can’t do something, then you can’t do it. I cannot speak to anything else that might be covered under “disability,” because I don’t experience those things. you should take your own health and abilities into consideration, judge wisely, and if it’s impossible, don’t do it.
You own personal experience is legitimate. For you. It is not a qualifier for statements like “You should take care of your own health”. That is not okay.
You have belittled people with debilitating anxiety (that is, people with debilitating anxiety that is debilitating in ways that differ from your own) with phrases like, This isn’t about you: This is about the fact that our level of commitment will match our impact and the worst that happens is that you stammer and feel bad and hang up the phone and You’re more powerful than your fears are. This is the problem with platitudes like these; they sound encouraging on their face, but they are really about denying the legitimacy of any kind of difficulty.
I share the specific obstacles people are talking about, but this is not as scary as it looks, and it’s actually very easy and possible, so while I’m not there and can’t tell you how debilitating your fears are, you also don’t know how debilitating they are until you try to overcome them, and I believe the vast majority of people dealing with anxiety around this are going to be able to overcome it
I mean, this is just so loaded that I have to break it down. First you imply that you are, in fact, qualified to speak to other peoples’ experiences, because you share the same obstacles as them. (Note: you do not know this.) Then you dismiss fears as baseless because it’s actually very easy and possible. THEN, after you’ve dismissed peoples’ fears about their anxiety making this potentially harmful for them with stuff like it’s not as scary as it looks, THEN you claim that I’m not there and can’t tell you how debilitating your fears are which you IMMEDIATELY FOLLOW UP WITH MORE DISMISSAL: you don’t know how debilitating they are until you try.
Sady, do you know how many times in my life I have been told to just “try”? And you know, I am not a stranger to doing things that are scary. I don’t think most people with mental health issues are. People are clearly communicating to you that they know their boundaries, they know what they can and can’t do; where we get into “how fucking DARE you” territory is this, where you deny this knowledge, you specifically say that we don’t know how debilitating our issues are, UNTIL WE TRY as though TRYING is something that OMG NEVER OCCURRED TO US BEFORE.
Seriously: how fucking DARE you. And I say this, whatever this means, as a “highly functioning” person with mental health issues who actually does quite a lot of visible activism in my own life: how dare you.
Finally, you finish with, I believe the vast majority of people dealing with anxiety around this are going to be able to overcome it, which implies that those who can’t overcome it are outliers and exceptions to the rule. Yes. Most people with severe anxiety already feel this alienation. Thank you for clarifying, Sady Doyle, that we are not “normal”.
I, for one, totally needed that, just in case I wasn’t aware, as I struggle with my own anxiety in my own activism, that if I fail to be the “good” mentally ill person valiantly overcoming their personal obstacles, people will see me as an outlying freak.
I don’t want to project shit onto you, Sady, which is why I’ve focused on the impact of your words and not on your actual intentions, which are probably good (although: not magic!). But I think that you need to do a lot more self-education and reflection before you ever speak about mental health issues on a level larger than your own personal experiences again. Speaking to your own experience is one thing, which you should do. This is entirely another, and it is fucked up.
[note: I edited out a very small bit of sarcasm, because memes that mock those with developmental disabilities are not welcome on my blog.]
jlhdsfkjghlskdfj i saw that and i was just like
deal with this”
and just left it but now someone has done the work for me as usualdskfbjhslkdjfb
i’m pretty sure my brain wouldnt let me think about it in order to preserve some amount of mental stability
This… yeah. I’m disappointed that I didn’t see this post until now, because it’s helping me resolve some feelings that I had about six weeks ago. I want to be clear: I have a lot of respect and admiration for Sady and what she’s done with #mooreandme and #dearjohn. Put another way, I have a giant Internet hearteyes ladycrush on Sady Doyle. But I did feel that her response in this instance was inappropriate, even though a lifetime of internalized ableism kept me from trusting that discomfort as valid and legitimate until somebody else said it. I read what Sady said and I felt chastised and shamed, and it made me uncomfortable and unhappy but I took it as what I deserved, because that is what a lifetime of experience has taught me to do. That is a thousand times more interesting to me than the ableism in what Sady said originally, because I don’t think it’s unique to me at all.
If you are a movie critic, you have got to watch every movie they throw at you, pretty much. If you are a music critic, you get those CDs, and by golly, you listen to them, and you try to be fair. At least, that’s my impression. I’ve written reviews, but I’ve never really been one of those…
I somehow missed seeing this when Sady wrote it several weeks ago. Perhaps you did, too? You should go read it; it’s truly excellent. It’s sort of the flip side of the “we critique because we love” argument that I’ve seen made elsewhere (most memorably FWD/Forward) and also follows nicely with “we have to love things that are problematic, because nothing is perfect.”
For example: I just saw Battlestar Galactica, and as y’all may be aware, I love the fuck out of it. It’s a great show. It has amazing, strong women, and I mean not just strong physically but strong as characters (Laura Roslin!). On the whole, it passes the Bechdel Test. I will say with reservations that it is racially diverse, and it repeatedly depicts interracial relationships in which race is just not an issue, and I think that’s nice. It addresses issues of class and religious background repeatedly and often well, which is refreshing (and endears the characters involved to my heart… Galen Tyrol!). It addresses disability and sometimes does it well. It implies that people, and yes, even women, older than 40 or so have sex, which is pretty sweet. On the whole, it is one of the more progressive shows I’ve seen.
You know there’s a “but” coming. Here it is: the only time I’ve seen a fat character is when they decided to put a thin one in a fat suit over the course of several episodes, then bullied him until he lost the weight; it was really only my undying love for Laura Roslin & Starbuck & Galen Tyrol that kept me watching at that point, and it was hard and I yelled a lot. Some of the depictions of disability are problematic. I would argue that it is not racially diverse enough; POC tend to occupy high-status positions within the show, which is good, but all of the faceless pilots and deck crew are white. It challenges heteronormativity for exactly 20 minutes that not everyone would consider canon—which, given the context of production, may be good, but is not enough.
I do love it, because there’s so much to love. But there’s a lot that I can’t love, and some of what I can’t love actively hurts me. So I keep writing—because eventually, maybe, someday, there will be a show I can love without needing to say “but…”
So, as you can imagine, I have been paying more than my fair share of attention to the coverage of Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC. Most of the coverage — like this NY Times article, which I quite liked — focuses on his history as a difficult hire. He broke a bathroom door over a professional disagreement; he “didn’t just burn the bridges [at ESPN], he napalmed them;” he was barred from ESPN’s main campus; he was known for shouting matches, tirades, large public douchesplosions of the sort that I, uh, might have borne witness to at one point or another. His misogyny, which is fairly overt and violent, has long been complained about: The quasi-violent remarks about Hillary Clinton (a man should take her into a room and ensure that only he comes out), the “breast implants” segment about Carrie Prejean, the “mashed-up bag of meat” comment about Malkin, the “A Slut and Battery” segment about vital political target Paris Hilton, in which he implies that being punched in the face is somehow better than getting a guy’s jizz on it, because what kind of horrible person are you if you just let that happen, gosh. If Olbermann disagrees with a man, that man has bad ideas and questionable politics and/or morals, no matter how strongly he phrases that last bit; if he disagrees with a woman, she’s an ugly slut who deserves to be beaten. He’s loud, inflammatory, irresponsible, and totally lacking in nuance or context or any obligation to look at an issue fairly, rather than simply taking the party line and running with it in the most stentorian, baroque, impressive way possible. And no-one likes him: The surprising thing, for me, about #MooreandMe was how quickly people re-framed it to make Olbermann, rather than Moore, the primary target. There was an appetite for unflattering Olbermann coverage. Dude apparently napalmed more than a few bridges.
And yet! He walks away with a reported $14 million. And public sympathy. And rumors that he’s going to start a “media empire,” or run for fucking Congress. And men — including this man, who writes for any number of respectable publications, apparently, and who is a bridge I would prefer not to napalm — are very quickly framing me, the girl with no TV show and no millions and not much in the way of platform, other than a blog or two, as a force so “scary” that I can apparently ruin the man’s life and terrify him off a popular microblogging platform FOREVER. How does this happen? How does Olbermann become a victim in this scenario; how does he retain sympathy; how, given his behavior, does he wind up with the TV show in the first place?
Have you noticed that he is, uh… A DUDE????
When I was planning to step back from this blog, I wrote a post about how I thought I’d crossed some lines, and been overly harsh, and needed to re-think the way I engaged with critics. Very quickly, a reader wrote in with a very good question: “Would you think this way if you were a man?” It was a good enough question for me to return to this space, actually. Because, no: I wouldn’t. If I were a man, I could claim a space for my personality within a grand old tradition of macho pride and swagger and joy in confrontation; I would be allowed to think of myself as hard-nosed, uncompromising, tough, incendiary. I would be allowed to think of myself the way Olbermann, with his old-school machismo, almost undoubtedly thinks of Keith Olbermann. But instead, I spend hours a day wondering if I’m too hot-headed, too harsh, too demanding, too much of a bitch. Every space that I have to carve out for myself at the price of another person’s comfort pains me. Even when it’s my damn space in the first place, and they shouldn’t be standing there if they don’t want trouble.
You will never see a female Olbermann. I’ll tell you this right now: You will never see a personality this difficult, this demanding, this volatile, this uncompromising, in the shape of a woman. But the price of that is that women also won’t be able to demonstrate Olbermann’s strengths: The thundering, Biblical rhetoric, the righteous rage, the refusal to back down over a matter of principle, the fearless condemnation of those in power. The fact is, we had a woman like that. Her name was Andrea Dworkin. And things didn’t end well. Certainly, they didn’t end to the tune of $14 million. People weren’t calling for her to run for Congress; they were calling for her to be killed.
Women have other things: We have Maddow, who’s praised for allowing critics onto her shows, for being gently witty, for her grasp of context and nuance. Those things, women can do; and when they do them spectacularly, like Maddow, they are rewarded. But you will never see a woman with a platform as big as Olbermann’s, who serves Olbermann’s function in the public discourse. And sometimes, I happen to think that we need someone to serve that function; that we need women to serve it, to bring us the macho without the woman-hating, most of all. I actually do agree that Olbermann was a necessary voice, because of his grandiosity and oratorical force, at times. I do.
But, anyway, as Olbermann graduates to the next step of his career, it’s time to notice who’s being applauded for all that spectacular/inflammatory, brave/arrogant, principled/confrontational oration. Who’s walking away with the bag of cash, to Congress or new media stardom. And who’s standing here with a fraction of that power, being called “scary,” by an apparently well-published and reasonable author, just for having a voice — an angry, inflammatory, outraged, principled voice — that seemed, for one moment, to work.
They only do it if you’re good. Seriously. They only do it if your work reaches people, and convinces people, and if they literally cannot frame an opposing argument that they think might have any chance of winning. They can’t beat you in an argument; that’s why they abuse you, that’s why they try to make you feel as worthless and self-loathing and incapable of self-defense as any other abused person, that’s why they abuse you till you can’t work or even think about anything but being abused, that’s why they try to make you believe that it won’t stop till you stop publishing or die. That’s why they make you want to stop publishing. Or make you want to die. Because after all of it, after all the “bitch” and “cunt” and “die” and “dyke” and “ugly” and “smoker” (???) and “I’monna rape ye, woman,” there is actually one threat scarier than ALL of that: The threat that you’re right, and you’re going to win. And that’s the threat that you pose.”
Sadly this whole debacle only serves to prove Tkacik’s most salient point in the piece:
Forcing some sort of dogmatic equivalence upon every action that technically conforms to the legal definition of “rape” seems guaranteed only to condemn the discourse to an eternal rhetorical circle jerk of slut-shaming/finger-wagging/conspiracy theorizing/etc.
I’m writing this right after I learned that Moe Tkacik lost her job. I learned that at around 3 AM. And of course, the media narrative (like you see above; it’s from the Observer) is all, “mean feminists took Moe Tkacik’s job away because she doesn’t get herself in a tizzy about rape,” and that’s inaccurate. Sorry: It just is. I can’t make anyone let you go from a job if they don’t want to let you go, and I can’t make anyone let you go if you did nothing wrong at that job. I can’t just stand there and yell at random for that one professional, friendly, highly skilled bank rep’s supervisor until that one bank rep’s supervisor comes down and fires the guy, especially if I never ask the supervisor to fire him in the first place. Which I never did; not publicly, not privately. I won’t go into that article again — we had about four basic problems with Assange coverage, four things for which we said we would not stand, and she purposefully asked us to read an article which had every single one of those problems — but no matter how bad it was, I DIDN’T WANT ANYONE TO GET FIRED OVER IT.
Now that I’m some heroic super-powerful ultrablogger feminist New Hope for Activism For-Ever, and feeling the necessary bite from that — first they call you the Messiah, then they crucify you, because we wanted a better Messiah than this, anyway — and the inevitable weird envy and suspicion around that, I kind of especially don’t love that there is this media narrative around me “getting” “someone” “fired” on Christmas with my feminist superpowers, because see, I wasn’t a good girl, I was a nasty cunt all along, you were right to hate me, I’m a nasty dirty mean evil bitch who can’t possibly have a point, and the victim here isn’t the two women currently getting credible death threats, the victim is Moe Tkacik, the victim here isn’t all the survivors e-mailing me, the victim is Moe Tkacik, the victim here isn’t truth or the protesters dropping out because they’ve been harassed too badly or threatened at their homes, the victim is Moe Tkacik.
Yeah, I don’t love that. I’m not happy about the timing, AT ALL. Because now I get to take all the blame from anyone who agrees with me that, from the outside, firing Moe looks like a huge overreaction to what she did. I was ANGRY AS FUCK about that piece, and I said some MEAN THINGS, but I just wanted her to redact the names. The rest of the blatantly false “it was just bad sex” stuff, well, I didn’t have the energy to even analyze it. I just wanted the names taken down. But there you go. Fired for Christmas “because of me,” and we all have a mean feminist story to tell around the campfire, because clearly what I wanted was for Moe Tkacik to lose her job and never work again.
Except for the part where I was a huge fan of her writing. Except for that. And consider: We went up against two huge, powerful, wealthy, white, straight men, and got them to give us one tiny fraction of what we deserved and wanted. We went up, in much smaller number, against one woman? And she lost her fucking job.
I don’t care what she wrote. (Well, I do. Because it was unacceptable. But.) That shit’s fucked up. The men face no lasting consequences, and a woman suffers. That shit is FUCKED UP.
You could fire Keith Olbermann. I don’t care at this point. Fire the dude. He’ll be fine. But for one woman (aside from the non-Twitterable Naomi Wolf) who did the same bad things that these men did — and yes, those bad things were very, very bad, and we were right to protest them — to have 0.01% of their power, and 0.01% of their wealth, and for her to be the only one to have her life ruined, at least temporarily, over this?
Yay, fucking feminism. Feminism yay.
And yeah, what she wrote was unconscionable. The problem with Assange isn’t that a condom broke, it isn’t that he’s a misogynist or has a “smallish penis”; she knows this. Even I would not recommend putting a man on trial and/or in jail for misogyny or a small dick. The problem with Assange is that he may have raped two women, and journalists like Moe Tkacik KEEP PRETENDING IT COULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED OR ISN’T A BIG FUCKING DEAL. There’s no excuse for putting scare quotes around “rape,” no excuse for not getting the allegations right, no excuse for basically telling people RAPE isn’t a big deal, no excuse for telling people THESE two women weren’t raped or if they were the US’s MASSIVELY fucked-up rape laws wouldn’t allow them to convict their rapist so WHY BOTHER, why not start a FACEBOOK PAGE for all that CONSENSUAL BAD SEX you’re having.
But, even if women do unconscionable shit — that article was unconscionable, aside from just the obvious problems with the content, I was just kicking back with a drink and watching the protest wind down and wondering what I needed to do to facilitate its end, and then I see this article by one of my favorite writers, and I’m like “oh my god, Moe noticed us! Can’t wait to read it” and then I get HIT RIGHT BACK IN THE FACE with EVERYTHING I HAVE BEEN PROTESTING FOR THE PAST WEEK and I have to start RIGHT BACK OVER, and she wanted it to happen on some level because she called our attention to it, she fucking trolled us — even if women do unconscionable shit, they’re always more vulnerable. They get fired. The men don’t. Moore gets his rep rehabilitated for saying basic shit on TV. Olbermann gets a fucking vacay because CIA honeypot spies have invaded his Twitter account, RIIIIIIGHT.
It wasn’t cool that Tkacik got fired. I was out of my mind angry, but I still didn’t want that. But one of you wanted it, in my name. Left a comment under the troll-ass name “ifiwereyoureditoridfireyou.” DUDE? I get that you’re angry. But you got your wish. A woman lost her job. She had to pay with way more than either of us wanted her to pay; all I wanted was a damn correction and apology; we got that, and now she’s out of a job, and now they can pin it on us. GOOD JOB, YO.
The sentence above means “don’t act like all rapes are bad.” I’m sorry: I’ve read it five times now. That’s what it means. It means “don’t act like all rapes are bad, because some rapes are not that bad.” It’s unacceptable for a person to type this and publish it, especially if she’s getting paid; I’m aghast that someone could actually think this. And now the media is saying that we “proved her right,” somehow, because she lost her job, and look at what mean cunts we are for taking rape seriously.
I mean yeah. She did a bad thing, which is fucked up. She faced consequences that were disproportionate (if they were only consequences for the one bad thing), which is fucked up. We’re being made to look like the villains, and the badness of the thing she did is lost; that’s fucked up. We shouldn’t have to choose between caring about rape and caring about Tkacik losing her job.
Oh, please. You were waiting for there to be a victim in all this, so you could go back to thinking or saying that “all rapes aren’t that bad” and that we should stop taking them “so seriously.” You’re fucking RELIEVED you don’t have to treat us as credible people with a credible point, right now. But also, the victim had to be female, apparently.
But dudes? When you protest, you protest non-violently. You make sure no-one gets hurt, and that includes the people you’re protesting. I really wish you hadn’t asked some woman to get fired, in my name.