Monthly Archives: August 2010
There’s plenty to be said. Most of it has been said already, but these two posts really solidified some things about being a child-free feminist in relation to motherhood, mothers, non-human life and my particular Shinto way.
Mai’a, the original poster says “Uou do not have a right to child-free spaces.”…
There’s lots of talk of “radical love” and “decentering” and how there is apparently some great schism between child free feminists (me!) and mothers. But you know, I don’t feel that. Mothering and parenting can represent love, but it can also represent profound selfishness and abuse.
There is no universal truth accessible to parents, and parenting does not mean the same thing in all places at all times across cultures. Hell, the concepts of childhood and adolescence are fluid across cultures. Do I think children as a class deserve special protection? Absolutely. Children are incredibly vulnerable, and are quite literally at the mercy of their caretakers and other adults.
Do I think children as a class are oppressed? I’m not so certain about that. Childhood and adolescence is by its very nature a temporary identity. It is not the same as race, gender or sexual orientation. It is not a marker of identity which one will carry for ones entire life. Children are the only class towards which maternalism and paternalism is entirely appropriate and necessary.
It is necessary and appropriate because it is temporary, not in spite of it.
So, child-free spaces are also appropriate in a way that other barred spaces are not. A golf club that excludes women and black people will forever bar entry to people who cannot change their identity. A restaurant that bars entry to toddlers will not forever and always be beyond the reach of said toddlers. They will grow up, learn the social mores of their milieu and be able to enter that space. And they need to do this.
I believe that motherhood is fucking hard. I believe that mothers, especially single mothers and WOC (and women who are both) have it incredibly hard. I will agitate right alongside mothers and children for equal pay, better leave policies, universally accessible safe childcare, and respect for mothers who work outside the home and inside the home. That work is invaluable. Those rights are my rights too. They make my life better, because they make the world better.
I do believe in the necessity of child-free spaces. For parents, especially mothers, who need to maintain an identity separate from their children. For people who need to sort out the pain, and anomie and struggle and death and sex and mess of life that young children are frankly not equipped to deal with. Sometimes, you sort that out via shots of tequila and fisticuffs, tobacco and necking, swearing and sobbing and freaking.the.fuck.out. Sometimes you sort that in a quiet coffee shop, or over a romantic dinner.
You know how, when you were a kid, you’d ask questions, and your parents would tell you that you’d understand when you were older? If you’re reading this, then you probably know that they weren’t lying. There are things you literally cannot understand until you run full fucking tilt into them as an adult. People look back at their teenaged know-it-all selves with chagrin for that very reason.
So how do these posts speak to me?
Well, it’s a sore spot. I believe that every woman (and man and trans-person and gender-queer person) should be able to define themselves without regard to their reproductive choices. It should be a non-issue. It should never occur to anyone to ask anyone whether zie will have children, or how many, or at what age, or why or why not. Because that person in front of you is always, always more than their reproductive abilities. Those choices are profoundly, perhaps sacredly, personal. It would be gauche and rude to question a person’s religious faith, and ideally, the choice to parent or not should (in my happy world) be treated with the same gravitas. I also recognize that the inverse pressures faced by middle class white women (to reproduce) versus WOC (not to reproduce).
Choosing to make motherhood or parenthood the center of ones identity is a choice I will honor and defend. But it offers subjective truths, not universal ones. Let me be clear. I don’t believe subjective truths are lesser. Subjective truths and the experiences that bear them out are at the core of my Shinto beliefs.
In fact being childfree is also at the core of my Shinto practice. I’m not going to exhaustively explain Shinto here because you can click out to my Jinja. I will clarify that I’m not Japanese, and I don’t particularly identify with secular Japanese culture other than enjoying some aesthetic aspects. Shinto is lots of things for me. It doesn’t conflict with science, it doesn’t denigrate me as a woman, it is a felt, physical sort of faith without a lot of metaphysical tangles. It’s not something you do publicly, or can preach. There isn’t a core sacred text that you study, or a charismatic leader. As one Shinto priest famously said to Joseph Campbell “I don’t think we have a theology. We just dance.”
Shinto emphasizes that one persons lived truth is just as valid as another’s as long as it is built on respect, tolerance, kindness and makoto no kokoro a kind of trueness, purity, or straightness of heart. So here’s the thing.
I can accept it as an absolute but subjective truth when other people talk about what parenting has meant and done for them, their lives, the world, everything.
I can’t accept it as the objective truth about what it is to be a human, and especially a woman, spoken with a voice and vision that is centered everywhere and nowhere, that is absolutely neutral and not value and experience laden. Which is to say, that is not my truth.
Which is not to say that my truth is more valuable.
See, I can’t build my life around children. I could explain, but I don’t owe anyone an explanation. As with sex, I don’t want to, is, in fact, a good enough reason for the world to accept my no. I don’t doubt the folks who say that they felt the same but their own kid was different. Thats your truth. Not mine.
My Shinto? Is ok with this. Does not put the yoke of “Not a Real Woman” around my neck for my truth.
My Shinto says that being child-free is another life-way, a way that is able to honor mothers and fathers and care-givers and children by literally physically opening up space and resources for them.
The original posts talk about the struggles of WOC and women in the developing world. I will never know, I won’t even pretend to know. But what I do know, is that as a privileged white woman, married to a privileged white dude, by not having children I am not using huge amounts of food, oil, water, clean air, arable land, slots in schools, and opportunities for less privileged kids to succeed. Space and Resources. This should not be taken as a pot shot at privileged people who have kids. I’m not judging you either. That’s the point. Respect me and what my choices mean for the world, and I will do the same for you.
I am also able to use my child-free privileges to campaign for you. Things that single mothers (and fathers not really referred to here because of the nature of the posts being discussed), poor mothers, WOC mothers, LGBTQ mothers may not have the time or resources or energy to be rallying and fighting for themselves. For child-care, for health care, for better education, for a better environment. For the stuff that benefits us both. We are not mutually exclusive in our needs. All the stuff that I want for myself is stuff that I want for everyone else and your children too.
So it is a spiritual service of sorts, this choice of mine to be child-free. It is selfish and selfless, as is, I strongly suspect, parenthood. Most things are.
Sowing seeds of malcontent, by making absurd statements about how I don’t have a right to child free spaces and how mama-ing is the one true way to the one true truth doesn’t rectify any injustices for anyone, really. Erasing the lived truths of others does not make your truth any truer.
I do have to credit those particular posts with helping me crystallize and explicate a part of my Shinto faith and practice that I had struggled to clarify to myself. And also giving me something pretty heavy to shoot across the bows of the next person who questions my no in response to the “when you having babies?” question.
Spider sex! Ha Ha! Gotcha!
Actually, in addition to spider sex, I’ve been thinking about all the ways that science and sex and reportage intersect and PISS ME OFF. I’ve been putting off writing this because I didn’t feel like digging up a shitload of links and “proving” my points. And I still don’t, so for the time being take my facts with a large grain of salt, and use your own google-jutsu, mmkay? I am lazy like a tarantula but may get a burst of energy and liberally pepper (heh heh who doesn’t love a good pun?) this with links at some point.
Anyway. Spider sex, yo!
Nothing demonstrates the human proclivity to project, the problem with the intense compartmentalization of the sciences, the silliness of the science and reportage of sex and our own deep love of the appeal to nature quite like the poor, much maligned black widow.
For expediencies sake I will dispell some common myths. First of all, it should be known that some spiders can in fact choose which male’s sperm they will use to fertilize their eggs ( WHY DIDNT YOU GIVE ME THIS ABILITY EVOLUTION!?!?! WHYYYYYYYYYY!?! LIFE WOULD BE SO.MUCH.SIMPLER!).
Female black widows do not in fact eat every male that they mate with. There are two classes of males that are likely to be eaten. The stupid, who persist in trying to mate with a female who is not interested in them, and those who are already dying. The first class of males is quite rare. They have a fairly elaborate set of mating behaviors worked out to avoid these situations. The second class is very common, and they give Black Widows their macabre reputation.
But! This is because male spiders go through a final molt, become sexually mature, fill their little reproductive gloves with semen, and wander around furiously looking for a mate. They have an expiration date. They live very brief lives relative to female spiders. Often, by the time they find a mate, they are very close to death. So, as a nutritional insurance policy for their offspring, and in the hopes that their sperm will actually be used, they offer themselves quite calmly as a nuptial gift. Their offspring are well fed, their fitness increases over-all, and boom, sweet mystery of love. For spiders, the tendency is toward female gigantism and longer lifespans. Because female spiders are more important to the fitness of the species as a whole, they tend toward what would be called grossly unfair matriarchy of the most extreme sort in humans. A little something like this:
Why have I regaled you with this delightful tale of sweet sweet spider love? To make a point about the many many degrees of distance between the actual facts of natural sexual behaviors and the way we read them, and project our own sexual fears on them. Black Widows and their particular sexual behaviors have come to stand in for spiders as whole (although they are in no way representative of the ridiculous diversity of sexual behaviors for all spiders, kind of like strictly hetero humans). Female Black Widows have become a popular symbol and metaphor for the “man-eater,” the sexually voracious woman, who has become, by stepping outside of prescribed social boundaries, not just monstrous, but actually dangerous.
Dudes have some anxieties, people.
Now, most people have been socialized to fear and loathe my friends the spiders. So you could argue that I have it backwards. Its not the scary power of female sexuality that we are projecting onto spiders, but the scariness of spiders that we’re projecting onto the sex-lovin’ ladies. I wish you wouldn’t bother, but you could.
So lets look at some other interesting examples of how we read sexual behavior in animals we do not loathe. Lets look at Lions, just casually. I’m an Arachnology wonk. I won’t claim to be an expert in feline behavior. This is a thought experiment not me whimsically declaring mammal behaviorists morons. Mmkay? Mmkay.
But. In Lions, you have a group of females that do the food, social and offspring rearing, and a “dominant” male that basically just lounges around fucking, and fighting off other males. I think its really interesting how this gets read. The idea that the male in these groups has lots of power, runs things and is dominant is very patriarchal, and super weird when I look at it from a spider or, hell, bee sex/sociality perspective.
Because from that perspective?
The males in these groups aren’t in charge. They are totally, and absolutely dependent for survival and fitness on the real social group, which is the females. In fact it is not proof of power and prestige that they don’t do the offspring care. Because the survival of their offspring is the measure of their genetic fitness and success (this is something I like to remind asshats who pull the women love babeeyz and are clearly biologically inferior emotional morons because they do the childcare while I am out doing real work– dude, biologically, childcare is the REAL work, its the most important thing in the world, bar nothing, full stop). Its also not a measure of being king shit that they don’t hunt their own food, because it means that they are dependent on the success of the females to continue, y’know, living.
So it’s a measure of dependency in both cases. They don’t just fight other males for sex, they are also fighting for food and safety. In fact, they are essentially sex workers in this kind of group dynamic. When you see a female that is lower in the social hierarchy of the female group approach the male and get rebuffed, it doesnt mean that the male is particularly powerful, it means the male is jockeying for more fitness (in this case fitness would equal mating privileges with the more dominant females), and that the dominant females control his reproductive life, and the reproductive lives of the females lower on the totem pole.
The tendency of these males to kill off the offspring of other males confirms this. They don’t have the “power” to cause the females in the group to maintain strict polygamous faithfulness. They rely on the estrus and generosity of the female group pretty hardcore, it seems. Fuck knows they don’t seem to be leading the group a la lion king. They get to eat well because again, reproductive workers need lots of nutrition to maintain their reproductive abilities (queen bees, ants and termites anyone?), not because they are OMG BIG MANLY DOOD LIONS RAWR!!
I’ve deliberately excluded herd animals from this analysis, because as prey animals they have a whole different set of selection pressures resulting in a different set of behaviors. Humans haven’t been prey animals for a very, very long time so it would be an even less apt comparison.
Oh and also, I am not saying, MRA/Nice Guy™ style, that women have all the power! Look Look Look a feminist said hot women are in charge of everything WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ! So don’t even go there.
Anyhow, this is how I would read these kinds of social dynamics in arachnids or eusocial insects (Sorta. Eusocial insects have some genetic weirdness that muddles things up, just google it. Whatever). I would start by looking at the relationships between female group members, assuming those to be the most important ones. It’s actually pretty easy to do this without getting confused, especially with spiders, because their sexual dimorphism tends toward female gigantism or equal size. What the hell does that have to do with anything, you ask? Oh you clever, clever reader.
Here’s what. Humans (scientists even!) tend to see male mammals as bigger, and thus stronger, and thus somehow more important to the species.
Heck, I just mentioned above that female gigantism in spiders is remarkable because it inverts the perception.
We do this. Why? Patriarchy!
But its a bias. Its kind of like the different ways that people read a text. Male size dimorphism probably doesn’t say a fucking thing about capability or biological “importance.” It says that males need to outwardly show their genetic quality, and be able to fight off other males in order to reproduce, and for their sons to reproduce ad infinitum (See the “Sexy Son hypothesis.” I love it) It also says, interestingly enough that females in these groups need to show their genetic quality socially rather than physically.
Humans aren’t Lions, and we don’t play by these rules. If we ever did, it wasn’t to any great extent, because although men are larger than women on average, its not by that much. Certainly not the difference between a female and male black widow, or a pair of peacocks. They also don’t have frills, manes, ruffs, antlers, horns, or any other extremely conspicuous male only physical attributes. We also basically flirt the same way regardless of sex, allowing for slight socially scripted variances.
But it raises some questions about our biases and perceptions in reading nature. I do think it really puts paid the idea that “I am a man, and thus stronger than you, and my strength exists to dominate you, little lady, and thats how it is all over nature so its obviously correct and true!”
So, Pepper, you may be asking, what the fuck are you talking about and what does it have to do with me? Patience.
I don’t think that human sexually is “naturally” polygamous, or polyandrous (as many spiders are!). I dont actually think that human sexuality is “naturally” oriented any which way, except that we tend to form some kind of child rearing bond, if we reproduce. Our ovulation is hidden, our chromosomal, genital and performed sexuality is incredibly diverse and for us, sexuality may actually be more about social bonding than reproduction. It seems that pleasurable sex that is practiced for more than simple reproduction has increased our over all fitness by keeping us together (Captain and Tenille were socio-biologists all along. Who knew!) in families.
For what its worth I don’t believe that a strict sex/gender binary exists now, or has ever existed. So it would make perfect sense that I also don’t think that one biological sex has a higher sex drive than the other. There is so much chromosomal variation that it just seems unlikely to be a biologically fixed reality.
But all the stuff I talked about above? Those behaviors have been read as patriarchal (or in the case of the widows, as horrifying inverted patriarchy) and natural. Boom, the patriarchy is natural and thus inevitable and thus the best possible mode of society and sexual behavior! And god damnit, we will make the science prove it!
You see, I told you I had a point. I doubt that I’m the first person evar-omg-so-genius to read group dynamics in nature this way. In fact, I think maybe LOTS of scientific observy types going back to forever have probably seen these dynamics.
But wtfox then! This conflicts with what YOU JUST WROTE, PEPPER! MAKE UP YOUR MIND, FICKLE WOMAN!
Oh no, it really makes an unfortunate sort of sense. Because If you live in a patriarchal society, and you have a shitload of dudely privilege, the last thing you want is for anyone to come swanking up questioning whether or not this is the correct natural order of things.
Humans have a stupid tendency to look outide of our species for clues about how our species should behave (I’m looking at, you fucking prairie vole assholes).
So you, mr. patriarchy, you are probably deeply uncomfortable with the idea that your big manliness may not mean that you the natural born god damned head of heaven and earth. That your natural born manliness may in fact mean that you are…a kind of reproductive/sex worker, like that is maybe your most important biological role, whilst the women do the important social engineering.
As an aside, there is nothing wrong with sex work or sex workers and this should not be read as me criticizing them. This is about how the patriarchy views sex and specifically reproductive labor as fucking awful. Presumably its like deciding that since there is no Thai food where you live, Thai food (reproductive labor) just sucks, man.
Oh, and to re-iterate: I IN NO WAY BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE TRUE ETERNAL BIOLOGICALLY DETERMINED ROLE OF MEN.
Humans seem quite biologically equal, in terms of reproductive roles. We are equally important to the fitness of the species. The sexual dimorphism that you see in men is actually fairly minor, probably a leftover from our very ancient ancestors, and not proof that ladies can’t be in combat/drive monster trucks/fish for lobsters/whatever it is that NOT A SINGLE ONE OF US is strong enough to do this week.
But If you are looking to nature for clues about how your patriarchal society is the bomb and you find the above situation instead, well, CLEARLY the only logical conclusion is that… … …
WOMENS SEXUALITY IS TERRIFYING! IT COMPELLS THE MENZ AGAINST THEIR WILL! IT MUST.BE.STOPPED! I AM SUPER IMPORTANT AND DESERVE TO BE IN CHARGE! MY DESIRE TO HAVE LOTS OF SEX IS NATURAL AND POWERFUL AND MANLY AND CORRECT! BUT UM….WOMEN HAVE NO NATURAL DESIRE! EXCEPT FOR BABIES! OBVIOUSLY BABIES ARE AWFUL! BUT WOMEN’S DESIRES (THE ONES THEY DON’T HAVE) ARE HELLISHLY POWERFUL AND WILL DESTROY THE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD! HOT CHICKS CONTROL EVERYTHING BUT I AM SUPPOSED TO CONTROL EVERYTHING BECAUSE I HAVE A PENIS WHICH EQUALS CAPABILITY BUT O MAI GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!
It sort of explains the oddly incompatible attitudes about womens sexuality that persist to this very minute, doesn’t it?
On the one hand, good girls don’t have any sexual desire. Indeed, in our patriarchy women are frigid sexual gatekeepers, and men are sexually voracious. But good girls must be engineered.
They don’t exist “naturally,” no no. Their sexuality is so powerful and fearsome that it is the thing that must never be spoken of! It must be shamed! It must be forcibly punished! They must be ignorant of sex for pleasure (fuck you, genital mutilation)! Failing this, “uppity” women become sexually voracious too, but dangerous. They must be even more tightly controlled, censured, punished and sent back to the basement of society. Men must demand virgins who fuck like whores! It’s all impossible!
And this shit seems to persist in science around sex. Oh how it persists. With a delish buttercream layer of western beauty fascism, MORE patriarchy, racism, hetero-sexism, rape apologia (my least favorite), and hand waving ignorage in re socially shaped attitudes about sex.
For example. It is rarely mentioned in the reportage or even the actual studies about sexuality themselves that the default for human and the ancestral condition of human, is a. female and b. black african.
Seriously you would think that white and male is the standard of human, and the only yardstick by which human biology can fairly be measured, because fuck you, thats why.
Please, hold the sides of the boat I just rocked for you.
All fetuses are female by default. The point of this is to say that biologically, female sexuality is the norm, not incredibly complicated MAGICAL WEIRDNESS that it is popularly treated as. Female sexual response is the standard, not the deviation. Female orgasm is the egg that came before the cock was hatched.
And our ancestors, ALL our ancestors, were Black Africans. This means that when you read some bullshit study about men’s preference for busty small waisted blondes because blondness is associated with youth or some nonsense, you should question the shit out of that. Blondness and blue eyedness are both mutations, and they are not super old mutations either. They are definitely not old enough to have deeply and profoundly, on genetic level, shaped human sexual behavior. That kind of thing is either bad science or bad journalism.
Pretty much any kind of gender essentialist science, especially evo-pych, just straight up ignores the default and ancestral conditions in which humans evolved. Instead, the preference seems to run to acting like only white people have actually “evolved,” and that you guessed it, inequality is our natural biological state. So refreshing, right? Such a brave new paradigm in the face of 30,000 years of feminist hegemony…Oh wait.
Lots of the slut shaming that isn’t argued via religion, will be argued via shit science. The fucking voles and oxytocin are an example (google-fu). Any argument that monogamy is unnatural for men but natural for women.
Any argument that women have evolved to cope with rape, or that rape is a reproductive strategy. Anytime you read about how women are attracted to rich old dudes and ITS BIOLOGY! Anytime you read that rich old dudes are attracted to women young enough to be their grand-daughters because science dammit!
Women are bad at math and science because its science damnit!
Bullshit. If human females did not already possess the innate ability, neither could males. Any science that ignores the incredible complexity with which social mores shape our sexuality in favor of shoring up the same old shit is bad science. Because patriarchy is near-ubiquitous, but not completely so. Exceptions mean that non-patriarchal human groups are either very genetically different than the rest of us, or patriarchy is not biological. Last I checked, women in non-patriarchal cultures weren’t growing feathers and taking to the sky (although that would be fucking sweet), soooo….yeah.
And even within patriarchal cultures, attitudes about sex and gender are NOT universally shared. Heck, even within genetically related populations these things are not universal. Which would lead me to believe that most of this stuff? Not actually evolutionary, or biological. Not, in fact old enough to be so. Its like arguing that corsets existed because men had a preference for big hips and tiny waists in 1899, but suddenly, because everyone knows that evolution is super fast like that, by 1920 men had a taste for boyish figures without well defined waists or hips at all, and then 20 years after that broad shoulders because shoulder pads, and then 30 years after that huge calves because bell bottoms… you see?
I am not decrying biology. I love me some biology. I’m not even saying that science should just avoid looking at human sexuality. I’m saying that scientists need to acknowledge some important core factors about what it means to be human (clue: not exclusively white and male). I’m saying that science doesn’t exist to agree with society, that science doesn’t exist to maintain misery and inequality, and promulgate stupid fallacious logic with its authority. If that is what your science is doing, it isn’t boldly telling the truth that the feminists don’t want to hear, its missing a better hypothesis. It is serving something beyond the pursuit of knowledge or better living.
I am saying that journalists need to not take a study on fucking prairie voles, and extrapolate that feminism has ruined women’s lives, ladies cannot avoid bonding with every man they sleep with, and will use up some mystery reserve of magic love juice and then die lonely and broken. Its not true. It doesn’t even make sense.
I am saying that anytime anyone makes an assertion that men’s and women’s visible physicality and modern behavior speaks to their respective eternal biologically fixed-by evolution sexual/gender roles, it is hugely questionable.
Especially if it is not in fact based off actual humans, but some other animal who doesn’t practice agriculture, build cities, or watch cartoons. I am saying that there is nothing un-natural or natural about monogamy, polyandry, polygamy, poly-hermous, monogamy, serial monogamy, bi, queer, trans, strict hetero, strict homo, or strict asexuality.
Because if these things were in any way detrimental on a species wide level, to the point of actually causing deaths ( and no, STI’s do NOT count, I’m talking about the sexual behaviors themselves not the little bastards hitching rides on them) which is really the only point where we need to worry anyway, they would have gone out long before now.
So we need to stop paying lip service to the “men’s sexualities as simple and women’s as complicated” bullshit. Everyone’s sexuality is complicated. We need to stop buying into shit that is tenuously linked from voles and bonobo’s as gospel truefax.
Actually, its more than this. We need to stop searching for the essential truth of men’s and women’s gender and sexuality (clue: it’s not binary!). If there was a great truth, it would probably be SUPER obvious (see, spiders). But it’s not. We need to read nature, even our own natures carefully. The patriarchal explanation should probably always be the throw-away hypothesis, not the go to framework.
This is the same usurpation and mis-reading of nature that has been going on since forever. And its a freaking fallacy anyway. Because what works well for one species, does not translate to another (or men would have to be suiciding themselves CONSTANTLY).
We read nature through our own prejudices, but that does not make our prejudices true, inevitable or right. It also does not mean that what is natural is right. Because we really don’t know what is natural. We don’t know how other animals perceive their own sexualities. We don’t know how social animals think and feel about their social structures.
But we do know that the patriarchy hurts every-fucking-body. It squeezes lots of us into really uncomfortable robot suits. It mocks the dignity of both men and women. It erases the identities and importance of so many people I couldn’t even begin to list them all. It ruins all our fun. Not sadistic mean spirited oppressive fun, but real fun.
Fun where you can sit down with someone and not put them in a mental box, and go deaf to half of what they say, or worry about going to a party and drinking because all men may be predatory rapists and its all your fault. It costs us happy, satisfying sexual encounters, and manufactures uncomfortable exploitative ones in their place, it tells us we should be having lots of sex, or no sex or both at the same time. It fills us with anxieties and lies and loneliness.
The antidote to bad science and bad patriarchy is to be educated and educate, to challenge, to have happy enthusiastically consensual sex and to not feel guilty or weird for not having sex, to communicate well, be respectful and ethical, and for gods sake don’t fuck anyone who thinks you are lesser.
And to question the fucking voles. They LIE. Look at this lying faux-mongamous little bastard! Poly all along. Just own it, Vole. Own it.
You know. I am planning to do (read finish) a post about the problematic nature of some recent Feministe posts. But before that, I feel like some things should be addressed. Feminism has a pretty fucking awful history with marginalized groups. POC, WOC, Transwomen & men, LGBQ, Disabled, Fat, Sex-positive and Kinky people. Pretty fucking awful, and that history is undeniable. I put mothers into the complicated rather than pretty fucking awful group because motherhood has a multiplicity of privileges and oppressions and complicities and radical oppositions encoded in it. Motherhood is a mixed bag, and motherhood has both been a source of power for those who want to be mothers, and a source of suffocation and soul death for those who have been forced to labor as mothers against their will, and a source of othering-most-medical and social for those who choose to be childfree.
But this pretty fucking awful shit needs to be examined. It needs to be admitted. It needs to be surgically excised from the feminist project of liberation and equality, it needs to be felt.
http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/08/10/left-behind-about-the-failures-of-feminism/#more-1899 at TigerBeatdown is a great place to start.
I think that we need to be explicit in our denunciation of of feminism as an agent of further oppressions, and optimistic for feminism as a philosophical and epistemic position that can embrace the experiences of these groups, listen, feel, and grow from them. Feminism has a lectern for you. My feminism may not have welcomed you before, but I damn well mean for it to do so now. I mean for it to be your bullhorn, your platform, your rally, your parade, for it to be yours.
Because the rights of all of those people are mine too. Because my rights cannot be extricated from yours, ours and theirs. Because my rights are not total until yours are too.
Many of these rights require a radical re-visioning of what constitutes a community interest. I’ll tell you what I don’t think constitutes a community interest:
1. Whether or not a person chooses to reproduce, and how or when they do or do not reproduce. The rights of children are a separate thing en-fuckingtirely. So yeah, it’s not THINK OF THE CHILDREN. It’s mind your own fucking business and your own god damned genitals. This goes like infinity for POC, the disabled, and the poor.
Give people a choice, medically and socially about reproduction, educate people, and then support them and their children as our children in whatever way you are best able. This is the essence of pro-choice feminism. I am a guilty child-disliker. I am uncomfortable with the noise, the smell, the stuff of children. So I’m childfree, because I recognize that parenting is really fucking hard to do well. And parenting is something that should be done well. I can do my part by being childfree, and freeing up resources for other people’s children. No, I can’t directly interact with or nurture your kids. But I can vote and behave in BOTH our best interests.
2. Who a person has, or does not have (enthusiastically) consensual sex with. This is a separate issue from whether or not someone is having safer, more ethical, moral (whateverthefuck THAT means) sex that you personally like which does not squick you out. Mind your own fucking business, seriously. If it’s between enthusiastically consenting adults, it just.isnt.your.business.
3. What kinds of sex a person is having. See above.
4. What kinds of gender a person may or may not perform. Because showing the performative nature of gender is not a fucking sucker punch to your damn identity. It’s a door that you can look through, walk through, or just look into and acknowledge.
5. Other people’s bodies. So, so do not affect you, and GTFO with your “but mah tax dollarz they go to the (insert poor/fat/’illegal’ immigrants here) people!!” Your tax dollars also go to stupid DOD projects like bomb sniffing bees. I wish I was kidding. You don’t actually have (or need!!) a right to dictate where your individual tax dollars go.
6. Other people’s food habits (ohai fat phobia!). See above, with an addendum.
Food is communal to a degree, but food is also intensely, profoundly intimate, probably more intimate than sex in some ways, simply because so many parts of our cultural and geographical, and individual identities are bound up with food. Our genetics, our fluctuating chemistries and health and stresses and happinesses are tied up with food. But you know what is not fucking tied up with food? Our worth as people. Food has no moral component. Let me fucking well say it again, since so much fat-phobia stems from this:
Food has NO MORAL COMPONENT.
It sure as shit has ethical dimensions. But there is nothing, nothing, NOTHING, evil about fat. Or sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, or fucking aspartame, or MSG, or non-organic, free range, vegan whatever. These are just inert things, that may or may not give a person great pleasure, that may or may not make them healthy or sick or nothing at all. These are things that make us keep living.
The ethics of food are ethics of access, of knowledge and time and space. People have to have the time, equipment, energy and access to create what we code as “healthy, nutritious” meals. These things are political, not personal. I don’t have the time, knowledge or desire to grow my own shit, have a fucking chicken coop in my yard and slaughter my own animals. I have a metric shitload of privilege and I cannot do this. Expecting people with 100x less privilege then you to do this shit is sanctimonious and snotty and you can just fuck the fuck off.
In case you missed it, food inequity is political, not about the damn fat people making terrible awful choices. Also, their bodies are THEIR BODIES. Not yours, not community property, not anyones. Especially for people at the intersection of many oppressions. Just knock it the fuck off. You don’t even know. I don’t even fucking know. I only know that if it’s not my body, it’s not my fucking bailiwick.
Because the high fat, HFCS, food that sanctimonious vegans bemoan the poor “choosing” is really what keeps so many people in America alive. The solution is to realize that we need to chip the fuck in and use our privilege as leverage to provide access, equipment, knowledge and time to poor people. And also stop tying it to arbitrary aesthetics and unrealistic expectations of home gardening and fucking chicken raising. It’s not about eliminating obesity. It’s about taking care of our own species, and recognizing that you can’t read a persons worth in their body.
This goes like 1000000000x for disabled people. I don’t particularly agree with petty etymological derails about whether moron or stupid are acceptable words to use for perfectly abled people who are being deliberately askjdfghs *facepalm*! But I recognize the inherent worth of disabled people. And that they have a voice, and are people and not foils or objects of sympathy. Body =/= worth. Body? Does =/= any of your business whether abled or not. Body =/= a fascinating educational opportunity for you. Body =/= a chance for your to showboat your “pity” and what a great upstanding person you are. So I do support a ban on ableist language that is still etymologically quite closely related to disabilities, such as gimp, cripple etc.
All the things listed above are feminist concerns. I will never have children, but access to affordable (read free) great childcare is part of my feminist concern. I will never marry a woman, or transwoman, or even a genderqueer person, but their right to marry is my right to marry and have a marriage built around values of equality. I will never experience racism, but the rights of POC to live without racism is a part of my feminist concern. I will never be a sex worker, but the rights of sex workers to fair and equal treatment in a workplace that safe and enthusiastically consensual is my right to a standard of enthusiastic consent. I may never be disabled, but the rights of disabled people to a safe comfortable existence where they can live without being a lesson in inspiration or how grateful you, able-bodied person, should be, is my right to safety, autonomy and privacy. It is my right to quality, unbiased medical care that does not treat me or anyone else as expendable.
Because my rights, my justices and freedoms are tied to yours. Because I cannot be free until you are free with me. Because I am not fully human until you are fully human with me. Because my knowledge and liberation is incomplete without your voice. Because my feminism is incomplete without you.
These are our rights. Its been pretty fucking awful, and it is not for the oppressed to step up and fix it. It’s for us to step it the fuck up, feminists. It’s for us to reach out and open our eyes and ears and knock down the walls of our privilege and show some respect, some kindness some righteous anger and voting power for all of the interests that are ours, mine and theirs.
So, I’m a waitress, and a few days ago, I waited on Dolores Umbridge. Yes, the Harry Potter character.
She was bulbous and monochrome, and she sashayed into my restaurant with all the grace of a concussed seal. She had a friend with her, a stately, normal-looking woman with an elegant arc of white hair and history-teacher glasses. I asked if they would like to sit inside or on the patio; Umbridge smirked and murmured, in a saccharine voice dripping with condescension, “not on the patio.”
Oh. So, like, inside. Alright then.
I went to seat them in my section, but Umbridge stopped me. “No no, this table won’t work. We want this table.” She moved to sit in another waiter’s section, and for a moment I thought I might be able to pawn her off on the waiter; then I remembered that he was on call, and unless I summoned him in I was still going to have to serve her.
So I sat them, got their drinks, etc. I took their order, but naturally, right as Umbridge mumbled her selection, a testosterone-fueled motorcycle roared past in a blaze of bikini-buffed glory. I thought she’d said salmon but wasn’t sure, so I repeated her order back to her—“rum-caramel salmon?”—at which point she smiled up at me, blinked slowly, and queried, “is there another kind of salmon?”
So I killed her.
Well, actually, I didn’t. I entered her order into the computer, fired off an angry text message to a friend, and proceeded to wait on her and her friend in my usual way. The food was, by their own admission, “excellent,” and their drinks were refilled in a timely yet unobtrusive manner. They asked for a split check, and I acquiesced; the normal friend left me a 20% tip, but Umbridge?
Not only that, but she left her ticketbook wide open on the table with the pennies prominently displayed so that everyone in the damn restaurant could see that I was, apparently, a waitress of exactly two-cent quality.
Although the table right next to her left me a 40% tip, so, you know.
Still, I was pissed. Very, very pissed. So after I got off work (early, because we were slow as shit), I stomped down to Safeway, where I bought shredded coconut, butter, and almond joy candy pieces. On my walk home I flipped off a car of dumbass jock boys, kicked a bunny rabbit, and ferociously gnawed on some Skoal (only one of those things is true).
And then I made some cookies.
Yes—this is the inaugural post of the feature that Pepper and I have decided to call Fancy Pans, a delightful, mouth-watering little feature in which we talk about baking and offer successful recipes to the hungry, hungry masses. Pepper and I bake often, and for all kinds of reasons; for my part, I usually bake when I am stressed out and pissed off, which means that there will no doubt be even more of these posts once school starts up again.
I call this recipe “Two-Cent Almond Joy Cookies,” because damn it, I hold a mean grudge. I was originally inspired by this recipe and used this other recipe as a base, but the recipe that ultimately resulted deviates from both.
So here you are:
Two-Cent Almond Joy Cookies
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flaked coconut
1 ½ cups almond joy pieces
Chuck the sugar, other sugar, shortening, butter, and eggs into a bowl. Yes, it all looks very unhealthy, I’ll admit, but remember that this makes a crapton of cookies. How much is a crapton, you ask? Man, I don’t even know. But at least four dozen. So yes, the congealing butter and sugar and whatnot might look terrifying, but fear not, unless you’re the type to scarf down 48 cookies in one sitting. (And hey, if you are, that’s cool too.)
Anyway, mix it all ‘til batter-like, then add vanilla. Stir in flour, then soda, then salt. In a sudden unexpected twist, stir in coconut. Fold in half of the almond joy pieces, shovel raw dough into your mouth, then drop the remaining balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Press the rest of the candies into dough, and bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. I went all precise and baked them for 10 minutes; they emerged from the oven soft and lovely. Not only that, but they were chewy and delicious and had just the right amount of coconut—enough to add flavor, but not enough to screw up the texture. So I highly recommend that you make them, and eat them, and tell your arteries to just cope. That’s what I did, and so did Pepper and my parents.
As for Dolores Umbridge, she can have her two pennies. She clearly needs them more than I do.