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Your Rights are My Rights and Their Rights are My Rights Too

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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.

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About Pepper

Pepper Lee Hales is a twenty something, married, vicious feminist liberal. She likes dogs, cats, spiders, epistemics and cake.

4 responses »

  1. Again. Brav-fucking-o.

    The only place where I began to disagree with you was over food. As someone with the privilege, both in terms of money and access, and a serious problem with the way we do industrial food in this country, I eat locally. I do feel that being wasteful with food, even if it makes YOU feel good, is taking from others, and is taking from future generations (because it’s just unnecessary waste). However – your point is well taken, that this is not a MORAL argument. Further, I fully agree with you that it is about access, etc – and, additionally, crappy food keeps some people alive. Sometimes, it’s all they’ve got.

    It is refreshing to have an argument that I may initially think I don’t agree with, presented in a way that results in altering my own world view. I think I just learned something – and not in terms of facts.

    Rarely are there blogs of a certain length that I can get through without becoming bored or deciding I need to get back to work. Rarely are there rants that can use big words without getting caught up in them. Rarely are there blogs that use their anger to speak, not speaking to be angry.

    Not so here, Pepper – not so here. Nice fucking work.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for commenting and reading!

    Yeah, in terms of food I think making that ethics vs morals distinction is important. I completely agree that eating fresh, local, sustainable foods fits into the ethical column, environmentally. But I’ve noticed with many people, even progressives, that the privilege of eating this way gets re-framed as a moral choice, a good individual choice. And then there is this really ugly judgey-ness about the food choices of fat people, especially women. And I think thats my over-arching point. We should work towards real, workable food reforms (not involving freaking gardens and rooftop pigeon coops for the love of god because WHO HAS TIME!?). But, if we as a society have succeeded at providing access, knowledge, equipment and time, and someone still chooses to live on HI-C and Oreo’s, we need to recognize that that is their choice, their right and really has nothing to do with anyone but them. If someone makes an informed choice, thats it. Right now, I think that we’re really really far away from the first part as a global society, and thats where our focus needs to be. Framing things in terms of “fighting obesity” just needlessly complicates the issue, which is really “fighting hunger, stress, lack of childcare, poverty, food deserts, generational knowledge disconnects and fractured communities.”

    Whew, I never knew I mad so much to say about food!

    Reply
  3. Completely agree – and thanks for pointing out the moral vs. ethical distinction. I definitely needed to think on that (hey… hi… so I have been totally judgmental when forced to buy something from the grocery and have to stand in line behind the woman buying a cart full of oreos and Hi-C).

    My issues really surface at those that say “oh, the farmer’s market is SO expensive” even though they can TOTALLY afford it AND, two sentences later, yell at their neighbor for having a Hummer. Pay attention, you idiot.

    I also have a problem with the vegan on the fucking soapbox yelling at me for my local hamburger from this farmer dude I know – while said vegan chomps on a [highly processed] tofu scramble shipped from fucking Colorado with vegetables from Chile. Shut the FUCK up (unless, of course, his/her only ish is that we shouldn’t eat animals. And nothing else matters to him/her. In that case, yell on – I am eating an animal. Might be better for the planet and my local community, but it is still, alas, dead).

    Really – it’s about eduction and people making informed decisions. All of them. Not just the obvious oh-look-you-drive-a-SUV ones. And not being fucking hypocrites if you’re going to judge other people. If you are going to have values that you’ll yell at others about, pay attention to how they actually work across the board, not just when it’s convenient.

    But – in the end, these are THEIR choices. Not mine.

    Reply
  4. Yep, couldn’t agree more. I hope for the time when we can see food systemically rather than individually. It’s definitely the responsibility of the privileged to use their privilege responsibly. I really don’t want to seem as though I’m piling on vegans, or foodies, or locavores, because I think all of those are good choices for many reasons. I don’t think that we can feed the world’s population organically just yet, because we can’t feed them whilst producing an artificial excess, so we need a better plan, which probably lies along the golden mean between awful environment destroying farming, and inefficient-not-quite as dependable organic farming.

    I will say that I am breathlessly waiting for the day when lab grown meat (never part of a whole animal or connected to a central nervous system and so, cruelty free), really changes the food game. It will free up so much arable land that is now used to produce feed for animals, that could be used for biofuels instead, and also for farming the good stuff and making it cheap enough to really feed the world. I know that lots of people balk at the idea of that kind of meat, but honestly if you sort of draw out a flow chart of the ways that meat raising is a major cog in the agri-business machine and how changing it drastically will reshape the world, it is just mind boggling.

    Reply

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