Monday, May 01, 2006

Credit where credit's due - UPDATED

As a somewhat moderate feminist in a blogosphere of much more radical bloggers, I sense that there is a kind of pathology amongst progressives where they won't accept progress without credit. In my own moderate way, it made my blood boil to see the news effervesce over Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid's Prevention First Act of 2006 when the exact same legislation was proposed in 2005, not to mention the years of comprehensive family planning programs that have been supported by the pro-choice camp and scoffed at by pro-lifers. It really sucks that doctors who perform abortions get shot at, even though Planned Parenthood prevents far more abortions than Feminists For Life ever will. Then, to see Harry Reid - an anti-choice Democrat - waltz in and claim credit for promoting contraception, with no anti-choice nuts shooting at him, it rubs a little salt into that wound from when the bullet grazed the abortion provider. Eventually, though, I decided that it's more important that this kind of legislation be accepted by the voters in this country and passed into law, than it is for the kudos to be allotted fairly.

Another instance I think of is darkdaughta's jihad against male feminists, Hugo Schwyzer in particular. Not only is what she proposing mean-spirited, it's completely unworkable. You can't ask men to sacrifice themselves to the fight against patriarchy, with no contact with the women you're helping and no recognizeable reward for what is hard work even for a man. I may be willing to accept that this would be a morally correct way to go about patriarchy smashing, but it's clear on its face that this will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, work out. It's just as practical as asking women in Sub-Saharan Africa abstain from sexual activity to prevent the spread of HIV. Further, the clear impracticality, its obvious conclusion in failure, makes it an immoral demand to make.

This has come up again at Twisty Faster's place. A new male feminist has stumbled into a bad neighborhood in the Feminist blogosphere and come out badly bruised, with again the objection being that this isn't his problem and he doesn't deserve the honor of helping make it disappear.

What is this about? As far as I know, this is feminism, not Twistyism (Good thing or I'd have to come up with a whole new name for my blog). We're not here for revenge or sympathy or parades thrown in our honor. We're here to stop rape, stop domestic violence, jettison the patriarchy and make the world a better place for all people, even men. I don't have the patience for everyone who isn't fawning over Twisty to die out, and that's the only thing you can hope for when your movement/clique treats outsiders this way. The patriarchs and misogynists and rapists and sexists and dudes who won't sleep with fat chicks are part of the world we live in, and they don't disappear when we curse at them. We don't get new ones if the ones we have aren't as easily-plied as we'd like. Unless feminists are committed to keeping the world a shitty place until we can slip seamlessly into a morally-unambiguous, universally-appreciated utopia, I think it would be wise to welcome Freeman into the fold.

UPDATE: After posting this last night, reading comments, and digesting my thoughts, there are a few things I'd like to add. First of all, Freeman is not off the hook here. I'm not saying that he didn't say something boneheaded to begin with. I will defend anyone's right to say boneheaded, dorky, and ill-advised things. This doesn't mean I'm going to defend the actual boneheaded, dorky, and ill-advised statements. As usual, I agree with about 85% of Twisty's position here - being a feminist dude does not garner you any extra credit. It's great, and it requires a qualitatively different kind of commitment on your part than it does on the part of a woman, but it's not any more valuable or brave or any more interesting. One thing that I constantly have to do when navigating the world of identity politics and social justice is to get over myself. It's amazing how many nooks and crannies of my personality are filled with uninformed and undeserved pride. Watch out for those, and the Freemen of the world will probably come out of these conversations with their knickers a lot less twisted.

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