i realized with some horror a few months ago that by maintaining this blog, i may inadvertently be contributing the feminist blogosphere. this crossed my mind after a post i wrote was picked up for re-posting on several other blogs, including at least one fairly widely-read feminist one. obviously i write a blog, & of course i am a feminist. but i really have no interest in the feminist blogosphere, as such.
i’ve dabbled in it a bit. i read the occasional post & have even been known to contribute comments in some communities. but the feminist blogosphere (&, i would argue, any kind of quasi-serious feminist discourse) suffers from a very obnoxious flaw: the tendency toward sappy, sickening, overbearing condescension around the ideas of “respect” & “safety”.
i glanced at a feminist blog this morning & noticed a post on food politics, taking as its origin point the recent minimialist “future food manifesto” in the “new york times”. the author prefaced her remarks with a “trigger warning for the use of ‘sane’ as an adjective for public policy.” she apparently feared that some readers may be “triggered” by the concept that insanity or mental illness may be disrespectfully linked to a lack of sustainability in national food policy as outlined by the food & drug administration.
*sigh* really? a trigger warning for that? personally, my first exposure to a trigger warning was in a now-defunct zine distro catalogue, in a description of a zine written by a rape survivor. the distro operator offered a trigger warning for other survivors that could potentially have bad emotional reactions to the zinester’s frank description of her rape. now THAT is a situation that calls for a trigger warning. someone who is triggered by the phrase “sane national food policy”…i don’t know how that person gets through the day. & yes, i am minimizing. sometimes it’s the only reasonable response!
anyway, the woman who was responding to the minimalist piece eventually got very upset over the fact that recipes in that column (it’s a regular column on cooking that runs in the “new york times,” if you don’t know) sometimes call for ingredients such as miso & duck legs. she felt that these items were excessively expensive, inaccessible to the average american, & basically just for rich white yuppies. she lumped lamb in with these supposedly gourmet ingredients. yes, lamb. the #1 meat of choice at every halal butcher shop in every economically depressed urban area with a halfways decent muslim population in the united states. yes, good old overpriced inaccessible lamb, which is available in cuts no more expensive than a package of ground beef at every national grocery store that offers an on-site butcher’s counter (which is pretty much all of them). yuppie rich person lamb, readily available in bulk chops packages at every discount membership bulk retailer that sells meat.
when a reader suggested that she was just looking for something to criticize & hadn’t done any real research on the topic which she was addressing, she hulked out & responded, “thanks for telling me my experiences are invalid.”
what experiences? her experiences of mistakenly believing that lamb is a luxury gourmet ingredient akin to sprinkling your raisin bran with flakes of gold? i did a little digging & discovered that this woman lives in boston. dude, i ate so much fucking lamb when i lived in boston. if she thinks her local supermarket doesn’t carry it, it’s because she doesn’t know what it looks like & has never bothered to read the packages in the butcher cooler. i even did some price comparison using stop & shop’s peapod online grocery store & discovered that there is literally no difference in price between beef & lamb.
but of course, her “experiences” were being “invalidated”. she went on to elaborate that she “lives her truth” & rankled against being “belittled”. all because someone suggested she was being needlessly critical while simultaneously uninformed.
which is, in general, actually a huge problem not just within feminism, but in pretty much all progressive movement. now, obviously, i LOVE to be critical of stuff. & i love reading or hearing the critical things that other people have to say. that is pretty much what i live for. but i like SMART criticism–ie, criticism that cannot be picked apart & exposed for the manufactured outrage it so often is in about three minutes of basic googling. i mean, obvs uneducated criticism is not just a problem for progressives. it’s pretty much all that conservatives ever do. last week i had a little internet scrap with someone who insisted that social security insurance payments to retired or disabled americans should not be used for anything fun (like toys or movies or anything not necessary for basic survival). initially, i was dumbfounded. how exactly should disabled or retired americans for whom social security is their only source of income fund their splurges on cute shoes or candy bars or doll collections or other non-necessities then? what should they do with the money that is left over after they have paid for their rent & utilities & other necessities? the person started ranting about lazy disabled/retired americans “wasting her tax dollars,” & asking why there wasn’t an “accountability system” in place to make sure that social security funds were only spent on necessities, as defined by her.
eventually it became clear that she thought social security functioned like WIC, for example. WIC is an american need-based government-funded food program for pregnant women & women with dependent children. if these women are no/low-income, they can apply for the WIC program & be issued something that is essentially a debit card, which can be used to purchase healthy foods (fresh produce, milk, cereal, etc) at the grocery store (& awesomely, at farmer’s markets). WIC funds can only be used for approved food purchases. you can’t use them to buy cigarettes or soda pop or to pay your electricity bill.
this woman thought SSI worked the same way, that legally you could only spend it on rent, utilities, medical bills, & groceries. she didn’t know it was just a monthly check, & that the recipient could spend it on cristal & hookers with no repercussions (aside from the usual ones for anyone soliciting the labor of sex workers).
but you know. i expect it from conservatives. that’s why they’re conservatives–because they seem to not really understand the way the world works & they mistake cheap bromides for intelligent discourse. i am always a little bit surprised with people on the progressive spectrum. i’m always like, “wait…aren’t you supposed to NOT be a dumbass?” then i remember that most people are dumbasses & i feel kind of sad.
i really want to talk more about psychobabble in feminist discourse though. i appreciate comments on the topic. i’m talking about ludicrous trigger warnings, & how sometimes it seems like you can’t disagree with someone without being accused to “invalidating” them or “minimizing” their concerns. what the fuck, guys? i feel like this kind of marshmallow mentality is slowly poisoning the movement.
i will leave you with one of my all-time favorite feminist outrage fail stories: so, i grew up in ohio, & there is a big-time huge RV salesman who lives in indiana, just across the ohio border. his RV empire is enormous. when you are driving across the midwest, there are all these billboards that say, “70 miles to the RV sales lot! 50 miles to the RV sales lot!” etc etc. the dude is an RV behemoth. & his name is tom raper. his RV company is called raper RVs.
dude’s been around for decades & has made shitloads of money. a year or two ago, he wanted to donate some money to the university of indiana. as a thank you, they suggested naming the new dormitory they were building after him: raper hall. some feminists (a tiny batshit miniority–every political stripe has a couple) got VERY upset about this. what about the woman that might be triggered by living in raper hall? they asked. what about the survivors of sexual assault on campus that might be triggered by walking past the raper hall sign?
yeah, seriously. my response of course was something like, “are you fucking kidding me right now? this is performance art, right? you’re TRYING to scare me, yes?” it’s the dude’s name. please note that his name is not “tom rapist”. yes, it’s an unfortunate name, but hey. sometimes people have unfortunate names. i just…i just…i can’t. there are no words.