Fat and Not Afraid

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Don't be a Dick

April 1, 2011

Hi folks, it's been a while.  Today's post is brought to you by Bitch Magazine.

I've always been a rosy-glasses kind of person, trusting,  hopeful, seeing the best in people or situations even when things seem rotten.  Most of the time I'm not disappointed; people are basically good, and things usually work out in the end for the best, even though it might not appear to be working that way at the time.  It's kinda nice.  You must imagine my surprise then, my hurt, when things do NOT work out, when people do not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.  Then again, is it REALLY such a high expectation for people not to break some basic, cardinal rules most of us learn when we're toddlers?  Don't be a dick pretty much covers it all, so it always strikes me from what feels like nowhere when I discover people I know or look up to, or a movement, being a dick. 

As a newbie to feminism (only been studying for a few years now) and spending most of my time over at Shakesville, possibly THE most progressive, inclusive feminist site on the web, I've been really sheltered as to what feminism is in other places, it's failures to include voices and experiences from marginalized groups like transwomen, women of colour, disabled women, mentally challenged women, First Nations women, really, any woman who isn't cis, white, straight, able-bodied, and neurotypical.  Women from outside the feminist paradigm, women who are counter- or anti-hegemonic, they don't get a lot of page-space in most places, whether it's a magazine, blog, newspaper or academic journal.  The fight for women's equality has been, for the most part, a fight for only a certain kind of woman's equality, on the backs of other women.  The privileges I enjoy today, being able to vote and get a job, to go to school and enter any field I have an aptitude for, was bought at the price of keeping other women in the dirt.  My university used to be a residential school; every day when I walk the halls I see portraits of young men and women, some only four or five years old, staring back at me.  These kids were pulled from their families and placed in these schools to get the 'right' kind of education, a Christian one, barely achieving a grade three level, because that was 'good enough' for a race of people who were thought to never need more than that.  At the same time, rich ladies in America and the UK were marching in parades demanding the vote and ownership of property autonomous of their husbands or fathers, reproductive choice and the ability to work.  Did those rich ladies spend a moment thinking about First Nations women, or Black women or Asian women?  No, probably not.

I only realized this from time spent in the #prochoice thread on Twitter; people saying that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was a racist and eugenist.  I was like "What? No way. That's got to be a lie."  So I looked it up, and yeah, they were right.  The main reason she introduced birth control was to control immigrant populations, the 'undesirables'.  She didn't want them to breed and take down America.  Does that mean PP today is racist and sets up shop in poor neighbourhoods knowing that that's where those 'undesirables' are today?  Of course not.  I've read a couple of posts lately thanks to Twitter from women, women who are brilliant, witty writers with unique perspectives and stories that need to be told, who are walking away from feminism because of the constant chilly or downright hostile reception from main-stream feminism.

There's a lot of room for improvement I'm seeing now; Planned Parenthood has apparently* no idea what to do when a transwoman visits them and can be downright hostile to these women seeking services.  First Nations women in Canada have disappeared by the hundreds while the RCMP stands by and twiddles their thumbs and white women are attending univesity in droves.  Shark-Fu has a magnificent post up about how marginalized and oppressed Black women are to this day, how many years after emancipation?  While white women climb the ladders and become mayors and CEOs, leaders of state or provincial parties or even federal movements, do any of them, any of US, turn around and lend a hand to our sisters?  Not often enough.  As Shark-Fu says, let's talk about this.  The feminist movement can't continue on in some circles as an exclusive club.  We're either all in this together or we're no better than our oppressors.  There should absolutely not be any problem with all feminists moving over a bit and making room for every voice that chooses to share their story.  My anti-click moment over Sanger has made me more determined than ever to check my privilege and to use it to the best of my ability to work towards REAL equality for all. 

*edited to add what I forgot: I use the word apparently here because I only know this because of what I've read on Twitter by transwomen and allies of transwomen. I'm pretty sure PP doesn't have a policy against them, just a lack of understanding, awareness and training.

Gad--what horrible knowledge! Thanks for sharing it. I mean that sincerely, not in a snarky kind of way.
I have seen this in certain parts of the feminist movement though. Although I do identify as a feminist, I would probably not be seen as "feminist enough" by a lot of the more radical feminists. I am not a man hater, I just don't like dickish men who see women as holes to stick it into. I believe in equality for all people, and that does include trans women and trans men. I've read a lot lately about the struggles that intersexed people go through.
Equality must be for all people. I have the horrible feeling that some racial rights and women's rights activists want a turn at being the top dog rather than wanting to make things equal for all, and I can't have too much regard for those people!

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Hi

Especially in my area (Southwestern Connecticut) I see rich to very rich feminists who would include the guy bagging her groceries as part of the patriarchy.

While in reality she is more likely to be exploiting him, his family, all his co-workers and families.

Feminists do not have to be Man Haters if their statements about men are broad generalities that are unfair to so many men when you take in factors like social-economic levels and race.

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There are reasons why I'm a feminist who pretty much limits herself to the fat-o-sphere for feminist content - which is itself not free of these same problems, but is better then average. I'm willing to click into Shakesville or Feministing (or is it Feministe? I get those mixed up) once in a while, when someone posts a link. But that's still pretty damn rare, and it's always with an anticipatory wince. Don't even get me started on Jezebel.

Some of the most vile screeds I've ever read have been on feminist blogs.

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I hear you re. the exclusivity of much of feminism. I think no matter how much/little privilege someone has (if having it is even recognized), they will be very loathe to give it up, no matter who it may help to do so. I think the fear of losing it runs deep, which could partially explain the attitudes of the feminists you mention toward people with less privilege than themselves. (Another reason may be the inability to look past one's own nose.)

I'm not sure where on the interwebs I read this quote about intersectionality, but I really like it:

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." (Lilla Watson)

(PS - I just googled the name to make sure it was right, and she would rather credit her whole group with the saying, so, above quote hereby attributed to Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s)

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I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend. I won't bother you again.

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