I ended the last post with the remark “Call out culture is stale”. I think despite being stale enough to have calcified into a decent bludgeoning weapon, it deserves a little more than one line at the end of an essay that revolves more around the dynamic between communities.
I understand call out culture to be exemplified by the following scenario: Some privileged jerk face says something offensive, like how the guys from steubenville are too awesome at football to have to deal with pesky annoyances like prison time for the fucking crimes they committed, when a student of call out culture says “Hey, you just said a horribly misogynist thing and a complete encapsulation of rape culture and you should apologize and be ashamed of yourself.” Then he can either argue, walk away, or apologize for what he said. As a rule, I’ve noticed the vast majority of people who are called out choose options one or two, and rarely choose option number three. In fact pretty much the only time they choose option number three is when they were already on your side and said whatever messed up thing they said.
I think there is absolutely a reason for this beyond the privileged person being stubborn, spiteful or made out of the pure liquid malevolence. There are two opposing concepts, one of which is at work here. They are towards motivation and away motivation. Towards motivation is what people feel that makes them want to move towards you or a goal. Things like gift giving, listening, charm, being fascinating, empathy, attractiveness. These things motivate people to come towards you. You can also motivate people towards target behaviors this way, and advertisements do it all the time. “Drink Dos Equis and you’ll be the world’s most fascinating man.” “Drink gatorade and you’ll play basket ball like Shaq” (god I’m old.)
The opposite is away motivation: things that motivate people to go away from you. As a person, it can be things like being intimidating. It’s mostly used for behavior though, “don’t do that or you’ll be punished.” “What a horrible thing you just did!” “If you do x, I won’t do y.” This is a less effective way to motivate people, and the reason is this: First, this way of motivating people is a negative definition. Not negative in the sense of bad, or painful, though it can sometimes be painful, but negative in the sense that it gives you a behavior that you should avoid rather than a behavior you should strive for. “Don’t stare at my breasts” could logically be adhered to by a guy standing awkwardly close to you pretending to be looking very intently at a particular patch of empty wall space and it wouldn’t be any less creepy. Alternatively “make eye contact and respect my body” are two distinct behaviors you’ve given to strive for that don’t allow for creepiness. The second problem with it is that sure, they could put in whatever amount effort it takes to change their behavior. Or they could avoid you. Or they could try to avoid the judgement by arguing with you.
The point of all this is that call outs are firmly in the away motivation camp. Someone does something that’s offensive, and you tell them that it’s offensive, and hope that they deal with your judgement in a productive way. Understanding that awareness is what’s good about call outs, I recommend curiosity over it, because it maintains an awareness while being inherently empathetic to boot which makes it towards motivation. In the earlier example where Captain Rape Culture is talking about how the steubenville boys had promising football careers, you can interject with “Do you fully know what those boys did?” If so “Do you value their future over the girl’s safety and future?” All sorts of bone deep misogyny may come out and it will be ugly to look at. But, it will be plain for all to see in the simplest possible terms, including Captain Rape Culture.
I ended the last post with the remark “Call out culture is stale”. I think despite being stale enough to have calcified into a decent bludgeoning weapon, it deserves a little more than one line at the end of an essay that revolves more around the dynamic between communities.
Someone asked me a while back what I think of feminism vs bdsm and I didn’t really have a good answer for them. I believe it was something along the lines of most bdsm is misogynist but the feminist approach to kinksters is guaranteed to alienate them or something like that. Something too reductionist to be true in any real way, so let me go over what I actually think.
Let’s get one thing straight, there’s absolutely a *ton* of misogyny in the kink scene. Some kinks are by their very nature incredibly misogynist, and some are just practiced in a very misogynist way, and there’s an undercurrent of misogyny in how everyone is presented and viewed, and in all the art that comes from that scene. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be in this call out without devolving into swears.
While it’s good to rally people with such call outs, I’m not sure how effective they are in a situation like this as a means of helping alleviate the misogyny. Personally, I think the difference between the misogyny in the kink scene and misogyny in everyday life is more a matter of openness than of degree. I think what a vanilla person would normally hide, a kinkster will put out for all the world to see. A kinkster would be less ashamed. As such, shaming them would be something they’d be pretty quick to reject, even if it’s with a non-sequitur like “But I gave consent!”
To me, the kink scene is an opportunity to learn more with curiosity. Since they’ve put their misogyny out on the table for everyone to see, it’s easy to ask questions like “why do you enjoy that fantasy? Why is it hot for you?” and when misogyny comes out “Why do you feel that way about women/yourself?” Invite them to take an inquisitive look at themselves. I think people can see more clearly who they are and what they’re about without the judgement or attacks.
I feel very strongly about this because I know when I’ve felt judged, attacked, or like someone was trying to take something away from me that I liked, I had an instinctive reaction to shut them out. It took a lot of effort to learn to see such the judgements and attacks as a way to learn instead of simply someone hurting me. Perhaps it’s a mark of maturity, but then that means teaching via attack requires a requisite maturity, and the worst misogyny is rarely perpetrated by the most mature of individuals.
That’s my take on bdsm vs feminism. The misogyny in bdsm is a problem, and I think curiosity is the way to address it instead of call out. Call out culture is old and stale. We need something new.
You always hate the most what you see wrong with yourself.
This is absolutely an inspiration for a lot of my views on trans women and the lesbian community. Not just on the trans side but also on the lesbian side, though I experienced both at different times of my life.
When I was transitioning I had a glass-half-empty view of the world. It was also a rather narcissistic point of view. I left college as male and came back as female, and during the time in between I spent a lot of time nursing what I came to think of as “The standard trans woman outlook.” Through this lens, my feeling about the world is that it is nothing but hardship, and conversely any hardship I faced was due to the fact that I’m trans.
It was an easy outlook to sell myself; there seemed to be a lot of support for the concept of a general cultural hatred for all trans women. There were books that were essentially hate speeches disguised as feminism, there were horrible mockeries in movies and television that featured characters that bore some passing resemblance to trans women. I even heard some people mocking some of the more visible and oddly behaved trans women.
I also noticed a certain closed off way people dealt with me and attributed that to the fact that I was trans. This is where I feel like my attitude did me more harm than good. Often I’d write people off as transphobic, when in fact they’d be reacting to the unusually high amount of tension I was carrying in my body. Or maybe it was my begging tone of voice. Or perhaps the unaware self obsession I picked up from the transition being so overwhelming I didn’t have room for others.
Many of these things were turn offs, but also entirely within my control. The problem with the standard trans woman outlook I had is I blamed it on being trans, which was outside my control. I therefore felt my only recourse was to change all of culture, so I read all the awful stuff I could find on the internet and started yelling back. I’d throw around words like “privilege” and tell stories of how bad trans women have it in the hopes that strangers on the internet would see me as a victim and extend me empathy. Unfortunately I felt the effect the stanford prison experiment exposed: I had reminded the transphobes that I’m the prisoner and they are the wardens, so they cracked down harder.
I felt my first freedom from my plight when I started to learn the underlying principles of social status, and realized I was behaving in a way consistent with low status. I was begging for empathy, attention, and acceptance rather than demonstrating these qualities for myself. I realized I carried a lot of body language that was closed off, making extending me affection an abnormal challenge. I realized a lot of the interpretations I had of even neutral events were carrying an undeserved negativity, but the actions I took because of these interpretations created real negativity.
Once I realized this, I fled. With my new abilities to command a higher social status, I found it much easier to make friends with lesbians. I hung around them a bit and heard some really candid opinions about trans women. There’s no question that there’s a bunch of misinformation and prejudice in that community. Some were uncomfortable for reasons they couldn’t put their finger on, and often said trans women reminded them of movies like Silence of the Lambs. Others said standard Janice Raymond opinions, saying how trans women wanted to infiltrate and destroy their spaces and that they’re trained like government spies to try to blend in and corrupt.
There were more reasonable opinions: namely that trans women act in a way that ruins women’s spaces. The constant demand for inclusion in every discussion and space combined with the censoring of talk about female bodies was restrictive. Others also had problems with terms like “cotton ceiling” which evoked rape images in some women. It took me a while to really hear these opinions without dismissing them, but once I did I was disgusted with myself for ever resisting them.
I’m at a place now where I’m learning how powerful it can be to extend empathy to myself and others, and this particular bit of drama is a prime example. Both sides have needs that aren’t being addressed by the other side and feelings about those needs. For the trans women there’s a powerful need for acceptance as women and respect for identities, as well as access to many resources to help deal with their new role, or simply help out with general oppression they experience. For lesbians, there’s a need to reclaim their bodies from the patriarchy and to be able to talk freely about them without the judgement the default world inflicts on them. There’s a need for sensitivity to their struggles, like sexual and domestic violence and abortion politics.
We have plenty of people shouting either what they need or what they think of the other side for denying them fulfillment of that need, but far fewer people listening and saying “hey, I can help with that!” If there’s anything I’ve learned from this long, exhausting adventure it’s that
real change will happen when people on both sides make a shift from thinking “how can I get my needs met?” to “what can I do to help meet the other side’s needs?”. That’s the way for people to move forward, here and in any other conflict.
I’m a generation y girl. My classmates and I are at a stage where we’ve all graduated college and a disturbing amount of us are having trouble finding jobs and are questioning the value of our degrees. There has been some insightful writing on the subject that’s been getting me pondering. The gist of it is that older generations made going to college a normal part of life because in their day, college was, in fact, a good sign that you would go on to have not just any job but a better than average job. This was due to the fact only smart or wealthy kids went to college, which was a bit of selection bias. Now the job market is flooded with college graduates, not all of which scream employability and many of my peers are moving back in with their parents to continue searching for jobs.
I wonder, though if it’s really just college that is the issue or if there are deeper problems with our education system. Looking around, there isn’t exactly a lack of work to be done out there; people are starving, mainstream movies and music are becoming more generic every year, oppression and class warfare continues to rage on. All of these are potentially valuable problem areas that need people to step in and solve, and 15% of us are sitting, waiting for jobs instead of solving them. Why is that?
I’ve often asked people who sit in desk jobs they describe as miserable what they really want to be doing. Often they say things like “I want to make movies” or “I want to write plays.” I ask them why don’t they do that then. The response is always the same: “Because there’s no money in that.”
The movie and music industries are really tough. Piracy basically made it so that to the economy, creative expression is effectively worthless. It’s true: Hollywood is unlikely to give new directors a chance. It’s even worse than that, Hollywood is unlikely to even give new ideas from old directors a chance. It’s so hard for them to make money these days that they can’t afford to. “There’s no money in that.”
The occupy wall street was going pretty strong at the end of 2011, before we got distracted by listening to Rush Limbaugh say the some of the dumbest things an entitled old white guy has ever said about women. In our haze a lot of us put aside a glaring issue that they pointed out: how 1% of people own 99% of the money in the world. There was never much of a cohesive message beyond that, or a plan for change other than to force the 1% to look at them.
Many people rushed to defend the 1% with justifications like “Sometimes people need to be paid more if they contribute more to society, and without these people there wouldn’t be (cars, computers, airplanes, take your pick of modern conveniences)”. True. But answer me this: Do they need more money they can spend in a life time? Do their children need to be rewarded for their work? “I never got a paycheck from a poor person.” Sure you did. If they bought anything your company sold, watched, or listened to anything your studio produced, ate any of your food, or played any of your games. Do we really need a handful of super rich people deciding what’s worth pursuing?
That’s what we’re stuck with: there’s a ton of work that needs to be done out there, but there won’t be any money in it until the super rich decide they want it done and mete out salaries to get it done.
People aren’t completely powerless though. One of the industries that’s booming during this depression is the software industry. Innovative apps have been able to make money off of making life a little more convenient for people, by entertaining and connecting people. It’s a little pocket of humanity that’s coming up with creative ideas and there *is* money in it
I don’t think that the real problem my generation is facing is with college alone. I think the whole system is suspect. I talked earlier about how people are waiting around looking for jobs instead of tackling the work that’s out there waiting to be done. It’s partly about money, but it’s also about mentality. A lot of the people I’ve spoken to have had a hard-set belief that their life is supposed to be grade school, college, job, in that order. Love was supposed to occur between freshman year of high school and senior year of college, between a man and a woman, who settle down in a house in a suburb with a white picket fence and two children, who grow up to do the same thing.
It’s a model with very little room for creativity. In every step, you have someone telling you what to do. You get used to coming to a place you don’t really want to go to every day except weekends in school. Your teacher tells you what to do and once you do it long enough you get to go home and resume what was your life. If you don’t take it seriously enough you get bad grades, and if you accept it nicely, you get good grades. Then you go to college based on how well you did in school, and listen to professors you’re hopefully a little more interested in. You get a bit more independence, but you’re still selecting majors, which are taken as life directions.
A lot of my classmates were sick of being in school by the time admissions rolled around, and approached college like it’s a vacation—they chose schools by reputations as “party schools” and majors by how easy they were to coast through. Employers aren’t terribly impressed by this and usually write them off pretty quickly. There were a handful of people who picked engineering and vocational schools, and most of those people are employed.
My point isn’t that the kids who chose party schools are simply slackers. If this is happening enough to have many articles devoted to it, the explanation can’t be that simple. I think that the way education is approached makes it difficult to take seriously. We approach learning as a competitive task, and approach teaching in an authoritarian way that discourages independent thought and problem solving. We value left brained subjects over right brained subjects pretty heavily, which sucks for anyone who isn’t left brained. We instill the necessity of obeying authority to the point that we can’t even bring ourselves to hold our own bosses accountable. Then we’re surprised when instead of holding wall street thieves accountable, we collectively hand them billions of dollars.
I stumbled along a video a while back that really captured very vividly and passionately what I think of the school system, and I would like to end on that
I just spent the last week shining my light into my darkness. I confronted a lot of things I didn’t want to confront and I think I’m a better woman for doing that. I apologize for my emotionality, I am disgusted by my own thought process a week ago and I am spending a great deal of energy purging any intentions that align with that.
I think there’s this mentality among trans women that anything male about themselves is some kind of blemish. The way they react to these aspects of themselves is to avoid them. Radfems do like to rant about these aspects, and when trans women read these rants they forces the trans women out of their avoidance and then they have to deal with their own feelings about their male socialization and whatever else.
I went out to a party tonight. At this party I saw a trans woman, who decided to chat me up. I will make no bones about it, this is the worst small talk I’ve had in the last six months. I tried to keep the conversation afloat by pointing out that the cook at the mini food stand in front of us was clearly talented. She responded by asking me if I’ve ever had fried chicken in my entire life. I said it’s ubiquitous. She asked me how I would know if fried chicken is ubiquitous. I said because I happen not to live under a rock and am capable of observing reality. She says to define reality. It was about this point I rolled my eyes and walked away from her.
This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that trans women don’t present themselves well. Let me quote a parable from an unexpectedly wise article I read recently:
“Let’s say that the person you love the most has just been shot. He or she is lying in the street, bleeding and screaming. A guy rushes up and says, “Step aside.” He looks over your loved one’s bullet wound and pulls out a pocket knife — he’s going to operate right there in the street.
You ask, “Are you a doctor?”
The guy says, “No.”
You say, “But you know what you’re doing, right? You’re an old Army medic, or …”
At this point the guy becomes annoyed. He tells you that he is a nice guy, he is honest, he is always on time. He tells you that he is a great son to his mother and has a rich life full of fulfilling hobbies, and he boasts that he never uses foul language.
Confused, you say, “How does any of that fucking matter when my (wife/husband/best friend/parent) is lying here bleeding! I need somebody who knows how to operate on bullet wounds! Can you do that or not?!?”
Now the man becomes agitated — why are you being shallow and selfish? Do you not care about any of his other good qualities? Didn’t you just hear him say that he always remembers his girlfriend’s birthday? In light of all of the good things he does, does it really matter if he knows how to perform surgery?
In that panicked moment, you will take your bloody hands and shake him by the shoulders, screaming, “Yes, I’m saying that none of that other shit matters, because in this specific situation, I just need somebody who can stop the bleeding, you crazy fucking asshole.”
So here is my terrible truth about the adult world: You are in that very situation every single day. Only you are the confused guy with the pocket knife. All of society is the bleeding gunshot victim.”
I bring this up because this is because the dating scene is part of the adult world, and just like getting a job and making friends people don’t care how difficult your life is or was, they care whether you can *fucking operate*. In the dating scene this means learning how to talk to people. It means learning how to present yourself so you look like someone people would want to date. It means having your shit together so potential lovers don’t have to worry about holding you together.
I’ve listen to lesbians rant about this dynamic, and the recurring themes I’ve seen are that often trans women come in wearing clothes that look wrong for them. From there they often make awkward introductions, where it almost seems as if they just keep talking in the vain hope that just saying enough words will garner the requisite attraction to lead to sex. Since this is a formula I can only imagine working in bizarroland of backwards values, it fails often, which leads me to the giant chip that a lot of trans women carry on their shoulders. When it comes to attraction, a chip on the shoulder is worse than having full blown shingles: at least shingles aren’t entirely within one’s control, leaving other people to wonder why you haven’t done anything about it,
There are tricks out there to learn how to talk to people—basic techniques that get people having natural conversation. It is possible to learn. People love talking about themselves and feeling heard, and I guarantee lesbians are no exception. In order for that to happen, though, you need to drop this idea that you’re somehow a victim in all this and do the work necessary to learn those skills. Declaring yourself a woman isn’t enough to make people like you and treat you as such, you need to act like one. You need to show the lesbian crowd you can fucking operate, because until you do you will always lose out to the women who can.
Everyone loves good times. After a magical evening together, attraction almost always follows. If you are having a good time and communicating well with the people with you, then great: the people around you are probably are, too. But if you’re not there you have some work to do. Figure out what it’ll take to get there, plan it out, commit to it, and get it done. The harsh truth is that until you do that, you *will* be alone. People simply don’t have the time or energy to support deadweight.
This all may be hard to hear, but it doesn’t have to be hard to act on. There’s plenty of information on the internet about what works and what doesn’t. Just put tumblr and all the queer theory aside for now and see if you can any useful articles on how to socialize with people. Or better yet see if there’s a class in your area you can take. Practice what you read or they teach you. Start small and build up. Do things that are slightly uncomfortable until they become comfortable, then find new slightly uncomfortable things to do. Learn how to go into situations not knowing what’s going to happen and being ok with that.
I promise if you practice these things that it’ll change your life. If enough trans women practice it, it’ll change the stereotype surrounding trans women. If enough people in general practice it, it’ll change the entire goddamn world. But it has to start inside; you have to decide you’re sick of how things have gone and realize fully that the only one who can make your life different is you.
New years resolution: 2013 is the year of womanhood, femininity, and females, so I’m going to focus more on what my experiences are being treated as a woman this year.
One thing I’ve noticed coming from men is that men and people with a male mentality seem to really fetish the idea of me being vulnerable/delicate/fragile. I’ve talked about how I feel like this is a result of an oppositional view of gender but I want to talk about how it makes me feel when I hear it.
First of all I find it a little presumptuous. While my body has gotten a lot weaker from hormones, it was a slow process and people treated me this way long before I had fully lost my physical strength. Nonetheless I did lose it. What I never lost, and in fact got much stronger, was my mental strength. I’ve found that those who fetish women as helpless often project both physical and mental weakness onto us. I feel insulted by it, and it makes me rather angry.
Second of all, I feel like by setting this weakness up as a strength, my actual strengths are overlooked. Living as woman has taught me to be empathetic, how to listen, how to tap into intuition, how to be creative, and how to live in my heart. All these are wonderful things and come from a feminine place. I value them, and I have trouble with the fact that men seem to ignore them, if in fact they see them at all.
I remember asking someone who had talked to me about how delicate I look why they thought this was a good thing. They told me it was because I was beautiful, and like all beautiful things I must be protected. I could see from the glistening in his eyes that he was imagining some kind of fairy tale in his head. Playing out in his mind, I could almost hear, was an idyllic scene in which men throw their affection at me like roses to a bullfighter, and I choose whatever guy I like the most to start a wonderful romantic life together happily ever after.
If only men were so kind.
I feel like MRAs have this idea that women automatically have value for being women, and that it’s unique to men to prove they are worth dating. This is patently untrue. If it were true, there wouldn’t be entire industries based on fitness. Girls wouldn’t look at magazines and start torturing their bodies to look like the women on the cover. Cosmetic companies wouldn’t make the killing they make.
Bodies. Bodies. Motherfuckin’ bodies.
You see, that’s the only value I see men persistently place on me as a woman—that I’m beautiful. All that myriad of other positive qualities goes unnoticed, or worse gets dubbed “woman stuff” and dismissed as unimportant or frivolous. Wisdom? Who cares. Empathy? Makes ya weak. Intuition? Hokey pokey witchcraft. Yet we live in a world of unprecedented cruelty that’s getting worse all the time. We need empathy, intuition and wisdom more than ever!
I have a problem with men finding me beautiful sometimes. Sometimes I can see it in certain men’s eyes. They sparkle with the hunt of a new acquisition, leering at my body, imagining what they’ll tell their friends. It makes me sick that anyone could ever attach the word “love” to such behavior, when it’s so clearly self promotion. I’m a notch on their bedpost—some exquisite conquest to be fought, conquered and achieved, then bragged about to their friends. I’m not valuable as a person so much as a measure of achievement. That’s not even getting into the larger issue of consent.
Often I feel when I turn guys down, I have to be ready to leave the entire situation. I’ve flat out told guys I’m a lesbian only to have them “mishear” that as saying I’m bisexual, or queer, or whatever sexuality can include them. I’ve had them tell me they want to cure me—that one night with them will and I won’t “need” lesbianism; as if lesbianism is some kind of substitute for a good boyfriend. I’ve had guys grumble about being “friend zoned”. I’ve had guys use higher positions at work to manipulate me into sex. Some have even just given up on talking and just grabbed me and started kissing. At no point does what I want even enter into their mind. I’m a prize to be won if they just keep playing the game long enough. If they figure out that right combination of words to get me to spread my legs and let them take me.
So when people tell me about how I’m helpless and vulnerable, I get upset. I get insulted. I feel ignored while being put on a pedestal for my weakness. I feel reminiscent fear from all the previous encounters I’ve had with guys. I feel indignant at their insistence that some how all of this means I’m valuable and in the same sentence implying I have no choice but to sleep with them.
All I really want is respect. To be seen, heard, understood, and be allowed to do the things I want to do without having to cater to yet another guy’s fantasies. I want to be more than a pretty face on a hot body. Talking, like I’m a person. Like I’m a woman.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that people necessarily have to adhere to one polarity or another—everyone, male or female, has it within them to exhibit masculine and feminine qualities, and the most effective people express a good mix of both. For further information on a model of masculinity and femininity I’d agree with, I’d look at this essay.
At this time I’d say I definitely have a bit of both, and am working on expressing them well. I must say that developing the masculine was harder for me because I often conflated femininity with womanhood and therefore focused on that more and therefore put much more effort into that journey. Nonetheless, it’s the active nature of masculinity to grow when it’s ignored, so managing that has ironically allowed me to express femininity even more naturally.
So what’s my opposite? I wouldn’t say I have one. I actually think the oppositional model of gender is a big part of why gender is oppressive as we view it culturally: if men are strong women *have* to be weak, since being a woman is the opposite of being a man. If you view them as cooperative instead of oppositional, it turns into masculinity is strong, and femininity is empathetic. There’s no oppression in that: both polarities have value, and nothing dictates that they are mutually exclusive.