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Dirty Girls and Bad Feminists: A Few Thoughts on “I Love Dick”

There’s a moment in almost any bad memoir where you start to get the sense that the author is telling you more than he or she actually wants you to know; a moment where the author’s persona, carefully crafted to be winning or fun or poignant or survivorly and magnificently victimized, starts to slip, and you get the sense of a different person trying to speak. This person is less glamorous, or less admirable, or less disgusting, or meaner, or nicer than the person the author is trying to sell you; they’re less fit to be written down. Probably they’re more embarrassing. Typically, it’s the urge to impress the reader that does it; there’s an over-sell, something that makes you see the person pulling the act as deeply unimpressive. The charming, wittily self-deprecating rogue is actually just some dude with Mommy issues pulling an “ain’t I a stinker” act to disguise his many and predictable insecurities; the glorious martyr, strung up on the cross of life for all to behold and weep over, is actually a petty, manipulative, melodramatic child.

It happened, for me, during the first domestic-violence scene in Running With Scissors. (The urge to impress, to give you all the gory details: I come from a family with a history of domestic abuse, too, but I somehow don’t recall it happening in Sensurround and with a script written for the Lifetime channel.) It came early on in A Million Little Pieces, with James Frey getting all hey-bro-check-out-this-crazy-fuggin-shit over severe pain that one wouldn’t imagine a sufferer of said pain to view as entertainment on par with a Saw movie or his nine millionth DVD re-watch of Fight Club. It was all over the J.T. LeRoy stuff, but the experiences described therein were just so godforsaken awful that you couldn’t allow yourself to register it, lest you be unduly skeptical about the harsh realities of child abuse, which is how nobody noticed that the books were written by a woman named Laura Albert until several years had passed and the entirely fictional person of J.T. LeRoy was both a celebrity and a friend of, for some reason, Shirley Manson.

I Love Dick, however, is built entirely on that moment of slippage. To be more precise: It’s as if Chris Kraus started to write, found herself on the edge of that accidental, unflattering honesty — found herself confronting that other person, the uglier person, the embarrassing, un-book-worthy one that other writers try to avoid — and just decided to go with that girl the whole way through. The book is sold as a “novel,” not a memoir. But it’s the truth of it — Chris Kraus is author and protagonist, Sylvere Lotringer is her real husband, Dick is apparently the name of a real (and not unknown) dude who is rumored to have been distinctly un-pleased by the book — upon which the narrative depends. So, where lesser writers (or, in two of the three cases listed above, straight-up liars!) would notice themselves headed for unpleasant, scary, unflattering self-disclosure and steer themselves onto safer ground, Chris Kraus steers right the hell into it. She makes it the road.

So, she used to be anorexic. She’s still a bit anorexic. She has this really disgusting stomach ailment. Do you want to hear about her disgusting stomach ailment? You are going to hear about the ailment! Of her stomach! Which is disgusting! She’s a feminist; she’s attracted to dudes who treat her badly. She’s a feminist; she lives primarily off her husband. (“Sylvere and I are Marxists… he takes money from the people who won’t give me money and gives it to me.”) Also, about her husband: They don’t have sex. Like, ever. She really wants to cheat on him. With this one specific dude. She is prepared to take her husband along on the ride, this ride that is about wanting to cheat on him with this one specific dude, and to make a super-theoretical cutting-edge Performance out of it. Do you think she and/or her husband are deluding themselves, with the intellectualization and super-theoretical cutting-edge Performance-making of her desire to do the sex with this one guy? Because it turns out they totally are! She just wants to sex him! A lot! Also, this one guy: She has met him, like, twice? And he’s not into her? At all? But she’s going to embark on a road trip with the end goal of doing some sex with him, based on absolutely no signals that he would be into this, except for his being generally sexy. And seeming like he would treat her badly. Which, by the way did I mention, she is into.

“I was difficult and unadorable and a Bad Feminist to boot,” Kraus writes, of herself, and you don’t disagree with her.  “You don’t know me! We’ve had two or three evenings! Talked on the phone once or twice! And you project this shit all over me, you kidnap me, you stalk me, invade me with your games, and I don’t want it! I never asked for it,” she quotes Dick as saying — and while she has never in fact kidnapped him, and “stalked” him only as part of the pre-negotiated super-ultra-conceptual performance piece, and this is, granted, coming directly after they have (spoiler?) had sex, the man still has a point. (When he shrieks and protests and hates her for threatening to publish I Love Dick, that goes into I Love Dick, too.) But also: “I want to own everything that happens to me now,” she quotes herself as saying to Dick. “Because if the only material we have to work with in America is our own lives, shouldn’t we be making case studies?” And the thing about case studies is, you don’t leave anything out. Especially not if it contradicts what you wanted or expected to hear.

Maybe now is the time to tell you that I’ve been having some serious doubts about my place in Internet Feminism. Not my involvement in Internet; that, no doubt, will go on. Because what else am I going to do with my time? But there are problems, I think, with the terms of the conversation I’ve set up here; there are problems with my own place within that conversation, the person I’ve agreed to be when I talk to you. That outraged, righteous, upright, know-it-all person who has compassion for all the right people and scorn for all the wrong ones, who’s on the right side (your side) of all the issues: I think she’s dangerous, and I think she’s at least partially false. The falseness is the root of the danger; problem with Internet Feminism, or any politics of identity, any system that purports to help you get your life and problems understood better, is when it sets up a too-easy, pre-packaged narrative for your own life. When it gives you the language, the rules for engaging and discussing, but doesn’t help you to look with any greater or more dangerous honesty at what you’re thinking, or how you’re acting, or who you are.

I’ve seen it happen. Too often, I’ve seen it happen; the people who can criticize a post, and then, when asked to back that criticism up, can only quote a different post by another Internet Feminist. The people who can look at a piece of art — or, hell, TV or pop music, those work too — and can only classify it as Oppressive or Subversive, or located at a greater or lesser degree of “problematic”-ness, according to current theories of what is or is not problematic. The lack of original thought, or of aesthetic judgment, is creepy: It suggests that we’re approaching this all like math, like a standardized test to which there are right or wrong answers, rather than as art, or (preferably) life, where what matters is not just your conclusion, but how you got there. And there are other things: The way we’ll go out of our way to invent political defenses of art we like — feminist reading of Twin Peaks, anyone? Because I’ve done that one — because it’s how we can justify liking it, rather than simply saying, I dunno, “it is misogynist as hell but I like how creepy it is and also it’s funny and also I have a thing for the young Kyle McLachlan, Lord help me.” Arguments where we invent political insults (you’re a classist!) to cover up the personal feelings behind them (you’re an asshole!) because we know we can win on the grounds of politics, but might not do as well if we actually, honestly dislike each other. Incidents where we make up political rationalizations (as a woman, I have a right to voice my anger!) for stuff we shouldn’t get away with (I am getting up on your junk and acting like a douche!) no matter who we are, and that we probably, on some level, know to be wrong.

I mean, I’m talking about myself here. You get that, right? I’ve borrowed too much from other people, and haven’t bothered to check those arguments before incorporating them, because they were popular or persuasive; I’ve oversimplified things I was supposed to be critiquing, for the sake of making a point; I’ve rationalized and politicized my tastes and personal dislikes and bad personality traits, to make myself seem like a better person or a better feminist, and at some points I’ve thought — probably, God knows, even said — that “good person” and “good feminist” were one and the same thing. Maybe you’re better than me; maybe you’re pure. But it’s a problem, with any moral system of thought: At some point, we learn what we’re rewarded for saying, how we’re rewarded for seeming, and then we say those things and seem that way, for the reward. It’s like any other set of social norms. But when feminism is used this way, not as a means to get into truth, but as a means to make truth easier or even to avoid it, it’s really not all that different from, say, reading a lot of Ayn Rand. Granted, the results of its clueless or selfish application will probably be better than what the Objectivists have managed thus far. But it’s still something you do for you, rather than for the sake of doing it; it’s a means of propping yourself up. Of self-glorification.

It’s especially bad news when we do this on the level of personal narrative. Which is where we get back to me, to the person I’ve agreed to be while I take part in this conversation. Because, at this point, I have to acknowledge that the extent to which I deplore this way of engaging has to be measured against the extent to which I’ve participated in it. Or contributed to it. Or caused it. Every time I yell at some pathetic anonymous commenter and people cheer, every time I get all righteously outraged without talking about what I’ve done that is the same or worse as what the person I’m outraged about has done, every time I play the toreador and gore a bull for your entertainment, I shudder a little. Because I’m helping it happen: Aiding in the creation of a discussion where we reward outrage and scorn and hatred and Othering of the ideologically impure, the bad feminists and unfeminists and anti-feminists, all the while pretending to a purity that none of us, living in this our inherently compromising and mindfucking world, actually possesses. I’m glorifying myself; I’m letting you glorify me; I’m giving you a false impression of how things actually work, letting you believe that the world consists of Good People and Bad People. I’m telling you that I am Good, and that you are Good to the extent you agree with me, and that people — other people, people on the outside of this discussion, not us, certainly — are Bad if they disagree with us. I mean: This is basically how every terrible thing in the history of humanity has started, the decision that there’s an Us and a Them and the former is good and the latter is bad. Doing it in the name of lofty principles doesn’t mean you’re not doing it; it just means that when the problems — the self-falsification, the repression, the insistence on ideological purity rather than self-examination or originality or thought — creep up on you, you’re less likely to notice them and more likely to rationalize them. Because your aims really and truly are good.

Back to Kraus. “It’s the story of 250 letters, my ‘debasement,’ jumping headlong off a cliff. Why does everybody think that women are debasing ourselves when we expose the conditions of our own debasement? Why do women always have to come off clean?” She is, in this book, difficult and unadorable and a Bad Feminist; she is ugly and creepy and pathetic and deluded and massively self-destructive; she does, sooner or later, start to pull off some massively correct and exciting and WOW BLAMMO revelations about the female condition, precisely because of all this. She finds her way into understanding art, into understanding sex, into understanding women and madness and intellectualism and connection and reading and writing and all of that, how to understand the act of understanding things, precisely by going as far down into this creepy self-delusion of Dick and “loving” Dick (who is really just a phantom, a stranger, an appropriately named avatar of Boy) as she can possibly go. The only way to tell the truth about what she knows and how she’s learned it is to include the fact of herself in it; the only way out is through. “Isn’t the greatest freedom in the world the freedom to be wrong? What hooks me on our story is our different readings of it,” she writes. “You think it’s personal and private; my neurosis… I think our story is performative philosophy.”

There was a time, Kraus says, “when being a feminist meant refusing to be a co-dependent fuck-up.” That time is over, she implies. Time to stop pretending that being female or feminist makes you admirable, and time to stop pretending that being admirable is a pre-condition for deserving basic rights. And, elsewhere: “You argue that the frame provides coherence only through repression and exclusion. But the trick is to find Everything within the frame.” Find everything within the frame of who you are; if who you are is a co-dependent fuck-up, find everything there. Because eventually, from there, from being as deeply wackily fucked up as you are, you get here:

Shame was what we always felt, me and all my girlfriends, for expecting sex to breed complicity. (“Complicity is like a girl’s name,” writes Dodie Bellamy.) … Shame is what you feel after being fucked on quaaludes by some artworld cohort who’ll pretend it never happened, shame is what you feel after giving blowjobs in the bathroom at Max’s Kansas City because Liza Martin wants free coke. Shame is what you feel after letting someone take you someplace past control — then feeling torn up three days later between desire, paranoia, etiquette wondering if they’ll call. Dear Dick, you told me twice last weekend how much you love John Rechy’s books and you wish your writing could include more sex. Because I love you and you can’t or you’re embarrassed, maybe this is something I can do for you?

At any rate in order not to feel this hopelessness, regret, I’ve set myself the job of solving heterosexuality (i.e., finishing this writing project) before turning 40. And that’s tomorrow.

There’s no jargon here; there’s no apology; there’s no sense that now she knows better, and has been delivered from her state of codependent fuckuppery, and can now preach to us all about how to deal with it in an appropriate and Feminist matter. Solving heterosexuality means solving it as she experiences it; it means taking herself, who she actually is, seriously. Refusing to take it out of the equation, or to clean it up or tone it down. If feminism is about understanding the female situation, and she’s female, then her situation is a female situation, and it’s time to understand that. On its own terms, as it is, not as someone else tells her to understand it or as someone else would like it to be. She’s not living up or down to anything. She’s making a case study.

Feminism — particularly second-wave and third-wave feminism — started as a means by which women could tell their own stories with a greater degree of honesty; it permitted us to say the unsayable. I don’t actually love being a mother. I don’t actually want to be a mother, and that’s why I got an abortion. Marriage was supposed to fulfill me, but actually, I’m just bored and depressed all the time. Marriage was supposed to fulfill me, but actually, I just get raped and beaten up. I like to fuck, and I don’t need to be in love to do it. I feel this pressure to fuck, and I don’t want to. I hate playing femme / it turns me on to play femme. Sex work is awful for me / sex work is great for me. You know, I really do like to fuck, but despite the authoritative statements of Freud, the medical profession, and all the dudes I’ve ever boned, I have never ever ever ever in a million years had a “vaginal orgasm.” “Consciousness-raising” was just this; telling stories, saying things that felt unsafe or bad or weird or over-personal, indulging in the messy female business of confession. Later, after we’d all talked it out, put our personal lives on the table, the group was supposed to start working on theories that tied it all together.

But we’ve been doing it for a while now, the feminism thing, and the theories are already out there and readily accessible. They even feel unquestionable, some of the time: Authoritative statements about our lives, like those uttered by Freud or the medical profession. To say that they just don’t feel right, that they don’t describe you or who you are or how your life has gone thus far, feels wrong and heretical; it might get you accused of false consciousness or bad feminism or internalizing the oppressor. Instead of starting where we are and trying to theorize it, all too often, we take the theories and try to cram our lives into them, and ignore or cut off the parts that don’t fit. What we end up with is a vision of ourselves that often feels purer and more Feminist-Approved than who we really are; it feels nice and strong and Good and, most crucially, safe. However, we’ve also barred off all of those messy, complicated, unlikable parts of ourselves, and forbidden ourselves to examine or learn from them. Which is a bad move, given that the messy and complicated and unlikable and as-yet-untheorized, the unspoken and the unspeakable, is where we’re supposed to start.

There are lots of less than admirable things about me. There are lots of less than admirable things about you. There are lots of things in my life that I started to figure out by reading and writing feminism, and there are lots of parts of my life where I’ve used feminism to excuse my own behavior or where the tenets of feminism seem not to have room for my experience, or to contradict it. This is all terribly vague, but trust me: To list all the details would take a month and a massive loss of personal dignity and inhibition. What I Love Dick does is to inspire that sort of courage: To point you to the parts of your life or yourself that you can’t quite look at directly, or that you haven’t quite figured out, and to tell you that they’re where you need to go next. They’re where you’re going to learn the most. And if there’s nothing in your ideology to explain them, well, then: Make some new ideology, lady. People before you have done it. It’s not like you need a license; it’s not like we ever have to stop.

83 Comments

  1. Without jumping headlong into my own “massive loss of personal dignity and inhibition,” I’ll just have to say: Thank you for this.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Georgia wrote:

    shit.
    This was a really interesting post.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  3. mulierosity wrote:

    A hundred years from now, all aspiring writers would seek the Doyle, not Nobel, Prize of Literature.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  4. Jessica wrote:

    Yes. Just, yes.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Kate wrote:

    Very thought provoking. I hope that I can articulate my response well.

    I don’t wish to discount your feelings here, please let me know if I have. I don’t see the things that you’re saying.

    You are not an inspiration to me because I see you as an icon of feminism. You are an inspiration to me because of your humanity. You don’t come across as a paragon of virtue or some yardstick upon which to measure my own immature feminism.

    You come across to me as an imperfect person doing the best she can with what she’s got. Which is infinitely more than I can say for myself, or my friends, since I don’t have any friends that are feminists.

    Also, you are goddamn funny, which counts for a lot.

    I hope that you will continue with what you do here, because I really enjoy seeing that being a feminist is not always being “humorless.” I certainly feel humorless when I tell my guy friends that I wish they’d stop calling their video game a whore because they had to respawn.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
  6. gnat wrote:

    Fucking hell. You just put into words that creeping feeling I’ve had in my stomach and the back of my mind for a while now. Wow. Shit. What.

    Now I have some thinking to do.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
  7. rez wrote:

    Thank you for this post.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink
  8. Lizzie wrote:

    When I first started reading this blog/feminist blogs in general, this thing you’re describing was the only thing that made me squirm in my seat:

    “Because I’m helping it happen: Aiding in the creation of a discussion where we reward outrage and scorn and hatred and Othering of the ideologically impure, the bad feminists and unfeminists and anti-feminists, all the while pretending to a purity that none of us, living in this our inherently compromising and mindfucking world, actually possesses.”

    Now you’re acknowledging it, and this Tiger Beatdown space feels that much more comfortable and right to me.

    This too, holy shit. YES MA’AM.

    “What we end up with is a vision of ourselves that often feels purer and more Feminist-Approved than who we really are; it feels nice and strong and Good and, most crucially, safe. However, we’ve also barred off all of those messy, complicated, unlikable parts of ourselves, and forbidden ourselves to examine or learn from them. Which is a bad move, given that the messy and complicated and unlikable and as-yet-untheorized, the unspoken and the unspeakable, is where we’re supposed to start.”

    I just know it too well and it’s too easy to ignore/rationalize/will away.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  9. Mongoose6 wrote:

    Sounds like you are staring into the abyss, and it is staring straight back. I have similar moments sometimes, when I get very worked up about the meaning of life and feel super nihilistic. Usually I have a good cry, go to sleep, and wake up feeling better the next day. Because if I continued to think about it too much, I wouldn’t be able to do anything!

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  10. pillow3 wrote:

    this this this, exactly this. a million times this.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Permalink
  11. ananimaltoo wrote:

    Oh, Sady. Sounds like I’m not the only one who will be doing some introspection, inspired by you. Thanks.

    ps: I’ve been lurking for a little while, and Tiger Beatdown is making my life right now. Props to all of you.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink
  12. C.L. Minou wrote:

    Ladies and gentlemen, when the history of Tiger Beatdown is written*, this will be remembered as the post where Sady Went Electric.

    From experience, I can tell you, a lot of writers struggle all their careers to acheive what Sady calls “Tuesday.”

    This is an amazing, uncomfortable, soul-searchin, soul-searing post that I am going to be thinking about, often uncomfortably, for a while.

    –CLM

    *like this sentence, I will at least get to be a footnote to that history!

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  13. Helen wrote:

    Sady,
    I don’t usually comment on blogs but I had to this time.

    It helps so much to be able to step back from yourself to look at yourself critically. Being able to do that is a tremendous skill, regardless of what you find when you’re deconstructing yourself. That you can even spot the errors and the contradictions mean you’ve got insight. The fact that what you find doesn’t always sit well with you means you’ve got integrity – you’re being honest with yourself even when no one else knows is looking.

    I don’t even know you but I’m proud of you for doing this kind of self-analysis and for being open enough to write about it. Thank you.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  14. Victoria wrote:

    Out and about the internet, from time to time, I see people say things along the lines of, “Tiger Beatdown is the only feminist blog I still read.” The self-awareness and damn fine writing in this post clearly exemplify the why of that statement.

    (Which is not to say that other feminist blogs are bad, of course. But this really helps me understand why people who are not insiders to the isms find TB palatable and interesting.)

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
  15. jules wrote:

    I like this post. I have been having a crisis of purpose — and of conscience — for some time now, and this really helped, but articulating some of the things I’ve been feeling and trying to move away from but couldn’t quite put my finger on.

    And it’s not just in feminism. It’s about writing, too, for me, and the way I have felt about my writing, even when I’m writing fiction — that I have presented this “persona” to the outside world because I’m fucked up, self-destructive, self-loathing, etc, but would hate for anyone to know, so I think I have to write from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know anything about the things I do.

    I guess, in a way, my problem is the opposite of James Frey: instead of inventing Hard Times and providing all the dirty details to a horrified audience, I have spent my entire life doing my damnedest to prove that there were no Hard Times or horrifying details.

    I write fiction these days. I don’t want to write a memoir (or even a loosely-autobiographical fiction piece) about all the ways I know about the existence of men who fuck little boys, or even the way people act when you say you have cancer. But I have spent a lot of time and energy constructing myself into the kind of person who writes “Two and a Half Men”-style characters who have no problems that can’t be solved in 18 minutes and don’t even know that worse lives exist, and I don’t want to be that, either.

    And I don’t want to be the person who shuts down conversation because the people around me are not as “Read” in feminism (and other social justice movements/theories) as I am. I want to have conversations with people. Recently a 15 year old that was in the same chatroom as me (ftr, I don’t go around chatting up teenagers on purpose) made a comment that I was a little uncomfortable with; I felt like it was racist, but I wasn’t sure why. We talked about it. A 15 year old girl who has never read a blog or an anti-racist manifesto in her life taught me something.

    It was nice. I don’t like that the internet feminist community is often a competition, who is the best feminist, who can leave the best comments, who can guest post for the most famous blogs. That’s why I pretty much quit commenting on blogs when I was 15 — because I realized I would never “win” this competition, and even my honest inquiries would be ridiculed. In some ways, that’s internet culture as much as anything else, but we got to move on.

    When did blogging quit being about a conversation?

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  16. assassin wrote:

    oh man sady this was a wonderful post, but i’m with C.L. you aren’t perfect and neither are the rest of us, but you do good work here and sometimes, honestly, when you play toreador and gore a bull before our very internet eyes, it’s because we need it. the need for self-reflection is clear with anyone and any space, but you should also view the Feminist Internets as a tiny, tiny place in a big, ugly world that just about all of us readers inhabit in The Real World. goring a stupid misogynist troll now and then isn’t just entertaining because it’s hilarious and witty and all that, it’s satisfying because in so much of that bigger world, the trolls win, or at least they get by without a challenge, because they’re our neighbors or our bosses or our relations or what have you and we CAN’T go full-on sexist beatdown on them without giving up important things that allow us to go about our lives. that you can do it here or that another feminist blogger can do it in her corner of the Feminist Internets is good, because it gives all of us a space to release some of the steam we accumulate when dealing with say, Sexist Creepy Boss or Leering Guy on the Train or Judgmental Aunt Margie.

    anyway, what i’m saying is this post makes me love you/tiger beatdown more, even though i didn’t know that was possible, but also, don’t be too hard on yourself. we all need a reset button sometimes, but this is like, the best blog in the vicinity of the internets i frequent, for so many reasons and you should feel good about the writing you and the other writers here do at the end of the day.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink
  17. Set.element.md wrote:

    Un.fucking.believable. You hit this nail on it’s fucking head, like, over and over and over again. This: “Time to stop pretending that being female or feminist makes you admirable, and time to stop pretending that being admirable is a pre-condition for deserving basic rights,” made me yell, YES!

    I lurk here everyday. I’ve linked you to my pathetic page. I read you to my husband and he thinks you’re rad. It’s not for nothing.

    I have given up utterly on feminist theory because it feels like a straight-jacket to me, and sometimes like a bitchy sorority where I’m always, always doing it wrong. I’ve turned the corner to being almost proud of my Bad Feminist self. I’m 41. I get to start being that old lady who does not care what any of you think. It’s awesome.

    Keep it up, Sady. You rule.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink
  18. As someone who has done both, who had laid my full self on the line publicly and reserved my full self publicly, I’ve got to say: the latter is far less exhausting than the former. After awhile, I started to wonder why I was telling people so much. Because that eventually becomes a mask of its own too.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  19. William wrote:

    Wow. Prime work, Sady.

    I have only hazy ideas why anybody else, you included, turns up here. But the reason I come back, and the reason I keep recommending this blog to friends, is brilliant writing rooted in relentless thinking on the stuff of life. Your life. Our lives.

    Sure, feminism is part of your life, as is your gleeful smacking of the occasional jackass. I’ve appreciated both. The latter for the glorious peacocky prose and the thrill of a well-earned comeuppance. Delicious! And the former because it has made me a better feminist, and a better person.

    But as much as I love that, that’s not why I’m here. My favorite authors are not the ones who write their last book again because they know their fans will like it. They press ahead. I’m here because I know you’ll press ahead, examining things that need examining, producing a vigorously shaken emulsion of serious analysis and giddy humor.

    So please do keep it up. Keep writing what you feel called to write. Your audience will find you.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 1:09 am | Permalink
  20. Kate wrote:

    This bit: “time to stop pretending that being admirable is a pre-condition for deserving basic rights”.

    Absolutely. I have been thinking that a lot, lately. I don’t want to fight ot be an acceptable fat person by syaing ‘but I excersise and eat well’. I do, but that’s none of anyone’s fucking business. It’s like the romance novel where it turns out she was a virgin all along – he loved her anyway, but WASNT IT CONVENIENT that she was PURE and UNSULLIED and only for him.

    And recently I’ve been looking at things and thinking ‘that’s problematic. But I really enjoy it.’ It’s confusing often because yes, male gaze but also, I’m a bit queer (yes, I realise that phrase is problematic in itself, but I haven’t untangled my own sexuality from the male gaze, so I’m not sure where the lines are yet).

    I think, in the end, we do need heroes. We need shiny idols who show us How To Be Great. But more than that, we need real people who show us how to be sort of ok sometimes. Because that’s what life is. And that’s what people are. And I want to be a person, not a Woman™. I don’t want the vote because I am morally superior, I want it because I am a human being. So wherever on that scale you decide to sit on whatever day, it’s still totally worthy.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 1:16 am | Permalink
  21. lilacsigil wrote:

    time to stop pretending that being admirable is a pre-condition for deserving basic rights.

    And time to stop pretending that we (or things we love) have to be pure and perfect in order for us to love them. Of course there’s a feminist reading of Twin Peaks, but saying “therefore it’s okay to like it” is a different matter entirely.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:01 am | Permalink
  22. smadin wrote:

    I’m definitely going to be spending some time thinking about and rereading this post. Thanks, Sady.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:02 am | Permalink
  23. Christen wrote:

    “And I don’t want to be the person who shuts down conversation because the people around me are not as “Read” in feminism (and other social justice movements/theories) as I am. I want to have conversations with people.”

    This. I oscillate between feeling vindicated by feminist blogs and other feminist writing, and feeling like reading so much of this stuff, participating in these conversations only with other likeminded people, it makes me…weird and insular. And that makes me unhelpful.

    An example that I’m pretty sure I’ve actually mentioned in a previous comment on this blog? One of my housemates is a 24-year-old guy (I’m a 29-year-old lady), and most of his friends are also males in their early 20s. We had a party last month which was mostly attended by my younger housemate’s friends, and one of them — who I hadn’t met before — was a soft-spoken Marine Corps guy on leave. He and another guy (who I’m pretty chummy with) made some side remark about “fourth-wave feminism” which was totally opaque to the USMC guy, who was totally unacquainted with the concept of waves of feminism. So my friend and I (note: we were very drunk) offered up the caricatured definitions of second- and third-wave feminism. It was very catty and in-jokey and sexist of us(one or the other of us, and it may have been me, may have summarized the third wave with the sentence, “Which kind of buttsex is the most empowering?”). And I was pretty annoyed with myself later, not just that I characterized feminism — which means a lot to me — in a way that was so reductive and counter to what I really believe about it, but also that I didn’t just give an honest answer to someone who had asked the question honestly and seemed to have a refreshingly open mind about the subject.

    Meaning, feminism, as I’ve engaged with it, as I’ve participated in it, hasn’t really given me the tools to engage non-feminists about it. And I mean, look, I live in a not-very-friendly-to-feminism world every day, and I like having these spaces full of likeminded people to come vent to about how PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET IT, especially when (unlike my party guest) they DON’T GET IT to the point of being raging douchebags. And yet. I want to know how to talk to people who don’t get it, whether they are nice to me or not, in a way that isn’t snarky or in-jokey or hostile or just throwing-my-hands-up exasperated.

    But I join the chorus of commenters who really only check TBD (of all the Feminist Blogs) with any regularity. It’s not that I never see posts that I think are unfortunately insular, indignant or even…trying too hard to apply the Proper Feminist Perspective to an issue I can’t even tell the author cares about that much. I feel like a jerk even saying that, because where I’m going with this is that there are still so many transcendent moments. And this is one of them.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:07 am | Permalink
  24. Stormy wrote:

    Doubt is something anyone with any real depth has to deal with I suppose. Well, apart from scary crazy people. Maybe they can be deep? Anyway, I know how it feels to be suspicious of yourself. I’m the type that always questions my motives in every situation, and I tend to assume that whatever I do is for selfish reasons… These doubts aren’t quite the same as yours. So I don’t know if this helps address your doubts or not, but I really enjoy your site. And it educates me as well. I read AP news, but they miss an awful lot, and you often point out important things. You broaden my perspective and let me see some of the complexities that go on in gender politics. Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t notice any of this on my own, but I doubt I would notice as much. You talk about stories in your post. You and I will assuredly never meet in person, so in a way, a story is all you’ll ever be to me, but… I’m enjoying it so far. Thanks for writing.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  25. Eleanor wrote:

    I think this is my favourite post so far.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 3:16 am | Permalink
  26. Nikki wrote:

    This was a really amazing post. Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t articulate myself.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of safe spaces.

    As valuable as it is to shut up and listen (and I usually do) when I lurk I see disproportionately savage beatdowns between commenters based on classist, ableist, or racist language and wonder how best to keep problematic behavior out while supporting marginalized people who are still coming to an understand of the full spectrum of Other outside of their own experience.

    I think you’ve hit on something really important and really difficult to maintain. Throwing trolls to the lions pleases the crowd. Admitting constantly that you’re vulnerable and your actions aren’t completely governed by one complete and coherent ideology- it’s better than leadership. It’s truth.

    The ideas in this post are crucial, in my mind, to creating a truly safe space, where this is no absolute, correct, enforceable feminism, where people come to listen and learn and sort themselves out rather than to have a pissing contest over who plays by the imaginary rules the best.

    I like where this is going.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 4:26 am | Permalink
  27. Maz wrote:

    YES.

    It is an in-crowd, feminism, like anything else. At times a necessary and enlightening space for thoughts and feelings that had no outlet for expression before, a way to change the world by criticising the status quo – and at times a blinkeredly insular overpious clique prizing the appearance of integrity over actual integrity.

    You got to challenge any group you’re part of to make the group worth being part of. Thank you so much for going Electric. This fucking needed to be said.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  28. Quinara wrote:

    For every time I don’t agree with you’re dealing with something, this post will remind me why I read Tiger Beatdown. Because it’s awesome, simple as.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  29. Siobhan wrote:

    Sady, I have only this to say: in the past few weeks, I have become absolutely convinced that you and Harriet Jacobs are following me around and writing about what I most need to hear and most need to think about, to the extent that it’s getting a little creepy.

    But not so creepy that I want you to stop. thank you.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  30. Michael Lin wrote:

    Fantastic post, you really channel David Foster Wallace here.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  31. solara wrote:

    Wow, Sady. Wow. Made my day, in a weird way – now I have something to contemplate, to think about. And a new book to read.

    But just so you know – this blog, and others like it, helped save me from becoming a raging, screaming lunatic at the University I’m at. It’s so goddamn conservative here, when I mention feminism, I swear I can hear them putting the devil horns on me. I’ve been openly called Satanic before, and accused of twisting words like the anti-Christ when engaging in what I thought was a polite, academic debate (not many people here like arguing semantics). Being able to watch others, who are less powerless than me, metaphorically skewer people who act like those around me helped to remind me that I wasn’t alone. This post reminded me that others, who don’t think like me, also deserve respect like I demand.

    Thank you again, even if this was painful to read and, in a way, I hate hearing it (because hearing what I need to hear sucks).

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  32. Sady, I’ve been reading you for a while and this beautiful post is making me de-lurk. I think part of the problem is that in so many who are quick to reframe talking about ambiguity or feeling like ‘bad feminists’ as AHA!! Feminists are boycrazy and scared of growing old alone and just want babies or just want this unfeminist kind of sex see they don’t want equality at all HAHAHAHA. We know that feminism was never a simplistic ideology – I mean, my god, if you read in detail about the second wave, you can certainly say some people were dogmatic, but there’s no way you can say a movement with that much debate was dogmatic. But it so often gets talked about it that way, so that talking about our lives in all their complexity – the very thing feminism fought to give us the right to do, gets reframed as a repudiation of feminism. Of course, we have to just go on doing it anyways.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  33. k not K wrote:

    just don’t forget you can do this, and be Sady Fucking Doyle at the same time.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  34. number eight wrote:

    I love this.

    I’ve been around the corner – a bit like what Nikki said, and also about the Othering, about intersectionalism and how are marginalised people supposed to gather the courage to talk when there’s a good chance they’ll hurt someone from a marginalised group they don’t belong to? How do we deal with that? About the great spectacle of troll-slaying, only most of us can be the same troll-creature right the next minute, right? And we can’t just create masses of the virtually undead all around us, right? So, around the corner, not actually the same thing, but this piece helped a lot.

    And, I still like the troll-slaying! And Tiger Beatdown, I’m new and I love it.
    (and, fwiw, I’m also with Kate’s first post.)

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  35. jeni wrote:

    “And if there’s nothing in your ideology to explain them, well, then: Make some new ideology, lady. People before you have done it. It’s not like you need a license; it’s not like we ever have to stop.”

    This is the most incredible reminder to really be ourselves, whether someone else thinks we know enough about it or not. Thank you!

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  36. Teaspoon wrote:

    Powerful writing, Sady. This is going to be rolling around my head today while I’m supposed to be writing a grant proposal.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  37. queen emily wrote:

    >>>That outraged, righteous, upright, know-it-all person who has compassion for all the right people and scorn for all the wrong ones, who’s on the right side (your side) of all the issues: I think she’s dangerous, and I think she’s at least partially false.

    I think you’re bang on. It’s something I’ve been trying to break out of for awhile, to not altogether successful results.

    I think the end result of that is not just groupthink on political and aesthetic, but a scapegoating of those who end up on the Wrong Side of the debate. Remember Sady and her mistaken views about [Glee, Lady Gaga, the environment, cheese]?

    I think the fear of being on the wrong side propels a certain amount of the outrage sometimes…

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  38. Samantha B. wrote:

    As someone who’s not unfamiliar with the self-destructive dealio, albeit most likely in a more minor key than Kraus describes, I would add that self-discovery, for me, has had a lot to do with the discovery of others. Fucking empathy matters. Something that certainly reconciles what you’re detailing here, Sady. What got me to a betterish (-ish) place was when I realized those dudes that were treating me like shit, they actually had it a fuckload worse than me. My crap experiences paled in comparison to theirs. And that right there lead to a sense of (because I slept like crap last night, I’m not going to grasp for a more interesting word) peace and self-acceptance that I had never had had.

    So yeah, I’d say that the good v. evil, us v. them blah blah blah: damn counterproductive.

    On the other hand, I’d also firmly argue, that feminism provides a structure for precisely that empathy and self-examination, the care and compassion for others and the goal of reconciling, I dunno, emotional and philosophical inconsistencies. It ain’t fucking easy, for sure though, so I think it absolutely matters that it be regularly interrogated as this post, per my ramblingly read, tries to do.

    So: this comment brutally violates the be-quasi-entertaining guiding principle of internet commentary; but, eh, it’s a candid outpouring of what’s really, really, really helped me by the shitload.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  39. Lucy Jane wrote:

    Like Siobhan said above, it seems like Tiger Beatdown is somehow psychically full of posts that are exactly what I need to hear this week. This post is entirely marvelous, and that’s because it’s so chock-full of truthfulness and vulnerability.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  40. Beth Turner wrote:

    I think that’s why I have called my blog a “rant” blog. Because I needed a place where I could yell out loud about things and tell people without having to bore people to tears. A lot of what I rant about is from my perspective and I don’t expect people to agree with me.

    When I was young I used to look at people and wonder what they were thinking, now I’m 26 and I know what they’re thinking about. Themselves.

    Most people don’t give a damn about the people around them because we’re all caught up in our own neurosis.

    But yes, this is a good post, and a good point.

    But I will say that you once said you were the “skittles of feminism” and I’ve appreciated that! I’ve liked the fact that this blog isn’t as heavy handed as others and doesn’t make me feel like I’m a demon for disagreeing.

    So yes.

    I’m rambling….will go away now.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  41. emjaybee wrote:

    This post is beautiful and true.

    Perhaps we should borrow one of the better ideas in religion, the one about acknowledging perfection to be impossible, but worth striving towards. And also the one about not judging the fuckups of others without acknowledging our own daily/hourly fuckups.

    We are all a little bit broken, in other words.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  42. Kiri wrote:

    Um. Wow. You took the words right out of my brain.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  43. William Craft wrote:

    Dear Sady,

    This is the best thing I’ve read in months. As a male who can’t abide the witch-burning that sometimes goes on with in-crowds, I’ve felt discouraged by feminism in the past. Your story gives me the conviction that there’s a lot worth fighting for in feminism.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink
  44. teej wrote:

    Sady, this is a phenomenal post. It is really resonating with me.

    I think that this is applicable beyond feminism as well – it made me think of the smugness of the corporate world. There’s this weird attitude that we are all supposed to be the perfect person, 100% responsible, have everything thought of in advance, always say the right thing… The only acceptable person is the perfect person.

    It’s stressful wherever I find it. Thanks for being an awesome writer who calls it out.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  45. Katie wrote:

    hey lady I dunno how much weird fawning you want on this post but I liked it

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  46. But we’ve been doing it for a while now, the feminism thing, and the theories are already out there and readily accessible. They even feel unquestionable, some of the time: Authoritative statements about our lives, like those uttered by Freud or the medical profession. To say that they just don’t feel right, that they don’t describe you or who you are or how your life has gone thus far, feels wrong and heretical; it might get you accused of false consciousness or bad feminism or internalizing the oppressor. Instead of starting where we are and trying to theorize it, all too often, we take the theories and try to cram our lives into them, and ignore or cut off the parts that don’t fit. What we end up with is a vision of ourselves that often feels purer and more Feminist-Approved than who we really are; it feels nice and strong and Good and, most crucially, safe. However, we’ve also barred off all of those messy, complicated, unlikable parts of ourselves, and forbidden ourselves to examine or learn from them. Which is a bad move, given that the messy and complicated and unlikable and as-yet-untheorized, the unspoken and the unspeakable, is where we’re supposed to start.

    This is more or less why I am on hiatus from feminist blogging, and I have never seen it better articulate. Thank you for this post, Sady — it is a gift.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  47. Jackie wrote:

    Thank you for writing this.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  48. Says Teej: “I think that this is applicable beyond feminism as well – it made me think of the smugness of the corporate world. There’s this weird attitude that we are all supposed to be the perfect person, 100% responsible, have everything thought of in advance, always say the right thing… The only acceptable person is the perfect person.”

    I thought the same thing, but replace “corporate world” with “parenting world.” Or more precisely, “mothering world.”

    I’ve been thinking about this post for 2 days. Seriously cool.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  49. alex wrote:

    YES YES YES.

    When I first started learning about feminism, THESE parts (the Othering, the hostility, the holier-than-thou purity) turned me off in a big way. However, I love what you said about how feminism is about understanding the female condition. What interested me so much about your blog and other feminist writings were how they related so directly to my life. They even played an extremely large part in forming my identity as a woman. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels shut out by a movement that is clearly so important… taking the movement out of the context of my own life and experiences, I feel disoriented and unable to contribute to a conversation led by people who are so thoroughly well-versed on the “right” things to say. I quickly became frustrated with yet another conversation that was only anchored in truth by the debaters’ /opinions/ of the truth. In my opinion, anyone can be convinced of anything if presented with a reasonable argument without giving the opposite side a chance to defend itself. But I want to get to the truth! Not the theoretical “right” opinion on a book or a person or an idea. Certainly it’s impossible to find if all parties don’t keep an open mind. In short, thank you for keeping an open mind and acknowledging the exclusive nature of things. I feel much more included and “safe” now.

    I also strongly agree with Christen. It’s frustrating not knowing how to translate ideas that seemed so clear in my head to someone who might be more skeptical about it than I was. It’s usually when I’m trying and failing to explain “my” “feminist” opinion that I question whether or not I blindly accepted that opinion from someone else simply because it sounded right when /they/ explained it to me.

    My thoughts are all jumbled, but thanks for making us all a little more self aware and givin a little guidance for unjumbling all the thoughts.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  50. Erin B. wrote:

    I wish I had an eloquent response, but all I have is: thank you for this.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
  51. Zoe wrote:

    Thanks so much for this, Sady. I’ve worried about, and done, so much that this post covers. Knowing that you’re doing this kind of self-examination, and seeing you share it, is really helpful, for my own progression, but also because people have called me out on the backing-everything-up-with-a-ladyblog thing, and though this was more 6 months ago than now, I didn’t find any way to prove I wasn’t brainwashed. Now I can point them to this post! Ha.

    It’s been almost a year since I found TBD and the Sexist, and thus engaged with Internet Feminism. For the first 6 months, I primarily prescribed blogs to people instead of talking to them, which proved utterly useless, and I have gotten much better at making conversations count.

    In thinking about this post, and reflecting on how I’ve shifted in the last year, I noticed that the people I ask to read certain blogs are the people whose kyriarchal bullshit I’d been putting up with for years, who still mattered to me. It was because I thought my voice would mean less to them than someone else’s, with a following, so I sent you, or Amanda, or Melissa. With people I’ve met more recently, I talk. The stakes aren’t as high, and they’re more likely to respect me.

    TBD doesn’t just amplify your voice, it amplifies mine, and supports me in exploring whateverthehell my voice is. That sounds pretty close to where you go, at the end of this piece. You’re doing a good job.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Permalink
  52. Laura wrote:

    This post hit me like a smack in the face. I was always so angry when people who weren’t feminists insisted I was approaching it all wrong, not letting anyone feel comfortable in debate, assuming my position was always the good and holy one. I have ‘othered’ non-feminists entirely and acted like they are on another plain and basically don’t deserve to be treated with respect unless they fit into my view of the world.

    I’m going to have to do a lot of introspection, like many readers here it seems. Thank you.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 3:02 am | Permalink
  53. KatherineSpins wrote:

    This literally made me weep at my desk. Thank you for taking the time to think through what you wanted to say – and then for being brave enough to post it out there. I read several feminist blogs, and they all have interesting things to say. But few of them touch me, speak to my heart, the way yours does… especially with posts like this.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  54. Maggie wrote:

    This, this is exactly hwy I can’t spend too long immersed in the feminist blogosphere – everything goes a little 2D around the edges when I do. Sometimes you have to see People, first, and figure out where they stand in the various systems we’ve worked out to talk about oppression later. The number one thing I try to live my life around is Empathy, and sometimes I feel like there isn’t enough of it even in the places that only exist in response to its lack and the consequences thereof.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  55. Tabby Watauga wrote:

    Yes! Thank you. It is hard to want what one wants and to go after it wholly and awkwardly and embarrassingly. It’s an ongoing project for me.

    And: I like the Sady persona, but hearing more from the actual real person behind her will be awesome.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  56. Jesse wrote:

    Your next challenge is to keep your head straight in this whirlwind of gratitude and praise. It’ll be hard to stay off the pedestal when you’re so incisive and funny, and such a good writer. The struggle continues! And never ends. One wins by continuing to struggle, I think. If there’s something beyond that, I’ve never heard anyone say what it is. If the Tao can be explained, it is not the Tao.

    I was getting all ready to dismiss Chris Kraus at the beginning of this post, too, because of the fucked-upness. Because I’m so much better, right? And then your experience reading her work turns the post inside-out. You turn inside-out and so do we, a little. That is just so cool.

    Ever read ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’? About dirt-poor white sharecroppers in the South? A similar thing happened to James Agee while writing it. He was supposed to write a magazine article and ended up staring into his own soul, and meanwhile produced this book doing it. These are places where writing becomes the road to wisdom. So exciting! Thanks again!

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  57. Ellie wrote:

    De-lurking, to say what a bunch of other folks have already said in a not-very-eloquent way but THANK YOU.

    I think the commenting section here at TBD is often very problematic, I don’t really read it, but this is true of basically every blog ever invented and I couldn’t begin to tell you how to “fix” it. (There probably isn’t a fix, finding the balance between ‘safe space’ and not allowing anyone who isn’t a perfect, well-read, feminist who doesn’t get into any tricky -isms is impossible).

    I guess I’m sort of going off here, but I love your posts. Yours, C.L.s, Silvana’s, and everyone else I’ve read on here are wonderful, wonderful.

    The most problematic area I find in feminist blogs I think is the commenting section, more often than not I feel commenting sections become a million echoes “YES! This why X is wrong!” and anyone who offers a critique is immediately bashed by like 80 billion folks.

    TBD example: C.L.’s wonderful post on the Marie Arraras 911 call, someone offered a possible explanation for how the operator acted and that person WAS AN APOLOGIST. 80 billion folks bashed, even those somewhat-honestly engaging in counters to what said person said were rude.

    I guess what I’m saying is that some things are super disheartening, but THIS is super-heartening. THIS just helped me so much.

    I don’t know, thanks. Will shut up now. =]

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  58. rrp wrote:

    Thank you so much for this post.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  59. Erin wrote:

    I actually think the commenting section here at TBD is pretty great. I’m sure if I’d acted as a Rand apologist on pretty much any other feminist blog with as active a group of commenters I would have just been ripped to shreds. As a feminist who defends Ayn Rand and Taylor Swift amongst other unpopular people/subjects in feminism, I actually feel pretty welcome here (accept when it comes to one subject that I’m just not even going to bring up). Anyways, my point is that this blog is doing better than most, so yay.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  60. Rachel_in_WY wrote:

    There’s a lot to think about here and a lot to sort through. I recently sort of withdrew from blogging for awhile due to an incredibly unpleasant experience with an angry troll-type who wasn’t happy just cyberstalking me anymore, and took it live, to the real world. And it made me withdraw from my blog and do a lot of rethinking.

    For me the thing about being a feminist blogger is that you have dual, or multiple, roles. On the one hand you are a real, flawed person, and it’s partly that personality that your readers enjoy. But also you’re performatively showing how feminism is done. New feminists are reading you, and MRAs are reading you, and in a sense you’re not just saying “this is how I actually think in real life” but more like “this is how we ought to think about this stuff.” But of course it does become a narrative and you do become a persona and there is a script you follow. Which to some extent is unavoidable in any publicly shared activity.

    But… I don’t know, I also think it’s a little inaccurate to characterize feminism as a narrative or script – it’s more like a political stance to me. So you can be this real, flawed person who often gets it wrong, but the stance you’ve taken is the important thing. And your willingness to be self-reflective and alter your views and listen to others is a vital part of this stance.

    And in the end the important thing that goes on here is the dialogue. So maybe that’s the question to ask in the end: is my online persona one that cultivates and encourages constructive dialogue or does it obstruct it in some way? To me this is more interesting than wondering how authentic my online persona is. Partially because I don’t see blogging as analogous to writing a memoir in which there’s an expectation of authenticity, but also because I think most public behavior is a performance of some kind or other. So asking “is this really who I am?” is maybe less informative than asking “is this who I want to be(come)?” But…I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this too, and I think this kind of self-reflection is immensely important.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  61. zillah975 wrote:

    This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking and encouraging post. Thank you for making it.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  62. Thank you for your post.

    Bizarrely enough, I wrote a post today on much this very same thing. I mention that not to publicize it but to note how interesting it is that many of us are simultaneously on the same general wavelength.

    Maybe it doesn’t matter where our influences comes from so much as the convergence of ideas that produces thought-provoking essays like this one.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
  63. Lizzy wrote:

    Ouch. Damn, that hit close to home.

    Which is a good thing, and thank you for your honesty.

    Of course, every time I start to doubt and get hung up on my failings and worry I’m using social justice in some not-so-admirable ways, I get reminded of the alternative. The rape jokes my dorm mates make, the casual ableist slurs, the staggeringly ignorant racism of my friends and family, the snickers of students when a professor dares acknowledge trans people’s existence… Yes, those of us who try to do better may get a little too self-important or dogmatic or herd-minded at times; no, we are not perfect. We’re human — what’s new? But at least we try. And we have you to remind us that we all can do better. :)

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  64. Casey wrote:

    OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU. Also your worrrrrds. And I need this book. I need this book like I need to be honest with myself. And who doesn’t?

    Keep on truckin, Sady my new favorite Lady.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  65. firefly wrote:

    Brilliant. We should stop trying to fit ourselves and others into what we believe in, because that was the start of ignorance and not understanding. What happened to theorizing and doubting everything?

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  66. Ayla wrote:

    “You are not an inspiration to me because I see you as an icon of feminism. You are an inspiration to me because of your humanity. You don’t come across as a paragon of virtue or some yardstick upon which to measure my own immature feminism. ”

    THIS. THIS THIS THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES THIS!

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  67. Aliaras wrote:

    You know, it seems funny to me to comment on this blog post about how much I resonate with and identify with this blog post, because of the subject matter. And I feel like maybe that’s not quite getting it. I don’t know.

    In any event, I think I’ll go turn off the internet for a while and read a book.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Permalink
  68. Nathan wrote:

    I love you for this. I have to say: the MOST insightful thing I’ve read since The Bluest Eye.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 4:26 am | Permalink
  69. zeeshan wrote:

    i have nothing to say except thank you for your intellectual honesty and sharing your thoughts.

    i really don’t read blogs regularly but will try to keep an eye on yours now.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 5:40 am | Permalink
  70. Alix wrote:

    None of us are perfect. You, though, are a brilliant writer, whatever you choose to write.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  71. pithy with a pistol wrote:

    Please publish this at the beginning of every feminist textbook. Or math textbook, or any textbook.
    Thank you for writing this, as it vastly improved my morning.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  72. berdawn wrote:

    I’m new here and really enjoy your writing. I do wonder at the statement “If feminism is about understanding the female situation”? Is that what faminism is about or is it that what fiction is about?

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  73. Tabs wrote:

    I read this a few days ago and meant to say: <3 <3 <3 <3

    I read The Bell Jar last year for the first time (after never having heard of it, even) — and felt like Sylvia Plath was speaking to me from beyond – as if she found me at precisely the right moment, when I was beginning to fall into a serious depressive “episode.” Then, recently, I read Emily Gould’s And the Heart Says Whatever, and felt the same way, like it was, fuck, Fate or something.

    And now this.

    There are things we could all be doing and implications/consequences of our actions – some we don’t even see for a looong time – but there are also times when we simply exist/interact, with little thought or critical thought anyway, and that’s okay. We’re trying. Being a human is a damned difficult thing and, personally, I think you’re doing a fab job.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  74. Brenda wrote:

    This was really great, Sady.

    I have grown pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the internet feminism that discounts aesthetics and pleasure and evaluates everything on an oppressive-to-subversive scale. That’s not how I experience art or pop culture and while I understand for a lot of people seeing the sexism in pop culture is what wakes them up to feminism so critiques that point this stuff out are not totally unwelcome…it’s not something I particularly want to read about or think about. Even when I don’t totally agree with everything written on Tiger Beatdown, you at least seem interested in nuance and complexity and not reducing everything to easy formulas and either-or questions. Thanks for pushing it and making me think things instead of being annoyed.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  75. Ashley wrote:

    Thank you.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  76. Snowy wrote:

    Hi Sady. This is a good post. It’s a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m probably going to make this comment about ME and how your words relate to MEMEME so I’m sorry about that, but I want you to know I do appreciate you writing this post and for making me think so hard about this stuff. I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. I’m not trying to idolize you.

    I’ve caught myself engaging in this kind of thing too. In my case, part of it is that I am a high-functioning autistic and learning to mimic acceptable social behavior became a necessity for me in young adulthood. Copying people even when I didn’t quite understand why I was doing it or what it meant became essential to me in being able to fit in, make friends and be able to communicate with people. I had to parrot some stuff I hadn’t really thought about (or had thought about but didn’t agree with) in order to make some of my real thoughts known.

    But maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Maybe I was wrong. I used to tell myself it was a necessary evil but now I’m not so sure. A lot of my thoughts are “weird” though, so I’m not sure about my not being sure. Does that make sense?

    I guess I feel like sometimes, for some people, there is some value in pre-assigned, agreed roles, and putting your best self forward. It can affect how you treat people. It can make you a better person.

    But being more honest can make you a better person too. And I feel like things can become TOO… well, like you described. Nobody thinks about anything. And that is bad, because we need more new and original thoughts in the world, not less.

    I know this is kind of rambling and not totally coherent, and I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to get it all off my chest before I totally forgot.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  77. I can’t and won’t comment on Internet Feminism. I’m a bad example myself, being (as I sometimes feel) the only Feminist on the Intertubes who prefers to focus on women (not womyn and not men, for fuck’s sake.)

    I can comment on why we reach for other people’s words to defend our perspectives – because that’s how geekery works. Because that’s how academics works. Because that’s how women, in general, avoid being reamed for having an opinion. Having another opinion to back you up provides strength – and how much better if that other opinion is someone famous, powerful or male. (All 3 doesn’t work. No one believes that President Obama agrees with you that your fetish is less offensive than that other fetish over there.)

    Bottom line – geekery is a boy’s club and women for some reason always feel like they have to defend themselves. Heaven forfend that we just have an opinion and DO NO CARE what other people think or say. So we pretend to play be the boy’s rules: Picture or it never happened. Quote someone important, or you’re full of shit.

    You know what? If I find a thing offensive that’s because it offended me. And I refuse, utterly and completely, to defend that. It is offensive because I am offended. If I was entertained by a thing, it is entertaining. No picture, no quote. No reference to Camille Paglia. QED.

    Cheers,

    Erica

    Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!
    http://okazu.blogspot.com

    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  78. Courtney wrote:

    Thank you for this. Thank you so much.

    I’ve been caught up in this need to be so Absolutely! Correct! in my feminism that it is paralyzing my thought processes. When I catch myself agonizing over one fucking sentence in a comment on a blog because I can’t figure out the perfectly intersectionally correct phrasing with which to communicate a tangential thought…it’s hard not to wonder what the hell I’m doing.

    What I’m doing is walking on eggshells, just like I used to do when I was trying to articulate don’t-treat-me-like-crap-because-i-am-a-woman thoughts before I would admit to being feminist. Believing that there is a way to be perfectly feminist can easily devolve into self-flagellation (a particular hobby of us codependent fuckup types.) It has been very easy for me to fall into the trap of being the same in-authentic person with a different vocabulary.

    Sady Fucking Doyle–you rock. And you will continue to rock no matter what you decide do do in this space. I just hope you keep letting us come along for the ride.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink
  79. Mandy wrote:

    Glad to see this kind of self-reflection and personal honesty from Internet Feminists.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  80. Kathy wrote:

    This so needed to be said. Thank you. I spent the better part of my blogging life as a personal-slash-entertainment blogger and, at one point, writing for a pretty big deal of a website. I still don’t know where I am — in the feminist blogosphere, and with my own take on feminism. So many of its tenets don’t fit with my own personal narrative, but I don’t feel, I don’t know, advanced (?) enough to question it, or its leaders. I do quote a lot of other bloggers whose opinions I respect rather than trusting my own, probably far too often. I don’t know if it’s fear of being a bad feminist, a bad liberal, not being seen as sufficiently smart enough, or (likely) some combination of all three.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  81. Rachel wrote:

    Yes. One Hundred Times Yes.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  82. Gretchen wrote:

    I love this.

    There are times when it’s good to be reminded that we are none of us perfect, and that sometimes our motivations are not as pure as the rationalization we give for them.

    Sounds like “I love Dick” acted as that sort of reminder to you, and now you have provided the rest of us with a reality check.

    Thank you.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 1:59 am | Permalink
  83. Liz Henry wrote:

    Well, I do have hopes that recording some of our real life messiness will help break the potential posturing that makes us shudder.

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink

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