Skip to content

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.


  1. alex wrote:


    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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. rrp wrote:

    Thank you so much for this post.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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. ”


    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. Ashley wrote:

    Thank you.

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  28. 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
  29. 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.



    Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!

    Monday, June 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  30. 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
  31. 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
  32. 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
  33. Rachel wrote:

    Yes. One Hundred Times Yes.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  34. 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
  35. 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

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] read Sady’s entire post. Now. I’ll […]

  2. […] on a similar question (striking out into unfamiliar territory, looking for a genuine fit), read this piece by Sady Doyle if you haven’t already. The way I interpret it, Sady’s reflecting on looking for […]

  3. Natural Women on Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 4:47 am

    […] very gaps were coincidentally under forensic examination in a Tiger Beatdown post highlighted both by Ghetsuhm and MeganWegan recently.  The curious volume under review in the […]

  4. Before shot. « No New Year on Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

    […] without making everything either ethical or unethical, subversive or problematic — I do want to think about how I live and its material impact. I want to be politically […]