Sunday, June 18, 2006

Life is a Process

Apparently Hugo wants to compound the annoying.

Right off the bat, he gets it wrong. I, at least, was not annoyed because I "felt [Hugo] took it too easy on Pete when he announced that he wasn't ready to practice pro-feminism and give up some of his "bad boy" behavior" I was pissed because he failed to concentrate on the most obvious and fundamental problem with Pete's framing of the question: treating others nicely in order to get something out of them isn't really very nice.

Hugo then goes on to argue for an incremental approach - without (yet again) explaining his actual approach. As far as I can tell, the idea seems to be that he wins Pete's trust by being one of the guys, and then Pete slowly comes to see how wise Hugo really is.

First of all, sorry, but that shit ain't ever gonna to work.

By all means, use your privilege to everyone's advantage - but if you aren't using your privilege to challenge the whole idea of privilege, then it really isn't to everyone's advantage, is it? That goes for every step of the process - not just the final event - because, as you point out, there isn't one. You can challenge it a little or a lot depending on the situation - but it must always be challenged.

Secondly, yes, Hugo, we all realize that becoming feminist is a process. Amazingly enough, we know this in part because practically all of us consider ourselves to be in the middle of this process ourselves. Despite my snarkiness, I don't actually believe I know everything - even about feminism. I'm not questioning that one needs to learn to walk before one can run - I'm questioning your actual arguments.

(....and that really bad pool analogy - but others have covered that pretty well already)

As I said elsewhere, like a lot of people asking for advice, Pete's question just screams "I know I should do this, but I don't want to; please tell me I don't have to!" At which point your job is not to say "No, you don't have to." Commiserating on the fact that life is both hard and strange is just fine - helping him turn this lament into further excuses not to act like an actual adult is not. Especially when such laments essentially boil down to "they are not worthy!" as one can easily argue your upholding of the of "good girls" who like "bad boys" stereotype most definitely falls under.

Pete is going to decide to be a good person or not. As with everyone else, this will be daily decision and struggle. Pete's problem is not with feminism in particular, but with being a responsible adult. Once he learns to act like an adult, you can argue feminism with him on a point by point basis - until he learns to be an adult, any feminism he adopts will be half-hearted and easily abandoned.

If your goal is to stay friends with him so that when he finally decides to become and adult, you can be there to guide him into feminism - fine. But that's not incremental, that's "waiting in the wings". And in the meantime you are reinforcing the homosociality that makes it so easy for him to stay a child when it comes to dealing with women.

You claim to be following Martin and imply that those who disagree with you think everyone should be Malcoms. I am saying that you are not even following King's example in this particular instance. King did not back down from focusing on the truth just because it might anger people. In fact, angering people was a crucial part of his strategy - the whole non-violence thing only really works when you have something to compare it to. If all they'd done was serve the protesters food when they sat down at the lunch counter, there really wouldn't have been anything to protest, now would there?

In missions work, you learn fast that hectoring (the "hellfire and brimstone" strategy) gets you nowhere fast.  Though Christianity has a history of aggressive and often violent proselytizing, modern evangelism is an elegant, intellectually sophisticated,  culturally sensitive seduction.  I'm convinced that those of us who preach feminism should use the same strategies!


Telling people they are evil doesn't win many allies. Wow. Real shocker there. So feminists should do everything they can to never show anger - no matter how justified?

Again, WTF?

Feminism has never had quite the problem most religions have had with regard to separating the sin and the sinner. Public perception that they are one and the same is a big problem, but so is public perception that feminists are bitter, frigid, hypocritical, whores who do in fact hate all men (not just acts of sexism). You are in the position to help dispel these myths. And what do you do? You argue that even feminists like "bad boys" because women don't like wussies. You go from "Being pro-feminist isn't about getting laid!" to "you're reinforcing stereotypes if you act that way!" in less than a nano second. What about focusing on "women are individuals" or suggesting "maybe the "bad boys" were just better looking than you" or perhaps even "maybe the "good girls" could see through yourmask"? What the hell happened to "feminism is about (believing women are human/treating women with respect/etc.)"?


I can't give up on him though, because in addition writing a lot of thought provoking posts, he has the sense to apologize for his most obvious mistake.

For that reason, I'll reiterate. My problem, Hugo, is not with the idea of an incremental approach, it's with the idea that an incremental approach is synonymous with nibbling around the edges. I think that, no matter what, you always need to do your best to go after the heart of the issue before you. Sometimes it's not best to push very hard, but if the issue raised is childish selfishness, and you end up spending the bulk of your time talking about showing a good front and not giving fodder to enemies, you fucked up.

It's ok that you fucked up. As long as you admit it so that you can do better next time. (even if it's only to yourself)

This whole feminism thing is a process after all.

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