A few weeks ago I got my chance to present my paper ‘Newly Inked Narratives’, and among the questions I was asked afterwards was: “Do you believe that tattoo ink, which rests within skin (the barrier you mentioned earlier), is significant at a time when binaries and boundaries (particularly gender) are being blurred and stripped away?” My response was: “It is certainly symbolic, it has certainly been my experience that many who place significance in tattoos are establishing their identities outside of the gender binary.” That is true, however it implies a personal political stance that is not mine. I believe in discourse, and respect, and the person asking the question I respect greatly. I knew going into the ins and outs of my politics was not appropriate there (nor suitably applicable), however it is here.
I want people to get to know me before I give them certain details, ones that people often use to define a whole person. Online I’ll write about my sexuality, my transsexuality, my bipolar diagnosis- but offline I always have someone know me as me first, before divulging the heavy stuff. This is because I am not defined by those things, and to present them upfront will colour perceptions regardless of how accepting or knowledgeable they are. This is the same reason why I have avoided directly talking politics here (aside from a post on discourse, which still hinted at something more controversial). I worry that such discussion would override the purpose of this site. However talk and argue politics is all many others do, and at this point I think a single post with all the ‘heavy-stuff’ might be in order. I still worry that Resonance Frequency might turn from a celebration of media to a mean-spirited rant. However, now that I have a modest yet genuine body of work that reflects my true priorities, I feel more confident and wanting to share some of my feelings on modern media criticism, and the politics which increasingly surround it. So here it is: The one and only dedicated ‘Politics Post’, if only to get things off my chest.
Because I swear to god, if I hear the phrase “That triggered me.” one more goddamn time, I’m going to rampage.
If you read between the lines of my post on discourse, you’ll note that it’s largely a number of tips for the people in support of #GamerGate (wow, two sentences in and I’m already- no, focus). I do believe that the tag is connected to a toxic brand and losing battle, however I do not believe that makes the radical feminist ideology it opposes correct. Sadly the current level of debate rarely rises above straw-men and the usual tired arguments (and if nothing else that’s terribly boring internet drama to watch). More than ever, recent events have also shown that both parties have a large portion of people who get headaches whenever they’re asked to think critically, and there are also buried intellectuals on both sides (who manipulate their respective movements to suit their ends).
In a nutshell: The problem with third-wave/ radical feminism is that it is purely a structural critique, but no longer a relevant cultural one. First-wave feminism gave women the vote, and the right to be considered legal person; very important. Second-wave feminism was concerned with the right to birth-control, and rightful integration into the workforce; an equally important step. Third-wave feminism is concerned with rape culture theory, anti-oppressive practice (and believe me, we’ll get to how that started as a profit motive), intersectionality, post-colonialist theory, smashing both ‘the patriarchy’ and the ‘gender binary’, none of which affects women (or men) to the extent many have been led to believe.
“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”
Feminism never had Alexander’s insight, it won the war but continued the battle. The problem occurred when the vast majority of women not so much gained perfect equality, but became equal enough that the remaining wrinkles shouldn’t be straightened-out by a sledgehammer. Pay equality, laws involving reproductive rights, and the representation of women in the workforce are being worked on, but slowly. Legislation isn’t sexy, nor is gradual progress over the course of a decade. This is why you have never read or heard the phrase: Hardcore Moderate! REPRESENT! FIGHT THE- actually, we’re doing fine, but I had a concern over bill 61, clause B4.2: I think the wording is a little ambiguous, and am trepidatious about implementing such a measure at this time.
In the absence of a great threat, and with the internet coming to prominence in the 90’s, it’s no coincidence that third-wave feminism became obsessed with concepts like ‘the patriarchy’. Look at what the internet has done to us, it has created hardline communities were dissent is shouted down and inhibition disowned. Communities like this love and require ephemeral villains to rally behind (the same way that fascists do; there I called them femanazis in a way that’s actually applicable). The strength of third-wave feminism is that it does nothing but create them. It is an ideology that is based and depends on a victim-complex. The Patriarchy is a myth that cannot be killed by design, and it presents a pretty picture of a societal force dead set on championing men over women, but without a permanent face. A moving target for all your projection and ideological needs.
Radical feminism posits that all men oppress women, and attempt to explain that by saying that they are socialized to do so, by the patriarchy, which exists because men are socialized to oppress women, by the patriarchy. The problem with that narrative (as many have pointed out) is that women are making incredible progress, despite half the population having declared war on them. Some men are threatened, yes, I know this. But most of them don’t give a shit. Hell, some enjoy having more women than men attend university because it’s easier to figure out what courses have the best “my dick to potential pussy” ratio. (The humanities and languages, trust me. Wear one of those ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ shits and you’ll be drowning in it)
What is oppressive, is how the left is as much a culprit as the right in shouting down and attacking critics. In the news right now is the Indiana pizzeria that was attacked because they didn’t want to cater a gay-wedding (because a gay wedding would be so tacky, really people? Have you met ‘the gays’? They’re far to fabulous). It’s funny how suddenly this gives you a new perspective on hate mobs. They exist, certainly, absolutely, that abuse is real- but it’s perpetuated by a Human mob (a terrible and aimless mass of hate and stupidity). Not all gay-rights activist harass small business owners, that’s a fact. Just like not all men oppress women. So why do feminist argue that statement doesn’t apply? It could be because since ‘patriarchy’ is on a wider-scale than any pizzeria, men are ‘compelled’ and ‘socialized’ to oppress women… But then, if that’s true- the enemy is socialization, and we’re teaching more about equality in schools than we ever did before. Whatever your stance on ‘socialization by the patriarchy’, you can’t deny that schools and the world at large is more equitable than it’s ever been, and so let’s give it a decade or so. The world catches up, it always does. Improve the damn school curriculum and teach your kids to know better, don’t demonize half of humanity.
Hell, I’m posting this article online. To depending on who reads this, I’ll either be god’s prophet here to lead us through the darkness, or someone whose tranny ass has to die painfully and publicly because I don’t like what you like. I would very much like to be the former, partially because I am. Just a few more donations, and we can build our spaceship. (Please make the cheques out to Cash)
Unfortunately schools are also teaching radical feminist material, and we do need to change that. The issue is that the modern right has to contend with its own bloat (anti-intellectualism, hard-right religious influence) that is dragging it down. The reason why radical feminism is so successful is because it has successfully appeared academic and legitimate, while painting the right as a bunch of dinosaurs. It’s narrative of resistance is appealing at a time when our dominant narratives have fallen. It should have to contend with an equally sophisticated yet-rational modern conservative theory, one that simply does not exist within public discourse yet.
Of course there’s one argument radical feminism has to discredit this. You all know it! Let’s hear it! Internalized. Misogyny. You’re not a feminist because you’re a self-hating woman. You’ve been blinded, been duped, you’re in the matrix. Or even: you’re too stupid to realize it. Obviously I am: I mean I only have a 4.0 GPA, four-years of anti-oppressive social work experience, spent three years studying 20th century history, and George Orwell is the reason I write. Plus I’m articulate and witty! And I’ve got abs stronger than steel! And that thing I can do with my tongue!
You know what rules the world? Money. Money solves your problems. Money gets you ahead. Money makes you immune. Money talks, and it doesn’t matter whose mouth it comes from. All that matters is having enough to rule the conversation.
I am not a feminist, but I’m grateful to those who won us the war.
To be a feminist right now is to threaten my identity. I like the gender binary. If gender were a social construct, there would be no transsexuals. I was born with a male body, I was socialized as a man, at every turn and pass I had people using male pronouns, and calling me a man. If my gender was a construct, then it would have been constructed as such. But I wasn’t, and the day after I found out that you could transition was the day I came out. Since then I’ve embraced being a woman, I like it. I’ve had to fight for that ‘F’ on my license, it makes me smile every time I see it. Because for seventeen years of my life it was a fantasy. During childhood, my life today was a literal dream. After the past ten years, every single time I look in the mirror, a part of me pauses- and just smiles.
Gender exists. Every goddamn society on the face of this Earth recognizes that, no matter how isolated from one another they have been or still are. I don’t want to smash the gender binary, because doing so erases a big part of who I am. I like my female societal role. I like having it acknowledged. That doesn’t mean I’ll put up with any crap. That doesn’t mean I’m submissive (but even if I were, it would be my choice in this free society of ours). I worry that in our rush to ‘liberate women’ from ‘oppressive gender roles’ that we’ve conflated those gender roles with gender. Different societies across the planet all acknowledge gender, but they also perform it in different ways. In some places a man is required to be masculine, and in another it’s simply one legitimate path among many. Wanting to act more masculine as a woman, or feminine as a man, is not necessarily a sign that one is outside of the binary, only that one is bending rigid gender norms.
There have always been men and women who pushed against those norms, who took on traits associated with the opposite sex, but it is only within the past five or so years that the practice is seen as disproving gender altogether. Am I suddenly wrong for thinking that this gender binary, coupled with a tradition of bending gender norms, has existed for thousands of years for good reason? Is rebellion against those norms suddenly grounds to dismantle gender as we know it? That only in the 21st century are we ‘discovering’ a whole new world of gender? Am I wrong for hesitating to embrace this?
I do speak from a place of being threatened, I did not feel at ease to speak my mind weeks ago. I have to wonder if there’s any true conservatives left. Not the idiots in Ford Nation, but people who pride tradition, solid upstanding values, capitalism (but not libertarianism). Ones willing to think critically about where we’re headed, or who interpret our traditions in modern ways; I feel that tattoos (especially today) are reflective of a very conservative version of identity (one with clear markers, rooted in society’s narratives, and a sign of trust in one’s community). I wonder if people feel that the Internet is an amazing thing, but its nature is twisting our society in ways we haven’t acknowledged and are not prepared for. Not all progress is good, not all norms are evil, and radical feminism is a rapidly bloating beast with values anathema to my self.
Radical Feminism not only has to contend with being a purely structural theory about society, but also an infection by an increasing array of influences stemming from anti-oppressive practice. That is, the belief that all people are oppressed in some way, and that we must acknowledge all of those oppressions, and make way for the oppressed to speak as the sole authorities on their experience.
Anti-Oppressive Practice (AOP) was began life as an updated ‘sensitivity training’. In essence, many clients/ patients of hospitals (in the US, so profit-driven hospitals) were having issues with the staff and social workers not being respectful of their language, culture, having racist assumptions, etc. AOP was created to have hospital workers more mindful of their privileges, in order to be more respectful, so their clients/ patients would access/ pay for more services. Your anti-capitalist ideology exists in service to the worst form of it.
That’s great! More people accessed services, more money was made (albeit for privatized healthcare, which even I don’t support), and we don’t have old school sensitivity training anymore (“They smell like that because of all the curry. They can’t help it!”). The problem is that AOP doesn’t work as an ideology because it assumes that all oppression of the same kind is equal. It assumes that the life of one middle-class white tranny girl is the same as another middle-class white tranny girl. Because when you’re painting the world as an oppressive place, where everyone is constantly at an intersection of all their various identities, you ironically ignore the only identity that matters- the self. It can’t contend with a world where someone facing oppression has nothing valuable to say, or where a rape survivor heals and learns from the experience. The devil is in the details, those little technicalities, and AOP paints with sweeping brush-strokes.
As good as it feels, AOP isn’t applicable to the daily lives of the people it tries to help. Coming at someone’s problem from a structural standpoint does little in the now. Whatever oppression one might face, the day that they come to you looking for help is the day you must help them. From a social work perspective, helping someone access their welfare benefits because of paperwork being misfiled is the problem, not the government’s ideology which compelled it to curtail the welfare state.
For the record: I support the idea of a guaranteed income, but would sell it on the platform that all other forms of welfare become obsolete and may be dismantled should that happen. We’re spending money to help people anyways, we may as well put it directly in their hands and make it their responsibility. Which from a values perspective is far better than the government spending so much time and resources (likely more than if we simply wrote a cheque every month) telling people how to use it.
Radical feminism’s embrace of AOP has made it fat and bloated. Within a few short years, Post-Colonialism and others vie to share the spotlight. We have feminists claiming that Ferguson relates to reproductive rights. We have hours of valuable time dedicated to teaching employees AOP, where it all boils down to: “Some people have it better than others, it’s important to be mindful of that. Don’t be a dick.” AOP attempts to create a space for the marginalized by privileging their voice, but that only leads to people tripping over themselves to prove they’re the most oppressed.
‘The Oppression Olympics’ is not a joke, no matter how much it is joked about. A major component of my essays while studying AOP always dwelled on my ‘social location’. In those sections I had to write out: “I’m a white, well-off, incredibly physically fit individual, who also happens to be a transsexual woman.” Again, the theory here was to promote mindfulness. To apply our ‘social location’ to the subject at hand was to help ensure we understood oppression. Unfortunately when you place a premium on those sections, and when you have entire courses based around questioning privilege, people are going to start racing to the bottom in an effort to be the most guilt-free. Coupled with the voices of oppressed peoples being championed above all others, and you have a classroom where people are playing-up their ‘oppression’ to justify even speaking. I know of one woman who claims she’s oppressed because her Jewish grandparents lived through the Holocaust. Yes I’m sure that was traumatic for them, but you were born in 1995.
Never underestimate the power of white middle-class guilt, it’s an incredible force in this world.
Speaking of incredible things in this world (and terrible tangential segues): In my Kill la Kill is Kinky as Hell article, I wrote that rape culture is an “irrelevant and asinine concept.” I would like to clarify that ambiguous statement by saying that rape culture is not only an irrelevant and asinine concept, but is also actively damaging the people its proponents wish to protect.
Rape Culture theory makes a dangerous assumption, especially when applied to the real world. At university I’ve seen bulletins with statistics such as 40-70% of women (depending on the statistic) will be sexually assaulted, and that many assaults happen on campus. The problem is that when someone fresh out of high school reads that, it leaves the impression that they will be sexually assaulted at some time. I talked with one woman who worried about taking summer classes (that meet between 1830-2130) because of potential assault. For the record: my university is incredibly safe, and during the summer it’s still light out after class, and there’s plenty of people around. But we’re Human, we’re terrible at assessing risk because we are biologically hardwired to assume the worst when dealing with the unknown. I spent four years in a social work program, and during that time I spoke to various campus counselors about their experiences. You’d be surprised how many have young women coming in, convinced that they’ve been sexually assaulted, because their boyfriend said something dickish (even by accident). The rape culture theory has become so prevalent that it threatens to become the dominant narrative. Never mind how those statistics tend to vary so much that I find any of them hard to take seriously, or that many include estimates of ‘unreported crimes’.
Wait, didn’t we criticize Harper a while back for building more prisons in one of the safest decades on record because: “most crimes are unreported”? Didn’t the left say that was just a ploy to inflate the crime rate and justify sinking tax dollars into a purely-ideological venture?
We’ve all heard the argument: “Of course not all men are rapists, but if I gave you a bowl of M&Ms and told you that one-percent of them were poison, you wouldn’t eat any.” Which is a poor analogy, given that bowl is supposed to represent all the people you might be attracted to, never mind half the entire global population. Yeah, an M&M isn’t worth the potential death, but I’m not about to stop dating men because one might hurt me. Hell if I love M&M’s, if they give me purpose, if they are an integral part of my life: then fuck you for poisoning my M&Ms, we’ll talk about this later but could you please pass me the bowl?
There is no cultural conceit that encourages men to rape. Remember: Context is everything, and the existence of a problematic element does not make a work problematic. Rape is a class of its own in terms of violence, but our media is violent, at times it’s violent enough that it reveals aspects of our culture- namely our increasing malaise, dissociation, and desire to see all of civilization burn to the ground to make the ringing and the twitter and the Facebook updates stop. In media rape is a tool, a lazy one often, but still a useful tool in establishing a villain in many stories.
Advertisements alluding to rape sell a fantasy, but I’m not convinced that fantasy is only for men. Not with the fact that fantasy dabbles in the taboo, not with many women having rape fantasies. Not when Fifty Shades of Grey is a cultural phenomenon will I view these advertisements as perpetuating a culture, because they are only delivering on what that culture wants. These advertisements and films and novels and media of all kinds has an effect on uh… reflects something to people- like… it… you know, sound waves? Like when a glass starts shaking, or breaks? When media hits a- shit, what is it called? Oh fuck it: the point is people like stuff and demand creates supply- as much as advertising appears otherwise, they’re still bound to sell goods by means of resonating (that’s the word!) with consumers. The desire is there; it isn’t manufactured, but articulated.
What I’m saying is that rape culture doesn’t perpetuate rape, the need to indulge in the most base violent aspects of ourselves perpetuates the demand and lust for rape fantasies. Narratives have impact on us, but media is our reflection just as much. In order for media to help create us, we must first create its entirety. It’s not our media, it’s not our culture, it’s us- all of us that demands it, and that’s not inherently wrong.
I think that’s a far more unsettling and challenging view of rape and our society, one that certainly makes ‘rape culture’ theory easy to swallow by comparison.
The phrase, “That triggered me.” has become so misused that it’s a meme. Like so many aspects of radical feminism, the road to hell is paved with good intentions; what started as a way to show mindfulness and respect, has turned into a blanket catch-all for people who either wish to stifle discourse, or cannot handle being challenged or uncomfortable. There is a line between “I’ve had traumatic experiences involving rape, may we please discuss something else.” and “That’s a trigger, don’t say that, and you have to warn people first.”
Trigger warnings were voluntary ways for writers to say: “The following program contains scenes of coarse language, and extreme violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” However I have seen it imposed on more and more writers, not just on those who discussed rape and other difficult topics, but even those who just skimmed the surface. Hell, the demand for ‘trigger warnings’ has expanded to anything involving black humour/ violence, racism, and even topics that just remind people of rape. More so, not only do we have more and more young women convinced that they will or have been sexually assaulted or abused (because their boyfriend was an asshole and insulted them), we have many of those same people claiming ‘trigger’ to smother any hint of what makes them uncomfortable. You cannot demand that the world try to anticipate what might offend you, especially in ways that aren’t obvious in the slightest. A Green Bay Packers fan molested you? Well shit, that’s not the deli’s fault!
It’s more than that doing so cheapens the ability of actual PTSD sufferers to articulate their suffering, it becomes an excuse to lay down and surrender. To live your life in fear of ‘triggers’ is to give up, and let whoever hurt you win.
Healing from trauma is a nightmare, a slow process that hurts- a lot. I’ve been there. After my experiences there was a time when I couldn’t be touched. I would walk out of class if sensitive material was covered, because it did truly cut into me. It tore me to shreds. But as hard as it is, you have to get back up again. There came a time when I knew that if I avoided any and all hints of that trauma, then he beat me. He won. And was I going to let that sonofabitch beat me? Hell no! I sat in therapy as my therapist put her hands on me, I tried to engage just a little more in class, and I ultimately returned to the activity and context in which the trauma happened. And it was terrifying, and hard, and there were moments that triggered flashbacks, and-
I beat it. I’m in control. The flashbacks are gone. The nightmares have ceased. Hell, I’ve started to enjoy rape jokes (black humour is a wondrous coping mechanism), and fantasies, and I think Kill la Kill is one of the best things television as a medium has produced, and ship Ryuko and Senketsu like there’s no tomorrow. I returned to having sex, I returned to doing BDSM, I returned to being an active participant in class, all of which I had loved and lost, but then reclaimed.
If you’re healing from real physical, mental trauma, or if you got felt up once at a party:
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee (is someone I always wished I could have a beer with)
I don’t care if your boyfriend hurt your feelings, or if someone said something that made you uncomfortable, guess what- they were being assholes, but the world’s full of ’em. You were raped? That’s something no human should ever experience, but trust me when I say you can beat it. Because for every monster in the world there’s a hundred kind and honest folk. The world is full of people who have been torn down, seen their life turn to ash in front of them, who have wept- but then planted their feet on the ground and stood the hell back up and roared. Ask for help when you need it, rest when you need it, but never surrender yourself to it. The war can take years, take a lifetime, and yet some people will fight it tooth and nail every day, and those people are goddamn heroes. Or you go right ahead, sit there behind your trigger warnings, let it consume you for all I give a damn; give up and crawl into your shell to die. Some people don’t want to get better, and those people ain’t worth a fuck.
I’ll be outside enjoying life with the people who who refused to be broken, and we’re here for you if you want to join us.
Next up: An essay on The Legend of Korra, the impact of psychology and technology on fandoms, and the power ninety seconds has over three years! Candy! Puppies! Levity! Wee!
Hey, it worked for Last Week Tonight…