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What I'm Saying Is, The Search For Equality Is Pretty Messy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    *standing up on soapbox, ahem* No, he isn't. I have respected his views on feminism for a while. But in this case arguing that "ist" isn't natural when it comes to "feminist" and then suggesting another "ist" word to replace it kind of destroys his argument. And gender is a social construct. It's not the "natural order of things".

    Also...I find it problematic that he addresses his audience (both the one in person, and the one that follows his work/online presence) and asks them to take this new word up. As if he is the end all and be all of authority on the word feminism. I understand that is not his intent here, but it is so easy to take it in that light.

    I also object, strongly, to the need to recoin a word we already have. I think it would be a far better use of that kind of time to address how to tackle changing the system, rather than arguing about a label. No one is ever going to agree on the label. When we as feminists, or advocates of racial equality, or advocates of LGBTQ issues start circling in around the label we use, patriarchy/The Man/society has already won. They can sit around waiting for us to destroy each other, name call, and fragment into so many different groups that we cannot coalesce and work together to get to the end goal, namely equality.
     
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Since we're discussing objectification, I'll go into a bit more detail on why I think Tumblr has an objectification problem with men. It's not specifically that it portrays a lot of characters as gay, nor that it portrays gayness as attractive. (I'd say it's to some degree commendable to treat gayness, which is after all a sexual orientation, as sexy.) Rather, it's the fitting of gay individuals, including real people, into gay stereotypes. The Tumblr community tends to only write gay couples that consist of one dom and one sub, whose dominance or submission extends outside the bedroom. Some Tumblerites apply this to real life as well, assuming that real gay people all fit the tropes of their fiction, but those who keep it within fiction are hardly blameless--when actual gay people protest that their orientation is being coopted, they're often told to shut up. The argument goes that since this stuff wasn't written for them, but for straight women, gay men have no right to complain about it, and that seems incredibly unfair--women are allowed to complain when straight men coopt lesbianism, and it's not like gay men aren't themselves a persecuted minority.
     
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  3. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I think you kind of missed the point, that point being that it's easier to get people to rally against injustice than to rally for feminism. There are people, myself included, who see the word feminism and want no part of it- or more accurately, the ideology etc. attached to it- who will however decry injustice. Joss is making the point that rather to try and stamp people with a label they may not want, it'd be better and more effective to give a label to this specific kind of injustice. For further clarification, consider the contrast between being for Black power and against racism. I think you will find that more people, if asked, will say they subscribe to the latter than the former. Should a new word for gender-based injustice be introduced, you will find that more people will say that they are against (insert word here) than will say they are for feminism.

    And yes, I know that Black power and feminism are not entirely equivalent, for several reasons. But in the eyes of the general public, they might as well be.
     
  4. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    I didn't actually miss that point. I understand there are inherent problems with the term, such as it being non-inclusive of worldviews other than an hetero-white middle class woman's point of view. I understand there is ideology behind the term that may be non-palatable for people.

    My objection is that no one will agree on a term. There will always be some ideology behind a term, otherwise why define it? And without ideology, it becomes watered down. It becomes very much "down with this sort of thing", and nothing ever changes.

    And with all the crud that's been happening lately in the legal realm of "oh women's bodies should be legislated", isn't this kind of a waste of time? I get that words are important. I really do. But arguing about the terminology used is not benefiting anyone. It's kind of making it into the whole "People's Front of Judea" vs. "The Judean People's Front" vs. "The People's Judean Front", to blatantly reference Monty Python there.

    And, as a woman, I'm kinda getting tired of hearing men tell me how the ideology should be defined, what terms we should use, and how we should fight our battles. Again, there is no bad intent here, but it happens all.the.time.

    I hope that clarifies my point a bit better.
     
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  5. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I get that. And part of my argument is that it's your word. It's not mine. And I wish to be free to not be stamped with it, regardless of the overlap between our beliefs. Not accusing you specifically of anything, but there are those who wish to frame the discussion as "either you're a feminist or you're a scumbag", "with us or against us" sort of way. And, while I tend to see lots of things as black and white, in this case I don't buy it. But I sense I'm starting to run this thread into the ground, so this is the last I'll say of it here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  6. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

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    I think that part of the tumblr thing is fetishization of people. I would say there is a subtle difference between fetishizing a person and objectifying them. Objectification, from what I can observe from other people's actions involves a power dynamic. Fetishes are completely about arousal. There probably is some crossover between the two things, but I think that sums up how I see the difference.

    I would say that anyone creating anything outside of their worldview has an obligation to at least think about how their characterization comes across to people that live that experience everyday. And if they don't, they should at least expect to get some flack for coming across like an inconsiderate fool.

    And Feo, it is unfair. And you have every right to take issue with people perpetuating stereotypes.
     
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  7. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Stereotyping is unfair, but so is life in general. Stereotyping and unfairness aren't going to go away. Neither are any other human flaws. As a Pagan, I don't like the way Pagans are almost always portrayed in entertainment, but that's just the way it is and it isn't likely to change anytime soon. My response is to not spend my money on that entertainment and go find some other amusement. I have a rough draft of a book in which the main characters are Pagan in present day U.S., but I write them as I would any other characters - as people. Their religion is a significant part of them, as it is with any sincere follower of a path, but it isn't all there is to them, and I don't keep bludgeoning the reader with it. The same is true of a person's (or character's) sexuality and gender.

    Some people's minds can be changed. Others refuse to let themselves be defiled by an outside thought. The latter are usually pretty obvious and I see no reason to waste time on them.
     
  8. Quillstine

    Quillstine Troubadour

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    I try stay away from all politically orientated conversations. My dad always told me "Never talk politics, religion or civil issues with someone unless your sleeping with them.". Later on, when working in Public Relations fields I was surprised to see that motto come in training, minus the sleeping with them part of course!
    But I'll add this. WE ARE NOT BORN EQUAL. This is a fundamentally flawed argument. Equality is an evolutionary process. You evolve toward it, not stride away from it!
    Go back down the evolutionary scale, delve into our past and the chasm between sexes and races only grows wider! You don't really see animals in nature being "universalists", you see them filling the roles their biology tells them to fill. When a character in a book who starts out rather "racist", has his perception shifted, it's evolution. Why can't we say, let's grow toward equality as we have slowly been doing since the birth of our race, as opposed to seeing it as some way we are entirely flawed and stuffed up the once innate universality of our past!
     
  9. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    This right here is the problem with the term "equal"--people think it means equality of outcomes. If "equality" is to have any meaning at all in human interaction, it needs to be equality of chances. (For instance, to say that a black person and a white person have become "equal" isn't to say that they are both capable of performing the same job. It's to say that they both got a good education, they both had the resources to devote themselves to that education, and in general, they both got a chance to prepare themselves to try for that job.)

    To turn that towards writing, what bugs me the most about sexism in writing isn't that female characters aren't often awesome. It's that they don't often get the chance to be awesome. A lot of writers will construct a female character, put that character in situations where she might have the opportunity to be awesome, and then at the absolute maximum give her the opportunity to kill a female henchwoman, because she's female and the author won't let her do anything else. (For comparison, I see Gen Urobuchi as a writer who's relatively less sexist--sure, he's said some dodgy things about gender in the past, but when he writes female characters, he writes them as if no one ever told him there were things they couldn't do.)
     
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  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    One of the things that's awesome about being writers, is that if we don't agree with a world view, we have the opportunity to change it. We have power. We can write stories about characters who reflect the world as it was, as it is, and as it should be, and have the potential, through the readers we reach, to be real vehicles for change. Think about Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin. When President Lincoln met her, he reportedly said, "So you're the little woman who started this big war." Each reader's heart and mind we touch and change with our characters is a small piece of the world made a better place. Just think of that. We don't need "ism" words to define us. We just need to write true characters who show what a better world looks like, and spread that dream from heart, to heart, to heart.
     
  11. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    I hate that hence my female characters are pretty much required to fight the strongest male warriors in their stories. lol
     
  12. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Is that really a thing? I thought the more prevalent trope was that male heroes aren't allowed to hit female villains- although the two conventions might be related.
     
  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Is it me or did almost the entire next page of posters after a mod stated this ignore this admonition?
     
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  14. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    It may be less prevalent now but female fighters having designated female minion opponents which marked them as clearly second-class heroes has been a thing for a long time, yes.
     
  15. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    I have two things to say.

    One: I am fully in favor of equal opportunity objectification for any gender. Equal opportunity. Objectification is going to happen; I just want it to happen to everyone.

    75,000 notes (in one day, no less) on this brilliant GIFset on Tumblr, for instance, is not equal to the way women are objectified. (Particularly since Hiddleston, at least, is fully clothed. Further, that came from an interview where he was asked to pose the way Natalie Portman did on the Thor 2 trailer, which makes this a pretty interesting reversal of a gender trope, now made even more hilarious with Charlton Heston.) All of Tumblr's fandoms, every single teenager who wants to see two white guys who canonically hate each other have sex just because they think both dudes are hot, does not balance out the extremes to which our society has gone in the mainstream, commercialized objectification of women's bodies. Pointing to Tumblr posts as evidence of a double standard is fallacious.

    I love Wendig a lot and he was getting at something much deeper and more important, but I fear that people will get hung up on how much everyone on Tumblr likes Chris Hemsworth's pecs. In fact, the Heterosexual Female Gaze presented in the first Thor movie was one of my favorite elements. The way Jane and Darcy reacted to Thor getting shirtless was played for laughs. I haven't seen the second movie yet, but the preview footage makes it look like they retained the "hot-blooded straight women really like ogling this clueless Asgardian!" theme. Contrast that with, say, Megan Fox repairing a motorcycle in the Transformers movies in an extremely sexualized pose. The point is that we have a long, long way to go.

    And two: If you are not comfortable subscribing to or adopting feminism because of its baggage, that is well and good, and I wish you luck in finding a movement that doesn't have baggage. Also, I hope everyone who says it's more productive to be against a negative than in favor of a nebulous positive is out there actively confronting real sexism when they encounter it.

    That does not mean that you get to tell feminists, especially those of us who subscribe to this term simultaneously as we strive to make it intersectional and welcoming to all, that "we" need a new word. You are free to define yourself however you like; I have found my word, and I will work to make it precisely what the dictionary says it should be. There are many others who have the same mission, and when you say that word isn't good enough and we need a new one, you are erasing our efforts.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2013
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  16. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Hah! The main villain in my latest WIP is female, and she gets offed by a handful of men and one woman (or possibly two; I have yet to decide).
     
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  17. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

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    At the end of the top comment the poster says this (please excuse the swearing)
    "You stupid ****s. Learn to see people based on who they are and the unique situations surrounding them. As soon as you start generalizing people based on the color of the skin, who they want to ****, or just what is between their legs, you become a racist, sexist, and whateverelse c***. Learn to be a good human. Treat the people you come across as individuals, not as members of some homogenized group with expectations. Humanity is beautiful, and it will surprise you."

    This sums up exactly what I think on the subject. I always try to be a good person and I want society to be more equal, but its difficult when you are the antagonist (at least on the internet). much better to judge people individually rather than put them into groups.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2013
  18. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Could you do me a personal favor and censor "c*nt" next time too? (Alternately, if it was an automatic filter that censored them, moderators, could you add that word to the list?) Gendered expletives defeat the purpose of that comment--which missed the point anyway.

    I am fully in favor of interacting with individuals on an individual basis. Sadly, our world doesn't allow that in the context of discussions about equality. Western society was built by straight white dudes, for straight white dudes. Everyone else has been at best marginalized, and at worst actively oppressed, for centuries. Reproductive rights and representation in media, for instance, are two issues that do not affect the average individual straight white dude. They do affect huge numbers of other people, and demanding that we all judge each other individually does not acknowledge the true issues.

    Now that equality as a movement can happen both at the institutional level and the daily casual conversation level, I see a lot of straight white dudes trying to deny their privilege, either by citing personal experiences like that commenter, which do not balance out or invalidate the experiences of countless marginalized people, or else by appealing to individualism and holding themselves up as shining examples by claiming "I don't see color or gender" or "I've had to earn everything I've gotten". I'm not inventing a straw man with those last two, by the way--those are actual things my husband has said to me in the course of a single conversation.

    Straight white dudes have been given, usually by default, sometimes invisibly, opportunities which are not available to others. They are, in overwhelming ratios, both lawmakers and law enforcers. The imbalance is self-evident, and "judge people individually" is not helpful advice in the case of an imbalance like that.

    As for being the "antagonist," if you as a straight white dude try to speak about issues that do not affect you ninety-nine percent of the time, your opinions are likely to be dismissed by people who know much, much more about the issue than you do. This means there are very few people who want to hear opinions about feminism from straight white dudes. We have heard enough opinions about feminism from straight white dudes, and it's time for them to stop and listen for a while.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It doesn't seem to me that this approach is likely at all to accomplish much. You could just as easily say that people who aren't straight white dudes can't speak to that side of the equality equation for the same reasons. But neither position is persuasive to me. As humans, we all have the capacity for reason, empathy, and understanding necessary to discuss these various issues and contribute to them from all sides. The idea that you have to belong to group X to have a valid opinion is one that is rightly criticized, historically, in the context that group X was old white guys. Inverting it and saying that now group X is, for example, women, doesn't make the argument any more persuasive, it just makes it wrong from the other side. Dialogue is needed, and that requires engaging all sides, which you can't do if you've already decided that one group doesn't get a say.
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've bleeped it.

    While I view that word as pretty severe, I understand it's seen as mild in some other countries.
     
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