Feministing has recently come under fire for ableism, classism, transphobia and sizeism, and they are discussing the problem with several bloggers. Open Letter to Feministing is a good place to follow links and get the backstory in more detail, but basically: authors and commenters at Feministing have made a lot of remarks over the years that act as slaps in the face to people with disabilities, people in lower socioeconomic classes, transgender people and women who aren’t an exact certain size deemed acceptable. It’s hopeful that the authors are talking to people like Anna about it, but Feministing has a lot more fans than detractors. It’s hard to see your flaws when you’re surrounded by admirers, so I decided both to co-sign the Open Letter and write a post to add to the public support for Anna’s position.
To me, the problem seems to be two-fold: the authors themselves need more education so they can represent a view of feminism that doesn’t apply strictly to middle class white women concerned about bettering their own lot, and the authors are going to have to decide whether they want the billions of comments and the ad-based income that happens when you allow people to make exclusionary remarks without moderation, or whether they want to include all women in their allegedly feminist mission.
It’s okay to only be concerned about bettering your own lot, as long as you harm no one else in the process. But it’s not feminist if it’s just for some women. And you harm the cause of equality whenever you act in its name, but exclude many people.
I certainly have been guilty of that before, myself. In a bigoted society, it’s impossible not to be a bigot. It’s only possible to work continuously on overcoming the bigotry, and as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not sure you can ever sit back, thinking, “I’m done.”
The Open Letter leaves a couple of things out does not cover all the problems at Feministing, and wasn’t meant to. I quit reading Feministing some time ago because of the above-mentioned but also because I don’t think these people have one solitary clue that:
- Some of us were abused as children, or came from dysfunctional homes where we were not targeted for abuse but suffered nonetheless, and we probably didn’t share the experiences you think everyone had.
- Asexuals and celibates exist, and they are not just the twisted products of Puritan prudishness.
Take for example, this recent article, “Why Stay a Virgin?” (title suggests a bias right there, doncha think?):
Regardless of the methodology of the survey, I am not opposed to people remaining virgins until they are married, or until they are out of college. I DO have a problem with is some of the reasons stated in the article for why people decide not to have sex:
“I’m not embarrassed by my decision to be a virgin,” Eskridge said. “When you have sex with someone, you’re giving a big part of yourself to them.”
Giving away a big part of yourself to your partner? I don’t think that ones worth or value is dependant on if you have or have not had sex, and you having sex doesn’t mean that you give anything up.
[Grammatical and spelling errors intact from original article.]
The author assumes Eskridge is basing her view on some prudish ideas about female sexuality, but that’s only one possibility. Astute observations about life on planet earth are another possibility. Some people watch friends dive into sex they aren’t ready for and end up horribly depressed. Some watch friends get into emotionally abusive sexual relationships that suck the life out of them. Either of these observations could lead a person to conclude (rightly, wrongly or somewhere in between) that sex is “giving up a big part of yourself to a partner.” Additionally, some people have been molested (or narrowly escaped being molested) as children and learn to guard their sexuality jealously – not as Daddy’s property to be sold to Hubby, but as their own property which someone has previously stolen (or attempted to steal). You can debate the nuances of these statements all day long, but you need to respect the view as potentially legitimate in the context from which the viewer is operating.
And yet another possibility is that this person is simply asexual (but probably hasn’t quite worked that out yet because no one ever talks about it), and for her, having sex could be perceived as giving something up because it’s not her orientation.
Feministing seems to assume everyone is “normal”, defining “normal” as something out of Leave it to Beaver. Applying this attitude to the above example, the quoted young woman must have the same urges for sex that the author experiences and be repressing them out of some misguided lack of feminist empowerment. If you open your mind to include the possibility that she’s struggling with something “abnormal” about herself, which doesn’t conform to the world’s narrow stupid view and therefore doesn’t come with an easy script for her to memorize, suddenly the possibilities open up.