Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
Mike Golby wrote a posting that asks several very complex questions, leading to one stated goal: he wants to understand why I (and Dorothea) fight these battles about sexism and gender bias and equality, such as the one about girlism this week.
I’m not asking these questions because I have nothing better to do. I want answers because these questions are there and they constitute obstacles to my understanding what is irking two of my friends, Shell and Dorothea. In other words, while I understand that I might come across as sexist and that view will be ‘me’ in the eyes of others, I feel something of their pain and want to know what I can do to ease it
I don’t believe there is an answer that I can give Mike, other than to point to what I have written. If in these postings he hasn’t found the answer, then nothing further I can write will provide any additional clarification. Or justification. Perhaps the only answer is there is no answer because the issue is less about understanding and more about acceptance. I can say that I don’t write on these issues lightly.
If this is the brave new medium we keep telling each other it is, then each of us must celebrate it in our own way, and this means writing about what is important to each of us. These issues are important to me.
When Halley wrote the following, it was something I could not ignore:
It’s “girlism” — women want to be sexy girls and use all the tricks girls use. Crying, flirting, begging, winking, stomping their feet when they don’t get their way, general trotting around showing off their long legs and whatever else they decide to show off thereby distracting and derailing men.
Stealing the phrase from Mike, I didn’t respond to Halley’s writing because I had nothing better to do. I waited for three days hoping someone else would respond because I knew writing about it could possibly generate tension. In the end, when I saw no one else commenting, I did so because the behavior Halley attributes to generic Woman can be generalized to fit all women, and that means me. And this type of behavior, as described, violates every bit of honor and pride in being a woman that I have. It violates every bit of honor and pride in being a woman of all women I know.
Mike, in your weblog posting you seem to wonder what the harm is in comments such as Halley’s or in stereotypes, and to question why women and gays fight so strongly against them and for our “rights”. To paraphrase you, aren’t we isolating ourselves by our actions?
In response all I can say is that generalizations based on class or gender membership, stereotypes, bias, bigotry, and racism are not acceptable, in deed or by word. After all, human history has shown the harm that “words” can cause. As for needing to fight for rights, in this country it is still illegal in some states to be gay and it is deadly in other countries. Being gay is still condemned in many major religions, including the Catholic religion. I don’t even need to go into the fight women still have for equality, both in my country, and in the world. Women have to fight, even in a modern country such as the United States, just to keep the right to have an abortion by some means other than on her back on a kitchen table being stabbed with a coat hanger.
Equality, fairness, won’t be given — they have to be taken.
What would you have us do? Wait for the alpha male to tell us “Oh, today you no longer have to bare your throat, we are now equal and you can do as you please”?
One of the most oft quoted phrases I see is David Weinberger’s we are writing ourselves into existence. When I searched on this, I found the following:
“This is exactly what I think is happening with blogging, we are finding voices that will ultimately make us new selves, or as David Weinberger likes to say, “we are writing ourselves into existence.” If Gilligan is right and we’re witnessing the end of patriarchy, the fresh honest style of blogging by both women and men will certainly hasten its demise.”
“The importance of the weblog phenomenon isn’t so much that it enables people to publish their breakfast menus or even their genuine insights. It’s that we now know what our “avatars” on the Net are going to be: not graphical cartoon representations but our body of writing. You are what you write. On the Web we are writing ourselves into existence. This introduces into the self the same issues of control, inspiration, invention, deception and play as have always been present in the relationship of authors to what they write.”
“I think Dave’s right on with this, and I think we can take it one step further, and a hyperlinked thought it is: As our fingers wind around the keyboard sketching our online selves–filling in the furrows, the wrinkles, the gleam, the raised eybrow as we go–that avatar we create *recreates* us in the offline world. It is a circle of creation and recreation. That is the joy in it for me–not so much the voice, the self I have created through blogging, but how that unleashed voice is transforming me, the person, the flesh and the mind.”
“As human beings, we are different people. This is where words can hit like hammers. As hearts and minds sharing Web space, I think we understand and know each other. Yet here, on the Web, our words carry even greater weight. ‘We are writing ourselves into existence.’ We do so on delicate, butterfly wings. It is here that words either fly or die.'”
If we are truly writing ourselves into existence, then we have to accept the fact that our existences may not always overlap. And we’re going to need to learn how to respect this.
This is the last posting on the ‘girlism’ topic I’m going to write. To continue is to belabor the issue, as well as seeming to beat Halley about the head with her words, which was never the intent of any of my writing on this subject. If anything, after reading so many of the thoughtful posts, I am deeply grateful that Halley brought this subject up. But enough’s enough.
Mike, I did a poor job at answering your questions, but I can’t answer for the world at large — why do we do this or why do we do that. All I can answer is why I write as I do. We each have our own windmills to tilt at, and we don’t all share the same friends or foes. At times the only thing we share is the truth of our words, and the passion of our beliefs.
(And again, I have probably taken this all too seriously. After all, this is only weblogging.)