I’ve been enjoying the new Supergirl series much more than I expected. There are a few places where it’s overdone, but that’s to be expected in any show while it’s still finding its legs. One of the things that I love is the costume: It actually looks like it can stand up to intense battles with robots or aliens and the stresses of high-speed flight. The fact that the costumes no longer look incredibly silly on screen is a big part of why the modern crop of superhero media can actually be taken seriously.
This is essentially what you’re saying if you’re a GamerGate supporter:
Hello Tailor nails it beautifully. Even if we steelman1 Gamergate up the wazoo and accept that it’s really about ethics in journalism, the reality is that in the end, they’ve accomplished nothing more than inflict terrorism and fear.
There’s also a meta-statement to this tweet: A lot of people took it for the real thing. That’s not an indication that people are stupid, but it is a perfect demonstration of how severely out of control Gamergate has gotten. If you’ve been keeping track, it’s not that hard to believe that the ‘gaters would say something like this.
Sometime, there just aren’t two sides. We’re taught to believe otherwise, but sometimes staying neutral and acting like both sides are worthy of equal consideration is the same as teaming up with the bad guys.
Steelmanning is the opposite of strawmanning an argument; instead of addressing the weakest form of your opponent’s argument, you argue against the best possible form of their argument. To my knowledge, the term was coined by Chana Messinger. In Gamergate’s case, of course, in order to steelman you have to dive straight into the realm of fantasy. ↩
[Update: Thanks to Donna L for calling to my attention the fact that Feministe‘s editors have said that they removed the post at the request of the author. However, that still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, such as: why they made the whole thing disappear without a trace, along with the comments; why didn’t they address the removal in a more public manner, instead of burying it in a “spillover thread”; and what positive steps they’ll take to center the voices of sex workers in the future.]
Sometime late last week, the editors of Feministe made a very embarrassing and controversial post about sex work disappear from their site, along with several hundred comments. As of this writing, they have not posted any explanation, apology, or retraction for the post, apparently hoping that they can just make it vanish down the memory hole.
I wrote about the problems with “Dear Feminists” by Sarah Elizabeth Pahman last week, just before the Feministe staff decided to make it disappear. To summarize: it was not only whorephobic, but racist and classist. Although it pretended to be about poverty in America, and specifically about impoverished sex workers, it was all about Pahman, and how seeing them for the first time made her feel.
In yesterday’s post, I made a deliberate point of saying that I wasn’t going to go into detail about specific steps for Feministe and other sites to improve their relationships with sex work communities. As I said, there’s already enough non-sex workers talking about what sex workers need. But I think that reading Olive Seraphim’s “How to Be a Feminist Ally to Sex Workers” would be a good first step for the Feministe staff. The excerpt below seems particularly germane. And like most good things, it doesn’t apply only to sex workers, or feminists.
Acknowledge how feminism actively pushes sex workers out of feminist spaces
A non-sex worker said to me the other day something feminists have been saying to women they’re trying to silence for years; but your analysis isn’t nuanced! (Insert whatever excuse to ignore our perspective you like, as there are many feminists like to use against us and this is but one example). Of course, this is actually code for; I don’t like what you’re saying so I’d rather shut you out of the conversation completely by getting an academic who has no experience with what you’re saying to word things in such a way that you can’t understand them while complicating the issue into a philosophical argument so we don’t need to address the real life shit you have to deal with on a daily basis. Feminism needs to stop being academic to the exclusion of everyone else, especially if you take privilege theory seriously and realize that those with intersecting identities may well have had less access to education than your privileged ass.
Feministe‘s coverage of sex work is pretty seriously fucked up, and it is far past time that they face up to that and do something about it. I feel like that’s so painfully obvious that it’s embarrassing even saying it, but apparently it does need to be said.
In February, Feministe editor Jill Filipovic published a troubling post about how she supports sex workers, but hates sex work. When is the last time that you saw any marginalized person respond positively to the “hate the sin, love the sinner” line?
Sometime after the Feministe post went up, Pahman’s blog was marked “private” and blocked off. You can still find a 2012 interview with her here, in which she cites Melissa Farley as one of her inspirations. If you’re not familiar, Farley is an anti-sex work activist whose research has been so thoroughly debunked that it can comfortably be described as either fraudulent or grossly incompetent. ↩
The injunction to “never forget” the Holocaust apparently doesn’t apply to the women who died, at least not as far as the Haredi newspaper Bakehillah is concerned. When the newspaper ran an iconic photo of Polish Jews being rounded up after the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, they blurred out the face of Matilda Goldfinger and her daughter Henka for reasons of “modesty.”
Ynet reported that the Haredi newspaper “Bakehillah” (In the community) censored the face of Matilda Goldfinger, the woman who appears to the left of the little boy wearing a yellow star with his hands raised in the iconic photo documenting the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943, following the Jewish uprising there that began on the first night of Passover that year. Goldfinger’s daughter Henka (Hannah) was killed moments after the photograph was taken….
In response to inquiries from Ynet, Avraham Dov Greenboim, editor of “Bakehillah,” said the blurring of the woman’s face was appropriate, given that the article was focused on the little boy. “In addition, we honor the memory of victims of the Holocaust, and we also respect our readers and only put in front of them what they need and want to see,” he said. The paper, along with other Haredi publications, operate under the watchful eye of a “spiritual commission” that ensures “modesty.”
Here’s words you won’t see me write (or hear me say) very often: sign this online petition. Generally, I think that online petitions and surveys are naught but meaningless wankery, but this one I think can do some good. One of the problems I have with online petitions is that they seem to take on Grand, Important Problems by allowing you to do nothing more than click a link. Adam Lee’s petition, on the other hand, is very specific about who it’s talking to, and what it’s talking about:
We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. It’s long been clear that the skeptical movement has a preponderance of white men. While we don’t disdain their participation, we believe skepticism is valuable and important to people in all walks of life, and in accordance with that principle, we consider it vital to have a movement that reflects the demographics of the society we live in. If our community continues to be dominated by white men, it will become increasingly out-of-touch and irrelevant as Western society becomes increasingly multiracial and multicultural and as non-Western countries gain economic and cultural power.
To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity: to intentionally reach out to people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds to speak at our conventions, to serve on our boards of directors, and to be the public faces and representatives of skepticism. We believe that there are talented, dedicated and eminently qualified people of every gender and every race, and that seeking them out will strengthen our movement and broaden its appeal.
When you watch Darth Vader blow up the planet of Alderaan in Star Wars, or telepathically strangle an incompetent flunkie in one of the sequels, it may be brutal, but it’s not really upsetting. That’s what Vader is there for; it’s his job to be a professional villain and spread bloodshed, pain, and misery throughout the galaxy. In a strange way, it’s comforting to see him relish his latest act of torture, murder, or genocide; it reassures you that the world is exactly the way you expect it to be.
The Darth Vaders of gender politics are people like Maggie Gallagher, Glenn Beck, Andrew Schlafly, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and their various hanger-ons . While I think that the world would be a better place without their hidebound misogyny and homophobia, I understand it. It’s their job to be assholes, and so when Beck spouts off his latest conspiracy theory about how the gays are going to shove their homo thing down his throat, I nod and take it in stride. The world is normal.
It’s when feminists, or anyone else that I think should be on the side of the angels, start weaving reactionary assumptions about gender that I wig out. The world is not as it should be. It’s as though I walked into a theater that’s showing another version of Star Wars, the one that Lucas keeps stored in his basement along with the last existing print of the Star Wars Holiday Special. In this version, Vader is still blowing up planets, but Luke and Leia spend their spare time downing beers with Imperial Stormtroopers and torturing kittens.
This is something to be optimistic about. Ms. Magazine has long been ambivalent at best about the rights of sex workers. Far more commonly, they’ve fallen in the camp which casts all sex workers as equally victimized, as “trafficked” or “prostituted women.” When something as unreservedly pro-sex work as this piece shows up in such a standby of mainstream feminism as Ms., it says something profound. I was heartbroken to see $pread‘s demise recently, but this kind of acceptance can be said to be its legacy: [Read more…]
It’s no wonder it’s so hard to get a rational discussion going about sex workers. Even for genuinely interested, well-meaning people, it’s hard to get any solid information. Before you can even start talking about solutions to the problems that sex workers face, you have to first have to correct the ideas of what sex workers are. Any conversation in the mainstream media about sex workers starts out with icons forged from sensationalism and half-truths, as we’ve seen from the coverage of the Spitzer scandal lately. The images of trafficked junkies who need to be rescued or decadent young women who have had their souls twisted by their lives of deception sell papers and television time better than a nuanced picture full of shades of gray does.
I wrote earlier about Sex Work Awareness, the new activist group founded by members of $pread, SWANK, and PONY to address this very sort of issue in the public consciousness. They’ve just launched a new blog called Sex Work 101 devoted to answering the questions that most people have when they’re just starting to look past the surface. Audacia Ray writes that the idea of Sex Work 101 occurred to her at this year’s Women Action and Media conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts: [Read more…]