An entry in which Adam writes about anti-feminism backlash (and gives me an idea to follow-up with another entry…coming soon):
There’s an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where former President Barrack Obama asks Jerry Seinfeld how he deals with hecklers. Seinfeld’s answer was along the lines of, “I look at the heckler and say, ‘hi, you’re obviously upset, and what you’re getting now isn’t what you expected. Why don’t we have a little talk?’”
Think about that response in the context of the internet as a giant, screeching, pissing contest. The internet doesn’t do Seinfeld. So much of its toxicity is built on people taking a page out of Michael Richards’ book. Yeah, that book. No, I won’t link to it.
Which brings us up to this blog. The way I see it, there are two types of people who might read these words. The first type probably doesn’t want to hear me, as the owner of a white penis, talking about feminism, activism, and why I’m grateful for every woman who fights the good fight. The second group ranges between people who want to know more and the people who are spoiling for a fight. You’re the group I want to talk to. Really. Just talk.
Why, you might ask? Why do I want to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with me? And why would you want to hear what I have to say? Lots of reasons, but let’s try to build a rapport before we get too far into things.
To begin, I’m going to assume that even though you and I may disagree on some things, you’re not a Nazi. To that end, let’s also assume I’m not some reducto ad absurdum Johnnie Trigger-Warning zealot. I’m also going to assume we might have read some of the same books – or at least seen the movies based on those books so that we can pretend to have read the books. Ever read Fight Club? Remember the part where Tyler Durden scoffs at how we were raised to believe that we would all be millionaires and rock stars? That we would all date supermodels and drive expensive cars?
Even though we were born a decade removed from Tyler Durden’s target demographic, I think the existential letdown is the same: a bunch of teachers told us to follow our dreams, then a bunch of employers told us that art and philosophy are stupid and it is our fault we’re not trained for jobs that couldn’t be imagined fifteen years ago. Then, as if to add insult to injury, some millionaire elected to public office comes along and says you should be grateful for whatever shitty job you can find. There but before the grace of the gods go the people who have never known the indignity of working in a call centre.
Of course, it would be great to talk to someone about how shitty all this feels, but it’s too hard to talk to the friends who got lucky on the cosmic dice throw and are now raising kids, dealing with mortgages, and generally winning at life even though they still lament how hard it is to have a combined household income of $150K. Talk to a professional? Who can afford $80 an hour to reflect on feeling like a failure on every level? What’s the point?
No control, no hope, but hey, at least there are video games, right. There we are the heroes. There, we hunt the monsters and save the day. There the world has rules, order, and a sense of justice. And then along comes an op-ed that says video games are juvenile and so are the people who play them. Another op-ed says we, as people who play video games, are oppressing other people. And now we’re thinking, “the world has shit on me for my whole life to the extent that the only place I feel worth a damn is in a game, and now, somehow, playing Doom is oppression. Fuck this SJW bullshit.”
At some point I expect you probably asked someone to explain how your crappy life makes you part of a problem. When you thought, “Yeah but I don’t do any of those things those other guys do,” I get that you were probably coming at it from a place of genuine confusion over your role in all this. But then you took to Twitter or Reddit and things got ugly.
A cocktail of social constructions, insecurity, genuine frustration, and a few actual Nazis taking advantage of the situation led to a place where the conversation between us gave way to metaphorically shitting on each other’s floor. And now every online disagreement, at least to me, seems to come with the assumption that someone is going to shit on someone else’s floor.
You voted for Kathleen Wynne?
Shit on the floor.
Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton?
Shit on the floor.
Opinions on Taylor Swift?
Shit on the floor, twice.
Depictions of women in video games?
Epic whiskey and kale shit on the floor for all eternity.
And this is why I wanted to have today’s little talk. I’m worried that with all the floor shitting, we’re missing the fact that there are third parties feeding us prunes and chili. And now we’ve been eating and shitting for so long we’ve started contemplating how much shit it will take before we burn down our own houses…on account of all the piles and piles of simmering shit.
What does this mean in terms of our actual political disagreements? From my point of view, feminism, and social justice in general, is trying to address the chili cooks and prune farmers. And for our part, as owners of white penises, we need to do a better job of recognizing that even though the last few decades have shat on our respective floors, other people have been dealing with more shit, of a worse quality, for centuries.
Nobody is saying this invalidates our experiences. However, the chili and prune contingents laugh all the way to the bank when our problems are the only ones getting talked about. It lets them keep cooking and farming at the expense of the people they’ve been shitting on for generations, and it also leads to this current climate where people who could work together end up forming ranks against each other.
The bottom line is this: if we are whipping it out every time we disagree, writing each other off as cucks and Nazis, the work that is being done, largely by women, on issues of reproductive rights, access to health care, and pay equity are going to be overshadowed. That makes all of us part of the problem. And the supreme irony is that those important fights are against the exact same social and economic forces that profit from shitting on both of us. All we need to do to hit the bare minimum of supporting those efforts, efforts that will help all of us in the long run, is to stop shitting on each other’s floors.