Toxic, online and feminist. Really?

30 Jan

 I vividly recall highly emotional encounters with radical separatist women when I was a young feminist, one of whom was my actual sister, on the matter of my then dedicated heterosexuality (synonymous with offering myself up for rape with every sexual act) my disappointing failure to give birth to girl children, the length of my hair, (blonde, which somehow made it worse) my choice of clothing, and my marital status, all of which, it appeared, conspired to brand me a traitor to feminism, and an unreconstructable victim of the patriarchy.

My sister was conflicted, after all we loved each other in our own fraught ways, to the extent that when I decided to give birth to my second child in a bean bag in the sitting room, she wanted to not only be present but to set up her tripod between my legs and record the whole event, including my feminist midwife bringing me to orgasm because she swore it would help. It did.

Never mind, my sister said consolingly, when a male infant fought his way into the world from between my thighs as her camera furiously clicked above both our groans and wails, pity it’s not a girl, but you can’t help it. Her photos I count as among my most precious possessions, and I store them along with vital documents, readily accessible in the event of catastrophe.

In spite of our differences, my sister and I managed to maintain our relationship throughout those tumultuous years of second wave feminism. She was delighted, politically, when I divorced, though somehow she managed to sincerely comfort me and help me with my boys. I nursed her through a massive betrayal by her girlfriend, and, even though I was shocked beyond belief and not a little annoyed considering the shame she’d heaped upon me, into her new relationship with a bloke.

I lost contact with the other radical separatists because I was eventually unable to tolerate their scornful disapproval, and one day a wise woman told me I didn’t have to. This is not to say I don’t owe them: I do. They were some of my most powerful teachers, even if their manner was not always tender. However, whatever our differences we all had one thing in common: our whiteness.

All this came back to me today as I read this essay by Michelle Goldberg on feminism’s current Twitter wars. Briefly, Goldberg writes of a “toxic” online culture comprising an ideological war between white feminists and women of colour, a war of such ferocity that some writers describe being afraid to publish for fear of incurring the wrath of “online enforcers” protesting the domination of feminism by privileged white people. There is, Goldberg writes, “…a nascent genre of essays by people who feel emotionally savaged…not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” People who feel themselves to be marginalised by white privilege complain of the “tone police” who punish them for their anger, and their methods of expressing it.This, in turn has led to “privileged” feminists fearing they are about to step on an ideological landmine, that they will be “insufficiently radical, too nuanced,” as a consequence of their racial privilege.

Next, I read one of the “nascent” essays, written by Glosswitch of the New Statesman, in which the author makes an impassioned argument for not capitulating to what she feels as intimidation from feminists who attempt to trash her. Glosswitch has even coined a term for such a feminist, the misogofeminist, who she believes misrepresents and abuses her online because “…1. I’m a woman and 2. I have a New Statesman blog and am therefore considered excessively ‘privileged.'” White privilege, Glosswitch continues, is “…a line you cross which makes you less credible, less capable of experiencing pain and less capable of acting in good faith.” Glosswitch is supported in her position by Helen Lewis, also of the New Statesman.

I next turned to the Red Light Politics blog. Here I found a post titled “‘Misogofeminists’ and the white men who profit from silencing critique.” The author takes umbrage at Helen Lewis “…equating critiques from Women of Colour to bullying, harassment and now codifying all this behaviour under a new umbrella term ‘misogofeminism,’ or in lay terms ‘when uppity Women of Colour and other marginalised minorities complain that mainstream publications contribute to their marginalisation.'” There follows a deeply interesting analysis, that I strongly recommend, of the misfortunes of the New Statesman and how the publication was pulled back from the brink of ruin by, of all things, feminism, with a link provided to an Independent piece on the topic that begins:

In the New Statesman’s darkest hours, when the venerable leftist periodical looked like it had no viable future, few would have seen feminism as the source of its salvation. It is an ideology aligned, in the minds of many, to the bra-burning and peace-camp protests of a gender politics which predated Tony Blair’s modernisation of the Labour Party. Why would a magazine that was attempting to be relevant in the 21st century return to the battlefields of a bygone era?  Yet it is feminism which ensures that the New Statesman has not only made it to its centenary but can celebrate that anniversary this week with confidence that it has the caught the attention of young readers, especially young female readers.
It is this conflation of white women such as Lewis and Glosswitch with white men such as the proprietor of the New Statesman, that Red Light Politics argues creates a feminism that perpetuates  and reproduces a centuries-old pattern of marginalisation of Women of Colour. How better to perpetuate this marginalisation than by accusations of bullying and harassment made by privileged women with the kind of platform no marginalised woman can ever dream of? How is a marginalised woman to contest such allegations?
Prior to her employment at the New Statesman, Lewis worked at the Daily Mail. During her time at the Mail, the Statesman published a scathing assessment of that paper’s tactics:
The Mail’s quest to reflect the moral and political values of its lower-middle-class readers frequently goes beyond mere reporting, taking on the shape of a punitive campaign against anybody who says or does anything that challenges those values.
Challenges to one’s ideology are not synonymous with abuse. Anger is not synonymous with abuse. Critique is not synonymous with abuse. Being called on one’s obvious privilege is not abuse. Even “slashing righteousness” is not necessarily abusive. While it certainly isn’t pleasant to be identified as racist, transphobic, privileged or offensive, some of the accusations levelled at Glosswitch, is it automatically abusive? Glosswitch has an enviable platform, supported by powerful media males, from which to refute such allegations. This is part of her privilege, a privilege I can find no real acknowledgement of in her complaints.
Megan Murphy complains of the “wilful misrepresentation of words, thoughts, arguments and life in order to silence you and beat you…into submission…” by feminists who challenge privilege, described by Murphy as “trashing.” She also expresses indignation at being “…expected to divulge every single horrific trauma… before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice.”
I find this latter grievance extraordinary. Women who have experienced horrific trauma rarely enjoy a public voice. We are speaking here of women with an extraordinary platform, elite women, if you will, women with very big voices who are established in their professions and of whom no one will demand an accounting of their personal traumas as a pre-requisite for expressing opinions that are globally received.  All of the women I quote are white.  All are successful career feminists. I have yet to hear of a successful white career feminist who was forced to reveal her private trauma in order to get her foot on the ladder.
Sadly, but probably inevitably, things have not changed much in feminism since I was a beginner. Feminism is an ideology, and all ideologies are battlegrounds.  I will likely be crucified for this next observation, but there is something in the complaints of the privileged documented here that puts me uncomfortably in mind of the Andrew Bolt school of  white resentment. I am of the belief that in spite of the difficulties of my life, they would have been much worse if I’d been born a woman of colour as well. I’m not usually inclined to advocate a hierarchy of suffering, and I admit my own experiences have toughened me considerably on the question of what is and isn’t abuse. So my sympathies do not naturally gravitate to privileged women with global platforms supported by capitalist press barons. Their power is immense. I doubt the marginalised will do them much harm.  
My thanks to @MsLou and @Sunili for links to these and many other pieces, and discussions over the last months.

40 Responses to “Toxic, online and feminist. Really?”

  1. fojap January 30, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Fabulous post!


  2. hudsongodfrey January 30, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    Great post I agree. Though one would have to be dedicated indeed to wade through all of the linked articles, so I admit to peeking ahead at your conclusion before reading right the way through. Of course some of the specifics of this are going to be difficult for me to relate to. I think I’m only ever going to approach it as one who brings the perspective of being able to see the forest for the trees. I’m okay with that. I’ve heard quite my fair share of bullshit from MRA’s and the shrilling of some within a particularly misguided so called “feminist” branch of the online atheist community trying to impose their will upon others, not to mention the likes of MTR also calling herself a feminist.

    All these people have one thing in common, a sense of righteousness that melds the multiple ideological strands that make up their worldview into a version of something akin to doctrine that they then feel unaccountably entitled to insist others concur with in full.

    They are in short the kind of people who are going to fail the IQ test questions, “If all zorgs are zogs and some zogs are zaps, how many zaps are zorgs?…..”

    And it’s annoying to observe from a distance because it undermines a perfectly good movement’s solidarity when representatives of it coming from different perspectives with divisive attitudes towards one another all insist upon being perfectly right and uniquely authentic. If we’ve learned nothing else we should know that the personal is political, so of course conservative feminists and women from inner city communities++ don’t really intersect, but to the extent that they might genuinely if differently share a common interest in gender equality then on their own terms of course they’re feminists! The things that aren’t feminist about them like an abiding interest in laissez faire capitalism or Kwanzaa are okay too. It’s even be okay for MTR to subscribe to religious observances she’s public leery of, as long as she doesn’t shove them down our throats. But like zorgs and zaps some things are not mutually inclusive of one another. They represent different perspectives that are valid for some but not necessarily required reading for the entire group.

    When it comes to tallying inequities within our society I think it does us no harm to say that those who suffer multiple doses should from anyone’s perspective merit some primacy here. When it comes to these already objectionable internecine feuds it seems even more toxic to me when somebody speaking from a position of relative privilege condescends towards another’s valid grievance. The more laudable goal at the end of the day is always going to look something like doing the greatest good for the largest number. So we all need to blend our ideologies along with our priorities to reflect the reality of life by being able to encompass more than one very specific need at any given time. We just don’t all have the same needs or values so I don’t know what some people were thinking, their most earnest attempts to be right will ever meet with universal approval. That entire mode of thinking is patently ridiculous!

    ++ inner city communities is meant in a US context, because that’s where Jennifer’s linked articles originated. It codes for Black neighbourhoods.


    • doug quixote January 31, 2014 at 8:23 am #

      Hi HG ! I was thinking of just that passage from Life of Brian.

      After reading Jennifer’s article, aren’t we glad you and I are not women!

      It seems to be “You may (grudgingly) be a feminist but you aren’t the right sort of feminist. Whilst I on the other hand have the one true revelation.”

      It sounds all too familiar to we anti-religionists, does it not?


      • hudsongodfrey January 31, 2014 at 11:04 am #

        That’s a really interesting thought. Am I glad I’m not a woman? I guess in some ways the older one gets the more you’re comfortable in your own skin. If we’re lucky we’re glad about whatever we are.

        When I was a kid I don’t think I was inherently glad about being male. Being told that girls were sugar and spice and all things nice made me wonder if it might not be better not to be made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.

        The first time I saw black children I thought they were cooler than us because they stood out and got a lot of attention, there was nothing about them that might not be inherently admirable. So all in all I think we’re quite definitely socially conditioned in our aspirations and appreciation for others.

        By the time I even knew what a gay person was I’d already been taught to distrust sexuality so it was easier in that sense to follow the mob and be repulsed by the idea of anal sex. Yet if that was meant to be the dealbreaker then upon finding out a few years afterwards that anal sex was such a big deal within straight porn I had to reevaluate all those objections. It may have only been a subtle shift at the time but they add up.

        Perhaps the real game changer for me was realising that some people also labelled me according to my family’s religious beliefs and social class. Yet realistically we were fairly well off. As a white male I was tacitly poised to look down upon women, foreigners, gays and the poor. At the same time we lived in a society that looked up to the rich and famous, fawned over members of a dysfunctional foreign family because they held the hereditary honour of being Royal. I soon realised that if I was never going to be a prodigious talent or a captain of industry much less an aristocrat then a good many people who were got to spend a discomforting portion of their lives looking down on me!

        It isn’t as if looking back I recognise a former bigot in any real sense of the term, but at some point I think a natural facility for empathy towards others became something I actively tried to exercise. Out of a sense of fairness and logic come the most basic precepts that inform my politics today. It isn’t and has rarely been a matter of picking a team or even an ideological masthead to nail my colours to. I hope we all want to do the right thing for ourselves and better still for others, but I think the main thing I’m interested in is just understanding.

        So it goes……


        P.S, The other way one could go with this is to wonder whether we’re not almost being cheated by being denied the opportunity to experience life through the eyes of either gender and maybe even from the perspective of different social classes. There may be something there by extension to empathy that informed an impulse in some people to invent the idea of reincarnation. Though I’d have to say if it did take its positive impetus from empathy then it backfired in terms of conferring a rigid caste system in India. Of all religious ideas put before our consideration only this one outranks the tremendously fraudulent carrot and stick game that the Abrahamic faiths play with Heaven and Hell.


        • paul walter February 2, 2014 at 5:01 am #

          ( Extract from Captains log, Adelaide, stardate 3.30 am, 2/2/14, temp 35 c).

          I identify with the phenomena HG is decribing.. you are walking along the street, spot one of the myriad versions of an “other” coming the opposite direction and for all you’ve learned over decades, a subjective response from your childhood conditioning wells up.

          There is, say, a bronze skinned character coming the other way and for some reason your idiot brain signifies “wog”; you cringe inwardly at the unwelcome thought and glance furtively, apologetically at the “other”, realising an obvious, loathsome outward manifestation of your response ensuring certain exposure is spotted by the entire condescending street…a few seconds later, regaining balance, you remember when you picked this up, precisely, as a very young child and why that of all responses had to occur at that moment, when you had previously been in “snag” mode.

          You know what you’ve experienced is bullshit, yet why the baser response wells up at the most inconvenient time, almost like an erection, after long since you have learnt better concerning slight difference, baffles you.

          You know it is only the atavistic remnant of a formative foundational infantile experience, something integral to a process, but superfluous to life in the here and now but it seems the price for consciousness is a peculiar sort of hangover that goes with an ongoing process a revealing clunking of the gears that gives you a momentary insight into the vanity of the idea of the self-determing agent, reveals a faint seam indicating some thing much more mundane than any mystical sense you have had of your own intrinsic uniqueness and spiritualty.


          • hudsongodfrey February 2, 2014 at 10:47 am #

            Mind you even in Star Trek they eventually managed a woman commander and a couple of Klingon crew members.

            Sometimes the woman smiles as she passes or the Chinese bloke turns out to have broad Aussie accent. These things are sent to tell us that the world isn’t always as it seems. Snakes, spiders and conservative governments are sent to tell us that it is. Sometimes you just have to pick the version you prefer and steer towards that while avoiding those pitfalls.

            If 35 degree overnight temperatures are what it takes to make sense of my comments then maybe I’d better quit while I’m ahead 😉


            • paul walter February 2, 2014 at 11:51 am #

              I know HG, Sorry am bullshitting a bit, think it is the weather, already past forty here.

              It’s my excuse ,anyway, but am compos mentis to the point where I get your drift.. if someone warns me the bus is coming, perhaps I, too, should get off the road.

              Two things in the news, some sort of kerffuffle about graffiti in CanDo’s Queensland and the Godz on High at the ABC have issued a stern edict on how to report asylum seekers.

              That will fix these whiney traitors at The Collective.


      • zerograv1 February 27, 2014 at 10:03 am #

        The term feminism has been so widely overused and stuck on to any cause or body of womens involvement that its pretty much a meaningless term nowdays simply because when you deviate so far from the original goals its inevitable the branches will ideologically clash as Jennifer reveals. I wouldnt call ANY of these people feminists, not even her passionate sister, since none seem to know the original causes and definitions, or even what they were fighting for any longer, that debate left the building unnoticed in the early 1980;s and whats left of it has been relaunched like a marketing campaign or a star wars sequel, post-modern, radical, second age, new wave are all giveaway titles. Sorry but Im not convinced that the current mob of all stripes are anything other than a bumch of label wearing hot heads. In some instances a squabble over princess-like stoushing over the right finger nail colour as in the Devil wears Prada or sex in the city…that aint feminism in my book! but nor is hairy legged, deoderant free lefty types…..want proof? Name just 3 original goals of 19th Century feminists, bet you cant! and if you can, well done but what the hell are you doing about it?


        • hudsongodfrey February 27, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

          It’s actually a dodgy argument, a trap if you will, that you may be falling into here.

          The ideology of any ism is only distinguishable from social norms to the extent they don’t reflect it. So if you go back to first wave feminism, the movement we might loosely associate with women’s suffrage, then those have been fairly consistently established as norms in today’s society.

          Moving forwards in time to the so called postfeminist era we’ve also gradually incorporated many second wave feminist goals to the point where saying you’re a feminist no longer relates to what might have been called women’s liberation once.

          If nobody actively calls themselves feminist without having some more specific goals in mind, and those goals cannot be ones that are already achieved because then there’d be no need, then either we’ve achieve gender equality* or feminism needs to reinvent itself.

          The questions we have at this point are all about what goals are most important, and why some people with non-aligned agendas keep trying to hijack the term feminism. Take the example of our old adversaries in the MTR camp and their slogan might as well be “feminism for patriarchy”. In that case I have to argue that I support another kind of feminism that’s opposed to them. In so doing I’m no longer saying which feminists I disagree with, but instead which usurpers of the movement don’t belong.

          1. The Vote.
          2. Professional recognition.
          3. Property rights.

          *no we haven’t.


          • zerograv1 February 28, 2014 at 11:38 am #

            Sorry but original feminism was never about Gender equality, thats a modern term and very much second wave co-opted use of the term, Call it the equality movement if you like but it’s not really feminism (since it could also include equal rights for others). Also you got 2 out of 3, professional recognition is also second wave.


            • hudsongodfrey February 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

              I checked my list with online sources before I posted it and I disagree. But don’t sweat it because I think you’ll find that first wave feminism is yet to wash over some parts of the world. In which case I’d definitely add education to my list ahead of professional recognition. Progress can be patchy to say the least, and those lines aren’t starkly drawn.

              If I wanted to be pedantic I’d date first wave feminism up to a century earlier than the 19th to make the point that activism is at it’s most relevant when the struggle is first joined.

              Nor do I agree that having coined a term later doesn’t mean that it isn’t entirely apt for earlier progressive activism on the part of women. They may have used terms like suffrage that came out of enlightenment thinking, particularly movements to establish democratic government, but what they were motivated by was egalitarianism pure and simple. They had the sense that women got a raw deal then compared with men that persists to a lesser degree today.

              There’ll be some that argue that the idea of women’s rights puts forward a view that women should be privileged above men, but I really don’t think given the historical record of the movement or the circumstances of their time that this applied to first wave feminists. What other alternative do we have then than to conclude that their concern was with gender equality?


  3. glosswitch January 31, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    You know very little about my life but your focus on “platforms” does a lot to illustrate the careerist distortion of feminism I highlighted in my recent post. You would, I hope, be aware that many of those I call out for their abuse have large twitter followings, write for the Evening Standard, the Independent, the Telegraph, speak on radio and at public events? All of which is good and positive for them, but it illustrates how easy it is to make “not being heard” a narrative for self-promotion rather than address it as a genuine problem (which it absolutely is).
    I’m not going to give details of my life because, like so many other people, I need my job and can’t risk anything. Suffice it to say, my work is not in the media. I am not a professional feminist. I have different responsibilities and needs to the self-publicists, largely due to childcare, location, money issues and chronic family illness. That I choose to speak out on this abuse when I don’t have the protection you assume me to have is something I am proud of. Feminism needs to be about making tough moral calls of that nature, a focus on doing good rather than looking good. I haven’t always done that — I used to run with the white feminist interlopers, gaining whatever cookies I could regardless of who I trampled over — but I’ve tried to do better here.
    I am not ashamed of writing about mental health, anorexia, class, miscarriage, motherhood, abortion and other issues for the New Statesman. It’s not a living, but I think I do have something to contribute, and it’s easier, with work and children, for me to contribute in the evenings in that way rather than hiving off to London and trying to muscle my way in on whatever you think the feminist media elite are doing there. I write from my own perspective, with an awareness that like everyone, I will dehumanise people who are not like me, because that’s what the narrow scope of one’s own experience does. All we can do is listen to others and endeavour to do better, rather invent narratives around their lives to make ourselves feel righteous.
    What you describe are not lives but conspiracy theories. It’s not real. What you are essentially saying is that all women need to have their voices heard, but when they do, they are by definition too privileged, therefore we discount them and feed them to the wolves who lie about them. You have a circular argument which ends up discounting the voices of all women.
    PS if by “enviable platforms” you actually meant my shoes — yes, sure, they rock. Clark’s sale, 2012.
    PPS Apologies if there is no response from me to any response of yours. It’s disorientating and distressing to read something so distorted and misrepresentative of the person I am and the thoughts I hold, hence I don’t think I will visit your blog again, not out of an unwillingness to engage, but simply for self-care.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 31, 2014 at 8:19 am #

      I won’t address this reply to Glosswitch as she doesn’t intend to read it.

      It is not the fault of Women of Colour or any other marginalised group that white feminists find it so difficult to make a decent freelance living.

      Rather, it is the fault of capitalists such as those who employ Glosswitch in the mainstream media.


    • Julian January 31, 2014 at 9:18 am #

      It’s more than a little ridiculous for a white woman working for a major paper to accuse a handful of WoC who produce 99% of their material on personal blogs and social media (for zero compensation and at the very high risk if being plagiarized) of not being able to “truly” speak on being marginalized by the media and just using that as a push button issue to advance their career.

      Thought this was Daily Mail shenanigans…


    • hudsongodfrey January 31, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      Is this an apologetic for something or have I wigged out on the brown acid again!

      I mean really nobody means to demean your issues or your efforts, but you’re obviously an intelligent woman, and that’s something we’d hope to associate with a capacity for perspective and empathy that extends beyond your own micro environment and would be better employed in developing a broader understanding of the tensions between the self and the other.

      In other words it all seems very self centred to me? Everything’s a “genuine problem” if you authenticate it. It beggars belief that anyone purports to speak to the “views of all women” if one appears to validate all those other perspectives solely against one’s own,

      By all means don’t come back if you’re not prepared to engage in the conversation less defensively then you’d probably be wasting your time and ours. There’s probably a lot of thought and ideas we could share, but the thing to understand about any true marketplace of ideas is that all the value is to be had in being open to learning something. If you want to tuck yourself up with a coterie of self satisfied sycophants then by all means join a religion.


    • doug quixote January 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      Oh really. Do you think we really care about who you are, or that we should care?

      We care about what you say, about what you write. BTW, a woman who can coin a word as ugly as misogofeminist is perhaps deserving of censure. 🙂

      Keep writing about “mental health, anorexia, class, miscarriage, motherhood, abortion and other issues” and ignore the flak from the cheap seats.


  4. Meghan Murphy January 31, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    Meghan Murphy here.

    “Megan Murphy complains of the “wilful misrepresentation of words, thoughts, arguments and life in order to silence you and beat you…into submission…” by feminists who challenge privilege, described by Murphy as “trashing.” She also expresses indignation at being “…expected to divulge every single horrific trauma… before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice.”
    I find this latter grievance extraordinary. Women who have experienced horrific trauma rarely enjoy a public voice. We are speaking here of women with an extraordinary platform, elite women, if you will, women with very big voices who are established in their professions and of whom no one will demand an accounting of their personal traumas as a pre-requisite for expressing opinions that are globally received. All of the women I quote are white. All are successful career feminists. ”

    To be clear, I am not “an elite woman,” (though, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what you mean by that…) I am working class. I am in no way whatsoever “established in my profession.” I am barely making a living and I work for myself. Certainly it is demanded that I describe all of my personal history, lest I be accused of, oh, I don’t know, being a rich, elite woman who drinks champagne for breakfast and has a big fancy career in feminist journalism (you know the world is just overflowing with those careers, right? Feminist journalists are raking it in!). I’m not a “successful career feminist,” I’m a feminist and I’m a writer. I work very hard, mostly without compensation.

    Just wanted to clear that up. Thanks.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 31, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      The only information I have about you comes from your blog, in which you describe yourself as a well-educated writer, broadcaster, award-winning blogger, and teacher. This, to my mind, is having a considerable public platform and public voice, and you are in the privileged, elite minority as far as women are concerned.

      I don’t equate any of that with you being a rich elite woman who drinks champagne for breakfast. I fear you may be using that exaggeration in an effort to discredit my perspective.


      • Meghan Murphy January 31, 2014 at 8:21 am #

        Perhaps it might serve you well, in that case, not to make assumptions about people’s lives? Well educated also means tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Also, as you are aware, anyone can start a blog. It’s not as though mine was funded.


        • Meghan Murphy January 31, 2014 at 8:23 am #

          Oh, and yes, I have a podcast. That I do on my own time, takes a considerable amount of work, and is also unpaid. I just don’t know where you think all this money is coming from. You start a weekly podcast if you like. And your perspective, I’m afraid, is not credible if it’s based on unfounded assumptions.


        • Jennifer Wilson January 31, 2014 at 8:26 am #

          Um, your financial situation is not at issue here. It’s interesting how both you and Glosswitch seem to want to make this about your finances. It isn’t. As i’m sure you both know.


          • Meghan Murphy January 31, 2014 at 8:29 am #

            You made this about class. Told me that I had an “established, successful career” (I wish!), was elite (this implies upper class, fyi). Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it, this all implies financial stability/success.


            • Jennifer Wilson January 31, 2014 at 8:34 am #

              I really think it was quite OK for me to conclude you are successful from reading your bio on your blog.

              Elite does not only imply upper class. Have you never heard of elite sportspeople? Many are working class.


              • paul walter January 31, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

                I must admit I find the conversation between Jennifer Wilson and Meghan Murphy a little baffling, because it seems that initially Murphy was invoked as witness for the defence in a critique more concerned with “Home Counties” Glosswitch.

                I’d have thought someone like Murphy would have had more problems with Glosswitch than Jennifer Wilson?

                Instead, Murphy seems to have decided that Wilson needs to be outflanked, even to the expense of an odd denialism, as to class.

                Dr Wilson must really wonder what she has to do to win: initially I felt more sympathy for Meghan Murphy, Glosswitch “grates”, like so many mass media writers tailoring their work to a demographics massage, but not sure after a second read of that conversation..


      • paul walter January 31, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

        We wouldn’t need to be having this conversation if msm had held to its responsibilities.

        I think it is deep frustration that issues that need to be aired are kept out the mainstream…the growing community illiteracy as to social and cultural thinking. Think also of the marginalised asylum seeker activists reduced to red faced frustration on that issue of concern.

        I think the frustration some times provokes a loss of patience and the temptation to vent through personalisation.

        Msm produces much outrage from columnists about panty odour, men’s incapacity to dry dishes, mansplanations,”silencing”, etc, reinforcing a inward domestic cupcake set of issues that precisely decontextifies and gelds the devastating critiquing of say, Bel Hooks’ “vision” feminism.

        I don’t beleive bright women with doctorates writing for newspapers want to write trivia, but are constrained by their editors.

        Only women with great prestige indeed (and a wider, broader life experience), say Germaine Greer or Anne Summers on Abbott’s social security politics recently get to write meta criticism on the big subjects, others with less clout are forced back to the laager, often to vent annoyance in personalised attacks on men (rather than patriarchy) and other feminists, rather than being able to offer up better, so the system experiences the delight of seeing people marginalised offering up truncated versions of critical theories and confirming their assigned public role within the system as disgruntled outsiders.

        The adversarality in some feminist writing is thus explicable, but remains counter productive.


    • paul walter January 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      A brave thread starter from Jennifer Wilson.

      Meghan, you response is fair enough and what’s following is a good conversation, but there is just a trace of victimhood entitlement there.

      We are living in an increasingly deunionised and deserviced, privatised and Marketised world, I’d not suspect your tale to be anything but true and I suspect you recognise that people clawing their way out of strife to establish themselves are a little adversarial in holdingon to what theyhave fought to achgieve for themselves.

      But can you not see some merit in Jennifer’s (left feminist?) assertion that the system is playing all of us off against each other?

      Dont be angry with us, be angry with a divisive system.


      • Jennifer Wilson January 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        Right on, PW.


      • hudsongodfrey January 31, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

        “Dont be angry with us, be angry with a divisive system”

        Very good thought. I often get peeved myself with those who play into the hands of divisiveness when I would’ve thought it was obvious, to anyone who understands what the object of the exercise was, that it really isn’t helping.


    • hudsongodfrey January 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      All fine and good, and to be fair we should thank you for bothering to make a case for yourself because it obviously opens you up to some kind of critique, much as you may intend to correct earlier misapprehensions.

      I wonder in the overall context of Jennifer’s article and the comments here of Glosswitch and others you should really be answering rather to the point of how you relate to feminists from different social strata than whether it is really all about you?

      My reading of the criticism that was actually levelled was indeed of something that could be called “feminism, it’s all about me.”

      There are other things of course in the piece and I can add as a follower of some of her stuff that Jennifer has in the past revealed something of her own history as a survivor of childhood abuse that I found unimaginable. What that says to me, when extrapolated from the personal to the political, is that our means of validating the perspectives of others will regularly fall short of synthesising their experiences. So much as I would hope others try to empathise and to help sometimes we need to find ways to engage that we don’t necessarily authenticate on our own behalf.

      I’m a male who makes the attempt at understanding the different perspectives I’ve found here that’s what I appreciate most about the conversation.


    • doug quixote January 31, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      Sensitive little souls, aren’t they!

      “Don’t criticise me, I’m the underdog here!”


  5. paul walter February 1, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    Another hot weather snooze, another idea..

    The thread starter is multi layered, deals with at least one other issue obscured by the obvious one raised as to mass media.

    Jennifer Wilson has done some thing interesting in the early part of the thread starter, including or inviting the “drone” component of her readership into aspects of woman’s culture often obscured from men, involving perhaps the most intense of all human experiencing, birthing, a part of the reproductive processes that tend to define “male/female”.

    I think I need to complete my side of this transaction, but from this point will be grasping for words for half formed thoughts.

    As I say, grasping for words. Years ago I recall being exposed to a book called Reproduction of Mothering, a canon text for feminism apparently, relating to a process developed over millions of years that would involve intense “inscripting” of the young from almost the cradle, some thing integral to the survival of the species over vast times.

    A code for behaviour is passed both to males and females that defines life responses, produces a sort of determinist framework for living within culture that enables the members of the species to function. These seems to be a sort of shorthand involved, that say, sorts out who is present at birthing or not and why.

    It also explains much of female reticence involving men, (including in general living), the sense that women’s living processes are complex and life threatening and men are not competent to be present for the most obvious of reasons.

    And within male culture (clumsy reduction) much of the ritualing and male bonding comes from the sense that younger males need to not interfere in processes operated for and by women pertaining to experiences specific to women.

    I take at least some of the thread starter to be to do with demystifying female experience for males interested enough to ponder upon it.

    There is a communication present here that often fails between women and men, one that says, “hey, this is what we do, what we become and who we are, don’t avoid us, be part of our survival mechanism which involves our bonding, our “clubiness” and our living and understand that our some times hostile ways are deeply ingrained, some thing derived of a millenial fight for survival”.

    I feel a response is demanded of me, one a little more sympathetic than I may have offered in the past, in return a new sense of fellowship with fellow travellers and fellow battlers. How can I be worse off if I can recruit new allies of the Jennifer Wilson level?


  6. iODyne February 1, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    “oh it’s not a girl. Never mind, you can’t help it”
    I hope her daughters are stressing over the height of their Bikini Bridges right now.
    Great post Dr Wilson (as always) may you live long and prosper in all the ways.


    • paul walter February 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

      Reminds me of a teev doc and Goebbels’ annoyance at Magda for not being able to breed a boy.

      “Bikini Bridges”..

      Had to Google that, first pick was a Twitter thingie featuring pics explaining the phenomena and lots of comments about fie on anyone daring to mention the anorexia component and how having a Bikini Bridge would ensure more boyfriends.

      Looked American; a bit of Valley culture.

      Bonding behaviours involving teenagers seems very complex.
      Sometimes I just throw my hands up and thank god that I was never young and thus prone to silliness, exploitation and groupthink (restarts U Tube Hendrix album on other tool bar, “Gimme Shelter” to follow).


      • hudsongodfrey February 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

        You could segue from Bikini Bridges to Gimme Shelter via Valley culure but not from Goebbels to Bikini Bridges?

        Thinking of Madga Goebbels as a Valley Girl is just too delicious to overlook, and all it takes is a brief detour via Mel Brooks’ To be or not to be, (Hiltler Rap). The clip shouldn’t be too hard to find on YouTube, try not to think about Bikini Bridges while watching, and don’t feel guilty if you do because that will never be the most politically incorrect aspect of a Jewish guy taking off Hitler 🙂


  7. paul walter February 2, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Ahhhh, hudsongodfrey. I will seek out this transcendent moment, but not, alas, now.
    It is a nasty headache, this, the screen is staring daggers.

    I offer kind regards to the following: yourself, Marilyn, Doug, Meghan, Jennifer, Glosswitch, Morgan Freeman, Women of Colour, babies, the Grauniad, Rupert Murdoch and Iodyne; also young Julian, amongst many millions; the human family.

    Just on one aspect that slipped me mind; it is true that Mainstream media guards its prerogatives jeolously, if the sor t of attacks that are launched on indies by the Murdoch Press alone are considered. Bloggers and internet posters are regarded, or more correctly, smeared in some quarters as idiots and bigots. The only folk worthy of attention are Murdoch cranks working for the Oz, drip fed for ideas from the sterile cuckoos of Australian politics, IPA and CIS, who in turn take their stuff right out of the US and British rightist think-tanks.

    I can then begin to feel a little sympathy also for Glosswitch and Meghan Murphy in this pomo, de-unionised, de-tenured era of job insecurity. and at least Glosswitch has the taste to blog for the New Statesman rather than a tabloid outfit.

    Compared to the likes of Janet Albrechtsen, these other media folk are much closer to virtue, but sadly, likely closely constrained by the system.

    The Noam Chomsky quote observing that mass media narrows radically the variety of subject matter reported and discussed within MSM, whilst intensifying debate within that narrowed field. If msm removes substantial news coverage for the masses, the lot of theblogger is going to become more tenuous, since many people won’t have the foggiest idea of the existance of many issues that might interest an intelligent blogger.


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