Despite the fact that I appreciate much of the work the writers at the pro-gay Box Turtle Bulletin (BTB) blog do, I took BTB off of my blogroll many months ago and no longer link to them in my posts. The reason why is because of posts, and the contributors' consequent and resoundingly anti-feminist defenses of them, like this:
[Description of post- Title: "Proof that Marcus Bachmann Is Not Gay." Underneath the title is a large photo of Michelle Bachmann smiling and waving. She is wearing some sort of business attire comprised of a white button-up pseudo-military jacket. Underneath this photo, Jim at BTB wrote: "No gay man would ever let someone walk out on stage before a nationally-televised audience dressed like that."]
Yeah, it's "just a joke." It's one that plays on the stereotype of gay men being Really Into Fashion and reduces a female politician to her ornamental qualities, rather than her intellectual ones. Worse things have been said about Michelle Bachmann. Yet, little thing that the post was, I still found it problematic. The Big Oppressive Things are often built upon little thing after little thing after little thing. (See also, microaggressions). And, unfortunately, all too often, opening up a discussion about how a "little thing" is problematic is revelatory of even more problematic views about privilege and oppression.
In general, I see little wrong with being a single issue blog that is good at talking about gay stuff, which BTB seems to be. What I take issue with is the attitude that people experiencing "-isms" other than homophobia are just whining about nothing, are ruiners of "harmless" un-PC fun, or that other "-isms" are less important that homophobia.
When people took issue with the BTB post I referenced above, and several people in the comment section did take issue with it, the response of Jim, who wrote the post, was incredibly disappointing. He begins:
"As long as some people are finding reasons to be offended, let me say that I, too, could be offended by what I could see as mysandry [sic] being voiced on this thread as evidenced by the argument that my being a male making a wisecrack about a female defines me as a misogynist."
Instead of listening to the actual arguments people were making, he creates a ridiculous caricature of other people's points and then goes out of his way to concoct an argument that it's he who is the victim of "mysandry" in the conversation. He then continues, hitting many an anti-feminist/MRA argument:
"...I did it and don’t feel the least bit sorry for it. Cracking a harmless joke from time to time — and I submit that this is a harmless joke — is, I think, a healthy diversion from the constant drumbeat of anti-gay sewage we all wade through every day....
As an aside and not as a main point, I would add that to say this is only, or mainly, about Bachmann’s gender and that men don’t fall under similar scrutiny is to live in a world divorced from reality. Pope Benedict’s Prada shoes, Donald Trump’s do, Ed Schrock’s Teal Belt, and Scott Brown’s non-belt-and-pants have all been duly noted and laughed at — and their policy positions has been dissected and scrutinized with the same diligence as Bachmann’s.....
So, with all that, I will say that I’m sorry if people are offended by this post and their feelings were hurt. But I am only sorry for that and nothing more. And I recognize that this probably won’t be satisfactory to those offended. And for that I am sorry as well."
So, yeah. Saying, "I did it and don't feel the least bit sorry for it" and then "I'm sorry if people are offended by this post and their feelings were hurt," is basically the crappiest non-apology apology ever. To paraphrase: It was just harmless fun, stuff is hard for men too, "sorry" to all you people who just look for shit to get mad about.
I also LOL'ed at the argument that it's not sexist to make fun of a female politician's outfits because people make fun of the Pope's clothes too. LOLOLOLOL. In the photo Jim posted, it looked to me like Bachmann was just wearing a lady's business suit like I've seen many women wear in professional settings. Is the notion of business attire on a woman really as ridiculous as Donald Trump's fake hair or extravagant shoes on a Pope? Really? I think there's some sexism in there worth exploring.
Although, like I said. The dismissive responses that trivialized sexism against women, in my opinion, were worse than the actual post precisely because Jim refused to de-center men from the conversation, refused to listen to women when we tried to tell him that something is sexist, and because his every comment demonstrates a pathetic failure to understand why people think his post is sexist. Instead, he spent most of his time in the conversation shutting his ears and defensively explaining to us how his post isn't sexist.
The responses of Timothy, another frequent BTB writer, were not better. When he wasn't trying to play You're-The-Real-Sexist Gotcha, he too, couldn't help but continue to keep men at the center of the convo. As he claimed:
"Ironically, [Jim's post] should be more offensive to gay men than women.....An [sic] yet no gay men got their undies in a bunch about it.
How odd. Someone call GLAAD."
Well, sure. Maybe "no gay men got their undies in a bunch" about it because Jim's "joke" was made at a gay-male-dominated blog and was not made by, say, the odiously anti-gay Peter LaBarbera. I have a hunch the fellas at BTB might view the offensive nature of the har har har, gay guys LOVE fashion! "joke" a bit less benignly had it emanated from the latter source. One has more wiggle room to make fun of oneself than one has to make fun of groups that one is not a part of.
So, what's always disappointing, but not surprising, is when it feels like you're talking to MRAs, except you remember you're really at a gay blog, a place that is presumably safe from "isms," or at least amenable to the idea that maybe even gay people can inflict "isms" upon other people. And you walk away like, "Team Tolerance, eh? Whatever." (See also, Why I'm A Feminist).
When I made the point that posts like Jim's, and his resulting defenses of them, are really good at alienating women and feminists from his blog, which should be a problem to him given that women and feminists tend to be supporters of equal rights for gay men, my point wasn't really taken. Although, interestingly, when I later noted that the post could alienate anti-gays and feed into that Gays Are Mean Villains narrative that anti-gays love to spread, Timothy called that "a good point."
LOL. Because who cares if we hurt women and feminist, let's just not piss off the bigots!
For me, the sorriest part of the whole discussion is that I'm highly doubtful that either Jim or Timothy could, without going back and re-reading comments, right now even articulate why people believe Jim's post was sexist. The knee-jerk defensiveness at having a post called sexist seemed to have occurred prior to any attempt at understanding. (See also, how stopping sexism against women might be a little important, but more important than that is men's feelings about having their work called sexist.)
It's amazing to me that people think they can adequately address homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric while simultaneously failing to understand, or even find relevant, gender issues.
In Totally Not At All Related News: Rachel Maddow recently went on Ellen to discuss how 100% of the hate mail she receives are attacks on her appearance.
Move along, nothing to see here. After all, people make fun of Jon Stewart's looks too.
Dan Savage: Please Stop
Stuff Progressives Do: Use Very Edgy Rhetorical Devices