Thursday, December 19, 2019

Donald Trump: Impeached

Yesterday, in a historic vote, the US House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, becoming the third president in US history to be impeached.

No Republican voted "yes" on either article of impeachment, which comes as no surprise given that the Republican Party has rotted to the core and will use any means necessary to grab and maintain political power, even if, now, that involves colluding with foreign states to win elections.

Nonetheless, despite what may happen in the Republican-controlled Senate, this impeachment will forever stain the presidency of a fundamentally bad, immoral, criminal, corrupt, reprehensible, and predatory man and this win, even if "just" symbolic, would have never been possible had Democrats not won back the House in the 2018 mid-term elections.

In addition, given the status of the Republican Party, we also have to remember that while defeating Trump, either through impeachment or the 2020 election, is vitally important for a plethora of reasons, the issues facing our nation do not begin or end with Trump.

Many factors in our media, social media, and political landscapes enabled his rise, and no matter what happens, we must continue addressing those factors.

This topic, of course, merits multiple posts if not an entire book, but these issues include (but are not limited to) realities like Fox News effectively serving as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party, the paywalls that exist for mainstream news sources but not for rightwing media sources, the mainstream media (even liberal, leftist, and progressive sites) being dominated by cishet white men (some of whom are, still, predators and abusers), the mainstream media treating Trump and politics like reality TV/entertainment for ratings and money, political commentators engaging in "both-sidesism" with respect to the two major parties, coddled and unacknowledged bigotry among the US populace, the fallout of Citizens United, the spread of propaganda on unregulated social media, voter suppression, gerrymandering, the unrepresentative electoral college, and, oh yeah, cheating in our fucking elections.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Semi-Review/Deep Thought: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

I recently read The Miseducation of Cameron Post (and then proceeded to watch the movie adaptation, as well), about a lesbian teen sent to "conversion therapy" in the 1990s for being gay. Think of it as a more realistic, less campy, but still at times darkly-comedic version of But I'm a Cheerleader.

It was a very good read (and movie) and I identified pretty closely to the main character Cameron and, specifically, her inherent resistance to being indoctrinated by anti-gay bigotry, even as it permeated her environment.

As a teen, I felt pretty strongly that I didn't have a huge problem with myself being gay; rather, the main problem was that it seemed like everyone else had such a huge fucking problem with it. I realize that's not a universal experience for all lesbian/gay/bi/queer people and, maybe not even all that common, even now, but that was my personal experience with it. I knew I was gay at a very young age and really made no serious attempts to thwart it.

Anyway, as I wrote on Twitter recently, something I think about in the context of how relatively quickly LGBT progress has happened in the US, on some issues, is that, for some of us in Gen X, LGBT social and legal progress has likely outpaced how quickly our trauma from coming of age in a deeply homobigoted society has healed.

For instance, as more and more states ban "conversion therapy," it is a pretty mainstream opinion in the US that the practice is immoral and abusive. That wasn't really the case in the 1990s.  And now, in a post-marriage-equality US, even some of the most prominent opponents of marriage equality will do things like publicly acknowledge that divorce rate are currently at historic lows, without concurrently referencing or acknowledging their previous fear-mongering around same-sex marriage and the Imminent and Total Destruction of Marriage and Society!

While a pre-marriage-equality narrative was that Fred Phelps was perhaps the last homobigot left in the US, or that the only way a person could be one is if they went around saying "faggot," now a lot of people simply act like, "Sure, there were bigots back then, but I certainly wasn't one of them."

Look, I get it. The US mainstream is, historically speaking, bad at apologies for social injustice. A lot of people, once they lose a culture war, just want people to move on without having their noses rubbed in the loss. Or, you know, they continue to pathetically cling to their Confederate flags and racist mascots.

Many cishet people simply don't seem willing to acknowledge, much less apologize or atone for, their past complicity in LGBT bigotry, even if that bigotry did tangible harm to people in their lives.
 Now that acceptance of LGBT people is more mainstream, compared to 20-30 years ago, it's like they conveniently act like bigotry was a thing "other people" engaged in "back then," rather than something they believed and that probably all people (still) have to some extent.*

I suspect that many LGBT people have friends and family members who were previously pretty openly anti-LGBT who have quietly come to the other side and are now accepting.

The opinion change is not a bad thing. I want to be clear about that. We always wanted people to change!

The issue is more that there's probably many LGBT people of a certain age who are still walking around with residual trauma from bigotry and "conversion therapy" that happened in our lifetimes, years ago, inflicted upon us by people who now see themselves as allies, and there's a certain level of pain in that that I think a lot of people are holding onto because a lot of harm was simply never directly addressed.

*And, to be clear, the LGBT rights struggle is not over and explicit bigotry, particularly facing trans individuals, still exists. I also believe our gains are at risk of being rolled back, due to the current composition of the US Supreme Court, Congress, and Executive branch, if not all at once, at least on a piecemeal basis.

Friday, December 13, 2019

On the Death of Internet Feminism Being Greatly Exaggerated

I have to admit that one aspect of the post-2016 feminist backlash that I did not anticipate is women writing clusters of articles declaring Internet feminism to be dead. But alas, here we are (she typed, from her 12-year-old feminist Blogger blog).

The most recent example of this trend is a piece posted at Jezebel (yes, really) bizarrely-entitled, "How the Internet Killed Feminism," which neither proves that feminism is dead nor that it was "the Internet" that killed it.

To put it in the most mild way I can, my issue with this particular piece - in addition to the factual inaccuracies* - is that it is missing quite a bit of nuance.

The piece is sort of all over the place, but if you piece the narrative together, her general thesis seems to be that the main problem with the feminist blogosphere was that a few of the most privileged, white feminist women leveraged their blogging platforms into book deals and were not inclusive, which led to rifts with women of color. For instance:
"Within the blogosphere, Feministing was side-eyed for watering things down, getting things wrong, not being inclusive and even appropriating other bloggers’ work. Outside of it, the blog was known as the feminism 101 site and Valenti the number one feminist blogger. That meant bylines in mainstream publications like The Guardian and The Nation, and book after book.


The disparity between white feminist bloggers and bloggers of color was underscored by the first annual BlogHer conference in 2005, which 1000 people attended, almost all of them white, and the first annual Blogalicious conference in 2009 (also sponsored by BlogHer, oddly), which had about 175 attendees, almost none of them white. Reappropriate’s Fang referred to the 'balkanization' of the feminist blogosphere from the beginning, where the standard was an upwardly mobile white coastal community that had limited self-awareness. 'They were like, let’s have feminism as a race-neutral conversation,' she said. That meant refusing to engage when they were asked to examine their privilege. 'So much of the culture of feminism that is forward-facing is driven by New York,' Angry Black Bitch blogger Pamela Merritt said. 'But the people who contribute to the movement dialogue are not living in Park Slope.'”
As I tweeted yesterday in response to this piece, those of us who were active in the blogosphere during its heydey are well aware of the blog wars, in-fighting, blindspots, and abuses of privilege.  Yes, there were many, much-needed conversations about race. At the same time, I think it's overly-simplistic, and a profound erasure, to suggest that the issues that feminists sought to hash out online, among each other, were solely along racial lines, particularly because also occurring during this time period were splinters and rifts between feminists online who were trans-exclusionary and trans-affirming, in addition to issues such as abortion access, sex work, fat acceptance, sexual orientation, religion, and class - and these issues are barely, if at all, mentioned in the piece.

I think this framing speaks to the way this article sort of lumps some of the larger feminist sites together and acts like they all had the same issues and blindspots, which is very similar to how MRAs used to treat feminist blogs back in the day, like they were one giant, monolithic feminist hivemind.

For instance, the article vaguely references Shakesville as being problematic in the same ways as some of the other large blogs, but the writer doesn't take the time to actually specify what "Shakesville" had done wrong. (She also categorizes a recent hit piece on Shakesville, written by someone with a longstanding grudge against Melissa McEwan, as an "expose." And, when she couldn't reach McEwan for comment on the piece, the writer simply framed the hit piece as the big "explanation" as to why Shakesville shut down, ignoring McEwan's stated, published reason that running Shakesville was harming her health.)

Rather, this writer's implicit distillation of the feminist blogosphere's demise into one easy, simple answer ("white feminists") seems to be more a reflection of this particular political moment, and the liberal-left political spectrum's loathing of the oft-cited "53%**", than of the many coinciding, more complicated reasons the feminist blogosphere declined.

I would attribute this decline, by the way, to burn-out, the dearth of financial opportunities for doing this work, writers' receipt of abuse and harassment, in-fighting, privileged people acting poorly, and changing trends in the media, social media, and economic landscapes.

And, disturbingly, even as the writer of this piece says that it wasn't "blog wars" that killed the feminist blogosphere, she devotes far more paragraphs to "blog wars" than she does to any other reason for the demise of the blogosphere, including the titular "Internet" or even to harassment, even though pretty much every feminist online has cited harassment as a big fucking problem, if not a key reason for scaling back or stopping their work.

In short, the article treats the feminist blogosphere like it was largely a big, dramatic catfight among women, which strikes me as pretty sexist and does a huge disservice to a lot of people's contributions to feminism. But, I suppose that the harassment of feminists online is old news that women have been talking about since forever, and there's always market in patriarchy for women taking down women, even in this very meta- way.

But, let's take a step back.

And, uh, this seems obvious to actually write, but feminism isn't "dead" just because feminist blogging has declined. Many feminist bloggers have simply migrated to other platforms, platforms where audiences and users have likewise migrated, such as Twitter or podcasting, because these platforms now typically have greater reach than blogging. Or, they issue private newsletters, if they want more granular, limited engagement.

For, it's not just feminist blogs that have declined, it's blogs in general. Yet, we don't get story after story about how atheism or Christianity or mommy-ing have "died" just because these blogs have declined. People rightly mostly acknowledge that people just do this sort of topical work elsewhere now.

(Uh, except for me, I guess. Hi! No, just kidding, there are still like 60+ blogs in my Feedly that are still updated regularly, many of them feminist blogs).

In conclusion, this piece was ambitious and the writer touted it on Twitter as "the real story" of what went down regarding the feminist blogosphere, which is why I think I've been disappointed in it.

Many influential bloggers were omitted from this "real story" of the feminist blogosphere, particularly women of color, including women of color who wrote at some of the larger feminist blogs she critiques as excluding women of color. I mean, so much is missing, really. And, in reality, one would need a book, if not volumes, to even attempt to do justice to this topic (and it seems like this writer is angling for a book deal, goddess help us, even as her piece implies that feminists who get book deals are immoral/greedy/bad).

An interesting thing about the feminist blogosphere is that there's actually an extensive written record of what happened, if one simply reads the blogposts and comment threads themselves, and thus it seems like that record should be used pretty extensively in a historical account. One doesn't have to rely solely on oral, after-the-fact interviews and impressions to piece together a narrative about the feminist blogosphere, so that's a choice when one does do that, as is the case in the Jezebel piece.

The feminist blogosphere is/was a deeply important social phenomenon, and I hope one day someone does take the time to write a just history about it, someone who knows how to do the scholarship. I reckon it's not going to be a neat, tidy story with simple, cartoon heroes and villains, cranked out in a few months. 

[Update, 12/21/19: After the writer of the Jezebel piece continued to promote her piece on Twitter after it didn't go viral, feminists primarily engaged the piece by critiquing it, pointing out errors, and disputing the overarching narratives. 

In response, the writer of the piece made the following statement: "the responses to my jezebel piece really make me understand why so many renounced feminism in the end." This statement was alarming to me because it's the same sort of victim-blaming that MRA/anti-feminists habitually engage - that feminists are too insufferable to deal with and, thus, feminism is a garbage movement that they want no part of.

As of today, she has deleted her Twitter account.]

The End of an Era at Shakesville
A Woman Will Win, Eventually, But Will the US Let Her?

*For instance, the writer asserts that the "lifepsan of the feminist blogosphere" was from 2001 - 2009, even though feminist blogs continue to exist today and multiple large sites she includes in her piece, such as Shakesville and Feministing, existed through 2019. As another example, the piece erases the fact that the founder of Jezebel, framed as a big white blog, is a Black woman.
**The oft-cited "53% of white women" who voted for Trump in the 2016 election, which is sometimes loosely equated with all white women.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Queerest Night on Television

Is now Sunday.

With Batwoman and Supergirl airing on the CW, and now The L Word: Generation Q and Work in Progress airing on Showtime, queer women have quite the selection of TV shows featuring Strong Female Characters all on one day (although, yes, with the reality of how many people watch TV, on demand any day, any time we want via Hulu or wherever you enjoy your pop culture streams).

First, the CW series. I've enjoyed Batwoman so far, primarily because it's meaningful to view a show centered around a lesbian superhero. At the same time, while I don't find fault with Ruby Rose, I don't think Batwoman, as a character, has been written particularly strongly as she, at least in contrast to villain Alice, seems relatively passive.

She's already been captured numerous times and often seems completely dependent on her sidekick, Luke, and her (or, er, her cousin's) gadgets to get her out of jams.  What I want to know is, what unique personality traits and skillsets does she - Kate Kane - bring to the table that makes her strong and worthy of being a superhero?

On another note, Chicago is used very well as a stand-in for Gotham City. The use of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, with its Ceres-could-be-Batwoman-looming-over-the-city figure at the top of the skyscraper, is clever.

On the Supergirl front, I continue to enjoy the show and its embrace of the gay Alex Danvers and trans Dreamer. I don't have a great, pressing need for Supergirl and Lena Luthor to end up together, as some SuperCorps shippers desperately want. And, especially with Lena's latest betrayal, their relationship has been dishonest in ways that I think would be hard to overcome. Even the way Supergirl talks about Lena to her friends mirrors the way people in abusive relationships continually make excuses for their abusive partners. That being said, the show drops a lot of Supercorps subtext for viewers to read into.

Regarding Showtime, I'll start with The L Word, whose Generation Q reboot piloted this past Sunday. First, whew, quite an opener there. Hello queer sex scenes, how I've missed thee. (What? CW is very PG-13 in that regard.)

Secondly, it was great to see previous characters Alice, Bette, and Shane again. I've re-watched The L Word series, erm, multiple times, so it's frankly just nice to see them engaging in new plotlines and dialogue. In addition, the new characters include at least one trans main character, the Asian-American Micah, and multiple women of color.

Then, in the grand tradition of The L Word tackling current political events, the pilot that aired this past Sunday included a #MeToo plotline with Bette and references to the opioid crisis. The #MeToo plot revolved around the past behavior of Bette, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, and specifically how she is being publicly called out for having sex with a previous subordinate employee.

Her friends, Alice and Shane, sort of convinced her that the charges of impropriety were not legitimate and were based on the fact that she's a lesbian, but sorry gals, I disagree.  Because I remember Bette Porter and the Bette Porter I remember should probably never run for political office. (See above, regarding my multiple re-watches of the series).

In six seasons of the original series, we saw a pattern of unethical sexual behavior on Bette's part, including an affair with both a student and a professor while she was dean of an art school, an affair with a contractor she hired, and multiple instances of her cheating on a partner.  Yes, it's true that men often get away with far worse and still get to keep their jobs and political ambitions, but that reality doesn't mean that women should also be able to get away with it as well. Feminists and progressives lose credibility on the matter of sexual harassment when we don't hold each other to the same standards we try to hold conservatives to, and I wouldn't be okay with a male politician with multiple instances of sexual impropriety that included sex with a student and subordinate in his past.

And finally, Work in Progress is a delight so far, and reminds me of Tig Notaro's brilliant One Mississippi in its authenticity and use of comedy to explore dark themes, in this case mental illness, bullying, and suicide ideation. Also, the characters in this show look and act like the queer people I know in real life, and that's a very rare thing.

Relatedly, the way that the main character Abby, has thus far interacted with her love interest, Chris - who is a trans man - seems true to how some middle-aged lesbians would act, messy flaws and all. Her intentions seem good, but she engages in some impropriety in their initial interactions, including not apologizing upon misgendering Chris (even as she complains to Chris about being misgendered her entire life) and outing Chris as trans to her group of lesbian friends. It's not far enough along in the series to know whether and how these issues will be addressed (as learning moments for Abby and some audience members?). But, hopefully Chris will serve as more than a vehicle for Abby's personal growth and salvation (and Abby will show some interest in Chris' story rather than just vice versa).

In any event, I find the series compelling, relatable, and want to see what happens.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Melissa Benoist Shares Experiences With Intimate Partner Violence

In an Instagram video she posted last week, Supergirl star Melissa Benoist shared that she experienced intimate partner violence in a previous relationship.

The full video is currently up on YouTube here, and in it she details how a previous romantic partner emotionally and physically abused her. Benoist did not name the previous partner, although some in the media have attempted to fill in the blanks based on the timing of some of the incidents she refers to. Out of respect for the fact that Benoist didn't name him, I won't speculate here.

Instead, I'll offer my story.

When I was 18, in one of my earliest relationships, my partner was emotionally abusive, including regularly belittling me, isolating me from my friends and family, cheating on me, and making us keep our relationship a secret (always complicated and "easy" for abusers to justify in queer relationships). Even after I broke up with this person, they continued to stalk me and break into my email account to keep track of what I was doing, who I was communicating with, and who I was hanging out with.

I didn't have many tools at the time to recognize much of this behavior as abusive, let alone to effectively counter it. After years of work, including therapy, martial arts and self-defense training, and feminist education and analysis, I am in a very different place now.

My past experiences with abuse also inform why I have little to no tolerance for abusive Internet behavior, especially those who, for instance, stalk and harass me through my Twitter account even after I've blocked them.

The fact is, especially after more than 10 years engaging with folks on the Internet, I almost immediately know how to recognize abusers and their abusive patterns, and the best course of action for me is to simply refuse to engage with them because what they desire more than anything is to keep their target trapped in an abusive cycle on their terms, not yours.

This is not to say that Internet abuse is the same as physical violence. In fact, I don't think it's useful to compare or rank which types of abuse are "worse" than others. To put it simply, and to paraphrase Tig Notaro in One Mississippi, "they're all bad."

I'll just offer that I'm sorry Benoist experienced intimate partner violence. I have long admired her acting on Supergirl, but even aside from that, no person should have to endure abuse in an intimate, or any other, relationship. And, I hope she is getting any help and support she needs to deal with the trauma from her experiences.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Social Media Disinformation Today and Beyond

I recently read a series of articles about Russia's ongoing disinformation campaign against the United States that I think do a good job of articulating how this threat is much larger than the 2016 election.

In the first, a Rolling Stone article, by Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, the authors suggest that professional trolls don't actually troll. Amateur trolls* are pretty easy to spot if you've been on social media for a moderate amount of time.

Yet, many times, professional trolls are far from obvious, even to experienced social media users, and work to befriend users and then sway them with spin, using the following strategy:
"Grow an audience in part through heartwarming, inspiring messages, and use that following to spread messages promoting division, distrust, and doubt."
The goal is to undermine trust in American institutions and "drive mainstream viewpoints in polar and extreme institutions." Yes, this goal seems somewhat obvious, but it's interesting to note in the context of ubiquitous sneering on the left and the right at "moderates" and "centrists." 

And, while I believe that it's generally not helpful to find a "moderate" position between civility and, say, neo-Nazis, the phrase "centrist" (like "neoliberal") is often thrown around on Twitter in pretty disingenuous ways by people acting in both good and bad faith to drive people toward the extremes. .

In a related piece, Linvill has noted just how adeptly Russian trolls understand US culture, as he's written about disinformation in the context of our national conversations about campus climates, for instance:
"Covert Russian disinformation may seem out of place in the context of a conversation regarding campus climate. It is not, though. The IRA’s attempts to demoralize, distract, and divide have been discussed as a form of political warfare (Galeotti, 2018) and, through social media, it is a form of warfare that extends to our college campuses. Not only does the IRA seek to reach students on our campuses in order to influence their ways of thinking, but also they wish to attack the institution of higher education itself and make it a political wedge between Americans of different ideologies (Bauman, 2018; Morgan, 2019). Bauman pointed out, for instance, that in the run up to the 2016 election, IRA troll accounts repeatedly tweeted segments of conservative media that 'spotlighted incidents of liberalism run amok at colleges' (2018, p. A28)."
Here, it's worth pointing out that conservative Christian Rod Dreher bemoans campus political correctness practically on the daily at his blog at The American Conservative, essentially acting as a useful idiot for amplifying, overreacting to, and sowing these divisions. He's hardly alone there, as this PC Gone Awry narrative is a cottage feature of rightwing media.

Anyway, Russian disinformation has been ongoing since before the 2016 election. And, knowing this, although I don't always succeed, I've been trying pretty hard to stay above the fray, particularly online, when it comes to getting embroiled in the day-to-day dramas of the 2020 Democratic Primary. 

Just so you know where I stand, I am leaning heavily toward voting for Elizabeth Warren, because I believe she has the best policies, judgment, and demeanor for the job. But, I also believe we have a solid slate of candidates, with some exceptions, any one of which would be infinitely better than Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

I also think candidates should be critiqued, fairly, when warranted, but Twitter in particular is often used to virally spread some of the most disparaging, superficial, and yes dumb critiques of candidates. In fact, the retweet is built for the shallow dunk that's less about analysis and more about feeding users' need for the dopamine hits they get from attention/notifications for likes and retweets.

Relatedly, another takeaway from the Rolling Stone piece is that Russia's disinformation efforts are ongoing, and are bigger than the 2016 and 2020 elections. What I need from political candidates is an acknowledgement of this problem and solutions to address it, not people who boast about how they woulda won in 2016 (or will magically win in 2020) even though nothing about their platforms, statements, or mental capacities suggests they even understand the magnitude of the threats facing our nation and democracy.

Finally, these stats:
"Recent research exploring fake news may expand Boyd’s concerns regarding how we have taught digital media literacy. Research examining Twitter suggests that concerns regarding fake news may be based on incorrect assumptions of its prevalence. Grinberg, Joseph, Friedland, Swire-Thompson, and Lazer (2019) found that only 0.1% of users were responsible for sharing 80% of fake news posts, and these users were highly concentrated among conservative voters. Research examining Facebook found similar results. Guess, Nagler, and Tucker (2019) found the sharing of fake news on that platform to be a rare event; and to the extent that it was a problem, it was largely a problem among Baby Boomers. Users over 65 were nearly seven times more likely to share fake news as the youngest cohort of users. This stands in strong support for Lee’s (2018) call to teach digital media literacy to older adults. Yet to date we have been teaching digital literacy in college, when we should be teaching it in retirement homes."

*I continue to object to using the word "troll" to describe abusive online behavior, because I believe it tends to minimizes the harmful impact such behavior can have on legitimate users of social media. I've used it throughout this post for the sake of consistency with how Linvill and Warren use it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Woman: Feminists Care Too Much About Misogyny

I won't link to it but on Monday, The New Republic ran a horrendo anti-feminist piece (entitled "Moving Beyond Misogyny," if you want to look it up) in which a leftist woman critiqued "liberal feminists" for focusing too much on misogyny and not giving progressive men rape passes.

If you think I kid, here's a sample:

Here, the writer disingenuously acts like progressive men mostly do inconsequential, trivial things that feminists hysterically overreact to, and don't really engage in bigger things like rape, harassment, or predation. And yet, as a grown adult woman, this writer in all likelihood knows that progressive men, in reality, are as fully capable of heinous acts as conservative men are, and thus seems to instead be indirectly suggesting that feminists should ease up and give these men a pass because they're on "our" side.

Leftists today often claim the mantle of society's most enlightened political thinkers, so it might seem confounding to see them write and publish such retrograde "think pieces" that, with a few select edits, could just as easily be posted at rightwing forums like The American Conservative or Townhall

Things begin to make more sense once you understand that, in their hatred of "liberals," feminists, and identity politics, a lot of today's vocal leftists, far from being enlightened, are just sexually-liberal socialists who have internalized the conservative right's ideologies around race and gender. The end goal is more akin to redistributing wealth while keeping white supremacist rape culture intact, with the promise that things might be a bit better if it's progressive men at the top, rather than conservative.

The more general argument from this person's "thinkpiece" is that feminism today is a big depressing, victim-mentality downer because "misogyny feminists" (her term, sure) focus too much on, you guessed it, misogyny

If that doesn't want to make you guzzle vodka from a beer bong, I don't know what will.

Nevermind that that "argument" has been a standard rightwing "critique" of feminism for literal decades, emanating from such "socially-enlightened" sources as Phyllis Schlafly, but criticizing feminists for focusing too much on the hatred of women is as absurd as criticizing Black Lives Matter for focusing too much on racism, the LGBT rights movement for focusing too much on bigotry against LGBT people, or PETA for focusing too much on the ethical treatment animals.

This sort of critique, rather, is a good example of the feminist, misogynistic backlash in which we find ourselves. For, when one argues that highlighting, analyzing, and critiquing misogyny is something bad and unworthy of devoting time to, one is essentially arguing that one of feminists' more important, if not the most important, contributions to social justice should be eradicated. And that, my friends, would only benefit misogynists.

More broadly, we see that it's not just rightwing women who espouse anti-feminism. I think many women across the political spectrum look around and see the breadth and depth of misogyny in this political climate and come to the conclusion that joining in is simply the better deal. Why not, as a leftist woman, join in and help mainstream anti-feminist opinions about "liberal feminists"?

I'm also realizing that so much of the anti-feminist work that women across the political spectrum do consists of "defending" men from "the evil feminists." 

It's not lost on me, as just one example, that as the 2020 election gears up, a number of leftist women - including the author of this piece - have been "defending" Bernie Sanders and his male supporters by going after specific progressive feminists who are known to not support Bernie, as well as "liberal feminism" in general for its cardinal sin of promoting the notion that a woman can and should be president.

I suppose that is one way - having women attack women - to deal with the "Bernie Bro" narrative that has persisted since 2016. 

Another strategy, of course, would be for leftist Bernie fans, as well as his campaign, to try to unify with progressive feminists. But that's a bridge too far, apparently.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Electoral College: Watch Shit Get Real If It Happens To Bernie!

Yesterday on Twitter, I spent a fraction of the day being intrigued by a particular pro-Bernie perspective.

A history grad student wrote, "I think it’s tremendously underrated just how many young Americans will simply reject wholesale the legitimacy of the U.S. constitutional order if a Warren or a Sanders wins the popular vote in a landslide and Trump stays in office."

True enough, I suppose, although many folks like myself who came of age circa Bush v. Gore have been there since 2000. As I've written before, the Supreme Court's effective installation of George W. Bush into the presidency was, even at the time, a recognizable constitutional crisis and erosion of the legitimacy of the US Supreme Court, electoral college, and executive office. The abolition of the electoral college should have been a top progressive priority since at least then, especially as Republicans increasingly began adopting a McConnell-esque "win at any costs" approach to politics.

Two more revelatory statements followed in the Twitter thread, however. 

The first, the grad student continues, "If anything, I suppose this is an argument for Sanders, because he’s the only candidate I can imagine who would help organize mass protests—even a general strike—with his campaign infrastructure in the event of another anti-democratic election."

I... huh.


Here we see the popular narrative that, unlike other candidates who I suppose are supported by droids or Sim people or something, Bernie has "a movement" behind him.  That is one benefit, it seems, to a politician not being widely told to go knit in a cave for the rest of one's days after losing an election. Nonetheless, while Bernie has a base of support that seems to be neither growing nor shrinking, the reality is that whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being will, in all likelihood, consolidate support from the Democratic base during the general election.

However, the idea that such a protest has to, or should, be led by the "losing" candidate seems more like a pretext for arguing why "Bernie must be the Democratic nominee instead of Warren (or anyone else)."

After all, in 2016, an actual anti-democratic election, it was women - not Bernie Sanders - who organized, led, and participated in the largest single-day protests in US history, largely in response to Donald Trump's electoral college "win" and popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton (in addition to the fact that Trump is a racist, xenophobic admitted sexual predator).

And sure, because I know some people might be thinking it, Bernie was not the Democratic nominee in 2016 and thus some might say he had "no" responsibility to lead such protests, but why not? Why would he not have that moral responsibility now, in fact, when there are kids in concentration camps, when sexual predators are in the White House and on SCOTUS, when climate change poses an existential threat to our planet, or any myriad of issues beyond "I got an election stolen from me so now it's a crisis"?

The other interesting note about this opinion is that we already have historical precedent for how Bernie would react to real and perceived anti-democratic elections. 

In the 2016 primaries, of course, many of his supporters believe he only lost the primary to Hillary Clinton because it was "rigged" against him. Yet, while Bernie did little to put that narrative to rest, he also didn't organize protests against the "unfairness." To me, that suggests he wanted to devote his energies elsewhere, he didn't really believe it was rigged, and/or he correctly ascertained that such protests would be a distraction from the more important goal of defeating Trump.

Thus, to think that Bernie, an almost-80-year-old man who just had a heart attack, by the way, might lose to Trump in 2020 and then lead the nation in revolutionary protests seems like more of the extremely-bizarre leftist magical thinking around "the Bernie movement" in light of the reality that what Bernie Sanders did during the national crisis of the 2016 election aftermath was: went on a book tour, made a lot of money, and never stopped campaigning for president.

But, in light of everything, I'm especially curious what this grad student thinks would be different and, specifically, more effective about a Bernie Sanders-led protest, compared to the Women's March, after his hypothetical electoral college loss to Trump in 2020, other than the fact that this hypothetical mass protest would be led by a white man who some segments of the left have anointed as their savior.

Here, we turn to The Nation's David Klion, who says, in the second revelatory statement of the thread (emphasis added), "It’s like... imagine how 2016 felt, except this time we also like the candidate and they won by an even bigger popular margin. I already think the constitutional order is indefensible! And I’m regularly shocked that not every other thinking person does!"

A-ha! And there it is.

Some Bernie fans simply can't fathom that a large segment of the Women's March protestors were motivated by actually liking Hillary Clinton.  So, a Bernie March in 2020, they believe, would be different and special and effective because people like Bernie, unlike History's Greatest Monster Hillary Clinton, and people would therefore see it as America's Greatest Travesty if Bernie won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to Trump. And, they - The Left - are serious, important political actors in the world, unlike the - from their perspective - vapid wine moms who marched in their ridiculous pink pussy hats hashtag resistance.

To that point, in retrospect, I will just offer my opinion that it was quite possibly the Bernie-adjacent consolidation of leadership over the national Women's March brand that has dampened its reach and effectiveness over the past 3+ years. Regardless of the leadership's motivations, which I do not know, it became hard to trust a movement that appeared to be trying to funnel progressive women's support, not toward general progressive politics and progressive female candidates, but toward a polarizing man's 2020 presidential campaign (Bernie Sanders. I'm talking about Bernie Sanders).

But, from a bigger picture, "Vote for Bernie in the primary, so he can lead mass protests after he loses to Trump" is not actually the ringing endorsement one might think it is.

The electoral college should be abolished. We need an actual plan and path to make that happen, not vague, regressive mumbling among leftists about how an old cranky male politician's likeability will cause the revolution.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Quote of the Day - Lithwick On Not Getting Over Kavanaugh

Dahlia Lithwick's piece in Slate about her refusal to get over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court is very, very good and worth reading in its entirety, first and foremost in my opinion because she is the rare mainstream journalist today who refuses to both normalize or be entertained by the Trump regime's atrocities.

She writes:
"The enduring memory, a year later [after Kavanaugh's rage-filled testimony], is that my 15-year-old son texted—he was watching it in school—to ask if I was 'perfectly safe' in the Senate chamber. He was afraid for the judge’s mental health and my physical health. I had to patiently explain that I was in no physical danger of any kind, that there were dozens of people in the room, and that I was at the very back, with the phalanx of reporters. My son’s visceral fears don’t really matter in one sense, beyond the fact that I was forced to explain to him that the man shouting about conspiracies and pledging revenge on his detractors would sit on the court for many decades; and in that one sense, none of us, as women, was ever going to be perfectly safe again."
It's a nuanced essay, acknowledging that the female members of the court, who all lean more liberal than Kavanaugh, have to at least perform "getting over it" if they ever hope to have even the slim possibility of the vengeful Kavanaugh siding with them on matters of national importance for potential decades to come.

That doesn't mean, however, that we all have to be okay with his presence on the Court, even though - like Lithwich - I despair that the general public largely is by now.

It's also not lost on me that George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote in the 2000 election, appointed two conservatives of his own to the Supreme Court. Trump, loser of the 2016 popular vote, has thus far appointed two.

Angry, sexually-predatory, and entitled man-babies on the Court notwithstanding, that 4 out of 9 members of the nation's high court have been appointed by deeply-unpopular men who lost the national popular vote will one day be more widely acknowledged as a significant erosion of the legitimacy of the court, particularly in terms of public opinion.

If that's not depressing enough, Trump is very soon set to have appointed a full quarter of the nation's federal appeals court judges, the level just below the Supreme Court. These courts and judges generally get far less attention than the Supreme Court, but this statistic is incredibly alarming for many reasons, a key one of which is that the vast majority of federal court cases never actually reach the Supreme Court and Donald Trump is a misogynist white supremacist who lacks the judgment and temperament to be making  appointments of such importance.

Related: Gilead of Republicans Stand by Their Man, Kavanaugh

Friday, October 25, 2019

Supercorps Friday and Kara's Big Coming Out Moment

Just two heterosexual gals having a completely heterosexual conversation about their 100% heterosexual friendship:

I know I'm really gay, but in all seriousness, I find it nearly impossible to view Kara coming out to Lena as Supergirl as anything other than Kara professing her longstanding love for Lena. It's actually so obvious it feels silly saying out loud.

If Kara had just said, "I'm Supergirl" and left it at that, and Lena then expressed surprise, and they both moved on, one could maybe buy that this convo was solely a superhero-identity revelation.

But, Kara continues by saying, "I've always been Supergirl." The "always" comment is weird, right? Was there ever a possibility, for instance, that multiple people were pretending to be Supergirl and that Kara was only Supergirl for part of the time Supergirl has been around? No. Of course not. "I'm Supergirl" is clearly a stand-in for "I'm [in love with you.] I've always been [in love with you.]" because that's a somewhat standard line when TV/film characters are finally revealing undying love to a crush.

Also, I haven't fully bought Kara's angst about revealing her identity to Lena. Over the course of the previous four seasons, she has revealed her identity to many people, including those she has known for less time and initially has less reason to trust than Lena. The angst and fear in two canonically-hetero characters appears, on-screen, to stem more from feelings akin to, "Oh shit. I'm 'straight.' You're 'straight.' We're in love and I'm not sure how to handle it."

Lena's reaction, for instance, is hardly measured. She's left speechless, initially, and then goes up in front of a crowd and improvises a super touching speech about her "best friend."

Like the early seasons of Xena, it's clearly a same-sex romance that the powers-that-be are presenting in such a way that can plausibly (I guess?) be read as platonic by some viewers and subtextually queer by others, thus sort-of not fully pleasing or offending either camp.

In conclusion, I'll continue to monitor the situation. Um, for science.

Friday, October 11, 2019

CNN LGBTQ Townhall

I didn't catch all of last night's CNN LGBTQ Townhall, but I wanted to post about it nonetheless.

First, I want to note that the forum itself was meaningful. It was only in 2008 that, following 8 years of the Bush Administration stoking anti-LGBTQ bigotry for Republican political gain, that frontrunner Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did not publicly support marriage equality because that political position was not (or was not seen as) political viable for a presidential candidate to hold.

And yes, many LGBTQ people understood that both Obama and Clinton likely supported marriage equality privately and would be supportive once in office. History has proven that to be the case.

To have a slate of Democratic candidates affirming their support of LGBTQ issues in 2019, of which marriage equality is just one of many, is progress in and of itself.

Participating candidates included (in their order of appearance): Cory Booker,  Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and Tom Steyer. Per CNN, Bernie Sanders had originally accepted an invite to participate, but eventually declined due to his recent heart attack.

As far as the content itself, Biden had a couple weird moments and continues to appear confused and easily-rattled when speaking, as in the first debates, including a clip where he stumbles and starts talking about how when he "came out."
I thought Booker, Buttigieg, Warren, Harris, O'Rourke, Klobuchar, and Castro did well, overall (and I refuse to discuss Steyer and his vanity campaign) and any of them (including Biden) would be better than the Trump/Pence shitshow on LGBTQ rights.

In a way, it always feels weird to analyze these debates and townhalls on a super granular level. The networks and foreign agents want Americans to get sucked into infighting about endless candidate dramas even though, meanwhile, to quote comedian John Mulaney, THERE'S A HORSE LOOSE IN THE HOSPITAL.

That's not to say the details don't matter. They do. And those analyses should happen, and the discussions about LGBTQ issues should be driven by LGBTQ advocates, not bad actors on social media or the usual cishet pundits who dominate our national political conversations.

From a big picture standpoint, the 2020 Democratic Primary is going to have to be about finding that balance between pushing our candidates to be the best they can be on the issues, while never losing sight of the fact that profoundly dangerous men are currently in charge of our Executive Branch, Supreme Court, and Senate.

In conclusion, I've watched this clip approximately 57 time and I get approximately 12% more gay every time:

Talk about this, or whatever, it's Friday!

Friday, October 4, 2019

On Cougar 2020

One of the weirder aspects, and there are many, to the made-up "sex scandal" that a known compulsive liar and fraudster who shall remain nameless is alleging against presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is the fact that literally the only people who would be so offended by a grown woman engaging in consensual sex with a strapping young Marine are people who would never vote for Warren, or any woman, or any Democrat anyway.

I'm reminded of the people who try to "excuse" the actions of Donald Trump, who has admitted on tape to grabbing women's genitals without their consent, by noting that a lot of women - including feminists - like 50 Shades of Grey.

There's this perception that anything that is non-missionary-sex-engaged-in-by-a-man-and-a-woman is deeply scandalous and, worse, vulgar!  Consent isn't even part of the equation under this sexual worldview, and so all sex acts and assaults that are deemed "vulgar" are equated with one another.

Anyway, the "statement of fact and belief" is, um, I think the two best things to liken it to would be fanfic written by a 14-year-year old male virgin trying to contemplate the wackiest, kinkiest sex story he can and/or a deep psychosexual fantasy of a conservative Christian grown adult man.

Perhaps the most damning of the "details" is that Warren allegedly ordered a lime green dildo with a rubbery smell, when everyone knows she clearly would have opted for liberty green.

Whew. Talk about this, or other stuff!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Batwoman and the Case of the Toxic Male Nerddom

Whew, that Batwoman trailer.

Of course, the misogynists are melting down about it, especially that "when it fits a woman" line.

To such people, they're so enraged and entitled that a thing exists that doesn't center them and their likes that they believe it has to not exist at all. They can't just go watch Joker or whatever and be content in their rage-angst, they try to game social media likes, comments, and reviews to tank a show before it even airs. Giving it a fair shot, to them, is out of the question. It was the same with the Ghostbusters reboot.

Anyway, the first episode airs 10/6. I've read the Batwoman comics for many years, and I'm excited about this one.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bi Visibility Day

Was yesterday, technically, and now I have to share with you an end product of missing Lost Girl (and bi main character Bo Dennis) and subsequently going down another YouTube fan vid rabbit-hole.

Friday, September 6, 2019

It's Not Just the Algorithm

It's the fact that the dominant culture in the US is a misogynist white supremacist one, that explains why it's so easy for young men to get themselves "radicalized" by misogynist white supremacist videos "they stumble across" on YouTube.

As I tweeted yesterday:
[Text: I don't buy the notion that young men "innocently stumble" upon Nazi vids on YouTube "because of the algorithm." Like, maybe a lot of men are a little bit Nazi to begin with [to which I'll add, precisely because our culture primes them to be receptive to videos YouTube suggests for them].

When I go down a YouTube rabbithole, I end up watching "Anna Kendrick's gayest moments" or whatever."]

And, for what it's worth, the lesbian algorithm inside my brain also recommends said Anna Kendrick vid, which YouTube recommended to me after I had been searching for femslash fan videos set to the tune of the Gentleman Jack theme song. (I couldn't find any. I'm a dork).

Friday, August 30, 2019

Alex Danvers Appreciation Friday

So, look. I know I fell behind on the Supergirl recaps.

Mostly, I've had life stuff going on. But also, I lost a little bit of interest in Season 3, for whatever reason. I've picked up watching the show again and am almost finished with Season 4, but by now it seems like a lot of work to start the recaps again from where I last left off.

Woe is me.

Here are my thoughts, in lieu of recaps:
  • I like both actors, but the romance between Lena Luthor and James seems forced. The two just don't have great chemistry, certainly not as good of chemistry as Kara and Lena have when they actually have scenes together. (Disclaimer: every character would be in some way queer if I wrote for this show, even - no, especially - the villains).
  • Sometimes, the villains in CW DC-verse are hokey, heavy-handed, and uninteresting. And look, I get it, maybe the shows are geared toward younger viewers. But, Agent Liberty as a villain isn't working for me. It's supposed to be a metaphor for today's political climate of white nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment, but in the show, Agent Liberty is sort of presented as having somewhat valid reasons for being scared of "the aliens." That is, the aliens are typically are more powerful than humans and so Agent Liberty's fear is not portrayed as entirely irrational. This is a marked contrast to today's political climate of irrational xenophobia toward immigrants, refugees, and migrants.As a viewer, I don't want to be invited to "view the other side as rational and having a point," via metaphor, when in reality Donald Trump and his white supremacist supporters are deeply dangerous.
  • Nia Nal has been a great addition, as has Brainy's upgrade to main cast.
  • The show has never been great at portrayals of Black women, in my opinion. Colonel Haley has potential, but so far the show's creators have written her as a villainous Angry Black Woman.
  • I miss Cat Grant.
  • I will watch all the crossovers. Especially plotlines involving Sara Lance and Alex Danvers (and/or Kate Kane). 
  • Mon-El was fine as a character, and I'd love to see Alex Danvers have a girlfriend again, but I still maintain that the show is at its best when it remembers that the heart of the show is the relationship between Alex and Kara. So, putting that relationship in peril is always a good plot device, in my book. 
  • I know it seems like I'm mostly complaining about the show, and maybe I am. So here's something: Alex Danvers keeps getting gayer and gayer with every episode and I could not be happier about that. Now, let her have connections to the LGBT community and make Kara Danvers bisexual, you cowards!

Yes, please!

Friday, August 23, 2019

It's Happening!

Showtime has released a teaser for The L Word: Generation Q: 

Some quick observations:
  • The L Word last aired 10 years ago and all the original actors look the same as they did then.
  • Bette is running for mayor of LA and this is 100% not surprising.
  • Shane still seems up to the usual Shane-anigans.
  • I can't help it, I'm so excited for this!
  • Oh my god:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The End Of an Era at Shakesville

We have lost another online feminist space.

Shakesville, of course, wasn't just any feminist space, to me. My friend Melissa McEwan's writing has been hugely influential to my thinking around progressive feminism, social media, Internet culture, and politics. I was an active commenter at Shakesville for at least 10 years (I looked at my DISQUS account yesterday and I have posted over 3,000 comments). In addition, Melissa often included links to my writing here in her regular blog roundups, sending readers my way. Then, shortly after the 2016 election, I became a guest contributor at the space she cultivated and led for 15 years.

I was honored to share my writing at Shakesville and mindful of the trust that she and the other contributors and moderators had placed in me. Melissa's contributions to feminism and to the heydey of the feminist and political blogosphere during the late aughts are likely immeasurable. And, like any feminist who rises to a certain level of visibility, she has long been held to impossible standards (although, over the years I came to see that she also holds herself to sky-high standards in her writing, fairness, and accuracy). I saw repeatedly how any real, perceived, or invented missteps were eagerly pounced upon by others before the inevitable "cancellation," while she simultaneously experienced relentless torrents of targeted abuse from misogynists across the political spectrum.

As a contributor and longtime user of Internet, I was appreciative of the Shakesville comment moderation policy, even though it has long been a topic of ridicule and is sometimes put forth as "evidence" that Shakesville was "a cult." My perspective, as I've been a contributor at multiple blogs for more than a decade, is that I've come to see how lax moderation policies at many other platforms, blogs, websites, comment sections, and forums have completely normalized a collective, societal opinion that cruelty is a casual and non-important thing we just have to "deal with" when on the Internet, rather than a thing that is deeply traumatizing to humanity.

"Just don't read the comments," they say, accepting that abuse is just the price we have to pay for being online.

And politically, I think we will be experiencing the fallout of content platforms that have, or long had, relatively "anything goes" or "all sides have a point" moderation policies, like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for a very long time. These continue to be leveraged against our political system today. The zeitgeist of libertarian tech culture has long been "connecting people" and "free speech" rather than building communities and, welp, it turns out there's a difference. It's as though the founders of so many platforms didn't care, or know, or understand how their philosophies could be gamed by extremists and used to silence the marginalized and monetize fascism.

In many ways, social media sites are the anti-thesis of community-building. Or, rather, people have to put a lot of work into making these sites functional online communities, if it's possible at all on a platform. Civil debate about literally any topic, even the most mundane, does not just magically happen. At its core, a comment moderation policy is the setting of boundaries in one's space, used to delineate the bounds of engagement the community agrees are acceptable.

That so many perceived or framed Shakesville's comment policy as abusive and/or cultish, I think, speaks to a deep, longstanding discomfort many people, including women, still have with women setting clear boundaries, building community, and then leading that community.

During the heydey of political blogging, many people eagerly started "weblogs" without putting thought into what their comment moderation policy would be. Most sites in the early days didn't even have a written one. I've run this site for about 12 years now, and I think many people were figuring it out as they went along, myself included. I remember early confrontations with homophobic male Christians who approached commenting here with complete and total entitlement. There are some things I wish I would have handled differently, but never have I wished I would have spent more time in this one precious life engaging with bad faith assholes here.

Eventually, many people in the blogosphere abandoned their blogs. I think they did so for a myriad of reasons: it was a risk, it was labor that was hard to monetize, it became boring, they didn't have instant success, they realized it's a pain in the ass to deal with assholes, it was stressful, they moved on to other things, they started podcasts, and more. Sometimes, I wonder why I'm still here and whether I'll stay, but I suppose that's a post for another day.

Here, I mostly want to say that, as a writer at Shakesville, I was deeply appreciative that I wasn't expected to engage with abusive comments following my posts there. I had done that before, repeatedly, at other sites and eventually the toll made me want to post less and less at that site until I eventually just stopped writing there (or the blog owners just deleted the blog altogether).

Mostly, I will miss Shakesville. A lot.

More broadly, it seems that we continue to lose more and more feminist spaces online and off, precisely when we need them most, including feminist bookstores, cultural events, and lesbian bars. And, I don't say that to imply that I think Melissa should have continued to run Shakesville. She took on the world for so many years at great detriment to her well-being.

I think about these losses of feminist space and contemplate the way that misogyny so often adapts as feminism progresses, in this neverending cycle. For instance, the near-election of Hillary Clinton in 2016 freaked rape culture patriarchy the fuck out and so we're currently in a feminist resurgence that's also a profound backlash. The world has decided that since roughly half of the white women who voted voted for Donald Trump, then white women do not experience gender-based oppression, or else why would they have voted for their own oppression?

Yet women, all women, actually do continue to experience gender-based violence, hostility, and aggression - in addition to, in many cases, additional identity-based oppressions. Even so, some progressives are joining their MRA brethren and starting to concede that "just" being a woman these days, that is - a white cishet woman - isn't "enough" of a marginalized identity to warrant analysis or advocacy. Some progressive/leftist/liberals communities, particularly if they're very keen on how progressive/leftist/liberal they are, act like they exist in a sort of post-feminist "gender-blind" space. In reality, such spaces are really only blind to gender-based disparities, as they replicated the norms of rape culture and patriarchy. 

Mostly, it continues to make me angry that progressive feminists, especially as they become more high profile, have to deal with so much abuse until they/we can't take it anymore. I think a lot about the voices we've lost over the years. And, while we expect the attacks from the right, so many within the moderate-to-left political spectrum are bystanders at best and active collaborators in the abuse at worst. 

Progressive feminists, especially now, just don't fit neatly within the political spectrum in the US. 

So many people casually take it for granted that this or that high-profile feminist is "trash" or "garbage" or "cancelled." Sometimes, that perception is based on honest critique. Yet, in combination with the reality that most women who are public figures get to make maybe one or two mistakes in their careers while white men get cultural forgiveness and redemption tours, the end result is a net positive for white patriarchy and rape culture.

But, many times, the "critique" is straight-up misogyny, abuse, or people being resentful that a woman has set a boundary with them. Many times, the abuse goes viral, on Twitter, with people competing with one another for the hottest, most abusive "dunk" on the feminist, in a process that is profoundly dehumanizing and usually distorts and simplifies everything she stands for. Her entire body of work, discounted because someone with a bunch of followers ridiculed one of her tweets, generating an algorithmic pile-on in which the targeted woman is reduced to a stereotypical "vapid garbage idiot."

It seems to me that it's the fate of every feminist of any renown to be reviled in her own day as "ruined forever" because she is imperfect, "crazy," "idiotic," "hateful," and/or "angry" so that instead of building upon feminist works, new generations of women who have internalized the message that earlier feminists had nothing valuable to say simply start over and over again, repeatedly. In reality, most feminists of any renown have something to teach us, even if they were profoundly flawed in other ways. And, gender-based hostility, discrimination, and violence are ills against which every generation has to be vigilant.

I will end by linking to a Shakesville piece that has long been one of my favorites. "The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck," which Melissa wrote almost 10 years ago to the day. 

It has resonated with me for many reasons. The clear articulation of the usually-unacknowledged dynamic that women contend with on a daily basis when confronted with casual, pervasive misogyny: "Swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon?" How this dynamic led her to be distrustful of men, rather than - as the stereotype claims of us - hateful toward them. 

And, the critical concept that being an ally to marginalized people is an ongoing act of vigilance wherein we each have to make ourselves trustworthy to those with identities we do not share:
"This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: Men are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.

A shitty bargain all around, really. But there it is.

There are men who will read this post and think, huffily, dismissively, that a person of color could write a post very much like this one about white people, about me. That's absolutely right. So could a lesbian, a gay man, a bisexual, an asexual. So could a trans or intersex person (which hardly makes a comprehensive list). I'm okay with that. I don't feel hated. I feel mistrusted—and I understand it; I respect it. It means, for me, I must be vigilant, must make myself trustworthy. Every day.

I hope those men will hear me when I say, again, I do not hate you. I mistrust you. You can tell yourselves that's a problem with me, some inherent flaw, some evidence that I am fucked up and broken and weird; you can choose to believe that the women in your lives are nothing like me.

Or you can be vigilant, can make yourselves trustworthy. Every day.

Just in case they're more like me than you think."
The work of progressive feminism will never be finished. Don't let our most valuable tools be taken from us - and, just as importantly, don't throw these tools by the wayside yourself: the insights of those who came before us, and our capacity to build upon these insights.

Maudespeed, sisters.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Republican Administration Seeking Federal Regulation of Speech on Social Media Sites

Via Politico:
"The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore 'all regulatory and legislative solutions' on the issue."

'If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system,' the White House official said."
Part of the "justification" here is that many conservatives are aggrieved that non-governmental entities don't grant them wanton freedom to spread hateful lies, violent rhetoric, and conspiracy theories.

Social media sites' banning of righwing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, for instance, is an oft-cited example of "bias" against "the conservative viewpoint," which is one of the biggest indictments of 21st-century conservatism in the US.

What's also neat here is that so many formal and informal checks on the Executive Branch are sort of just accepting that Trump can do whatever he wants, especially regarding "culture war issues," by merely issuing an Executive Order.

There's also this relevant tidbit:
"Trump said Monday that he wants the government to work with social media 'to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike,' and the White House has invited internet and technology companies for a discussion on violent online extremism with senior administration officials Friday."
If you actually believe the goal of such "tools" would be to prevent rightwing-inspired domestic terrorism, rather than to persecute the people Trump identifies as his political enemies, I have a large wall to sell you that will be paid for by Mexico.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Anneward Scissorhands

If you've ever wondered the things I think about when I'm not thinking about politics:

 [Text: "I just had a random, weird, brief vision of an Edward Scissorhands reboot with Anne Lister as the lead and I can't stop thinking about it."]

I think this crossover might even be better than the I idea had to reboot Scrooged with Anna Kendrick as the lead.

Insert jokes about scissors, as appropriate, here. And, FWIW, they're all appropriate.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

ICE Conducts Largest Single-State Raid in US History

Via CBS, yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted what one US Attorney called, "the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in our nation's history." From the article:
"By targeting workplaces across six different cities in southern Mississippi, Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents, with the help of the local district attorney's office, apprehended approximately 680 undocumented immigrants.

Asked about what would happen to workers who have children in the U.S., Albence reiterated the administration's standard guidance that arrests in the criminal justice system lead to family separations. He said affected children would be placed with other family members and in some instances, some parents could be released with ankle bracelets."
The children of the workers were left home alone due to the raid, and reports have stated that volunteers have been donating food and shelter to the children.

What the US is doing to these families and individuals is profoundly immoral and unjust.

Whatever differences people who oppose Trump have with one another, we have to come together to stop what our government is doing in our name. We must vote Republicans out of office, not just Trump/Pence but so many more.

I feel it in my bones that as heinous as this is, worse things are to come.

It is on us to figure out additional ways, large and small, in whatever ways we can to oppose this cruelty: donating, protesting, advocating, speaking out, voting, calling/writing legislators, and more. You may feel hopeless and small and insignificant, but never discount the ripples your actions may have in the future.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gen X as the "Reailty Terrorism" Generation

What a sad state of affairs it is that I was off the grid for most of the weekend and when I logged onto the Internet Sunday night and saw references to more mass shootings, I automatically knew that people couldn't have still been talking about the previous weekend's shooting in Gilroy, California.  That one, after all, was "too long ago" to "still" be in the news a week later.

We simply have so many shootings that each one lasts a news cycle or so as they follow a predictable pattern of breathless reporting > anger > fear > sorrow > cries of the citizenry for our legislators to do something, anything to help keep us safe > admonitions to stop politicizing this political issue > thoughts and prayers > and then repeat the next day when yet another man murders people.

Personally, I try not to get too bogged down in generational narratives, particularly the ones that pit generations against each other, but I hope you'll bear with me today as I speculate. Cynicism is supposedly a defining characteristic of Gen X, but in retrospect, I wonder if what has largely been described as cynicism is actually a shocked, numb horror of coming of age just as terrorism and sociopathy were rapidly normalized by both Internet culture and news-as-politicotainment media culture.

The infamous OJ Simpson Bronco chase of 1994, which I remember seeing nonstop coverage of during high school, seemed to help usher in an era of 24/7 "watch the drama as it happens" news that is at once horrific and dehumanizing precisely because it is implicitly presented as entertaining. As a teenager, I remember the hokey slogans ("the Juice is loose") and the trivialities that the media focused on ("Marcia Clark is ridiculous! Her hair!") that seemed to take center stage, much moreso than the grim reality that someone had committed murder. 

Reality TV was not yet a major trend until circa 1992, with MTV's The Real World, and prior to the reality TV fad, I would argue that TV had a more clear separation between news and entertainment. Yes, the news had a point of view, often told from the perspective of white men who were granted auras of objectivity and authority, but what was particularly dehumanizing about the OJ case was that it was like the media companies had found this new way of presenting murder as existing for our collective entertainment consumption. (In 2006, OJ Simpson had a one-episode prank-based reality TV show called Juiced, which was in the "too offensive but entertaining to look away" category that is a pretty good summary of the mainstream media's attitude toward covering/enabling Donald Trump's political rise).

The Columbine school massacre occurred in 1999, which is largely seen as a birth of a new era of young (often white) angst-driven male violence, and the coverage told us that the incident was both incredibly scary and entertaining. There are, of course, very different narratives around, and state responses to, violence perpetrated by Black people. And, since Columbine, the federal government's lack of effective response to white-male-initiated domestic terrorism can only rightly be seen as a continuation of the United States of America's historical, state-sanctioned approval of white male rage, entitlement, and violence.

Contrast the state's casual indifference to homegrown, white male domestic terrorism, for instance, with its over-reaction to international terrorism. After brown men engaged in terrorism against innocent civilians in 2001, the federal government quickly banded together, started a whole entire war, and passed sweeping legislation in response. Coupled with, and perhaps "justifying," this state-sanctioned aggression and erosion of liberties was the fact that we saw the planes crashing into the Twin Towers over and over and over and over again on TV and online and in newspapers. 

We now take our shoes off in airport security lines. We ration our shampoos and "liquids" into TSA-approved amounts. We're urged to "say something" if/when we "see something." These are all things that are done now because that's what's done in America.

We are still reckoning with these issues and traumas in ways large, small, known, and unfathomable, and that's before I've even factored in the rise of Internet culture, social media, and the cottage industry of white male pundits who perform "political news, but as irony/jokes."

Donald Trump stoked the embers of 9/11 as he ran in 2016 on a message of keeping the country safe from immigrants, terrorists, and/or people of color even as he himself was engaging in stochastic terrorism against his political opponent Hillary Clinton. He continues this course of action, often online and often against women of color who publicly stand up to him, with the help of Twitter who tacitly approves of his behavior through its indifference and inaction.

Of note, Trump hasn't promised to keep anyone safe from the white men in this country who commit political violence, and if he had promised to do so, he'd be failing miserably.

When white men go on shooting sprees after leaving rambling, bigoted Internet screeds, we're told to get over it quikcly, that it's not political violence, and/or that their online behavior and bigotries are irrelevant to their acts of aggression. Many commentators still think that what happens online "isn't real life," even though what happens online often has consequences offline. Sometimes, those consequences are "just" harming another user's mental health or ruining their day, but sometimes - in a nation with relatively easy access to guns - it's a mass shooting spree. That's not to say online culture/radicalization, bigotry, or reality politicotainment are the one cause of mass shootings, just that when easy access to guns are added to the picture they maybe all combine to make the killing that much easier.

The fear many of us have upon attending fairs, concerts, religious services, festivals, or doing basically anything at all in the public sphere is just the price we pay for "living in a free country." The same asinine talking points from people committed to the violent status quo that we heard after Columbine are still being uttered today: lone wolf, video games, bullying, the sadness/angst of white boys.

What is discussed less frequently, and this is a special note to people still operating under the delusion that "the young people will save us," are the ways Internet culture helps radicalize people, especially young white men, given that the US is steeped in a brew of racist misogyny, white male supremacy, techbro libertarianism that constantly engages in both-sidesism, and dehumanizing murder-is-entertaining politicotainment.

Online interactions and the normalization of Reality Terrorism have likely led a lot of people into viewing their interactions with people online as "not real" in a way that is profoundly dehumanizing (as I tweeted yesterday, oh the irony). Social media platforms like Twitter reward the toxic pile-ons and endless quote-tweet "dunks" that, once a target has been identified, end up being profoundly dehumanizing once the competition starts for the best "slam."

It's not only white men who dehumanize others on the Internet. In fact, social justice lingo and half-understood concepts are often weaponized on social media in ways that are extremely abusive. But, it is disproportionately white men who go on terroristic murderous rampages in the US and there are, I think, cultural reasons for that.

As commentators left, right, and center scream at each other about gun violence, hypocrisy, which "side" is worse, First Amendment rights, and the Second Amendment as though we're still living in the media and cultural landscape of the 1960s, I note that most of them will actively ignore (or mock) anything progressive feminists say about the links between mass violence, misogyny, rape culture, and Internet culture. (It's the same story with rape and sexual misconduct. Many on the left and right only care about the issue insofar as they can use it against political opponents, rather than for the simple reason that it's wrong and dehumanizing).

In December 2017, I wrote about the content moderation labor we do that has become a built-in aspect of using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook given the reality that some users use these platforms in ways far darker than the creators originally imagined. This moderation labor - blocking, muting, reporting - is just what we do now because sociopathy is normalized online and Internet culture designates you a fascist if you want platforms to be different and better.

And, oftentimes taking actions like blocking and muting other users leaves the harassing, extremist, and/or hateful content still "out there," unaddressed, for others users to see and be radicalized by. It puts the targets of such content in a difficult position of knowing that harmful content is still there, able to seen by others and acted upon for the rest of the Internet's life.

I liken it to an experience I had some years ago having been invited to participate in a conversation with men at an anti-feminist site. The site owners invited me to participate in a conversation about feminism wherein they would host two separate blogposts about my commentary: one that I could ostensibly participate in and that they would moderate for (by their standards) hostility, and a separate post where they would post my article and anti-feminists could say whatever they wanted about me and my opinions.

From my correspondence with them, I was supposed to be very grateful for this extreme generosity, but their setup overlooked the detail that, even if I didn't go visit their hostility-is-okay blogpost, I still knew that they would be hosting a forum for anti-feminists to engage in hostility toward me and that such commentary would exist on their site in perpetuity without being addressed by feminists (because most feminists didn't comment at their site).

A current rule of Internet culture really seems to be that users should just "ignore" online hostility and sociopathy targeting us because thinking of more complicated structural solutions isn't worth the "loss of free speech" or is too hard. Unfortunately, the old advice of just ignoring online bullies doesn't seem to be working out so well for us, as a society, as it seems that approach just normalizes aggression and bystander apathy.

Back in my December 2017 post about content moderation, I wrote:

"I think it's reasonable to say that most Internet users are actually exposed to traumatic content somewhat regularly. We've also largely accepted exposure to this content as 'normal,' without having begun to really grapple with the effects of it as a society.

In a popular piece at Medium, James Bridle wrote recently of frightening videos posted on YouTube to scare children, ultimately saying:
'What concerns me is that this is just one aspect of a kind of infrastructural violence being done to all of us, all of the time, and we’re still struggling to find a way to even talk about it, to describe its mechanisms and its actions and its effects.'
Bridle concludes that 'responsibility is impossible to assign.'
I think often about the voices we've lost over the years, and there have been many, because of the toxic cultures that thrive on platforms where the performance of content moderation labor falls on us, as users and writers.These harms are not something people in my generation (Gen X, if you're curious) really grew up learning how to deal with, or that, in my experience, many mental health professionals are even equipped to understand. I think many people have simply adapted to living with at least a low-grade state of anxiety about what they might encounter today on the Internet, particularly if they do a large portion of work on the Internet as part of their jobs."

Are we, Generation X, the Reality Terrorism Generation?

Perhaps. And perhaps we will soon be the last generation that remembers life before extremely online life. I'm not sure what the implications are of that beyond, in our own small ways, trying to advance norms that are not centered around the sociopathic norms that currently dominate Internet and politicotainment culture.