Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Day Twitter Was Worth It

Sometimes Twitter is a trashfire, but every now and then, it's not:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Woman Will Win, Eventually, But Will the US Let Her?

I'm currently reading Rebecca Solnit's Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) and came across a statement about the 2016 election (emphasis added):
"The other story [besides that of white working class support for Donald Trump] was about white women, who voted 43 percent for Clinton to 53 percent for Trump. We were excoriated for voting for Trump, on the grounds that all women, but only women, should be feminists. That there are a  lot of women in the United States who are not feminists does not surprise me. To be a feminist, you have to believe in your equality and rights, which can make your life unpleasant and dangerous if you live in a family, a community, a church, a state that does not agree with you about this.

... So women were hated for not having gender loyalty. But here's the fun thing about being a woman: we were also hated for having gender loyalty. Women were accused of voting with their reproductive parts of they favored the main female candidate, though most men throughout American history have favored male candidates without being accused of voting with their penises."
The highlighted statement is both profound and obvious (that is, obvious now that Solnit has articulated it). When women supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, women were (infamously) relentlessly mocked, harassed, and abused for supporting her - with much of the subtextual narrative being that Bernie was the better candidate with superior humanity, ethics, and policy positions compared to her, and accordingly, Hillary was only winning because she was establishment, had rigged it, and because frumpy, daft wine moms were supporting her "only" because they wanted a female president.

Newsflash: Left misogyny is real.

And then, of course, that roughly half of white women who voted voted for Trump has led to a post-2016 moral panic about white women as a class, a panic that obfuscates relevant distinctions of class, religion, sexuality, age, marital status, education level, and other aspects of one's identity including - oh, I don't know - political party that might help us more accurately describe why so many white women are conservative other than the general consensus that all white women are garbage human beings.

On Twitter in particular, it's been notable how swiftly "white feminist" has come to be used with a certain lack of precision. Or, rather, more precisely how it has come to refer to any woman who is white who expresses an opinion about something, whereas the more specific original meaning was a critique of the centering of class-privileged, cishet white women within feminism. The former is not how the term is always used, to be clear, but it's used often enough and by those with relatively large platforms such that people have largely just accepted it even though if all white women are purported practitioners of white feminism without regard to what they are espousing, then people have actually failed to describe a meaningful category of feminism that exists in reality.

Men, interestingly enough, are never called "white feminists," even if they are white men who purport to be feminists. More on that tidbit, in a moment. Cool Girls, too, seem exempt, although I suspect deep down they know that can change at any moment.

From this imprecise usage, progressive, moderate, and leftist men are taking their cues accordingly and weaponizing this new definition of "white feminism," despite the fact that it's extremely doubtful that most men using the term are aware enough of their own misogynistic thinking to be able to use it in a constructive way.

Even many moderate-to-left men are MRA-adjacent and misogynistic. So, they perpetuate slightly-modified talking points and "jokes" about "white women," "wine moms," and feminists that MRAs have been blathering about for decades, including first and foremost the pop idea that it's okay to leverage misogynistic narratives against "white women" or "rich women" or "privileged women" or "famous women" because such women are incapable of experiencing gender-based oppression since "other women have things worse."

Some people talk about how the white women who voted for Trump (or sometimes, just simply, "all white women") are "patriarchy's most eager foot soldiers," and sure that's certainly true for many. Less discussed are the progressive, moderate, liberal, and leftist women who are, as well, as they carry water for their dirtbag male peers by targeting progressive feminists who don't support a particular white male politician who shall remain nameless (just kidding, it's Bernie Sanders, but don't worry there's also the women who defend dudes like Joe Biden, Bill Maher, and Al Franken from the hysterical, vapid, no-sense-of-humor feminists) so that most feminists with even moderate followings are left fending off harassment from abusers left, right, and center for not staying in line.

It's telling, too, to watch how highly men reward women with likes, retweets, and positive reinforcement for engaging in this discourse. As a general rule, women are always rewarded for complicity under white supremacist patriarchy, a factoid that might also be relevant to the Trump-voting women.

When progressive feminists aren't being abused, they are often being ignored, which is an indignity in and of itself to not be treated like an intellectual peer of even mediocre male commentators. Quite often, they are often being gaslit, having their ideas co-opted by the mainstream without attribution, having their ideas co-opted by men who get ticker tape parades for being such good allies, being harassed/abused/doxxed/slandered/mocked, accused of hating men, and/or accused of ruining More Important Things like atheism, particular religions, socialism, capitalism, democracy, labor movements, political movements, podcasts, media companies, TV shows, men's careers, comedy, sports, workplaces, the Internet, and everything, basically.

In light of everything, it's not a wonder that women would vote for Trump. It's a wonder that there are any feminists at all.

Women are perpetually pitted against each other while it seems to me that we (the royal we, I guess) have largely given up on expecting men to be better. White men, in particular, are to be empathized with, in this political moment. A white man who is a feminist will not be called a white feminist, because hey, at least he's trying, and there's also the reality that behind the collective demand for white male himpathy is the ever-present threat: Don't ask too much of white men or else it's four more years of Trump and terror!

Ultimately, who is seen as deserving of the nation's, the media's, the political class' collective empathy is about power. And those who have power often try to narrate reality in ways that gaslight those with less relative power. "Identity politics are a distraction." "Only class matters." "Misogyny and rape culture don't exist." "Hillary was a uniquely bad candidate who didn't experience misogyny and her loss was entirely her fault, and the fact that the US has never had a female president is just a weird, flukey coincidence with no relevance to the 2016 post-mortem."

The reality back on Earth, however, is that the United States was simply not designed by its founders to account for a scenario in which a woman and/or non-white person might run against and beat a white man in a presidential (or any other) election, so when you think about it, we're largely winging this.

It's no coincidence that bigoted white Americans began escalating the collapse of American democracy after the election of the first Black president. It seems that the collective white male "Real Patriot" ego could not withstand the (to them) trauma, and neither could their wives, many of whom live in a state of hate-fear toward their husbands such that they constantly have to prove their loyalty in demeaning, self-flagellating ways ("Trump can grab my pussy! I don't mind!") while taking solace in their presumed superiority over non-white, non-Christian, non-cishet, non-conservative people.

It's a miracle the Washington Monument itself didn't explode in a fury of racist, eroticized rage. And after 8 years of President Obama, add losing to a woman? Hoo-boy. We never had a chance in 2016, did we?

I think a lot about the rage-entitlement SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh emoted during his hearings when confronted with a possible barrier, a woman - a mere woman - to the status he felt entitled to as his birthright. I'll never forget the day I watched his spittle-flecked defense of himself. Multiply that toxic attitude by millions and channel that fury into the avatar of Donald Trump, and boom, it turns out that a lot of the people who support Trump actually are racist, misogynistic, bigoted deplorables, and the sooner we collectively admit that the better.

So, unfortunately, while I believe a woman can and will eventually beat a man in a presidential election (in both the popular vote and the rigged-for-the-white-patriarchal-status-quo electoral college), I am not quite as certain that the establishment powers in this nation - the media, the Executive branch, SCOTUS, Republican-controlled Congress, and/or popular opinion - would acknowledge her win as legitimate anytime soon.

I could easily imagine a variety of scenarios that would conspire to prevent her from taking office, including faithless electors, demands for a "do-over," cheating, political assassination, and/or Trump (or any other man in office at the time) just simply refusing to concede the loss after crying that the election was "rigged" against him, and then Congress, the Courts, the media, and the public just giving a collective shrug and backing him up.

Via "she rigged it" narratives perpetuated by both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the 2016 election, both of whom seemed to seethe with rage at the prospect of losing to a woman, the political left and right now have a framework for denying a woman a legitimate win, as we saw that vast percentages of the US populace and media commentators would simply adopt, or not counter, these men's narrative that the woman was both insurmountably powerful to have rigged two entire national elections and yet also so monumentally stupid as to have lost in the end.

None of this means that we give up or only vote for white men from here on out. Like I said, we're winging this, as a nation, which doesn't get mentioned near enough as it should. And, a key step here is an accurate reckoning of the predicament in which we find ourselves. We've heard a lot of about the feminist backlash we're in, but to be fair, the default state of the US since its founding has been a feminist backlash and nevertheless, we've persisted.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

On Franken: The Imaginary Invisible Feminists Are On the Attack!

Now that Jane Mayer and others in the mainstream media are reviving a fresh round of himpathy* for poor Al Franken, who resigned from the US Senate in 2017 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct, it's time to address a common trope related to the #MeToo movement.

Via The Guardian (which uses Mayer's New Yorker piece as its source):
"While Franken claims to feel sorry for the women who accused him, he believes 'differentiating different kinds of behaviour is important'.

"He said: 'The idea that anybody who accuses someone of something is always right –that’s not the case. That isn’t reality.'”
The argument that "differentiating different kinds of behaviour is important" is often used to suggest that #MeToo advocates (ie, feminists) are not currently doing this, that we are burning men alive at the stake for both innocuous and illegal behaviors, and thus "the #MeToo movement has gone too far."

Yet, as I tweeted yesterday**, who exactly are the imaginary figments of people's imaginations who are saying, "Zero distinctions exist between different acts of sexual misconduct"? Do they hang out with the feminists of lore who scream at men all day for holding open doors?

I follow the work of more feminists than probably most Americans do, and I know of no major advocate who has made that argument. Rather, it seems mostly like a straw argument designed to prop up rape culture and male supremacy by suggesting that men are living with copious amounts of fear because feminists these days are hysterical, irrational, lying, immensely powerful, ambitious, and very stupid women. (Also, LOL at "these days." That's been rape culture patriarchy's line about women since time immemorial).

As a related point, notice how Franken slides the argument that "differentiating different kinds of behaviour is important" right into "The idea that anybody who accuses someone of something is always right- that's not the case. That isn't reality."

So, first, a lecture that women are not smart, rational, or sophisticated enough to make distinctions between different types of behavior and, in conclusion, those bitches are lying, anyway.

I reckon that part of the problem here is that a lot of people, especially men, in the media don't actually follow, read, or analyze progressive female feminists to even know what they/we are saying about #MeToo.  The secondhand accounts and stereotypes of feminists ("She's crazy," "She's trash, "She's cancelled") carry the day and they don't often investigate for themselves.

As I noted on Twitter yesterday, sometimes when I encounter a bad male opinion, I scroll that person's Twitter feed and notice they go months or weeks without positively retweeting or engaging a woman, let alone a progressive women who is also a feminist.  For all their blathering about "diversity of opinion," a lot of men are in an echo chamber of their own making, and what that echo chamber is affirming to them are a fuckton of rape culture narratives.

Relatedly, I noticed many women who I follow on Twitter writing about Al Franken, and yet a lot of moderate-to-leftist men on the platform were talking about the situation primarily with or to other men, without reference to anything progressive feminists - people who analyze rape culture on the regular - were saying. Nate Silver, for instance, critiqued the Jane Mayer piece, and men engaged that as though he was the be-all, authoritative voice on the matter.

In addition to the abuse that progressive feminists endure, the act of progressive feminists being widely ignored by the mainstream also has an indignity to it as we are simply not treated as authorities on sexual violence, rape culture, and misogyny.

Nonetheless, what this entire situation suggests to me, including and especially Jane Mayer's recent piece about him, is that Al Franken seems like vindictive ego-centric abuser who could have nipped all of this in the bud - including the misosgynistic and disproportionate attacks on Kirsten Gillibrand- by pulling up his goddamn socks and owning his behavior. Instead, he's proven to be like so many other liberal-left faux male allies who take up way too much space in the discourse, demand (and receive) far more empathy than any woman, and perpetuate rape culture narratives in their response to allegations of misconduct.

The only question now is when can we expect his bitter, cruelty-fueled comedy duo with Louis CK?

*Credit for this term goes to Kate Manne.

**Oops, LOL my Twitter break.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Everything Wrong With the Social Media Ecosystem In One Image

This comes from an Independent article about the privacy (and potentially national security) concerns with popular app FaceApp:

This app is concerning, and was made by developers in a nation that interfered with our last election, but hey check out the best celebrity photos from this app! We're getting close to 2020 elections after all!

In related news, I'm taking a social media detox for awhile. I will continue to post here from time to time but I don't have the time or will right now to monitor Twitter.

Among other things, Twitter is a platform that both allows and rewards viral sociopathic cruelty, thereby normalizing it within society, without adequately protecting its users or, absconding that moral duty, even providing adequate tools for users to protect themselves. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

On "Resistance Moms" and 2020

Today on Twitter, I made some observations about some 2020 polling data from Indivisible:
The data shows that this group of voters - said to be disproportionately white, female, and suburban - disproportionately support Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. The numbers also show that more within this group do not support Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, than do.

As I tweeted, these findings are interesting on several levels. Regarding Bernie, I think he dredges up a lot of history from 2016, most notably that he can't seem to admit that he lost to a woman. But in addition to that, I think he has earned the distrust many women probably have of him due to his consistent 1960s socialist rhetoric that dog-whistles the mantra that white working class men are to be prioritized with respect to the political solutions he's proposing.

There's also the reality that a good portion of the online left has spent far too much time and energy mocking "wine moms" and the "hashtag resistance" for not sufficiently feeling the Bern. Back in January 2019, I wrote about this. The refusal of the online left to take "the hashtag resistance" seriously as a political movement is, I believe, in no small part due largely to the fact that white, cisgender, straight men are not at the center of it.

We've seen some of these dynamics play out over the past three years, a notable example of which is the way many women have bristled at times when The Women's March has appeared to be a vehicle for channeling women's support toward a Bernie 2020 run, such as his invite to give what some were presented as a keynote speech at the organization's Women's Convention in 2017. (He accepted the invite, which caused a huge backlash, and then later backed out without acknowledging that invite/acceptance were controversial.)

The Biden numbers on the Indivisible poll are interesting, as well, not the least of which is because I think there is some "conventional wisdom" on Twitter that "resistance moms" are "neoliberal centrists" who probably disproportionately support him (or course, you have to factor in that "neoliberal centrist" has some bizarre definitions these days, most of which center around the degree to which one does/doesn't like Bernie Sanders).

I'm not sure what to make of Gillibrand's numbers, other than that she most likely has taken huge hits because she called on Al Franken to resign. So, perhaps these voters are resentful of her for that and/or they think other people would remain too resentful of that (ie, misogynistic) to vote for her.

Remember: a lot of women have internalized misogyny, and it's also pervasive among the moderate-to-left side of the political spectrum. It's fully possible to support some female candidates, while not supporting others for misogynistic reasons.

All in all, it's still early. Biden and Bernie have near-universal name recognition, however, and I suspect that the more people see of the other candidates, the more people will realize that neither man is particularly well-equipped for this political moment.

I know Bernie's team is pushing the narrative that everyone is stealing his ideas*, but demeanor - among other things matters - and he simply doesn't have it. (*If everyone is stealing Bernie's ideas and supporting "his" agenda, are they also still neoliberals centrist sellouts? Hmmm, ponder the paradox).

Tuesday, July 2, 2019