Am I a Misandrist?

A side effect of writing this blog is having to constantly clarify that I don’t hate men. I think that’s true. I think that I don’t hate men. That’s a strange thing to be uncertain about, and I’m not even sure about the veracity of the claim anymore. When someone says, “I’m not a racist, but” you can be sure that what they’re about to say is definitely racist. Here I am, always saying, “I’m not a misandrist, but” and I’m wondering if I do kind of hate men, and what to do with these feelings.

Before I get ten thousand angry comments, you should know that even I think I’m wrong more than I’m right. I’m painting with broad strokes here. I started to write that you should think about what I say here on an institutional level and not be personally offended as or on behalf of men. But the reason I’m realizing that I might hate men is personal. And I don’t really know what to do with that.

Here’s the thing: even men who are intelligent and deeply thoughtful will inevitably say or do something that makes me wonder what they really think about women. A little comment will slip out and make me wonder if they see me as an equal or if they even see me as human. And then I wonder what might happen if I keep spending time with them.

I’m not sure I can trust men because one thing will trigger another and then I’m remembering that one time when I was a teenager, the terrifying feeling of being overpowered by a man, being held down, crying and trying to get away. Or my mind goes back a year or two ago, to the time a man slipped his hand around my throat and casually said, “I could kill you so easily right now.” Those are just drops in the giant bucket of bad experiences with men. And yes, there are abusive women who do terrible things and should be held accountable for them. But in my personal experience, there have been a small handful of bad women and an even smaller handful of good men. I don’t believe that all men do these terrible things, but I do believe that all or almost all women have had these experiences with men.

There are too many of these stories. We can call these events to mind and discuss them with too much detachment; it happens so often that it’s stopped being shocking to us. I think about how we’ve been told that we’re the ones overreacting, that it wasn’t such a big deal. We’ve been put in situations with the men who’ve harmed us and been told to be nice, to smile and be polite and let the past be the past.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I got tired of making concessions, of letting abusive people maintain avenues into my life. So I stopped. I stopped having close emotional relationships with men. Over the past few years, I’ve surrounded myself with strong, loud, unbreakable women… and no men. And that gave me the space I needed to grow and recover and build a healthy sense of self. It was definitely the right choice at the time, but now I’m not sure if it’s the right path to continue down.

I have to acknowledge that I probably overcorrected. There were too many abusive men in my life and now there are no men in my life. I do extremes: polarized all or nothings. I know that’s not right and I’m trying to do better, but grace is not a word that’s often used to describe me. I’m not good at forgiveness or wiggle room. I’m a terrible educator. When someone does or says something without realizing that they’re implicitly or explicitly promoting rape culture and perpetuating an environment of violence against women… I tend to leave the table.

I don’t always want or feel able to engage in a dialogue about gender and violence. I know that’s not productive. I know that my silence won’t change anybody’s mind, and in fact will be read as compliance or tacit support, but some days it feels impossible. Some days, I want to be petulant, to call myself a misandrist and swear to never ever speak to a man again. I don’t want to sit in the discomfort and pain and try to figure it out. I want to have a tantrum and leave the hard work to somebody else.

But even as I feel this tension so fully, I have to acknowledge that I am complicit in so many oppressive systems. Every time a man says something that makes me swear that I absolutely definitely hate men, I have to remember that my privileged identities constantly contribute to those same feelings for another person. My ignorance and insensitivity around my whiteness, my straightness, my cis-genderedness hurt people just as much, probably more, than men’s general inability to understand how their privilege and power is marginalizing to me.

And that brings me right back to my own lack of grace. Engaging in social justice, trying to challenge and change the harmful aspects of our society, takes a lot of grace. It’s hard, it hurts, and all of us have valid feelings about it—even when those feelings are in opposition. We have to give each other space to figure it out, and we have to give ourselves some grace too. It’s okay to let someone know that they’re responsible for educating themselves. It’s okay to take a break.

But if we don’t join in again, nothing will ever get better. When I think about all the girls growing up now, I don’t want them to have casual conversations with their friends about the ways they’ve been abused by men. I want their lives to be better, safer, and happier than ours have been. So I have to learn how to balance my legitimate mistrust and wariness with productive and human conversations. I’m still trying to figure out how.

Shake It Off

Current events locally, nationally, globally, geopolitically, and in my own personal life are a mess right now. “A mess” trivializes the realities of these situations (except in my personal life. My personal life is not a humanitarian crisis. It is just a mess.) But I don’t know how to talk about all of those things just yet. I’m still struggling through a lot of it and I’m not ready to do it publicly. So, today we’re going to talk about something I do know how to talk about: my girl Taylor Swift.

It’s all but impossible to have any conversation about Taylor Swift without somebody bringing up the Politics of Taylor Swift, which is always exhausting and almost always sexist. It seems like everyone wants to hate my girl Tay– which is what I’ve taken to calling her because all the baseless hatred has made me enormously protective—mainstream media says she’s spiteful and uses boys to get hit songs and feminist media has a habit of saying she’s an airhead who’s obsessed with boys and nothing else. Ugh, y’all. Ugh. I’m not spending much time on this today (check back for a full essay later) but I’ll reiterate what I always say: hating women hurts all women. Also, Taylor Swift is great. I love her. I write a blog called Angry Feminist Killjoy and I utterly, without an ounce of irony, adore Taylor Swift.

On Monday evening, there was this big livestream event where a bunch of information about Taylor’s (yeah, I’m first-naming it) new album was revealed. And of course I watched that live! My life is, as previously established, Not Great Bob, and I knew that Taylor Swift could fix it. She’s just that good. And she did! The livestream starts and she’s ON TOP of the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING. So cool! Successful young women taking charge! My heart! And then pretty shortly she drops a brand new single and it’s so great. I just instantly love it and forget all my problems and can’t wait to get in on this new Taylor Swift Era of Good Times With Lady Friends! And then she announces her new album—which, you know, go ahead and clear my calendar for October 27. And then, because this livestream is wonderful, she’s like, PS: here’s my brand new video.

The video starts and is so great and fun and I instantly loved it just like I instantly loved the song. One of the many unfounded things Taylor Swift is constantly criticized for is her ~bad dancing~ and this video responds to that in the most fun, funny, and self-deprecating way. Here’s Taylor, bunny hopping around with professional ballerinas (an approach that probably would have made my years of ballet classes a lot more fun) and now she’s terrified in a crowd of modern dancers (which is so funny, genuinely humorous, I laughed out loud) and then she’s in this cute lil gold bob with super cool gold lips trying to be futuristic (I don’t even know what to call this kind of dance) and then she’s hanging out with this Vanilla Ice-esque group of dudes and it’s all great! It’s fun, it’s funny, it pokes fun at her own ~bad dancing~ and then…

I’m sure you know where this is going. Crashing down, is where. Crashing down horribly. All of a sudden, Taylor is facing the camera while a group of mostly black women twerk. And she’s dressed up in a really horrifying stereotypical outfit that honestly feels like it belongs in some kind of What Not To Do This Halloween List. And then, because it actually gets worse, my girl Tay crawls through a tunnel of twerking women. This is, unfortunately, the screencap for the video. The whole thing should go straight onto an Inappropriate Things For White People to Do list. The first time I watched this, I just kind of sunk into myself and deflated and thought, “Taylor, come on, no. No, no, no. Please don’t be doing this.”

I spent all night thinking about the video and sent my friends a 1000+ word email at about 7 am. Maybe we’ll end up talking about it and another post will end up here. But for now, I’m going to continue this stream-of-consciousness narrative babble. I’ve read scads of articles and opinion pieces and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to critically and fairly respond to this piece. I’ve had to dig through a lot of nonsense (but the Politics of Taylor Swift!!) to find legitimate criticism and, like all criticism should be, the conversation is nuanced. Is the twerking scene racist? Is it racist to presume that it’s racist? Is Taylor making a mockery of twerkers or is she making fun of herself for being unable to twerk? I’ve heard really compelling arguments on all sides of these questions!

Here’s where I’m at… you need to watch the video before you start talking about how much you hate it. Because, again, we’re all brainwashed into this insane Must Hate Taylor Swift zombie mode and consequentially a lot of the criticism of the video doesn’t make any sense, because the people yelling about it haven’t actually watched it. The big one here is the claim that the only PoC in the video are the faceless twerkers. That’s patently untrue. Which you would know if you watched the video.

One of my biggest problems with Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here was that she’s standing still, surrounding by twerking black women, while literally saying, “I don’t shake my ass because I have a brain.” So in that case, it’s clearly sending a message that the twerking black women around her don’t have brains. With Miley Cyrus, I’m constantly bothered by the way she attempts to claim black culture as her own. She wants to ‘celebrate’ it, but ends up appropriating it. I listen to Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus and I genuinely like both of them as musical artists. I’m not trying to say that they’re the real villains and Taylor Swift is exempt. She’s not. The makeup and costuming and tunnel… not okay. But I do think there is a marked difference in intentionality—not that intentionality matters most of the time. Ie: I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, but that’s what I did so now I have to take responsibility for that. My point is, I think this case is a bit more complicated than some of the others we’ve seen.

I really think Taylor was trying to make fun of herself in the video, and I think it worked brilliantly right up until the twerking scene. I’m not mad about Taylor dressing up like a ballerina or a gymnast or any of the other personas she adopted in the video. I don’t see that as appropriative. Because poking fun at ballet and gymnastics and contemporary dance doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s fun and really funny to watch Taylor fumble around before the (totally stellar) finally scene where she (in that amazing all black ensemble) dances, footloose and fancy free with her fans. All of that is awesome! Because it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Twerking is a hot topic of the cultural moment, and the conversation usually involves white women pointing at black women and laughing. So, while Taylor was probably just trying to laugh at herself—these things, especially race things, don’t happen in a vacuum. We have to consider the cultural climate and context and how that effects a message’s reception, regardless of its intention. So, if one of you could get me Taylor Swift’s personal contact information, I’d really like to relay all of this information. Actually, no. As much as I would like to have Taylor Swift’s personal contact information, I am not the person who should be having this talk. Either white people need to stop making music videos or we need to hire a Don’t Be Racist consultant to review all music videos before they are produced. That person should get Taylor’s contact info. (And that person should not be me because I am so obviously not an expert on race.)

Finally, here’s where I’m leaving off tonight: I think this video has really harmful and upsetting elements. I wish it didn’t. I wish all our celebrities were required to take a seminar on race and gender theory. I’m really glad the lyrics aren’t problematic the way the video is. Thank god this isn’t a Blurred Lines (lol, rape!) or even a Hard Out Here (I’m too smart to twerk!) situation. That makes it a lot easier for me to accept the problematic elements of Shake It Off and still wholeheartedly love it. And I want to acknowledge that as a white woman who isn’t daily and constantly affected by racism, it’s a lot easier for me to say, “Yeah, this is shitty but ~I love it anyway!!~”

And that’s all for tonight. 1500 words later… I’m going to go continue having feelings about my girl Tay, and really work on trying to verbalize my feelings about everything that’s happening in Ferguson, Gaza, Syria, and even my own inconsequential life. I’d really like to continue to have nuanced conversations about this stuff, but please, for the love of god, don’t make me delete a thousand comments about how you hate Taylor Swift because you think she’s evil.

All About That Bass

It’s time for another fun round of my friends and I critically analyzing music videos via email!! As with “Hard Out Here” Sam sent us Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass with this message,

yeah so issues with 1. skinny bashing, maybe? 2. basing appearance on what guys want to grab at night 3. jesus with the pastels 4. are the black back up dancers being used as props? is she being inclusive of all big booties or capitalizing on black booties? why can’t my white booty stop bouncing to this song?

I started to respond, but then I wrote an essay (why can I never shut up??) so I’m posting it here and maybe we can all talk about it together!

The message I took from this video is, “I’m not a size 2; I’m a REAL WOMAN.” Oh, ever so sorry, I didn’t realize I’m not a real woman. Turns out I’ve been a velociraptor this whole time.

I don’t understand how this song can simultaneously call for an end to unrealistic body images and harmful photoshopping while having lyrics like, “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that– no I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat.” Haha, oh my god, that’s so funny, what a total laugh, women have been taught to hate themselves!! A real knee-slapper there. But then it goes on to say, “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” I’m so confused; didn’t you just say that the only good body is the one that has “that boom boom that all the boys chase” and that “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”?

We absolutely have body image problems in our society. We demonize fatness; “fat” is an insult. Our whole society needs intense therapy. We need to fix that stuff. Let’s all pause and listen to Beyonce.

Thin privilege is real. I could go to 7/11 right now and get the biggest size slushy possible and people would probably chuckle and think I was doing something endearing. Kind of like when I was out with Megan and Whitney and our server thought it was ever so precious when I ordered a cookie. He chuckled and gave me a look that said, “Aren’t you adorable?” But if my body were different, people wouldn’t think that. They would have nasty thoughts and they might even vocalize them. I don’t have to experience that, and I can only speak from my position as someone who benefits from having a body that’s considered worthy by the people who send certain sizes of clothes to Target.

I’ve noticed this demonization of fatness more and more as my sister’s gone through a weight loss journey. She’s lost nearly 100 pounds over the past year and people treat her differently now. I notice people responding to her differently. We talk a lot about how it’s been for her to transition, both bodily and in the eyes of society. People are nice to her now and they weren’t before. 100 pounds ago, people treated her like she wasn’t a human. That’s unreal.

With all of that in mind, this song seems like it should be great. We should be changing our cultural perceptions of bodies and worth. We need to stop equating skinniness to worthiness and fat to trash. But trying to replace one ideal with another isn’t the way to do that.

Sam, I read your comments before watching the video and I thought it must involve some kind of Jesus swathed in pastels. I think I would have preferred that, but you’re right, there’s no way to address that mess other than, “jesus with the pastels.” The video uses the pastels to play up classic femininity—sugar and spice and everything nice, now with big butts! But what all of this is really doing is saying that there’s one right way to be a woman. We’re still going to be pastel Stepford Wives, now we’ll just be curvy pastel Stepford Wives.

Swapping out one oppressive ideal for another won’t get us anywhere, ESPECIALLY if it’s done through the lens of pleasing men. Ugh. Ugh. Ew. I can’t. As the resident outspoken (ironic) misandrist of our friend group, allow me to loudly state that I don’t care what men think about women’s bodies. I don’t care and neither should anyone else. As kids, we’re taught that we should avoid peer pressure by being True To Ourselves and Not Doing Things Because Our Friends Are and Don’t Jump Off That Bridge Because Your Friends Say To, but none of those lessons seem to apply when it comes to heteronormative relationships. Then, throw all of that self-actualization out the window and do everything you can to make a dude happy.

The song reinforces that message- that we should craft ourselves around the aesthetic ideals of men. There’s nothing more important than being wanted by a boy! And boys want big butts! And nobody likes skinny bitches!

Putting down women hurts all women. Why doesn’t anyone seem to understand this?? Love your body; it’s awesome. Be all about the bass. Just don’t vilify the treble while you’re at it. (Aside: I really can’t get over bass/treble being used as a stand in for fat/thin.)

I want to meet with every person who’s been hurt by this toxic thinking and clutch their cheeks while staring into their eyes and whisper, “All bodies are good bodies.” over and over until they believe it. And I want everyone to stop pitting women against each other. Nobody signed up for this fight, but we keep being thrown into the ring.

I didn’t even get to the race stuff going on in the video, but I think Sam’s right about the appropriation/capitalization. And, as always, a thousand thanks to Riot Grrl Whitney for popping in with some of her musical preferences. Here’s her selection: Half Girl’s Lemmy, I’m a Feminist. I’m going to slink back into my cave and listen to The National.

Love Letter to My Best Friend

Madelaine, do you remember the night we met? It was right after I graduated college and we had both ended up in that underground ‘music venue’ which wasn’t anything more than a sweaty concrete room with bad acoustics. The people who’d dragged us in had abandoned us both and though neither of us actually said it, we both thought, “Wow, she looks like she wants to be here as much as I do. Which is not at all!” You handed me a green-labeled Session and a pair of earplugs. We’ve been friends ever since.

I don’t know how to summarize or highlight what makes you so great, Madel. How can I condense your multitudes into a single blog post? How can I write about how remarkable you are without producing a laundry list of clichés? I feel about you the way Leslie Knope feels about Ann Perkins. Oh, Madelaine. You magnificent middle school marching band.

You moved away a few days ago and I’ve been handling it by having crying jags on your green couch, which now lives in my apartment. In fact, I’m sitting on it now, wrapped in that blue blanket, watching my window well fill with hail. Actually, here’s a picture of the reading nook you helped me create.Apartment Story

I love that I can sit on your couch and look up at the balloon mobile we found in Albuquerque and the book mobile you made me. I just checked and the inscription you wrote says, “For my dear friend Lydia, I absolutely cherish you. –Madelaine, Christmakkuh 2012. So maybe I should stop here because that probably says everything, doesn’t it?

A few weeks after we met, we had this totally heartfelt and hilarious rooftop conversation about how we had the first really real friendship that either of us had yet had in our strange White Yuppie town. People kept calling for us to come in and I remember you saying, “You can wait! WE ARE BONDING UP HERE.” I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned from you: to put friendships first, that everything else will keep. I’ve always admired how self-assured you are. You ooze confidence. Sometimes that gets us into trouble, like when we accidentally lit your entire kitchen on fire because we were… perhaps a little too confident. I’ve always known that caring about what other people think is a waste of time, but I’d never known anyone to really and truly not care what other people think until I met you. You’re so you and so comfortable with your own person, but you’re not mean or cocky in any way. You’re thoughtful and loving, and go out of your way to do nice things for people. I really wish some of the idiots we’ve known along the way would recognize and appreciate those traits more.

Like, you’re so good at everything you do but you’re never haughty about it. You’ll get up at four in the morning and toss around hundred pound hay bales like they’re feather pillows but are still genuinely proud when I tell you I did nothing all day but run a super slow 5K. And speaking of super slow 5Ks, you’re always at least half a mile ahead of me when we run together. When we did that Sweaty Sweater race, you finished at least fifteen minutes before me (I’m the slowest runner, y’all) but you were waiting at the finish line, cheering me on and not at all disgusted by my snail’s pace. When I almost made you miss your flight because I forgot to take the airport exit on account of being wrapped up in a discussion about bagels, you weren’t even mad. When you got the single coolest job possible and embarked on your new jet-setting, world-travelling life, you didn’t ever brag or make me feel bad for being, um, super ambiguous about my future.

I don’t think anyone has ever believed in me the way you believe in me, Madel. When I’m uncertain, self-conscious, or super depressed, you’re always there to say, “But, you’re Lydia Bagels Page. You can do anything!” (By the by, I had the graduation announcer read my middle initial as B for Bagels mostly because I knew it would crack you up.) As you know, I am literally allergic to the sun. I’d always been self-conscious about how this makes me one of the whitest white people around, but then one time you said, “I never thought pale people could be pretty until I met you.” That is hilarious and also a highly treasured compliment. You’re really good at saying hilarious and meaningful things. I tend to speak in convoluted metaphors, like the time I rationalized a breakup via ampersands, or the other time I compared you to a bagel and cried.

In general, I cry approximately twice a year. The past few days bookending your move have been a total sob-fest, which is very confusing for me. Like, I can’t really comprehend where I’m supposed to put all these feelings?? I think you’ll get that, because you’re the only person who’s always totally understood my brand of extreme love meets low expression meets weird depression. I love that I can just say, “My fish are especially dead today.” and you’ll know exactly what that means and how it feels. I don’t like that we share some similar traumas (because we shouldn’t have ever had to deal with those abuses) but I do like that we can talk about them frankly. Having someone (you may be the only one?) so thoroughly and unquestioningly on my side has been a total game-changer.

There was that time I’d had a particularly virulent row with that dumb white guy who thought he was entitled to hang out, uninvited, on Native American reservations because “they’ll want to find common ground with me.” I called you because I was so mad I could hardly see straight and I desperately needed to vent. You said, “This is such good timing because I bought us a present and they just came in the mail.” A few minutes later, you were at my house with these matching bracelets, to be worn whenever we need to call upon the strength of 10,000 feminists. Speaking of dumb white people, you’ve helped me become less of one. I’ve learned so much from you just by listening to you talk about navigating your life and identity, about what it’s like to be both Hispanic and white-passing, especially in your labor-intensive industry. I’m a much better feminist because of you.

You never think it’s weird when I need to do an extensive critical analysis of TV shows. To this day, you’re the only non-family member who’s ever heard my impressive variety of accents and impressions. You don’t think it’s weird that I’m obsessed with your hometown. You don’t make fun of me for that chard/wine incident. You practically carried me home after my IUD insertion, then stayed and made me soup and let me whine about the sexism that landed me in such pain. You let me come over and write my thesis while you made me dinner. You cracked up when I gave you a sympathy card for graduation. You are right there with me on all our fangirl-ish Mr. The National feels. You don’t think it’s weird that I live in a land-locked state but have distinctly nautical sartorial impulses. You totally support my lady-blazer lifestyle. You were one of the first vocal supporters of this little blog. You just overnighted me a bagel, and it was the best bagel I’ve ever had. Madelaine, you’re every kind of wonderful, the very best friend I never deserved to have.

Knowing you has been such a pleasure. You helped me become an even shinier version of myself. These few days without you haven’t been great. I’ve been listening to even more of The National than usual, especially Santa Clara. I don’t want you to think that I’m okay with our separation, because I am not even close to okay. Not even in the same zip code as okay. But I also feel really okay. (???) I’m not worried, not even a little. It’s never not going to totally suck, but we’re going to be fine. All we’ve got to do is be brave and be kind, showered and blue-blazered, solid gold in our lemonworld. We’re gonna be happy genius heroes. (See what I did there??)

Yesterday, I was listening to This American Life. Toward the end of the “Call for Help” episode, Chana Joffe-Walt says, “Maya loves Charlotte. She loves her. She feels the feelings that come when you are a girl and you have a friend that makes you laugh, and thinks about you when you’re apart, and gets you. It’s not a romantic love. But if you’ve had this, you know it feels just as important.” And it does. It does feel just as important.

Madel Corner

I love you, Madel.

Don’t Be Racist this Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has been driving a lot of traffic to the post I made last year, about casual racism and cultural appropriation. Thanks to everyone who linked to that post and to everyone who kept me busy by leaving idiotic comments for me to delete! The comments are so close to being permanently disabled here, which is unfortunate, but I don’t know how many more times I can point to the Rules of Effective Discourse before I just give up.

Last year, I remember trying to be very gracious in undertaking a dialogue around how and why Cinco de Mayo generally does more harm than good. But since I’m still getting messages about how moronic I am for thinking so, I’ve decided to be more direct this year.

When I was growing up, there was a “Multiculturalism and Diversity!” push in public schools. Well-intentioned as this may have been, it resulted in a seriously off-base cultural education for my generation. When you have folks outside of a culture try to teach cultural traditions and practices to other folks who are also outside of that culture, what you get is a lot of stereotypes, simplifications, and flat out misinformation. For instance: how many people do you know who think Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day? When did you figure out that Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day?

There’s nothing wrong with being invited into a culture and celebrating in a way that is both responsible to the culture and personally meaningful. There is a problem with celebrating Cinco de Mayo by enacting a racist caricature that involves being wasted on tequila, donning a poncho and sombrero, and talking about swimming across rivers. And if you still think I’m a moron for telling you as much, there’s just nothing else I can (or want to) do for you.

But here are some fun things you can do instead of being racist today!!

  • Check out Feministing’s awesome 8 Feminist Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
  • Read this cool post that compiles one brave soul’s attempt to respond to Cinco de Mayo ignorance
  • Think about all the ways white people have already embarrassed themselves (ourselves) in the past few days… May 3rd’s Free Comic Book Day, May 4th’s Star Wars Day… I mean, just look at this. Don’t be an embarrassing white person today.
  • Don’t send me hate mail for pointing out that white people do dumb and embarrassing things.

Origins, Approaches, and Ongoing Life

This blog is celebrating its first anniversary! Running this blog has been both fun and frustrating. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done and the community we’ve built together… even if the comments are still on major lockdown. (Thanks, MRAs!) Today, Angry Feminist Killjoy won the English Department’s Outstanding Writing Award in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy. First place!! That’s crazy and exciting and I’m so grateful to all the incredible women in my graduate program, family, and larger life who helped build this. Here are a few reflective thoughts about, as Dr. Sue Doe would say, the origins, approaches, and ongoing life of Angry Feminist Killjoy.

When I was trying to conceptualize my final project for Autoethnography, I was struggling to strike upon where I really fit in, where I had Complete Member Researcher status. I felt myself caught in a lot of liminal stages. For instance, I was a graduate student but I was (at the time) 22. I was an ‘academic’ but I was first-generation. I approached my schoolwork with a no-nonsense kind of seriousness, but I had a heart for comedy. I was a feminist but didn’t fit into any of the accepted waves. The connection may not seem immediately clear, but Angry Feminist Killjoy emerged from all of those liminal stages I felt myself inhabiting.

I wanted to write about feminism in the way that I was experiencing it— a kind of Millennial Feminism, if you will. (I don’t know if that’s a real term; maybe I should copyright it.) I wanted to find a way to translate my academic, theory-based knowledge into something that was accessible and meaningful people who aren’t given the opportunity to pursue higher ed. (ie: If I can’t take this home and make it meaningful to my family, what’s the point?) I didn’t want to produce alienating work, but I wanted to produce important work. The blog then, felt perfect. This outlet suited my in-between identities. It is freely accessible, uses technology to reach an audience outside of the Academy, speaks to the experiences of young feminists, and gave me the space to combine academics and comedy. I could use humor and satire to talk about social justice issues. By bringing a comedic voice to Foucault and Bourdieu, I was able to make academic theory relevant beyond academics. That was really important to me.

As for my experiences with the blog… it grew into something so much bigger than a final project. Almost immediately my posts began circulating around the web in really wonderful and truly awful ways. The worst parts are when Men’s Rights Activists pick up my blog and start harassing and abusing me. It’s exhausting and disheartening to know that so much vitriolic stupidity exists in the world. But then, every single time a make a post, I’ll find at least one message that makes it all worth it. Sometimes there are debates and we both learn to reach a middle ground. Sometimes it’s a thank-you for publishing these experiences, for starting a discussion. I hear stories from people who have experienced the kinds of abuses and harms I write about, and the messages almost always say, “I thought it was only me. I thought I was alone in this.”

Doing this kind of work can be emotionally draining. It’s hard to write about the many ways our world is constructed to enact violence against us. It’s hard to hear from people who both agree and disagree with my posts. I’ve taken a months-long hiatus more than once, just to keep myself sane. I certainly don’t think I’m changing the world with my little blog, but I know that I’m able to start conversations, the kinds that we don’t have often enough. And when starting those conversations makes folks feel less alone in the world, lets them know that there are people out here who will love and support them… that’s why I always come back from hiatus. (Also, someone once contacted me about my blog and referred to me as “a feminist thought-leader.” That really frosted my cookies.)

And that’s where we are now! As I wrap up my graduate education (!!!) and head on to new things, I’m looking forward to continuing our conversations here. There are some fun things in the works. If my Girl Gang and I can ever manage to organize, there will even be some Live Action Feminist Fun coming your way. So stick around, my angry feminist killjoy friends. There’s still a whole patriarchy to deconstruct.

Things That Made Me Hate You

Heads-up: This post is reactionary and was written immediately after an uncomfortable incident. It therefore contains a fair amount of language that you wouldn’t find in, say, the theory-heavy posts on this blog. It’s hard to respond to objectification without swearing.


Whitney is one of the coolest people I know. We were out having a drink a few hours ago when this twerpy straight white dude hijacked our Lady Time. He was a total douche-canoe. Whitney is a super strong Olympic-weight-lifting-crossfitter who could literally kill a man with one hand, and I was majorly channeling Veronica Mars. Still, he would not leave.

After he was finally gone, I wished he would come back so we could rhetorically analyze his failures. And that’s only partially because I love nothing more than making straight white boys cry. It’s mostly because this kid really needs to learn about deconstructing the patriarchal culture he subscribes to, and he REALLY needs to learn how to treat women like they’re humans. If I saw this Bro Farm prodigy again, I would hand him this list entitled, Things That Made Me Hate You.

  1. Sitting down next to me, uninvited, and saying you came over because your friends didn’t think you would. Okay. You and your friends have been observing the bar scene and have decided that we’re your best targets. That doesn’t make me feel creeped out at all! Except, wait, actually the opposite. Totally feeling creeped out. Whitney and I aren’t plush toys in a claw machine. You can’t win us by throwing down a few quarters and clumsily fishing about for a few minutes.
  2. Guessing our ages like we’re piglets at a county fucking fair.
  3. Insisting on knowing our occupations and not leaving after I coldly told you I professionally kill men for money.
  4. Claiming to be a ‘nice guy’. The very first Life Lesson I remember my mom teaching me is this: Never trust someone who says, “You can trust me!’” If they have to say it, you know it’s untrue.
  5. Saying you’re really a nice guy because you’re not bragging about your swanky job at Lockheed Martin.
  6. Thinking we’d be interested in you because you work at Lockheed Martin.
  7. Not leaving after I made sassy comments about my moral opposition to nuclear missiles.
  8. Repeatedly using the word ‘retarded’ like, wow, you have such a super $$$ job but zero basic human empathy, so attractive!!
  9. Trying to turn us against each other by weirdly playing good cop/bad cop with us. As if we’re about to throw each other under the bus for your obnoxious self. AS IF, PAL. Ovaries before brovaries. What are you, new??
  10. Saying it’s sad that we’re out alone when we’re clearly out with each other. Look buddy, we don’t actually spend our lives pining for male attention. Sometimes ladies go out with each other solely because they want to spend time WITH EACH OTHER. And you sitting here being a jerk is taking away from our quality Lady Time.
  11. Dismissing our interests. You think rhetoric is a useless waste of time. You don’t like to read. You think writing is boring. You don’t think teaching is worthwhile. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?
  12. Saying that you wish you were still on vacation in Australia because ‘the chicks’ liked you more over there. And not leaving even though it’s clear that we also wish you were on the other side of this planet instead of sitting right next to us.
  13. Bringing up your ex-girlfriend and calling her a bitch. Look, this is the biggest and the reddest of all the Big Red Flags. Why do you think that hating other women will make me like you? I’M A WOMAN. Hearing you talk about women is a really good indicator of how you will talk about and treat me. Putting down any women, comparing me to other women, suggesting that there are “other girls” and I’m superior because I’m not like them is disgusting. You’re trying to rank me in a ‘woman vs. woman’ competition that I did not agree to participate in. It’s not endearing. It’s a really fast way to spot that you’re selfish and misogynistic. Oh, boy, you are the reason I’m a misandrist. All women, all the time!! Four for you, women. You go, women. And none for you, straight white boys.
  14. TOUCHING ME WITHOUT MY GODDAMN PERMISSION. Then laughing instead of never fucking touching me ever.
  15. Saying “I don’t want your ass; I’m just here for a CONVERSATION.” And thinking that we owe you our time and attention. Because you just want a conversation. What you want is to see us naked and that will never happen.
  16. Talking so loud you drown out the jukebox when the only reason we come to this bar is to hear Joy Division.
  17. Being named Brenton. I realize this isn’t entirely fair. But it is true that I’ve never met a good one.

What a stupid night. There’s no faster way to ruin my good mood than by refusing to treat me like a human being. It’s super fun to deal with a random straight white man who thinks degrading me will make me want to suck his dick!!

Now ,it’s two in the morning and I’m casually browsing JDate.com. YEAH I AM. Handsome Jews*, I am coming for you**. Because if I’m dating one of you, then when I tell a dude to leave me the fuck alone, he’ll listen. Because men respect other men more than they respect women.

Sometimes I think about how funny it is that this blog is called Angry Feminist Killjoy. All I want is to exist in the world without being objectified and treated like a random man’s property. But wanting that apparently makes me a certifiable AFK and that’s why we need feminism. It’s hard out here for a bitch.

 

*All Jews are Handsome Jews.
**I am not really coming for you. I am barely 23 and I’m trying to make it through graduate school and I have really great friends who I want to spend all of my time with and tl;dr: I am not interested in dating right now. Although, lol, lbr, I do love ogling handsome Jews.

Walking is Still Honest: A Message From the Westnedge Hill Abductee

I want to share something I came across yesterday. To be clear, I have no affiliation with this situation, but it’s incredibly important that we listen when survivors of violent crimes, especially rape, speak out. Please keep in mind all applicable trigger warnings before proceeding.

Transcript:

First of all, I would like to thank the community of Kalamazoo for the outpouring of love, support, and help they have shown me. We are a community of so many wonderful, amazing people of all sorts. We make our city stronger by standing up for each other, being positive forces in each others lives, and by making conscious and consistent efforts to improve our city and ourselves, bit by bit. I have never been more proud of my city.

Secondly, I would like to commend the KDPS for the work they have done involving my case so far and the work they continue to do. Too often we criticize these strong, smart, brave people for their actions. But please remember these are the people that devote their lives to protecting and helping us, and don’t ever ask for our thanks. We forget they are people, just like you or I. We have so many names for them as if they are not like us; they are like us. They shop at the same stores we do; they stop at the same coffee shops; they have families and friends and lives outside their uniforms. They deserve our respect, and our thanks. And I am so glad to be alive to give my thanks. Thank you. I appreciate every one of you.

I would also like to thank all the amazing people who assisted me in the hours after my attack at Bronson and the YWCA. You were all so kind and helped put my mind at ease that I was only left with cuts and bruises in the wake of my attack.

My friends and family have already heard it many times, but thank you for standing by me. I was asked what I had to live for, and all I could say was my friends, my family.

I would like to say to Brad Mason’s family that I’m very sorry you have to go through this. I understand you have a lot of questions and are going through a very difficult time. I think our families are probably very similar. I’m sorry you have to endure so much judgment while mourning the loss of your family member. I’m sure this is a very confusing and frustrating time for you. Please have the strength to get through this. At times I worry you may be very angry with me, but I hope that you are not.

Finally, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts, feelings, and a couple quotes with and for everyone to consider during this difficult time. I’ll begin with the quotes.

‘He was gone, and I did not have time to tell him what I had just now realized: that I forgave him, and that she forgave us, and that we had to forgive to survive in the labyrinth. There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.’ – John Green, ‘Looking for Alaska’

‘The good times and the bad times both will pass. It will pass. It will get easier. But the fact that it will get easier does not mean that it doesn’t hurt now. And when people try to minimize your pain they are doing you a disservice. And when you try to minimize your own pain you’re doing yourself a disservice. Don’t do that. The truth is that it hurts because it’s real. It hurts because it mattered. And that’s an important thing to acknowledge to yourself. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t end, that it won’t get better. Because it will.’ – John Green

A lot of people have commended me on my strength in the wake of my attack. And I am a strong person, but yes I was scared after the attack. More so for my family’s safety based on the information he took from me. After I got a few hours of sleep I started to inform those closest to me. By Thursday morning I decided to post about what had happened to me, provide some more details, and call on my vast network of friends near and far for their help.

As for me, I am doing just fine, all things considered. I am still me, through and through. And I will continue to be myself despite all that has happened. My physical wounds are healing quickly and I honestly feel that I’m the same strong person I’ve always been. Every day changes us a little bit. Some days are just a bit longer and more happens. But you just have to accept and process what happened that day and move on. Personally, I have been working on mastering that art for a very long time, and I think my constant conviction to self-reflection and self-improvement have helped make me the strong, confident person I am today.

Please stay safe Kalamazoo. I love you SO much. Please don’t live in fear. This is YOUR city, this is OUR city, and no one is going to take it away from us. Please don’t forget that.

Stay Positive.

Be excellent to each other.

Thank you.

And Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.

Sincerely,

The girl with the ‘Walking is Still Honest’ tattoo

For any questions or requests, please use the following:

WalkingIsStillHonestKalamazoo@gmail.com

Dare to Use the F-Word

Happy Galentine’s Day! Galentine’s Day is a Leslie Knope-invented holiday that celebrates lady friends. Valentine’s Day is for romance, Galentine’s Day is for friendship. One of the most fun parts of being a feminist is learning to reject all the girl-hate we’ve been taught and embrace the incomparable awesome-ness of having lady friends.

In that spirit, I’m happy to share Dare to Use the F-Word, an exciting podcast project out of Barnard College. One of the coolest, most grounded, and most intellectually engaged feminists I know is a Barnard graduate. It’s been interesting to hear her talk about her experiences with feminism while being a student there, and it’s exciting to see the direction feminist discourse is taking on the campus.

Dare to Use the F-Word is great. I live alone and don’t have a television, so I spend a lot of my downtime listening to public radio and podcasts. Dare to Use the F-Word is wonderful and I’ve really enjoyed listening to the episodes. More on the podcast, and an excerpt from President Debora Spar’s recent interview on the podcast can be found below, in a post republished from Barnard’s website.

Dare to Use the F-Word is a new monthly podcast series created by and for young feminists. Street harassment, food activism, body image and slut-shaming are among the diverse issues discussed in the series, which is produced by Barnard College and the Barnard Center for Research on Women and aims to spotlight contemporary issues and activists. The podcast is available for download on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to the series.

In a recent episode, Barnard President Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, talks with feminist media activist Jamia Wilson about how the drive for perfection affects young women today. Following the interview, President Spar shared her thoughts on the direction of feminism for the next generation.

Read this exclusive piece below:

Since the release of Wonder Women several months ago, one of the questions that I’ve consistently been asked is “how is feminism different today? What do you hear on campus? Do young women want to be feminists, or not?”  It’s a complicated question, without an easy answer.  Because young women, of course, don’t speak with a single voice or share a common attitude.  Some are quick to embrace the term feminist.  Others despise it. And many – sadly, for the mothers and grandmothers who opened doors for them – no longer really have a sense of what the word implies.

My own view – shaped, I’m sure, by the particular environment of Barnard College, a staunch and early defender of feminism in all its many guises – is that most young women today are feminist in nature if not in name.  What I mean is that they implicitly assume that the goals that feminism fought for are theirs to claim.  They assume, for instance, that they will work, for pay, for at least long stretches of their lives.  They assume that all jobs – be they in finance or law or public office or industry – are open to them, and that they will receive roughly the same salaries as their male co-workers.  They assume that their bodies are theirs to enjoy, and treasure, and share as they wish.  They presume that birth control is widely available; that relationships are theirs to make, break, and determine; and that the world is every bit as open to them as it for their brothers.  In other words, they think, without even thinking about it, that they have equal rights with men.  Which was, after all, the central goal of feminism.

What they don’t do, necessarily, is credit the feminist movement for this state of affairs, or eagerly claim the label of feminist for themselves. This is perhaps unfortunate but also understandable.  Because how many young people generally race to thank their ancestors for bequeathing the world they did?  How many adolescents want to attach themselves to the same political causes as their parents or grandparents – especially when they feel as if those causes have already been fought for and won? Or as one older woman once expressed it to me:  how many hard-core feminists of the 1960s defined themselves as suffragettes?

To be sure, there are many young women today who proudly wear the label of feminism, and are expanding both advocacy and theory in fascinating ways: leading the global fight against sex trafficking, for example, speaking out against domestic violence, and pushing at the very definitions of sex and gender and identity.  But there are others, too, the reluctant feminists, who carry the mantle even if not the name.

Continue the conversation by spreading the word about the amazing feminists we cover on our show. Click to tweet: Listen to Barnard College’s Dare to Use the F-Word podcast series to hear how young women are reshaping feminism. http://bit.ly/IDIgGg

Thanks to Alex for sharing this post with Angry Feminist Killjoy and have a very happy Galentine’s Day!

Dale Hansen, Be My Valentine

Like Leslie Knope’s ideal man, Dale Hansen has the brains of George Clooney and the body of Joe Biden. And you’re lying if you try to tell me you weren’t feeling some major sexual attraction when Mr. Hansen started QUOTING AUDRE LORDE.

And in that moment, I swear I hated straight white men a little bit less.

Since NFL-hopeful Michael Sam came out as gay earlier this week, all sorts of sports folks have been in an outraged tizzy. Then Dale Hansen (Unplugged!) came along with a great response.

Right before quoting Audre Lorde he did say, “I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.” That sort of sucks because, ugh, why is everything always about you, straight white men? You know who’s not always comfortable? Gay folks living in your heteronormative society! But then he quoted Audre Lorde on national television and I went into a trance.

Here’s another gem from the video:

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs pulling her hair out by the roots; you’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk; that guy’s welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes*; we know they’re welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away. You lie to police trying to cover up a murder; we’re comfortable with that. You love another man. Well now you’ve gone too far.

*Just to be clear, this is a pro-sex worker blog!! We don’t demonize sex workers here!!

In all, this is pretty delightful. Do you think Dale Hansen has a Valentine’s date yet? Those Clooney brains; that Biden body. Be still my heart!