Critiquing Feminists (or not)

Wherein I explain why I am loathe to criticize posts or comments at the big Feminist blogs.

A history: In an earlier post I suggested that it was sexist to dedicate yourself to arguing against women, and came down hard on a male blogger for it. At the same time I ignored the female blogger, with whom I also had disagreements. This caused Mike to ask:

Don’t you think it’s more sexist to give women an automatic pass on their bad behavior than to call them out for it?

Short answer: Sometimes.

Long answer: I don’t generally call anyone out for “bad behavior” at all, because it doesn’t get you anywhere and I don’t like endless meta discussion. Run of the mill fallacious argumentation is certainly not enough to get me to speak up. My John Cain post is, I think, the only time I’ve done something of this type, and it was based on whole-blog problems, not bad arguments in a post. The two are not equivalent; I don’t need to speak on one to justify the other.

That said, I am more hesitant to criticize Feminist blogs, as they are different beast than pundit blogs. Feminist blogs are too raw; I’d critique GFR to my heart’s content, but tread lighter at Feministe. Why?

Feminist blogs are natural magnets for all the shit that patriarchy has to offer. They document the atrocities, and so reactionary people go to them to spew hate. They are safe places, so hurt and angry people go there seeking community. Peruse almost any comment thread and you’ll happen upon horrible stories that will make you want to hit something, or incensed anti-feminists who will…make you want to hit something. It’s intimate; It’s painful; it’s enraging.

This environment leads to basic stylistic differences with pundit blogs that tend to be one writer speaking in the abstract about an issue. Throw in a gender divide (not to mention race or class) and their’s a recipe for misunderstanding, offense, and hostility. These issues are just incredibly difficult to talk about, as even something as academic as an cross-cultural abortion study is very personal. It’s not called identity politics for nothing; it gets to the heart about who we are, and why we act a certain way.

Usually, you have to be good friends with someone to criticize their personal behavior, yet this is usually impossible in political discussions. A double-bind, so: group-membership is a stand-in for closeness. People assume you don’t mean well if you’re lobbing in a critique from beyond the barriers of the group (and do in fact experience you words as a grenade).

All this to say: I don’t critique feminist blogs because it’s hard; because I don’t think I’m a good enough writer yet to pose a critique in a way that wouldn’t get people’s shackles up and be counterproductive. At the same time, I know that there are plenty of female bloggers out there (at explicitly feminist sites and otherwise) who are perfectly capable of crafting criticism of feminist sites when needed; my commentary is rarely necessary. So, I write the critiques I feel I can, where/when I feel I can have an affect.

In practice, this means my writing does skew towards my own identity groups. Is that ideal? No. Is it sexist? I don’t think so.

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