Monday, June 06, 2005

Feminism on DailyKos

A recent ad on DailyKos caused some complaints to Kos and he answered those like this:

So over the weekend, certain segments of the community have erupted in anger over the TBS ad for their reality show, the Real Gilligan's Island. Apparently, having two women throw pies at each other, wrestle each other in a sexy, lesbianic manner, then having water splashed on their ample, fake bosoms is degrading to women. Or something like that.

Whatever. Feel free to be offended. I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst. I don't care for such sanctimony from Joe Lieberman, I don't care for it from anyone else. Some people find such content offensive. Some people find it arousing. Some people find it funny. To each his or her own.

But I am not Lieberman. I won't sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is "appropriate", and what isn't.

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

Me, I'll focus on the important shit.

There are over seven hundred comments about this post as well as an update in which Kos slightly apologizes on his condemnation of women's studies, though he then adds:

But I honestly didn't mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women's studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock.

It's hard to know what Kos means by "the important shit" in this context. Does he simply intend to say that this particular ad is not worth fighting over? Or does he imply that women's issues are not important? I don't know. But I have noticed in the past some hints that the latter might be the case. When Kos promoted certain writers to his weekend crew he explained that his choices were based on merit, even the small number of women in that crew (one?). "Merit" is the argument wingnuts use, too, though merit is often whatever the political biases of the assessor deem meritorious, and it would naturally be the counterargument of anyone accused of discrimination.

As I said, I don't know what Kos was trying to say in his post on these issues but he doesn't come across as a feminist himself. There is a subgroup of progressive or lefty writers who view women's issues as cultural ones, not as political ones, and hence less important or even irritating diversions of no value. Then there is the other subgroup that views feminism as an evolutionary impossibility, because men's sexual desires and the male dominance are given dominance and seen as impossible to change. These same writers regard racism as plain wrong, which I find interesting given that the hatred of the other can be explained every bit as dandily in the evolutionary psychology myth-making machinery.

There are some extremist women's studies programs, probably, just as there are extremist groups in all other political camps. But to refer to only the extremist wing of the feminist movement, as Kos did, is also the way one attacks an opponent. Just observe my writing for a while. So I'm beginning to lean towards thinking that Kos is not much into women's rights within the total Democratic package. It would be nice to be proved wrong on that count, of course.

Much of the anti-woman stuff in the society is fairly invisible unless you happen to be a woman, and a woman who has awakened to these issues, to boot. Some time ago I started to write a diary of my public radio listening. I noted down any programs that discussed gender issues or women, the topic and the conclusions, and I set the diary aside unread for a while. When I actually analyzed my notes I was shocked, and I'm a feminist. This was public radio, remember, so I expected fairly neutral coverage. What I found was something different: the programs about women or gender differences were always about the problems that women cause or that women have, always slightly negative in tone, and the solutions always privileged the idea that women should somehow change. The only programs taking the same tone about men were on men's medical issues, whereas the negative issues on women were not only on health but also on women working, women mothering, women not speaking in public, women not getting raises, women reacting worse to terrorism threats, women not being suitable for the military and on and on.

In short, and in an effort to be polite, I suggest that Kos doesn't see the sexism around him. That's the only kind explanation I can give for his response, whether the particular ad is harmless or not (I didn't look).