Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Fifth and Final Fundraising Post, 2019. On Fifteen Years of Blogging.

This is my final fundraising post!  You can donate all through the year, of course, but this would be a great time to do so and then you wouldn't have to feel that gnawing guilt about the poor, feeble and frail Echidne typing away in eternal snow while clad in rags and surviving on potato peelings.

For extra incentive, add to these comments any topics you would dearly want me to address in the near future, and I promise to give them serious consideration.

Then to this post.  It's grumpy and gloomy, sorry.  (Must be how weak I am from hunger that makes my humorous vein dry out...)

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

The online world is not what it was when I began blogging.  I had no idea, then,  what blogging was going to turn into.  The handle I chose (and still use) was the one I had used in a chat group, because I expected all my readers to consist of people from that group.

Fast forward (first wrote fart forward...) to the present time, and anyone who still blogs is covered with dust, spiderwebs and enormous age and senility.  Not edgy, in other words.

I don't care about being among the ones on the edge (you totter and you teeter and then you fall when the next edge rises up).  And because goddesses live forever I don't care about any of that ageism crap.

Given that, what comes to my mind in this glance back to ancient history?

Sadly, the first three things are negative:

1.  The world is even crazier and more bent on authoritarianism than it was fairly soon after 9/11 and when we had a Supreme Court -installed POTUS in office.

Now terrorist attacks are commonplace (from all sorts of sides, not just from Islamists), we now have a president who certainly proves the rule that any young boy in America can become a president, especially if he was born in a golden cradle and suffers from malignant narcissism and eternal ignorance, and now anyone can get rapidly radicalized online!  Income inequality is still a giant problem, both in the US and globally, and very little has been done about the climate crisis.

2.  I spot a lot of "totalitarian" thinking online, the kind of thinking where only one cause matters and no criticism of anything inside that cause is allowed.  It's totalitarian in the sense that Hitler and Stalin were totalitarians; for Hitler only race mattered and for Stalin only class mattered.

Linked to this is the whiff of outsiders/insiders enforcement:  If you are not utterly for us (meaning if you don't accept every (1) fucking thing we decree or obediently swallow all our "facts") then you are against us (and among our enemies which we are going to destroy).

I see this thinking not only among the more extreme right-wingers but also among the more extreme left-wingers.  The commands "shut up" and "silence!" are common ones in various Twitter debates and so is labeling even the mildest form of questioning as feminazism or bigotry etc, depending on the topic.

But then I remind myself that online activists, especially on Twitter, are not a representative sample from the overall population.  They are expected to be more single-minded, inflexible and ferocious.  Still, that environment is tough for a kind and gentle (though implacable) goddess who likes to go on and on and on.

3.  I am still pretty alone in the kind of feminist writings I do, the kind which tries to address anti-feminist arguments,  dissect pseudoscience and explore the reasons for misogyny and sexism (2).  This makes me sad.

Sobs into a tissue, dries eyes, continues.

Most activists define feminism differently from me.  Their focus is not on the causes of oppression or discrimination, but on ameliorating the lives of those most hardest hit.

That's good, to have both prongs of the fork dig into sexism and misogyny, and I have learned much from the work of others (3).  For instance, the concept of intersectionality, as initially applied by its creator, is an indispensable part of the tool kit all feminists should have, because the forms sexism can take depend on other important variables, including other types of oppression (4).

Still, I would dearly love more company in the work I have been doing, because it's hard to feel like a one-goddess army.

Then on to the good things I have gained from online writing and reading in the last decade-and-a-half.

4.  My wonderful readers and commenters.  I learn so much and it feels wonderful to find people who mostly share my values and when they don't can discuss the differences politely.  I have truly enjoyed the exchanges here!  Well, not the trolls.

5.  It's important for me to remember that most people don't have the time or the energy to follow. say, all new abortion bills in great detail. I knew, beforehand, that the Georgia, Alabama and Oklahoma laws were in the pipeline, and I knew that they were going to be very clear on the greater human value of fetuses over their pregnant containers.

I didn't know that there would be no exceptions for rape and incest in some of those bills, true, but I have known for quite a long time that what might look like rain coming down is actually effluent.

All that makes me jaded.  It's not that I don't care.  I do care, passionately, because without having control of our fertility we ultimately lose most control over our adult lives (especially in a society which decrees that mothers are the ones responsible for children's hands-on care and which still views working mothers with some amount of disapproval), and because without such control it is impossible for women and men to have equal opportunities in life.

The new Alabama law doesn't have an exception which would allow abortion when the pregnancy was caused by rape.  This would mean that any rapist, together with the Tealiban society, could force any woman, with violence,  to give birth.  Though that example is an extreme one, it's also clear proof of how little the anguish and pain of women and girls matter to the  Republicans in the Alabama government.

But anything one reads repeatedly provokes numbness.  So I was very pleasantly surprised, even elated, when all the social media I follow erupted in anger after hearing about the new Alabama bill.  It was wonderful to know that many people agree with me and are concerned about the very likely loss of reproductive rights in this country.
Okay.  That turned into glum mutterings, too.  My apologies for that.

6.  The great recipes my readers have provided here and all the practical help about house repairs, cooking and so on.  And computers.  Did I mention how much I enjoy the company of all you erudite and compassionate people?

P.S.  I really wanted Harriet Tubman on the twenty-dollar bill.  The Trump administration really wanted not to have her there, probably because of racism and sexism.  It seems, though, that you can put her in the bill all on your own, and it might even be legal.

(1)  And I mean that, because for some "rights" (such as in religious rights) are the same thing as telling everyone else how to live and what to believe.  Even if the rights of others are reduced by such moves, you are supposed to be all in.

(2)  There are, of course, actual researchers who study those issues.  What I write about here are "amateurs", people who write on feminism or who state that they are feminists activists but don't work inside the sciences.   I can't think of many others who do what I have tried to do.  There are a few, but not many.

(3)  Perhaps a good parable for that difference is the differences between researchers studying the etiology of a particular cancer and advocates who attend to the overall needs of vulnerable patient groups.  Both types are needed.

(4)  As an aside, I'm not terribly fond of the "all the toppings and extra sauce" type of feminism.  Not sure how you are when buying an ice-cream sundae, but I always have all the toppings and extra sauce, to keep my brain properly spinning.

So "all the toppings and extra sauce" is my personal name for the kind of feminism which loads that field with so many additional causes that the ice-cream under the toppings (which should be the study of sexism) becomes invisible and, indeed, is often completely missing.

I don't think that is what intersectionality is supposed to mean.  (As I wrote above, intersectionality, when properly used, is an indispensable feminist tool.)

The usual justification for the "all the toppings and extra sauce" school of thought is that feminism should be about making everyone better off.

That is a laudable  goal.  But it's not possible to achieve it within just one social justice movement with limited resources, and it seems weird that women are expected to do all the work there.  Because that goal is about fixing the world. 

I think we should leave just a little bit of work for other social justice movements, too.  It's also, sadly, often the case that to make one group better off some other group is going to be worse off.  This means that the goal of trying to make everyone better off is far too simplistic to work in some practical applications, and tough choices must be made about the ranking of various people's pain and suffering. 

As a second aside, I want my readers to know that I do follow all the developments in online feminist schools of thought.  I'm not ignorant of them, but simply feel that my comparative advantage is in studying the theoretical underpinnings of sexism and misogyny and the subjugation of women.

As a third aside, and really far too big to be inserted here, progress in gender equality on the global level is either stagnant or reversing.  The new wave of authoritarianism, from the US via Italy and Hungary to Turkey and further, is always linked with added pressure for women to reproduce a lot of children and preferably stay out of the public sphere.  The wave of fundamentalist Islam in other countries has the same effect.