Monday, 18 November 2019

Bloggers on Blogging: Part 4

Woohoo! Mandos the Elusive returns to blog about Feminism 101. He didn't offer a title so here it is.


For my contribution to the DAMMIT JANET commemorative blog party, I'm going to argue that sometimes undergoing maddening, pointless Feminism 101 discussions with people Just Asking Questions might sometimes actually do some good from time to time.

Nowadays I moved on to other things in my life, away from the quantity of Internet-argument I used to do before. But I joined DAMMIT JANET not quite at the beginning, but relatively close to it, and so I've shared a lot of the experiences of the DJ gang, and my path to it had a lot of shared stops, like rabble and Bread and Roses, at least in the latter part of my online career.  But otherwise, my path to DJ was probably somewhat unexpected.  I've been arguing on the internet for a long time, and I had an online presence on USENET and private NNTP forums way back before the commercial web was a thing.  If you, those who are "Internet-young" enough, think women and feminism are underrepresented in Internet-arguing now, well, let's just say that the Internet today is practically a "Take Back the Night" rally compared to then.  Back then, the default discussion around sex and gender issues revolved around whether, if we were going to allow abortion in the first place, men should also have the right to a "legal" abortion, meaning being allowed before any birth to make a declaration that they would not pay any support to the pregnant woman thereafter.  This was in some, if not most quarters, the progressive position -- the opposing position was preoccupied by how best to punish women who had abortions without male consent.

You can imagine how things were.  Actually, in most cases, abortion itself was acceptable, because these were Internet engineer-libertarians mostly, the kind who thought that they'd become Howard Roark any day now. The objection was merely the supplanting of the family "state" (a.k.a. "freedom") with the government state. I was pretty lefty back then, which was, again, even more of a challenge on the Internet than it is now, because of all the open Randroidery.  But you can see what sort of things even a lefty young guy might start to get concerned about, when the main issues being discussed regarding gender came mainly from different degrees of Father's Rights Activist. (The libertarianism was happily bent to find excuses to limit women's freedom, of course, because women's freedom was deemed to require government intervention.)

Mercifully, curated web forums became a thing, and there were even a few left-progressive ones, like the storied Old Rabble, the original Rabble community when it first formed.  These types of forums had a lot more women on them (going from 2% to like 20% maybe), and they even had dedicated feminism subforums.  And then along came the first wave of blogs, well before DJ, and there were even blogs dedicated to women's liberation.
Man, I must have been insufferable.

I spent the bulk of this period learning that the dichotomies and conflicts about gender issues that the USENET-world had taught me were central to the issue just . . . weren't. I learned that the main, most pressing issue wasn't men's alleged impending exclusion from the comforts of family life (e.g., the establishment of a science-fictional matriarchy), but rather, the price women had to pay for the social consensus that the human family needed to revolve even around a man who was violently abusive.  I learned that a variety of female-separatist fantasy, with men deliberately confined to a social periphery or bred out through genetics, was never seriously going to be enacted by any significant number of feminists, for any number of reasons, and that those fears were distracting hypotheticals from the pressing issue of real life and real human relations between genders. 

And, by the time I was invited to contribute to DAMMIT JANET, I came to the understanding that bodily autonomy was the cornerstone of individual and collective liberty especially in the modern, technological world, and that no one safe from tyrannical control if the pregnant woman wasn't safe from tyrannical control. 

I reached that point through a great deal of arguing with feminists, some of them even male pro-feminists further along than I, on all those web boards and the early blogosphere, chewing my way through all kinds of maddening, abstract, intellectualized hypotheticals. Not everyone was gracious about it; some forum contributors were probably rightly angry at me and some of the things I said, and of course, they themselves were hardly all perfect people with excellent character, as they themselves might have admitted.  But I realize with hindsight how tedious some of those arguments must have seemed, how arrogant it was to treat all those topics as interesting intellectual hypothetical scenarios, rather than painful aspects of real life.

I do not claim to be perfectly cured of that, although I like to think I am a little more self-aware than I used to be.  And at DAMMIT JANET, we built an amazing team that punched way above its weight in the overall battlefield of human rights in Canada.  Indeed, I would like at the end just to make just a little bit of a case, that chewing over the arrogantly abstracted hypotheticals and repeatedly rehashing Feminism 101 concepts can actually do some good in the world, even though I know it takes a significant amount of time and energy.

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