Toxicity, Fear, and Feminism

If feminist space is indeed an actual space, an intentional community in which we create projects, have conversations and have connections. The way in which we behave, and interact has repercussions. While I am an activist in what some might lovingly refer to as ‘the real world’ or ‘meatspace’ online feminist space (listserves, livejournal, twitter) has had a real effect upon me. My closest friends were met online, projects that I love and hold deal were birthed through online interactions (and allowed for collaborations across states and time zones) and I have learned more through the more accessible (and immediate) resources of feminist writing online than my years of gender studies through night school.


There is real toxicity in some places. After all TERFs (trans exclusionary feminists) have been on the internet attempting to sabotage the lives of trans women for merely existing and speaking to the harm that trans exclusionary actions (within and without feminism) have. Another example would be the way in which Hugo Schwyzer was given a platform (a horrible one at that) on numerous feminist spaces and targeted WOC in an attempt to silence their critiques.  She didn’t talk about the long history of WOC’s concerns of racism within feminism being dismissed online (a quick Google search I found posts about feminism and racism here, here, here and here).


Rather than focus on the toxicity of oppression, Michelle Goldberg decided to focus on the feelings of primarily white feminists when confronted with critique. Full disclosure: I own both of Ms. Goldberg’s books on reproductive rights issues. I’ve cited them in my class work, leant them to friends, and have enjoyed her writing. I had stopped following her on twitter a while ago when I found some of her articles were lacking a rigorous analysis that I had thought her more in depth writing had (specifically her wish on giving ‘Lean In’ a pass. I though had chocked up our different analysis to my being a pretty strict ‘capitalism causes a majority of our problems’ kind of feminist that has little patience for a movement invested in helping a few ladies get to the 1%. I follow (on twitter)  @karynthia , @DrJaneChi ) two of the people focused, and critiqued in the article (which I will not be linking – I don’t want to add to the page counts – internet currency as it were).

To be blunt, if a pundit was arguing ‘but what about the feelings of men when you tell exactly how sexism hurts’ I don’t think Ms. Goldberg would be as delicate. I think if male journalists complained that they feared writing at all just in case some woman claimed offense that it would be a score against feminism. The difference is only in where the power dynamics lie. Because this feminist space has provided some paying gigs, TV talking head time, and a sense of authority (in greater number to white women) there is an investment in holding onto that space. Flavia Dzodan outlined this pretty clearly the day before on her blog.


I don’t want to argue about the validity of feelings. At the end of the day what really matters is in what ways we are perpetuating or ending oppression. We don’t need the conversation re-focused to how to make someone feel more comfortable in their fucking up. Yes you are allowed to make mistakes (we all do!) but once the mistake is made – what are you going to focus on? How you feel in that moment, or how to stop fucking up? If someone is curt when they are telling me I am fucking up – they are still spending their time (and resources) to educate me about how I am oppressing them. Again, they are spending their resources (already more limited than mine because of systematic oppression) to teach me. That is a fucking gift.

I don’t think it is bad for anyone to pause before posting out of fear of enforcing a kind of ism. Even this writing – off of the cuff starting at 6 a.m. went through some revisions, some contemplation about inclusion, and language choice. I am sure it isn’t perfect, and if critiques come I’ll read them and take them to heart. If ‘feminism is for everyone’ we can’t just have the same 15 posts about white cis lady experiences. And if a white cis lady is writing about her experiences and is treating them as something universal rather than also situated in her relative privileges the critique must come.

Its vital read the tweets of: @andrea366 , @graceishuman@suey_park , @scATX , @ChiefElk and @redlightvoices (to just name a few) who have on twitter provided excellent critique of the article, feminism and society in general.

Roe V Wade

Normally I spend the anniversary of Roe v Wade decision volunteering at a clinic and organizing a fundraising event. This year I stepped back because of other commitments I have going on. For a moment I felt a pang of not being ‘in the mix’ of the protestors downtown – but as I crawled back in bed with a vicious head cold (not a planned commitment)I reminded myself that it is the sustained efforts of the abortion rights movement that is important.
But it is important today to speak to how a Supreme Court decision has shaped our lives. I grew up in a post-Roe nation. As a member of Gen X I had decent sex-ed provided by my school while my home didn’t so much address humans sexuality. When I started dating an aunt handed me a copy of “Our Bodies Ourselves” and my mom added by shouting into my room “I’m not raising any grandkids”
I first understood abortion as a personal rights issue when my friend Sandy* called on a Saturday when were 14 or 15. Her mom was out of town, and her stepdad was freaking out: screaming at her & throwing things because of an abortion she had scheduled for the following week. She need a place to stay and asked if she could come over . She hadn’t mentioned the pregnancy before then, or any issues with the boyfriend, which weren’t details she was obligated to share with anyone. After conferring with my mom Sandy came over and stayed until her Mom returned.
After she left my Mom and I had a long talk about the whole thing. While she never questioned the importance of legal access my mom had wavered about what she saw was the morality of it. But she always saw it a personal choice up to the pregnant person. In fact that night she told me stories of driving friends to illegal abortions before Roe.
That night that Sandy stayed with us was formative, I wouldn’t get involved with clinic defense for nearly a decade – but it was Sandy’s brave insistence at her personal autonomy, her own mother handling the issue with Sandy’s needs at heart, and my mother providing shelter for person in need that taught me the how important access is.

* not her real name

If you haven’t already this month, consider giving to a local abortion fund (I can vouch for the DC Abortion Fund) and get involved into your local, and a national politics for abortion rights for all.

Writing about not writing

When I bought this domain and decided to blog again I began writing down topics that I would like to cover I put them in a list organized by week. I even varied by topic, and tone. I keep opening the document when I have a spare moment to add whole topics, or just notes to it.

But I haven’t written here in two weeks. I don’t really buy into New Year’s resolutions (I consider the start of my year Winter Solstice) but there is a sort of collective energy in the air that encourages new projects. The television is still running diet aides and gym memberships with all of the high gloss of ‘starting a new year right’ but I am settled in a little bit into avoiding creative space. It would be easy to blame the house right now – we are in a state of repair which means we are sleeping on the floor, getting dressed in the living room, and in general spending too much time discussing such fun things as carpet and contractor quotes. But I purposefully avoid my office. Suddenly cleaning dishes is way more interesting, or three hours of Minecraft seems like a totally valid creative outlet. I have about 25 knitting projects queued up on Ravelry, and I swear to god I started brewing my own kombucha over writing.

I used to love writing.

I cannot tell if school or my day job (both requiring high volumes of dry technical and corporate sounding writing) have sapped my energy for this work, or if it requires the same kind of emotional work as a healthy relationship. When I write I sit in my office- quiet and centered. Incense will burn, source books surround me in piles growing in height as I become more passionate about the topic.  Instead my desk is litered with receipts, items to return at the store and a pile of papers sits on the floor – the last victim to my cat Abacus’ tantrum over being locked in here during a construction day. I feel her pain. Maybe I just need to toss everything to the floor while shouting ‘clean surfaces’ like Edina from Ab Fab.

Sunday Night

It is Sunday – which means two things: Meditation and Food. The first is that I strive start my day with more in-depth spiritual work. This often includes altar cleaning, specific guided meditations, and catching up on religious class ‘homework.’ The other sure thing is ‘Sunday Night Dinner’ where our good friend Robin comes over for tasty vegan food, and some dramatic TV watching (we are skipping Downton Abbey so we can finish watching the first season of ‘The Top of The Lake’).

Both of these weekly traditions anchor me, remind me of the things that are important to have on the weekend, as well as a weekday. Our weekends often sway between over-packed with activities, or a haze of laziness (ie. knitting and law and order marathon watching). Also the contrast of a very ‘solo’ activity, and some schedule friendship ‘hang out’ serves to remind me of the various forces that are at play.

It’s hard, when living in a society where forces are only seen (or understood) as a ‘force over.’ There are laws limiting my body’s reproductive rights, there is capitalism forcing me to choose between a variety of ‘lesser evils’ and subjugation all in the name of ‘commerce’ and there are the cultural forces that encourage some modes of dress, speech, or expression over others. It is important for me to let myself acknowledge the other forces. How each direction and its coordinating element hold me in place, and can encourage growth. My work with deity also furthers not just that contemplative work, but adds fire to my belly allowing me to do activism in the night, or find the energy to reach out to friends. The forces of my family, friends, teachers, and work all pull/push me in (generally) good ways, that I am still constantly amazed by.

By doing the longer meditation in the morning, starting with the clearing of my altar I am welcoming the various energies and staking a claim to show up each day for the upcoming week. Like a clean kitchen begs a baking project, or a pile of new yarn asks to be woven into something a clean altar draws my attention and interest.

Similarly, concluding Sunday night with home made food with a friend dedicated to veganism, and social justice… who gets me and my partner, our cats, and life in general is another anchor. It is informal – we don’t have to vacuum, and never judges on those days where my clothes are a mess and I am cranky and yelling about ‘the internets’. In fact Robin and Zach stay up late ‘bro’ing down’ (ie. staying up to discuss dandy fashion, and watch Golden Girls) and I either retire to my office to finish homework, or crawl into bed so I can run early Monday Morning.

I live in a country where we are not supposed to look too hard at those laws, and cultural dictates shape our life.  I grew up in a home where we were never supposed to admit how much the abuse hurt, or how hard the poverty and emotional neglect made life. I am slow still to bring up pain, or joy- fearful that I do it in the moment that it is experienced it is still too raw, and un-inspected- and my reaction will be questioned and judged. There is a tiny bit of vulnerability here – admitting I like starting my Sunday from a place of devotion, and ending it with ‘intentional family’ is somehow ‘too fluffy’ or ‘boring’ as if an enjoyed life is something to suspect, rather than relish in.