Classified as: reflective journal - discourse, politics, feminist theory
I've changed the title of this post since I first published it, because I wasn't quite happy with the previous one, although it was kind of snappy. The point of the previous title "Patriarchy rules ok? Foiled again, feminists!' was that when feminists get diverted into fighting with each other we can't focus on challenging sexism, but I don't think that point is really well made in this post. Maybe I'll try again later on that.
I'm still not entirely happy with the post itself, and worried it might still upset and offend some of those feminists involved on Larvatus Prodeo, for which I apologise, but I have spent enough time on this and can't afford any more at present.
Updating again (Tuesday 8 October) - I've reflected further and now am adding this (also discussed in more detail in my post on this day) - I acknowledge that in reproaching or getting angry with me, women on Larvatus, as one said, may be reacting not to the content of what I
said, but to the way I said it. I am not always tactful or perceptive in
the way I say things and I apologise for hurt that I have caused by
I don't mean to sound like someone "bringing the tablets of wisdom down from the mountaintop" as I was recently described by a feminist there, but I still think my key message below is correct. Focusing on individual cases of sexism is not sufficient, we also have to critically examine and challenge the rules which enable sexism to flourish, on left wing blogs as much as anywhere else.
Linda, who also comments occasionally on Larvatus Prodeo, has suggested to me that there will never be much point in opposing sexism on a 'mainstream' (or 'malestream') blog like that one, but I can't agree. As I understand it, people running left blogs like Larvatus Prodeo, or John Quiggin, have the same broad goals as this blog, to promote social justice and environmental sustainability. Surely they have a responsibility to examine their own practice to see whether they are practising, accepting or enabling sexism and sexist attitudes on their blogs?
Over the last few months I've been reading and taking part in debates on several left of centre blogs, including John Quiggin and Larvatus Prodeo (and Left Flank, but I've really only browsed there occasionally).
I've noticed that to varying degrees they all seem rather male dominated (judging by user names and the content of comments). The blog owners or originators and many commenters (particularly male commenters) generally seem to be Kevin Rudd supporters. As I noted in a previous post, they seem rather blind to the significance of sexism in what happened to Julia Gillard.
In Larvatus Prodeo (LP) however, there are also quite a few active feminists who confront these attitudes. Recently, especially when I was confined by my broken ankle, I got involved in participating in debates on LP, and supporting these feminists - as I thought.
I got involved in one particularly vigorous debate, where I was suggesting that Kevin Rudd and his supporters were arguably complicit in the sexism directed against Gillard, since they effectively benefited from it.
The debate was pretty heated and I got very angry at one point, but I think I was making some progress. As one woman later acknowledged - even though she was angry with me at the time - "you were shaking the place up".
Then I started to come to the attention of the moderators and got publicly rebuked, especially by one female moderator, tigtog. From what I gathered later, I think this was at least partly because the original blog owner, Mark Bahnisch, arrived back from leave about that time and was not pleased by the tone of the debate. He didn't say what he thought of the content.
Following this, I got into a bit of an ongoing debate with the two female moderators, tigtog and, to a lesser extent, Mindy, about whether I was being treated less favourably than some male commenters who had said some outrageous things. This went on both online and through the offline processes (which actually didn't work until I pointed it out to them).
Gradually other women on the site got drawn into the debate, reproaching and gently (or sometimes not so gently) mocking me for not knowing or not following the spoken or unspoken rules of the site.
Eventually I put it to these women that maybe the rules weren't working the way they were supposed to, and that in "policing" me they were actually assisting patriarchy. This provoked a bit of a storm, which ended up with me being rebuked or virtually shouted at by about four women and one man in one thread. (Please also see updated comments above acknowledging that it might be not so much what I said, as how I said it, that made them angry).
At that point I decided I had really better bail out. I've been back to look a couple of times since, and the same old stuff is still going on. The same men are bagging Julia Gillard, the same feminists are exasperatedly trying to make them be fair, and so it goes on.
I would bet my house that if asked to do a critical analysis of how the so-called "rules of merit" disadvantage women in the Liberal National party, those same women could do it on a flash. But the rules of a left wing blog? Nothing to see there.
I believe that if feminists want to create a fair and equitable society, then policing other women to make sure they comply with rules that support male dominance, isn't going to help. We should be shaking the system up, not going along with it. Interested to hear people's views, as ever.