Friday, January 29, 2010

weekly rabble rousing

Old news, but I had a bone to pick with Jimmy Chen's post about Zelda Fitzgerald over at HTML Giant, a blog I see curated almost exclusively and unapologetically as a boy's club.

I won't replay the whole argument here, but what lingers for me is a sense of being dismissed for being serious/snarky, receiving a "fuck you," and also being asked why I have a sexy picture of myself on my blog. The reactions to my comments are exactly the kind of sly (or not so), sexist remarks made about Zelda that I was calling attention to in the first place. Would I be saying the same things if the post was about Norman Mailer? No. Am I upset because Zelda is a woman and I am also a woman? Um, yes.

The sociopathic comments reach a new low here:

"the real issue here is you feel devalued. obviously, this would not have been a big deal if the 32 year old mexican mom working the bathrooms at wendy’s had been depicted instead of the ?special? literary figure “zelda”..

you wouldn’t even have batted an eye if jimmy attacked that lady.

but YOUR identity was attacked because YOU felt devalued by jimmy’s carefree dismissal of someone YOU respected.

chill out."

Really? You're right. I hate 32 year old Mexican moms, too, I think we should all talk shit about them all the time because it's not like I have anything else to do, like teach their children through a Y program that's government-funded. Oh wait. When did this become a class thing? Zelda is a famous woman, a famous literary woman, on a blog "about" literature, and it isn't fair to reduce her to a picture of her body. It isn't fair to reduce me to a picture of my face. What picture should I post of my face? Should I look uglier? Should I wear a mustache? How can I prevent my radiating sexiness from compromising my hard-headed opinions?

Matt says some people need to lighten up, some people need to lighten down and I assume he means me lightening up. Attention dudes: pick a fucking side and have an opinion about something. Ambivalence is unsexy. Maybe if you stood up for women you'd get laid more often.


Matt said...

i wasn't talking about anyone specifically--i totally respect your reaction. i mean that. in fact, some of the people who need to lighten up are the sociopathic commenters.

the reason i didn't take a side is because i'm honestly split in how i feel about it, and the thing i wrote on my blog was just me trying to express some frustration that i don't know which side to be on, which was probably more selfish than anything. i shouldn't have said anything.

i feel bad that you think i don't stand up for women, so all i can say is that i do, or try to, when i feel it's necessary. there was a big blow-up concerning this guy in chicago last summer who was trashing kristy bowen, and i gave him as much shit as anyone for it.

anyway, i'm really sorry. i'm happy to talk more about it if you want.

Matt said...

just to explain the title of my post:

"Some people need to lighten up. Some people need to lighten down. (And which one am I at any given moment?)"

what i was trying to do was put myself in both "groups". i really should have put "some people need to lighten up" in quotes, since i'm just using the phrase as a springboard for talking about how comments are perceived, how even i sometimes perceive them, rightly or wrongly.

i'm really not good at explaining myself about this, but i hope it helps a little.

Leigh Stein said...

I was annoyed by the ambivalence of your post, and it spurred me to even write this whole thing on my own, but I didn't mean to direct my closing remarks at you specifically, that was clumsy on my part. I think you're generally smart and fair, but I don't see how you can see both sides of the Zelda argument. I just wish you'd be more clear...what exactly is to Jimmy's advantage? I don't think any of his arguments are convincing or well-articulated, and I feel similarly about all of the commenters on his "side."

Matt said...

so, here's why i would never make a good literary critic. my feeling that jimmy didn't mean to be sexist was just that--a feeling. i can't really make specific arguments using the text of what he wrote. i can't prove it, and i also don't know the guy, so i could easily be wrong. i just feel that i have a good sense for sussing out an author's intention. i know people talk about the "intentional fallacy", about how it doesn't matter what the author's intent was, only the effect of what they said (i think that's what that means anyway), so, that would definitely be a reason to be suspicious.

anyway, what i'm saying is, i'm going on gut feelings rather than textual analysis, which i don't trust myself to be able to do at any level approaching competence. (this is why i said above, "i shouldn't have said anything"!) i totally accept that i might be wrong. i certainly do think jimmy could have responded better to you. he definitely seemed immature there.

one thing: i think the point where the phrase "lighten up" popped into my head was when ross quoted some famous philosopher or something, a debating tactic i have a knee-jerk reaction against, as being slightly pompous or hoity-toity. (though i grudgingly agreed that the quote itself is true, even though i hate academic terms like "speech act". ah, ambivalence, my old friend...)

Kathleen Rooney said...

Leigh, you're awesome. As is your picture. I'm glad that you stood up for Zelda and for women in general.

Matt said...

also, just to be clear, i don't agree at all with what he said about zelda. that's the one aspect of this i do have a definite opinion on.

newyorkette said...

I only got drawn into the argument after I saw all the reactions. But the original post really was worthless, I'm sorry, not even worthy of the heated arguments that followed. Totally unresearched, lazy, subjective. Sometimes it's better not to post at all, no?

But then I realized, man, women take crap from certain kinds of men (and even women) for being pretty, and then just as much for NOT being pretty enough. You just can't win. And who the hell cares? These are not the kind of men whose esteem a woman needs.

People who reduce to the world around them to pretty girls, sexy writers, rich guys, overweight losers... these are people who really should be dismissed till they grow up.

Screwsan said...

Thanks for this post. Male privilege at it's finest.
The idea of "lightening up" is pretty patronizing, given how much pressure women feel in their daily lives to conform to a certain standard of beauty etc. It's tiresome and disappointing to see blogs we often like taking that old objectifying approach to talking about women. No matter how chipper and charming and truly lovely we are in our everday lives, this shit...this shit was already old by the time I was 15. It's like when an ex-boyfriend of mine used to be all passive aggressive and toxic and then I'd blow up! I'd get mad! Fancy that! and he'd get all wide-eyed and tell me I was crazy. Pressure points.

It seems like a lot of young men feel like we're post sexism or something. But hey, we're not.

Elisa Gabbert said...

I have a love-hate relationship with HTML Giant. Sometimes the comment streams go all hive-mind and it's like someone is being ganged up on in the playground and they all start calling him "gayboy" and throwing rocks. But in this thread at least I'm glad more than one person was telling Jimmy to STFU.

Elisa Gabbert said...

Also ... the implication that having a picture of yourself, i.e., what you look like, on your blog is somehow wrong because you happen to be attractive is ridiculous. I hate the insecure-male mindset that attractive women are constantly using their looks to manipulate people and get ahead. I've had people (men) tell me that I was solicited or asked to read or whatever because I'm a "hot girl." (As if attractive men don't occasionally get opportunities because of how they look.) What are we supposed to do, wear veils? Argh.

Jimmy Chen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leigh Stein said...

"Leah [Leigh] Stein has a 'right' to post a sexy picture of her, and I have a 'right' to think her life will be easier because of her beauty than an ugly woman's which is why she [sub]consciously posted it"

Jimmy, you're just digging yourself a deeper grave, but thanks for taking the time to edit your post and correct the spelling of my name. I appreciate you spending enough time on my blog to realize my name is not LEAH.

No one WOULD EVER talk about a man's picture on the internet in a way that would evaluate his attractiveness against what "kind" of life he could/should have. This is a very specific incident of sexism I keep coming back to because you don't seem to "get it." This is not about how we "hate dick." I can't even believe I'm taking the bait, but there it is. Did we ever say that we're superior to you because we have vaginas? This is so increasingly idiotic, feels like quicksand.

Miss Thing aka Gina Abelkop said...

right on leigh, i am really glad that you spoke up. this is a clear account of blatant misogyny- and really, whether or not any person "means" to be sexist or not doesn't matter, plenty of men sexually harassing women on the street every day would claim that they weren't being so (so goes the blinders of any kind of privilege).

that post on zelda is beyond infuriating, and that anyone wouldn't agree makes me want to punch. the fact that you were attacked for having a "sexy" picture on yr blog- what?- only confirms the nature of the original post.



Jimmy Chen said...

attractive men have easier lives than ugly men too. but for women it's more important. (um, not saying i 'like' this fact.) just saying there is "currency" to you putting a hot pick of yourself, but i'm too tired to explain.

you missed my whole point: i have the "right" to be sexist, which, if you knew me in real life, you'd know i'm not.

i'm tired, sorry

Matt said...

well...upon further review, i'll just say, there are some "rights", or rights, that shouldn't be exercised. like, just because you have the freedom to do something doesn't mean it's a good thing to do. i'm a big fan of the bill of rights, including the 2nd amendment, but i don't think people should use guns. anyway, i'm officially distancing myself from jimmy's argument (which i never endorsed in the first place). sorry for being wishy-washy.

Jimmy Chen said...

"existential right," jesus i give up. i'm talking about philosophy, not legislation. ok you beautiful evolved people, you win.

Matt said...

an honest question: what's the difference between an existential right and a legal right? aren't legal rights rights because they're existential rights?

i think it's an existential right that everyone has a right to their own feelings, ideas, and speech, but i think that being "moral" or whatever is about determining which ideas are good, which are bad, and knowing how, if, and in what context they should be expressed. (i'm sounding like a preacher right now and it's making me sick so i'll stop.)