ENG 363 – “Why I Am Not A Feminist”

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” by Jessa Crispin starts out like so many other feminist manifestos: a plea to not be treated like “every other feminist”. She takes it one step further by declaring she’s not like the other feminists that are claiming they’re not like other feminists. The conversation about feminism internal to the movement seems to be a bunch of accusatory navel-gazing that completely excludes everyone who is not actively trying to be a feminist. Crispin directly calls out that feminism can’t be palatable to the masses in order to make a difference in society, but then who is this manifesto for? (Hint: not me.)

The first section of the book makes me think of why I don’t identify myself with (as Roxane Gay put it) Capital-F Feminists—Crispin comes from a place of privilege where one can just stop doing things that are damaging to the feminist movement, whatever that may be defined as. This “Just Stop” mentality is great for people who can do it, but they seem to forget that not everyone is them, and not everyone can “Just Stop”. Just Stop, Just Do It. Easy words to say when you’ve got safety nets, maybe that’s why there are still “reluctant sisters”. WE KNOW OUR “ROLE IN THE WORLD IS FUCKED” CRISPIN. Crispin keeps turning to the second wave as what NOT to be and what has caused so many people to NOT be feminists now. Growing up there were many “hairy biker dyke” stereotypes in the media I consumed, but I never associated that with feminism (or Feminism), but rather with assholes who fought against feminism. Why does Crispin keep returning to this strawman? Is she so out of touch with reality? Or am I? Crispin is right to call out the identity politics of the feminism label, but this seems like a really flimsy argument. She claims the label of feminist has become so weakened by trying to be mainstream—so why does she care at all about the label (even so much as to put it in her title)? Rather than spend the entire manifesto railing on the weakened state of the label and naming names of people who have weakened it, couldn’t she have, instead, I don’t know, actually provided suggestions and insight into how to make actual change?

Section two … again straw man arguments and false dichotomy. She rails on a fictional other faction for not taking into account all aspects of a woman’s life but then fails to take into account anything other than her limited “feminists” and “traditional women”. She ends with a real good question: “Has feminism created the space for men to take on traditionally feminine traits at the same level it has created the space for women to take on traditionally masculine traits?” (35-36), but the question I’m left with is why did it take so many pages for me to get the point where I’m actually interested in what she has written? Feminism is about smashing the patriarchy (which damages both men and women) and she has only thus far focused on how the label of feminist has damaged women.

Section three opens with insults to Andrea Dworkin, who I had first heard of in this manifesto as Crispin’s strawman’s scapegoat. “Obese, frizzy-haired, without even a hint of lip gloss.” Congratulations, Crispin, you just insulted the majority of American women, myself included. But wait! That insult you gave is what the strawman says about us, not you! Please stop. Please. Crispin again advocates for “Just Stop” radical feminism. She calls the counter to her advocacy “Choice Feminism” – merely the act of making a choice (without a man) is an act of feminism. She addresses reality only slightly but quickly dismisses it with her “Just Stop” attitude. She addresses the privilege white middle class women have with “Choice Feminism” but conveniently doesn’t acknowledge that her own choices, specifically her choice to JUST STOP doing non-feminist things, is from her privilege as well.

Section four acknowledges that the problem is people and society, not men and women, which I am in absolute agreement with Crispin on. She advocates getting into the system and being a rebel rather than getting into the system and begin comfortable. This is what feminism should be, and what she’s been arguing against up until now. I could have saved 30+ minutes of my life just starting at section 4. Everything up to this point has been logical fallacies and poor arguments of an angry feminist; everything up to this point would have made me stop reading if I didn’t have to read the book for a class.

Section five is full of hypocrisy. Crispin calls out human nature to form the dichotomy (us-vs-them) but the first three sections of her manifesto were doing just that. Again, this manifesto would have been much better without those sections. The psychology presented in section five is sound and something I’ve thought before reading this book; people use projection to paint their “enemy” with whatever bad things they see in themselves. It’s easier to paint a strawman with bad qualities and claim to be “not that” than to acknowledge your own failings. I think in this section Crispin is projecting herself onto a hypothetical “you”, a reader she’s pleading for forgiveness from for her failings in the first part of the book. She set up a human nature that refuses to examine itself and then claims to be “not that.

In section five, Crispin brought up that no one talks about “toxic femininity” in the way they talk about “toxic masculinity” – I think that in that sense both are part of the patriarchy and the patriarchy is the problem. However, Section six talks about the revenge culture of feminism: this is the “toxic femininity” that needs to be talked about. Shouting down and destroying someone for disagreeing or for saying something disagreeable will have the desired effect of silencing dissent, but it silences all conversation as well. “Using the excuse that men have controlled and dominated the conversation for centuries does not justify using their methods to try and wrench control our way” (103). Crispin is clearly an advocate for humanism over Feminism, as this sort of outrage culture tears down the humanity of all, degrading “them” to nothing more than another label, and making “us” just as shallow.

Section seven solidifies that Crispin and I are mostly on the same wavelength when it comes to the manifesto portion of her manifesto. Everything before she got actually serious was garbage that was either included to pad her word count or to draw in those that might disagree with her in order to get them to read what she REALLY means to share. Or its just fomenting literature, as the first section of section seven is summed up with “fuck off men.” She again has a “Just Stop/Just Do It” attitude in regards to how men become/remain feminists, but then wants cooperation in building a new, equal world, where romantic love and relationships are not central to personal worth.

Section eight is entirely on one point that I live by (though not in her exact words) – “The way we deal with other people’s inhumanity is to insist on our humanity, not by insisting we are somehow a better, more honest version of human” (136-7). “Our job is to act like humans” (137) echoes what I often tell my son why we do things like consider what we say before we say it, consider our actions before we take them, and apologize when we make the wrong choices. We exist together for each other, everyone. Make it a good existence.

Section nine, if the casual reader ever makes it that far, is serious backpedaling from Crispin’s earlier stance that Choice Feminism Is Bad And Hurting Feminism. She again takes a “Just Stop” stance at the very end, but this time says “Just Stop” calling yourself feminist if you aren’t going to be a radical feminist. By stating in the title that she is not a feminist, Crispin admits to not being a revolutionary that can change the world, but then why write a book? “I’m a western white woman, listen to me!” but she has almost nothing to say. “I’m not like other girls” but then explains exactly how she is like other girls. She decries the injustices of the world and says “you’re all doing it wrong” but then also does it wrong. Then says “but we’re all human and capable of doing it wrong!”.

Crispin said some things I agree with, but not in some insightful, inspirational way that would make me raise this book up and say “Read! Read and be enlightened!”; especially when she devoted several pages to how men should seek enlightenment elsewhere. Yet she wants to rally everyone to addressing how the patriarchy fucks over all humans? But fuck off men. Not a fan of this lady.

ENG 350 – “The Road”

Last week I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. To keep with my theme of comparing the novels I read for class to video games, I’d love to compare The Road to The Last Of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013), but I’ve never played the game. I only know its a zombie apocalypse game that focuses on the main character transporting a young girl to a safe location. Its a game I’ve meant to play but never got around to, and like The Road, the narrative is more about the relationships than the state of the world.

Though the class focuses on climate related fiction, I don’t feel that the situation in The Road is strictly climate fiction. It’s about the old fear of nuclear winter rather than the new fear of global warming. It focuses more on the powerlessness of the main characters at the hands of other humans than the uncaring universe. Don’t get me wrong, the uncaring universe is there, but it’s there for everyone. When something is so ever-present, it ceases to be a worry, and more of just a concern. A factor that must be taken into account rather than directly planned for.

In The Road, the man (who is never named, other than “Papa”) is entirely concerned with protecting the boy (his son, who again is never named). This protection ranges from tending to his physical needs (food, water, shelter) as well as his metaphysical ones. The man fosters a kindness in the boy that, even as the boy begins to call out the hypocrisy of the man, the man still insists the boy must adhere to. This echoes much of the world as is—”Do as I say, not as I do”—where people martyr themselves so that others don’t have to. It’s always wishful thinking in my opinion, as everyone must always survive, and protecting people in this way sometimes makes them unable to care for themselves in morally ambiguous situations.

The relationships between the main characters and other characters, however brief, are as important as the relationship between the main characters themselves. When two people have only each other, they can say whatever they want, but when a witness comes around, their attitude changes. The boy hints near the end that the stories the man told him about being the good guys are just that—stories. Lies. A mask the man wants to wear in front of the boy. But when others come around who are just as desperate, the boy wants the man to wear the mask, but the man knows the mask is flimsy and won’t protect them.

The end is “happy” in a sense, in that the boy won’t be alone, but we also don’t know his future. To truly be a dystopic story, though, I think the boy should have suffered alone longer. Not that I would wish that upon anyone, but the boy went from one protection to another—and honestly, when would that ever happen? Does it even happen now?

ENG 363 – Pop Culture & Diversity

The readings for this week were the “Race and Entertainment” section of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and “Moving Beyond Pain” by bell hooks. One of my classmates touched on a point I previously hadn’t considered regarding these two takes on pop culture representations of race and women. There is a lack of diversity while being diverse. Shows with a diverse cast but not diverse roles are often lamented by actors of color.

I am reminded of the plight of new actors, which I’ve seen explained by Carolina Ravassa on her youtube channel Hispanglosaxon. While most of the episodes focus on her issues with being “too white to play Latina, and too ethnic to play white,” she also discusses on, when being cast to play an “ethnic” role she is often expected to play a hyper-sexualized service role (see season 1 episode 9). While shows may be casting people of color, they’re still casting them into the same, tired roles. Though it may be the entire cast (in the case of Lemonade), hooks laments that they are playing a stereotypical role (the body as a commodity in the background). With Orange is the New Black, there is a diverse cast (some latina, some african american, etc) they are all, still, some sort of criminal.

Jonny Cruz, another actor of color, in an interview at a convention was asked what to do when offered a role that perpetuates a stereotype. He admitted that he once took a role of a “thug” or “gangster” early on because he needed the work, but it made him feel awful. He knows he took the role because he needed a job, money, experience, etc, but he’s refused to do similar roles ever again. His advice for other new actors of color is to know that if you don’t feel right about a role, you do not have to take it. If you do choose to take it, you do not need to feel bad about perpetuating a stereotype so that you can eat. It’s a difficult position that the media puts minority actors in, but there is some solidarity and understanding in the actor communities.

BATIM pix. art!!!


ENG 350 – Week 2 – Remainder of California

In my previous post regarding Edan Lepucki’s California I mentioned the symbolic “newness” of the turkey baster and the meaning Frida attaches to her other artifacts.  There are several times where objects—possessions—are triggers for memories or behaviors for Frida and Cal. These same objects, when handled by others, affect the characters. The Bee that Frida finds in Micah’s house meant so much to them as children and brings back pleasant memories for her, but to Micah it is just a tool. Micah understands what artifacts mean to Frida, though, and has August bring back her collection from the Miller Estate. But again, to Micah, they are just a tool to control Frida’s reactions. It’s entirely possible he left the Bee out for her to see. Micah uses Cal in the same way, but targets his ego rather than objects. He know Cal will be chuffed to part of the inner circle; to be let into a room that not even other members of the inner circle get to be in. He gives Cal/Gray an assignment on the inside to keep him in line; to make him feel special. He gives Frida/Julie all the objects of a “normal” life she could ask for.

I don’t particularly like that Lepucki echoed the stereotypes of men and women in the Land, especially after deriding such separations in earlier chapters. Frida willfully enters into “women’s work”; baking, cooking, gossiping. Cal continues with manual labor, security, and intellectualism. What does Lepucki mean to say about the end of the world, or the nature of humanity, by having her starring roles be held by such stereotypes? Even with Sandy, a pioneer through and through, she cared for the kids and did laundry and even pressured Frida to have a child. Bo did the hunting. The labor. “It’s about upper body strength” was used more than once in the novel to explain why Men do certain jobs.

While neither Frida nor Cal’s skills are presented as lesser than the other, the Land still has a clear distinction of how women work/behave/think and how men work/behave/think. Cal collected information from discussions. Frida, from gossip. Cal proved his worth by working. Frida, from bribery (with baked goods). While it could be said that these character choices are just these characters and how they would behave, that doesn’t explain the remainder of the population going along with the same ideals. The Men were in charge. The Men did security outside, the Women inside. The Women used sex to persuade Men. There were jobs that were co-ed, such as the construction, but the one woman in it was considered a shrew for wanting things measured. The men in cooking were considered inept.

ENG 363 – “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay (first half of book)

My fear with any feminism class I take and any feminist book I read is that I’ll be beaten with the two-by-four of feminist rhetoric telling me how awful I am for not embracing the gold-star feminism of hairy-pits and man-bashing. It seems Roxane Gay has this same fear. While she starts the book with essays about herself, she goes on to discuss how pop-culture has skewed her view of feminism and how it could (and does) skew others’ views as well.

I am particularly taken with the essay “Garish, Glorious Spectacles.” I’ve long considered gender (masculinity/femininity) to be purely a performance. It’s an act one puts on to get responses. I’ve never been attached to either femininity or masculinity, having spent much of my younger years being told I was a “tomboy” for liking the things I liked and never really having much interest in the script for “girl”. My lovely housemate found that she also didn’t have much interest in the script for “boy” growing up, and now is finding that the script for “girl” doesn’t quite fit either (but moreso than “boy”). She revels in her ambiguity now, and as I told her I love seeing her happy, “You make others as confused about your gender as you are!” Gay’s readings of “Green Girl” et al affirm/confirm our right to be confused about ourselves by showing how the media portrays the “act” of woman. We know what we are, yet here is a popular TV show showing us what we say we are is not the definition they want to portray. The stereotypes of women are entertaining—an actual woman is human, normal.

Gay’s “Not Here To Make Friends” elaborates more on the stereotypes of women in media negatively affecting women in general. A woman who is portrayed as independent and bold is unlikable, but the same for a man is the ideal. Such it is in life – a woman in leader ship is bossy while a man is just the boss. The essay goes on to to say that it’s foolish to thing of a character needing to be likable to be a good character, man or woman, but a man often gets a bye as the “anti-hero”. A woman is just a bitch.

ENG 350 Week 1 – California Chapters 1-7

The opening of California (by Edan Lepucki) has been refreshing. Growing up with media such as Captain Planet and Ferngully, I’ve been inoculated against the over-the-top personal pleas for the average person doing what they can to fix whatever is wrong with the environment that week. If you, average American child, do not recycle that can, you are leading us to the environmental apocalypse! California acknowledges that the problem isn’t the average American—it’s the rich capitalist, the corporation—that’s causing the problems. It is, however, the average American that suffers.

Frida fawns over her artifacts, including the like-new turkey baster, as reminders of what life was before it began to end. Though as the story progresses, we learn that the end was already there. The irreversible causes had already had their effect, and it was just a matter of time before everyone felt them. Resources became more and more scarce, and only the rich could afford them. Frida’s artifacts seem less like symbols of what her life was, but more like what life should have been had humanity cared enough to not destroy itself. It’s more of a hope that they could return to the ideal, should they come across some wonderful fix or some way to get into the Communities.

Naming their plot of land the Afterlife is a bit like holding on to her collection of objects. While the move there was Frida and Cal’s abandonment of the world, they still call it something based on their interpretation of the world. But the name also shows their acceptance that they really can’t salvage the world in any way. To not call it “Eden” is an admission that the move was not for a new beginning; it was for a new ending. Rather than be just another body in an alley outside a hospital, unable to afford care, they chose to be away from everything and care only for themselves. They threw themselves to the wild knowing full well they could not tame anything.

Lepuki’s descriptions of the wilds reclaiming urban centers and man-made objects makes something extremely clear about global warming and its effects on humanity: the world will continue even if we cannot live in it. Super-storms and other “acts of God” are already present and destroying civilization’s mark upon the world; they’re no different in California. Cal’s parents in Cleveland succumbed to harsh blizzards and the west coast is devastated by other natural events. Being able to ignore it is a privilege for the wealthy, but they are only ignoring what will eventually happen to them.

Reading the beginning of this book I was reminded often of the Fallout series; an eternally wasteful USA drains the world of its resources and goodwill, and succumbs to the events they cannot control. Though it is nuclear war in Fallout, the anarchic, community-based societies that follow the destruction are similar. The isolationists, the raiders/pirates, the feral communities are present in both the Fallout games and California.

Frida and Cal’s devotion to each other is not total—while they are clearly not physically unfaithful, they each, for their own reasons, choose to keep their emotions and thoughts from each other. It is strange that they would do so considering a fear of what the other might think (such as with Frida’s drug use) is a product of a society in which they no longer participate. Even marriage is a relic of this society, just as Frida’s artifacts are.

There is so much that can be said even in these first few chapters about Lepucki’s take on what would happen during the social apocalypse, especially since I haven’t even mention Micah yet. Micah (and his supposed death) is a huge catalyst for both Frida and Cal in the story; his return in chapter 8 intrigues me.

English Classes – Summer 2018

I’m enrolled in two English classes this summer that require blog posts for interaction. I’ll be putting them here on SDO with tags for each class—ENG350 for Dystopian Lit and ENG363 for New Feminist Memoir. Use the links here or below the post to find all writings as they are posted for each class.

Memento Mori – parody


Some Art 2-16-16

frisk2-16-16-2ibis2-16-16frisk2-16-16 sans2-16-16

someone I follow on tumblr hosted a drawpile so I drew some Undertale stuff.