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To The Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist
August 26, 2013 3:43 PM   Subscribe

John Scalzi responds to a troll Cheezburgering "This is what a feminist looks like" on a photo of him in a regency-era gown.
Over the weekend, some dudebro with a history of shitting on women took this picture of me and meme-ized it, with the intent, given his personal history and predilections, of mocking me — both for my views as regards women, and for wearing a dress. Dudebro: Let me detail for you the various ways this picture has utterly failed you as an attempt to ridicule me.

However, Scalzi's post came under scrutiny for some of its more troubling subtexts. Tech culture specialist and outspoken feminist Shanley Kane (previously) called out his post on twitter:
This is not what a feminist looks like. This is what bragging about the protection of white male privilege looks like. # His whole argument revolves around being a property owning rich white guy and so being unharmable by Internet harassment. #

Let's use this as an opportunity to discuss the deep problems with the way @scalzi used cross dressing + how that relates to gender policing. # Perhaps we can also talk about how men minimize public perception of the severity and consequences of internet harassment against women. # Let's also talk about how white men get rewarded for presenting a watered-down, uncritical, privileged image of feminism. # Trolling for YOU means someone called you a feminist, trolling for US means death and rape threats, revenge porn and getting hacked. # -- @shanley
The original image and creation thereof also drew criticism:
As a trans woman, I appreciate the piece's sentiment, but have very mixed feelings at the bet. It suggests gender non-conforming # behavior is worthy of ridicule. I understand that's not the spirit that was meant, but still. # -- @hypatian

I found it troubling to read your post today and see no self-reflection on the fact that your cis privilege # makes it possible for you to v briefly transgress gender norms, suffer little to no blowback for it, and feel entirely safe. # -- @gabbysilang
Previously on MetaFilter: In the MMORPG of life, straight white male is the easiest setting See also John Scalzi on his personal feminism and transfolk; Shanley Kane on Women in Technology.
posted by modernserf (309 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I got lost.

So who's in the dress and why are we mad about it?
posted by cjorgensen at 3:47 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh dear. This is a classic "never wrestle with a pig" situation, with the added problem of a peanut gallery at the side who are always going to be quick to jump in with how your wrestling style betrays your privilege.
posted by yoink at 3:48 PM on August 26, 2013 [89 favorites]


his is what bragging about the protection of white male privilege looks like. # His whole argument revolves around being a property owning rich white guy and so being unharmable by Internet harassment.

...That's as may be, but Scalzi is dealing with dudebros who don't give two shits about the "privilege argument" or such. Sometimes if you're dealing with emotional children, you have to use a childish approach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:48 PM on August 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


From Scalzi's post:

It would be nice to live in a world in which any time a dudebro tried insulting someone else, that person had the same level of insulation from the effects of the attempted insult as I do — we don’t, and this dudebro is working hard to keep it that way.

The point of Scalzi's post wasn't to unpack his privelege, but he does acknowledge it. How much more should he have to say about this, particularly in the context of his other posts on privilege in general (and his own in particular)?
posted by jsturgill at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


"I found it troubling to read your post today and see no self-reflection on the fact that your cis privilege # makes it possible for you to v briefly transgress gender norms, suffer little to no blowback for it, and feel entirely safe."

Um, what? He put on the dress to raise money for a charity. It's certainly unfortunate that not everyone can wear whatever the hell they like, for whatever reasons they like, without risk—but that's completely tangential to the point of the photo and the post.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm a bit concerned about the implied pejorative hybridization of dude with bro. Surely the dude would mellow out the bro and create something almost acceptable.
posted by srboisvert at 3:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


One can never be right, it's just a question of how wrong you manage to be I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [18 favorites]


Whoah those subtexts were troubling as heck
posted by Teakettle at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not pig-wrestler-ist.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit concerned about the implied pejorative hybridization of dude with bro. Surely the dude would mellow out the bro and create something almost acceptable.

In this case it ends up being an intensifier. Oh, language.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't support anything without someone coming up with some grad school theories about how offensively your support is based. You can neither give offense nor offensively framed defense.
posted by xmutex at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [79 favorites]


And all this serves to make the world better...how?
posted by Jimbob at 3:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can't support anything without someone coming up with some grad school theories about how offensively your support is based.

QFT.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was hoping at least one of these would mention the dog
posted by iotic at 3:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [22 favorites]


Although to be fair, Scalzi probably should have cut everything out but the opening paragraph explanation and the final picture and line. That would have been a much better post:

[explanation that someone tried to insult him by memifying a photo of him in a dress]
[picture of him in a dress with the caption "This is what a feminist looks like"]
[Affirmation that yes, he is in fact a feminist]
[full stop]
posted by jsturgill at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [29 favorites]


I got lost.

So who's in the dress and why are we mad about it?


Jscalzi's in the dress because he made a bet that "hey if X number of people pledge money to Y cause I will put on a dress and have someone take a photo of me". He's done similar stunts (another one I remember is that if x number of people did y thing, he would cover himself in vanilla frosting and allow himself to be thus photographed).

Random jerks who think jscalzi is a lesser man by virtue of his feminism turned that photo into a meme making fun of him (in the "Har har it's a dude in a dress what a dipshit he looks like" vein).

Jscalzi wrote a blog post in response to the random jerks, which pointed out that "okay, yeah, I'm in a dress, but looking silly doesn't scare me and ha ha you think dressing like a girl is scary and that's dumb".

Someone else read his post and thought that the whole idea was misguided because "why was a guy putting on a dress even a 'dare' in the first place". To which I would reply - uh, I dunno, maybe they ran out of frosting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [37 favorites]


Progressives Shocked To Discover Straight White Middle-Aged Man Proud of Lawn: "We Thought He Was an Ally"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [231 favorites]


All I read at first was the "responds to a troll" link, not knowing there was criticism of it, and I was cheering on until it got to the part about how he owns a really sweet lawn, and how he's a "successful man standing on the land he owns" and couldn't help but cringe a little bit. It's not horrible and he doesn't deserve to be pilloried or anything, but it's sort of blithely celebratory of all the awesome benefits he reaps as being a male feminist, emphasis on male. Using how rich and successful you are as an argument strikes me as weird, at any rate.
posted by naju at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


We live in a sad and dark work where Miley Cyrus can't even twerk. What have we come to?
posted by xmutex at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


it's sort of blithely celebratory of all the awesome benefits he reaps as being a male feminist, emphasis on male.

He does address that in the comments - it was a deliberate poke at the dudebros and the way they measure "success". To wit: for the dudebros, money/possessions/property = success. So his pointing that out to the dudebros is a way of turning it back on them - "yeah, I'm a dude in a dress, but I'm a dude in a dress on a lawn I own, so there."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


but it's sort of blithely celebratory of all the awesome benefits he reaps as being a male feminist, emphasis on male.

As others have pointed out, he can't win here. He attempts to address himself to the dudebro audience, using the language and world-view they would understand in terms of measuring success. As far as I can see, that's a fair enough thing to do. But that's never going make privilege-theorists happy. Any response that would make the privilege-theorists happy would have simply provided more cause for ridicule by the dudebros. It would not have changed any of the minds that actually need to be changed.
posted by Jimbob at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't think anyone's mentioned this, but there is context here. Scalzi is engaging with someone whom he thinks holds on to certain backwards cultural values, including the veneration of wealth and the trappings thereof.

I imagine that is the major factor driving the approach he took. You have to know your audience to insult them properly--that is, in fact, exactly what the dudebro failed to take into account. It would be somewhat ironic if Scalzi's return salvo were rendered meaningless due to a similar disconnect in values.

On preview, what EmpressCallipygos said.
posted by jsturgill at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hate both the terms "cis" and "privilege."

Accusations of "privilege," in my experience as a straight white male, who also happens to be in alignment with his gender, is often "privilege" is used as a way to shut down discussion, and to prove I am incapable of self-reflection and empathy, or that I am somehow intellectually incapable of understanding another's plight.

"Cis" I hate as a term, since I would never use it to identify myself. It's people outside telling me what I am. I kind of like that irony, but I still hate the term. I generally try to call people what they prefer. I get irritated when these terms change, but I like to keep up.

I am glad it's jscalzi in the dress. I was afraid he'd made fun of the dudebro troller by photoshoping that person into a dress. That would be even more troubling.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


I hate both the terms "cis" and "privilege."

Let's all not go there today. How about it?
posted by yoink at 4:02 PM on August 26, 2013 [82 favorites]


Let's all not go there today. How about it?

I miss what the post was about?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:03 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was okay with the blog post until the lawn bit as well. I'm not sure why that made me uncomfortable, but it did. Anyway, this really isn't about privilege, and I tend to think that a LOT of things are about privilege.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I take it Scalzi isn't familar with the actual This is what a feminist looks like meme going around this weekend? I find it much more likely that "Dudebro" googled "Dude in a dress" to create his own foul commentary on the Kelly Martin Broderick photo and Scalzi's photo just happened to come up.
posted by FreezBoy at 4:05 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I first heard the term "dudebro" recently, thanks to Sinfest. Apparently, Urban Dictionary has references to the term going as far back as 2005.
posted by heathkit at 4:06 PM on August 26, 2013


Oh joy, social justice circular firing squad.
posted by Artw at 4:07 PM on August 26, 2013 [77 favorites]


I hate both the terms "cis" and "privilege."

Totally hear you. At the same time, these sorts of statements take threads from the topic of the thread to your own feelings about the larger world of language that other people use in regular conversations on MeFi in this thread and others. If you'd like to have a more generalized discussion about how those words are used and your personal feelings about them, it's fine to take that up in MetaTalk.

Otherwise, leading off your comment with that here is coming off probably as more fight-provoking and provocative than you probably intend it and it would be great if this thread didn't become Yet Another Discussion of people complaining about words that people use to describe themselves or other people.

Put another way: with my mod hat on, don't start that derail here. Go to MetaTalk if that is a thing you need to discuss, anyone.
posted by jessamyn at 4:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


He should have showed more skin.
posted by planetesimal at 4:10 PM on August 26, 2013


Hoo boy, thank the gods I'm not famous. I can get away with goofing around without being made fun of, *or* worrying about the political ramifications.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh dear. This is a classic "never wrestle with a pig" situation, with the added problem of a peanut gallery at the side who are always going to be quick to jump in with how your wrestling style betrays your privilege.

How the fuck do people still not get this? These people aren't trying to win some war or hearts and minds in an epic debate about women's equality. They're looking for you to waste hours of your life writing prose countering the image macro they spent ninety seconds editing in mspaint and uploading to imgur. And they keep winning every god damn time. All I can do is facepalm from the sidelines at how these people keep falling for the same stupid fucking routine and wasting so much time and energy on it that could be spent elsewhere in an entirely more productive way.
posted by Talez at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've been trying to think of how to describe the flak jscalzi is getting -- most unnecessarily -- from those who feel his support is not hairshirt enough, or not downtrodden enough, or means less simply because he risks less.

The only phrase I can think of is Privilege Shaming.

Scalzi has a thick enough skin, I think, but at some point those who attack their own allies for insufficient orthodoxy may find themselves with fewer and fewer allies as time goes on. Scalzi has probably done more good (between his "Lowest Difficulty Level" and other thoughts about these issues) than any ten grad students in the mutual back-patting privilege-shaming brigade.
posted by chimaera at 4:12 PM on August 26, 2013 [102 favorites]


Privilege is a useful concept. But one can be aware of it without explaining it a million times over again every time you bring up anything that's even vaguely related to your privilege. At some point, can we assume that someone who has written articles specifically about his privilege before is in fact aware that it exists?

Or, in other words: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
posted by Sequence at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only phrase I can think of is Privilege Shaming.

And it's a pretty good one. I might have to borrow that. It does describe the phenomenon rather pithily.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Put another way: with my mod hat on, don't start that derail here. Go to MetaTalk if that is a thing you need to discuss, anyone.

::sheathes sword, unbuckles shield, trudges away::
posted by Sangermaine at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2013


Put another way: with my mod hat on, don't start that derail here. Go to MetaTalk if that is a thing you need to discuss, anyone.

Fair enough. That resolves my confusion.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:14 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh joy, social justice circular firing squad.

Hey, HEY. Your eye-rolling irony practically shouts your contempt for those afflicted with the physical inability to roll their eyes.

Yeah...this whole thing is just dispiriting, and the most dispiriting thing about it is that the "dudebro" who made the image and any of the people who laughed at it will just find every single part of it hilarious. I mean, jscalzi's reaction is just super triple-points SCORE!! to a troll. Because the only thing a troll cares about is getting a reaction. The only thing the troll will see in any of that is "I cared about what you did" and that's all the troll wanted to know. And then the "grrr, grrr, how dare he flaunt his lush lawnage in the face of the oppressed masses" response is just self-parodying gravy.
posted by yoink at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think I get Shanley Kane's argument, don't really agree with it, and I feel that Twitter is a really poor venue for that sort of criticism. It's hard to fit any kind of nuance into what amounts to one-liners.

So, yeah, Scalzi's raising money for charity by dressing up in a dress as a joke is... maybe hostile to trans* people? I can see how some people might feel that way, and certainly Kane seems to, but Scalzi is mostly an ally, and one of the weakest links in the whole progressive chain is attacking allies because they are way safer targets than actual enemies.

I think Scalzi's essay was... OK, but I doubt his stated audience will ever see it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


He should have showed more skin.

Look, just where and how closely we choose to trim our lawns is a very personal decision.
posted by yoink at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2013 [14 favorites]


So the guy claims to know the dudebro in question? I ask, because when I first saw the meme I assumed it was a slam against the stereotype that women feminists look like men (butch lesbian types). If my interpretation is correct then this guy is a bit on the self-centered side of things.
posted by bfootdav at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scalzi has a bunch of recent history with people of the "dudebro" political stripe attacking him and making sure he sees those attacks. I assumed it was one of the people he has a history with, or at least someone from one of those communities.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really need Lindy West to make a call on this.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"grrr, grrr, how dare he flaunt his lush lawnage in the face of the oppressed masses"

For what it's worth, the lawn thing bothered me much more for its "you wanna compare dicks? Fine, let's whip out our dicks and see which one is bigger" vibe, which strikes me as less a feminist exhibiting feminist behavior and more a reestablishing of the dudebro male dominance values that he's claiming to counter.
posted by naju at 4:18 PM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Man, the whole "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" meme-thingy seems overly manufactured in the first place.

Like, what's the point of going to war with a bunch of 13-year-olds with entirely too much time on their hands?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:19 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the lawn thing bothered me much for its "you wanna compare dicks? Fine, let's whip out our dicks and see which one is bigger" vibe, which strikes me as less a feminist exhibiting feminist behavior and more a reestablishing of the dudebro male dominance values that he's claiming to counter.

It's a rhetorical strategy he's used before, to good effect. It's a risky one, though. I don't think he really engaged enough with the "I can win this game but it's a stupid game, why are you playing it?" side of the argument in this case.

Mostly I liked the picture because I desperately wanted to see how he managed to get a feather in his hair. That's kind of a small target area. But it totally worked!
posted by restless_nomad at 4:21 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think that Scalzi's critics make valid points, he had a responsibility to make a more nuanced argument with those issues in mind, and he didn't. That, in itself, goes to the heart of what Kane is trying to say.

When a man labels himself a feminist, as I do and Scalzi does, it carries with it a particular responsibility.

In another thread I discussed how the asymmetry between an advantaged class and a disadvantaged class meant that the grievances of the advantaged against the disadvantaged are weighted disproportionately and therefore raising those grievances, even when legitimate, has a tendency to reaffirm the inequity because the advantaged's concerns are pushed to the head of the queue in a society with limited time, attention, and resources.

But there's a corollary of this in the obverse: the asymmetry between an advantaged class and a disadvantaged class means that whenever a member of the advantaged class advocates in any sense for the welfare of the disadvantaged class, that advocacy is weighed more heavily and it, too, eats up oxygen and focuses attention disproportionately. This means there's a special responsibility commensurate to this asymmetry, we male feminists must constantly query our privilege, again and again, because even with the very best of intentions it is very easy to do more harm than good.

Nevertheless, the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good and when the baseline is rape threats against women, a male feminist's failure to adequately query his privilege while responding to a misogynist is pretty much exactly the least urgent thing to be targeted here.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2013 [47 favorites]


Scalzi has a bunch of recent history with people of the "dudebro" political stripe attacking him and making sure he sees those attacks. I assumed it was one of the people he has a history with, or at least someone from one of those communities.

Looking over at Vox Day's site (Former WorldNetDaily commenter and Sci Fi author recently banned from the SFWA. side note: ewww), he's not taking responsibility, so there goes the usual suspect.
posted by zabuni at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2013


Scalzi's heart is in the right place but some of the stuff he writes to try and address the "male angry at feminists and social justice in general" folks has come off as more condescending towards them and ultimately unlikely to persuade them in my opinion. Things like using a video game metaphor to connect are a good idea, but the execution kind of falls apart when you call the gender more likely to die a violent, early death the one playing a game on easy mode. There is a lack of nuance going on there. Going with the aggressive mocking "dudebro" stuff is a good way to score points in an internet slapfight but not likely to persuade anyone there is nothing to be ashamed of in the picture, which is a very important and true message.

Now, I recognize persuasion isn't always the goal of communication and it's a mistake to focus on tone over content, but when the intent is persuasion of a particular audience which is what I think he is trying to do you do have to keep it in mind.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:22 PM on August 26, 2013


I am going to circle back around to my original question: Why are we mad about this?

Trolling for YOU means someone called you a feminist, trolling for US means death and rape threats, revenge porn and getting hacked.

So attack your ally. I've also found that there are always greater injustices in the world. That doesn't mean we should stop standing up for the smaller slights.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't the point of the troll not to insult Scalzi, but to insult feminists? Random "dudebros" aren't going to know who the guy in the dress is, just that, according to the caption, feminists look like dudes in dresses.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn, Is the header image on his site of his property? Looks similar to the image of him in the dress.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


"you wanna compare dicks? Fine, let's whip out our dicks and see which one is bigger"

Yeah, I thought it was a horribly false note, too. But that is the whole "wrestling with a pig" problem--you end up desperately trying to fling something at them that will actually sting. You're thinking "what will these jerks actually care about? They won't care that I'm empathetic, that I'm trying to make the world a better place, that my world gets enriched by a willingness to entertain ideas I find initially challenging etc. etc. Hey, about that lawn thing, eh? EH?" You end up becoming a parody version of the very thing you're trying to attack because you're trying to meet it on it's terms.
posted by yoink at 4:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


So this all comes down to turf wars?
posted by sciencegeek at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


oh wow this comment thread
posted by destronomics at 4:33 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck. Yes.
posted by odinsdream at 4:36 PM on August 26, 2013


I hereby nominate jscalzi's place to be the site of the next Metafilter birthday party. There's room for everyone and we can all fucking wear dresses.
posted by dobbs at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel kinda embarrassed for Scalzi, I mean, "don't feed the trolls" is one of the fundamental rules of internet dialogue. Major rookie mistake here.
posted by mullingitover at 4:38 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jesus, who needs five acres of lawn? I have, like, a tenth of an acre or less and I sure as hell don't even want to mow that.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:43 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


JUST CAME IN TO HATE ON LAWNS

He pretty well rocks that dress.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:45 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


For lawn maintenance? One goat.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:45 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]




I guess lawns are a symbol of the patriarchy and all, but it seems odd to hate on someone for their lawn when you could probably find something somewhat more meaningful.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


wanna wrestle?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:47 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I take it Scalzi isn't familar with the actual This is what a feminist looks like meme going around this weekend? I find it much more likely that "Dudebro" googled "Dude in a dress" to create his own foul commentary on the Kelly Martin Broderick photo and Scalzi's photo just happened to come up.

Yeah, I read the meme as making fun of women (har! feminist women look like dudes!) rather than John Scalzi.

Anyway, dudebro was lame, but the initial bet kinda bugs me in the same way those usually-for-charity-high-school-powderpuff-games kind of do. Heart in a good place. Still predicated on ha-ha-ha men in dresses are hilarible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


He should have showed more skin.
posted by planetesimal at 7:10 PM on August 26


He's a respectable Regency lady, not some 21st century tart!

that's next week
posted by jb at 4:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those who criticize him for making a singular point are taking it way too far. I understand what the haters are saying, but this wasn't about them--it was about one troll. Yes there are layers and layers you can dig through to promote a larger agenda, but it's not necessary if you know who Scalzi is and what he stands for.
posted by whatgorilla at 4:52 PM on August 26, 2013


Scalzi has always struck me as one of these feminist men that gets way too emotional and long-winded in his advocacy.

Simmer down, dude. Let the women talk a little.
posted by downing street memo at 4:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


(GuyZero: He presented his lawn and the large, attractive house that sits on it as a symbol of the wealth he has accrued from his occupational success. This isn't actually about lawns, although there is a discussion for another time about the conspicuous consumption aspect of tying up five acres growing water-demanding, mowing-demanding turf.)
posted by gingerest at 4:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The dress style is called Empire because Josephine (wife of Napoleon) first wore it when she was pregnant.
posted by brujita at 4:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


"The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power.

"Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935-9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most ‘anti-Fascist’ during the Spanish Civil War are most defeatist now."

- George Orwell

Nothing ever changes.
posted by officer_fred at 4:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [27 favorites]


Jesus, who needs five acres of lawn?

Either someone with a lot of treasure, or someone with a lot of...evidence. They aren't always mutually exclusive.
posted by FJT at 4:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, who needs five acres of lawn?

Or someone who needs to tell a lot of kids to get off it.
posted by scody at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, he lost me at "I'm rich and look at my awesome yard." A simple "Yes, I'm a feminist, and I wore the dress to raise money for charity" would have done just fine.
posted by The World Famous at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Scalzi has a thick enough skin, I think, but at some point those who attack their own allies for insufficient orthodoxy may find themselves with fewer and fewer allies as time goes on. Scalzi has probably done more good (between his "Lowest Difficulty Level" and other thoughts about these issues) than any ten grad students in the mutual back-patting privilege-shaming brigade.

Also, weird? Good feminist men (and women) who generally do good can also slip back into privileged or sexist behavior and it's okay to call them on it. Being generally a good feminist or an ally doesn't make one immune to criticism, and the feminist community is predicated on discussion, ownership of behavior, acknowledgment, and thoughtfulness. Not who can win the most feminism points.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:57 PM on August 26, 2013 [25 favorites]


However, it's concerning how many feminism points one can win by simply "calling people out", and how few one wins for considering wider strategies and allies.
posted by Jimbob at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


Good feminist men (and women) who generally do good can also slip back into privileged or sexist behavior and it's okay to call them on it.

Sometimes it's nice to give folks the courtesy of a private note rather than a public shaming. Particularly when they're good folks.
posted by bfranklin at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


I thought it was fine and I enjoyed the post. The hat leaves something to be desired but i guess it goes with the dress. His lawn IS nice and calling him out that he miss stepped with that one is cool. The guy was funny and humour helps bring attention to real issues. I appreciate what he did to call out the troll.
posted by mrgroweler at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2013


It is odd that he responded to the dudebro. I mean, was there some family meeting where they all said, "defend thy family's honor. Mock yon dudebro on the internets."
posted by angrycat at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


" he had a responsibility to make a more nuanced argument with those issues in mind, and he didn't. That, in itself, goes to the heart of what Kane is trying to say."

Is this a productive attitude? I mean, I think of myself as an ally, but when I read this I infer that if I don't make a carefully worded statement each and every time I speak against bad behavior, I'll be attacked by my own allies. Which makes me not want to make many statements. Sure, when I'm speaking at a formal event I have a burden to speak strictly, but if I'm participating in, more or less, water cooler talk, that's a very heavy burden.

And, sure, when there are people around who are able and willing to speak for themselves, I should shut-up and get out of the way. I agree! But isn't an imperfect statement from your side better than silence?
posted by oddman at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


So many layers here, it's exhausting.

Sometimes, people just need to get over themselves and give other people the benefit of the doubt. If someone's got good intentions, don't shit on them because they didn't happen to recognize your personal, particular lack of privilege. Like the saying goes, everyone is fighting some sort of battle. Could be gender related, could be mental illness, hell, it could be astigmatism. I'm not going to stop listening to Johnny Nash sing "I Can See Clearly Now" just because I'm nearsighted.

(Someone will surely come in now and say, "Yes, but you've never been bullied, or denied a job, or otherwise been discriminated against because of near sightedness." Bullshit. Ever hear the phrase "Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses"? Ever seen a kid who wears glasses be bullied and called "Four Eyes"? Ever seen a caricature of a stereotypical nerd? They're always wearing glasses.)

Seriously, just because someone isn't acknowledging your personal demon, doesn't mean they're insulting you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


Jesus, who needs five acres of lawn?

No one needs it, but if you live in a rural or semi-rural or exurban area (or whatever you call it) you sometimes just get a lot of lawn. It's neither here nor there - it would be land whether he lived there or not.
posted by GuyZero at 5:12 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, a five-acre property is not necessarily, like, a mansion and a private golf course. I know plenty of not-especially-well-off hicks with more land than that.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thinking about this more, because it bothers me, why are Scalzi's contributions to the feminist discourse assumed to be more valuable than those of "any ten grad students in the mutual back-patting privilege-shaming brigade"? This is assuming that the most valuable goal for feminists is reaching large numbers of men--something that Scalzi, as a man, likely finds easier to do than your average female author, much less than your average graduate student. So that sucks, from a feminist standpoint, because it means that women will likely never have equivalent esteem in the conversation. But also maybe there are other valuable contributions to make within feminism: creating spaces for women to talk within communities--like academia, or science fiction--that are traditionally male dominated might be one, in which case I'd imagine those "privilege-shaming" grad students are far more "valuable." Maybe the goals of some feminists have nothing to do with men or convincing men of anything. Maybe the conversation--including call-outs!--is actually what enables some women to feel empowered and supported, versus the prospect of their concerns (like transphobia, if you're a transwoman) being invisible and ignored in favor of converting the mainstream.

There are so many assumptions here--that we need to value the concerns of dudebros and what dudebros think, and be careful with how we talk to them, least we offend them, and that the way these conversations need to be had is the same way that conversations have always been had, with a clear winner and a loser, rather than maybe a jumble of thoughts and rightness and wrongness and feelings all together. We are all imperfect feminists, and it's okay to talk about that, but I am so tired of people being like "if she didn't cry privilege, it would be okay!" or "don't call him on his mistakes, he's a good feminist!" because augh. Seriously. Not getting it. So not getting it.

All of this is so much more (important, maddening, absurd) than a lawn.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [24 favorites]


Scalzi is Frequently Asked about the lawn.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


"This ain't even a big deal" *makes it into World's Biggest Deal*
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


that we need to value the concerns of dudebros and what dudebros think, and be careful with how we talk to them, least we offend them

This to me seems like the opposite of what everyone thinks. I'm really not sure where you're seeing that.

I mean, it could be that Scalzi is a professional writer and thus he tends to, you know, write better even if he's not some sort of cutting-edge feminist theorist.
posted by GuyZero at 5:23 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


The ex-leper: "That's just what Jesus and John Scalzi said!"
posted by whatgorilla at 5:24 PM on August 26, 2013


So glad I don't have a lawn, now.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is assuming that the most valuable goal for feminists is reaching large numbers of men

I don't see how you derive that from the statement you are quoting.
posted by yoink at 5:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


that we need to value the concerns of dudebros and what dudebros think, and be careful with how we talk to them

I don't see that argument being advanced anywhere, either.
posted by yoink at 5:26 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Five acres of mowed and chemically-treated lawn? For a dudebro in a dress he really seems hate Momma Nature.
posted by 0 at 5:26 PM on August 26, 2013


I wonder when people stopped taking things at face value and started analyzing them for ways to be offended.
posted by Foosnark at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think I'll spend a couple of hours tomorrow with the weed-whacker in honor of the comments generated by this post. And probably follow it up with a grand old session of blower-ing.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I declared my support for Scalzi in his comment thread, adding:
...although I know your quite sensible policy against giving the dudebros (or is that dudbro?) and other trolls any internet link fuel, I’d like to know who he is and if he has a picture (wearing anything) online, because that would be just screaming for its own memefication:

“This is what a man who hates women looks like.” (Because that is MY general definition of a non-feminist male)

“This is what a line of humans who stopped evolving long ago looks like.”

“This is what a roadblock to human progress (yes, ALL humans) looks like.”

Or I could just dig up an old pic of Osama Bin Laden and caption it “This is what a man who considers ‘feminist’ an insult looks like.”
(I also considered a picture of Hitler but Godwin told me not to, besides, Osama BigLots was very representative of the dudebro attitude toward women)

Anyone offended by the turning of the portmanteau "dudebro" into a prerogative term should just turn it into "dudbro".

And I do have one issue about him owning a place with a 5-acre lawn, and that's mostly the fact that it's in Congresscritter John Boehner's district.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:31 PM on August 26, 2013


I wonder when people stopped taking things at face value and started analyzing them for ways to be offended.

Dick measuring contests turn out to be extremely popular all around.
posted by Artw at 5:31 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


"don't feed the trolls" is one of the fundamental rules of internet dialogue.

Allow me to introduce a corollary: Never take offense on behalf of someone else.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wonder when people stopped taking things at face value and started analyzing them for ways to be offended.

Oh, so now only people with faces have value. Way to be ableist, dude.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I gotta problem with the jewel tones one - I mean, he could probably get away with a nice emerald green, but should stay away from the purples and blues. Red? hmm, a bit tarty. Yellow is right out.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:34 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Americans don't really do drag properly, not compared to the British.

Nor lawns either, for that matter.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:34 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


WHAT IF THE TROLLS ATE...GRASS?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see how you derive that from the statement you are quoting.

My point is that I, as a feminist, find discussions of things like transphobia to be more valuable than the number of (male) allies I accrue or scare away because I use terms like privilege to discuss these things. In the portion I quoted, the contributions to feminism of privilege-shaming grad students (which, I gotta be honest, feels like the internet generation's bra burning feminists) are assumed to be less valuable than John Scalzi's blog posts, likely because he's reaching a more mainstream male audience with the hopes of changing their minds.

Which is a fine and admirable thing to do but we shouldn't disdain the contributions to the feminist discourse of actual women who might lack his platform, nor should we assume that this is the primary or sole goal of feminism. It is a very male-centric way to look at the conversation, and I find that inherently antifeminist, though probably unintentionally so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2013 [22 favorites]


Interestingly, I think a lot of these issues have been addressed quite nicely in the comments on the post. If anyone has a really hardline "don't read the comments" personal policy, you may wanna rethink it just this once.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the portion I quoted, the contributions to feminism of privilege-shaming grad students (which, I gotta be honest, feels like the internet generation's bra burning feminists) are assumed to be less valuable than John Scalzi's blog posts, likely because he's reaching a more mainstream male audience with the hopes of changing their minds.

But that whole bit about "because he is reaching a more mainstream male audience" comes from no one but you. It isn't stated at all in the comment you're responding to. It's a bit unfair to be all "why should we only measure ourselves by how many MEN we reach, huh?" when that metric was never said or implied.

And no gender was mooted for the "privilege shaming grad students," either. (And grad students, both male and female, do love to engage in privilege shaming). My guess is that the writer was drawing a contrast between airy-fairy ivory tower feminism and more down-to-earth, practical feminism, not between male and female feminism.
posted by yoink at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like PhoBWanKenobi's comment that there's something wrong with the way these things are seen as being about "a clear winner and a loser, rather than maybe a jumble of thoughts and rightness and wrongness and feelings all together." It's all a dialogue, and voices with insight add to the discussion. "The perfect is the enemy of the good" saying seems to exhibit an us vs. them mentality, where the only right approach is to band together as a monolithic team to fight the enemy. That's never how I viewed this stuff; it's all way too complex and multifaceted for that reductive approach. An increase in enlightening discussion seems like a win all around - even if yes, there's the occasional person just seeking "social justice points," and even if some feelings of well-intentioned folks might get hurt.
posted by naju at 5:49 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


@yoink,

My sense is that PhoBWanKenobi is contending that "airy-fairy ivory tower feminism" really is at least as valuable as "down-to-earth, practical feminism."

@PhoBWanKenobi,

Quick clarification. Are you here mostly concerned with *that* debate (which style of feminism does more good, or whether that is a meaningful question), or do you have actual object-level problems with the original Scalzi post itself? If so, what are they?
posted by officer_fred at 5:50 PM on August 26, 2013


My sense is that PhoBWanKenobi is contending that "airy-fairy ivory tower feminism" really is at least as valuable as "down-to-earth, practical feminism."

But the way to make that argument is not to unfairly attribute patently offensive claims (like "the best feminist is the one who reaches most men" or "male feminists are worth more than female feminists") to your interlocutor.
posted by yoink at 5:58 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The perfect is the enemy of the good" saying seems to exhibit an us vs. them mentality, where the only right approach is to band together as a monolithic team to fight the enemy.

Historically, banding together to fight the enemy is one of the few thing's that's ever precipitated change.

But based on PheBWanKenobi's comment, I guess we're not talking about radical revolutionary feminism here. We're talking about modern, feel-good privilege-shaming feminism.
posted by Jimbob at 5:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm confused as to why Scalzi's post, amusing as it is, constitutes "down-to-earth, practical feminism."
posted by restless_nomad at 5:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


And no gender was mooted for the "privilege shaming grad students," either. (And grad students, both male and female, do love to engage in privilege shaming). My guess is that the writer was drawing a contrast between airy-fairy ivory tower feminism and more down-to-earth, practical feminism, not between male and female feminism.

Over and over again in this thread, mostly male participants have expressed concern that those who use the term privilege or criticize feminist individuals like Scalzi are scaring away "allies," and it felt safe to assume this was meant to indicate male allies to feminism. I'm not entirely sure what else that would mean, anyway.

Quick clarification. Are you here mostly concerned with *that* debate (which style of feminism does more good, or whether that is a meaningful question), or do you have actual object-level problems with the original Scalzi post itself? If so, what are they?

Yes, I'm upset with the way this discussion right here is going, and I'm largely talking about that. However, my major problem with the Scalzi post is that the initial bet is a bit transphobic. He . . . sort of addresses this in the comments, but not really. I guess I wish he'd come out and said "Hey! You're right! Sorry!" but he doesn't (he says he's listening, that his feelings about transfolk are on public record--which isn't quite the same--and he does ask about a trans charity and that's good but still, not an apology), and that's too bad, especially because transwomen are so often silenced or face real threats of violence and in this case are likely speaking up--pretty bravely--from a place of pain. I don't think he meant to be a jerk; I think it was well-intentioned, but I think it was sort of a fail on that level and so the existence of the ensuing conversation is, well, sigh-worthy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


But the way to make that argument is not to unfairly attribute patently offensive claims (like "the best feminist is the one who reaches most men" or "male feminists are worth more than female feminists") to your interlocutor.

I thought the grad student line was a pretty patently offensive strawman, so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought this was a pretty good summation of why Scalzi's BUT I'M AN ALLY!!!!!!!! LOOK AT ME IN A DRESS!!!!!! relies on a problematic framework.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:05 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jimbob: "We're talking about modern, feel-good privilege-shaming feminism."

Let's assume that is in fact what we're talking about. So? One of the principle challenges of growing up as a woman is retaining your sense of self-worth if you don't conform to patriarchal notions of femininity or beauty and the like. Value yourself, value your opinions, and you're more likely to forge ahead with other women. Hooray for feeling good!

And "privilege shaming"? Any feminist ally worth their salt -- and from what I've seen John Scalzi is worth a few shakers' worth -- can deal with being called out for stomping around a bit too heavily with the privilege boots. Didn't consider the wider implications of your stunt and subsequent write-up, despite good intentions? Being called on it? A chance to consider these opinions and if necessary modify your activism!

Or, alternatively, a chance to moan about "privilege shaming".
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yeah, it's worth being very clear that Scalzi has, all day, not only made clear that he doesn't mind criticism but he's actually chided people for attacking his critics. He knows how this works, and if his pattern holds, I suspect we may very well see a follow-up dealing with the trans issues in the next day or so.

I hope he does post in more detail about that, and I'd love to see a long-form analysis of the situation. I have some vague half-formed thoughts about how this situation isn't really transphobic because..., but they're not coherent enough to even verbalize, and I'm awfully suspicious of my own instincts here.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is what sucks most about the internet, sexism, privilege shaming, and in general, the nasty shit people get up to when they get into little groups and get bored and start looking for a fight.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


However, my major problem with the Scalzi post is that the initial bet is a bit transphobic.

Ah, okay. So basically the idea is that the initial bet, doing the photo in a dress to raise money, is oppressive in the same way as doing the same thing with blackface, except it's harmful to trans people, trans women in particular, instead of black people.

Sorry, that was probably clear from the very start to everyone except me. I understand the objections much more clearly now.
posted by officer_fred at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jesus, who needs five acres of lawn?

No one needs it, but if you live in a rural or semi-rural or exurban area (or whatever you call it) you sometimes just get a lot of lawn. It's neither here nor there - it would be land whether he lived there or not.


But it wouldn't necessary be lawn. Lawn is different than just "land." Lawn requires mowing and maintenance and watering on a scale unlike just the five acres of land that would be there whether he lived there or not. And, while the land--and the lawn--would be there whether he lived there or not, Scalzi was the one who raised it as a status symbol. So it's clearly significant to him, even if you think "meh," it would be land whether he lived there or not.

Look, I just thought it was a sort of funny thing to have a penis-waving contest about. Lawn? Really? When I see someone who has five acres of lawn, I'm just not impressed; I'm a little put off. But I recognize I'm not his target audience here, either--maybe the type of person who'd be unduly impressed with five acres of lawn is also the kind of guy who would Icanhazcheezburger a picture of a guy in a dress and crack wise about feminism.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I think people on all sides here are really just bored and looking for a fight, like middle school kids gathering up on a playground, playing up the tiniest perceived sleights between two potential combatants as if they rose to serious offenses to get the fight started good and proper, for no real purpose other than to satisfy blood lust and ease the tedium of the routine.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:14 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


No one needs [five acres of lawn], but if you live in a rural or semi-rural or exurban area (or whatever you call it) you sometimes just get a lot of lawn. It's neither here nor there - it would be land whether he lived there or not.

Right, but, like, it doesn't have to be lawn, y'know? Five acres of wilderness beats five acres of boring, useless lawn any day of the week.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:14 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It really would be nice if we had a thread about feminism that didn't devolve into an effort to paint the current state of feminism with the OMGIVORYTOWER brush. Just because the Internet has given some people a louder voice doesn't mean that feminism (or any movement, really) is all about the infighting. Quite the opposite, really.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Look, I just thought it was a sort of funny thing to have a penis-waving contest about. Lawn? Really? Lawn? Really?

"I sell propane and propane accessories. I have a narrow urethra."
posted by Sys Rq at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the grad student line was a pretty patently offensive strawman, so.

But the problem with privilege-shaming, as others in this thread have remarked, is that it never stops--there's always some point where you're on the losing side of the equation. I mean, you think it's "patently offensive" for some guy to accuse grad students of being engaged in a feminist praxis that won't enact change ithe world--but you must know that are plenty of feminist critiques of "privileged" academic feminists and their ivory-tower inability to engage with real world problems. Here's a recent one, for example.
posted by yoink at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ah, okay. So basically the idea is that the initial bet, doing the photo in a dress to raise money, is basically as bad as doing the same thing with blackface, except it's harmful to trans people, trans women in particular, instead of black people.

It's a complex question because crossdressing is not something that is solely about being transgender. Plenty of men, not just cis or transgender women, also put on dresses for all kinds of reasons. For fashion, for fun, for costumes, for performance, and also yes at times for mockery that is similar to blackface. That isn't the default though.

It's very much a question of intent and I think I would bet Scalzi was more in the goofy fun "How do I look?" frame of mind than a "This is so humiliating, I look like a woman." frame of mind.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


To be fair, his lawn really is spectacular.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:18 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Bloom County For All Occasions #236]
posted by entropicamericana at 6:19 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


h, okay. So basically the idea is that the initial bet, doing the photo in a dress to raise money, is basically as bad as doing the same thing with blackface, except it's harmful to trans people, trans women in particular, instead of black people.

It's the assumption that a male-bodied person in a dress is inherently funny, particularly if they don't perform femininity perfectly (they have a mustache or chest hair). Which of course ties into jokes about women not performing femininity perfectly, either--the initial bet provided the fodder for the "this is what a feminist looks like" thing to exist at all. The humor arises out of gender policing, which can be upsetting for some trans & cis women. Which is why people accused him of doing this from a place of male privilege and security--he's not a woman, so he doesn't have to feel those pressures to wear a dress "right" and groom body hair correctly or else face ridicule or even violence.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:20 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Powers That Be love it when the rest of us fight amongst ourselves. The Powers That Be really are the ONLY "Special Interest".

Yes, the "I'll wear a dress" dare had some serious potential for offending trans people, but the picture itself, with the pose, the chest hair, the dog, etc. was successful (for me) in defusing that in favor of the usual "Scalzi does something goofy again" mode. Remember, this is the guy who made a meme by taping bacon to his cat (which if he'd owned that dog at the time would've been a direct threat to the cat!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:25 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "The Powers That Be love it when the rest of us fight amongst ourselves."

Perhaps. That's not an excuse to let minority voices within feminism be stifled, though.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:27 PM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


1. This may be my favorite thread of the month, thus far.

2. I have to second DrinkyDie's take on playing dressup. Mary Robinette Kowal has many nice things; it might be as simple as wanting to play dress-up.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking as someone who grew up poor, I want to note that Scalzi wrote an excellent post on what it's like growing up poor. At least it rang very true to me.

He also wrote one of the best discussions on a mainstream blog about exactly how privileged he is as a straight white male.

He's not perfect, but he's an ally, and I understand him as such.

If you write a blog, you know that you can't discuss every nuance of every idea in a single post. I think it's useful to take his work over time, and not jump on this one as incomplete or imperfect.
posted by jnfr at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think I'll spend a couple of hours tomorrow with the weed-whacker in honor of the comments generated by this post. And probably follow it up with a grand old session of blower-ing.

If you come over and do mine, I will cook you a nice lunch and pour lots of wine for you. My ragweed allergies are killing me, going outside is fraught right now. Fuck Ohio in August.

Five acres of wilderness beats five acres of boring, useless lawn any day of the week.

Wilderness is pretty hard to come by in Central Ohio.
posted by MissySedai at 6:35 PM on August 26, 2013


Yeah, it's pretty much corn, soybeans, or bluegrass, isn't it?
posted by restless_nomad at 6:37 PM on August 26, 2013


2. I have to second DrinkyDie's take on playing dressup. Mary Robinette Kowal has many nice things; it might be as simple as wanting to play dress-up.

But doesn't tying it to a charity drive/bet imply that there's something unpleasant or at the very least (as onesweelfoop puts it) "goofy" about it? That it's silly, like taping bacon to a cat? Scalzi doesn't just occasionally post a bunch of pictures of himself wearing pretty dresses, and this was specifically suggested by people on twitter, right? It doesn't seem like he was playing dress-up in Kowal's pretty gowns for fun and happened to take a pic and happened to link posting that pic to donating to a charity.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:37 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure the privilege analysis being used against Scalzi is entirely correct. Gender policing is not confined to women. Men and boys, including straight ones, face a lot of gender policing. Social pressure and violence are used to keep men acting and looking stereotypically male. I would be quite surprised if Scalzi has been so privileged as to not have been subjected to gender policing.
posted by Area Man at 6:38 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


So, pointing out that something has problematic aspects does not necessarily imply that the author was acting in bad faith and that they are a terrible person. Generally positive developments can come with "troubling subtexts", to quote the OP. There's always this rush to essentialist poles; are you a GOOD person who did a GOOD thing, or a BAD person who did a BAD thing? In reality, things happen, and they have different aspects which have different qualities. Discussing these is not necessarily a hatchet job, but pushes us to analyze how to be better.
posted by threeants at 6:40 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think we can disagree with someone's approach without stifling them. I think we can look at someone like John and think, "He's not doing things as I would do them, or the best way, but he's not wrong."

I mean, I can someone understand that anytime that a male wears a dress, it's touching upon transphobia. It's an old argument, and if I recall correctly, women feminists and drag queens disagreed a lot right after Stonewall. But I don't think he's wrong. I don't think he's wrong about talking about his lawn. I don't think he's shutting down or stifling voices, unless you consider anytime we talk, we're crowding out minority voices, at which point we can become paralyzed into inaction.

There's plenty of people who are straight up wrong. We should differentiate between people who we disagree with and them.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:41 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wilderness is pretty hard to come by in Central Ohio.

All the more reason to make some.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:42 PM on August 26, 2013


Although the specific tweet mentioned here seems to be missing, Gabby Silang's discussion with John Scalzi generally seems to have merit - both in raising elements that might not have leapt out (like the idea of a man in a dress as a curiosity) and highlighting that he's responding to these criticisms, it seems, with good grace.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:42 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I wasn't convinced before that as a white male I can't discuss gender *at all*, I'm convinced of it now.
posted by kjs3 at 6:42 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't seem like he was playing dress-up in Kowal's pretty gowns for fun and happened to take a pic and happened to link posting that pic to donating to a charity.

Sort of? I watched it go down on Twitter, and it seemed like there was joking about playing dress-up and he said "Hey I'll do that, let's raise money for charity because I CAN," and then the picture-taking happened.

As for whether or not he wears pretty dresses, I dunno, but he sounded pretty serious at the reading of his I went to about wanting to get properly in shape to do Dr. Frank N. Furter. It's certainly not out of character or anything.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:43 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


All the more reason to make some.

Wait, are people trying to criticize him because of his landscaping now? Man, what is this, "let's try to find new things to criticize him for"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


In truth, I think more men should wear dresses. I don't think it demeans transfolk as long as they're representing "a man wearing a dress" and not a transfolk. Part of tearing down gender conformity is poking fun at it, and having others realize that it's all slightly ridiculous. I think that's good and healthy for society and not necessarily harmful to transfolk.

Sure, at the end of the day, he has the privilege of taking off that dress, but I have the privilege of driving in certain areas and not being automatically suspect. I should be aware of that, but it doesn't mean I should just stop doing it because I'm privileged in my position.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


The idea that him wearing a dress for charity is transphobic is...

Well, it dismisses the other reasons for wearing a dress, e.g. Drinky Die's comment: It's a complex question because crossdressing is not something that is solely about being transgender. Plenty of men, not just cis or transgender women, also put on dresses for all kinds of reasons. For fashion, for fun, for costumes, for performance, and also yes at times for mockery that is similar to blackface. That isn't the default though.

It takes away any benefit of the doubt as to what he's doing to go straight to taking offence. He's not raising money for charity, he's ignoring the plight of trans women. He's not just wearing an unfamiliar item of clothing, he's mocking (even unintentionally, though many of his critics won't even extend him that courtesy) the performance of feminism. He's not trying to counter a troll with a display of why 'bloke in a dress' isn't inherently demeaning, he's rubbing his privilege in the face of those who might see it.

This is why people complain about circular firing squads and losing allies. I will say, that from my experience, I am not suddenly going to treat women differently, or my trans friends (or trans strangers) more poorly, due to what I encounter on the internet.

But I will, and have, become more reluctant to even read, let alone engage in, many of these discussions, because this always comes up. The worst narrative is always pushed, someone is always offended, behaviours are always described in the most negative terms, and nothing but the worst is taken. It's exhausting, demeaning and destructive, and makes what could be an interesting, instructive and useful conversation into the last place I want to spend time.

I want to be an ally. I will remain a feminist. But the internet, and MetaFilter, can be a tough place to learn when shaming beats sharing.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2013 [29 favorites]


If I wasn't convinced before that as a white male I can't discuss gender *at all*, I'm convinced of it now.

I'm doing it! It seems to be going okay. I look like an asshole sometimes and sometimes people agree with me, like any other topic.

But doesn't tying it to a charity drive/bet imply that there's something unpleasant or at the very least (as onesweelfoop puts it) "goofy" about it?

Yeah, but there is a big difference between doing something goofy for charity and doing something you consider humiliating for charity. You may be laughed at either way but it's a very different type of laughter. I don't know that I can really illustrate the difference enough to be convincing though so I can see how folks might disagree.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, are people trying to criticize him because of his landscaping now? Man, what is this, "let's try to find new things to criticize him for"?

Yes. So much so, he had to create a FAQ about the lawn on his site. Apparently, lawns are a really touchy subject for some people. Who knew?
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Endlessly fractal layers of offense, you can fall into them forever.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is lightyears ahead of some of the actually mean and terrible "This is what a feminist looks like" macros on reddit.
posted by hellojed at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2013


Yes. So much so, he had to create a FAQ about the lawn on his site. Apparently, lawns are a really touchy subject for some people. Who knew?

I know, I can't think any better uses for land and water, and who doesn't love extra chemicals and gas-powered mowers?
posted by entropicamericana at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm doing it! It seems to be going okay. I look like an asshole sometimes and sometimes people agree with me, like any other topic.

You are apparently looking at this whole shitstorm through a radically different lens, if not from a different universe, than I am.

Seriously...stay there, because from here, all I can do is shake my head ruefully...
posted by kjs3 at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2013


I was mostly kidding when I said what I said about his lawn, but I would have said nothing had he not raised it as a rhetorical weapon in the first place. So landscaping criticism (at least for my part of it) is related directly to his lawnbragging.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:52 PM on August 26, 2013


Yeah, but there is a big difference between doing something goofy for charity and doing something you consider humiliating for charity. You may be laughed at either way but it's a very different type of laughter. I don't know that I can really illustrate the difference enough to be convincing though so I can see how folks might disagree.

Ehhh, I still think "goofy" has a whole bunch of negative connotations tied into it. And while I think that, yes, Scalzi responded in good graces, I do still hope he'll actually come out and apologize to the women who were upset by it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. So much so, he had to create a FAQ about the lawn on his site. Apparently, lawns are a really touchy subject for some people. Who knew?

I know, I can't think any better uses for land and water, and who doesn't love extra chemicals and gas-powered mowers?


You know, I have a lawn. I cultivate it because otherwise I can't use it. Poison ivy grows. Mosquitoes start to breed. I'd rather cut it every so often. I even plant flowers, flowers I have to water, because as you know, in a state of nature would not grow there, and certainly not in neat geometric patterns that make me happy when I observe them.

I know my hobbies take time and money that could be spent saving the world (lord I know; I play miniature games), but you have to cut some people some slack. Sometimes it's alright to indulge a little in something that's frivolous but makes you happy.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:55 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The main point of his blog post is that he can get into slapfights with misogynist trolls and they can't touch him, which is kind of crappy because there are women literally living in hiding because of the deluge of troll shit after they took similar political stances in public.

He will not receive credible threats of rape, assault, or death. He will not be fired from his job after his employer is DDoS'd and similarly threatened. He will not be public denigrated by random men, speaking on behalf of all men, as probably having deserved it. He will not have to give up career goals because of this. He will not be isolated from his friends and family. His partner will not leave him.

But plenty of women have gone through that shit, and Scalzi's strutting understandably pisses them off. By all accounts, Scalzi seems like a good person, but excusing this with "at least he's doing something" seems like a low fucking bar for an ally. He can do better, and should.

For example: just name and clown the MRA fuckhead. Don't waggle your untouchability around, just call him by his full name and tell the world he's a misogynist shitheart. Then hand the mic back to the women who live this shit daily.
posted by Coda at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ehhh, I still think "goofy" has a whole bunch of negative connotations tied into it. And while I think that, yes, Scalzi responded in good graces, I do still hope he'll actually come out and apologize to the women who were upset by it.

What if he doesn't think he's wrong? What if he just doesn't agree with them? Many of them don't even agree with each other.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


@PhoBWanKenobi: I generally agree with your position but disagreed with your summation that people were saying “don't call him on his mistakes, he's a good feminist!” – I read those comments as more that, given his track record, it's reasonable to try education first before escalating. While everyone has a right to be offended and to criticize something which they find hurtful making the conversation about conflict and someone being wrong tends to ensure that the original point is lost in the subsequent argument. It may be right but it rarely changes minds.

(I felt @Shanley did this as well, where the second tweet's reliance on an apparent misinterpretation got *way* more attention than the excellent points she made)
posted by adamsc at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2013



>> Yes. So much so, he had to create a FAQ about the lawn on his site. Apparently, lawns are a really touchy subject for some people. Who knew?

> I know, I can't think any better uses for land and water, and who doesn't love extra chemicals and gas-powered mowers?

This is what I'm talking about. I wasn't being sarcastic. I literally* had no idea that people hated lawns so much. I'm a bit nonplussed.

*literally literally not figuratively literally
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:58 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


@coda: So........what?
posted by kjs3 at 6:59 PM on August 26, 2013


You are apparently looking at this whole shitstorm through a radically different lens, if not from a different universe, than I am.

Seriously...stay there, because from here, all I can do is shake my head ruefully...


Sorry to hear that. In my universe white men dominate the discourse so totally that we control the vast majority of government and can easily pass laws to regulate what women can do with their bodies. I'm starting to think our voice might be a little out of proportion in fact.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


If I wasn't convinced before that as a white male I can't discuss gender *at all*, I'm convinced of it now.

It really feels like you're convinced that it's not worth discussion if there happens to be pushback against your opinions. So, it's not that you can't discuss gender at all, it's that you're not willing to be criticized.

I want to be an ally. I will remain a feminist. But the internet, and MetaFilter, can be a tough place to learn when shaming beats sharing.

Being criticized is not shaming. Luckily the subject of this is Scalzi, who by all accounts completely understands that.
posted by ndfine at 7:00 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Forget jewel tones- as a proper Regency lady, he should have a fan.



Also, it's pretty sunny out, so he should probably be wearing a bonnet.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


@PhoBWanKenobi: I generally agree with your position but disagreed with your summation that people were saying “don't call him on his mistakes, he's a good feminist!” – I read those comments as more that, given his track record, it's reasonable to try education first before escalating.

Call outs can be a form of education, and the tweets directed at him were generally even-handed and reasonable. Those tweets by hypatian and gabbysilang were super duper patient.

Of course, women are much more likely to be taken as strident when they speak firmly or use the language of feminist discourse--like "privilege."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


He didn't make the lawn wear a dress, did he?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2013


kjs3, dude, the more often you say that you don't dare get involved in this discussion in this discussion, the less mortal your fear seems.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Being criticized is not shaming. Luckily the subject of this is Scalzi, who by all accounts completely understands that.

Not automatically, no. Not even all the criticism linked in the post or in the comments is, either. But enough of it certainly is.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2013


Wilderness is pretty hard to come by in Central Ohio.

All the more reason to make some.


I go to Michigan for that. Michigan has bears.

Apparently, lawns are a really touchy subject for some people. Who knew?

Oh, honey baby sugar sweetie dumplin' pie! I had no Earthly idea until I bought my house 10 years ago. My neighbor across the street futzes with his lawn Every. Fucking. Day. Not even kidding. And if my lawn sprouts a single dandelion or grows half an inch taller than he believes is right and proper, he is over here ringing my doorbell and bitching about his property values.

Last summer, just to spite him, I let the purple morning glories loose on the lawn and didn't mow for about a month. Didn't answer my door, either. It was quite entertaining to try to figure out when he was going to drop dead from a heart attack over my lawn. (Alas, he did not.)
posted by MissySedai at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dropping in to note: I'm liking reading this thread.

I'm liking the potential of the feminist and privilege recognition movement becoming less of a religious nature and more of a "ok, we're human, but here's where we want to go + noise" movement.

We're turning an important corner here.

Carry on.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:05 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't think any better uses for land and water, and who doesn't love extra chemicals and gas-powered mowers?

So you're saying his defense of feminism wasn't green enough?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


For example: just name and clown the MRA fuckhead. Don't waggle your untouchability around, just call him by his full name and tell the world he's a misogynist shitheart. Then hand the mic back to the women who live this shit daily.

Erm, speaking as one of those women, I would like to make it clear I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with a man calling out another man for misogyny, even if he doesn't do it 100% perfectly, because there are so few other men who even bother in the first place.

And that is because, yes, I live this shit daily, and I would rather not have someone hand the mic back to me right away because it gets heavy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [42 favorites]


Not automatically, no. Not even all the criticism linked in the post or in the comments is, either. But enough of it certainly is.

Meh. You're going to get some angry voices in stuff that makes life-or-death difference to people's lives. Scalzi seems to be aware of this, and is taking it into account.

It's like when someone with a decent-sized social media presence makes a joke about a less privileged group on Twitter, right? Some people - often people who risk abuse, ridicule or violence on a regular basis due to this lack of privilege - will see it and respond angrily, in a medium where they can respond angrily without risking being killed. That often gives the maker of the joke a ripcord to pull if they choose to - "I am being harassed by a cabal of violent extremists, which justifies my refusing to engage at all with the criticisms being levelled at me until the community I have offended gets them all to shut up". Which is, of course, impossible.

You can tell a lot about someone, I think, by whether they pull that ripcord.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like when someone with a decent-sized social media presence makes a joke about a less privileged group on Twitter, right?

Sure! Of course, misogynist dudebros are pretty much our definition of more privileged group, so instead of someone punching down and getting blowback for it, this was someone punching up (or at least sideways) and getting shamed for doing it in the wrong way. So, the exact opposite, even.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:18 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


@ndfine: No...you're simply trotting out an ad homen that diminishes the opinion that this is a subject that no matter the effort, the vitriol that results from stating an opinion isn't worth defending. For me, that is. I don't have Scalzi's high profile or Drinky Die's free time.

@running order squabble fest: yes, I certainly should have shut the fuck up. Point taken. Thanks for the confirmation.
posted by kjs3 at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2013


Put up or shut up is great advice, though. Get out there and dance.
posted by planetesimal at 7:24 PM on August 26, 2013


“Call outs can be a form of education, and the tweets directed at him were generally even-handed and reasonable. Those tweets by hypatian and gabbysilang were super duper patient.”

Strongly agreed on the last point. I was referring to @Shanley’s earlier reactions which were probably cathartic but otherwise far less effective than her subsequent points.

(Note also that these were the ones which made the mistake of asserting what someone else thought rather than asking for clarification or cautioning about multiple possible interpretations – that pattern has run throughout the discussion today)

“Of course, women are much more likely to be taken as strident when they speak firmly or use the language of feminist discourse--like "privilege."”

This is true and definitely worth counterbalancing. Given that the author specifically acknowledge the privilege point in the original post and is generally trying to be an ally, however, it felt like a “Did you consider how your attempt to mock the dudebros would read to a trans-person?” confirmation would have been reasonable.
posted by adamsc at 7:24 PM on August 26, 2013


I'm liking the potential of the feminist and privilege recognition movement becoming less of a religious nature and more of a "ok, we're human, but here's where we want to go + noise" movement.

We're turning an important corner here.

Carry on.


Please don't perpetuate the stereotype of feminism being dominated by shrill misandrist haters so loved by Limbaugh et al, complete with condescension about what a good job feminists are doing is when it's not coming across that way. This is kind of what I meant up above, BTW. Never mind these movements are almost entirely about "where we want to go" outside of a few insular yet vocal groups, or that the vast majority of people are entirely welcoming of allies, or that people are more interested in conversation than "privilege shaming." Instead, the assumption is that the default for feminists is Reddit's shitty College Liberal meme, and that the whole idea of a movement working with each other and embracing allies is something radical and new that we're just now "turning an important corner" on.

Feminism has never been like this, and it isn't now. Quite to the contrary, it's grown more inclusive. Leave the shitty stereotypes about angry feminazis to Rush Limbaugh.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:26 PM on August 26, 2013 [16 favorites]


Sure! Of course, misogynist dudebros are pretty much our definition of more privileged group, so instead of someone punching down and getting blowback for it, this was someone punching up (or at least sideways) and getting shamed for doing it in the wrong way. So, the exact opposite, even.

C'mon, dude. You like Scalzi. I get that. I like Scalzi, too. But Scalzi's whole riff here was that he has more power and status than the person attacking him - he has a bunch of fans, he has a lovely home, and that this is why this attempt to belittle him is doomed. Creatively misrepresenting Scalzi's point in order to misrepresent viewpoints Scalzi himself is listening to and engaging respectfully with is not a good way to show Scalzi that you have his back.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:28 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strongly agreed on the last point. I was referring to @Shanley’s earlier reactions which were probably cathartic but otherwise far less effective than her subsequent points.

(Note also that these were the ones which made the mistake of asserting what someone else thought rather than asking for clarification or cautioning about multiple possible interpretations – that pattern has run throughout the discussion today


But it seemed to me like she wasn't trying to talk to Scalzi, she was trying to talk to her followers about something that bothered her. Which, again, is an acceptable goal in feminism as well. As much as education can be a goal of feminism, again, it's not the only goal, and her emotional catharsis is a valid reaction that might help other women feel more comfortable in the conversation and the community.

Again, a big part of my problem with the conversation here is that the focus on "effectiveness" or "changing minds" assumes the primacy of a mostly-male audience. There is value--among women, among feminists--in getting mad and expressing that anger.

Even if it's scary to some people.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:32 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Erm, speaking as one of those women, I would like to make it clear I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with a man calling out another man for misogyny, even if he doesn't do it 100% perfectly, because there are so few other men who even bother in the first place.

Totally fair; I'm just trying to get the batting average of the Men's Feminist Auxiliary up (myself included).
posted by Coda at 7:39 PM on August 26, 2013


Why would changing minds mostly be about men? Women aren't all feminists and feminists don't all agree on trans issues. Anyone seeking to move the culture in a particular direction needs to persuade lots of men and women.
posted by Area Man at 7:41 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


C'mon, dude. You like Scalzi. I get that. I like Scalzi, too. But Scalzi's whole riff here was that he has more power and status than the person attacking him - he has a bunch of fans, he has a lovely home, and that this is why this attempt to belittle him is doomed. Creatively misrepresenting Scalzi's point in order to misrepresent viewpoints Scalzi himself is listening to and engaging respectfully with is not a good way to show Scalzi that you have his back.

I don't know him or his writings outside MF, and also that's hardly why I'm defending him - so it's completely irrelevant. Nice diversion, though.

Your comment suggested someone had made a joke about a less-privileged group, a group of people who 'risk abuse, ridicule or violence' but could respond angrily on Twitter 'without risking being killed'. Unless misogynist dudebros have an outside oppressing force, it sounded an awful lot like you were drawing a parallel between the blogpost Scalzi made and someone making an insulting joke about the transgendered and having some transfolks get righteously angry about it.

So, would you mind showing me how I misconstrued what you said? Because otherwise you were the one drawing a false equivalency. Especially as, to my knowledge, he hasn't complained about any of the responses he's received to his post. That's all been here.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:44 PM on August 26, 2013


Again, a big part of my problem with the conversation here is that the focus on "effectiveness" or "changing minds" assumes the primacy of a mostly-male audience. There is value--among women, among feminists--in getting mad and expressing that anger.
Fair point, although I would argue the “mostly-male audience” point: given the success of anti-feminist rhetoric I think a significant percentage of the audience are women who are uncomfortable with a frequently-misrepresented term. (That's certainly not to say that Shanley has any obligation to say anything other than what she wants)
posted by adamsc at 7:49 PM on August 26, 2013


Why would changing minds mostly be about men? Women aren't all feminists and feminists don't all agree on trans issues. Anyone seeking to move the culture in a particular direction needs to persuade lots of men and women.

Sure, maybe, but it seemed clear to me that Shanley's rant was directed toward an audience she assumed was sympathetic, and it seems lame and tone argumenty to be like, "but she should be focusing on education."

(I am super reluctant to bring up the term tone argument at all. But it feels like we're dancing around it. Her criticisms and anger are valid, and I wish we were talking more about that and less about how she expressed them.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:50 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Totally fair; I'm just trying to get the batting average of the Men's Feminist Auxiliary up (myself included).

It strikes me that the surest way to do that is through encouraging practice, rather than relying totally on critiquing others' technique. The Red Sox do way more pickup games and batting drills than they do sitting and reading about each others' form and commenting on it.


(And The Red Sox are a good ball club and y'all know it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been annoyed since the GEnie SFRT and Usenet at the sort of fawning sycophantry that popular authors or the like tend to receive when they interact with fans. Particularly on their own blogs; hell, I had to stop reading Whatever because of it. Don't get me wrong. I like Scalzi's books and his comments here on Metafilter and so on and so forth. But personal blogs are less about fostering community discussion among equals and more a soapbox for the personality in question to preach and receive adulation. It lends itself to a sort of tinpot dictator style of moderation and communication. This is even more apparent on another blog related to persons working in the F&SF field which shall remain nameless but which I cannot even think about without becoming angry.

So, anyway, I'm pre-disposed to be annoyed at these sorts of self-congratulatory back pattings.

And yet the circular firing squad criticism of Scalzi actually makes me feel for the guy here. He's fighting the good fight, however annoyingly I sometimes find the way in which he does so, and this is the response he gets. I don't mean he should be immune from criticism. Criticism is how I get through my day sometimes. But this is a textbook example of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

I like the phrase "privilege shaming" mentioned above. It does seem like a thing. A less problematic thing than people abusing their privilege, sure, but two things can be a problem without them both being problems on the same level.
posted by Justinian at 7:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


[Seriously, if you need to have a general debate about social justice terminology, it goes in MetaTalk. That is not what this thread is about. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 8:01 PM on August 26, 2013


Your use of the word "scary" is kind of instructive to me. It assumes the ideas you propose are so radical that simple, non-informed minds cannot handle it for fear of our world being torn apart. Call it "grad school privilege", if that helps to describe how it makes me feel.

I . . . no. I'm not saying it's scary because the ideas are radical. I'm saying it's scary because anger, especially the anger of women, who are socialized and expected to be quiet and demure, can be alarming and off-putting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I . . . no. I'm not saying it's scary because the ideas are radical. I'm saying it's scary because anger, especially the anger of women, who are socialized and expected to be quiet and demure, can be alarming and off-putting.

But then you're ascribing motivations that I don't think are true! The whole idea that people who disagree with the way things are handled in this arena are just annoyed by "uppity women" is not the least bit fair.
posted by lattiboy at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


01) mint green is an inappropriate color for a gentleman of his age and marital status

02) 5 acres of lawn and no ha-ha? preposterous.
posted by elizardbits at 8:11 PM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't know him or his writings outside MF, and also that's hardly why I'm defending him - so it's completely irrelevant. Nice diversion, though.

OK, dude, if you want to lawyer this - and hey, thanks for maintaining a civil tone, there, then we can look at the example of the British feminist writer Suzanne Moore.

Moore, in an article with a broadly feminist thrust, said:
We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
A number of people took issue with this throwaway remark. on the grounds that it suggested that trans women in Brazil were universally parodically feminine in appearance, and that it traded on tired stereotypes about a country where the experience of trans women was far more complicated than media presentations.

Now, I imagine you may want to rules-lawyer, and that's fine - whatever works for you. However, that's an example of someone taking aim at a privileged group, and catching a less privileged group in the backswing.

Moore was picked up on this, primarily initially by people who were supportive of her broad feminist project, but felt it was undermined by this (sloppy but easily fixed) metaphor. She rejected the criticism, the argument escalated and, citing the most heated criticisms, she then pulled the ripcord.

(And things got progressively worse from there, but that's the relevant part.)

Scalzi appears not to be pulling the ripcord, and acknowledging the possibility that people can not be wholly aware of the impact of privilege, even when they are seeking to use it for good. And is also not using some of the sharper criticisms as an exceuse to pull that ripcord. QED.

Now, you may have started jotting down refutations and insults, and that might be a fun use of your time. But I think it might be more useful to think about what your end goal is. What do you actually _want_ to be the case here, and why?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:12 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, a big part of my problem with the conversation here is that the focus on "effectiveness" or "changing minds" assumes the primacy of a mostly-male audience. There is value--among women, among feminists--in getting mad and expressing that anger.

I think the problems with the perpetual outrage loop of the Social Justice privilegecheckosphere go a lot deeper than just alienating some men, and are becoming a poison for the left as a whole, not just feminism.
  1. Acts as a centrifugal force that prevents efforts at coalition-building by encouraging every particular subcategory of oppressed person to cleave together and reject aligning with others
  2. Encrusts the movement in a dense layer of jargon and shibboleths that act as barriers to casually committed new recruits
  3. Creates a subtle psychological barrier to taking actual political power (which is, one would think, the ultimate goal of a political movement), as this would necessarily entail becoming privileged in new ways oneself
  4. Encourages in-fighting over fighting with actual ideological enemies
  5. Squanders anger by treating it as a political end unto itself rather than a means to an end to be channeled and organized
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:13 PM on August 26, 2013 [31 favorites]


"Hoo boy, thank the gods I'm not famous. I can get away with goofing around without being made fun of, *or* worrying about the political ramifications."

Hear, hear. I seriously worry about pursuing a writing career while being female because of that shit.

He will not receive credible threats of rape, assault, or death. He will not be fired from his job after his employer is DDoS'd and similarly threatened. He will not be public denigrated by random men, speaking on behalf of all men, as probably having deserved it. He will not have to give up career goals because of this. He will not be isolated from his friends and family. His partner will not leave him.

Yup.

As he's pointed out, he does have the lowest difficultly level. But how is he going to .... I don't know.... make this not be the case?

just because someone isn't acknowledging your personal demon, doesn't mean they're insulting you.

I second this as well. Who is the perfect, proper person that is allowed to say things without pissing people off just for not covering every demographic? Probably nobody.

I got the points he was trying to make about his lawn. I don't think he was trying to insult trans people so much as he's making a joke on himself. And I think he does a good job as an ally, and nitpicking the shit out of a funny teachable moment to a dudebro is just getting ridiculous.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:14 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure, maybe, but it seemed clear to me that Shanley's rant was directed toward an audience she assumed was sympathetic, and it seems lame and tone argumenty to be like, "but she should be focusing on education." … Her criticisms and anger are valid, and I wish we were talking more about that and less about how she expressed them.)
I feel like we're circling the same idea: I quite agree that her criticism is valid but I think that, fair or not, you're stuck choosing between blowing off steam or getting people to talk seriously about an idea. I don't think the discussion would have gone the same way had she pointed out about the transphobia subtext without asserting knowledge that it was intentional or acknowledged that someone can be flawed while still being a feminist. I would much prefer that we had a discussion about whether it was actively transphobic, latently so or simply a clumsy attempt to mock a group of men who generally believe in strict gender policing rather than starting the “You're wrong” game.
posted by adamsc at 8:20 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


INSTEAD OF A LAWN HE SHOULD PLANT BEANS
THERE I SAID IT
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:23 PM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think the problems with the perpetual outrage loop of the Social Justice privilegecheckosphere go a lot deeper than just alienating some men, and are becoming a poison for the left as a whole, not just feminism.

Eh.

Intersectionality, and all that. Not being angry about these things because they don't affect you in a deeply personal way is privilege, too. You have the emotional space and the relative liberty to not be outraged. I mostly have this, too, as a cis white woman in a hetero relationship.

But then you're ascribing motivations that I don't think are true! The whole idea that people who disagree with the way things are handled in this arena are just annoyed by "uppity women" is not the least bit fair.

I'm sorry, but this is a straw man. I said that anger can be scary, particularly coming from women, who are often expected to be demure in exchanges. I didn't say anyone was "just annoyed" by "uppity women."

adamsc, I really just find the discussion of whether she was discussing this in the right way or not derailing. Again, her concerns and anger about the original post were valid. She had a right to be angry and express that anger. Was Scalzi's post actively transphobic? Not sure, but I'm glad she brought attention to the problematic aspects, and I think it was brave of her to talk about it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:27 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you, running order squabble fest, for clarifying, because it had been completely unclear to me before that you'd meant in that sort of back-handed insult rather than a more direct one.

If it's all the same to you, however, there's no way I'm going to bring Suzanne Moore and any of her dramas into this topic.

As for this ripcord... well, I can't speak for the guy. But perhaps he could simply not agree with the criticisms? Just because someone's offended, doesn't mean you immediately have to apologise. Or even publicly acknowledge that he's read them, if he has. He undoubtedly gets all sorts of criticisms, there's no reason he has to respond to even the most thoughtfully phrased ones. Chances are he will - but it's not a requirement.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but this is a straw man. I said that anger can be scary, particularly coming from women, who are often expected to be demure in exchanges. I didn't say anyone was "just annoyed" by "uppity women."

I'm not scared of "anger" at all. I'm annoyed by dogma, condescension, group think and perpetual rage.
posted by lattiboy at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


How is perpetual rage different than anger? Maybe the standards of discourse within the community are different than without--maybe the social justice internet community (such as the one that a woman might find on twitter) is a safe space for women to express anger overtly and share this emotion with other women who understand their frustration at being marginalized or insulted. Maybe it's not so much groupthink as consensus. Maybe there's very real, very important value in that.

This is what I mean about there being other goals besides education and converting the mainstream. Sometimes these goals are at odds, but it feels like some of these goals are discussed disproportionately more than others.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:40 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the problems with the perpetual outrage loop of the Social Justice privilegecheckosphere go a lot deeper than just alienating some men, and are becoming a poison for the left as a whole, not just feminism.

Again, this is more a stereotype than an actual thing. The left (and the right, while we're at it) have had problems like this long before the academic idea of privilege became prevalent. The concept of a "privilegecheckosphere" and your accompanying list of issues is far more common among those engaged in concern trolling than in the real world. And that's a real shame, because it reads as a tactic to alienate that large majority of people trying to have a conversation with either allies or those in the middle by painting them as both exclusionary and reactionary when they're neither.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe the standards of discourse within the community are different

Sure. But maybe, just like giving her the benefit of the doubt in terms of where she was writing, to what audience, and what ends, we can do the same for Scalzi, writing on his own blog, for his own ends?

Or are they not both subject to the same degree of criticism?
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:49 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


To illustrate my point a couple posts above: The demonstrations in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and most recently, Texas (to name a few) are widely inclusive social justice movements with millions of active supporters and tens of millions of allies, with the issues you mentioned practically non-existent in terms of political action. And they're making a difference in opinion. Any lack of results has been almost entirely due to structural obstacles as opposed to stuff like infighting or lingo cruft.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or are they not both subject to the same degree of criticism?

I think there's a substantive difference between criticism and criticism-of-criticism. They have different goals, different effects, and, in this case, there are significant social differences between the two subjects. I'm sure not everyone who is jumping on the feminists and trans-activists who are critiquing Scalzi are doing so out of internalized misogyny, but it does seem striking to me that it seems so very much easier to attack them than to really engage with the work under discussion.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:56 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure. But maybe, just like giving her the benefit of the doubt in terms of where she was writing, to what audience, and what ends, we can do the same for Scalzi, writing on his own blog, for his own ends?

Or are they not both subject to the same degree of criticism?


There's a significant power differential there. Scalzi, to his credit, seems to wield the power of his audience and his fame with an unusual degree of responsibility, and he's to be commended for that. But when you're a woman criticizing male creators of pop culture, you face significant threats of violence, not to mention misogynistic and hurtful comments. Shanley talks about this herself:
Trolling for YOU means someone called you a feminist, trolling for US means death and rape threats, revenge porn and getting hacked.
And she's right. Just look at Anita Sarkeesian!

What generally doesn't get discussed when a woman calls out a male creator of pop culture is whatever it is she's calling him out for. Whereas the discussions of Scalzi's privilege are actually engaging with the content of what he wrote.

So my point is that they're not subject to the same degree of criticism, fundamentally; Shanley, by default, faces more.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:09 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe this is totally off base but these sorts of discussions always feel like they're fundamentally about that Audre Lorde line, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house," with this particular dealie possibly eliding ['s tools]. I think I get the thinking there, more or less, and I'm not gonna say it's totally wrong. And obviously as a young white middle-class-socialized gender-norm-conforming-without-particular-conscious-effort gay guy, I've had less skin forcibly put in the game, or whatever metaphor you want to use without going all oppression olympics.

But you know, sometimes you gotta use a butter knife for a screwdriver.

(I also think the "gonna drive away the allies" concerns are slightly misplaced. I don't think most people of a broadly 'progressive'/'social justicey'/umbrella term of choice are really doing it for the social validation? I mean, I think worst that'll happen is folks get driven away from the theory-y sides of things, which bummer, but that tends to happen with most theory-y sides of most things.)
posted by PMdixon at 9:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I find it much more likely that "Dudebro" googled "Dude in a dress" to create his own foul commentary on the Kelly Martin Broderick photo and Scalzi's photo just happened to come up.

No, if I'm not mistaken it's Scalzi's old friend Vox Day again who was behind it, you know, the tool who thought women shouldn;t write science fiction and was kicked out of the SFWA for being a racist choad (allegedly).
posted by MartinWisse at 9:35 PM on August 26, 2013


Bless alla y'all's hearts.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


INSTEAD OF A LAWN HE SHOULD PLANT BEANS
THERE I SAID IT


Ai, Chihuahua!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:11 PM on August 26, 2013


So when I play Civ V, sometimes I feel like playing it a bit differently, so I lower the difficulty setting and give myself a weird challenge, like putting way too many other civs on the map, or playing a seafaring civilization in the desert-- something like that. Scalzi has acknowledged that he's playing Outside on the lowest difficulty level and seems to be trying to challenge himself to do whatever he can to help the marginalized people on higher difficulties, which makes sense to me both as a gamer and as a human being.

I really like that he's generally watched these sort of conversations and taken criticism well and not defensively. He really seems to understand that what he has, he got in part because of privilege, and he's trying to use that audience and power to get other voices heard. He seems to really try to highlight and give attention to the voices of women-- his quick response when he did the list of people who won't be attending cons without anti-harassment policies when NK Jemisin added the addendum seemed to show he was already paying attention and ready for that sort of thing to come up.

There are some problematic aspects of saying "Hey, dudebros, you know what? I'm a feminist, and I do some great shit, and I do that while doing activism, and even though I'm not even trying to live my life to get what you would use as bragging rights, I totally have those bragging rights anyway" because it does add some weight to the idea that their definition of success has value. I've seen this before, generally in the form of "I respect women and treat them like human beings and I get laid doing that WAY more than you do". It's an attempt to get the people with different values to realize that there are practical reasons to act like a decent human being, not just moral reasons, and it's always sort of a dilemma whether or not one should avoid them.
posted by NoraReed at 11:57 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm new to MeFi. Reading the comments has been like trying to drink from a fire hose. What a great thread!

Ehhh, I still think "goofy" has a whole bunch of negative connotations tied into it. And while I think that, yes, Scalzi responded in good graces, I do still hope he'll actually come out and apologize to the women who were upset by it.

@PhoBWanKenobi, I really hope he doesn't. A guy in a dress (or a woman in a suit) dressed clearly to be goofy is clearly not an attempt to insult transfolk.

One commenter on his blog wrote, "As a transgender woman, I must ask. Why did someone think this stunt was worthy of financial reward. Do you think there might be a tinge of self hate and shame when I and the thousands of transgender persons see this image?"

This person has a big problem, and it's not Scalzi's blog posting. It's the self-hatred and shame created by a billion other insults triggered by the photo of a guy in a dress.

Also, as a feminist female, I am all for guys doing some of the heavy lifting. In a recent thread about Dave Winer and his dumb, anti-women comments about gals and programming, there were many anti-Winer, anti-BS, pro-women comments from young feminist men as well as women.

I'm 57. This feels like a new development to me. It makes me happy and optimistic.

It seemed clear to me that Shanley's rant was directed toward an audience she assumed was sympathetic, and it seems lame and tone argumenty to be like, "but she should be focusing on education."

(I am super reluctant to bring up the term tone argument at all. But it feels like we're dancing around it. Her criticisms and anger are valid, and I wish we were talking more about that and less about how she expressed them.)


@PhoBWanKenobi, what if we changed just a couple of words in what you wrote?

"It seemed clear to me that Scalzi's rant was directed toward an audience he assumed was sympathetic, and it seems lame and tone argumenty to be like, 'but he should be focusing on the fall-out from cross-dressing.'

"(I am super reluctant to bring up the term tone argument at all. But it feels like we're dancing around it. His goal was valid, and I wish we were talking more about that and less about the exact nuance of how he expressed himself.)"

Which is pretty much how I feel.

Finally, I haven't read the guy's essay on growing up poor. I've never heard of the guy until today. (Go MeFi University!)

As usual, nobody's talking about class. Which is okay, because nothing will ever happen if we talk about everything all the time. Still, if Scalzi grew up poor, naturally he's proud of his monstrous lawn and any other conventional tokens of success he's accumulated over time. IMHO, that's less about celebrating male privilege and more about being braggy that he's no longer poor.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:57 PM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't have a dog in this fight and don't care to speculate on the motives or humour of dudebros, but note that hairy British comedian Bill Bailey was pictured wearing a "This is what a feminist looks like" t-shirt more than two and a half years ago.

So, whatever else the meme is, it's not new and it isn't automatically an insult (Bill Bailey is, apparently, a noted feminist supporter).
posted by MuffinMan at 1:02 AM on August 27, 2013


John Scalzi on the whole has his heart in the right place, has been out there fighting the good fight against gender bigots (amongst others) and has shown to take criticism seriously and not get too bothered about it when he has been called on doing something dumb.

This may be another example of it. As I understood it there are two points of criticsm against his post: a) the crossdressing, which might be a bit problematic as it, with it being a charity stunt, can be and has been read as mildly transphobic (ha ha ha a man in a dress ha ha), especially when taken out of context and b) the, shall we say, somewhat macho posturing about how sexist dudebros can't hurt him, which stuck in the throat of some people who have been hurt or can be hurt if they'd pulled the same sort of stunt, as Coda pointed out here.

Both are points of criticism that should be, and seem to be, taken seriously, even though (especially though) Scalzi has long been one of the good guys when it comes to feminism / trans issues.

The first point is something that people of good will can disagree about, because there is a history of crossdressing outside of mockery of trans people, something there isn't with e.g. blackface.

The second point I find important, as it is a specific example of something that was being talked about in the female experience simulator thread about the ways in which women and men, sympathetic to feminism or otherwise) are treated and shape any discussion of feminist issues. In particular how the dominant, privileged group pressures any discussion about their privileges to conform to their expectations and wishes and how wellwilling members of such a privileged group should behave to minimise this pressure, should let the less privileged group take the lead in discussion. (Or, us blokes should learn to shut up and listen and not freak out when criticised even if we mean well.)

To get back to the original issue, what Scalzi thought he was doing was some lighthearted yanking of a misogynist troll's chains, but the way he did it caused some collatoral damage because he didn't quite think through how this post looked from the outside., to people coming to it cold.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:39 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So here's what this article plus Metafilter did for me:
Initially I enjoyed Scalzi's humorous response to someone being a a jerk. Then I got to reexamine my response in the light of how his response treated transpeople. Then I got to think about the resources required to upkeep a large lawn. So I appreciate Scalzi's post even with its failing aspect; and I appreciate Metafilter in all of its polyphonic glory.

So thanks Metafilter for making me think about these things. Heated discussions here are really excellent and while I'm not up to contributing in most of them, I find myself discussing them with my +1 fairly frequently. This is a wonderfully intellectually stimulating place.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:13 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't have a dog in this fight

How can anyone NOT have a dog in this fight? Are you entirely without gender? Do you equally care and not care about equality? Do you both have and not have a lawn?
posted by crossoverman at 4:15 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for this ripcord... well, I can't speak for the guy. But perhaps he could simply not agree with the criticisms? Just because someone's offended, doesn't mean you immediately have to apologise. Or even publicly acknowledge that he's read them, if he has. He undoubtedly gets all sorts of criticisms, there's no reason he has to respond to even the most thoughtfully phrased ones. Chances are he will - but it's not a requirement.

This confuses me, gadge emeritus, because... well. Because it seems to be defending behavior which has not happened (if by "the guy" you mean John Scalzi rather than Suzanne Moore, which seems a reasonable inference). He's been talking about it with critics on Twitter. In the comments to the article he responded to somebody saying that his support for women is conditional upon not being criticized by women with:
People are free to disagree with me or point out where they think I’ve made an error. I assume they speak for themselves when they do. And anyway, I didn’t write the piece for the “cookies,” and I also was perfectly aware people would come to it with their own point of view. In other words, it’s fine.
And on the trans question:
The topic of the subtext of cross-dressing and what means in a larger context was discussed quite a bit over on Twitter today, and I found the discussion enlightening. My views on transfolk are on public record, and I would not intentionally cause distress to any; that being said, a few people have pointed out where I may have stepped in it, and of course I am listening to them and considering their words.
And then, on both:
Speaking for myself, I don’t mind all that much when folks who see me as an ally (potential or real) step in and question methods, motives and tactics. Sometimes there’s something they see as obvious that you miss or don’t see as important, and it being pointed out isn’t a bad thing. As I noted elsewhere, it help if you recognize a) you’re not perfect, b) you’ll make occasional mistakes and c) criticism is not designed to make you feel defensive.
He seriously doesn't seem to be doing (or not doing) any of the things you seem to be arguing for his right to do (or not do), and should be defended for doing (or not doing). Which means I am sort of bewildered about what you're going for. Which is why I think it would be useful to think about your end goal - because I'm not sure we're really talking about the same incident here, perceptually speaking. Is the world you ultimately want to see one in which people do not feel obliged to respond politely or at all to criticisms of their statements from disadvantaged groups if they feel those statements were made in the service of justice?

Only, we already have that, basically.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:37 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This person has a big problem, and it's not Scalzi's blog posting. It's the self-hatred and shame created by a billion other insults triggered by the photo of a guy in a dress.

It's easy to pick one brick and say, "This one isn't a problem, it's all those others."
posted by bleep-blop at 4:37 AM on August 27, 2013


I didn't see any of his responses; when I read the comments there were none, and I don't follow him on Twitter. I figured he'd respond to the criticisms, and you're telling me he did - gracefully, even. On the evidence, I wouldn't have thought he would ignore what was being said; he seems thoughtful and mindful. I definitely don't think he needs, or even wants, anyone coming to his defence, and that wasn't my intention, though it certainly was some of the effect.

I thought he'd have the right to respond however he wanted. He has done so in a nicer manner than I might have. You're asking me for my end goal, which frankly comes off a little weird, as if you're my tutor trying to tease out my thesis statement rather than a fellow commenter on a website. But I'll try and be direct.

I don't believe that just because someone is offended that they have an inherent right to have their grievances heard, or that having less privilege automatically makes the offence taken more valid. I don't believe all viewpoints are created equal (just see the Kentucky Obamacare thread). I think that the issues raised by Scalzi's post and the privilege shaming that came with it are ones that Metafilter is increasingly wrestling with. I think that a few of the posts here, and the first and third tweeters quoted in the original post, are part of a damaging culture that do more harm to trans rights and feminism than good, not just because it damages potential allies, but also because it reduces efforts designed to reach equality into a different form of 'us' and 'them'.

I think the idea that a man wearing a dress for a charity drive is transphobic is laughable. But I also think that @Hypatia can have a valid complaint by saying it's problematic. Saying, "I understand that's not the spirit that was meant," is also more credit than Scalzi was being given by other people calling him out.


Is the world you ultimately want to see one in which people do not feel obliged to respond politely or at all to criticisms of their statements from disadvantaged groups if they feel those statements were made in the service of justice?

No, and that's a mild form of the sort of lack of charity I'm complaining about - after all, am I going to say, "Yes, I'm against justice!" ? We're not talking about abusers in the skeptic community or Hugo Schwyzer - we're talking about a bloke in a dress raising money for charity and attempting to do the right thing. I think we need less hitting white/straight/male/x (circle the privileges that apply) in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper for their privilege, or for not wearing a sign that says 'I'm sorry for not acknowledging how I have it easier than you'. I think we need less jumping straight to claims of bigotry when it's far from the most likely explanation.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:24 AM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Gender policing is not confined to women. Men and boys, including straight ones, face a lot of gender policing. Social pressure and violence are used to keep men acting and looking stereotypically male. I would be quite surprised if Scalzi has been so privileged as to not have been subjected to gender policing.

This. Anyone who was male from the ages of about 3 to 18 if not beyond has experienced gender policing with a side of misogyny. The idea that men are somehow superior to women is not only used to keep women down, but a club with which to threaten males for not conforming to arbitrary standards of masculinity. (aka "you throw like a girl" "that's a girly drink" "____ are for girls")

100% of humans are victims of sexism in some way. Granted, the severity of that varies pretty wildly. I'm guessing nobody sent Scalzi death threats.

On the other hand, this was mocking one dudebro for attempting to use "feminist" as an insult. That's about a million times less bold than, say, taking the entire video game industry (along with its fans) to task for the way it treats women and female characters.


But personal blogs are less about fostering community discussion among equals and more a soapbox for the personality in question to preach and receive adulation. It lends itself to a sort of tinpot dictator style of moderation and communication.

That's just the reality of a blog. It has nothing to do with being a popular author. Your page, your content, your rules.
posted by Foosnark at 5:25 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Without suggesting that Scalzi is like Hugo Schwyzer, here's part of the issue.

We're not talking about abusers in the skeptic community or Hugo Schwyzer - we're talking about a bloke in a dress raising money for charity and attempting to do the right thing. I think we need less hitting white/straight/male/x (circle the privileges that apply) in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper for their privilege, or for not wearing a sign that says 'I'm sorry for not acknowledging how I have it easier than you'.


For quite a while, this was how (white, cis, straight, middle class) feminists dealt with Hugo -- by letting the crap he did go on their platforms and by ignoring the less privileged feminists who were (correctly) calling out Hugo. Now there's a bit of a pendulum swing -- and it's overall a good thing, even if it means that well-meaning people like Scalzi get called out for more minor things than Hugo got ignored for. An ally who can't deal with criticism isn't, actually, an ally. (I am not accusing Scalzi of being unable to deal with criticism.)

And it's okay for part of the conversation to, as PhoBWanKenobi says, be only about forging communities between women (or any other group) and for part of that conversation to also include not entirely positive and glowing comments about allies.
posted by jeather at 5:54 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, and that's a mild form of the sort of lack of charity I'm complaining about - after all, am I going to say, "Yes, I'm against justice!"

Well, if you did, I would probably point out, as politely as possible, that you had misread or not read the question, and as a result your response was incomprehensible.

I now understand your end-goal, which is good - but, honestly, it feels like you're looking for something essentially unachievable, although one that is demanded fairly frequently: that anyone who disagrees with somebody on the Internet should be able to control the way in which everyone else on the Internet disagrees with them as well.

Social media is specifically equal, in the sense that a cat may look at a king, but the king remains a king and the cat remains a cat. If someone with 4 followers says "Die cis scum" to John Scalzi on Twitter (which to my knowledge has not happened) then, yeah, that's not a nice thing to say, or a nice thing to hear. A useful response to that is probably to note that that person is either trolling or very upset, and to weigh the value of opening a dialog, or even of reporting them for abuse.

People generally don't have any entitlement to have their grievances responded to, but they do generally have the freedom (within the constraints of the law and the terms and conditions of their blogging platform) to make them.

However, even had that been said (and I haven't read all of Twitter, so it might have), that's not the sole response of a heterogeneous community, nor is it a response endorsed by a heterogeneous community. So, a non-useful response is to say "this abusive response means that no criticism I am receiving is valid" either explicitly - by quoting it as the reason not to engage with any criticisms, or implicitly, by quoting abusive responses when replying to other interlocutors as proof that their "side" has the low moral ground, and explicitly or implicitly demanding that those responses cease before any dialog can be entered into.

These are both forms of pulling the ripcord, and they are both things that Scalzi hasn't done. And, honestly, I think that a problem we are having here is that a lot of the negative responses you are complaining about are simply unevidenced - where are these accusations of bigotry? I see none.

I do see people talking about a lack of awareness of, or sensitivity to, some of the implications of both the initial dress-wearing and the subsequent response to the MRA memification. I've seen people arguing that privilege means the freedom generally not to worry about these implications. And I've seen Scalzi, who tactically could certainly have said "I am on the side of justice, but when you privilege-shame me like this it makes me less likely to speak in support of justice in the future, so you are hurting your own cause, and also your complaints are without merit", instead engaging with people making that argument.

That's why I asked about your end goal - because the circumstances you were talking about seemed to a significant extent unrelated to the circumstances in this actual situation as it happened. It seemed useful therefore to skip to the end and discuss objectives rather than continue to discuss events which we understood to have taken place in very different ways.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:12 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Infighting" as unintentional code for "attempting to boost minority voices within feminism".

I think the idea that a man wearing a dress for a charity drive is transphobic is laughable. But I also think that @Hypatia can have a valid complaint by saying it's problematic. Saying, "I understand that's not the spirit that was meant," is also more credit than Scalzi was being given by other people calling him out.

And I want to make clear before this that I don't really have a problem with the way Scalzi has responded to this.

But.

The first nineteen or twenty times something like this happens, I can understand that's not the spirit that was meant.

And I can keep understanding it.

And it will keep happening.

The image of trans women will be called up and then discarded -- intentionally or not -- in support of arguments for women in general. And we will call it out. And mainstream feminism will fucking "yes, but..." us to death, every single bloody time.

And every time we talk about it it's treated like it's an isolated incident, like, well yeah, but THIS point was an important one to make, so just don't privilege shame, don't alienate allies, take one for the team.

Every. Single. Damn. Time.

It's not just within feminism, either. The same pattern occurs with LGBT rights. We are, hopefully understandably, sick of it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:16 AM on August 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Can we please stop talking @ people? I understand that some of you aren't established mefites, but it's not the custom here and it feels kind of rude.

This person has a big problem, and it's not Scalzi's blog posting. It's the self-hatred and shame created by a billion other insults triggered by the photo of a guy in a dress.

This could be said about any pain triggered by transphobic or antiwoman humor. Traditionally, even among communities of otherwise admirable feminists, the concerns of transwomen have been swept under the rug and disregarded. I think we're better than that, now. That's why I think these call-outs are important.

"It seemed clear to me that Scalzi's rant was directed toward an audience he assumed was sympathetic, and it seems lame and tone argumenty to be like, 'but he should be focusing on the fall-out from cross-dressing.'

No, he was actually directing in in part to sexist dudebros--an audience he assumed to be unsympathetic. He packed some problematic and tone deaf messages into that for the sake of effectiveness and humor both with the audience sympathetic to him and those he was trying to argue with, hence people getting upset about the privilege on display. Transwomen are collateral damage here. That doesn't mean that their constantly marginalized feelings don't matter.

It's not just within feminism, either. The same pattern occurs with LGBT rights. We are, hopefully understandably, sick of it.

Word.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:06 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to live in a world where a bloke can where a dress for whatever reason they like, including raising money for charity because they look silly in the dress in question. For people who already have one foot in that world, it's undeniably easier for them to "live as if they were in the early days of a better nation" to appropriate a phrase and live according to that creed.

But I can imagine that seeing "bloke dressing up as a woman, isn't that hilarious" gets old really quickly for the many people that don't get to live in that better nation most of the time thanks to a those who think that enforcing gender roles is a great idea. Those same gender-role enforcing people probably don't perceive any distinction between jscalzi dressing up & the "ha ha, isn't cross-dressing hilarious" line of thinking, which inevitably makes the whole thing a bit problematic, even if such thoughts never crossed jscalzi's mind at the time.

For me, the picture is funny because regency *really* doesn't suit Scalzi at all. The specificity of it being a regency dress is what saves it. If he'd just offered to wear a dress for charity then the accusation of there being an element of transphobia in the whole thing would be hard to deny.
posted by pharm at 7:10 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I can imagine that seeing "bloke dressing up as a woman, isn't that hilarious" gets old really quickly for the many people that don't get to live in that better nation most of the time thanks to a those who think that enforcing gender roles is a great idea. Those same gender-role enforcing people probably don't perceive any distinction between jscalzi dressing up & the "ha ha, isn't cross-dressing hilarious" line of thinking, which inevitably makes the whole thing a bit problematic, even if such thoughts never crossed jscalzi's mind at the time.

Yeah, it's the larger context of the humor that contributes to the diceyness here (we live in a world where a transwoman posting that picture would have to worry about significant threats of violence and harassment, even physical harassment, no matter their motivation, and would not be able to lean on relative privilege like Scalzi has to deflect that harassment), and not the specifics of this instance of the humor.

The reality is that we live in a pretty imperfect world.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:26 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, the picture is funny because regency *really* doesn't suit Scalzi at all. The specificity of it being a regency dress is what saves it.

For my part, I am profoundly amused by the number of people on Twitter who responded to it with "Hey, that's Mary's dress!" It's kind of distinctive. (Mary wears it better.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2013


Non-snarky question for the folks seeing the basic 'dress-wearing for charity' bit as problematic: What if anything do you see as the relevant distinction between that and, say, the campier brands of drag, or British panto?

(I'm not saying I can't think of any distinctions, they just don't rise to relevancy for me. Gave up mind-reading for lent.)
posted by PMdixon at 9:45 AM on August 27, 2013


It would be wonderful if British panto weren't.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:50 AM on August 27, 2013


Yeah, actually, the panto dame seems super more issue-ful than regency dress on balding man.

(I was never quite clear on this when I was over there: Is panto like the Nutcracker in the US, in that it's The Thing You Take The Little Ones To At Christmas? Really not sure which would tend to terrify a 6 yr old more.)
posted by PMdixon at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2013


What if anything do you see as the relevant distinction between that and, say, the campier brands of drag, or British panto?

This Twitter conversation (linked above) is a pretty good summation of some of the differences.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:55 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay. So what I get out of that is context in a literal-not-metaphorical bricks-and-mortar sense ----> implications of... respectfulness, I guess? Is that a fair oversimplification?
posted by PMdixon at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2013


Let's use this as an opportunity to discuss the deep problems with the way @scalzi used cross dressing + how that relates to gender policing

Ah, the endless circular firing squads of the left!
posted by LarryC at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2013


The thing to remember here -- and I'm not really addressing any particular comment or event with this -- is that trans women don't control our own representation.

Think about it: you can count the number of trans women on television and in film on the fingers of one hat, and in many cases where we do show up we're in very minor roles -- usually to die, tragically; we are exceptional pathos generators -- and when we do get a trans woman as a main character they're inevitably played by a cis person. See: Transamerica, Mit & Miss, Ugly Betty. Orange is the New Black has shown that the world doesn't end if you give a trans woman actor a speaking role but presumably we're waiting until scientists have confirmed that the Earth's core hasn't ruptured before we're going there again.

So. Practically no-one in filmed fiction. We've got no talking heads, almost no reality TV stars, etc. etc. etc.

In print we're more talked about than talking. Even on the internet, the great democratic medium, if we're going to be engaging with wider political and social structures as trans women we're more likely to exist in enclaves, huddled together, the better to defend each other against the fetishists, the right-wingers, and the radical feminists who want to out us.

My point: if there is someone on TV or on the internet or in print who looks like a trans woman their portrayal and representation is almost certainly controlled by cis people. They, you, control our message.

So if you're going to do anything that makes you appear even vaguely similar to a trans woman, you've taken on the responsibility, whether you like it or not, of portraying us to everyone else.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is that a fair oversimplification?

Sure. And to be totally clear, not all campy drag is respectful. There was a big loud conversation in Austin recently over one of the local drag queen's new characters, a trans sex worker, and some of the jokes and aspects of the portrayal. I wasn't deeply involved in it, but the upshot seemed to be that if a cis white man wants to base a drag performance around jokes about trans sex workers of color being murdered, he better be prepared for some serious fucking backlash.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


So if you're going to do anything that makes you appear even vaguely similar to a trans woman, you've taken on the responsibility, whether you like it or not, of portraying us to everyone else.

So you're claiming every time a man wears a dress, no matter the context, is a reflection on trans women.

Have you thought about how that doesn't have to be true?
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:38 AM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


What?

What?

What?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you are claiming that.

(And you forgot Candis Cayne on Dirty Sexy Money.)
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:43 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh for fuck's sake, this is why I stopped coming here in the first place.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:44 AM on August 27, 2013


[Good faith conversation and no post-comment major edits folks. Make an effort.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2013


(It's always seemed slightly odd to me that the cross dressing man is usually regarded as humorous in British panto, but the cross dressing woman is played as is. There's presumably a reason of some sort in there somewhere.)
posted by pharm at 10:50 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]




That link doesn't seem to work on mobile browsers AoK. Can you post the text?
posted by pharm at 10:52 AM on August 27, 2013


Sorry, went to check on the spelling of her name and accidentally hit post before adding her.

But I do want to sincerely know if that comment means all men wearing women's clothing - because it would take a lot to claim that Scalzi was actually attempting to look like a woman - are being claimed as representing trans women. Because that seems to include everything from drunken louts in their girlfriend's dress for a costume party to transvestites like Eddie Izzard, from Cary Grant in 'Bringing Up Baby' through 'Some Like It Hot' to 'Paris is Burning', and onto drag queens, all representing trans women.

Which I don't agree with, clearly. I think it's possible for a man to put on a dress and not have it be about trans women.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:55 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a link to a google search for
"man in a dress" bathroom transgender
intended to illustrate my earlier point.

gadge, don't just coyly ask me if I've thought about "how that doesn't have to be true"; please state your case.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:55 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


r_n: Oh of course. Just using it in the sense of mostly-not-considered-categorically-hurtful-by-most-people, not some kind of blanket umbrella okay thing.

(Really? Murdered prostitute bit? In 2013? That's awful. Not to mention uncreative, in terms of awfulness.)
posted by PMdixon at 11:12 AM on August 27, 2013


Which I don't agree with, clearly. I think it's possible for a man to put on a dress and not have it be about trans women.

Here's the deal -- I suppose it's possible for a man to put on a dress without intending it to be about trans*women, perhaps the same way that Scalzi did his charity photo apparently without intending it to be about trans*women, and yet, here we are. Some people see that picture and feel that it is about trans*women, and their feelings are not wrong.

I've posted this a couple of times before, but Andrew Ti of Yo, Is This Racist? suggested a couple of weeks back that one good way to find a racist is accuse someone who is doing racist stuff of racism. The actual racists lose their shit -- it's all dismissing and angry denials. The person who is thoughtful and trying to be an ally says "whoa, this is not what I intended at all; can we talk about this and how I can do better?" The same this is true for sexism and, evidently, trans*phobia. Scalzi seems to be responding honestly and questioning his assumptions while at least some of his defenders are not. Which is kind of interesting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, you can't (as a man) put on a dress and not expect *some* reference to the trans spectrum in the viewer's mind IMO. It doesn't have to be a negative one, but the reference is going to be there regardless. Meaning being in the mind of the reader/viewer and all that.
posted by pharm at 11:42 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Non-snarky question for the folks seeing the basic 'dress-wearing for charity' bit as problematic: What if anything do you see as the relevant distinction between that and, say, the campier brands of drag, or British panto?

History mainly. Panto is sort of rooted in the hilarity of men in drag, but there has always been an element of trangression to it as well, upsetting the moral order in which men don't wear dresses; it's that which makes it different for me from something like blackface, which was always about mocking Black people. On the other hand, panto is a fairly conservative art form and its humour reflects that, so, perhaps not as funny if you are a trans woman?

As for drag and the campier aspects of it I never found it to be about making fun of women or trans people as it was/is about blurring lines about what is and isn't acceptable for men to wear or behave like. It's also not a privileged group making fun of less privileged one.

Whereas "wear a dress for charity" is more like being in the dunk chair at the local church fair: it's all about the good humoured (mock) humiliation of the person wearing the dress, which yeah, does touch on the man in a dress view of trans women in pop culture.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:45 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I have to confess I am hearing "Have you thought about how that doesn't have to be true?" in the voice of Owen Wilson in The Royal Tennenbaums.)

Possibly of supplementary relevance - Jim C Hines and John Scalzi's cross-dressing pose-off to raise money for Aicardi syndrome. That feels different to me, in part because the joke is not so much "a man is wearing a dress" as "the poses of women on book covers are intrinsically ridiculous, and you never see men in them" - it's a riff on Hines' larger project of satirically reproducing the poses struck by women on the covers of genre novels*.

But, on the other hand, that's just how I feel about it, and really my feelings about this aren't terribly important.

*cf The gender-swapped recreation of Young Flandry, featuring dress-owner Mary Robinette Kowal, where the men are recreating the aspect of the sexy ladeez without actually dressing as them.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:07 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like so many here, I too am most upset about that LAWN.

I guess lawns are a symbol of the patriarchy and all, but it seems odd to hate on someone for their lawn when you could probably find something somewhat more meaningful.

Aside from any symbolic import there's also "the large quantities of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers people dump on them (so much of which ends up in our rivers and bays), plus all the water that’s needed to keep them green and the super-polluting mowers needed to keep them under control. And they’re SO boring to look at."

- The Great American Delawning Movement.

It is odd that he responded to the dudebro.

I dunno. Seems like it got him a lot of page views. ;)

Let's talk about men in dresses.

Yes, please. Aren't we hot?

I am a cross-dressing hetero feminist who is not transgender, so this thread is my Tuesday gravy. Hugs to all.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me, the picture is funny because regency *really* doesn't suit Scalzi at all

Yeah, this is the thing that I think really should stand out. It's not "Oh man in dress just like transgender!" It's Scalzi, who does not have the body type to wear regency dresses at all, wearing a regency dress - generally perceived as being very prim and proper - in this kind of half-assed, chest-hair baring, way. That is not what regency looks like! That is the ridiculous bit. Scalzi in a skirt? No one even would have batted an eye.

Yeah, you can't (as a man) put on a dress and not expect *some* reference to the trans spectrum in the viewer's mind IMO

See, this argument in and of itself seems transphobic. To compare Scalzi to someone who is trans because they are a man in a dress is just wrong. Scalzi is not attempting to present himself as trans at all - and the idea that transladies are just men in dresses is generally taken as hideously offensive.
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bradford, Ohio MIGHT have a zoning requirement that the property be a lawn and that it be kept in certain condition. That's less common in rural areas, but still a possibility. The town website was pretty bare bones, couldn't find anything there.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2013


corb: "See, this argument in and of itself seems transphobic. To compare Scalzi to someone who is trans because they are a man in a dress is just wrong. Scalzi is not attempting to present himself as trans at all - and the idea that transladies are just men in dresses is generally taken as hideously offensive."

This is true, but -- as I'd hoped to illustrate with my google search link earlier -- it's not true in the minds of most people. A trans woman is a "man in a dress" to many, many people, and when it comes to, for example, public bathroom legislation, that image becomes very, very important. The idea that we're not mentally or physically any different from that basic idea (sure, we may have had "the surgery" but look at our male aggression and big male muscles!) is one of the root causes of much transphobia, both insidious and violent.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


A trans woman is a "man in a dress" to many, many people

This is likely true, but I don't think the opposite is true for most people: a (hairy, bald) "man in a dress" does not connote a trans woman. Show 10 people that photo of Scalzi and I'd bet 9 of them do not see/think anything about trans women. They see a goofy dude in odd clothes.
posted by 0 at 1:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A trans woman is a "man in a dress" to many, many people,

I think what's bothering me about that argument is it seems like trans advocates are voluntarily embracing that idea wrt Scalzi, rather than righteously being like, "No, gender is more than which clothes you wear, Scalzi wearing a dress has nothing to do with being trans or not, it is an item of clothing and does not speak to his gender which is self identified."
posted by corb at 1:51 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think Scalzi looks better in a regency/empire waist than I do - it's a style that looks better on people with a small bust to waist ratio.

There is a small element of man-wearing-dress-phobia in a man wearing a dress for a bet/dare/charity, because it's being positioned as a "weird" thing to do. that said, this is still a total tempest in a teapot, and you can't ignore that it isn't Scalzi just wearing a dress, but a Regency dress. I'm female, and me wearing a Regency dress is something weird that I might do on a dare or for charity.
posted by jb at 1:53 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


See, this argument in and of itself seems transphobic. To compare Scalzi to someone who is trans because they are a man in a dress is just wrong.

Does your definition of trans include transvestitism? A picture of a man wearing a dress must surely raise that reference at least.

I personally don't think that transsexuals are just 'men in dresses' (or women in suits), but the connotations in popular culture are there whether we like it or not unfortunately, so a thoughtful individual will tread lightly. In the better world I would like to live in, a dress would just be a dress and someone wearing one could present as whatever gender they liked.

On the 'jscalzi: right or wrong?' topic: as an outsider with no personal stake (unlike AoK) I think that jscalzi manages to hold to the right side of the line, but it's a little close for comfort & I can see why some people have trouble as the image reminds of them of so many other times when the trope of the 'man-in-a-dress' has been used as a (sometimes not so metaphorical) stick to beat them with.

NB. Do regency dresses suit *anyone*?
posted by pharm at 2:01 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aside from any symbolic import there's also "the large quantities of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers people dump on them (so much of which ends up in our rivers and bays), plus all the water that’s needed to keep them green and the super-polluting mowers needed to keep them under control. And they’re SO boring to look at."

I'm not sure whether you're being serious or ironic.

At any rate, Scalzi's "lawn" is a meadow around his house that he mows. It gets no more or less chemical treatment and water than a random park meadow. If it' a city park, it gets a lot less.

Do people actually not know that lawns predate modern sprinklers and chemicals? And that you can even get naturally occurring fields of grass?
posted by GuyZero at 2:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The city park where I work has a sprinkler system that runs every night on the lawns.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:20 PM on August 27, 2013


In the early 17th century, the Jacobean epoch of gardening began; during this period, the closely cut "English" lawn was born. By the end of this period, the English lawn was a symbol of status of the aristocracy and gentry; it showed that the owner could afford to keep land that was not being used for a building, or for food production.
That is the spiritual ancestor of the American lawn.

I'm not going to castigate jscalzi for having a lawn because, hey, it's a free country. Besides, lawns aren't going anywhere until the water crisis really hits.

I think it's great you're sticking up for your friend. I mean, it's either that or you're his stalker since you seem to have a familiar knowledge of his lawn maintenance habits. I just want to be clear that a lawn is not a meadow and a lawn is actually a pretty terrible thing. I guess I was confused because people (including jscalzi) keep using the word "lawn" when apparently they meant "meadow."
posted by entropicamericana at 2:28 PM on August 27, 2013


AoK, I understand where you're coming from with your argument that we need to be conscious of the cross-dressing men trope due to how it can marginalize trans women, and I absolutely do not want to downplay your lived experiences. But at the same time, I am cautious about saying that cross-dressing men automatically take on the burden of representing trans* women, because to dismiss cross-dressing as problematic and offensive for that reason alone runs contrary to a lot of the other social justice principles we can approach the issue from. For instance, I would argue that the validity of gender identity is not so infallible to be harmed by simple performance of gender, which Scalzi seems to agree with in his claims that he is secure in his gender identity; I would be concerned about enforcement of gender roles; I feel that there is nothing inherently feminine about a dress, and that we need to expose the cultural associations of such as harmful; and I would also be concerned about how other individuals under the trans* umbrella may be harmed with a flat man-in-dress-is-offensive judgment. In short, the issue is highly intersectional.

And as others have pointed out - that many hold the association between men wearing dresses and trans women is definitely unfortunate, but also rooted in transphobia. While it is definitely a very privileged thing for me to say since I am not personally subject to negative attitudes stemming from this association, I feel like we need to push greater visibility of how gender identity and performance differ, not less. I feel like we need to be pushing against this transphobic, patriarchal and gender-shaming association rather than catering to it in the long run.
posted by Conspire at 2:30 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


you seem to have a familiar knowledge of his lawn maintenance habits.

He has a Yard FAQ. Also, rural lawns are really not rocket surgery.
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's great you're sticking up for your friend. I mean, it's either that or you're his stalker since you seem to have a familiar knowledge of his lawn maintenance habits.

Just to end this derail, there's an FAQ from his website that was posted upthread. This whole "OMG stalker" narrative isn't really productive.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:33 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like I said, I'm really not interested in jscalzi's lawn specifically as much as I am in pointing out that lawns aren't as wholesome as people believe. Pointing out lawns predate sprinklers and chemical fertilizers is disingenuous when the overwhelming majority of lawns have benefited from those two things.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:37 PM on August 27, 2013


All I'm saying is that this particular lawn takes neither of those thing as do many lawns. Most country "lawns" get mowed to keep them from turning into full-on prairie and that's about it.

I am in pointing out that lawns aren't as wholesome as people believe

This is a very urban-centric attitude.
posted by GuyZero at 2:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pointing out lawns predate sprinklers and chemical fertilizers is disingenuous when the overwhelming majority of lawns have benefited from those two things.

Talking about lawns in general when there's only one lawn really being discussed here is sort of a "well actually...." move. You can read about Scalzi's lawn on its own FAQ, no need to call someone a stalker because they've read it.
posted by jessamyn at 2:43 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be quick and probably make this my last comment because I'm v tired, but:

Yes, I do believe that any CAMAB person who messes with gender in any way -- that is visible to the larger public, at least; I'm not talking throwing on a dress for halloween here -- is going to ultimately end up representing, in the minds of some observers, trans women. This is because we are the bleeding edge of this: out of all CAMAB people we have the most at stake and we suffer the most because of our identities; we also have the least voice of all CAMAB people.

However! Please note that this is all I am saying! I'm not saying don't express your gender, I'm not saying don't do drag, I'm not even saying don't have a laugh.

I'm simply asking, to please be aware. People's attitudes towards trans women are heavily influenced by the portrayal of CAMAB people who crossdress and/or do drag.

In the game of gender it shouldn't be controversial to say that trans women suffer the most harm from negative public perception -- particularly trans women with other intersections, i.e. disabilities or, especially, skin colour -- and have the least power to change it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a very urban-centric attitude.

I live in a rural area and I'm inclined to agree that lawns aren't very wholesome--I observe exactly how much water and gasoline my landlady wastes on watering and mowing ours. Another John author, John Green, who lives in the midwest in an area rife with lawns has a vlog about this that's pretty informative.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2013


That being said, I have no particular investment in John Scalzi's lawn, personally.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2013


I have no particular investment in John Scalzi's lawn

I would probably have a better time on teh interwebs if I had this printed on a wristband and kept referring to it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have like 20% of my 401k in Scalzi's lawn and the current returns are pretty good.
posted by GuyZero at 3:03 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have like 20% of my 401k in Scalzi's lawn and the current returns are pretty good.

I'd suggest that you diversify the lawn part of your portfolio. Maybe move some money into Patrick Rothfuss's lawn. Some summers, Rothfuss gets rain when Scalzi doesn't.
posted by Area Man at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Growth stocks, is the basic idea.
posted by cortex at 3:31 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


more liek growth stalks amirite?

(that would have worked better if we were talking about jscalzi's corn)
posted by entropicamericana at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to bale on discussing his grass.
posted by GuyZero at 3:36 PM on August 27, 2013


C'mon guys, can we just stop fielding comments on his lawn? This discussion will undoubtedly crop up later, and in the meantime I'm sure you all have other rows to hoe.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


About the lawn, really? What would you gave him do, pave it?

Rural lawns provide benefits in their context. First, dust and soil management. Drainage control. Soil regeneration. Clear line of sight. It's pretty when it's green.

Scalzi and his wife seem to be managing it just fine - a little weed management/dandelion control, and no watering or sprinkler system. They mow it once a week, with a mower that's nine feet wide. That's pretty efficient. I'd bet they're using less resources than a suburban McMansion with an acre lot, cut three times a week and watered every night (and the tru-green truck showing up every month and god knows WHAT is in that shit).

The family has a great playground - as he quotes in the FAQ he's raising kids, not grass - and it didn't cost all that much, apparently.

I can see a bit of tension over the dress thing - I can't speak to the issue in any real way - but the lawn? Meh.
posted by disclaimer at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


At any rate, Scalzi's "lawn" is a meadow around his house that he mows. It gets no more or less chemical treatment and water than a random park meadow. If it' a city park, it gets a lot less.

I'm sorry, but you clearly did not deeply read the Lawn FAQ. I refer you to section 3, paragraph 1 of said Lawn FAQ:
3. Do you mow your own lawn?

No. I did it off and on for the first couple years and then developed a righteous grass allergy. Since then it’s been done either by Krissy or by my father-in-law, although I think he may be retiring from the mowing game at some point. Athena’s a year or two away from being able to handle the tractor, so for the time being Krissy mows or we hire someone local to do it for us.
I hope you've now committed this important fact to memory.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 3:52 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I'd suggest that you diversify the lawn part of your portfolio. Maybe move some money into Patrick Rothfuss's lawn. Some summers, Rothfuss gets rain when Scalzi doesn't.

It also might be a good idea to hedge your investments a bit, maybe in some acutiloba futures.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:53 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sod this stupid discussion.
posted by yoink at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, shut up, you guys. He got the lawn and house and things by being successful — that’s right!
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should have trimmed my comment better. It isn't lush with intelligence or raking in any goodwill, that's for sure.
posted by disclaimer at 4:23 PM on August 27, 2013


People's attitudes towards trans women are heavily influenced by the portrayal of CAMAB people who crossdress and/or do drag.

Is there a reason to suspect Scalzi identifies as CAMAB? It seems a little strange to throw that on him when there's no reason to suspect he feels that way or is intersex.
posted by corb at 4:38 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that the C in that acronym might be Cis (Cis Assigned Male at Birth) not Coercive.
posted by mercredi at 5:30 PM on August 27, 2013


I am exhausted tonight and would probably have just used AMAB if I wasn't coming straight from a different but hauntingly similar conversation elsewhere. I am not good with words tonight.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:32 PM on August 27, 2013


I think there's a difference between making a feminist statement and mocking an anti-feminist one. It helps to illustrate the difference between satire and mockery: satire punches up, Mickey punches down. But in order to punch down, you have to believe there's a down to punch at, and as soon as you do that, you're invoking power granted by some social hierarchy. We were just having a conversation about how the public confession of privilege can reinforce the hierarchical models that is presumably intended to dismantle. Here, too, Scalzi uses the powers and presumptions of his authority, only some of which is earned, to attack someone in the name of feminism. That action cannot help but invoke the privileges of his status, because without them, he wouldn't be able to do it.

Which is not to say that he shouldn't do it, but that he should know the forge that made his weapons, if only to minimize catching someone in the backswing, as running order squabble fest suggested above. When your goal is to spit fire, your focus isn't 100% on where it all goes.

I also really want to thank ArmyOfKittens here. I sort of understood that there might be trans* objections, but I didn't really understand how they might apply and I didn't really agree with them. But your point about representation and cultural signification is incredibly interesting and apt, and I'm really glad you made it, because I'm going to be thinking about that for a while.
posted by Errant at 6:56 PM on August 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I cannot believe the amount of discussion people are having ABOUT A FREAKING BORING LAWN. It doesn't have zombies poking out of it. It's not covered in viscera. It's not even brown. And yet, people are so concerned about it that there's an FAQ and a third of this page is arguing about the lawn care.

Y'all need LIVES, people!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The funny thing is, even if the dudebro sees this, he'll probably stop reading long before he gets to the lawn.
posted by homunculus at 8:51 PM on August 27, 2013


he should know the forge that made his weapons, if only to minimize catching someone in the backswing, as running order squabble fest suggested above. When your goal is to spit fire, your focus isn't 100% on where it all goes.

I totally agree with your point but your use of metaphor is killing me.
posted by gingerest at 9:03 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I went from something more esoteric to rap battle slang. I did think it might be a little much, but then another glass of sake convinced me it was fine. Sorry about that, I hope you're not all the way dead.
posted by Errant at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
posted by gingerest at 10:15 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have fun storming the patriarchy!
posted by Errant at 11:43 PM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


So... only women are allowed to wear dresses?
posted by yonega at 6:54 AM on August 28, 2013


This has been a long thread with a ton of discussions and links; saying "So... only women are allowed to wear dresses?" at this late date is kind of just saying "I haven't read the thread" and is maybe not such a great way to hop in.
posted by cortex at 7:06 AM on August 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Only women are allowed to xeriscape. Do try and keep up.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:20 PM on August 28, 2013


I'm fine with natural women, I think xeriscaping is kinda gross actually.

kidding! just kidding!
posted by GuyZero at 5:27 PM on August 28, 2013


damn you all. i googled xeriscape and now i can't unsee it.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:10 PM on August 28, 2013


John Ringo weighs in.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am sure Mr Scalzi is greatly appreciative of Mr Ringo's sincere and heartfelt advice regarding maximizing his readership, which comes entirely unladen of other baggage.
posted by PMdixon at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ringo is an idiot as well as noxious. But also Ringo writes:

"And the market fraction of true 'Modern Progressives' who read combat SF is HYSTERICALLY low."

Really? I'm very progressive. Let's take a look at my bookshelf, going by what Goodreads classifies as "military science fiction":

John Birmingham's "Axis of Time" series.
Robert Buettner's "Jason Wander" series.
Jack Campbell's "The Lost Fleet" series and related.
William C. Dietz's "Legion" series.
Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" books.
Tanya Huff's "Confederation" series.
Elizabeth Moon's "Vatta's War" series.
John Steakley's classic of military science fiction, "Armor".
Richard K. Morgan's "Takeshi Kovacs" series.

And of course Scalzi's "Old Man's War" books. Hmm, John Ringo, though, is nowhere to be found.

That's not to mention the military fantasy I've read, such as The Black Company books, Joe Abercrombie's "Heroes" and "Best Served Cold", and many, many more.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey John Ringo. I'm a gun-loving libertarian who loves combat SF. You might even say "your core market."

I refuse to buy a book with your name on it.

You might want to consider why.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ringo opens with: Scalzi is president of SFWA

Nope, his term ended at the end of June; Steven Gould is the current president of SFWA.

If I remember rightly, both Scalzi's activism on con harrassment and SFWA's expulsion of Theodore Beale came after the transition.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:24 AM on September 5, 2013


Well, I'll take Ringo off my "people I should maybe read sometime" list. At least that stack is getting pared down; the more writers deciding to out themselves as raging, tone-deaf assholes, the more likely it is that I'll actually get to most of that list in my lifetime.
posted by NoraReed at 11:28 AM on September 5, 2013


What's the issue with Ringo (in a nutshell) other than him being pissy about how the Hugos are run?
posted by GuyZero at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2013


What's the issue with Ringo (in a nutshell) other than him being pissy about how the Hugos are run?

The most succinct way I can explain this is OH JOHN RINGO NO.
posted by corb at 11:49 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ringo has written some extremely rapey, macho, violence-fetishizing books (which I have not read) as well as some lowbrow hoo-rah shoot-em-up military SF, some of which I have read and some of which are fine if you like that sort of thing. He's basically fine when he does not write women at all, but as soon as he tries to go there, it all goes straight to hell.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:51 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah. I was hoping for something less commonplace, but that'll do.
posted by GuyZero at 11:56 AM on September 5, 2013


Also, Artw's link, if you were skimming and missed it, where he tries to give Scalzi advice and insults his books a lot.
posted by NoraReed at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2013


Trust me, John Ringo is not commonplace. His stuff is really, really rapey. It's not just "macho, violence-fetishizing stuff" (though that would definitely be bad to people who don't like it). I like reading macho, violence-fetishizing stuff and hoo-rah shoot-em-up mil-SF. I've been to actual war. I will still not touch a Ringo book with a ten foot pole because of the rape bits, the constant reminder that Real Men want to rape and get rewarded by sex and women don't get to not want to have it.
posted by corb at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most succinct way I can explain this is OH JOHN RINGO NO.

What the actual what?
Mike manages to disrupt the torture and gets the word out via sat phone, then sits back to wait for rescue while setting up a defensive perimeter with the help of some of the more athletic coeds. Learning their names is too much bother, so he dubs them "Babe" (for Babe Ruth; she plays baseball, and learns to apply her skills to grenades), "Bambi," and "Thumper." They are, of course, naked, and Mike pauses to appreciate the view as he sends them scurrying to fetch him ammo.
They're all women, and they're naked because their clothes have rotted off...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:48 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I absolutely hate myself for doing this but:

As usual, nobody's talking about class. Which is okay, because nothing will ever happen if we talk about everything all the time. Still, if Scalzi grew up poor, naturally he's proud of his monstrous lawn...

You mean... critics say that he's all about money, cash, hoes?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:04 PM on September 7, 2013


Hoes and aerators.
posted by planetesimal at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


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