Sunday, February 10, 2008

Listening to the Antichrist

Or:

DEPPY-ENDS ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW

Or:

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE STRAWFEMINIST

In short, it seems the "hive-vagina" is only valid when they want it to be. When they are complaining to get the change they want, ANYONE who's voice can be used to that end is made part of the community. But when outsiders take a harder look at the tactics and actual comments being made, and start in with their thought on how and why they are doing things, suddenly they are just individuals who speak only for themselves.


Whatever hate-fest it is that has marked James Meeley to be treated as the pariah of the feminist fangirl community (and no, I still don't care), it has the unfortunate side-effect of generating the knee-jerk reaction to overlook his words when he does say something worth considering.

Granted, James does have a tendency to write five paragraphs where one would suffice; he also tends to frame his points in a way to paint feminist fangirls as some sort of intentionally self-deceptive cabal/conspiracy, in a tone that skims along the edge of patronizing.*

Still, I think he has a valid point in the above quote. I have seen something of the sort myself when reading about things that garner a large-scale controversy, such as the Mary-Jane statue. The pattern goes something like this: someone is offended by Incident A for Reason X, and makes a statement to that effect. In the ensuing discussion, Reason X is challenged, examined, its faults (if any) brought to light. At the same time, other people may voice their opposition to
Incident A for Reason Y or Reason Z. Some people, seeking to bolster Reason X, will add together all voices for Reasons X, Y, and Z and point to that as "popular" support for opposition to Incident A, regardless of whether the various Reasons are even linked in some way.

If, however, Reason Z is found to be without merit or irrelevant, Supporters of Reason X often try to have it both ways: they can claim "oh, those people aren't part of us" when Reason Z is challenged, but they often won't amend earlier statements that include supporters of Reason Z as evidence of the rightness of Reason X.

If you managed to follow all that, it might then become a bit more understandable why Dirk Deppey would conflate Girl-Wonder.org's stances and goals with that of the larger feminist movement. It's a valid criticism of his piece, but at the same time, he's got some good points about how that issue actually relates to comics feminism that, I think, get glossed over in the rush to say, "oh, that Dirk Deppey's just a bitter anti-feminist who doesn't know what he's talking about".

It's a little difficult to discuss feminist issues and comics without running into the counter of "We're not all like that! There's no hive-vagina!" And that's fine as far as it goes, but if I make a statement, and someone responds by saying "but I'm not like that!", that says nothing about whether or not someone else is like that.

And that brings us to:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.

Every so often, you'll see that trotted out as evidence that criticism is unfounded. "That's a strawfeminist, there! I'm not like that!" And if the argument is directed against a single person, or even a group of people who share a common stance, it's a valid defense if the criticism has no basis in reality.

"My opponent believes in sacrificing puppies to Satan! I'm against that!" Okay, that's a bad strawman at work there, if the opponent has no such anti-puppy agenda.

"I would be against anyone who sacrifices puppies to Satan!" This, however, is less of a strawman argument, since no particular person is identified.

If you speak out against a policy or stance in general, it's only a straw man if you can establish that nobody endorses that viewpoint.

If those who criticize feminism are urged to keep the "no-hive-vagina" mantra in mind, then to be fair, to be reciprocal, counter-criticism ought to bear it equally in mind. When someone says, "I think this feminist stance is wrong", should it not be understood that it is those who endorse that stance who are being criticized, and not anyone not linked to that particular hive-vagina?

In other words, if you don't do the thing that is being criticized, the criticism isn't being aimed at you.

When I, for example, express my doubts about feminists who say they "don't want to take the sexy away", any person who seriously, honestly, does not want to remove "the sexy" from comics is exempt from my criticism. (Defining precisely what such phrases mean, that's another process entirely.) When someone who is thus exempt chimes in to contradict my criticism, I'm left with the impression of "closing ranks", a support of other feminists for politics' sake, not for the sake of the ideal being criticized.

To defend a stance you do not necessarily believe in, for the reason that the criticism is coming from "the enemy", that someone is criticizing one aspect of feminism and therefore all of feminism itself, well, that would indicate a solidarity befitting a hive-vagina... wouldn't it...?


* "Patronizing", to be fair, is an attitude shared by many pro-feminist commentators as well. The "Bingo Card", for example, is one of the most condescending constructs I've seen since I began taking notice of the WFA and such.

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