Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Define: 'Feminist'

Note: I started this blog post on Sunday, but needed a couple of days to think it through before I put it up here...would really appreciate feedback from everyone.
On Sunday, I was sitting in the workshop discussing gender and identity of blogs and realized I was feeling a little out of place. Most of the women in the room call themselves feminists and this is not a label I have ever applied to myself, nor is it a word I think others have used to describe me, and that word seems to be a driving force for the conversation we are in the middle of.

I do believe in equal rights, but I believe in equal rights for everyone – not just women. Have I ever stood on a soap box and demanded fair treatment for others – absolutely. Most of the time it has been in the work place and funny enough – I find myself fighting for the men who did not feel comfortable using their own voice as most of the women in my life would have no problem standing up and vocalizing what they want (and usually end up getting it). As I think about this more, I realize I have never heard any of my girlfriends or family members ever call themselves a feminist. We are simply human beings fighting for what is important to us. Maybe it was the environment I grew up in, or the ‘era’, but this terminology is all new to me (at least it feels new within the context of blogging).

Am I a feminist? Am I something else? Do I really need a label attached to who I am to make me more of who I am? If so, the list of labels is long and would never fit on a business card.

My mind is racing – do I stay in this room and remain involved in the conversation or do I run to my laptop and start researching what it really means to be a ‘feminist’. I realize my laptop will still be there in an hour, but this conversation would not, so I plant my feet and commit to learning more – straight from these smart, passionate women sitting around me.
Amber awakes the conversation going on within, and asks me to describe my blog persona and whether or not I think my readers know I am a woman. Blog persona? I don’t think I have one. Do I? As far as I knew, it is just little old me talking about what is going on in my life and what matters most (to me). I have no agenda, no plans for the future of my blog, no real desire to build an audience (it does intrigue me though). I seem to be a square peg being forced into a round hole with this conversation. I do not wish to be stereotyped with my blog – I wish to be free to discuss whatever is on my mind at that very moment. I am a human being who blogs, not a mommie blogger, not a feminist blogger, not a woman blogger, not Chris’ fiancé (or consort) who also blogs, and not a professional blogger.

As for what my audience thinks – I have no idea – but I am pretty darn sure they all know I am female as I have a photo in my profile and most of my readers are my friends and family. However, I am fairly certain they don’t think of Kiki’s Korner as a female blog. It is simply Kristie sharing her insights and thoughts – it is not important to me that I am a female blogger – only that the points I make are being discussed. Maybe I am naïve, but I am of the thought that people will read my blog because they like what I have to say – it doesn’t matter if I have a vagina or a penis.

The question for me comes down to why is there a need to associate with a label or stick me into a category? Isn’t this action in of itself contradicting the ideals of equality and attempts to rid the world of stereotypes? Isn’t this counter to the idea we promote in ”One love. One heart”? In the infamous words of Bob Marley…’let’s stick together and we will be alright’. It is not women – vs- men. Gay –vs- straight. Moms –vs- singles. Or gosh, I hope it isn’t. If it is, it isn’t the community I would call home – despite the loving kindness I felt from everyone I met – those extreme ideals may have their place and be needed in the world, but not my world. I choose to lead by example and to this end, I lead as an equal to all – man/woman, black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor – all human beings as one race, one people, one world together.

Ok, enough of my innermost thoughts on this delicate subject matter…the identity conversation now moves into a discussion on how women need to stand out in their blogs. Some of the actual phrases stated in this room are: ‘Men’s blogs are simple’ and ‘not important’ basically discounting anyone out there who happens to have a penis. ‘Women’s blogs should have insights’. ‘Powerful messages’. ‘We (women) should expect more from women bloggers’. Whoa I say. Why do women’s blogs have to be better than men’s? I surely don’t want that expectation on me (and if you have read my blog – you will see I am not out to win any medals here). This ‘expectation’ statement really strikes a chord as how can we fight for equality when we chose not to reciprocate? How can we set this standard for women and not expect the same from men? Why does one gender have to be better than another? Please, please, please. I don’t want to be disregarded as a woman, but I want to be seen as a human being first. The fact I have boobs, to me, is secondary. I will gladly sing along side with you in a rousing rendition of Helen Reddy’s ‘I am woman, hear me roar’. But I stand just as happily next to my fellow boys singing ‘Macho Man’. I am so confused.

The workshop ends and we all break for lunch. I catch up with Sarah in the kitchen and run my feelings past her. Sarah is one of those amazing old souls who is so in tune with herself – it scares me. Well, actually – it scares me someone so young can be that ‘with it,’ and at the same time, her spirit inspires me to want to ask more of myself. Anyway, I digress. After chatting with her a bit about the definition of ‘feminist’, I realize I should get some air and let it all sink in as I feel I have a lot to learn.

(fast forward 45 minutes later….)

I am back in the house and my thoughts have settled enough to start working through them, so I jump on my laptop to get Webster’s definition (I know, I am sooo old school) of ’feminist’. Webster tells me:

Feminist: noun. the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
Ok, so I AM a feminist. Easy enough. If a label needs to be placed on me, I am comfortable with this Websters description though I still don’t see the need to claim a label in the first place. I also wonder how this action of labeling will affect me in the future. Today, I am a human being who blogs, who happens to be female. Three years from now, I might be a mommy and still have a blog. Does that automatically make me a mommy blogger? If I hold a picket sign one day promoting same sex marriage - am I now a gay rights activist - or just someone who cares for equal rights?

Too many questions that have no answers…I am still not in agreement with some of the things talked about in the earlier workshop, but that is the beauty of these gatherings – find topics that stimulate you and engage others in a discussion. I don’t expect us all to agree, but I do not wish to be kicked out of the ‘club’ just because I have a different point of view. What I want is to be embraced for the diversity of my opinion as much as I embrace those with whom I disagree with. I want to be accepted for being who I am, regardless of whether or not I fit someone elses label of me. It is really about respect for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, orientation or financial status. Everyone is valuable and everyone deserves to be loved for who they are.

I now find myself looking at the signup sheet for the afternoon topics, and opted for something a little lighter in nature. Podcasting and Vlogging being hosted by Chris and Lisa seemed to fit the bill...

In the middle of this workshop, we had a small break as we waited for the equipment to catch up with the conversation, and the questions from earlier in the day caught up to me again. I decided now is as good as any to ask the big question so I look around the room at Grace, Amber, Elkit, Chris, Lisa, and Peter - and ask ‘What is a feminist and what does it mean to you’. Surprisingly, Peter is the first to respond. ‘I believe in equal rights for women. So, I guess that makes me a feminist’, he says. We all smile and I look up at Amber. ‘Is it that easy?’ I ask. ‘Or is there more’. As she is nodding her head ‘yes’, and before I get to ask her to explain the ‘more’ part - Chris and Lisa bring us back to the content of the workshop. Bugger. Note to self to delve into this with Amber later.

Unfortunately, the campers choose to end the day early, so I do not find myself with another opportunity to dig into the question that is burning in my mind. I find myself unloading all my thoughts on Chris on the way home, but quickly realize I need to circle this discussion back to the ladies who consider themselves 'feminists'. Maybe this continues in a blog format for now –or maybe we can get the WoolfCampers together for lunch – either way, I would love to hear your views on ‘What is a feminist?’ and ‘What does it mean to you?’ Perhaps more importantly, how can we all strive for equality without putting down people who are not exactly like us.

Technorati tags: feminist feminism woolfcamp girlsclub boysclub equalrights


Blogger ...e... said...

Kristie, that webster's definition you read is the definition of "feminist" by people who don't know what feminism is, yet want to tell you. it's about 100 years old, for one. yes, there is so much more, but as i mentioned in the workshop, i am not the one to ask since i don't consider myself a feminist. but i can say that the rights thing is not it, look deeper. to begin why not try "feminism" on wikipedia?

7:13 AM  
Blogger Kristie Wells said...

E, I did what you said and Wikipedia came back with: 'Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation. As a social movement, feminism largely focuses on limiting or eradicating gender inequality and promoting women's rights, interests, and issues in society. It also incorporates concern about the effect of gender roles on men, and encouragement for men to change and transcend traditional male roles and norms of masculinity.' Should have looked here first – Webster is obviously out of date. I guess what it boils down to is I feel differently about feminism than many in the workshop. I do support the cause of equality in the workplace, home and other arenas, but the statements made in that room about ‘women are better than men’, ‘men are simple’ and we should naturally have ‘higher standards/expectations of each other as women’ made me uneasy as I do not feel one gender is superior to another – or should expect to be. How can we, as women, expect to be treated as equal to men if we are not willing to treat men as equal to us.

8:44 AM  
Blogger GraceD said...

Beautifully candid and heartfelt post, Kristie. I love your utter sincerity and willingness.

At some point today I'll be posting on my personal blog and here on WoolfCamp and probably on the BlogHer blog as well (trifecta!) my feminist statement and the stuff around this.

I'm hoping that we can feel secure and transparent enough to pursue this dialogue with those who made the remarks you quoted:

Kristie: "...but the statements made in that room about ‘women are better than men’, ‘men are simple’ and we should naturally have ‘higher standards/expectations of each other as women’ made me uneasy as I do not feel one gender is superior to another – or should expect to be."

I wonder about the context of those remarks and if there is further clarification. We are a thoughtful group and I would like to step back on making conclusions from these comments.

Also, how can the global meaning of feminism, beautifully outlined in wikipedia, be cancelled out with these remarks?

I actually see any one who calls themselves a humanist an automatic feminist...and embracing of all races...and pro-LGBT...and all for children's rights. In my merry little world, one "ism" does not outweigh the others, but I do accept that for folks, there is stronger identification with one "ism" over the other. And to me? That's okay. (Though I struggle with the my own ethnic identification; but that's for my upcoming post).

So, group - s'up? Can someone come forward and discuss their comments? Again, we can do this safely and with respect.

un-hostess/Prince dork/Molly's Mom

9:16 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I don't agree with the "higher standards" things either, but I think there is a core of interesting meaning there. It has partly to do with feminism, but more to do with communication styles and a sort of cultural mismatch or divide. I will talk about feminism in a different post, but here I want to point out a moment of gendered difference I percieved going on this weekend.

The short version would be that a man coming into a group of women can (of course not always, etc.) be jarringly out of place in communication style, and assume a position of power like a lecturer; while the women are expecting of each other a certain amount of attention to all and to keeping a group dynamic of making sure everyone speaks; making room. While, on the other hand, a woman coming into a group of men, if expecting that, is probably not going to find it; instead, to the men she will look oddly diffident and unconfident, as if waiting to be invited specially; in that space, it is more proper to speak up loudly and jostle around as if in a verbal mosh pit. I do not think about this in an essentialist/biological way, but think it's how we're socialized to act. And the "powerful assertive" way gets more respect and "success" in the world.

I want to learn not only to code-switch from one to the other, but to point out to other people they can do that too. Unfortunately, because of sexism (and by that I mean the systemic problems of sexism and power, not individual sexist behaviors) it is hard to do that switching, or to get people to realize the values of many different ways of communicating.

Did you notice the gender-cultural mismatch when Marc began to talk on Sunday morning, in a space when we were all doing short personal introductions, and paying attention to each other as a large group? And he began to lecture us all loudly and at length in what I think most people experienced as very strange and hostile. I think in his mind, and I'd like to ask him, we were doing things "all wrong" and he was fixing the situation to be about what the "real" conversation should be about; high level silicon valley politics, law, and where the latest techgeek theory could take us: important things (instead of the perhaps 'trivial' personal flakey soft girly-things we were discussing). The way that many women reacted to that mismatch was to detach; to go away, to stop listening, to stop speaking. We disengage, we stop participating. There is a moment of choice where one can step up and compete on those same terms. Or, go away. (In a mixture of anger, despair, and perhaps insecurity.) That is the moment when both men and women lose out, and it's a big loss.

My own goals are to bridge that, to learn to NOT disengage, and not to write anyone off or shut down a situation. If someone begins to lecture unpleasantly in a group discussion, there are ways to redirect them respectfully; but it feels to me like walking through a field of landmines. I am only just learning how to do this. Did you see me do it with Marc?

By the way, I'm a person who grew up being that person who hijacks the room by accident. I have only learned the other way because of being a mom and hanging out with other women and with kids quite a lot. The group ... ethic? is very different. It has its ups and downsides, just as the Chest-Beating Mosh Pit does.

So, my point here is to answer you with, what those people meant about higher standards is partly that; they expect women to communicate in this one way, and they don't expect it of the men, though obviously many men do "it". Keith of Word Shadows/Scrine leaps to mind immediately.

I think we could look at conversations about blog-importance, and think about how "value" is constructed, and ... hmm, for me, the question "who has the power and money, and how does that affect what is 'valuable' " is largely a feminist question. Er, that is hard to explain, but I will try later.

By the way you totally rock for bringing this up, and I was so happy you were there and participating... and I agree about the absolute necessity of "diverse feminisms" and actually, I also agree with you about essentialist feminism (i.e. that men and women are inherently different - and I don't believe this, or at least that it's like 99% social construct.) However, I am still a radical feminist and kind of an anarcho-socialist. I feel like in the tech world we need to present a strong argument for making some woman-dominated spaces.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Chris Heuer said...

I am not qualified to speak to the core issues here, but I do want to clarify the situation around Marc. I can't speak for him, but as someone who has known him as an industry leader and general loud guy, I can say that I have seen him treat men this way as well (including me on more than one occasion). It is just his general way of being as far as I can tell as opposed to being sexist - I can't imagine it will change, though it could one day.

Just yesterday at MashupCamp was the first time he ever said hello to me without my having to hover around his conversations waiting for an opportunity to get some insights from him on something I wanted to discuss.

In the end it all comes down to personal standards of respect for our fellow human beings. Some people give it out by default with the birth certificate and with others it will take a long time for someone to earn it.

He is a really smart guy, but obviously gruff...

10:31 AM  
Blogger GraceD said...

In regards to Marc Canter, my husband and I will no longer welcome him in our home.

Marc did not acknowledge George's greeting. He said not one word in response to George's cheerful, "Hello, I'm George. What's your name?"

Not one word.

Marc did not even LOOK at George.

The fuck.

I understand he was not feeling well. Fine. You tell me that he's gruff. Okay. BUT that he's smart. Cool.

All I know is that he was rude to my husband. In our home. Nobody is allowed to rude to my family. There is no excuse for disrespectful behavior. Thus, in all the compassion we have, and including ourselves in the circle of compassion, George and I are done with Marc Canter.

11:09 AM  
Blogger GraceD said...

Just an FYI - my comment above does not contradict my post about group dynamics:


My point was to have a safe place for discourse. Marc's behavior did not indicate that. Quite a few people told me that their experience of him made them feel highly uncomfortable. That, coupled with my husband's response, compromised the perceived safety of the group.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Oh, it was totally clear to me that Marc is an equal opportunity asshole, and I mean that as a compliment. I like people who have great ideas, and I have a high tolerance for abrasiveness, personally. Personal rudeness and cluelessness, i.e. unawareness, uncaring what other people think, is sometimes what forms a person's ability to say or do something loud and unpopular and outrageous, and that is a valuable skill. (I know, because that is totally me all over.)

But, Marc did seem to approach us (when at all interacting) with the attitude we were there to hear him, and him not us. That made a lot of people... a range from mad, appalled, pitying, embarrassed for him. Perhaps he would apologize for not speaking to George's friendly greeting when he was a guest in George's home. I don't think he realized how he was coming off; such are the ways of asperger-y computer geeks who like machines better, sometimes. Or, perhaps no one does him the favor of calling him on his basic-level bullshit, because he's some kind of super important Dude who founded a company, and people kiss his ass. That happens, and it's always a shame. Marc, are you even reading this? I should email it to you.

Grace, it's like we switched bad cop and good cop! I do respect your drawing of boundaries.

11:50 AM  
Blogger ...e... said...

Kristie, there is so much to read about feminism, it's a whole academic discpline, among other things. I used to work for a women's studies department and that was always my pat response when people asked me: there are so many more people around who can tell you about feminism than me, it just isn't my place to do so. I don't consider myself a feminist because "Feminist" is a particular political/theoretical stance(s), and I am not actively taking those stances, they don't really interest me all that much, so much better to talk with someone who is/does. There are so many other places to be than the pro/anti- dichotomy. So I'm glad you found a place to start at wikipedia.

I don't remember anybody saying women are better than men where I was, but perhaps you're thinking of "simple" as a pejorative term? I don't. I do find I expect to see more reasoned thought from women, it's true, but that's entirely because I do see more of it from them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I expect less from men, and ditto, which always makes any contraindication such a pleasant surprise. And I think that's because women are more practiced in our male-oriented society to have to deal with more than do men, who can get by more transparently, simply, probably because our world is framed by men to begin with. Perhaps Feminists would say that they are concerned with reframing that situation. But at present it's men who are able/allowed to see things in a simpler way, i.e. without all the contradictions women run into every day just co-existing, and so sometimes, quite often, that can make them more blind to contradictions and/of their own actions. They are not forced every minute to be self-reflective--and when forced by circumstance to be so, as we saw a little of at woolfcamp, they can afford to get all resentful, hurt or defensive or outraged by it, or to just ignore it and turn up their own behavior a notch and, in general, it still "works" for them. So things are often simpler for men, but that doesn't mean something like "men are simpler", as in diminished or something! (And of couse, in speaking of "men" I do not refer to individual instances, to any particular "man"-- every man is so much more than a "man" after all.)

As for we should have higher standards for women, that wouldn't be me; i don't think we "should" anything, but we just do. But after 50 years of listening to them babble on unquestioningly about what they so obviously have no clue even exists, it's true I have found myself becoming rapidly more dismissive of men in general in such situations, once they've opened their mouths to reveal that they can only speak to an entirely different subject of their own. Sometimes something relevant comes out, that's true but, I fear, I'm just not always so willing to wade through to get it to anymore, and would rather use the two-foot rule to get to somewhere more productive for me.

As for blogs, I don't remember actually much discussion about particular blogs per se in the workshop; i remember mostly us talking about men/women's perceptions, actually. These kinds of workshops just scratch the surface of so much, don't they?

Anybody else?

11:53 AM  
Blogger Amber said...

Krisitie! This is so great. Thankyou thankyou thankyou for staying in the workshop! I had a fear that it was maybe leaning towards sexism as I noted the poking in and prompt poking out of both Chris and John. I was hoping that it wasn't anything any of the women in the room were saying: meaning that I was hoping the conversation wasn't *offensive* to them and also I was hoping that it wasn't *irrelevent* to them. But you stayed, despite feeling, it seems, a mixture of both of those things. And that's so wonderful.

Wikipedia has nailed the "more" that I was going to offer you after my circular-nod-eyebrow-raise in the podcast/vlogging digression. Here's even some "more" from the _Concise Glossary of Feminist Theory_ (which is 287 pp long!) From the 6-paragraph "Feminism" entry:

Minimally, the term implies the identification of women as systematically oppressed; the belief that GENDER relations are neither inscribed in natural DIFFERENCES between the sexes, nor immutable, and a political commitment to their transformation.

(the all caps words are basically the print version of tagging or linking and indicate whole other entries on those subjects)

So, this definition is closer to what I feel when I say that I am a feminist. For me it is something I have only become brave enough to explore in the past few years. There is, of course, a whole ball of snarled strands of history behind this statement, but the short story is that I came from a standpoint that was very critical of "feminism." I thought it was whiny and victimizing and completely out-dated. I also thought that women were already equal, just because they have always seemed to be in my esteem. Part of that was my own equivocation of rights and potential with real world opportunities. And a frightened unwillingness to confront intimidatingly authoritative inequalities. (Such as the rule against women preachers in general assembly at my parent's church. What was a 10 year old to do?)

And that's just one way that my perspective has shifted by opening up the feminism worm can. I totally identify with your passion for equality. That strong belief in equality on all sides and from every angle (I LOVE how you ended your post!) has constantly been the backdrop of my philosophical wanderings. I had no use for labels of any kind and for any reason until the last few years, when coming out as an individual politically, sexually, academically,... has led me to consider the possibility that definition, difference, and meaning are all unavoidable, and accept the possible consequence that we must be constantly open to defining and (this is the important, revolutionary, and I think humanist-feminist part) RE-defining ourselves and our positions in what is going down around us.

I grew up in an isolationist religious community and don't want any of that for my adult life. I want to mush myself into others out there in lots of ways. ;) I'm just trying to understand that and how to understand how others feel about that.

This is why I'm interested in the intersection of Gender and Genre, two points of identification and line-drawing. The study of this is less about what men and women actually are and how we end up conveying that or not conveying it and how others end up reading it or not reading it. It's really just an endless echo chamber of a topic and, like E wrote, our woolfcamp discussion only scratched the surface. Also, it's all wrapped up in style and coding, like Liz wrote, and in modes of group conduct, like Grace noted.

Given an unlimited time period, one thing I would have driven/diva-ed towards was whether blogging and the special multi-identity forum of the internets can give us a new opportunity to get closer to that ideal equality. If blogging is a forum in which you can be understood (and valued and judged and all that) only by what you present in text and format and style and photos, what sorts of markings do you choose? And why? And what does that mean? Is it a wonderful identity free-for-all? Do our bodies still assert themselves? That's what I was wondering when asking people what is female -or- feminist about their own blogs. The question was not meant to lead the answer, though it probably did. Some, in fact, answered: "nothing, but my name really." And that's great! What an absolutely exciting genre!

But wait...that still makes it a genre, and thus existing with rules, conventions, labels, definitions, and other modes of understanding. And as we started to discuss, there's still a division in blog writing of the tech blog and the personal blog. Some women feel socially pulled towards the latter and find their men in the former. Well, if that's just a tendency (Debbie Notkin's "bell curves"), and maybe we get choose our blogging genres, that's still great!

Another question that enters here is race! That room was filled with women of palor and what's the story on that? The same issue was raised with the women's rights movements of the 1970s. In many groups, race took a backburner while women hashed out their goals for female equality. Black feminism became it's own movement and now there's Womyn of Color and postcolonialism and multi-perspectived discourses.

Obviously we should find some spacetime for more discussion.

One further note: I think E provided a big part of the context in which some of the sexist quotes came out of the discussion. They were merely straw "men" for the discussion (watch out for puns!) and they were never about men in general, but rather about perceived tendencies in so-called "masculine" writing as opposed to what we might tend to see as "female" writing. "Simple" grew out of "direct" as in professional, technical writing.

Also, I can't recall anyone making the "women are better than men" statement. Maybe someone can refresh me on that. (Apologies for my diva-slacking on not calling for a scribe!)

Ok...forcibly cutting off the mic know.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Oh, so much powerful writing, starting with Kristie's brave post and following through in so many ways!

I was in that workshop and I like to think of myself (note disclaimer!) as very alert to the ways women trash men. I didn't really catch it there.

With Amber, I don't remember anyone saying that women are better than men. I do certainly remember e asking if anyone shared her sense of setting higher standards for women; my reading of that question was that she was uncomfortable with this in herself and looking for ways to think about it.

Similarly, the discussion of simplicity that I remember was in discussion of kinds of writing (such as tech writing) and the ways those kinds of writing are (or can be) gendered. Kristie, I'm really sorry that you heard what you heard that way; were you there when I talked about overlapping bell curves, different points of probability, and the "fact" that there's no behavior in men or women that the other (as if there were one other) gender is not capable of? That might have helped frame some of the later material.

I'm an extremely proud feminist, and I'm certainly capable of the mindset which "trashes" men. I also love many men dearly personally, and care a lot about the ways in which men are misused in our culture. I believe that only some form of "feminism," whatever we call it, can identify the core issues that men face, because so many of those issues are tied up with how people are damaged by being one-up, something we don't look at anywhere near as much as how people are damaged by being one-down.

Chris, I believe with my whole heart that you are qualified to speak to the core issues. For me, that's a huge part of being a feminist: the belief that all voices are welcome. The more men learn to speak to feminist issues in women's style, the smoother that will be. And it's important whatever style you speak it in. (I know how to speak to rooms full of men in male style, and keynote essay in Familiar Men was rewritten intensely after working with a variety of men on male diction.)

Grace, is it more important to you that Marc was rude to George than how he behaved with the group as a whole? I'm curious about why that would be.

Amber, you rock!

4:03 PM  
Blogger GraceD said...

Kristie, look at how this conversation is blooming. Sure, there was a thorn or two in my brazen declaration of setting my boundaries, but the thorns are there to protect the roses and I'll stop with all the flowery metaphors right now.

Our Deb asked me: "is it more important to you that Marc was rude to George than how he behaved with the group as a whole? I'm curious about why that would be."

By design of circumstance, it was more important to me that George felt Marc was rude. It was a huge stretch for George to have two dozen new folks in our house. George put his trust in me ("Hey! It's okay! They're ALL BLOGGERS!")and I wanted to acknowledge his trust by making sure he was okay through the weekend. And I'm pleased to say that he was more than fine, he was delighted and enjoyed everyone's company, especially the women.

But I did not want to take one thing for granted, and when George told me the reasons why he didn't want to deal with Marc in our home or in any social setting, I said, you're right and you got it, dollin.

Now, if George didn't have this encounter, I would have passed it off as one big "whatever" provided everyone else in the group was okay. However, if one person had expressed displeasure as vigorously as George did, then the offending person would have been out the door.

Of course this brings up a question like - if such a socially inept person had a real contribution to the conversation but had to be ejected for poor behavior with one person, is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. It's all "open source" and "a case by case" basis.

Finally, just for the record, George self-identifies as a feminist, both as the very proud father of four daughters and the partner to me. He finds feminist models of relating more satisfying and productive then male interactions. He celebrates his own female nature. George, however, is not a fan of Holly Near.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Kristie Wells said...

Wow. Home from work and I open the WoolfCamp blog to find I am surrounded by some amazing, passionate, heartfelt women. Oh. lest I forget - gifted writers too. I am eternally grateful for you all to take the time to help me work through this and appreciate the total openness of the dialogue. This weekend was an emotional awakening for me as no matter what ‘tag’ I do or do not wish to associate with myself, it did make me ask the questions which will hopefully lead me down the path to fulfillment – spiritually, professionally, sexually, personally.

Grace: I do consider myself a humanist, so it is interesting I am so willing to place that ‘tag’ on myself when I was so adamant not to do so with the word ‘feminist’. Maybe it was lack of understanding of the broad definition. Maybe the feminist I have met in the past scared me with their radical ways and were not the sort of folks I wished to play with. Maybe it was a combination of both. My mind is opening, and I feel I have so much to learn…

Liz: As a fellow ‘recovering’ room hijacker (who still has a long way to go), the sexism piece really intrigues me. I do believe it comes down to how people treat each other – there are some amazing men out there who get it, and some women who don’t. I guess the best we can ever hope for is that the majority of the population jumps on the ettique Cluetrain and promotes good will towards all.

I do agree it would be great to have a stronger presence of women in the tech world. Whether or not they need to ‘dominate’ the space is up for question (in my eyes at least) – but yes, I would love to see more women adapt the tools and vocalize their opinions to the world – as long as they were not at the expense of others (man, woman or child). It is odd in the social arena as I attend quite a few social geek gatherings in the Bay Area and men outnumber women by 4 to 1 (at least). When I ask about the significant others – I usually hear the girls don’t like these type of events and choose to stay home. This, I do not believe is sexism. This, I believe is women who are not quite ready to be a part of the techie world, even for something as simple as having a beer with some of her partner’s friends. How can we affect change when a large group of women are not willing to put forth the effort to participate? Crap – thought I was answering questions and now I think I have asked more.

E – your explanation of the "men are simpler" comment does put me to ease a bit as I now understand where you were coming from. There are some differences of opinion, but that is the beauty of an open forum – we don’t all have to agree in order to get along. So, thank you.

Amber – your additions are great. I think you and I come from the same thought process about ‘feminism’ which is why the statements I heard in the room hit me so hard. It is obvious you found yourself much earlier in life than I have – but that does not mean I will not get there eventually. I am still hoping for a world where categories and/or tags ARE avoidable, as I think this does everyone a disservice and opens the door to preconceived notions. Maybe if you redefine many of the definitions, the tags won’t matter as much – but I am nutty in the sense I wish to abolish them all.

Debbie –I read your comments twice and after much thought, I do believe walking into the conversation ½ of the way into it did skew things on my part. The conversation was leaning towards sexism, but hearing the entire discussion might have helped me work through my thoughts faster and saved us all a bit of writers cramp.

As for Chris – I know I am fortunate to be dating a male lesbian (as Grace so poetically called him). This wonderful man, coupled with a quasi gender neutral family has placed a set of blinders on me as I have not (or at least, do not feel like I have not) been exposed to sexism before. Yes, there are tiny bits of it in my workplace – but it really does go both ways (men against women, women against men, but ultimately people against other people), and if I ever thought I was being treated unfairly – I speak up for myself and the issue gets resolved. Well, mostly anyway. Now, wait – there was that one time in band camp…

Again, thank you all for your loving words and insightful additions to this post. I was starting to doubt whether the BlogHer community was for right for me, but I have thankfully found myself immersed in a large group of new friends who have given me a lot to chew on while heightening my awareness of what happens around me. I can’t wait to see what trouble I get in tomorrow.


10:03 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

A couple of belated notes to caboose onto the end of this conversation (thanks to all for doing such a beautiful job of clarifying how our conversation evolved and what we were trying, and in some cases flailing, to say).

1. I think by the time you joined us, Kristie, we were operating very much on the assumption that everybody was on the same page, and we were feeling pretty free about cutting explanatory corners and kind of breezing over certain points that were intrinsic but were being treated as secondary to the statements we were trying urgently to express within the limited remaining time.

I sensed that you were feeling somewhat alienated by the tone of the discussion and I regret that I did not approach you to continue a "hallway discussion" on the spot. So thanks for bringing it up here, the dialogue has been righteous.

2. Cute story:
Early in college, my girlfriends and I were just starting to gain perspective on the patriarchy of the Mormon church (and the nation, and the world). We were struggling to find a concept we could relate to that would straddle the line somewhere between the Help Meet* model to which we had (effectively) been raised to aspire, and the bra-burning politicism to which we were being exposed for the first time in gender studies class.

We came up with an ideal of a heterosexual woman whose partnership with her husband would be a truly equal one, who would be empowered and confident, and would chose a very traditional stay-at-home mom role because she just happened to LIKE it. (This was, of course, before any of us had ever actually been in a relationship or contended with the balance-of-power issues that accompany a breadwinner/homemaker arrangement.) We needed a defining name for our alternative model, so we took to calling ourselves “Femininists.”

3. This good thing:
" Feminists have a vision of women, even women, as individual human beings; and this vision annihilates the system of gender polarity in which men are superior and powerful. This is not a bourgeois notion of individuality; it is not a self-indulgent notion of individuality; it is the recognition that every human being lives a separate life in a separate body and dies alone. In proposing “the individuality of each human soul,” feminists propose that women are not their sex; nor their sex plus some other little thing—a liberal additive of personality, for instance; but that each life—including each woman’s life—must be a person’s own, not predetermined before her birth by totalitarian ideas about her nature and her function, not subject to guardianship by some more powerful class, not determined in the aggregate but worked out by herself, for herself. Frankly, no one much knows what feminists mean; the idea of women not defined by sex and reproduction is anathema or baffling. It is the simplest revolutionary idea ever conceived, and the most despised."

Andrea Dworkin. Right-Wing Women. “The Coming Gynocide.” 1983


5:50 PM  
Blogger Kristie Wells said...

Thanks Emily. I do think if I had been part of the WHOLE discussion - some of my questions would have been answered, but honestly - I think I have just hit the top of the iceberg with regards to this topic. I realized I also need to expose myself to more people unlike me. I thought I had done this as I have a very diverse group of friends, but it seems I have a ways to go to. I guess that is also the beauty of life - you can learn something new everyday if you allow yourself to be open to it.

xoxoxoxo to you all.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Ani Difranco on her new album:

"feminism ain't about equality
it's about reprieve"

That thought has stuck in my head for several months now.

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