February 19, 2006

Stuck on Sexism

It came up in a conversation I've been having that sometimes when people get invested in an issue they begin to see everything in terms of that issue. No news there, I know, but my point is, I felt a little guilty having this conversation because I'm beginning to get that way myself, and we weren't discussing me, we were discussing someone else. So much for let he who is without sin, etc.

How do you tell whether you're merely stuck on a pet issue, or seeing more evidence that your issue's a problem? How do you tell whether you're paranoid, or they're really out to get you? These dividing lines you have to draw for yourself. I try to make sure my lines make sense, not just to me, but to anyone I have to point them out to; but realistically I can't make sure of any such thing. They're my boundaries, and thus subjective. I can't draw a line anywhere in the material world and say, "Here. This is the border," and then produce a copy of the treaty that proves it.

In other words, maybe it's just me. On the off-chance that it isn't, and/or that there are other just-mes out there who will be relieved to have a little company, I keep obstinately mentioning it whenever I run across something I find sexist and stupid, even if being sexist and stupid was not the main point of the thing.

By the way, wouldn't it be nice if "sexist" and "stupid" were nearly synonyms? Or rather, if we could agree that being one implies the other? I think we're mostly clear in this country that treating a person shabbily on the basis of his skin color is stupid, but how many card-carrying sexists have I read described as "intelligent" or "insightful" or "provocative?" Do you realize I live in a country in which John Derbyshire has a job as an opinionmonger? The man loathes just over half that country's population minus, maybe, his wife and daughter. He should be getting paid to bus tables, not to pen odes to the glory of teenaged titties. The part where he does this for an ostensibly family-friendly conservative opinion journal, we will omit as too obvious an irony to be worth mentioning at all.

Oh, look: I've gone and distracted myself from a post about my pet issue with my pet issue. Maybe it's time I took a nice vacation somewhere. Maybe to Florida!

Or maybe not:

I took shelter at a friend's house deep in the Florida Keys. No rain. No chill. Turquoise waters. Long bridges and longer sunsets. A half an hour north from Key West. Fish sandwiches, large flocks of snowy egrets, Tiki bars specializing in Rumrunners with a dark rum float. Hammocks and sunshine. Powerboats and new yachts and boat drinks and running up on plane past Little Palm Island and out into the Gulf Stream with twin Cats putting out a perfect wake.

In a word, "Paradise." Right?

Yes. If you don't track in for the close-up.

Because, as much as the boosters of Florida want you to believe it, Florida is no longer "ready for its close-up." Florida is still pretty from the air and also in the middle-distance. But a close up examination of Florida, in the Keys or elsewhere, is like a close-up of a once beautiful woman that time is beginning to dissolve into age lines, lank hair, and too many calories in too many visible places.

Screeeeeeech! I am so tired of wearing out my mental brakes this way but I can't help it. O conservapundits: Why? Why do you go on being so obstinately, painfully stupid? Why do you never look in the mirror and observe what 30 or 40 or 50 years on this earth have done to your own appearances? The paunches, the fleeing hairlines, the JOWLS--why? Why reach for this tired, stale-bread simile about how The Most Tragic Thing in the World is A Woman Who Used to be Highly Fuckable but Alas, Now Isn't? Really, is that truly the saddest thing? The most haunting thing? Is this the best you can do?

I have to conclude either that it is--because it keeps happening--or that I am obsessive--because I keep seeing it happen. You see what I mean? About the lines?

Anyway, this is why I don't read much conservative politics anymore. That includes about the war. That includes about the crazy Muslims upset about the cartoons. Objectively, I think I should care about these things, because any group that will fly planes into buildings is somewhere way out beyond the point of caring whether they kill mostly men or mostly women; but listen, you try getting through an entire piece in which your demographic is demeaned and belittled so casually throughout that it's not even remarked upon anymore, except by a few obsessed crazies like myself, who are promptly told to quit framing everything in terms of that issue. Take a vacation! And knock it off with the group identity politics that are slowly poisoning our proud democratic beacon o' freedom.

Here is why I'm so over the Group Identity Politics are Anti-Individual argument, by the way:

1. Women and minorities did not self-select into groups. They were put there.

2. By white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men, primarily.

3. Who took great pains to specify what women and minorities were and were not permitted to do.

4. In this, our great freedom-lovin' nation.

5. Apparently groups are Good when people in power are permitted to sort others into them, apply all the labels, and make all the rules; but Bad when those so sorted, labeled, and governed catch on to the way the game is played and start remembering little ideas like, "strength in numbers."

I do indeed respect the autonomy of the individual. On the other hand, I'm sure, going back to the very founding of the nation, there were individual women who thought they ought to have the vote. I'm sure there were many individual slaves who thought slavery sucked. I'm sure there many individual children who didn't enjoy factory work--but women's suffrage, slave emancipation, and the end of child labor were not achieved by an individual. Sometimes to get things done you do, unfortunately, need to work in groups. I say that as someone who hates group-work.

And now let us talk of more pleasant things! Like that this is probably the only update I'll have for awhile, because in roughly three hours I will be Dealing with My Boyfriend's Parents, who'll be here for about a week. They are very very religious, my boyfriend's parents. You're all to swear to them that my boyfriend has been sleeping on the couch every night if they ask you, okay? Come on, it's the least you can do for me. Have I ever hit you up for Paypal donations? Do I post an Amazon wish list? Right, then. Help a sister out.

(American Digest link via who else, Andrea Harris, whose reading comprehension is not obscured by abhorrence of sexist simile like mine is, i.e., she can keep her eye on the ball long enough to grasp the man's point, which I gather is that Florida sucks. Anyway, see her post; it's better than this one.)

Posted by Ilyka at February 19, 2006 11:43 AM in i don't know you tell me

Is it really a surprise that someone who is shocked that a place he apparently only knew about from tourist brochures should be a real place with problems instead of some sort of paradise should also have unrealistic expectations of what a woman should look like in order to be considered completely viable? People with sexist notions, I have observed, don't tend to have very original ideas about anything else. This cuts across the political board, by the way -- the liberals playing the woman-as-perpetual-victim are just another variation of the age-old women-are-the-weaker-sex game. At least conservatives bloviating about those wicked feminazis are paying those women the compliment of considering them dangerous adversaries. I'd prefer that to the "you poor thing, you've been oppressed!" pat on the head too many "feminist" liberals give to women.

I'm also afraid I have to say that yes, I'd rather live in a country where someone like John Derbyshire is an opinion monger. As opposed to a country where he'd be locked up or otherwise forbidden to spout off. This doesn't mean I'm a fan -- I've agreed with a few of his views, disagreed with more, and dismissed even more as just plain weird. But I don't have to fuck him or read him, so he can let his freak flag fly whenever and wherever he wants as far as I am concerned.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 19, 2006 04:39 PM

How can someone who disdains ZPG quote with approval an anti-development lament? Consistency in the hobgoblin of small minds, I guess. Ilyka is large, and she contains multitudes.

I'm a fan. Sorry to come off as a critic.

Posted by: Malcolm Kirkpatrick at February 20, 2006 06:56 AM

Well, the only picture of the BF I can recall has him stretched out over the couch...

Posted by: Craig R. at February 20, 2006 09:23 PM

I am tired, depressed, and confused. What'm I quoting with approval here? I thought I was picking on one throwaway remark in Vanderleun's anti-Florida thing. I literally didn't read beyond that, though, because I'm a spaz and a hothead. If the rest of it's anti-development (and I'll gladly take your word for it that it is), then it seems to me Vanderleun has the inconsistency problem, because I've always understood him to be a pro-growth conservative.

But keep in mind I read American Digest maybe twice a year and, as hinted above, not real thoroughly even then. Gerald's a little too on the stuffy side to engage my ever-drifting attent--OH LOOK, BEER!

Posted by: ilyka at February 20, 2006 09:39 PM

Aw, quit kicking yourself. That's such a woman thing! ;-)


Posted by: Beth at February 21, 2006 03:57 PM

I must say I puzzled over Malcolm's comment too. I didn't see anyone quoting anyone with approval.

As for Venderleun's surprising anti-growth attitude towards Florida, I've seen that come from so-called pro-growth people before when it comes to my state. They usually seem to live in gray, industrialized burgs up north, or (like Vanderleun) places that are overrun by hippy freaks where it rains all the time. They come to Florida and the combo of "tropical" (actually subtropical to temperate) weather and paved roads strikes them as somehow incongruous. People still think of Florida as a vacation state where you go to "get away" from the rest of humanity. The fact that there are people who live here year round -- and so many of them! -- is some sort of shock.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 22, 2006 05:25 AM


Ilyka's main point is sound: the once-beautiful-woman metaphor is shop-worn, like a once beau...uh, well. She leads into it with "Maybe not"...and proceeds to quote someone to the effect that Florida might not be the paradise refugees from Chicago or where ever envision. That's the "quote with approval" part.

On anti-development conservatives: some people accept that you can't conserve everything. If you see the world headed toward a precipice, you cannot simultaneously maintain speed, direction, and the shape of your world.

God's Grandeur (G. M. Hopkins)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Posted by: Malcolm Kirkpatrick at February 22, 2006 06:21 AM

You still aren't making yourself clear. Both I and Vanderleun, in our own way, stated that Florida was not a paradise. The difference between our posts is he seems to have expected one, and I pointed out that this is his folly, not Florida's. I do believe that Ilyka was quoting me with approval, and I am neither anti-development nor "ZPG" which I guess means "zero population growth." People are welcome to come to my state all they like; what I really object to is the hypocrisy of complaining about the fact that Florida is a real place not a plastic Disneyland, as well as exaggerating the problems we do have and making omniscient pronouncements of our doom.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 22, 2006 04:22 PM

Perhaps the metaphor is a bit shop worn but only because the reality from which it is drawn continues to be true. Sexist or not it is something drawn from direct observation of the world dimensional and I make no apologies for it. I would suggest, however, as Ilyka herself indicates in the thread, that allowing mental constructs like "sexism" to jerk the knee is usually a sign that one's collection of mental constructs needs to be taken out for a spring cleaning.

I'd like to promise to be a good and sensitive male and to think twice, thrice, many, many times before committing a potentially sexist, racist, homophobic metaphor felony, but I find it just tends to angry up the blood. It is also a tendency that leads to extensive self-censorship which is the enemy of thought, writing and discourse.

Should you wish to see its' monument you need only look about the vast and shabby cathedral of our national discourse today.

Still I am flattered that an off hand but accurate metaphor, however tatterdemalion it may be, initiated such an interesting discussion. I'll only say that I have a greater experience with Florida than my post may have indicated and draw some of my observations from friends and associates that have lived there for decades.

Perhaps I should have been clearer but since my method on my page is "First Draft Final Draft" it would be hard to do that.

Finally, I wish somebody would invite me to these conversations so I don't have to find out about them third-link.

Posted by: Vanderleun at March 3, 2006 03:57 PM

BTW Ilyka -- it is G E R A R D and not (shudder) "Gerald." And I'm really going to have to do something about this conservative and stuffy impression. I am, like you and Whitman whose portrait graces my front porch, large and contain multitudes.

Posted by: Vanderleun at March 3, 2006 04:01 PM