Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Taking Back the Blogosphere

I want to participate in this blogswarm not because I've experienced online harassment (though I did have one troll, and he's male)--hell, I've barely experienced online anything-- but because when I read about Kathy Sierra and I see the nasty posts on Feministing, HuffPo and elsewhere, I identify so quickly with the writer's experiece that's it's almost a physical sensation.

Unlike many women, I found my voice early and it only faltered later. I remember being called a feminazi and teased by several boys in my fourth grade class, because I thought Gloria Steinem was cool when she visited and I said so.

I remember, with considerable pain, the middle school years, when I raised my hand, leaned forward over my desk, and shamelessly blurted out answers to questions teachers posed, unaware that I wasn't being ladylike. When I did realize it, because of a look or a remark, I remember feeling humiliated, but also angry. Why should I be punished for being myself? For acting the way any guy might?

My sense of not being different came from being raised side by side with a boy and treated equally by my parents. Sure, I played with She-Ra and he played with He-man, but more often than that we threw all the action dolls together and imposed a joint narrative, replete with romance and fighting for all.

But when I entered the socialized world of school, I began to get punished--and punish myself-- for not conforming to my designated role. It was less that I was a feminist and more that I wasn't feminine. I couldn't giggle or flirt to save my life. I didn't know how to assume the new persona of the coy teenage girl. But I did know how to memorize poems and spit them back, and how to argue passionately for choice, affirmative action, and all the issues that bugged me back then and still do. And I had several friends who did the same. The result was that, through blatant comments or simply ignoring us, for desexualizing us or hyper-sexualizing us, many guys and girls at school did their darndest to silence us. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.

I remember the unfathomable rage the senior guys had for my group of girlfriends when serveral of us dared complain that they were videotaping a truth and dare game with the freshman girls on our debate trip bus for all to see and hear. The idea that their male privilege, their right to treat younger women like property, was somehow threatened was quite possibly the worst thing that had ever happened to them. Ever. They completely lost it.

The point of my little personal history of gender-woe is that this is the fate that meets all women who dare break out of their roles, by caring in an indecorous manner about political or work-related issues, or (god forbid!) not tweezing our eyebrows. Many of us try to minimize our threat to the status quo. We do the latter (tweeze, pluck, poke, squeese) so we can do the former (argue, advocate, work) with more impunity, but it doesn't succeed. The manicured type (Pelosi or Kathy Sierra) get called "soft" or turned into sexual objects. Those who don't shave or primp or conform (Friedan, Clinton) are easily dismissed into the "she's that way cause she's ugly" mannish category. We're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

It's fucking tiring. I actually feel less confident in my righteous indignation than I used to because after ten years of being a token feminist at my various elite schools, I got so fried I checked out for a while. So in that sense, all the patriarchal efforts worked.

But there's nothing like reading the way commenters treat female bloggers--my new heroines--to get me all riled up again.

So yeah. Take back the blog. And take back our voices.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it would seem society as a whole just want women to shut up (period) and stay home. This frustrates me so very much AND I'M MALE! I can't imagine what it's like to have this cruel nonsense force fed to you growing up. But then I have a 2 year old daughter so I guess I'm going to watch this happen to her as she gets older *shudder*

    Women like you are my new heroines, by the way. Please keep it up. My little girl is going to need as many strong female role models as she can get :)