Well Chris Trotter is certainly determined to make a splash in the little muddy pool that is the NZ political blogosphere. He's been kicking around in the shallow end for less than a fortnight, and he's already attacked Frogblog for the Greens decision to consult their membership before they decided which way to vote on the ETS, suggested Idiot/Savant is mentally ill for daring to disagree with some of his posts, and now willfully misrepresented the views of the bloggers here at The Hand Mirror because the ex-expat called him on his bizarre use of the term "the political equivalent of gang-rape" to describe what's happening to Winston Peters.
A cynical person might think this was a strategy to get his new blog noticed, and guarantee it some Kiwiblog-driven traffic, as we all know David Farrar will pretty much always cover any perceived disagreement in the red corner. I look forward to Mr Trotter turning his searching torchlight on the bloggers of the right, rather than just irritatingly shining it in the eyes of those who might be his allies in an environment dominated by his enemies.
And when it comes to The Hand Mirror Trotter's flashlight seems to be on the blink. He's created a really quite remarkable Straw Feminist which he then criticises soundly. And I'd probably agree with a lot of his criticisms too, if they applied to any feminist blog that existed outside of his imagination.
Let's take them in turn:
1. That we are third-wave feminists who "take for granted the achievements of the women and men who came before them (somehow assuming that these were won without the expenditure of huge amounts of emotional and material resources) and then skip merrily forward..."
I'm not sure all of the bloggers here would identify as third-wave, but that's up to individuals to nay say or otherwise. For myself I'm don't know enough about the intricacies of third-wave versus second-wave to know for sure where I fit, but I feel like I fall between the two. Second and a half perhaps?
As for taking the hard work of our foremothers and -fathers for granted, perhaps Trotter is not familiar with the Friday Feminist series that Deborah produces, which often highlights the thoughts of feminists who came before, or maybe he missed Maia's post about how we got the abortion law we have now,* or my witterings about the role my father played in making me the feminist I am today. Maybe we could write more about how we got to here and now, maybe we will in the future, but it's a pretty long bow to draw to claim that we take the advances that have already been made for granted and that we all ignore the sacrifices and struggle that have got women this far. Yes there are women out there who do, but I haven't seen any of them around here.
2. That we "have contributed next to nothing to the cause"
Really? Well given that most of our writers used pseudonyms (or don't reveal their full names) I guess Trotter must have an amazing ability to see through those and know with a high level of precision the activist history, or lack thereof, of each one of us.
Amongst our number are women who have stood for Parliament for centre-left parties, who have occupied a radio station to oppose a sexist advertising campaign, who work with other lefites to build links amongst the left through events like Drinking Liberally, who have organised Reclaim the Night marches, who speak up when confronted with the everyday denigration of women (and support men who do so too), who have defended women's institutions such as Women's Rights Officers and women's networks within political parties, who have raised our children to ignore stereotypes based on gender, who have campaigned in support of Louise Nicholas, who have voiced their opposition to advertising which perpetuates rape myths, who work actively within the union movement to improve the lot of women workers, and who have seen the sexist attitudes within the NZ political blogosphere and decided to start an explicitly feminist team blog to start to change that. All that and occasionally one of us manages to be coffee-spitting-all-over-the-computer-screen funny too.
Probably a drop in the bucket in terms of the generations and generations of those who have fought and struggled for the rights of women, but that's what a movement is about - the efforts of many many individuals, over time, working for a common cause, and slowly wearing down the bedrock of sexism in our society. I feel pretty secure that the women blogging at The Hand Mirror are taking their turns with the pick-axes on a regular basis, in a variety of ways of their choosing.
3. That we pronounce "upon the actions of women and men who still have the courage to put themsleves [sic] out there in the political battlefield."
So are we not on that battlefield too? Typing should not be mistaken for activism, if that is what Trotter is getting at here, but given that his main contribution to the cause of the Left is to produce columns and comment on television and radio, perhaps he should look in the mirror (boom boom) before casting around too much with that one. And re-read my second point above.
4. That we claim gang-rape doesn't happen, and/or that it doesn't happen to men.
Where did that one come from? We've written rather a lot about rape here, and I'm yet to see one of our writers express the view that it only happens to XXers, or that it's always a one-on-one occurence.
5. That we reckon it's inappropriate to refer to rape or ever use it as a metaphor, and that any man who uses it thus is doing so in a jovial manner.
The ex-expat wrote recently about why Trotter's use was inappropriate, and I understand she intends to revisit that in the near future. So I'm going to tap this one in her direction, seeing as how she's doing such a good job already. And lazily link, again, to our category about rape. If we didn't think it should be talked about why would we have a whole category about it (37 posts and counting)?
6. Something about being so bereft of compassion and understanding that we couldn't recognise anyone other than a woman as being the victim of attack. (I think that's what Trotter was trying to say, it didn't quite make sense.)
Yes that's right, the ol' Straw Feminist argument that because we write primarily about the difficulties women face we don't give a fig for men (or in this case Winston Peters). Because to write about one thing is to indicate that you don't care at all about anything else but that one thing. I'm sure someone who has studied logic can tell me the flash latin name for that kind of ridiculous argument.
I'll just note for Mr Trotter, who does admit he is rather new to blogging (as indicated by his initial failure to link to the blog post here that he was criticising, and his outing of jafapete), that bloggers will write about what they will write about. Certainly all of us here do our blogging in our spare time, and receive not a cent for it. So if we don't write about something it doesn't mean we don't care, it usually means we didn't have time. Oh and lookie here and here, where Anjum and Anna McM engage in a meaningful blog-discussion about bullying which isn't just about women at all. Or over here where I lamented the absence of fathers from Craig Foss' sexist comments about child-rearing. I'm sure I could dredge up more examples, perhaps my co-bloggers might like to chime in with such? If they choose to prioritise that over other things that are infinitely more important of course.
Trotter labels us "faux feminists" so I'd like to ask him: what do you think a feminist looks like?
If we are not fitting your stereotype of feminism then perhaps you need to re-think your ideas, because The Hand Mirror is mostly definitely what a feminist blogs like. Feminism is a broad church, especially these days, and as Deborah has pointed out to Trotter in his comments, we don't all agree on everything here. What brings us together is a belief that women should be able to make their own decisions, and that we still don't have a society that allows that as often as we would like.
As mentioned above, the Ex-Expat is going to (further) address whether "the political equivalent of gang-rape" is the best or indeed the only way to describe the current swirl of political and media attention around Peters, so I'll leave that to her capable fingers to tip tap type some time soon. Update: I see that she has now written an excellent comment at Trotter's own blog to that effect.
In closing I'd note that although Trotter was provided with links (by moi, here) to the discussion at Public Address about the inappropriateness of his gang-rape analogy**, which was initiated by Russell Brown's criticism of the metaphor, he chose to ignore the men who have expressed concern with his choice of language and reserve his boot for us. Given that Trotter is well known on the Left for being highly critical of identity politics, and the rise of networks for women, Maori, and other marginalised groups within left political organisations, I suppose I shouldn't have been all that surprised.
* Hmmm, maybe he did see it, given that Maia criticises him (and The Standard) for using the abortion debate to try to portray National as evil and Labour as good, when it's much more nuanced than that.
** And especial big-ups to Craig, and also PaulL, for taking on Mr Trotter where he lives, as well as at PA System, and to muerk for voicing her concerns also.