Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Is this what feminists look like?

There's this awesome new project The Wellington Young Feminists' Collective. I'm super excited about it, but don't quite know how to orient myself towards it.

Because in about one in every twenty things they post makes me want to have a massive city wide discussion about what feminism means. Here's the latest:

Hey ladies, here is a shop I discovered in Berhampore today which is FANTASTIC. Lovely handmade, locally designed ladies clothes and jewelry. And they fit ladies with big boobs, which is rarer than it should be. Yay for awesome local businesses! x


That was posted on Saturday, and about every four hours since I've gone backwards and forwards about responding to it, and how I should respond to it. Which maybe has a little bit to do with the fact that I've been travelling alone and the alternative was walking in the rain to Pak 'n' Save to discvoer they don't stock Whittakers Dark Almond Chocolate. But it's also because feminism is really important to me and things which I would normally just be 'eh' about really agitate me when they're done in the name of feminism. On the other hand I know it's very easy for me (particularly in full rant mode) to come on very strong. In this case I want to start a discussion, rather than just rant about why am I right and everyone else is wrong (which to be honest which is what I want a lot of the time), but I don't know that I've got that setting. So far I've stayed silent (and started an argument about Seasame St on facebook to make myself feel better).

But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was an important feminist principle at stake that I wanted to try and articulate. I think (and maybe the admins of the Young Feminist Collective will disagree) that posting anything to a feed of a feminist group is to promote that post as a feminist act. I have three main objections to that in this particular case:

1. Cutting for some body shapes (like a large bust) will make clothes fit some body types better, but other body types worse. Clothes shops sell a hole that your body should fit into. And promoting any particular sized or shaped hole is problematic from a feminist perspective.

2. Promoting clothes shops that only sell straight sizes in a feminist space is exclusionary. But actually what I find even more offensive, is that nowhere on Emma's website does it mention what sizes she stocks. So people have to go out to Berhampore to learn they're not welcome to buy her clothes. By looking at another website that sold her stuff, I was able to discover that she has a very few 16s, a few more Ls which is 14-16, and some styles which have 14 as their largest size (and a lot of her clothes don't come in an 8 either). Fine different shops stock different ranges of sizes. But to not specify what body types you sell for, to act as if they really limited range which you do stock covers everyone is perpetuating particularly damaging ideas about women's bodies.

3. And then there's the capitalism issue. Because actually no I don't support locally owned businesses, even the supposedly awesome ones. The idea that local businesses are any better than larger ones is not an evidence based assertion. While I know nothing about Emma, I do know a reasonable amount about the New Zealand clothing industry - and the way clothes are produced in New Zealand is absolutely the opposite of everything I think feminism stands for.

I'm not dissing clothes shopping - I understand that clothes shopping can be awesome for some women at some times(my question of the moment is how many LucieLu dresses with zips up the front do I need - and the answer is ALL OF THEM). What I object to as promoting clothes shopping (particularly at a specific shop) as something that is going to appeal to a group of women who have nothing in common other than they're young feminists.

Feminism isn't a particular aesthetic or lifestyle or survival strategies. We're not all the same, we don't all like cupcakes, knitting, cute dresses, cool accessories, moon-cups, op-shops, roller-derby, Joss Whedon, gardening, and bicycles.

There's a reason I didn't post all my Dollhouse reviews to the Hand Mirror, and partly that's because of spoilers, but it's also because the Hand Mirror isn't just my playground the way my blog is. The Hand Mirror is a group feminist blog, and the only one (that I know of) in the country. What I do in The Hand Mirror, more than what I do anywhere else, is done in the name of feminism and that comes with it a certain responsibility.

To me a core part of that responsibility is to never suggest that liking the things I happen to like is part of being feminist. Feminism is an ideology not an aesthetic. Feminism should be about massively different people coming together with ideas in common.

88 comments:

Lisa said...

I think this post is really problematic and at times, incredibly patronizing. The group looks like it is fairly new, and perhaps needs more support and direction. If the case is that the page needs more diversity then I don't see how you are blocked from being able to do this, as it's on FB right? if you are a member you can add links and some of your previous blog posts that you think might be a good read for members. It would be a different scenario if say, this was a magazine publishing. It seems as though you want to tear down this group before it even knows what it is about. All feminist interests are valid, and because you aren't catered for right now is not a reason to belittle others, it's a reason to contribute more and initiate more dialogue...I don't think this is the way to do it. Capitalism and feminism is a very important issue. I just think you would have perhaps gained more, (and the group would have gained more) if you discussed this on the site rather than bagging on a local woman's business. I usually enjoy you posts, not this time.

Ally said...

Hi! Thank you for writing this post! I think you make some of the points you make are good and I think that this could be a really excellent way to start discussing the potential of the Collective. It has also been really timely for me as I've been considering my own place in the WYFC and thinking about whether it is inevitable that feminism becomes diluted in larger groups. I know that the WYFC is operating to be a social group, and also a place to share knowledge, both of which are acts which (to me, at least) are feminist in principle. Is it possible to have a group of over 200 self identified feminists and for there to be cohesive, strident stances on things? Is it possible for there to be multiple administrators sharing links/experiences under the guise of 'Wellington feminism' and for these not to grate on/exclude different types of feminists or feminists at different stages of their journey? These are just things I have been thinking about in relation to my own involvement, but if women are getting together and sharing knowledge, and one of those things happens to be lovely clothes and lovely shops, and to them this happens to be a feminist act, does anyone have the right to tell them it isn't? If WYFC feminists are sharing information about products, will this always alienate socialist/Marxist/anti-capitalist feminists? Or do those socialist/Marxist/anti-capitalist feminists have every opportunity to be able to debate with them/share knowledge about their own cause? Is it an amazing enough thing in itself that 200+ young feminists want to get together and socialise (and use a Facebook page as a communicative tool) and are then able to offer help/promotion/support to smaller and more specific feminist groups or activities, like turning up in force at an ALARANZ protest for example? I personally would have liked if the post about Emma's had been clearer about plus sizes too, but I attributed this to how my own feminism is pretty linked to fat acceptance, but I also don't expect that from a more mainstream group/approach. I encourage you to post links/quotes/arguments on the page because the group really is in fledgling stages, and I think the Collective really is in a place that it could potentially be whatever the feminists of Wellington want it to be. Right now, I don't know quite what I want it to be or which ways I am going to be able to contribute, but there is heaps of potential there.

Anonymous said...

I usually enjoy your posts too, but I found this one a little bit icky.

It took a long time for me to identify with feminism. In my experience, I think one of th things that can be so alienating about it for young women is being told how they should think about particular issues by SOME feminists, be it about shopping, eating, sex work, pornography or whatever. I still find it quite alienating at times as some feminists can be a bit aggressive if you don't share their views (although I know this is true about all sorts of people). I think though as feminists we can question, but should avoid silencing women just because we don't identify with what they have to say.

I'm sure this isn't what you were meaning in your post, but it could be taken that way so thought I'd share my own reaction to your post. Maybe you could just put a comment or even start a discussion on the Facebook page. It could lead to an interesting debate.

CHeers,

L

Maia said...

Lisa - I was expecting this response and I think it's a problem. You accuse me of tearing people down - where? What about wanting to have a discussion about the meaning of describing particular? When the smallest disagreement gets treated as if it is a personal attack it becomes impossible to have a discussion.

You also appear to have misunderstood my argument. I'm not arguing for 'diversity' or asking WYFC feed to meet my need by posing one Joss Whedon link for every straight sized clothes shop posted. What I'm arguing is that the only thing people have liked their page have indicated is that they're feminists. Therefore material presented on the feed should be explicitly feminist. To do otherwise, and assume that just because someone is a feminist they're also going to be interested in X (whether X is Joss whedon or a particular clothes shop) is really fucking alienating.

Ally - Thanks for your response. I think your point about whether things become diluted in a large group is an interesting one. Although I think presenting a wide range of views is actually the WYFC feeds strengths.

But I'm really not calling for cohesive strident stances. I don't think there is a single unified feminist position on 'Emma'. The point I was making was a slightly more subtle one - which is by posting this link in this way someone was suggesting that there was a feminist interest in 'Emma' without articulating what that interest was.

"if women are getting together and sharing knowledge, and one of those things happens to be lovely clothes and lovely shops, and to them this happens to be a feminist act, does anyone have the right to tell them it isn't"

I think to me ultimately the answer to this question is 'yes'. If we can't have discussions about what it means, feminism becomes quite literally meaning-less.

But in this particular case, I would have been much less bothered if the connection between feminism and the shop had been articulated. If the post had been explicit it would have been: "this is why I think posting lovely clothes is feminist." That would have been less alienating. As it was it came over to me, "Hey our members are going to like this, because they're feminists and feminists like clothes shops of a very particular aesthetic and limited sizing."

I think the question of how to share knowledge about products is an important one. The question to me isn't so much how to avoid alienating those of us who are likely to go RAH ANTI-CAPITALIST SMASH. We're used to it.

The question is how to promote products without alienating those who can't/don't want to use those products. Particularly those who can't access them because they have less structural power (fat and disability being the obvious ones when it comes to clothes shops and moon-cups and class always being an issue). But also just acknowledge that we've got nothing in common but a political ideology, and that means and therefore the products that we're interested in are going to differ widely.

Without careful framing promoting particular products is universalising. So to me, "What are your favourite clothes shops in Wellington here's mine" (ideally with an indicator that it's a straight sized store and a request that others do the same) is a way to do that kind of knowledge serving without the universalising.

Maia said...

L - I'm sorry that this post made you feel icky. The original post up the WYFC made me feel icky and alienated and I'm not the only one.

I find your desire not to silence anyone confusing. I think it's important to silence women 'pro-life' protesters harrassing women having abortion. I think it's important to silence women who want to police what women eat. I think it's important to silence women victim blaming. The idea that we should never silence women is not consistent with feminist analysis, to me. Believe me if they had had instructions about what size a woman should be (which isn't unheard of in Wellington feminist material unfortunately). I would want to silence that and I would have been a hell of a lot meaner.

But this is not me being silencing. This is me trying to start a discussion. To respond to any critical discussion with a request not to be silencing, seems to me contradictory (as it is of course asking those who raised criticism to be silent).

I wasn't telling people what to think about shopping. I really clearly didn't tell people what to think about shopping.

There is a huge difference between saying "This is what you should think about shopping" and "These are the implications of promoting shopping at a particular shop as a feminist act"

But I will defend the importance having feminist discussions (which don't in my mind include shopping, but sure as hell include sex work. I wrote a long post to Sandra Coney about why she was anti-feminist in supporting the - and I'd do that again).

Everyone - I did post this as a link on the WYFC page, in order to start debate. So it's not an either or situation

Coley said...

Hi, I’m Coley and I started the Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective. I have some issues with this post, due to you stating that “Feminism should be about massively different people coming together with ideas in common” but using your individual preferences and politics to critique another.

I think it’s really important to remember that in a Collective social group of over 200 members, where everyone is free to post, that not everything has to appeal; be relevant to; or be agreed apon by the rest. One of the strengths of such a large group is diversity.

Members who are anti-capitalist are welcome to post, members who feel that knitting and rollerderby are intrinsically linked to their personal understanding of feminism are welcome to post, and members who are a size 14 and struggle to find clothes they like which fit their body shape and want to tell people about a local shop they found are welcome to post.

If, indeed, “Feminism should be about massively different people coming together with ideas in common.” then posts expressing opinions which may not be agreed with by everyone need to not be cut down as “promoting” something unfeminist, or being “exclusionary”. Linking to a new shop which some members may or may not find relevant to them, is exactly that. People interperet and express their feminism in different ways, and it is not for you to decide that your method of viewing it as unreconcilable with an aesthetic should be everyone else’s view.

What concerns me about posts like these is that they do not promote discussion so much as give the view that even when a group like this has so much in common, there is a destructive undercurrent of needing to have everything in common, or agree on every post that touches our wall. I also vehimently disagree with your point that everything which goes on our page needs to be explicitly feminist or explained how it is linked to feminism. I feel that women sharing knowledge, interests, opinions and just being in the same space as each other is inherrently feminist.

I want all members to feel that they can post something they feel is feminist (or just interesting) and other women and men might also find interesting (like finding a new shop). I want them not to be afraid that someone will come at them with a marxist critique of anti-aesthetic ideology and an accusation of body-shaming. I also want to welcome opposing views, but not views which seek to slam others as ‘not the right way to be a feminist’.

Although I have my concerns and personal disagreements with this post, in keeping with the principle that all members should be welcome to post, and we don’t all need to agree, I am pleased that this has got people thinking. And, I am heartened that we have such passionate members.

Cara Marie said...

I can see how it's problematic for a general feminist group to promote a clothing store. And yeah, it should be easy to find out what range of sizes a clothing store stocks.

But how on earth is it unfeminist to mention the clothes suit a particular body type? That's providing relevant information, not promoting one over the other. Clothes that don't accommodate my boobs don't fit me, and cutting for a small bust is just as exclusionary as cutting for a large one.

Anonymous said...

Maia - thanks for clarifying.
The reason I raised these points was because this was what your post made me reflect on. I used to think I couldn't be a feminist because I like looking a certain way and I am interested in certain things. I realise that you were not meaning to tell people what to think about shopping, but It came across to me as a little patronising which was why I responded.

I also think that silencing and challenging ideas can sometimes be quite different processes. I think that sometimes when trying to challenge ideas it is possible to inadvertently silence some people. This in turn may do very little to challenge their ideas, but may make them shut off completely from considering the other point of view being put forward. There is mansplaining and I think there can also be femsplaining at times from my experience.

That's just my reaction to your post. If you were just trying to generate discussion then that sounds like a good idea to me.

L

PS - I wholeheartedly agree with the last sentence of your post.

Not A Feminist said...

Considering how so much of advertising is done with a capitalist anti-women slant, there is a need for people to be able to express positive thoughts in a pro-feminist space about things women may need to buy.

I don't know if that needs to be WYFC, but it sure is refreshing to be advised about a clothing store without having pictures of airbrushed pakeha thin women glaring in our faces, which is the rest of the world.

Maia said...

I'm having to break up my posts because of word limits. I'm still drafting my reply to you Coley.

L - thanks for your response. This is the reason I wrote my post: "I used to think I couldn't be a feminist because I like looking a certain way and I am interested in certain things."

I think this is a real danger - equally the inverse - that women can feel that they can't be a feminist because they don't look a certain way and aren't interested in certain things. And I think the easiest way to avoid that is to make aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion. In order to create an environment where anyone feels like they can be feminist it needs to be as unacceptable to promote a particular way of say dressing as to diss a particular way of dressing.

If I gave you the impression that I was dissing a particular way of being I obviously failed at what I was trying to say.

What I was trying to argue was not against any particular aesthetic, but promoting any one aesthetic as feminist.

Cara-Marie - I wasn't saying that it was anti-feminist to say what shape it is cut for (It's really important information). However, I think it's important to convey that information in a way that acknowledges that it excludes as many people as it includes, rather than simple celebration.

A Nonny moose - no for the air brushed thin Pakeha women you have to go to the website itself. Which is full of them.

Bel said...

Just popping in to respond to this:
While I know nothing about Emma, I do know a reasonable amount about the New Zealand clothing industry - and the way clothes are produced in New Zealand is absolutely the opposite of everything I think feminism stands for.

I have met and interviewed Emma Wallace of Emma and that she makes the clothes in the workroom/showroom on Adelaide Rd. Because of this, she can do tailoring in store. I know this doesn't answer your #2 about straight sizes, but I thought it might be of interest :)

Anonymous said...

"And I think the easiest way to avoid that is to make aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion."

You don't get to choose who and what the WYFC discusses. It's not a Collective if one member decides what people can and can't discuss.

Anonymous said...

Is this a complaint about relevance (or lack thereof)? That is, 'an online group should stay on-topic and posts better suited to a more generalised group should not be made here' sort of thing?

If so, my thoughts are yes, I'd like my online groups to stick to the area it specialised itself in. But I find that groups that enforce that have trouble retaining visitors. I think it's that people don't like joining too many groups. So instead of joining both a Wellington Feminist Group and a more general Wellington Womens Group, say (which would perhaps be more appropriate for a promotion of a Wellington Womens Clothes Shop), they'd join just one. Usually I think the more specialised one perhaps because it acts as a badge of identity on their profile page.

The advantage of having some (but still, relatively few) non relevant topics on a specialised forum I think is that it makes members of that group seem more 'real' to outsiders, and possibly counter to their prejudiced impressions.

Maia said...

Just a quick reminders to anonymous commentators that we require a handle. I will delete any further anonymous commentators.

Coley - I once attended a reunion of feminists from the 1970s as an observer, and part way through the meeting one woman was like "Look how many women are in trousers. Isn't this great. Forty years ago we would have all been in skirts." And afterwards I heard almost every woman who had worn a skirt comment on it, and how shit it had made them feel. That women have won the right to wear trousers is worth celebrating. But it is impossible to celebrate the fact that individual women are wearing trousers without alienating those who don't.

I want to be really clear, because you repeated your misrepresentation several times. I'm not anti-aesthetic - I'm anti feminism being linked with a single aesthetic. I don't think it's anti-trousers to suggest that what that woman did was harmful. It's anti linking feminism with wearing trousers.

In this post you conflate two things I was trying to draw a distinction between. One is feminism as an ideology, and the other is the things that individual feminists like or don't like - they're aesthetic preferences, their lifestyle, their survival strategies. You don't seem to draw any distinction between people's ideology and the way they live their lives: "Members who are anti-capitalist are welcome to post, members who feel that knitting and rollerderby are intrinsically linked to their personal understanding of feminism are welcome to post, and members who are a size 14 and struggle to find clothes they like which fit their body shape and want to tell people about a local shop they found are welcome to post." The first is an ideology, the second two may be an ideology depending on how they are presented, and the last is definately not an ideology.

Like I've said, I do strongly believe that debates and discussions about what feminism is make feminism stronger. I'm a little bit sceptical of people who argue Although I'm a little bit sceptical about people who claim "All feminist interests are valid", "to them this happens to be a feminist act, does anyone have the right to tell them it isn't" or "People interperet and express their feminism in different ways, and it is not for you to decide..."

Because I think a lot of people would agree that posting homophobic, 'pro-life' rape apologist or transphobic material on the WYFC feed would be completely inappropriate. I think a lot of people would agree that telling Naomi Wolf that her arguments aren't feminist is an important defence of what feminism means.

If you genuinely believe there should be no boundaries on feminism, and women have a right to express , then I'll accept that that's your belief (although I'll disagree). But that gives you no ground to criticise Sarah Palin's feminism.

I think what people more usually mean when they say that you don't have a right to impose your vision of feminism on others is not that it's never OK (see Sarah Palin) but that this particular thing should be inside the tent. But rather than making that argument explicitly and responding to what you say they promote an idea that we can't tell other people what feminism means.

I think exclusions from feminism based on ideology is necessary (notice that I said that feminism is about people coming together base don similar ideas, not based on a shared label). However, I think exclusions based on aesthetic, lifestyle, or survival strategy are unnecessary and therefore I oppose them.

I do think that linking to a clothes shop, where the dresses cost several hundred dollars, and are cut in an even more limited range of sizes than glassons without acknowledging any of these facts is unnecessarily exclusionary. And you don't respond to this core point anywhere in what you say

Maia said...

Just a couple more things - sorry I thought that a common from Not a Feminist actually came from A Nonny Mouse. Apologies to both.

And to the first Anonymous - Again that argument leads straight to accepting 'pro-life' material on the WYFC feed. If you're arguing that anything goes on the WYFC even Naomi Wolf's latest bullshit then that's your view. But unless you think that, telling me that it's unacceptable to have a debate about what's acceptable on a feminist feed is ridiculous.

I'm just about to go out and won't respond for several hours. But that's a good thing, because I feel like I'm already getting repetitive.

Coley said...

I agree with Cara Marie when she says "how on earth is it unfeminist to mention the clothes suit a particular body type? That's providing relevant information, not promoting one over the other."

I also think Anon summed up my opinion on taking things off the table perfectly.

I am not going to start ranting about Sarah Palin, but I do think that a group of women who are happy to belong to a group which posts anti-transphobic, fat acceptance and pro life links are unlikely to decide that Sarah Palin is congruous with their version of feminist, nor start discussing things which are commonly accepted to be hurtful and unfeminist.

I think linking to a local, handmade clothing store is neither. I think it is women and men sharing things they find interesting, and I will not endore or be part of any group which takes “aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion.” We will continue to moderate with common sense and engage in discussions around values, with the explicit premise that the WYFC represents many women, with many opinions, and we don’t all have to agree. Hatespeech will never be tolerated, but nor will censorship.

Ally said...

Maia - The debate about how to define feminism is always one that makes me head explode. Hence why my original point of "does anyone have the right to tell them it isn't?" was framed as a question. Because yes, I am of the belief that if you are pro life, you're feminist. And so I think it is really good to be talking about the framing of what the feminism in the WYFC is, but this is still something that I find really hard to think about and process. I think I am still working through the difference between feminism as a label and feminism as an ideology, and how I apply this in my life from day to day. I'm not sure where I stand on your stance of excluding aesthetics/lifestyles yet, but I'm definitely thinking about it.

I think you have also provided valuable feedback for those admins in the group who do like to talk about products to think about acknowledging access to items/products for the wider group as a whole - acknowledging fatness, class, disability etc. When/if I post anything about products (so far I usually just post links and things trying to boost my blatant fatty agenda) I will try and be more careful/aware to do this. That's definitely something immediate I am taking away from your post.

Lisa said...

Maia, I never said it was a personal attack and this isn't a case of 'the smallest disagreements' you are debating the whole construct of a feminist group's Facebook presence and its format, and I disagree with some of the debate that you obviously have every right to pose as a member of the group, and as an identified feminist just as I have the right to rebut it. I think you could have been a lot more sensitive with your wording considering that overall, the fundamental efforts of this group is to gather self-identified feminists together, and this in itself is a good thing. God knows there are enough people in the world that think that the feminist effort is over and done with.

There are plenty of feminist discussions I have read over time that I do not find personal to me and yes, alienate me perhaps, but I certainly do not attack the very basis that the argument exists because it has importance for someone else. You commented to Ally "I don't think there is a single unified feminist position on 'Emma'. The point I was making was a slightly more subtle one - which is by posting this link in this way someone was suggesting that there was a feminist interest in 'Emma' without articulating what that interest was". I personally think if one person considers something to be feminist related, they have every right to post it, just as you do. It is an open forum after all. And if you have issue with sizes not being displayed on their website, or the fact that they sizes are not inclusive of all bodies this could have led to debate on sizeism, fat acceptance, and the clothing industry rather than criticizing the post's very existence. This debate is an interesting one and really important to feminist discussion (at least it is to my feminist discussion and I would probably get more out of that than the link to the store).

Some members of the page would have benefited and I think it is unrealistic to expect every single post to appeal to every single member. I think it is a bit absurd to suggest that posting this link makes the feminist group akin to one single aesthetic or exclusionary, especially considering how new this group is. It seems like the only solution to your issue is that feminist blog individually and the possibilities of gathering together under one umbrella with different specialties and interests is not possible? I find this really disheartening. Or every single post needs to be posted with a disclaimer of who may not be covered.

I agree with you on your comments regarding the problems of ...."All feminist interests are valid", "to them this happens to be a feminist act, does anyone have the right to tell them it isn't" or "People interperet and express their feminism in different ways, and it is not for you to decide..." Because I think a lot of people would agree that posting homophobic, 'pro-life' rape apologist or transphobic material on the WYFC feed would be completely inappropriate. "....

I think this is a really good discussion that should be brought up on its own, and please do because I am fascinated by this. However in this instance, regarding this post, I think homophobia, pro-life, rape apology, and transphobia are miles apart from advertising a self-run clothing business. For one, letting people know that the business exists, that does not cater at all bodies could result in discussion of size discrimination is quite different to posting hate speech, and opinion based on misogyny and religious values.

Ally said...

MAJOR COMMENT EDIT:

I meant "If you're pro-life, you're NOT feminist". Ha.

Lisa said...

Irrelevant but I would really love to read your reviews on Dolls House if you have a link available. And I want to reaffirm that I am really interested in this debate, not attack. Fundamentally I believe the strongest way to keep feminism going is by encouraging discussion which is probably why I really struggle with the what is and is not appropriate to post debate. I think the more the better and if it the topic causes unease the discussion following is just as important. I am thankful that this posting ruffled feathers enough to begin this discussion, and even if we cannot agree appreciate yours and everyone elses time that has been put into it.

Alison said...

I think Maia's post raises an important and worthwhile question, namely how do we avoid, in a consumerist culture, defining a group by the products we buy or don't buy? There are various possible answers to that:
A) don't discuss consumer items ever
B) discuss all products with equal weight and criticism (pretty much impossible to pull off because of the vast range of products available and the impossibility of gathering relevant info on all of them)
C) discuss items with the explicit awareness that not all products are available or appealing or appropriate to everyone in the group, making it clear why they MIGHT be interesting to the group ideology (e.g. the business is owned by a feminist, the products are explicitly feminist, or the product serves a need which may be useful to members of the group who are unable to buy other products because they are a minority in some way, etc).

Maia seems to have a preference for A), but from her post (I hope I'm not off the mark here Maia!) I get the impression that she thinks C) would also have worked - that is, if rather than simply advertising the product, the post had explained that the author knew that small women with big breasts struggle to find clothing and this is a product serving that particular need, but also recognised that the product excludes other group members who don't fit that description.

I think in feminism there is such a history of making certain groups of women invisible within the movement (women of colour, women with disabilities, women who are happily married with children etc). Given that history, I think it's really worth being explicit when an idea or a product or an event is exclusionary, so that it's obvious to those people who are excluded that even though this doesn't apply to them, they are still welcome in the group. It's not arduous, a few words can do this I think, and can go a long way to ensure that an accidental "perfect group member" doesn't get set up.

The suggestion of asking for clothes shops recommendations would have allowed all group members to be represented, but alternatively, a sentence could have been added to say "hey, we know this won't fit all those of you with small breasts, or larger than a size 16 or smaller than an 8. However, as we all know, it's often hard to find fitting clothes when you're anything other than model proportions, so we want to celebrate shops that specialise in clothes for women with a different sort of body shape".

Lisa said...

Thanks Alison ^^ I really appreciate that post, I think you have clarified the issues well.

Coley said...

Alison, good idea - I'm sure myself and the other admins will take that tact in the future.

V said...

I see.
So I shouldn't post about clothing that fits transgender women better around the crotch region, because everyone else reading doesn't have a cock and balls.

V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm a member of the The Wellington Young Feminists' Collective. I suppose I should rephrase that as "I liked this group on Facebook but would like to get more actively involved with the group as it progresses", but I'm a member nonetheless. As a preface to my comment, I identify as a Feminist but I really have little knowledge of feminism as an ideological construct (I haven’t read much Feminist theory etc etc); to me, feminism is entrenched in the belief that women deserve equal and equitable treatment and that we will only achieve those things through collective action. Our beliefs on how to get there may differ, but we’re all ultimately striving towards the same goal. Or so I would hope!

Which really brings me to what I wanted to say in regards to you post: for me, personally, I experienced no issue when one of the administrators wrote a comment in relation to a clothing boutique. Sure, I may not be in the possession of big boobs or even be into the style of clothing that the administrator was advertising through her post, but the fact of the matter is is that some feminists undoubtedly would be and, if that’s the case, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with people posting things that don’t necessarily fit into my definition of what feminism is or isn’t because I think that the movement itself comes down to one woman’s interpretation and how it fits into their world view. I say that within reason: Is Sarah Palin, for example, a Feminist? Not in my definition of what a Feminist is (to me, a Feminist would show solidarity with the pro-choice movement ), but, then again, I’m sure a lot of fellow Feminists probably wouldn’t view me as a Feminist, despite whatever convictions I think I may hold.

So, what I’m getting at is this: Is posting on a clothing store specifically feminist? Well, in a general sense of the term, perhaps not. Is it of interest to some (not all) Feminists? To me, the answer is yes. Personally, I ultilise this group to find out about a variety of topics; both hard hitting national and global feminist news as well as finding out places I may (or may not) be interesting in visiting, protests I could (or could not) choose to attend or, in this instance, Feminist-friendly places I may (or may not) be interested in shopping. It’s my own personal, Wellington-based Jezebel, if you’d like!

I suppose that’s the crux of the issue for me: not to undermine the hard work that I know the admins have put into this collective, but the forum in which we’re arguing about is currently limited to a Facebook Page. A Facebook page. Considering the amount of anti-Feminist crap I have to read on facebook on a daily basis, (seriously, if I see one more sandwich joke on there, I may throw my monitor out the window) I think it’s fantastic that such a collective exists. The thing is, I think that this group is inherently feminist. Sure it might not adhere to people’s interpretations of what is and isn’t feminist, but I like the fact that it has something for everyone. It makes feminism feel more inclusive. And, to me, that's the ultimate goal: to be all-inclusive so that all women can identify, even the teensiest bit, to the Feminist movement, because it saddens me when women my age can't see the relevance of the feminist movement.

Cheers for letting me have a rant.

-Long time reader first time commenter.

Di said...

(As posted on the WYFC page)

Grace,

I've always liked The Hand Mirror banner quote, 'Feminism is the radical notion that women are people', because it encapsulates the idea that feminism is a broad, varied and all-encompassing ideology, founded on a basic premise that women are people. The fact that there is no precise definition of what is or is not a feminist interest or action is fundamental to the idea of feminism; women should be free to think, feel, take interest, ignore, say and, in a modern context, 'post' whatever they want.

However, in my (largely unread, in terms of feminist theory) opinon, there are some 'grund norms' of feminism. If a person spouts homophobic, misogynistic or sexist sentiment, this directly contradicts the feminist grund norms of tolerance, acceptance and equality. These ideas cannot be consistent with feminism -- they offend feminism at the most base level. I would say that many of Sarah Palin's ideas of feminism fall into this category. While I believe feminism IS an all-inclusive ideology, encompassing broad and varied ideas, it does not encompass direct contradictions to the grund norms of feminism.

Something that doesn't offend feminism at the most base level, and doesn't contract a grund norm of feminism? A link to a shop that sells dresses, while expressly acknowledging the lack of stores that cater for ladies with big boobs. It may not be of interest to every feminist, but these people, as feminists, should recognise and understand that the very core of feminism is acceptance and tolerance. To not accept and to not tolerate, unless in contradiction of those very base elements of feminism, is in my opinion itself an un-feminist act.

Caitlin. said...

Women need clothes for warmth, and so they don't get arrested. Because of capitalism women mostly get their clothes from shops.Some women have large breasts. These women have trouble finding clothes which fit them properly because of the bullshit standards of beauty which are propagated by a vast patriarchal paradigm. Here is a link to a shop which sells clothes which will fit them properly, on a site which is dedicated to challenging the vast patriarchal paradigm.

You can make the same argument for very thin women, women with large feet, women with male genitalia etc etc. And I'm sure if any of the WYFC come across some great places which sell these things, posting them on to the page would be a good thing. And would most likely be appreciated by other women having trouble with these things.

Also I love how you make the point that we mustn't impose a type on feminists than proceed to impose a type on feminists.

Di said...

I just realised that my copy-and-pasting meant this post is still addressed to Grace, not Maia. Apologies to both Grace and Maia!

Anonymous said...

But...but.. Caitlin I have to respectfully disagree. Where does she say what a feminist 'type' must be? She just says on a feminist forum posting things that aren't explicitly feminist (or accompanied by an explanation of the feminist link for that person) may alienate people who don't associate their feminism with that thing. What is the type she proscribes?

Margo

Caitlin said...

@Margo - Fair enough, I did an immediate rethink of my phrasing there after I posted it. She's not so much imposing a type on 'feminists' as imposing a type on feminists who care about clothes. The implication that these feminists are all 'cupcake baking' types is fairly strong (also, what's wrong with that?). Additionally, imposing an anti-capitalist ideology on feminists (which is certainly not universal).

It is incredibly exclusionary to suggest that something which is so important to some women (if not many women) should not be discussed on a feminist facebook page. (As the anon comment just above Di's said: A facebook page).

I'm a feminist and I care about clothes. In fact I have a fashion blog. I hate knitting and I prefer muffins to cupcakes. I think pole-dancing is weird and gross but I don't begrudge it to women who find it liberating. I find the suggestion that my love of clothes that I feel good in, and desire to discuss them in a women-friendly space is somehow un-feminist offensive.

Anonymous said...

The question is will Maia apply this standard to THM? Because I've seen quite a few cupcake posts here.

- Beth

Giovanni Tiso said...

You will support Whittakers but not the crafty and wonderful Emma? With anticapitalists like this, who needs bankers.

(Incidentally, right next to Emma's is a woman who makes actual chocolate. Just sayin'.)

Anonymous said...

Ok seriously??? How did her point get so completely missed so constantly? Where does she say liking cupcakes isn't feminist? Her point is that there is no one mold for feminist women...so no one should make assumptions on what they will like.

The rest of the points are related to discussing the ideology that does bind us yadda, yadda but it is getting tiresome to see people claim Maia is assigning tags that she is specifically railing against

Margo

Tamara said...

I'm pretty sure that Maia did not denigrate fashion-loving women, and expressly identified herself as one (even linking to her favourite dresses). For what it's worth, I am leaning towards Maia's analysis, and Alison's interpretation of it. I also think it's a shame if young feminists get too sensitive about criticism and advice from older feminists since there's so much to be learned.

Coley said...

There's heaps to be learned by everyone, which is why I think attempting to prescribe what should or shouldn't be discussed in a feminist context is problematic.

Abby said...

@Tamara - I always start to feel suspicious when anybody decides that anybody is being "too sensitive".

Tui said...

Well, THM does have a cupcake tag.

But I want to quote something Allison said:

"I think in feminism there is such a history of making certain groups of women invisible within the movement (women of colour, women with disabilities, women who are happily married with children etc). Given that history, I think it's really worth being explicit when an idea or a product or an event is exclusionary, so that it's obvious to those people who are excluded that even though this doesn't apply to them, they are still welcome in the group. It's not arduous, a few words can do this I think, and can go a long way to ensure that an accidental "perfect group member" doesn't get set up."

I think this is really worth everyone reading and thinking about. I had a knee-jerk reaction, like "long time reader first time commenter," that "Oh well those clothes probably wouldn't fit me but I wasn't offended." But you know: my opinion isn't the only opinion that counts. How often have you interacted with someone who said "Well, *I* don't think the #winawife competition is sexist!"? (Or, you know, fill in your fave rage moment.) Pretty often, I bet. That's what privilege means: "It didn't bother me, so it's fine." But what Allison points to, the accidental setting-up of the ideal Wellington Young Feminist, who likes local clothing and bakes gluten-free vegan cupcakes and participates in Frocks on Bikes, is maybe a risk. (DISCLAIMER: 2/3 of those things are true for me, clearly I'm 66.6% ideal.) I know that when I'm working nights, and 99% of a group's activities are conducted on Thursday and Friday nights from 7-10pm, it gets effing frustrating. You can't go to anything and then you bump into someone in town and they say "Oh have't seen you at blahblah lately" and you're like, yeah, I still love you, but I have to earn a living ... etc. It's easy to be accidentally exclusionary.

On the other hand, I think what Anon at 12:25 said about this being a discussion basically about The God of On-Topic is, while not completely true, at least a bit true. It's a Facebook page. There is blahblah in a Facebook page. And there *is* a difference between saying "Man, isn't it awesome we're all using mooncups" and "Hey, I found this cheap place to buy mooncups!"

My point, if I have one: Maybe we need to say "So like, I know not everyone likes mooncups, but I really dig mine and there's a cheap place to buy them here!" I don't think we can just cut out discussion of buying shit all together. Although I do broadly see your point about clothes, Maia.

Tania said...

Hi Maia, interesting post.

This may be a touch repetitive but as per your first point, I don't see how one person sharing their experience of clothing and associated difficulties 'promotes' any body shape or size. I think it would be uncharitable to suggest that the initial post 'promoted' large boobs in any way.

The second point is interesting, and as someone who doesn't experience difficulty finding clothes that I fit I experience a lot of privilege on that front. It's a shame Emma doesn't promote her sizes (it's real shit, in fact) but does that make the initial poster responsible? Not sure.

Finally, there are many, many legitimate reasons for being an anti-capitalist feminist/marxist feminist/whatever. Is it exclusionary to post an ostensibly pro-capitalist comment? I personally don't think so given that you followed that up with a sentence about your own personal label of choise. LucieLu don't say anything about the ethics of their clothes production . .

Perhaps the key concern here is that when Coley posted about Emma, she did so under the WYFC name. That's unfortunately a thing about Facey, that as an admin you are immediately posting as 'The Collective'. Thus something that reflects a personal interest in boob friendly clothing can become, to some, 'the WYFC' supports businesses that don't cater for all sizes'. I can see how the second part becomes problematic if this is an issue of particular personal interest. However, knowing that one person made that comment, and that person is entitled to feel great about Emma, would in my mind dilute the sense that WYFC is making arbitrary decisions about what is and isn't important for feminism.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

Cate said...

I also think it's a shame if young feminists get too sensitive about criticism and advice from older feminists since there's so much to be learned.

Actually, I think there's far more than can be learned from the new generation of feminists and from third wave feminism in general. I think a lot of older feminist's attitudes stink, quite frankly, and I've been driven to the brink of mental collapse by their commentaries as a member of one of the minorities of women that they love to attack, denigrate, dehumanise and marginalise.
I think the 'older feminists' should maybe re-examine their positions and views and upgrade themselves to 2011 instead of insisting that the newer generation is 'too thenthitive'.

And as to that statement, go fuck yourself. I bet you wouldn't last a day in my shoes.

Anonymous said...

Tamara:
'I also think it's a shame if young feminists get too sensitive about criticism and advice from older feminists since there's so much to be learned'

The other side of this is that older feminists can learn from 'young' feminists about what issues are important to them and what they feel is relevant in their lives. And these issues and interests will be varied since there is no atypical 'young feminist'.

L

ideologicallyimpure said...

The major thing that irks me about this post is the continued reference to "ONE aesthetic" or "promoting a PARTICULAR size".

It's one post, on the wall of a fairly active Facebook page, about one type of body shape (and a body shape that like almost every other one has problems with mainstream "fashion" options).

If there were twelve posts all in a row lamenting the problems of being a size 12 with a huge rack then sure, we might have a problem of focusing on one set of experiences to the exclusion of others. And if a week went past when the only posts to the page were fashionable-clothing-related, we might have a problem of losing sight of the feminist tone of the page.

But this is one post, aimed at an audience who are likely to engage (a) in critique of mainstream fashion and narrow beauty standards and (b) in critique of globalisation as part of general progressive thought, hence the supporting-local-business commentary.

ONE post does not "a single aesthetic" make and I actually kind of resent that criticism being levelled at WYFC as though we may as well just give up now and admit we've lost our way and need to impose strict Is This A Serious Feminist Issue? criteria on all discussion.

Also, WTFF with taking "aesthetic choices" off the table. Well that's all of gender performativity and a huge amount of fat acceptance "off the table", isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Ok seriously??? How did her point get so completely missed so constantly? Where does she say liking cupcakes isn't feminist?

She didn't. But she did say she felt posting about cupcakes in a feminist community was problematic. And it seems all of her arguments about Wellington Young Feminists Collective apply to The Hand Mirror too.

- Beth

Hugh said...

Because actually no I don't support locally owned businesses, even the supposedly awesome ones. The idea that local businesses are any better than larger ones is not an evidence based assertion.

And also, "local" is not the opposite of "large".

Maia said...

I'm going to put up some short responses first and then respond more fully. Just a note - I'm 32 rather than having been part of the women's liberation movement - so while I might qualify as an 'older feminist' it's a relative thing.

I am also not a member of the Wellington Young Feminists' Collective. I have had no input into anything they have done, and don't consider myself responsible for their decisions.

Ally - I always leave out the 'NOT' in the most critical place too. I do think it's an important question and I may write a post about why I think the best answer is 'any person who has thought about the issues involved and is prepared to defend her answers should be able to be part of defining what feminism is.'

The message about how you frame promoting products is basically what I was trying to get across - so that's awesome.

Lisa - And here is one of the problems - this was me wording things sensitively. My (really extremely long) dollhouse reviews are here: http://capitalismbad.blogspot.com/search/label/joss.

To be clear I'm not suggesting that every post has to benefit every member. But that to include non-political material without being explicit that you know it won't appeal to everyone is exclusionary.

V - I think exactly the same issues apply. If you posted something without acknowledging that not all women are the same size or wanted to wear the same clothing, it would be exclusionary. I don't think the fact that not everyone has cock and balls is exclusionary in the same way, because trans people are marginalised in mainstream society and within the feminist movement.

Diane - I strongly disagree that the core of feminism is tolerance and acceptance. I think the core of feminism is a struggle to end sexism, misogyny and all forms of oppression that women anywhere face.

Long time reader first time commenter - It's great that you've commenting. We obviously disagree about

"And, to me, that's the ultimate goal: to be all-inclusive so that all women can identify, even the teensiest bit, to the Feminist movement, because it saddens me when women my age can't see the relevance of the feminist movement."

Here's the thing as I said in my post - I sat not responding to this for three days before I said anything. I said something because of the whole issue of inclusiveness. And how exclusive posting about something which refuses to sell stuff to some women is, particularly without acknowledging that. And I didn't do it because of me, because I'm a big girl with a loud voice. I did it because of who I was have been 14 years ago, when I was just figuring out that I was a feminist - and things like this would have been a huge "YOU'RE NOT COOL ENOUGH FOR FEMINISM AND NEVER WILL BE." I know I'm not alone being alienated by posting about 'Emma' in that feed, and because I have a voice I think I have an obligation to speak.

Giovanni - I don't 'support' Emma's because she sells nothing I can use (quite literally I am unable to use accessories). I 'support' Whitakkers because they sell something I want. I'm probably allergic to the choclate that the woman next to Emma sells. Which you know is another example of why I think suggesting that some purchasing strategies are better/more feminist than others is ridiculous.

More coming...

V said...

Alright, let's try a different approach:

You essentially got pissy about a post in which a clothing store was mentioned which probably doesn't cater to all sizes and shapes of women.
You're saying that because this is not inclusive, because no effort has been made to address the fact that there are different sizes and shapes of women, that this was a Not Good Post™

Let me put this in perspective for you.
I am a woman who was coercively assigned the sex 'male' at birth.
In a large quantity of women's issues in feminist spaces, I could do exactly what you've done and create an issue to bitch about - for example, the mooncup thread.
I could whine and grizzle that it wasn't inclusive of trans women, who are unable to have periods and that it is a painful and triggering topic to see other women discuss fertility issues from which I am exempt because my body is so fucked that I had to shell out $30,000 to be rendered infertile in order to overcome extreme body dysphoria.

In fact, throughout this discussion on your blog, I could have picked apart several posts for not being trans inclusive or for ignoring trans women's existence.

But I didn't.

It's about tact and relevance.
There simply isn't any need to guilt trip a bunch of menstruating women about my total inability to menstruate. It would be utterly pointless, except perhaps to scratch some angry itch that I'd been experiencing in some other facet of my life. I'd simply be projecting one issue onto an issue that isn't relevant to my real issue for the sake of some kind of fucked up catharsis.

I notice that YOU didn't rush to the defence of post-menstrual women or non-menstrual women in the mooncup thread, so I find this knee-jerking over clothing to be disingenuous and contrived.

As I said, I could probably FIND offence in almost anything I wanted to, due to the ciscentric nature of society, but again there is such a thing as TACT,
There is a time and a place for some discussions and that time and place is nowhere and never for a small number of things.

In closing, I'd like to say how glad I am that women's rights have progressed so far that we now only have almost irrelevant things to fight, like someone sharing a link to a cool clothing shop.
Truly we are blessed.

Giovanni Tiso said...

"Giovanni - I don't 'support' Emma's because she sells nothing I can use (quite literally I am unable to use accessories). I 'support' Whitakkers because they sell something I want."

Feels a bit silly to come in with something so trifling after V's post, but... you're the one who introduced the "capitalism issue". If your anticapitalism boils down to "supporting companies that sell you the things that you want", well, long live the struggle I guess.

Also: "While I know nothing about Emma, I do know a reasonable amount about the New Zealand clothing industry - and the way clothes are produced in New Zealand is absolutely the opposite of everything I think feminism stands for."

Like Bel says, Emma designs and makes her clothes right in the store. I wonder if you could clarify how this set up is the opposite of everything that feminism stands for.

Maia said...

Beth - You're right all my comments do apply to the Hand Mirror. I do find the cupcakes problematic for exactly the reason that I've outlined. I struggle with group feminist blogging, because there's the meaning of my posts on a group blog as opposed to my own blog. Then there's the meaning of other people's posts and if it's ever OK to say "hey I think that's alienating."

Tania - Thanks for your comment. You have put your finger on a really important part of why this bothered me. I think it makes a huge difference about whether something is coming from an individual on the WYFC page or from "The Wellington Young Feminists Collective" (I didn't know that admins couldn't post to group walls as themselves only as a collective). To me to speak for something calling itself "The Wellington Young Feminists Collective" is a really big deal, and making a significant claim on behalf of the material you post.

To be honest, if I was going to write this post again, I'd leave out the discussion of Emma's as a business - because I think it's distracting from my main point. All I would say is that I do think that that promoting things that are accessible to a limited range of women without acknowledging that limited range is exclusionary.

Also I don't think it's exclusionary to post a pro-capitalist comment (or a pro-small business comment). But I think if you do so you must be prepared that people might disagree with you about that. (My posting of the3 comment about LucieLu, like my appreciation of Whittakers, wasn't supposed to be simply a statement of my own preferences and nothing more. As far as I'm concerned You wear clothes that have been produced and distributed exploitatively or you go naked.)

Maia said...

Ideologically Impure - You make the point that it is just one post. The thing is that post made a serious impact on me. And I know I'm not the only one. Single posts can have an impact, and single posts can be alienating (look at this one).

I think I've articulated in quite some detail why I think having material which isn't explicitly feminist in feminist spaces is alienating. Particularly in feminist spaces that present themselves as generally as "The [not even 'a'] Wellington Feminist Collective." I don't think feminists should only be concerned about things that are explicitly feminist (I really am not), and I don't think there should be a test about how 'important' something is before it is subjected to feminist analysis. So I think this is a misrepresentation of what I was saying: "I actually kind of resent that criticism being levelled at WYFC as though we may as well just give up now and admit we've lost our way and need to impose strict Is This A Serious Feminist Issue? criteria on all discussion."

About things being off the table. I was responding to L's statement that they didn't feel like they could be a feminist because of what they liked and how they dressed. My solution for this problem is that any one woman's survival strategies/aesthetics/lifestyles should be no one else's fucking business and therefore off the table for feminist discussion, as should the promoting of a particular survival strategy/aesthetic/lifestyle. Indeed I see this hot mess at Boganette's arising exactly because what some women wear is on the table. You may disagree with this, you may

As for the question about what this means for fat acceptance (my thoughts about gender performativity aren't as well worked thorough and are complicated, partly because of teh disability issues) I find the emphasis on personal survival decisions with clothing within fat acceptance circles incredibly alienating. Marianne Kirby sort of articulated why here http://therotund.tumblr.com/post/3112600122/fa-t-shion-february-the-4th-i-dont-know-how-good. I am dyspraxic - I can't do outfits or accessories, or makeup (as well as many other things). When I go to the Fatshionista livejournal community I don't think "wow people my size." I think "Oh I could never do that. Oh I could never do that either. Oh I really couldn't do that." It's one of teh many reasons why the label 'fat acceptance' fits uncomfortably with me. That doesn't mean that I think it shouldn't exist. But I do have a problem with it being promoted as a political space, rather than a space that meets the needs of some people.

Maia said...

Giovanni - My anti-capitalism doesn't make any demand on what people do or don't consume, and thinks that consumption is very rarely a useful place to locate struggle, and individual consumption never is. Just like my feminism. I do think it's inconsistent with anti-capitalism to suggest that any business is part of the solution.

Is the idea that clothing is made by exploiting women's labour one that needs to be carefully explained? My comment was mainly about CMT operators, which is what I know. But Even if Emma is part of the petit bourgeois and doesn't hire anyone there are many other sites of exploitation in the chain.


V - "In fact, throughout this discussion on your blog, I could have picked apart several posts for not being trans inclusive or for ignoring trans women's existence."

I'm sure you could and I would never suggest that you shouldn't. I'm not asking you to do so. I know with engaging with spaces where you feel alienated is a hard thing to do and you can receive heaps of blowback.

But I don't think your silence is a good reason for me to be silent.

I also don't think the implications of posting particular material within a feminist space, or the boundaries of feminism are irrelevant.

OK now I'm going to have dinner. I see most of the rest of the comments addressing the same basic ideas and I'll try and respond when I come back.

Giovanni Tiso said...

"To be honest, if I was going to write this post again, I'd leave out the discussion of Emma's as a business - because I think it's distracting from my main point"

Ah, so not because you made a series of uninformed claims about what she does? Good then.

"My comment was mainly about CMT operators, which is what I know. But Even if Emma is part of the petit bourgeois and doesn't hire anyone there are many other sites of exploitation in the chain."

Would you kindly clarify what they are, so that we know how the work of this particular person (sorry: "petit bourgeois") is the absolute opposite of what feminism stands for, and we can shun it accordingly? I come from a family of taylors and seamstresses myself, so I'd like to be told in as much detail as possible how deeply wrong they were about everything. As you walk us through the supply chain, I'm sure it will become abundantly clear to us how one might as well not worry about where his or her clothes come from and how they are manufactured since "you wear clothes that have been produced and distributed exploitatively or you go naked".

V said...

Maia; do you think it would be appropriate for me to fill up every post in every feminist space with trans whining/derailing?

I think you're coming at this from a purely intellectual space and are lacking a common sense/practical perspective.

ideologicallyimpure said...

I don't think there should be a test about how 'important' something is before it is subjected to feminist analysis.

*Except* that you don't see why a store catering to women with outside-the-norm bodies (albeit bodies outside the norm is a way different to yours and mine) is a feminist issue, so you *are* making it a test about whether something is important or not.

Sure, the original post didn't spell it out as "I like this store because its fit of clothing while still within a narrow size band challenges patriarchal beauty standards about bust sizes and capitalist fashion industry norms" but it shouldn't fucking have to in a community designed to appeal to a lot of people.

And it's a bit fucking petty to complain the page is called "The" WYFC. The YMCA is called "the YMCA" but that hardly means it's the only place young Christian men can hang out.

Anonymous said...

'About things being off the table. I was responding to L's statement that they didn't feel like they could be a feminist because of what they liked and how they dressed. My solution for this problem is that any one woman's survival strategies/aesthetics/lifestyles should be no one else's fucking business and therefore off the table for feminist discussion, as should the promoting of a particular survival strategy/aesthetic/lifestyle.'

I think this is impossible and really unnecessary. We can surely talk about our own lifestyles without passing judgements on others. I think there is a difference between raising issues and sneering at other women for making different choices and having different interests.

My particular post related to being exposed to a narrow approach to feminism that sometimes aggressively argue about how women should be and behave and what views it is ok to express. It seems like a few feminists not only try to put forward their point of view, but also try to police what other women do and what they talk about. My post had nothing to do with clothes, but that your post reminded me of some of those approaches that meant I found feminism quite hard to identify with. I don't think I would identify with some of your interests, but I would never suggest you refrain from talking about them in a feminist space, unless they were sexist, homophobic, victim blaming, ableist or racist.

Anyway, I don't think the post on the Facebook group suggested only women with large breasts were awesome. I think it was just letting women know who may be interested. I wasn’t interested and I don’t have large breasts so I skimmed past it.

I'm still really struggling to understand where you are coming from to be honest. What is it ok to be posting about in your opinion? I'm genuinely interested to know.

L

V said...

Indeed I see this hot mess at Boganette's arising exactly because what some women wear is on the table.

By the way, could you not use the term "hot mess" because I find it pretty fucking transphobic, as the origin is directly associated with 'hot tranny mess' whether you say the 'tranny' part or not.
I would have expected better from a self-proclaimed 'feminist'.

Maia said...

Giovanni - Not at all. I haven't misrepresented her work. I made it very clear when I was talking about what I specifically knew about her line/shop and when I was talking about the industry more generally.

I think that our disagreement about whether it's possible to clothe ourselves withour exploitation is based on a fundmanetal difference of how we orient ourselves to capitalism. And given what else is going on I'm happy to agree to disagree. If you really want to know what I think ask me again in a week.

V - I don't see discussion of Transphobia as either whining or derailing to other feminist discussion.

Also I should have said before I'm sorry for when you've felt alienated the Hand Mirror.

Ideologically Impure - That's not because I don't think it's important - it's because of the feminist analysis I have of businesses. I don't think the existence of City Chic is a feminist issue either (although I do think it was personally very exciting for me). That is it's not that I don't think clothing businesses are important from a feminist perspective - but I think feminists should orient themselves critically towards those businesses for the reasons I listed.

Oh and just because I didn't finish what I was saying last time:

About things being off the table. I was responding to L's statement that they didn't feel like they could be a feminist because of what they liked and how they dressed. My solution for this problem is that any one woman's survival strategies/aesthetics/lifestyles should be no one else's fucking business and therefore off the table for feminist discussion, as should the promoting of a particular survival strategy/aesthetic/lifestyle. Indeed I see this hot mess at Boganette's arising exactly because what some women wear is on the table.

My point of the story with the trousers is that praising a particular clothing choice in a feminist space can be as alienating as condemning a particular clothing choice in a feminist space.

OK you don't like my solution - but at least engage with the problem that I raised it in the context of.

You may think the difference between 'the' and 'a' is petty. I think it's pretty important in terms of the position that those using the terms are claiming. I also think feminism is often about being concerned about things that other people call petty.

L - Sorry if I misremembered/misrepresented your post.

Whether we can talk about our own lifestyles without passing judgement depends on context. My experience is that it is tricky to do in feminist spaces, because things get very loaded. I've certainly had far more experiences of it going terribly wrong and people feeling alienated when that wasn't the intention of hte speaker, than of things going right.

I'm going to write one more post (and maybe deal with any replies) and I hope that'll help you understand what I mean (although I broadly agree with Allison's paraphrase).

Maia said...

V - I did not know that - thanks I'll remember that.

ideologicallyimpure said...

Maia, I disagree with you on City Chic. I think it's inherently radical and challenging to patriarchal beauty standards for fat women to be able to purchase and wear fashionable, edgy, sexy clothes.

We can agree to disagree on that, sure.

But when you start saying that everyone who wants to analyse things from a feminist perspective "should" include a Marxist or anti-capitalist dynamic, well ... sorry, but who fucking appointed you grand high arbiter of what feminists are allowed to think?

Which is the entire problem, of course, because this entire conversation has revolved around you basically demanding* that the WYFC page (oh god there goes the "the" again I must be implying that all young Wellington-based feminists are a hivemind) only cover topics *you* personally approve of as Sufficiently Feminist.

*Oh sure you didn't use the word "demand" ...

Maia said...

OK now I've dealt with some of the various points that came up I want to talk explicitly about what I was saying (and what I wasn't saying).

I want to start by responding specifically to Caitlin, and any other reader who thought I was constructing a sort of feminist I disapproved of who liked dresses and baking.

The list I constructed of the idealised Wellington Feminist, wasn't supposed to be some strange other from me, but to include a lot of characteristics that I shared (I'm a bit of an obsessive knitter, as well as everything that those who read this blog would be familiar with). And while I made it clear in my post that I love both cute dresses and Joss Whedon, I can see that that it might have been possible to miss that, particularly if you were unfamiliar with my writing (and I didn't take into account that posting this on the WYFC blog would bring in new readers who were unfamiliar).

I think it's really shit to ever state or even imply that certain aesthetic/lifestyle/survival strategies are more or less feminist than others.* And given that more than one person interpreted my writing that way, I obviously wasn't careful enough

I didn't mean to cast any aspersions on feminsits who like cupcakes, knitting, cute dresses, cool accessories, moon-cups, op-shops, roller-derby, Joss Whedon, gardening, and bicycles. What I think is important is that there's space within feminism for someone who hates all those things (even Joss Whedon), or for whom some who one or more of those things are inaccessible.

Alison - you summed up my argument pretty exactly thanks.

Although my commitment to A isn't exactly ideological, it is more experience based. I've been in heaps of feminist spaces where people felt really alienated when people discussed survival strategies, even though that was far from my intention (the trousers is just one example in a long list)

I do think that C can be done, but it has to be done carefully. For example, I saw some really interesting discussions about survival strategies over on FWD - but their discussions were always pretty carefully framed. Without careful framing/moderating I think these discussions become really shit really quickly (see any number of threads on feministe).

I do think talking about aesthetics/lifestyle/survival strategies can be really important and helpful, and make people feel less alone. But I just think it's harder to create that space the more people are involved.

Tui: Thanks - that construction of an ideal Wellington feminist was exactly my concern. Like you I fit many, although not all of those characteristics. But I don't want feminism to only be open to people like me.

Margo - Thanks for writing - it really reassured me that I hadn't lost all skill to communicate. Even if I obviously wasn't writing very clearly.

* I do have a brief disclaimer to this which is about crossing picket lines and Margaret Thatcher - but I think they don't really apply in this case so I'll articulate them some other time.

Maia said...

Ideologically Impure: "But when you start saying that everyone who wants to analyse things from a feminist perspective "should" include a Marxist or anti-capitalist dynamic, well ... sorry, but who fucking appointed you grand high arbiter of what feminists are allowed to think?"

I didn't say that. I disagree with Coley posting Emma's Boutique on the WYFC page because of my analysis of capitalism.

I think it's inappropriate for Coley to post it without explicitly making clear why because she is promoting one particular, inaccessible, aesthetic/lifestyle/Survival strategy as feminist, which I think is alienating.

I would still disagree with this post if it was posted with the sort of disclaimer that Alison suggested, but I wouldn't object to it.

And while I don't think I did make a demand of the WYFC - I don't think there's anything wrong with me doing so. I don't think there's anything wrong with making demands with institutions/organisations that you're supposed to be allied with. In fact, I think it's an important part of building a social movement.

As to who I am? I'm a feminist who has thought about feminism and is prepared to defend her opinions. I think that gives me a right to talk about what feminism is and isn't. I think that's all any of us needs. And I think talking about what feminism is and isn't is really important.

Angry old feminist said...

I find it hugely disappointing that you assert (after nearly 60 comments) that you are able to agree to disagree, but the clearly unmalicious intentions of a moderator on a broad and varied Facebook page is not afforded that courtesy.

THIS is derailing. Nitpicking about 'the' in the name, and whether the event is at an 18+ venue or not is derailing. Deciding that a post about a new shop run by a local woman "promotes" harmful body image and deliberately "excludes" people is derailing. Deciding that because you are anti-capitalism, no one should raise awareness of local business on a page of over 200 people is derailing.

I think this group should be open to critique, and it seems like from the reception to suggestions of disclaimers etc and the general posts of the Facebook page, that Coley et all have been exactly that. I also read the mooncup thread and saw a clear acceptance and realisation of a mistake. But I don’t think a post about a local shop is a mistake, or that they have anything to apologise for. I think Maia, that this group is being as open as possible and I reiterate L's question of what you hope to gain from all this? 'Discussion' is not a good enough intention unless you are willing to quit pushing your personal preferences on 200 people.

You also have yet to acknowledge that an evidently previously active member has explicitly (on your Facebook link) said she has left the WYFC group due to feeling she isn't the right kind of feminist after reading your posts.

Your attempts at deciding what should or shouldn't be discussed is alienating, not a post which may not be relevant to every single member. It seems like the tide is firmly against your attempts to derail, define and dismiss this new group as 'not the right kind of feminism' and I'm sure the women over at the WYFC would appreciate some GOOD coverage about all the good they ARE doing.

Getting 200+ people together for feminism (even virtually) is hard enough. The last thing they need is a self confessed pedant trolling comments for relevance when your own comments on preferred politics aren't relevant to everyone.

Steph said...

Wait, so you post here (an explicitly feminist space) about knitting? But, isn’t that non-feminist because it’s not explicitly about feminism? Doesn’t that alienate women who don’t have hands?

Angry old feminist said...

Also, saying discussions of survival strategies "should be off the table" in feminist spaces, and then saying later that it can work sometimes when it's carefully moderated sounds like one heck of a back pedal to an unpopular opinion to me.

Maia said...

Steph - Don't bring hypothetical disabled people into this as if disability issues are ridiculous. They're not.

Angry Old Feminist - You are been responding to things I never said a lot.

To quote what has been misquoted several times: "And I think the easiest way to avoid that is to make aesthetic/lifestyle/survival choices off the table for feminist discussion."

I didn't say that they 'should' be off the table, or argue that they should be always be off the table. I explicitly said it was the easiest solution to a problem. To explore other solutions is not to back pedal from the claim that that is the easiest.

It's a bit foolish to misrepresent someone so blatantly when what they actually said is right there in the post. I'm not going to continue to engage with someone who isn't interested in responding to what I actually said.

Angry old feminist said...

I don't know about Steph, but I do feel disabilities are very serious.

Knitting IS NOT accessible for everyone, and it's important to be aware of that. Especially if you're going to cut some group down for not appealing to everyone's needs and preferences in every single post they make and then be exclusionary yourself.

What relevance does knitting have to feminism on a feminist blog anyway? What about people with arthritis?

Aren't your points around relevance of fashion and craft (etc) to feminist discussion moot if you post about them yourself right here?

Alternatively, you could resign yourself to the fact that nobody can please everyone, and that perhaps expression which is not willfully harmful in a feminist space is really important to some women. Perhaps the knowledge that most people won't mind hearing about knitting, because FFS it's KNITTING is a nice thought. And perhaps you could encourage those who are offended to take your expression in context and remember people can agree to disagree because it's not anyone's place to judge or attempt to derail just because it's not the right sort of expression for them.

It seems to me there are serious holes in your arguments that have been questioned by people and have yet to be addressed - e.g. how can you appeal to everyone in a group that is attempting to be a collective, and what IS acceptable feminist conversation (because lord knows, other people should prescribe it*).

I find it ironic you're so keen to ask people to focus on exactly what you said and not attempt to create any unspecified, unintended meaning from it, yet you are willfully interpreting:

"Hey ladies, here is a shop I discovered in Berhampore today which is FANTASTIC. Lovely handmade, locally designed ladies clothes and jewelry. And they fit ladies with big boobs, which is rarer than it should be. Yay for awesome local businesses! x"

As:

"All women who belong to this Collective should shop here. If you don't you don't belong in this group. If you can't fit in these clothes I have decided you are not good enough and you shouldn't be in this group. I also think capitalism is fantastic and the fashion industry never hurts anyone."

*You didn't say that EXACTLY, you just implied it explicitly and implicitly throughout this whole thread. Funny how people find meaning in things others may not have meant at all.

Maia said...

Seriously Angry Old Feminist? Not even a sorry for misrepresenting you? Just straight into another attack?

If you claim you can't see the distinction between saying: "(I'm a bit of an obsessive knitter, as well as everything that those who read this blog would be familiar with)" in brackets in the comments and making something the subject of the post, then you're not trying to engage with what I said, but just play gotcha, a game I'm not interested in.

I have refrained from making a post about knitting on this blog for years, for the very same reason that I objected to Coley's post. So I don't find that this criticism strikes particularly to home.

Angry old feminist said...

Well, we do always have the option to take the "I didn't mean it like that and I'm not engaging" stance when a double standard is revealed. It's a shame you don't see the lack of value in attacking others on similarly ridiculous 'errors'.

You STILL have not acknowledged that your posts have spurred a member leaving. I hope, for the sake of avoiding an irony-overload, that you don't attempt to answer that with "not everyone has to agree with me. I didn't mean to offend anyone."

There's pedantic and then there is deciding to find ill-intent where it was clearly not meant. I wonder what your real problem is with this seemingly active, interesting group.

You are quick to state that you were not involved in it's inception, and you don't consider yourself a member. I still fail to see any un-begrudging reason to spit this much disruption.

Coley, Ally, Caitlin, Tania and others seem to have handled this very well, but I would guess they're probably over this giant derail by now and have better things to do with their time.

You are right, criticism can be important, but there's criticism - like pointing out accidental exclusion (if you so choose to be overly pedantic. I agree with V's stance myself), and then there's deciding that your personal views and politics render anything that doesn't fit harmful and alienating, and deciding to push your agenda to the point of at least one person leaving a budding new group.

It's pretty clear from the comments here that you're views are not shared by many, and you are clearly unwilling to agree to disagree with this.

I think that if this group and the things they post really make you feel that "yucky", than perhaps this isn't the group for you and you should wish them well and leave them be. Not every feminist group is for every feminist.

I wish them the best of luck, and I hope to see big things.

Maia said...

Angry Old Feminist - "There's pedantic and then there is deciding to find ill-intent where it was clearly not meant."

I have never said anything about ill-intent. I know that Coley didn't have ill-intent, and have said nothing that suggests otherwise. This is what I mean about constantly misrepresenting me.

If you want to talk about what I say that's fine we can argue effect. But if you insist on talking about what you think I mean then you need to make sure that what you say has a vague relationship to the words I used.

You keep bringing up that people disagree with me, as if this is a plebiscite. My feminist analysis is based on a combination of experience, reading, thought, and research. It's not up for a vote.

You say that you don't understand why I care and why I brought this up. You'll just have to believe that it's the reason that I've given, because there is no other.

Maia said...

I just want to make one final point. Yes I have presented this in an intellectual way - I've tried to explore and articulate the principle behind what I say.

However, it's not just an abstract academic matter that I'm bringing up because I like abstract feminist discussions.

When I say 'it's alienating' I mean "people have been alienated". I'm not just talking about hypothetical people, and I'm not just talking about me. When I said I sat on this for three days before writing on it. I meant that I thought of and discarded many different ways of bringing it up on my blog and on the feed itself. I really tussled about whether it was appropriate and what hte best way of doing it was. And when it was still bothering me after three days. And when I talked to other women who had read it and it was bothering them too, then I realised that I had to say something.

I think it's fantastic that Alison has been able to articulate her points in a way that was possibly easier. I think it's great that some of the admins on the WYFC seem to have understood the point that a series of people have been making (and this is, as some people have suggested in some ways a continuation of a similar discussion about moon cups). And there have been some really cool ideas about better ways to present products on the feed.

And I think it's great because I think the WYFC is a really great idea, and I'm really excited about it. Which is why I wanted to articulate what I thought was problematic. Even though at various points today I've got tired and snippy and been called an older feminist (although I also got mistaken for a first year today - so I guess it evens out).

And I'm aware it's hard to have these discussions without alienating more people. And I know I'm not the best at it - that particularly in New Zealand feminist circles my whisper comes across as a shout (and spending times on American feminist blogs hasn't helped that tendancy).

For those of you that think I should have kept quiet, who think I've been divisive and alienating, I guess all I'd ask is that you think about the way those concepts function within political movements, and the way they funcution against feminism.

Boganette said...

I think Maia's position is right and I think the WYFC position is right.

Because they're both opinions - they can't be right or wrong when they're both coming from a feminist position.

Aren't we meant to be rallying against the bullshit Hive Mind theory?
We can all disagree and still be on the same page.

Also, if you're framing this as Old Feminist v Young Feminist or a ban on cupcakes you are being ridiculous.

In terms of the reaction (mainly the last lot of people commenting) to this post - I started blogging BECAUSE of The Hand Mirror - Maia said that the WYFC post pissed her off for days. I'm stoked she took the time to write this up and take on the arguments against her post. Not shying away from controversy is something I like about The Hand Mirror. And I don't think anyone should be shot-down and have their arguments completely misrepresented simply because they didn't silently seethe about something that fucked them off.

Boganette said...

Oh and by 'feminist position' I mean like coming from an outspoken self-identified feminist who has a history of talking about feminist issues and shit. If that makes sense. Which is probably doesn't.

Tui said...

I want to tautoko what Boganette said and add that I think it's so important that we (=the Feminist Borg, obvi) respect people who speak out about things they find problematic. Even if me/you/we don't agree with Maia about this issue, a knee-jerk reaction of "I didn't mean it like that so your criticism is invalid and by the way, shut up, your divisiveness is hurting the movement!" is only going to put me/you/us in the habit of being less reflective when someone makes a criticism of my/your/our behaviour from, say ... an ableist standpoint. Maia began her post by describing the WYFC as an "awesome new project" about which she was "super excited" and added that every now and then she wanted to have a "massive city-wide discussion about what feminism means". Even if me/you/we might disagree with her in those discussions, it's not wrong to have them, it's not wrong to bring them up.

We have to be able to talk to each other and listen to each other in this movement without accusations of derailing or ill intent. We're supposed to be about awareness of and critical thinking about structures of power, those are hard to talk about! But we have to!

In other news, I just want to bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, I have so much respect for everyone on both sides of this discussion. :-/

Anonymous said...

Personally, for me it wasn't the raising of issues that was problematic, but the way in which this was approached.

I can see from her posts that Maia considers herself to be a 'big name' in the Wellington feminist scene - there is a quote on Facebook somewhere saying she is always surprised when people don't know who she is. This sort of attitude can be kind of intimidating for people like me who don't get loud about things generally, but would like to get more involved in activism. So this may have influenced my perception a little as I didn’t know who she was, and I found it a bit arrogant that it would be expected that I should.

Anyway, my own issue was not that the issue was brought up, but the way it was approached which came across to me as patronising and although essentially saying 'it's not that I want everyone to think the same as me', it seems in this discussion that this is the way things have gone, seeing as taking all of these issues off the table is what has been suggested. Also, the original post suggests that Maia also has a problem with other posts – one in every 20 posts made her want to have a discussion about what feminism means, I think was what she said but sorry If I am misquoting. She also so said she was excited about the collective but didn’t know how to orientate herself towards it. Now, perhaps this is being too sensitive but to me this suggested that she was questioning the extent to which those posting could be considered ‘real’ feminists (like her). Perhaps this isn’t what was meant, but this is how I felt about it and it seems from many other posts that I am not the only one. I’m not saying she should shut up about the things that upset her, but perhaps consider the potential impact of the way these issues are raised on the broader group.

L

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it has been rather bizarre to watch how quickly people have totally misrepresented the discussion Maia was trying to have and how angry people have gotten at her for supposed 'derailing'. She seems to have been really positive and complementary about the Collective and what it is trying to achieve.

However, as it is a collective, she has tried to instigate a discussion on the specific values that unite this collective of feminists and what aspects of discussion may be alienating (unintentionally)for some members.

The response has been to accuse her of attacking cupcakes and generally being a nasty person for not saying 'YAY' to everything the comes from the collective.

The facebook page does seem to be appealing to a 'type' of feminism that is more hip and fashionable. There is nothing wrong with that and I agree that some third wave feminists are calling out for feminism to be more accessible to them in this manner. But if you are going to use an ideological tag like feminism you have to be prepared to identify what this ideology is that unifies you (and also acknowledge what your differences are). You can't say, oh but this is just a social page so it doesn't matter about that nit-picky stuff that you are challenging us on. If you were just in it for a nice, easy, social time then the group should be called a stich and bitch or "The social collective".

I think if people didn't feel like their project was being undermined and instead read the substance of what Maia has said they'd realise she wasn't being 'derailing' but instead instigating a valuable conversation for young and old (and those who are somewhere in between) feminists alike to have.

YAY to all of you.

Margo

Boganette said...

"I can see from her posts that Maia considers herself to be a 'big name' in the Wellington feminist scene" - See shit like this I just think is fucking rude. Address the post. Don't bring in bullshit baggage like that, don't project whatever fucking issues you have with individual people into this. If you think the post was patronising say why you think it was. Don't attack a woman who is clearly just trying to discuss feminism and what it means like everyone else on here.

If your argument was actually fair you wouldn't need to resort to that crap.

Can we not fucking talking about feminism and what it means to each and every one of us without pulling the 'I'm a real feminist/you're not a real feminist' bullshit?

V said...

V - I don't see discussion of Transphobia as either whining or derailing to other feminist discussion.

I guess this is because you've never tried airing transfeminine issues in feminist spaces.
Whenever I get 'shouty' and indignant about seemingly minor issues (like you have about the dress shop) - or indeed I get 'shouty' about anything - I get accused of acting in a masculine manner and exerting my supposed male privilege.
i.e. "What a MALE thing to say" or "What a MALE attitude/stance/delivery."
All of which really hurts in ways that I doubt you can imagine.

I guess also that the still present perception of trans women as being less 'authentic' than cis women also causes problems whenever transfeminine issues are aired in feminist spaces (i.e. that our issues are less important because were a very small minority and that we're not REALLY women anyway).

But what I was trying to get at here is that if I make EVERY issue into a trans issue (which I'm in danger of doing here) then people will quite simply get sick of me and stop listening when I talk - sort of a 'Girl who cried "Wolf"' scenario.
So I think it's important to pick and choose which issues we raise and try to focus on the ones that are the most relevant and the most important - instead of just dogpiling every little thing that comes up that you have a minor issue with.

I think it's important to have some awareness of your audience and some gist of the social nuances and structures that you're dealing with; which I think you've clearly demonstrated that you don't have.

Finally, in my experience, if you have sat on something for three days because you are conflicted about whether or not to post on it, then you probably shouldn't post it!

Tui said...

L, I really wish you would re-read your last comment and think about what Maia has actually said, as opposed to what you might be projecting onto her? For example, your contention that she thinks of herself as some kind of big-name feminist (I believe what she was actually referring to was her surprise when people don't connect her RL identity with her blogging identity and I consequently, by the way, don't think it's necessarily appropriate to bring up in this space); even if Maia did think this, what in the world is the relevance except to position this comment from the place of an attack on Maia's character?

"Now, perhaps this is being too sensitive but to me this suggested that she was questioning the extent to which those posting could be considered ‘real’ feminists (like her)."

Without using hot button words like "oversensitive", I think this is a dramatic misreading of Maia's post. But more than that, it's a misreading that Maia has gone to some lengths to apologise for and explicitly disclaim, in almost every comment she's made. I beg you to re-read some of the comments she's made in which she explains herself further, and also Alison's comments, since I don't think there's any point everyone continuing to repeat themselves.

Tamara said...

Listen, the 'older feminist' reference came from me (I am 35 and frankly, do feel significantly older than women in their early 20s) and I'm sorry if I framed it as an adversarial position. But the Collective describe themselves as young, so therefore members are not likely to have been thinking about feminism as long as older feminists. That's all I meant. And of course there are things to be learned by all (rather than on both 'sides' as we're trying not to frame it that way). This has been a really interesting discussion.

V said...

Oh great, the whole "I've been thinking about feminism longer than you" crap.
I experience more oppression and discrimination than you. Does that make me more 'feminist'? Does that counter your age elitism?
Or are both counts utterly irrelevant to this discussion?

FYI, a valid argument is valid whether the person has been thinking about it for 5 minute or 15 years. Although if it took 15 years, some might say you're a little slow :-P

Anonymous said...

Sorry, OK I can see that it probably wasn't necessary for me to say this but this was the impression I got. And anyway, it seems like some people are allowed to be pedantic but others aren't. By the way someone said something about ‘overly sensitive’ earlier, which is why I repeated that phrase.

I just find this whole thing quite yuck because such a minor point being picked apart could put some people off engaging with feminism, which I am guessing is not what most feminists want.

So back on topic - what exactly is the problem with ONE woman posting about a shop that sold clothes that worked for her body shape? It wasn't like she said this was for all women in the group. Don't we all have a right to talk about our bodies and what we want to do with them and dress them in? I know people have said this should be easy to understand, but I really still don't get why this post was such an issue.

L

Anonymous said...

Tried to leave a comment earlier but blogger keeled over when I tried to login.

Shorter, less polite, version: delurking to comment on how frustrating it is to see yet another feminist blog taken over by petty internal nitpicking and one-upping each other instead of focusing on the outward issues.

*le sigh*

And now I wait for the comments telling me I'm wrong beacuse that's what we do to each other on feminist blogs.

*le freaking sigh*

Iona

Boganette said...

"Oh great, the whole "I've been thinking about feminism longer than you" crap."

- Do you think maybe it was just badly worded? And Tamara is trying to explain what she meant earlier?

Nah probably not, I'm sure she's a horrible bitch who totally hates you and wants to take your feminist badge away from you. Let's all just rip the shit out of each other. That'll be way more fun than cutting each other some slack and finding some middle ground on this - and actually taking the best bits from both arguments and going from there. Because there is no way that some of Miaia's comments were actually fair and some of the comments from the WYFC were actually fair too. SOMEONE HAS TO BE WRONG. /snark.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me like the WYFC hasn't been 'taken over' by this discussion at all. It seems to have created discussion and brought a lot of people out in defence of what most people seem to think was a trivial. It also seems like the criticism around being aware of unduly alienating people was taken on board, but the conflicting ideologies of ‘relevance must be justified if they are posted in a feminist space’ seems to be rejected and they have the right to do that.

It seems like most comments reflect the common sense nature of posting, and don’t feel like everything needs a justification. For instance, I noticed that the WYFC are (despite the comment from someone that they might have been taken over by all this) are posting away as normal on the page. One of the posts is a link to sites following the developments in Yemen and Algeria. Should the moderator have posted “This is not specifically a feminist post. It may not be relevant to every single member, some may be offended, some may not, some people might think this means we need to explicitly support or all become involved in middle eastern politics, this also may unduly alienate or offend members for personal reasons….so anyway here is this link.” No. They shouldn’t.

I think the WYFC seems to have taken this discussion on board, and are getting on with it. There will always be discussions like these in feminism, and I hope the group continues to take what most people find helpful and constructive in their stride, and leave the rest behind.

V said...

Nah probably not, I'm sure she's a horrible bitch who totally hates you and wants to take your feminist badge away from you. Let's all just rip the shit out of each other.

Or we could point out that age is irrelevant to this discussion.
OH WAIT
I already did that.

Demelza said...

I have thought that age is just a number, it makes me no better or worse than anybody else.

I was a WRO on a right wing campus in 1999, I went to "womens training" for NZUSA and found it deeply difficult at times because the hugely vocal feminists there looked down on my feminism because I was married, ate meat, and a few other things..

my feminism was not any less than theirs, it was shaped by events in my life and my views on them, it didnt make them or me wrong.

Maybe the wyc admin did offend some there, maybe she didnt but is it our place to say that what she did was wrong when we are not members of said group....

Boganette said...

V - if you're being snarky as fuck you're not just pointing out that "age is irrelevant to this discussion".

Fleur said...

THis is an excellent post as is your follow up explanation. I enjoyed reading your examples of alienation by feminist groups and your very sensible suggestion about how this should be responded to.

THanks.

meerkat said...

Minor tangent here but regarding this:

"When I go to the Fatshionista livejournal community I don't think 'wow people my size.' I think 'Oh I could never do that. Oh I could never do that either. Oh I really couldn't do that.' It's one of teh many reasons why the label 'fat acceptance' fits uncomfortably with me."

That is exactly how I feel when I look at fatshion posts, but to me fatshion is a very small part of fat acceptance. Maybe to people who are more interested it is a bigger part, but there are certainly other parts of equal or greater importance. Dressing fashionably is not important to me, having clothes more widely available in my size would be nice but I am getting on okay as it is (relative size and class privilege there), but getting health care and employment and social interaction without being hassled to hurt my body through dieting, and seeing portrayals of people my size and larger who are not disgusting buffoons, are very important to me. So I feel like FA should not be dismissed as a political movement based on the fashion choices of fatshion bloggers.