I have been gone for awhile attending to the increasingly shamble-riffic state of my personal and professional lives, as subject for another post I suppose, but relevant to this one insofar that I have had a lot of Twisty to catch up on this weekend. Er, or, I thought I did, until I got over there and discovered that some person named “Jill” has taken over. It has taken me some time to get through the prior posts and the comments leading up to this transfer of power. But since I loved Twisty, I was sort of worried this all meant that whoever had been ghostwriting her had quit the blog and handed it over to someone else.
Happily, as it turns out, Jill is just Twisty’s real name. Unhappily, the switch seems to have been prompted by some kind of commenter shitfit over the fact that Twisty/Jill referred to a writer she disliked as “cuntalina.” (Read the linked post to get the whole story.)
Now, I am on record somewhere, I think, as disliking the word “cunt.” My dislike of it is inconsistent with my general love of swearing; as the other Harpies can attest, especially once I have a drink or two in me I share vocabulary with ship crews everywhere. But I find the word ugly, even phonetically unpleasant. I directed the Vagina Monologues awhile back, and the actress we had performing the “Cunt” monologue and I puzzled at length over it, because we found it hard to make the word even sound beautiful, sound like something worth having in our arsenal. I have since only seen that monologue done well once, and there it was because the actress framed the monologue as an argument for ferocity of women, which I suppose is the only logical solution, although it runs somewhat counter to the text.
That said, we were just two women among multitudes, and I have known many feminists who love the word, and who use it as an insult particularly. This seems to me to be a usage that is entirely other than a reclamation, but no matter. I’m not interested in telling women who have demonstrated commitment to feminist aims in other ways what language they can and should use. Usually I’ll say something about always having found “vagina” to be a sufficient description and leave it at that.
I thought about this as I read Twisty/Jill’s post, wherein she acknowledges that “cuntalina” is an anti-feminist slur, and then notes, correctly in my view, that she is not some Internet paragon of feminist perfection but a human being prone to impulsive behaviour just like anyone else. And then she says this:
But seriously, get off my fucking case already with this hypervigilant radfem hall monitor shit. The policey, self-righteous, gotcha bullshit around here generally is chapping my entire hide. When and if I commit some egregious ideological error that threatens the very fabric of the cosmos I’ll make Twisty fucking cop to it, as you fucking well know if you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes. But this cuntalina uproar is fucking absurd. Jayzus in a jetpack.
As in most things, Twisty is completely right. And it gets at something very fundamental that’s been bugging me lately.
As we know from PhDork, anger is useful. Anger can drive you to action.
But anger can also make you a cannibal to true allies, and frankly, set you gnawing at yourself. Which is what I have been doing for awhile, and it’s got. to. stop.
Now, as we know I have never been one to advocate treading lightly with anti-feminists. I still don’t think it’s worth couching our terms nicely so that “they” will listen. Their ears are closed from the outset of the conversation, I think, and I think that the only way they will understand their privilege is to angrily confront it.
But I am tired of fighting each other. I am tired of not giving each other the benefit of the doubt. I am tired of yelling all the time and getting yelled at in return.
Not every self-identified feminist is going to act in the way you divine to be the correct one, no matter how much reading you do. When I was a bit younger and more discursively oriented, I thought that I could possibly convince everyone, by sheer force of verbiage, that I had found the right way. But over the course of my radicalization, I have learned that if we were all the same, there would be nothing left to learn. We would all sit in our apartments, nodding our heads, tunnel vision engaged on the acceptability or non-acceptability of “cunt.”
I guess I would rather be challenged. I guess I would rather have radical feminists who use “cunt” in moments of insouciance and don’t immediately commit internet hari kiri from the shame of it. I guess I would rather have women who call themselves “Womanists” than “feminists,” though it pains me somewhat. I would rather have it be that way so that my boundaries are pushed and pulled.
I think what I am trying to say is that of late I have not wondered if in my own personal spectrum I am starting to value generosity above anger as a feminist tool. I am starting to value engagement over confrontation when it comes to marginalized populations. I want to forgive slights so I can focus on fixing them Call me soft, if you want. Tell me I am capitulating. But I cannot keep slamming my head against every brick wall that appears before me and not feel like giving up anyway.
Cheesily, I guess, the way I want to put this is: I want my feminism to come from a place of yes.
I’m just not sure if that’s only wishful thinking.