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Okay, here is a disclaimer. In this entry, I am going to try and briefly canvass a serious chasm within feminism and social justice activism. I’m not sure that I’m going to do a very good job! Is what I am trying to get at. This topic has been dissected to within an inch of its life; to use a diametric metaphor, it isn’t even a dead horse any more. The dead horse disintegrated years ago, leaving a coterie of activists and academics whipping themselves into a hole in the ground. Like a lot of these insoluble bugbears, it concerns ‘essentially contested terms’. Terminology! You know, WORDS MEAN THINGS! NO, THEY DON’T MEAN THAT, THEY MEAN THIS! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE AND TAKE YOUR PC PRESCRIPTIVISM WITH YOU!

So I apologise in advance if this is boring or repetitive. To be honest it’s mostly for my own benefit, so that I have a physical Rolodex of these terms to call on rather than manically flipping through my mental differential dicitonary to make sure I’m using/understanding the right one.

Sexism. When most feminists use the word ‘sexism’, they don’t mean what most non-feminists mean by sexism. I myself have been caught in the endless loop of arguing with people on the internet about what the word should be used to refer to. Those arguments never go well. People whip out Dictionary.com, other people try to explain the concepts of privilege and instititional oppression by the seat of their pants, and everyone goes home to gently nurse their sense of thwarted indignation.

Generally those tiffs occur between social justice nerds and non-social justice nerds. The two definitions they advance are:

Definition #1, or what I will call Activist’s Choice: Sexism, Racism, etc. are words used to refer to the oppression experienced by classes of people based on their membership in that class. The definition, which is often written ‘prejudice + power = sexism [racism, homophobia, etc]’, actually encapsulates a lot of ideologies about power and oppression. Living in societies that construct supremacist hierarchies based on functionally inconsequential traits causes all of us to have ingrained unconscious biases in favour of the constructed ideal: this may be as simple as toilet doors using a skirt to differentiate ‘female’ from ‘male’, the figure of which is a neutral human. It may be as intense as overtly supremacist dogma, like ‘trans people are lying/trying to trick us’.

None of us are exempt from the effects of this socialisation, the thinking goes; HOWEVER, some of us, based on membership of a privileged class, have power to make things better or worse for people who are oppressed along the same axis. This is difficult for a lot of people, because we have a tendency to deny privilege. It causes offence, guilt, etc. to have someone tell you that you’re irrationally prejudiced, and that your irrational prejudice contributes to their oppression. Privilege, however, is not a personal indictment of character: most of us are privileged in some way. Being a member of a privileged class, ie being white or able-bodied, doesn’t make you inherently anything; it’s the hierarchies that are the problem. Unfortunately we are all soaking in them, and it takes active effort on the part of the privileged not to exercise this advantage.

Sexism is therefore defined as prejudice, plus the institutional power to oppress someone based on that prejudice. As a white person, for example, I can’t think of a single disadvantage I’ve ever suffered based on institutional prejudice against white people. I mean, what could possibly happen? I get called a cracker? The power of prejudice against white people is practically nil, because it has no support. Conversely, as a woman, men with irrational prejudices against women have the social capital to make parts of my life a pain in the arse.

So those -ism and -phobia words take on the role of describing experienced oppression, rather than the social prejudice that leads to that oppression. In this capacity, they are extremely useful as political tools. I mean, why do straight people need a word to describe the oppression they don’t experience? We don’t have words for ‘prejudiced against people who collect stamps’, or ‘hatred of those who shop at American Apparel’. We don’t need them. Irrational prejudice is always a negative thing to be discouraged, but who gives a flip if some homo decides she hates all straights? What can she possibly achieve with that prejudice? From a social justice standpoint, it’s a nonissue. Thus, the Activist’s Choice definitions, which are reserved specifically to refer to prejudices of serious consequence, or institutional oppression.

The one issue I have with the Activist’s Choice definition is based on its inability to account for horizontal oppression, or Sarah Palin Oppression. Sarah Palin, as a woman, does not have institutional advantage. Her other privileges, however, like wealth, whiteness, and whatever magic powers Fox News grants its pundits, give her the power to oppress other women. I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to deny that Sarah Palin is both irrationally prejudiced, and capable of making women’s lives worse based on that prejudice. The power she uses to oppress originates from another axis of privilege, but she’s sexist in word, deed, and effect.

Definition #2, The Dictionary Definiton: Look, I can quote it for you:
rac·ism/ˈreɪsɪzəm/ [rey-siz-uhm]
–noun

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

This is the classic definition. It doesn’t discriminate (hahaha). If you hate anyone for being any race, believe in racial supremacy, or do anything in accordance with it, you’re a racist. Apart from referring to any and all racial prejudice, this definition also requires ACTIVE, rather than passive, bigotry. It’s not enough to have absorbed negative racial messages; you have to actively believe those messages. It’s not enough to be personally repulsed by gay sex; you have to believe that gay sex is repulsive. This is partially why people get so offended when the words ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ are thrown around: most people associate them with a conscious belief in supremacy. Being called sexist, for most people, doesn’t mean ‘you’re throwing around your unconscious privilege in a damaging manner’. It means ‘you are an irrational and dangerous bigot’.

The immediate downside of this definition is that it serves as a means for privileged people to legitimise any persecution complexes they might have about their person. Nobody wants that.

By the time someone has whipped out the Dictionary Definition, the argument has probably already devolved into multiple substrands concerning instances of anti-[privileged majority] prejudice, prescriptivism vs. descriptivism in linguistics, and accusations of thought-policing, PC-policing, and various other egregious constraints on individual liberty. Both definitions’ flaws are painstakingly explicated. Someone’s feelings have been hurt. Someone has been sternly reminded of everyone’s right to free speech. Everyone is tired and cranky. And I really don’t think I have the tools to improve that situation, apart from maybe directing people to read this post.

If you’ve made it this far and have anything constructive to add, please do. I don’t usually anticipate stupid comments, but please, for the lovagod, don’t tell me about how white people/men/heterosexuals are oppressed. I am even less in the mood for that shit than usual.

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Hi everyone! I’ve been away for six months, so to celebrate let’s do something cheery and Talk Abortions. Recently there was a thread about abortion on Feministe, which discussed a terrible man in funny robes excommunicating a health-workin’ nun for giving the green light to an abortion that was medically necessary to save the life of a woman with some awful gravidly-aggravated disease. Obviously this excommunication was a cruel and stupid thing to do, but the comments section of the post illustrated perfectly my distain for most feminist/reproductive justice conversations about terminating pregnancy. Being this unimpressed by the level of arguments offered by feminist blogs is unusual for me. Usually even if I disagree with the post, there are a few commenters who come along and save the day with cutting insight, or pictures of cats playing the piano.

As far as the issue gets discussed by my internet feminist contemporaries, it usually centres on two arguments: firstly, that fetuses cannot be considered persons and are therefore exempt from the usual considerations having to do with mur-diddly-urder, and secondly, some gnarled and incomplete yelling about bodily integrity that doesn’t mention the fetus at all. Both of these are stupid and wrong.

You are probably furrowing your brow with some indignation right now, and I do not blame you. I too am shocked by the cavalier way in which I am dismissing the foundational arguments of decades’ worth of passionately shouted slogans. HOW INFURIATINGLY UNGRATEFUL, you are saying. HOW RUDE AND DISMISSIVE. IF I’D KNOWN SHE WAS SECRETLY A PRO-LIFE MISOGYNIST I NEVER WOULD HAVE COME HERE AND PUSHED HER PAGEVIEWS INTO DOUBLE DIGITS.

But the thing is, I am frustrated. I’m frustrated because I am pro-choice. I am pro-abortion. I want abortion to be legal, safe, and free. I want all doctors to know how to perform abortions. I am in favour of abortion on demand, and late term abortion. I am, like many women, absolutely scared shitless of not being able to have an abortion. Even typing that sentence makes me want to rush out and get a D&C just in case. STAY OUT OF MY ENDOMETRIUM, ZYGOTES, WITH YOUR SNEAKY LITTLE UNDERDEVELOPED GRABBY-HANDS. I just made a face so threatening and horrible that I bet zygotes everywhere are inching back up the fallopian tube from whence they emerged.

However! I also think that fetuses are people from the moment of their conception. Now, I have carefully situated this statement directly after the part where I told you I was pro-choice, because every time I say it out of the blue people assume I am some kind of brainwashed Mormon who has twelve Sister Wives and an assload of laundry to wash. By hand. Down on the banks of the compound’s baptisin’ stream.

And really, I have extreme difficulty with anyone who thinks this isn’t the case. Of course fetuses are people. All humans are people. Tiny humans are people. Humans with flippers are people. Humans without immediately recognisable cognition are people. There is nothing inherent in a fetus, at any stage of gestation, that renders it a non-person. They don’t just magically attain peopledom when they hit air, and the idea that peopledom is rendered by some gestational developmental stage is also stupid because it reduces all humans who lack those qualities to the status of nonpersons. I remain unconvinced that any developmental stage used to assess personhood in a fetus is present in every adult human.

In addition to being factually incorrect, pretending that fetuses aren’t people strengthens pro-life arguments. Every time someone uses the phrase ‘clump of cells’ or ‘wad of goop’ to describe a fetus, a pleasurable shiver runs down the spine of an abortion clinic picketer, because it shows that they are successfully defining the scope and terms of the debate. It is a lot easier to win arguments when you are using emotive terms like ‘unborn child’ to your own advantage. Try it in your next friendly debate, even if it’s not about abortion. ‘Well you may be right about the per capita GDP of Venezuela, but fuck you, baby killer.’

Which brings me to the second abortion argument, the ‘it’s my body, it’s my choice’ argument. This is, on the whole, a better argument. Everyone should be able to control the medical procedures they undergo, particularly women, whom the medical establishment has a history of letting, you know, die. This goes triple if you’re a woman who’s a couple of rungs down on the ol’ kyriarchy. For some reason people with lots of social privilege think it’s ok to sterilise those they consider beneath them. I mean to me, the tiny dominant group neutering everyone they think inferior kindof sounds like the plot of an interesting dystopic film where they then figure out that they’ve all got some kind of disorder that causes them to die, leaving the normal, less awful people to inherit their wealth. That I think this is a function of being a white woman living in Australia because some women think being forcibly sterilised is something that could actually happen to them. Like, tomorrow. Which I’m sure just adds a crunchy layer of awesomeness to interacting with the medical establishment. Ever. Jesus everything is terrible.

Anyway, yes, making medical decisions is something that we should all be allowed to do. Unfortunately, if you have accepted my first premise, the peopledom of fetuses, we can no longer justify abortion with reference only to the body of the mother. There is another person inside her. Obviously the woman and the fetus have a unique relationship, and I do think it’s far to call the fetus a parasite, in a totally biologically descriptive sense of the word. The fetus is using her resources without contributing much of anything back to her own health. They’ve turned up in her lounge room, eaten all her Doritos, and now they want to redecorate the whole place in upholstery denim.

Now, if an adult came at me with some kind of diabolical weapon that instantly conferred upon me the conditions and risks of pregnancy, I’d feel justified in killing them, if that were the only way I could save myself. If a tiny cute toddler in an ice-related rage tried to shank me with the same weapon, I’d kill them in self-defense. Of course this is assuming that all pregnancies are sneak attacks. Some are not. Apparently young people nowadays are just too shy to talk about contraception. Even if you’re a lady who just likes the peen too much to put a wrapper on it, even if you’ve got a high degree of choice and privilege in this situation? Consenting to unprotected sex is not consenting to pregnancy. Much the same as, when you’re an American Apparel employee, working for them is not consenting to being sexually harassed by Dov Charney! Even if you know that activity A may lead in some cases to result B, consenting to A is not consenting to B.

Unless you are wearing American Apparel, which I will interpret as a sign of consent to me punching you in the junk.

So this is the correct formulation of the argument from bodily autonomy: no person is allowed to use my body without my consent. No person is allowed to force me to continue supporting the person using my body. That is what we like to call ‘sexual slavery’, and it is frowned upon in polite societies. Fetuses are people too, and they are therefore subject to our rules about asking nicely before you put someone under nine different kinds of considerable risk and stress.

And that is how I justify abortion! This formulation is neat. It allows you to justify all abortions, not just the abortions of nice white girls who got attacked in the dark on their way home from Chastity Club. Axiomatically, if you were pregnant, your abortion was justified. There is no need to make women prove they’re in emotional, physical, or financial danger, because if you are pregnant, someone is using your body without your consent and you should be able to stop them. Sorry, fetuses! Sorry, Right to Life movement, for rendering your name and slogan irrelevant! Sorry, incorrect pro-choicers, for laughing at you when you say fetuses aren’t people! Maybe all of you should get together for a drink, okay? Or, you know, maybe not.

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Here’s your piece of Carnivorous Surprise for the month: BREAST CANCER IS NOT SEXXY. It’s an awful disease that kills people (men AND wimmins) and causes them to sometimes have parts of their body cut out, off, and around. Mount Franklin would like you to know that not only is chestal carcinoma the flavour of the month (or the flavour of the godfucken YEAR if the LENGTH of this STUPID CAMPAIGN indicates), it also signifies a whole lot of messages about the attractiveness of women, boobs, women with boobs, and women without boobs. All of them about as palatable as having a malignant growth in your left tit should be.

Back in ’94, me mam had breast cancer. I was of a squidgy, eeny kind of age, where the main things I gained from the situation were blind panic about my mother’s life hanging by a thread and a weird, inexplicable taste for hospital food, nurtured by stealing bites of her “mashed potato” when I visited her, feverish and sweaty, on the cancer ward (I was a kid with my priorities straight, what can I say). This means two main things for me right now: one, I very much understand the horror, from a precocious but nevertheless childishly impressionable perspective, of having someone you love in danger of popping their clogs due to a bit of rogue cell gunge in their body, and two, I very much understand the fear of contracting this disease myself.

So let me say this: I do not care about saving my funbags. Fuck my tits. My tits, apart from their possible spatio-temporal involvement in the growth of tumours, are the absolute last thing I would be worried about if I happened to contract breast cancer. This may come out of left field for the few of you in the audience who are unutterably misogynist prickfaces (hi there!), but I would first and foremost be worried about MY CONTINUED FUCKING EXISTENCE. My ability to skip gaily through life making fun of everything is not going to be affected by chopping off a few fat cells and milk ducts, but the condition of pushing the daisies certainly would. This is not to say that women who are extremely attached to their breasts are wrong, simply that some faceless advertising wolverine trying to figure out how to suck three bucks out of me for a product which will inevitably destroy the planet and whose pthalate-enriched packaging is probably carcinogenic, does not get to decide what is most important to people with (or who might get) breast cancer.

And another thing: women without breasts can still be attractive and worthy human beings, you tit-centric boobonormative ogres. Women who decide that their life is worth more than their boobs, or maybe decide not to opt for reconstruction, have just as much right to relate on a sexual or attraction-based level to their chests as women who have congenital boobs, non-congenital boobs, reconstructed boobs, or boobs made out of fucking breeze blocks. Losing your boobs does not have to equal losing your mojo. Conversely, this stupid ad also does the opposite side of the objectification coin, sexualising ALL women’s breasts, women who may not feel that catching attention with their boobs is their God-given highest purpose in life. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with the idea that some schlub drinking a bottle of water is imagining they’re suckling from my teat, although that image is funnier when you remember that men get breast cancer as well, I suppose.

I haven’t even broached the subject of the overwhelming and nauseating dominance of the colour pink in breast cancer activism, or the dubious purposes toward which your pink titty-dollars are put, or the even creepier suggestion that breast-checking is a mandatory activity which a representative of patriarchal dominance is entitled to perform for you if you don’t do it yourself. Basically the whole thing is a clusterfuck which makes me wish I didn’t even have boobs, and lived in a state of hermitude on the tit-free planet of Mars.

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Where does Eleanor Carnivore do Gender Studies? The Australian home of inter-collegiate rape, of course!

‘They can’t say no with a c–k in their mouth” read the hand-drawn graffiti in the Salisbury Bar, part of St Paul’s residential college on the University of Sydney campus.

It has since been painted over, but the sentiment remains.

”Any hole is a goal” stated other graffiti. ”Free entry” yet more announced, accompanied by an arrow pointing to a sketch of a vagina.

Seriously. This is my university. The university that thinks it’s funny to publish columns in its student pubications advising college men how they can marry a student at Women’s College. The university where I avoid events, balls, parties, and pissups like the plague because everyone knows they exist solely so that idiotic imitation frat boys can drag off a drunken college woman and rape her. The university where homophobic insults get daubed over queer-positive messages in the legal Graffiti Tunnel. This is where I do Gender Studies.

Dear students,

 

Many of you will have seen the articles in today’s Sydney Morning Herald relating to behaviour in our residential colleges.

 

I want to assure everyone in our University and the wider community that I regard the issues raised in these articles with the utmost seriousness.

 

I am appalled by the reported behaviour and apparent attitudes of some students. There can be no excuses for sexual assault. Binge drinking is at odds with our commitment to rational behaviour.

 

There should be no additional protection of any kind for students who break the law. They must be accountable for their actions and should be treated just like every other member of the community. Indeed, being a student of the University arguably carries with it an additional obligation to uphold its values.

 

The University and the residential colleges have been working hard to bring about a change in attitudes and behaviour. Obviously we still have much to do.

 

Dr Michael Spence

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

The University of Sydney

Yeah, Spence, you have a lot to do. Get on it. How about some rape prevention programs for the men at college? How about you try to stop rapes from happening to drunk first-years at intercollegiate pissups? How about no more naked runs through Women’s College, how about some more security, how about you try to make sure Paul’s boys turn out to be decent human beings instead of another round of fascist rapist investment banker anti-citizens? How about you  end the Old Boys mentality at the colleges, tear them down, and make them free, entry based on academic potential, proximity to the university, and socioeconomic disadvantage?

While we’re on shit you need to do, how about you build some decent low-cost housing for international students and poor students, how about you get international students their fucking travel concession? How about you lobby as hard as you possibly can to make university free and Youth Allowance enough to live on, so that all universities stop being strongholds of unit production for the kyriarchy and start producing some real goddamn people?

I am so disgusted and scared, I can barely speak.

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Coming Out Day was the other day (I forget which day, but this will be a retroactive post in its spirit, ITS SPIRIT OK). So here is my coming out: I am queer and pansexual and I think I am polyamorous. I will theoretically have relationships with anyone who has the inclination to have one with me. This, I am sure of. The polyamory part is new to me. It’s kinda like I’ve just woken up wearing a hat: a large, flowery hat that I cannot remove, and because people will tend to notice this kind of thing, I have to come up with a name for the hat and buy a hat box to keep it in. I am also a woman, but because my sex-‘n’-gender are readily socially intelligible to the average schmuck, I don’t think that counts as coming out.

So pansexuality. I don’t use that word very often because it is scary to me. Every time I use it aloud I adopt a defensive posture, ready to shout ‘well YOUR FACE IS A BOGUS POSTMODERN CONSTRUCT’. Because saying ‘bisexual’, which was my word du jour until very recently, is scary enough. Slutty, greedy. (Both true, yay!! Oops. I mean, WHAT A SHAME.) Fickle, naïve, fake, poseur, really gay, really straight, trendy. (Not true).  But saying ‘pansexual’ is scarier because most people cock their heads sideways and go to the place in their minds where there are images of orgies with happy cartoon squirrels blocking out peoples’ naughty parts. Pansexual is scary because it does not, as far as I can tell, imply attraction that adheres to a binary construction of sex-‘n’-gender. It implies potential attraction to people who are neither male nor female, or both, or one and then the other.

I am fine with this, deep inside my identity place. Men are good. Women are good, Genderqueer people are good. Bigendered people are good. Everyone is pretty fucking good.  I do not see a WRONG WAY GO BACK sign anywhere here. Do you see a fuss here? There is no fuss, except other people’s fuss. Other people’s fuss sucks. I don’t use ‘bisexual’ any more because it DID fuss me inside, it fussed me because it was inaccurate. It also fussed me because it makes me think of binarily gendered toilet doors and a small group of people standing outside looking excluded and sad. I didn’t want use a word that was those toilet doors, especially when it wasn’t even the most correct word. I am not those toilet doors, damn it. I’m going to stop saying ‘toilet doors’ now.

So that is my attraction-gradient: queer and pansexual. Usually now I just use ‘queer’, but ‘pansexual’ is the smoothly engineered term. The aerodynamic one that I would use more if my defensive posture didn’t hurt my lower back.

Polyamory is my new hat. I have two partners and I’m not sure that there is anything else for it but to call a hat a hat. Or to call having two partners ‘polyamory’. There’s just a hat, okay? It’s new and I’m scared of it. I’m scared of having to explain why I’m wearing this hat. I’m scared of having to explain that it’s not even the average kind of polyamory hat, because one of my partners is asexual. I’m scared that I won’t be able to fit through doorways with my hat on (not really but youknowwhatImean).  I feel as if this label has been thrust upon me. Though I have known since forever that I am a greedy enough slutbag* to potentially want multiple partners, it has never been in the forefront of my consciousness enough to demand its own checky box. I am uncomfy and I don’t know whether I like this word enough to keep it and pet it and call it George. (I think I just changed my mind in one paragraph. Keep your expectations of coherency low and you won’t be disappointed.)

So that is my coming out. I asked someone once if I could refer to myself as Neutral Greedy McSlutbag, but they said no.

*Slutbag here used in an affectionate and reclaimed manner to refer to myself. SLUTBAGS UNITE!

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Here is part of a rebuttal of my anti-gay marriage post, by a guy I know only as ‘Dan’:

And, yes, the gay marriage movement ignores the rights of transexuals and polygamists. That’s because gays are not transexual and gays are not polygamists. Eleanor’s really going to oppose expanding rights to a group of people just because that group of people isn’t also fighting for the rights of a completely different set of people? Then we also shouldn’t pass gay marriage because gay marriage advocates aren’t fighting to pass UHC, or gun control legislation, or any of my other pet causes. Eleanor’s inappropriately mixing causes here.

This makes me spit fucking chips.

Hey, guess what? There’s no such thing as ‘inappropriately mixing causes’. The gay people you’re fighting for ARE TRANS* PEOPLE. They are also women, poly people, people of colour, disabled people, neurodiverse people. The gay marriage movement fights for causes that predominantly concern wealthy, white, middle class men, a group that constitute a tiny minority of the privileged upper crust. Being gay, fighting for gay marriage, does not give you license to ignore issues affecting gay people that do not affect you personally. You might not be a person with a serious mental illness who has to negotiate the medical and justice establishments refusing to acknowledge your basic humanity, but SOME OTHER GAY PEOPLE ARE. They have to worry about being oppressed for being gay, AND being oppressed for being a undocumented immigrant or a person with a disability.

Acknowledging the everyday concerns of your fellow gay people is called ‘intersectionality’, and mastering it is the only way that any social justice movement has a snowflake’s chance on my tongue of achieving any kind of truly liberated society. Gay people are not just gay people exactly like you, and ignoring the importance of other oppressions that they experience is racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, all of the above. As someone primarily identifying as a feminist, this is something I should be thinking about every day, and as someone who advocates queer rights, the same thing applies. It’s not okay for feminism to pay attention only to privileged women, and it’s not okay for the gay rights movement to pay attention only to privileged gay people.

We should be trying to mix our causes MORE, not less. THAT is what bourgeois means: not a promotion of the ‘ordinary’ or ‘base’, but the privilege to ignore issues that do not affect you personally. People’s lives do not reflect a neatly segmented pie of different oppressions, and this is one of the huge problems with privileged anti-oppression academia and activism: we deny the lived experience of people who experience multiple oppressions. I include myself in this, because, as an aspiring member of government and academia, I am complicit, through my involvement, with perpetuating this enormous fucking problem. We should be listening to the voices of people who are oppressed in different and multiple ways, and implementing their suggestions within our ‘different’ movements. Heard of ‘safety in numbers’? This is what we should be trying to achieve.

But people who refuse to ‘mix their causes’, and it is usually the privileged among us who do this, delay, obscruct, kill off this objective. We fixate on our own pet issues to the detriment of the humanity of others. I cannot be a feminist who does not listen to women of colour or fat women or disabled women or women who are sex workers. Their problems are MY PROBLEMS. By ignoring them we foster their fully deserved resentment and hatred toward us. When I hear someone say something that is racist, and I do not try to counter it, I am being racist. Is that not completely fucking obvious? I get shat off massively when the male left ignores feminist issues, and I’m sure gay rights activists feel the same way when it’s gay rights that falls by the wayside when we all cluster under the leftist umbrella.

This is a shitty excuse for an Intersectionality 101 post, but if it made you angry or confused, do some research, for the love of humanity. I am not attacking here; I am defending. Read about intersectionality.

We are not completely different sets of people.

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O hai guys.

I have been really busy being unconscionably lazy, but I have a very serious question that has been bugging the shit out of me for some time. It’s a language limitation question, and it is of a Personal Nature. I am so open to suggestions about this issue, you have no idea. I am like a sweet wrapper after an overexcited six year old has carefully torn it into a long, single strip, tied the ends together, and got all his other sugar-hopped pals to jump through it. I am a giant ear, waiting to receive your ingenious solutions to my irritating terminology gripe.

So here’s the thing. There is a person. Most of my readers, all 25 of you, know this person. For those of you who don’t, she is taller than the average circus freak, likes to cut up the dead into chunks, and her head currently has a pleasingly shaven texture. We love eachother very, very much. If she wanted to convert to ascetic mysticism, move to Yemen, and live in a bark hut, eking out a living by catching local birds and weaving their entrails into baskets, I would whip out my viscera crochet hook and go with her. She is asexual; I am not. I am in a sexual relationship with someone else, whom I can handily and accurately describe as my boyfriend. She’s not my ‘friend’, because that word does not cover the commitment, intimacy, and occasional pirate wenchitude involved in our relationship. ‘Girlfriend’, ‘spouse’, and ‘partner’ all have misleadingly sexual connotations.

What I want is a word that doesn’t have to involve an extended conversation about our personal histories when I describe our relationship to other people. These conversations usually result in me (and her) feeling a combination of ignored, scrutinised, disbelieved, laughed at, infantilised, objectified, or slightly violated. I need a word for what we are, or even a phrase, I’m not shooting for the Moon here, that describes transparently the state of the union. We love eachother, we are in a relationship. We want to ‘build a life together’ (this is the point where I officially abandon any effort to sound less like a Centrelink pamphlet) that involves all the things that long-term partnerships usually do, without the bonking. I have/will have other partner/s that I will probably sleep with. She is not ‘single’, and I am not in an ‘exclusive relationship’ with her or my boyfriend. Ideally it would also involve some implied imperatives: saying ‘this is my girlfriend’ usually also means ‘do not mack on her while I am around’ and, even in polyamorous situations, ‘the other one of us will probably be involved in any relationship you wish to pursue with her’. We do not sleep together, but we are together.

This is generally compounded by my stick insect mortician partner’s asexuality, which most people characterise as nonexistent, pathological, or SO INTERESTING OMG that it magically obliterates her/our privacy. Or there’s the occasional person who paradoxically finds it a massive turn on. Unfortunately for their various projected issues, she is just a normal person who doesn’t want to have sex with you.

So there is the situation. I don’t want to resort to ‘co-pilot’ or ‘life partner’, please Jesus God no, and not many people grok ‘hemiasexual queeromantic marriagelike cuddlefest’ upon first hearing. Are there any words that connote anything similar to what we’re doing here, or am I grasping at asexual lesbotronic domestic partnership straws? Currently I’m using ‘hemiasexual queeromantic partner’ for her on facebonk, and ‘sexual heteromantic partner’ for my other squee-ee-eeze. Are you smrter than I am with words? Give me other options.

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