Monday, September 03, 2007

The Advocate

To you new readers, welcome! Here's where it started. Here is my first response. Here is my second response.

Please read to the end of this post before you get mad at me. Do not skim it and then accuse me of meaning things that I did not say.


Every day I gain a deeper understanding of why there are so few (straight) women in comedy. No wonder I have to turn to Logo for funny female role models. I do enjoy Maria Bamford, Becky Pedigo and Wanda Sykes and Janeane Garofalo whenever I catch them on Comedy Central. But aside from them and a few others, the most prominent female comedians are lesbian, bisexual, or some other kind of queer person. To maintain a career in an already vicious field, women really have to not care what men think of them.

Another thing I appreciate more every day is the common language of TV I share with some of my friends, along with a couple others who don’t have blogs. It’s like those episodes of Will & Grace when the title characters played that word guessing game with Joe and Larry and Rob and Ellen, and Will and Grace won the prized Suck on It cup every time. I take for granted that my friend Chrissy can ask me an incomplete question ("Bangs?"), I can answer it with a single word or phrase ("Nancy McKeon."), and the discussion will be over with both parties completely satisfied. I forget that not everyone else I interact with is necessarily on the same wavelength as I am just because they also blog about TV, or in this case, sexual dynamics in American media.

To get you readers on my wavelength quickly, read the articles linked below, retitled by me. Most of them are examples of what happens when individuals don’t even challenge the patriarchy, but simply point out its existence:

Feministing, Kos, and Harassment of Women Bloggers. Here are some more anecdotes on the subject.

Who should apologize for the apparent racism in Resident Evil 5?

You say potato, I say misogyny, including getting a woman drunk in order to have sex with her.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt

I was never mad that people didn’t share my point of view on Superbad or on the creators of the movie. I wasn’t mad when I made my initial comment under the review on Pajiba. I was amused by my cleverness, because I do like to work a phrase. I was taken aback when one male-identified person used the word "feminist" to insult me, and then insinuated that I wasn’t funny. I was annoyed when another male-identified person told me to "STFU." I was perturbed when another one called me "a complete fucking idiot" and told me to "go and get off [my] soapbox."

I didn’t mind defending myself or my views. I saw it as good practice for when I become a superstar, and people like Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson will try to double team me on Hardball. I also appreciated that some people stood up for me, pointing out that feminism is not a bad word, and that Pajiba is a perfectly acceptable place to talk about gender relations in movies.

What made me mad--besides being subsequently lectured on misogyny, told that I should "choose [my] words more carefully," and blamed for attracting the trolls in the first place (thank goodness I wasn’t wearing a short skirt)--was that none of the people who run Pajiba said anything at all during the whole time that this vicious conversation was going on. Not one word. And yes, I am going to call them out. The silent staff included Dustin Rowles, Publisher; Seth Freilich, The TV Whore; Phillip Stephens, Lead Critic; John Williams, Critic; Agent Bedhead, Critic; Stacey Nosek, Critic; Ranylt Richildis, Critic; Constance Howes, Critic. Did I forget someone? Oh yes, the Managing Editor of Pajiba and the person who wrote the Superbad review, Daniel Carlson.

In his response to the madness, Dan wrote a post on his own blog: "Arguing On The Internet Is Like Running In The Special Olympics: Even If You Win, You're Still Retarded."

Retarded? Well then.

In said post, Dan wrote "the Pajiba staff has a bit of a feminist skew — we all loves us some Joss Whedon, after all." Huh. TK also mentioned later that he supposes that he’s a feminist himself. I could make a quippy remark here, but I won’t. "Feminist" isn’t something you simply declare yourself because you believe that people of all genders should have equal rights. Feminism does not begin and end with denouncing Captivity. Feminism also involves some sort of action, or at least reaction, on your part. I’m not asking anyone to march in front of Planned Parenthood or headline the next NOW convention. I’m saying that a feminist should not remain silent when someone is being attacked for being a feminist. Especially on the blog that you run. Especially when you wrote the review . . . and anticipated the result:

"But I also must confess that I knew exactly what I was doing when I wrote that in the movie, "no woman is seen onscreen who isn’t talking to a man." I knew that would piss certain people off, and what's more, I've been writing for Pajiba for so long that I had a pretty good idea of exactly who would be pissed off, or anyway I had it narrowed down to half a dozen likely candidates."

After his confession, Dan then deemed the entire Superbad discussion--that he knowingly and purposefully incited--a "pissing contest" and that those involved should just "let it go." I’m sure the trolls that attacked me let it go a long time ago. They got their jollies by insulting an opinionated woman, then they went back to their lives, secure in their privileged status as part of the patriarchy. I, on the other hand, was not arguing for kicks. Nor was I incensed because Superbad "violates [my] views of empowered womanhood." I was defending myself because I was attacked. I was targeted not just because I am a feminist, but because I am a feminist woman. Dan, TK, and many other men are feminists, too, and that’s great. (I hope you all are still reading.) But they are not women. At the end of the day, they will always have their male privilege to fall back on. Similarly, I’m an advocate for the LGBT community, but I never purport to fully know what it’s like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. I can sympathize, and sometimes empathize, but at the end of the day, I will still have my heterosexual privilege in our society. Therefore, if someone in the LGBT community said they were discriminated against or attacked or hated for their sexuality, I would think long and hard (dirty!) before I challenged their claim.

Someone once said something like, "To be black in America is to be angry all the time." (If one of you readers knows the quote, please let me know.) Gloria Steinem has been quoted as saying, "In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: Either she's a feminist or a masochist." Try being black and a woman. You get very attuned to when and why people don’t like you or what you have to say. Imagine if I were queer, too: I’d have even more to say.

My point is this: why didn’t any of you on the Pajiba staff stand up for me? I’m not some obnoxious stranger; I’ve been a regular reader of yours for over a year now. Why didn’t you read what I was saying and realize that I wasn’t just arguing for argument’s sake? Why did you assume that my part in the "stupid, bickering, masturbatory bitchfest" was equivalent to the spiteful comments of those who told me to go away because I wasn’t born male and therefore my perspective was not relevant? Why was there no attempt made to moderate the discussion? I know I wasn’t the only one who felt strongly about how I was being treated. I also know that there are other girls and women who saw what happened to me and will come to the conclusion that Pajiba is a place where they should be careful about voicing their opinions: because there is a good chance they too will be harassed if they do. These questions are not rhetorical; I encourage any and all of you to leave a response.

I risked something by defending myself and my views on the Superbad comment thread. But I risk even more by writing this post. I risk alienating myself from the entire staff of Pajiba, and their Pajiba Love posse, people whose blogs I read on a regular basis and often enjoy, people whom I want to like me and my writing. I risk sounding like just another angry feminist who can’t take a joke or appreciate yet another R-rated comedy made for white heterosexual teenage males. I risk being ostracized from a community—a community that, considering my media background, I have every right to be a part of—because I spoke up for myself and I didn’t back down.

I could remain silent. I could pretend that I’m not upset about what happened and that it’s okay that no one who runs the blog came to my defense. I could choose to stop reading Pajiba and Slowly Going Bald and all the rest. That’s what usually happens when women get attacked. They get blamed for their own victimization, leave the site of the incident, then they try to pretend it never happened. The attackers go on living their lives, sans punishment, and even get rewarded by their victim’s silence, which is what the attackers wanted in the first place. And the people who said nothing are glad the drama is over.

However, I’m not going to shut up. I’m not going to go away. I’m going to see what happens next.

Thanks for reading!


Stephanie said...

Yeah! I'm so glad you are back. I've missed your posts!

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Yeah! Fuck those fuckers.

(You're so much more eloquent than I am.)

Bianca Reagan said...

Thanks, Stephanie! That means a lot.

Thank you, too, catherine. Strong words. :)

Amy's Brain Today said...

I really, really admire and respect your determination and willingness to stand up for yourself. That the men of Pajiba call themselves feminist makes me snort with laughter--almost every review there is liberally peppered with misogynist language of one type or another. The gender issues of the films are almost NEVER considered in the reviews. Is it a coincidence that they have, I think, ONE female reviewer?

Anyway, again, I really admire and support you in fighting those fights; I'm one of the silent readers who goes to the site to find out about movies and never, ever, ever reads the comments, let alone leaves one, no matter how offensive the review--because I just don't want to deal with the kind of shit you take. Kudos.

Bianca Reagan said...

Thanks, amy! They actually have four female reviewers, one of whom does the Pajiba Love section. However, that section often focuses on subjects appealing to white, heterosexual males. Which, I acknowledge is a chicken and egg situation, considering the section is about mainstream American media. I stopped reading it, though, when the second headline of Wednesday's Pajiba Love read, "I've got a PSA for our male readers! It's still in the rumor stage, but Natalie Portman may have a nude scene in Wes Anderson's upcoming short film, Hotel Chevalier." Um, no. On the heels of the Maggie Gyllenhaal headline last month, I'm done.