It wasn’t until ‘Blog Against Ableism’ Day (or some such thing, I forget the exact title) last year that I realised how much I use ableist language every day. I use ‘lame’ all the time, and I don’t realise until I’ve said it.
I’ve addressed this with a couple of people, all of whom have said that that’s not what that word means any more. But that’s very easy for them (and me) to say. It’s not up to us what someone else finds offensive. And so I was thrilled to find this post listing some alternatives to ‘lame’, ‘crazy’ and other ableist terms. I’m making it my mission to stop using these words and replace them with something better. I particularly like ‘asinine’.
It is a long-running joke, if one can call something that makes you spit bile a joke, amongst feminists that the Guardian’s Comment is Free is full of trolls, men’s rights activists *snicker* and other generally unpleasant people. And even more so when it is a woman writing. And even more so when that woman is writing anything with a feminist bent.
They have recently tried to address this, and the ironic (?) thing is that the comment thread was just as bad as with other posts and nothing really got solved. For what is supposed to be a debating space it does not have much of a debate element about it. Women (or even men) who try to correct the misogynistic bullshit that some people spew on there (check out the post Naomi ‘I’m a feminist but…’ Wolf wrote about rape to see what I mean, although don’t say I didn’t warn you…) are shouted down and insulted. It just becomes tiring. And it doesn’t foster a positive environment. The whole point of commenting spaces is to foster debate, and when people refuse to even engage in the debate then it is impossible to make any headway.
On a similar, although unrelated note, this post by Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown about the horrific treatment she, and other prominent feminists, receive from the general public on the Internet got me to thinking. Is there any safe space for feminists on the Internet? There are private email lists, of course, but a space to get the message out to other people without the fear of being attacked? Is it something that is necessary – both for the feminist movement and for feminists themselves.
Sady points out that it is feminists who reach a certain notereity that experience this treatment, but I have seen it happen on a much smaller scale. You put people on the Internet and give them a veil of anonymity and suddenly the whole world seems full of assholes. Is it something we can change? And is it something that is focused even more violently on feminists? It is the main thing I look at online so I cannot make a full analysis on the levels of vitriol aimed at various groups, and though I suspect that it is similar for many people, the arguments from trolls online often crop up in real life too. It is not just seedy people on the Internet who like to attack feminists, the same arguments abound from people I actually talk to in the street. Well, the proverbial street of course.
There are two ways of tackling this I guess, one would be to tackle the views of people outside of the Internet and hope that by publicising the cause and creating a better way of discussing sexism IRL, as it were, you could minimise the amount of people that are making these comments. The other is better policing of online spaces, but that in itself is problematic. It is one thing to turn on comment moderation but a real person has to moderate those comments. You can make people sign up for an account and block any people who are being unnecessarily rude. But again, they have to do it in the first place to get blocked. And it’s all a value judgement as well, one person’s troll is another’s opinionated dissenter.
I don’t have the answers, of course, and maybe it is impossible. But it’s definitely something to aim towards. Thoughts?
I have long been a fan of Ugly Betty, and its portrayal of important issues to do with beauty, love, career, family, friendship and other such lovely things. I first started watching this programme wanting to be a journalist, and dreaming of a life like the one that Betty was living at Mode. Obviously now my priorities have changed but my love for this show has not.
The ultimate message of Ugly Betty is very feminist-friendly. Or was, I should say, since we must now sadly talk about it in the past tense *sniff*. Oh, and if you don’t want to find out what happens in the end then consider this a full on *SPOILER ALERT*
The satire of the beauty and fashion industry has been somewhat pared down in the last few seasons, and although it remains an important element there are not so many storylines about Betty’s struggle with her chosen career and its victimisation of people just like her, people who are different in one way or the other. However, even I would have found it tedious if they had not varied their focus a little and so I will not blame them too much for giving Betty a make over and widening their focus.
What I really want to talk about today, as much as there are other things to discuss in regards to this show, is the ending. The very last episode of the show. And here it comes again *SPOILER ALERT* I was incredibly impressed with the end of this show, and I really felt that the girl power message it gave out was really positive.
There was a moment where I was all ready to tear up the blogosphere complaining about how ridiculous a Daniel-Betty love-in was, since there was no previous implication of romantic feelings between the two and that, of course, it was because women can’t possibly be happy without a man in their lives even if that man is completely unsuited to them in a romantic setting even if they *are* best friends. God knows I wouldn’t want to date my best male friends, love them though I do. I’m sure they would say the same about me.
However, I was extremely gratified to discover that they chose to divert that storyline and instead opt for one in which Betty makes an independent career move. Obviously the scene where she leaves her family, who are clearly incredibly close and supportive, is heart-wrenching. But moving to London to start a new magazine? To be a successful and powerful career woman? On her OWN? Awesome. Daniel, the lesser qualified one of the two, becoming her assistant? Even more awesome.
I have a friend who disagrees with my analysis of the ending, and thinks that Daniel promising her dinner is not an invitation of friendship but one of romantic intent. I disagree, and really feel that there’s will continue to be a relationship of friendship, support and all that good stuff. The ambiguity does make it a little less striking, however, and I still take issue with their insinuation of love. Not that I hate love. I love love. Just not between Betty and Daniel. Unless it is platonic. Obvs.
But either way, is it not a brilliant ending? There are so few positive role models on TV for girls, especially since they stopped Buffy *sniff* Thinking of the other TV shows that I have watched religiously, and very anti-feministly, recently I can think of very few examples of strong, confident and feminist women who I would be happy to emulate. Gossip Girl? Nope. 90210? Certainly not (although perhaps Silver would qualify…) Desperate Housewives? Give me a break. Maybe it is my choice of TV shows but it just seems to me that Ugly Betty is ahead of the fray in creating a feminist-friendly, if not explicitly feminist, character whose happily ever after includes friendship and career success rather than marriage and babies.