Archive for March, 2013

in which Zero says some things some women might not want to hear.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2013 by darryl zero

WARNING: If you’re a woman, you run a high chance of being offended by some portion of what I have to say in this (admittedly, rather long) piece.  Sorry.

I also want to issue the caveat that, first and foremost, I look at women like I do any other person–I consider them on an individual basis and consider them, at least, my equal until they do something like insult me or say they liked the Watchmen cinematic abortion.  So before you get all “OMG ZERO YOU SLUT-SHAMING VICTIM-BLAMING EVIL MAN,” if you think you can stomach it, maybe try reading what I have to say before you get all furious.

(Before you read this, check this out.)

If you know me (or have seen any one of my micro-rants in social media), you may have seen or heard me bandy about the term “post-feminist.”  It’s something of a derisive term, I’ll be the first to admit, and probably not the most sensitive of things for me to say, but I stand by it, if only because I need something to describe what I’m talking about.

I suppose I should back up and say that I used to have something of a beef with “feminists.”  Not feminism, per se; I see women as people and at least equals (if not betters) to men in most ways, but really those women that go that extra mile to declare absolutely everything to be some reflection of the evil Phallacracy determined to send women back to the dark ages, the kind of woman that thinks every man is determined to make sure they end up barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, making men sandwiches until the end of time.  While I’ll be the first to say that men really do have a long way to go before we can truly say we treat women as “equals” (and, by the way, fuck you North Dakota for your latest atrocity), I’d actually draw parallels between the women’s movement and the fight Blackfolk still face in many circles even today, for good and ill.

Oh, fuck it, I’ll stop being diplomatic: just as there are Blackfolk that need to stop looking at everything as a white man’s conspiracy, there are some women that call themselves “feminists” that really need to fucking examine what they’re saying, because not only are they doing more harm than good, they’ve become so blinded by their cause that they’ve forgotten that they’re fucking people, and they live in a pretty comparatively fucking awesome part of the “real” world.  Kinda like Anne Thériault.  Her rant (linked to at the top of the page) is the kind of viewpoint I like to look at as “post-feminist:” theoretically well-intentioned, but going just a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit too far.

I’m grandson to an intellectual behemoth of a grandmother.  I’m brother to a fiercely independent, successful professional sister, and I’m son to the best mother any person could ever have.  I occasionally get irritated by people that contextualize me to my relatives (this happens a lot in the case of my grandmother); I’m a grown man, after all, and have been for quite some time.  I get how insulting it can be to be reduced to simply an extension of someone else when you’re trying to do something like be taken seriously as an intellectual, a writer or a worker–believe me, I’ve lived that shit.  I even recognize how even my parallel experience can only abstractly compare to that of a woman in this society because, although I also belong to a marginalized social group, I’m still an educated, middle-class male.

But there’s a point at which I just gotta say “okay, time the fuck out,” and I crossed that point when I read Thériault’s piece.  For those of you that didn’t want to read it, it begins as a pretty accurate description of that bullshit that went down in Steubenville and an even more accurate depiction of the apologist media that somehow found a way to spin the story as a tragedy for two young football players robbed of their right to take their future for granted while they do stupid shit in college.  It glosses over the whole “hey, don’t rape people, because you just don’t do that” argument with good reason: it doesn’t take a fucking genius to know that’s a bad thing.

It then, however, promptly goes into the realm of WTF by focusing on the “what if it happened to your sister/daughter/wife” argument many people use when trying to point out to stupid people why raping people is not something a civilized person does.  Because Thériault’s argument is so patently fucking paranoid and hair-splitting, I won’t even fuck with paraphrasing it:

Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.

You know what, though? Saying these things is not helpful; in fact, it’s not even helping to humanize the victim. What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.

Again, I get the frustration and umbrage that comes with being looked at as naught but an extension of someone else that’s more prestigious or more important.  I understand how sensitive the subject of rape can be; it’s one of the most horrible things someone can do to another person.  But it’s also not something people like to talk about with any semblance of frankness, partially because it has to do with sex and partially because it has to do with a few fundamental wrinkles one encounters when trying to describe how women are equal to men.

Yeah, that’s right.  I said wrinkles.

I’m not going to dispute that women are people, and that women should be treated as, at the very least, equal to men.  But just because women are equal to men, it doesn’t mean women are the same as men, something women are often quick to remind us.  And we agree.  You’re right, women; on the whole, you’re generally smarter and more emotionally mature than men.  On the whole, however, you’re also physically smaller and somewhat less-formidable, so there’s always going to be that built-in vulnerability to physical attack to account for.

Because, guess what, ladies?  You have to account for that. At all times.  When I was a school bus driver, they trained me to always expect the worst of other drivers on the road, and that, in order to be as safe as possible, you have to be ready for anything to happen, and be thinking three steps ahead of it–not because it’s going to happen, but because it could.

It’s the reason why I take so much issue with the “still not asking for it” crowd, and the whole “STOP RAPE CULTURE” movement in general.  On the whole, I agree with what it’s trying to do–get people, mostly men, to come off this ridiculous notion that women are either their property, potential playthings, or anything other than individuals with their own motivations, needs, and sense-of-self–but, like some other liberal causes (*cough* gun control advocates *cough*), it tends to over-reach and ignore some pretty basic facts about humanity that, while shitty, might actually keep people safer.  So, when I see a picture like this:

I immediately think “what point are you trying to make?”

Because, guess what–no sane person actually thinks a woman is asking to get raped. Even most of the people that say “she was asking for it” don’t mean a woman was asking to be sexually assaulted–they’re just not sophisticated, sensitive, or empathetic enough to say “I don’t see women as anything other than an accessory for a male.”  Which sucks, and is offensive, and needs to change, but doesn’t make it any less present an ideology.

Which is at the heart of all of this–MOST PEOPLE LACK THE ABILITY TO CONCEPTUALIZE SOMETHING OTHER THAN THEIR NEEDS, WANTS, OR BELIEFS, and–and this is something we liberals really hate to hear–they’re never going to be able to, no matter how hard you try to force them to.  That kind of programming takes YEARS, if not decades to re-write.  Blackfolk know this all too well–it took roughly a hundred years from the moment of this nation’s birth for us to be considered fully human and another hundred for us to be considered more-or-less equal, and that’s just under the eyes of the law.  That Blackfolk still struggle with public perception is a testament to the longevity of ideals when programmed into a people, which also proves that progress, slow as it is, is only achievable either when the world grows into it, or when people get rid of the old order.  Problem being, the two most surefire ways to get rid of the old order–voting it out or breeding it out–require time, energy, and, most importantly, the realization that our individual needs, wants, and beliefs, are just that–and that we are, in fact, part of a larger whole that will continue to exist long after our shouts have faded into silence.

For now, however, we are stuck either with people that cling to the old ways or people that continue to be indoctrinated by them, because, like it or not, people that tend to look as women as something other than brood mares for the population also tend to think they’re too cool to actually have or be around children.  Which is the most depressing part, actually–I have no science to back this up, but it’s been my experience that that most women that make statements like Thériault’s often are the kind of women that also bristle at being viewed as only valuable as their uterus is fertile.

Now, I’m not saying women should consider their primary purpose to have or rear children, but guess what, ladies–you’re not going to change the mind of a grown-ass man, especially when it comes to the thing most important to him: how he relates to women.  If you’re not going to go to the trouble of attacking the problem at its source and actually take the time to program young men to see women as people and humans (YOU KNOW, LIKE I TRY TO), then the best you can do is work on the existing, grown, stubborn, stupid men in power now.

And, I hate to break it to you, but people trained and programmed to constantly think of things within a context of “how it relates to me” aren’t going to get “you shouldn’t do this because I’m a person.”  Men–especially white men–have historically had difficulty wrapping their brains around this, especially if they’ve never had anyone around to show them how a man ought to treat a woman.  If you’ve ever taught, or coached, or fucking been around learners, you know that a class can be broken down roughly like this:

1) people that get the concept right away;

2) people that need to practice the theory until they eventually get enough of it to pass;

3) people that need it broken down as simply as possible so they can at least follow along; and

4) people that just don’t fucking get it.

With this particular subject, very few people actually fall into category number one.  Nor, in my opinion, do they fall in category number two.  The people in category four usually show themselves right away and end up in prison, but most people–especially men–find themselves in category number three.

So,when I see a quote like this:

This device, which Obama has used on more than one occasion, is reductive as hell. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to.

I see a person in category one getting pissed off that people in category three can’t make the jump to where they’re at.

Guess what, folks: we don’t all sit at the gifted table.  We’re not all capable of seeing things the way the smart kids do.  Sometimes, you have to break shit down for the kid that just ain’t getting it, so that they can follow along and not throw tables around the room.  If you’re lucky, one of those kids actually just needed it re-framed that way, and they can actually become a constructive part of the learning process.  But you can’t count on that.

Besides, ladies–I hate to break it to you but, among the many other things you see when you look in the mirror, you are someone’s daughter, wife, friend, or mother, something even Thériault, righteous anger notwithstanding, acknowledges very prominently IN HER FUCKING BIO, WHICH IS CONVENIENTLY LINKED AT THE TOP OF THAT VERY POST:

A short list of things that I love: my son, the dude I am married to, books, summer dresses, shiny hair, banjo music, my sisters, feminism, Sylvia Plath, dusty record stores, yoga, rainy summer evenings, coming of age movies, Frida Kahlo, history, forest animals, Wes Anderson, nostalgia, being pretentious as fuck.

So, I’m sorry–I fail to see what’s so reductive about asking people to recontextualize how they see a woman.  It’s not about saying “a woman is only worthy of protection or personhood if she is one of these things;” it’s about framing something in a way that will get certain men to see women as something other than holes in which to stick their dicks, or fingers, or flashlights, or babies, or what have you.  For some people, that’s the only way they’re going to fucking get it.

And, if that prevents some guy from using his superior physical strength to prey on a vulnerable female?  I’d rather have them “reduce” women to something that must exist within the context of something else than have them reduce her to a mere rape statistic.

Just a thought.


the empty zero.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2013 by darryl zero

When I started this post, I was on a plane, headed back from someplace new and pretty to a Des Moines that, at least for now, I see only with contempt, a lifeless monument to my own failure to find my place in a world worthy of attention or notice, and the sadness I feel isn’t because of what I’d found so much as what I didn’t. I suppose the title of this entry is something of a misnomer; I don’t feel empty anymore, actually, if anything my current frustration and sadness stem from the fact that I am anything but. The past four days clinched it; it’s not just [redacted], and that nihilistic, consumptive passion kindling the flame. Nor is it anger. It’s something bordering on need, to be sure, but the scary part is that I can’t identify it. A couple of weeks removed from a vacation that was far more restful than I will admit to myself and I feel like I should be more concerned about what’s going on. I find myself slipping into not caring, which ought to be a bad thing, but at the same time there’s still an element of motivation, some prod or other stimulus and again there is the not knowing, bordering on frustration–desperation, even–and the practical side is in the verge of blowing everything up.