Monday, December 7, 2009

In Which the Cat Reads Internet Comments (Episode 1)

I was reading a link about feminist children's books that I stumbled on as part of a linkfest from one of the blogs I read. I like children's books and I don't think they get enough credit as good literature (and before you levy the curmudgeon charge, I will say that this is not entirely the fault of best-selling 'Young Adult' swill that floods the public consciousness - but I suppose it is, largely).

I digress. What I meant to be getting at is I expected an entirely uncontroversial article in which a few book recommendations are made and the commenters (who were invited to add to the list) would indeed make their own recommendations, hopefully with some anecdotes about whether it was well-received by the children in their life(ves). A little naive, perhaps.

I should have known that the word "feminist" would bring out the angry, dismissive, reductive hordes, even if all we were discussing were books that somehow subverted the prevalent, pervasive and ultimately restrictive and repressive gender stereotypes.

What a stupid idea. Let kids be kids, and let them find their own way without overly protective parents inflicting PC bollocks on them.

The phrase "PC bollocks" is all you need to know about this poster. The resentment of the fact that his/her privilege is occasionally brought out into the light of day is oozing out of my screen and threatening to void the warranty on my computer. Honestly, this is a plea for allowing the status quo to stand uncontested and I have no patience for that. Anyone who is arguing for a world riddled with intersecting oppressions does not deserve this world (or discourse, really). Also, you know what happens when people "Let kids be kids, and let them find their own way" in this fucked up society of ours? This fucked up shit.

All of these books work on the premise that feminine instincts are bad and that the best thing is if all girls behave like boys. What rubbish. What's so wrong with being feminine? Why would we want to be violent & aggressive? There's a lot of strength in being gentle and kind. It would be best if we had books that showed that you can be whatever type of person that you want to be and that being gentle & kind is a very good thing.

Short response: Graarrgghhh! Piss off you nonce!

Long response: Congratulations! You win the Cat in the Cream's daily missing the point award! Not to mention, the conflation of "feminine instincts" (which is a way of guilting women into mistrusting science and reason as well as blaming them for missteps if I ever saw one) with behaviour qualifies you for the the bonus "Consistency Fail" medal! Feminists do not believe that males are "violent & aggressive". That would be gender stereotyping. Feminists do not do that. Books that emphasize the "strength in being gentle and kind" (and heaven knows there sure are enough of them out there that you hardly have to look at a very short list of books in a newspaper article to find them) do not "[show] that you can be whatever type of person that you want to be" BECAUSE THEY SHOW THAT YOU HAVE TO BE GENTLE AND KIND WHICH IS REALLY JUST ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING THAT YOU HAVE TO BE PASSIVE AND SUBMISSIVE AND PUT OTHERS ABOVE YOURSELF.

I'm pretty sure that's the default message we're giving girls, so I have to wonder why this person had to drop in to defend it at all. Oh wait, I do know. Idiot.

Why do these stories have to be "feminist" and what the hell is "gender studies" for a three year old anyway. Some of these stories just talk about girls doing stuff which don't involve being passive and waiting to be swept away by Prince Charming. That's not feminist that's just neutral.

Wha (sic) teach your daughter that you're already under a patriarchical (sic) yoke from year dot? Good grief, why does anyone want to teach their daughters that men are oppresing (sic) them especially when so many modern laws are so feminist in nature? I'd rather just teach that girls are free to choose to be something other than a princess.

Anyway, good list apart from "Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls" which sounds downright confusing for children rather than merely subversive.

Let's being with "That's not feminist, that's just neutral". I bet this person also says things like "we live in a post-feminist world" at parties while card-carrying members of the patriarchichy (heh) nod sagely. It is feminist because the dominant paradigm says otherwise. I'd also like a list of the laws which "are so feminist in nature" - I have a feeling that they actually only meet this person's definition of "neutral".

Exposing children to subverted stereotypes is not "[teaching] your daughter that you're already under a patriarchical (sic) yoke from year dot". The hopeless desperation this describes is a little heart-breaking (it seems to imply, to me at least, that the writer feels defeated by the patriarchy and the patriarchichy). I understand the need to shelter children from the uglier bits of the world, but is trapping them in restrictive categories that brutally punishes transgressions really the way to go about that? The confused query of the following mother says the answer is "no":

What do I do about my son's addiction to pink, and high heels? He's two. I'm assuming he'll grow out of it, but against my better judgement find myself pushing 'boy's' toys on him. He has no interest though, he just wants to read about Princess Poppy (there's a rubbish series of books if there ever was one)

I know I'm preaching to the choir (well, I hope so, at least) when I say that exposing children to examples of all genders going about their lives, doing fantastical things, and in various roles is unequivocally a good thing. It may not strictly be the case in reality, but this is one damn good way to go about changing it.

Maybe one of these days I'll even write about books written for the children's market that have characters who do not fall into gender stereotypes. For now, I'll leave you with this (hardly exhaustive) rant.


  1. Patriachichy

    I award you the win.

    BTW, I find that comments on the Guardian website are almost always awful. I don't know why, but the average thread often strongly resembles this.

  2. ZOMG!!!11!ONE!11ELVENTY1111!!!!


  3. Stephen Fry recently commented on the level of drivel that passes off as internet discussion:

    "I don't know about you but whenever I read a blog I do not let my eye drop below half the screen in case I accidentally hit the bit where the comments reside. Of all the stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet those comments on blogs are the most unbearable, almost beyond imagining," he added, getting into his stride and echoing comments made by fellow comedian David Mitchell earlier this year about the standard of online commentary.

    "Their resentment, their desire to be heard at the most vituperative level, at the most unpleasant and malevolent, genuinely ill-willed malevolent, level is terrifying and I am very often simply not able to cope with that," Fry said. (source)

  4. @Magical - Yes, I must agree it is actually really awesome.

  5. Those posters who complain that their sons are "feminised" prove the need for feminism. Because it's not equality if a girl can do "masculine" things (positioned as superior) but a boy cannot do "feminine" things (positioned as inferior). It is not sufficient liberation to be giving women access to men's clothing and men's jobs with the expectation that this is all that is needed for a post-feminist world, because this only reinforces the subordinate placement of [dresses/nursing careers/childrearing/long hair/pink]. And I know I'm preaching to the choir, but. Can I join the "The Point Is Being Missed" club? :(

    I agree with Stephen Fry, intellectually, but *glances at other tabs open* I think I must be masochistic to continue reading. :x

  6. beka: Egg-zack-ly! The whole structure has to come down. "Men's jobs" and "women's jobs" themselves need to change in content and in status.

    I would like a "The Point Is Being Missed" club card. Wouldn't it be great if whenever someone starts up asshattery in your vicinity you could whip it out, wave it around and achieve instant, golden silence. A Chicken can dream, can't she.

  7. May I recommend Yes Means Yes for your blogroll? :)

  8. @Beka, thanks for the note! I've added to it to our blogroll as recommended after checking it out. Compeletely agree that it should be there!


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