What’s In a Name?

Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 12, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Small_Red_Rose

What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

–William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II

It was on this site a week ago that RE published an article entitled, “The Sound of One Hand Clapping.” This article was, by his own admission, a rant in which he took on the postings of impermanence, the futility of debating philosophical arguments on threads not designed for same, his lack of interest in such musings, and the distaste he felt in dealing with “feminazis” on Guy McPherson’s “Nature Bats Last” blog.

As regular Diner readers know, I recently had occasion to go off-site and spar a bit with the regular commenters on Guy McPherson’s blog, Nature Bats Last. In this case it’s not Zen Koan style philosophizing you have to deal with, it’s existential philosophy of how you deal with your Grief once you ACCEPT that Near Term Human Extinction is REALITY. The acceptance of this reality as looked at from the POV of the Group Think on NBL is a prerequisite to discussing anything else. If you don’t buy this idea hook, line & sinker, then instead of any real discussion what you get is a fairly non-stop stream of Napalm from the regulars accusing you of denial, ignorance or often enough misogyny also. Passive-Aggressive attacks are made regularly by the Feminazi contingent on Male responsibility for oncoming Extinction, and how life would have been so much better if just the Women had been in charge here. . .

I also am not going to be drawn into dumb ass pissing contests with Feminazis who blame the sorry state of the world on Patriarchy, nor will I get into thoroughly stupid arguments with Cornucopians who think the fucking Fusion Cavalry will ride to the rescue here and before you know it we’ll be ditching the Chevys for Flying Deloreans powered by stale beer. . .

On the Diner Forum, I took issue with him on use of the term “feminazi” as unnecessarily pejorative. In fairness, this reference was just one facet of a article far more about the fatalism of uber-doomersand the ned to spend time in pointed, as opposed to pointless, endeavors.

I pointed out the term “feminazi,” a portmanteau of the nouns feminist and Nazi, was popularized by Rush Limbaugh and in use since the early 1990s. It’s regularly used by American conservatives to criticize feminists whose positions they find “too extreme.” Of course, given the recent Republican war on women, “too extreme” may include simply voicing an opinion, objecting to rape, or occupying space outside of a kitchen or bedroom. My position remains that “feminazi” is a highly charged locution with the emotional equivalent of the N-word. Last Sunday, I made the following complaint:

Use of the term “feminazi” defines only the user, as one unable to deal with strong minded and opinionated women. . . use of Limbaugh’s term puts you in league with the brownshirts and other useful idiots that are debasing the culture and by extension, the planet. I cannot believe that you are deaf to the resonances of such a term. So then, if not deaf, what do you intend? To signal agreement with the Drooling Right in re women’s issues? To signal solidarity with Phil Robertson – he of homosexuality-equals-bestiality and black-folks-just-loved-Jim-Crow infamy – on women’s issues, about which he has said that boys to marry early because that’s when girls are most useful to them.

“Look, you wait ’til they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket,” Robertson says. “You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They’ll pick your ducks.” So by all means, 15-year-olds ought to marry to get the subjugation going early?

I don’t give a flying duck about “Duck Whatever” or any other feckless elevation of redneck culture, but using “feminazi” to describe opinionated females with whom you disagree puts you on the wrong side of a cultural divide. And as such you probably do nothing to encourage the participation of the strong, independent and hard working women who will be essential to make SUN a reality in the future.

I was wrong. The only women who weighed in on this subject either said the term did not offend, and the other told me to not “be butt hurt.” The wages of gallantry. Try as I might, I could not even convince Contrary to pick up the cudgel, aside from a brief comment on Facebook. Long story short, no one cared.

But I still do, to this extent.

Language matters. Political operatives spend fortunes to test words and phrases for maximum efficacy. “Reframing” was the work of Frank Luntz, who gave us the “death tax” as a euphemism for the “tax on unearned intergenerational dynastic wealth,” possibly the single most successful reframing effort since a Texas editor popularized “right to work” in 1947 in the wake of the passage of the Taft-Hartley act…

Interesting back and forth on the forum about this issue. One poster observed that the “radical feminists” had their own propaganda as well. One longtime Diner, J.D., good-naturedly chided me for political correctness:

I’ll be the first to admit, terms like “feminazi” are very powerful and should only be used in the most extreme cases. But there are times when it fits. I am all for women’s liberation, up to the point where it becomes men’s oppression.

Hm. What makes a “radical feminist?” Does that apply to a woman who believes that testicles are toxic tools of oppression, and anyone who owns them should have them forcibly removed, or does it apply to strong-minded women with an independent streak who offer opinions that make you uncomfortable? When do men get oppressed? Whenever they become uncomfortable? Or challenged? Who gets to decide? The fact that “feminazi” is a conservative coinage applied to women no longer controllable by conservative men seems lost on the current generation of both men and women. Thus does language lose its potency, and our discourse is coarsened. I refuse to allow reactionaries to define the terms of the ongoing cultural wars; by using the term, we give them a victory they have not earned– the moral equivalent of an “unforced error” in sports.

We’re deep in the eddies of gender politics on this one, a battle for which I am remarkably ill-equipped, and redolent with irony, as the following story shows.

Flash to late 2011– After DHS coordinated the raids of Occupy camps nationwide, our local group found itself in disarray. Not surprising. Since Occupy was leaderless by design, several of us got together to plan to jump-start the movement– we planned a facilitation exercise in which the group would establish priorities for the local movement. Unfortunately, the planners were all white males. So, after developing and refining the process, rehearsing, obtaining a meeting place, we held the meeting. One woman, who fancied herself the Mother of all Occupy (and a member of the local woo-woo crystal-gazing contingent, for which I had little patience) nearly derailed the meeting by complaining about the seating arrangements, and the fact that females had not been involved in the planning of said meeting. The fact that no females showed up to work on the project seemed to mean little. Thus the reward for hard work and volunteer effort. On the spot we asked if she would like to facilitate the meeting, and offer to give her the floor. “Oh no, no,” came the reply. Clearly, better to bitch about the process and nurse an insatiable sense of grievance . . . Gratifyingly, other women at the meeting, recognizing what we were attempting to do, came to our defense.

Interestingly, Occupy facilitation rules give preference to traditionally oppressed groups, including both women and people of color. So access to any speaking platform was really never a problem. Per usual, the real issues were about control and attention– more irony in a movement with no leaders and no assets.

Thus was I ratfucked for my maleness by women who might or fall to the description of “feminazis,” meaning those who looked for any reason to play the victim role, to be offended at the work products of white males because it was produced by white males, etc. Perhaps it is such a state of assertive victimhood and passive aggression that some men wish to label “feminazi.” Or ball-busting man-haters. Or those who want to lay all of their ills at the feet of 20,000 years of patriarchy. But I would never call them that, to avoid appearing ignorant, and to resist ceding control of one small piece of the language to the most atavistic and reactionary elements of our culture.

At the end of the day, Eddie had a levelheaded take:

My big issue, as I’ve said before, has to do with how feminism led to male Political Correctness of a sort that emasculated boys and young men, eventually, and caused relationship issues for a whole generation of couples, myself included. . . both men and women get a lot of positive energy out of relationships that let men be men and women be women, sexually speaking. In one sense, I am still pro-feminism, because I believe in equal pay for equal work, and I believe in equal rights in general.

But when I go to NBL to read, there is still that anti-male residue that offends me so much, and I find myself wanting to unload on those women, whom I consider misguided and….yeah, stupid. they need to get over some things, and do their own personal work, so that they can grow into the light.

We could all do with growing into the light, starting with me. As RE noted, we are confronted with practical priorities–

… like HTF will I feed myself If/When JIT shipping collapses? Where is the best place to go to avoid being bombarded by radionucleotides FIRST here? Maybe I can’t avoid this in perpetuity, but this is a timeline issue and I would like to avoid it for NOW!

We all have– and share– other priorities. Let’s call out bullshit, male or female, where we find it. Let’s just not cede control of the cultural conversation to reactionaries.

***

are-you-not-entertained

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of adult children in various stages of transition.

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