Saturday, December 30, 2006

Babbling lunacy

Given the trash job performed on yours truly at that public whipping post known as Babble, and another in the pillory known as EnMasse, I thought I might return the favour, if in a more genteel fashion. Readers will know that I recently stepped incautiously into the debate about Elizabeth May's alleged opposition to choice on abortion. I made the mistake of actually reading what she had to say, and saying so in a couple of forums over at Babble and EnMasse. That resulted in a series of increasingly vile personal attacks on me, which I'll get to in a moment. But first of all, one more brief comment about Stalinism, with an apology.

I had originally written "For some of the gender Stalinists around, there is only one position on anything permitted." That was clumsy and ambiguous. It suggests that there is a class of "gender Stalinists" some of whom actually do permit more than one position. Hence the phrase was open to interpretation (and misinterpretation) as applying, at least possibly, to feminists in general--a left-wing term-substitute for Rush Limbaugh's infamous "feminazis."

That was a serious error
, and I apologize for it. I have dropped the "some of," making it clear that I was referring to precisely that small handful of "line" folks, and no one else. The feminists I know and have worked with are not so eager to rush to judgement. They are not prone to making hateful denunciations. They are not averse to heated, even angry debate (and why should they be?) but they manage to steer clear of the sheer viciousness that prevails at both Babble and EnMasse.

Now, I can handle the mindless namecalling--"idiot sexist" and the like. I'm a Usenet veteran, after all, not a babe in the woods, and I've trolled with the best in my day. And I'm sure Elizabeth May will survive the false charges that continue to circulate about her on the choice issue. "My comments throughout the by-election campaign made it clear that the Green Party officially, and I personally, strongly support legal access to abortions for any woman (under whatever circumstances) who chooses to have one," she says, and that, for anyone with the wit to comprehend plain language, should be that.

But some of the participants cross the bounds of common decency. Here is what one sneering Babbler, who calls herself "remind," had to say about me:

I wonder at those men, who alledgedly [sic] stood firm with feminists for decades, it seems now that they're older they seem to be less embracing of it, perhaps it is the "trophy wife" mentality settling in?

There's a difference, people, between being righteously angry and being gratuitously hateful and vile. (Just don't tell such people to "fuck off," though, or you'll get a prissy* warning from a "moderator" about "personal attacks.") My late partner, who was nobody's "trophy," believe me, would have wondered why such people insist on calling themselves feminists.

One final, only half-serious point: there will no doubt be those who see in the word "lunacy," above, a reference to the moon, and hence to women. I will be accused, once again, of sexism. Let me just note that some of the worst offenders at the two sites mentioned are of the male persuasion--like the fellow who accused me of duplicity and fraud for disagreeing that Elizabeth May is some kind of stand-in for Gwen Landolt. I rather enjoyed the signature of another: "Thinking is so overrated." Lunacy of the political kind is equal opportunity all the way.

Enough said. I should have moved on before this. I promise that my end-of-year post will be a better read. But in the meantime, listen up, lunatics: Marianne is not fair game.

UPDATE: (January 10) "remind" and I have had some vigorous b/c discussion on this matter. In brief, she states adamantly that she did not have me or my personal circumstances in mind when she made her comments. In her words:

That comment was a result of observations that came from my own personal observations over the last few years. I know, and have known, many "progressive" couples that have been strong activists/feminists together, throughout their 20's and 30's. And then when they hit, their 40’s the man opts out of the relationships, not only with his partner, but with the equality/progressive political movement, for a 20-25 year old who has a father complex. I am sure you know some of these types too. I was being satirical about how shallow some men's attachment to woman's equality is, so much so that it disappears with mid life crisis.

Without getting into the substance of that, let me simply note that the signal-to-noise ratio at Babble has become unfavourable; comments directed at the person seem to be the norm, as they tend to be in comboxes, too, whether on "left" or "right" blogs.

"remind" was guilty of that, but she is insistent that I clear up my "misconceptions" about the specific intent of her comments. I think my reading of them was justifiable, under the circumstances, but I will accept that other readings are possible. Perhaps if "progressives" would stick to ideas and issues instead of going for each other's throats, we might all be the better for it, suffer less from "misconceptions" of all kinds--and have a shot at changing society and the world. [Cue: "Kumbaya."]

*priggish; exaggeratedly proper; excessively fastidious. The fact that some commentators called the use of this word "sexist" indicates that they themselves consider these traits to be exclusively feminine. Anyone listened to Stephen Harper recently?

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