The shit hit the fan tonight at The Green Room on Bleecker, or at least it definitely seemed that way. I got there early and waited around in a group comprised of a strange combination of tourists, Jezebels and old guys. They had a ridiculously cheap special where you could get two beers and some pretzels for $5, which sounds awesome in theory but 1) I’m not 21 and I think they may have been carding and 2) Oh hi I’m BROKE. So I was sober, and also feeling like I’d reverted back to my old pro-ana ways because like I said I don’t have money and also don’t have food so like, I was dizzy and headachey the whole time. Anyway.
The first part was this comedy sketch that mocked the media, which was funny-ish, but seemed mildly forced. The second part was a little interview with the woman who hosts the show, Lizz Winstead (who is actually co-creator and ex-head writer of The Daily Show), with Moe and Tracie from Jezebel. What I expected to be a simultaneously light and enlightening conversation about sex and feminism turned into one of the most horrendous displays of girl-on-girl crime I’ve ever witnessed. Tracie and Moe were buzzed at the beginning but appeared to be fucking wasted by the end. Winstead kept hammering hard with questions about rape and promiscuity and abortion. It started out hilariously with the women discussing abortion, and upon Moe asking how many abortions Winstead had had in her life, she responded, “Oh, my sister calls me Terminator 3.” LOL.
After that things got intense. Like, really fucking intense, like I was shifting in my seat and people started heckling and it was in this bizarre little studio in the basement of this tiny theatre on Bleecker and Lafayette and some people were drunk and others (like me) were stone cold sober and some knew what Jezebel is and others didn’t and some didn’t even know anything about feminism while others appeared to be Gloria Steinem in costume. I feel like I can’t even really wrap my head around it yet because it was just so fucking intense.
What essentially happened is that the gloves came off and this idea, this basic idea that drives the notion of feminism - that women and men are equal - became so lost in the friction of fractionalized opinions, splintered conflicting ideas that became so convoluted that everyone lost sight of the fact that we can all be feminists - we can all be women - without thinking the same exact things. And instead of coming together to celebrate being women it completely became this Old Guard Feminism represented by Winstead vs. this New Wave Feminism represented by Moe and Tracie and Jezebel as a whole. It was as if all of the recent generational clashing in the feminist sphere came to a head and exacted its cruel, bloody revenge right in front of me at 10pm on a Monday night in SoHo.
There were three main arguments that stuck out.
First of all, there was the discussion of rape: I’ve always been relatively ambivalent concerning Tracie’s attitude about rape. She always takes a rather mocking tone, which is her nature as is evident in her posts, but sometimes it seems as if she just doesn’t get it. And it takes a lot for me to say that because this woman is essentially my Feminist Hero. Tonight, for example, she was talking about rape and arguing that free love means that you should be able to fuck anyone you want and not feel scared about it. And then Moe started talking about how rape happens more frequently in countries like Iraq and Iran where sexual desires are repressed. But rape is inherently a violent act, one about asserting power and aggression, and so why do societal attitudes about sex even play into it? If anything the rape rate is higher in these countries because of the negative attitudes towards women and the societally engrained notion that women are second-class citizens.
But the thing is that rape does happen in America, and Winstead was intent to drive this point home. One in four girls is sexually abused, and maybe women like Tracie don’t know anything about that because they just happen to be lucky. Perhaps they possess an intuition that helps them to ward off skeezy guys, but doesn’t it really essentially boil down to luck? Not being on the wrong street at the wrong time? Not knowing men who have it in them to rape you? Wearing a short skirt does not solicit rape. And so maybe luck does have something to do with it. I don’t think Tracie would argue against the concept that her flippancy concerning rape stems from the fact that she herself has never been raped. But it’s unfair to act like it doesn’t happen here just because men aren’t trying to rape you all the time. It does happen. All the fucking time. Edit: To be fair, as she pointed out in the comments of this post, Tracie was very skittish about discussing the topic of rape because she fully admitted she knows nothing about it. The whole discussion was just very awkward.
Branching off from that discussion about rape is the second argument: Moe wrote an article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago that basically served as a big Fuck You to upper-middle class white feminists (who say they’re going to vote for McCain because Clinton didn’t win the nomination) who are self-serving and selfish. After talking about this article, Moe got into this deeply poignant discussion about being date-raped when she was 19. It wasn’t poignant in that she was sentimentalizing it - just the opposite, it seemed like she wanted us to believe that it wasn’t this big deal, making jokes about it, swigging her beer between punch lines. It was bizarre to me, how flippantly she, too, treated the issue of rape. I can understand Tracie doing so to some extent since she has never been in that situation, but for someone who has had the experience of being sexually taken advantage of, you would think that might change your mind in a lot of ways. And so it was poignant because Moe seemed to be unable to recognize that rape is a big deal, and was obviously a big deal to her, no matter how much of a show she was putting on pretending that it wasn’t. Or - maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it isn’t a big deal to her - after all, she didn’t press charges because she claimed he didn’t “seem like the kind of guy who would rape again,” and in that case it’s even more poignant simply because rape is inherently a big deal, a life changing, massively big deal, and here is this girl who has been raped a bunch of times acting like it’s not.
And Winstead had a problem with that, too, because Moe was bitching about the Old Guard feminists being so self-serving but here was Moe refusing to press charges on her rapist in a totally selfish manner because according to her “it’d just be too much work,” and thus allowing this guy to roam free potentially preying on other drunk women.
And then when it came to talking about sexism in politics, particularly in regard to Hillary Clinton, Moe said something that I do really agree with: She said that she doesn’t feel oppressed in the same way that other people who experience prejudice do. Does sexism exist? Sure. Do we encounter it every day? Definitely. But it doesn’t affect our everyday lives in the nuanced and petulant ways that it did the Old Guard. And so picking out every instance of sexism that occurs in the election or in our lives is not only counterproductive, but also vaguely counterintuitive. And then Tracie called Gloria Steinem a dinosaur and that’s when the shit really hit the fan because someone hissed and people around me were groaning like, “What the fuck are these women doing?” and I became so alarmed I thought my throat was closing up because these are my heroes and they were fucking drunk on stage voicing opinions that I agree with, but voicing them poorly, voicing them so poorly that I wanted to run up and desperately clarify what they meant. Because I do know what they mean, because I do read Jezebel every day, and I know that they’re not these dumb drunk girls and that they do actually know what they’re talking about.
And so Winstead replied to Moe and Tracie and me and every girl in my generation who feels that we are not oppressed: You are not oppressed because women like Gloria Steinem changed the world so you would never have to feel that way!
And it’s true. And that’s the problem with feminism, is that there are so many offshoots and we just end up fucking arguing about the same dumb shit when really we should be coming together to fight the Man - quite literally - in order to curb all oppression, however subtle it may be. But instead we bicker drunkenly in dark, dank theatre spaces and the Old Guard feminists harbor such tremendous resentment at the lack of appreciation the New Wavers’ show, and the New Wavers are just so fucking sick of the Old Guard bitching that we have all but turned a blind eye to sexism and instead proclaim ourselves now equal, sexually free, powerful, beautiful women, all the while forgetting this sense of history that has driven us to coalesce in this moment as all-together Feminists. And that really fucking depresses me.
So I guess it's true what they say: never meet your heroes. At least not when they're drunk.
Edit: I also wanted to clarify that this show was supposed to be a COMEDY show, which explains why all the intensity took me by surprise, and also kind of explains why Moe and Tracie weren't necessarily prepared. I don't think any of us were ready for the maelstrom of seriousness hurled at the panel/audience.
UPDATE: Due to all the recently linkage, specifically from The Huffington Post, please consider What I Know (For Now)