But when your audience grows, maybe you have to make some mental shifts to incorporate them into your line of thinking. I don’t want to censor myself, but ever since the whole Jezebel fiasco I feel a much deeper need to explain myself: what do I mean when I say that Moe and Tracie are my “heroes?” What kind of feminism do I believe in? Does it stray from Jezebel philosophy at all? In some ways, I’m grateful for this opportunity, because this existential crisis has been a long time coming. I’ve written a ton of articles on sex and feminism on this blog, and for NYU Local, but ever since the whole Shoot the Messenger thing - and Lizz Winstead calling me out for “backpedaling” on my criticism on The Huffington Post - I’ve decided I really need to put some serious thought into these issues. And of course, since I’m a millennial, that process is going to unfurl in a public forum.
Here are the basic things I know I believe about feminism and sex:
- Women should be equal to men in all aspects: in the workforce (including equal salaries), at home, in society.
- Women should be able to enjoy sex in the same way a man does. We should be able to make our own decisions about who we sleep with, without the criticism of society.
- Women should be allowed to talk about sex without being considered slutty. We should learn about our bodies so we know what we like and don’t like. This extends to comprehensive sex education.
- Women should not be forced to conform to societal beauty standards, and instead should make choices about our character and appearance that stem from our own desires of how we should look.
But here is where it gets complicated...
Using sex to gain power: This is probably one of my more controversial beliefs as evidenced in this article. This is where I break away from traditional Old Guard feminism. I used to staunchly believe - though now I’m not so sure - that because women are at a disadvantage in society, we should be allowed to use our assets in order to gain entry into public spaces we may have previously been barred from. I borrowed this line of thinking from women in Iran who are against forced veiling laws, but instead of outright protesting, choose to wear the veil so that, as women in a society that inherently distrusts and hates women, they can at least achieve the best possible life that they’re allowed. If we have this thing - our bodies, our sex appeal - that we can use to wield control over the patriarchs in our life, then perhaps there’s nothing wrong with using that to our advantage. Nancy Pelosi knows what I’m talking about. The trouble comes when you become known more for your body than your mind. It’s a delicate balance. And maybe using sex appeal to manipulate men is societally acceptable, almost desired, dominance wears lipstick, etc. Maybe that’s why everyone hated Hillary so much - because she refused to conform to basic notions of female sexuality and use those to her advantage.
These are things I’ll need to think about, talk about in posts to come, and above all - read about. Jezebel, Feministing and random galleys Josh brings home from his job are no longer going to be my primary sources. I’ve read a couple books on feminist theory, but they mostly centered around sex and porn. If anyone has books on further feminist topics you think I should read, I’d be happy to hear your recommendations.
So the thing about this post is that I was too quick to deem Moe and Tracie my “feminist heroes.” I’ve been an avid Jezebel reader and commenter for awhile, and I certainly agree with much that they purport through their writing on the site, but perhaps I didn’t think about the repercussions of idolizing people who don’t want to be idolized. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? They don’t want to be role models, and so they just plain don’t act like them. Some of the commenters questioned my desire to “live like Moe and Tracie,” i.e. supposedly promiscuously and drunkenly. But that is in NO WAY why I look up to these women. I rarely drink, and though I’m pretty liberal about my sexual beliefs, I can count the number of people I’ve had sex with on one hand. I am not stupid. I am young, but I’m not stupid. I don’t see Moe and Tracie and immediately want to emulate them and thus go out to a bar, get hammered and hook up with some guy. I look up to them because they know themselves, because they do live this lifestyle, and they are proud instead of ashamed, and above all, they are so fucking honest about it. They make choices that women 100 years ago would have never even considered making, and then they write about them in a graphic and detailed way in a public forum so that we can all decide how to parse our notions of feminism, sex and women. That is why I respect them: because they are strong women writers unafraid to voice their opinions and histories so that other women can make their own decisions.
So I do look up to them, or I did, I’m not sure: Tracie wrote on her personal blog that she was “disappointing” 21 year old girls in the audience at Shoot the Messenger, like it came as some big shock that girls would look up to her. But she and Moe put themselves in the public eye with their writing, opening themselves up to criticism, but also to respect and admiration. I regret pumping them both up with false ideas about who they are and what they believe in, because of course I would be let down. But Moe and Tracie, if you’re reading this, you have to understand that girls do look up to you, whether you want them to or not. I’m 20 years old and I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who consider you two little short of their “feminist heroes.” And that’s what happens when you write for a massively popular blog; you have to be willing to take the admiration in stride - whether it comes at you through a positive lens or in the vein of “disappointment.”
Winstead did accuse me of “backpedaling” my criticism, which is totally true to some extent. Originally I was absolutely thrilled that Tracie and Moe took the time to comment on a piece of mine - I mean, I'm a 20 year old unknown NYU student who writes a blog almost no one reads. I fully admit that I did incorporate some of what they pointed out in the comments into my post, and while it did have to do with an element of starstruckedness, it was also mostly just to entertain this notion of fairness. Unlike many Gawker or Jezebel writers, I actually care about pissing people off, as in, I don't really want to do it. At all. But I guess that's the trouble with honesty.
It's mostly just that I am so fucking confused about who I agree with at this point: I don't mean it in terms of this one argument, but instead concerning Old Guard philosophies vs. New Wave ones in general. I think that my beliefs borrow from both ideologies instead of fully agreeing with a specific one, but this is obviously something I need to work on figuring out. I just hate that it has become this sided thing, women with feminism on the brain splintering off into different factions to squabble about the fine print.
When I boil this down to the simplest of facts, what I do know is that I have always been a strong-willed advocate of honesty. I appreciate Moe and Tracie and Lizz for being honest about their beliefs on the state of women today. I am attracted to Moe and Tracie’s writing because it is no holds barred, in your face, a big Fuck You to furtive secrecy. I grew up on secrets, and so I’ve always rebelled with honesty, even strangely so, even to the point where it might hurt. We might not agree with each other on various feminist premises, but at least we are being honest. And to me, that’s the most important thing.
Here are the videos of the discussion Lizz posted: