Category Archives: Communication

Why I Just Unsubscribed From Jezebel


by Amorina Kingdon

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When someone you love keeps doing stupid shit, how long do you hold on before you cut them loose? I fear I’ve come to that point in my long relationship with the website Jezebel.

I met Jezebel five or six years ago. I clicked on an article about good to-do-list apps. I quickly found Jezebel had a whole series of articles about unsolicited products that were actually good. Then I clicked on some other articles on feminism, and realized they were giving voice to an unspoken rage that had been twisting inside me, that I had long ago learned to squish down. No, Jezebel cried! You are neither wrong nor alone!

 

Alas, it’s been a long, long time since Jezebel gave me any similarly useful information.

So today, I’m going to my Facebook feed right now and will give you the last six Jezebel headlines that have come in. I have not looked at Facebook yet today, yet I feel confident they will prove my point. Then I’m going to unsubscribe. It will be sad. BRB.

1. Woman Who Put Pop Rocks On Genitals Featured on Sex Sent Me to the ER

2. Unsurprisingly, Bullying of LGBT+ Students is Rife in Japan, Too

3. California Mom Spends Mother’s Day Chasing Down Robber

4. Read the First Excerpt From Hillary Clinton’s Book Hard Choices

5. Sandy Hook Truther Steals Memorial Sign, Taunts Victim’s Mother

6. McDonald’s is Catering Nutritionist Conferences Now

 

There. I did it. It’s over.

1. Fucking seriously?

2. Leaving aside the question of feminism appropriating the struggles of other marginalized groups, this is another manufactured-rage story. Do we learn why? No. Do we learn how to stop it? No. Again, without these key points, all you’re doing is reiterating what we already know. You’re getting us dialled up to ten and then…nothing. One article like this is enraging. Ten, twenty in a row? I start to feel like I’m being provoked, like the site is treating my rage as a product.

3. Clickbait fluff (great Bond villain name!)

4. This may actually add some value to your day. Except the exclusive excerpt is over at Vogue.com. Two days ago.

5. This is FOX-News-esque gossip mongering, taking one weird example and extrapolating to significance. This is not important. Jezebel, what are you doing?

6. This is shady, true. But…is it related to feminism? Is it furthering discussion of women? No. When all your good articles need to reach outside feminism to be…well, good, doesn’t that say something?

LGiNJ

I want to be better. I want to make it better, or learn why it was not getting better before. Jezebel no longer does this for me. Instead, all I know when I open the page is that I’m going to hear yet another horror story that neither casts light on the why of misogyny, nor offers solutions. I will just get a snappy closing sentence that amounts to ‘guys! stop being assholes!’

And I have no time, energy, or strength for these sorts of circlejerks. There, I said it. It’s not me. It’s you. I can no longer afford to be made angry for no purpose. If I wanted that, I’d just go to a Red Pill forum.

But the thing that makes me angry, and not just sad? It had the potential. It had the audience. And it had the talent. Lindy West fired me up something fierce, back in the day. It’s a Gawker-affiliated site, so there was even the chance an occasional dude might see an interesting article. And now it’s a punchline. Granted, I could write a whole other article on how unfairly quickly it became a punchline, but still.

I can sum it up in one sentence: none of its content, as written, helps.

And hey! I get it. You’re sick, Jezebel. You have a condition. It’s called ‘being on the Internet’ and the problem you have is far from unique to feminist outlets. You are pressured to produce digestible, entertaining clickbait on ever-shorter deadlines. In many ways, it’s not your fault. Your friend io9 suffers from the same disease. I would have hoped you could escape it, find a way to push past it. But what is annoying on BuzzFeed is painful from you, and I can’t afford to wait around for you to grow up any longer.

So, goodbye, Jezebel. I wish the writers my sincere best in their next gigs – which they will have, I’m sure. Very, very soon.

In the meantime, this is (in my opinion) the last thing of real quality that Jezebel wrote. To close: a rather fascinating portrait of the woman behind Lisa Frank.

 

The Bizarre Loneliness of Being Called a Cat

By Amy Medvick

catsI can remember that when I was younger I used to be sore about the fact that I was almost never cat-called, and I was jealous of the girls who regularly were. Getting that much attention from men was foreign to me. I assumed it must be because these girls were so much more beautiful than I was. I would think to myself, “If only I had that kind of effect on men, it would be simple enough to find one I like and date him. It would be so easy!” I was a lonely girl in those days.

Of course, occasionally I would receive one—the “nice legs!” or “nice ass!” variety—though this was quite rare. Always crude, and usually aimed at whatever region of my body was the most noticeable at the moment. I would try to understand them as compliments, hoping to bolster up my self-esteem, which worked a little, though at a price. I was always left feeling vaguely dirty and I assumed this was my own neurosis, some kind of complex female self-esteem thing that I needed to sort out before I could be truly beautiful—whether you go for the inner or the outer variety.

The first time I went to Brazil, I found the men to be so sweet. It seemed they only delivered genuine compliments to strange women on the street. I remember walking down Rua São Clemente in Rio, taking in the sights and sounds. “Linda,” said a nice-looking man as he walked past me: beautiful. How nice!

On later trips, made with a better understanding of the language, I came to realize that in Brazil, just as here, there are shady characters on street corners opining vulgarities at the female passers-by, along side the milder variety of cat-call. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to understand them.

I suspect, in fact, that for most of my life I had been experiencing a sort of language barrier with Canadian cat-calls too. But the barrier wasn’t Portuguese to English, the barrier was that I assumed I couldn’t possibly be the object of such attention. However, as my growing feminist awareness caused me to take more notice of my daily interactions with men, I began to perceive the constant commentary that follows me around as I’m trying to do my groceries or go to the bank or any of the many unremarkable tasks that fill my days. There was an irony to the process, since the more I took notice, the less I was able to even try construing what I was hearing as complimentary.

Now, you might be thinking, What’s so awful about receiving compliments as you go about your day?

But this is the tricky thing: cat-calls are rarely compliments, even though they often masquerade as such.

I never come out feeling more beautiful or desirable, nor do I feel that shy tickliness that comes from a really genuine compliment made in a more appropriate setting. I usually feel less beautiful and less desirable. Nope, cat-calls make me feel singled out, shamed for being noticed, and wondering if there’s something inappropriate about the way I’m dressed. In the worst cases, cat-calling can make me feel nervous or even afraid. In the best cases, I’m only bewildered, not sure if I’m the intended recipient. So often, the things said to me are simply bizarre.

m221184882But maybe I need to define what I mean by “cat-call”. I have a rather broad definition: I mean almost anything a male stranger says to me on the street that isn’t “Ma’am, you dropped your gloves” or “Where’s the nearest subway station?” or other similar practical interactions. Cat-calls are intended to get attention, provoke reactions, and put me in my place. These cat-calls often seem to have a sexual motivation, even if the statement isn’t clearly sexual, though there are other varieties as well.

However they manifest, they are a gendered phenomenon—I have never been spoken to by a female stranger in ways that fit into any of the above, or following, categories of cat-calling. Much of this commentary might not strike you as really being a cat-call. But ah, this is why I am redefining the term! There are multiple, public, gendered commentaries flying at women on the street every day, not only the overtly sexual but many others that share a similar intent with the cat-call as it is traditionally understood.

But perhaps some examples will illustrate better what it is like for me to walk down the street.

I might grow out my bangs. Maybe that will help.

I might grow out my bangs. Maybe that will help.

So, for example, one cat-call I frequently hear is an identification of my hairstyle. Some guy will mutter a phrase with the word “bangs” in it, or simply exclaim, “Bangs!” Something in the tone makes it clear that this has become my name. “Bangs!” he calls plaintively as I pass by without reacting. He sounds sad! I have broken his heart, he says in that one word. Why aren’t I wooed by his ability to describe me?

Clearly, I am cold-hearted. Also ungrateful.

Then, there are the instructional variety. One Saturday, I was walking down Bloor Street, eating chocolate covered almonds from the bulk-food store as I enjoyed the spring sunshine. I noticed this giant man eyeing a tiny woman up as she walked by. The ogling disturbed me. He noticed me noticing his ogling, and then it started. “You shouldn’t eat chocolate. I had to have two fillings because my teeth rotted out from eating chocolate my whole life.”

Oh, OK Sir. I won’t eat chocolate. Because you say so. My appetite is so unbecoming.

i-dare-youThere are regulars whom I have come to recognize, always making the same requests. “Smile, be happy!” he tells me every time I pass him. Clearly the Zen wisdom of this man trumps whatever may be happening in my life that day. Whatever my heartbreak, be it of the love, career, or dying-pet variety— it does not justify forcing him to endure my dour countenance. God forbid!

Some cat-calls are truly bizarre. “Do you like fireworks? Fireworks! Yes, you do!” This isn’t a sales pitch since fireworks aren’t for sale. Or maybe it is a metaphorical sales pitch with metaphorical fireworks. I don’t even flinch though, because at this point I’ve heard it all.

On second thought, this explains everything. Mistress of Murder indeed!

On second thought, this explains everything. Mistress of Murder indeed.

“Green!” cries the fireworks vendor. The colour of my dress.  Oh look, they’re describing me again. How come I don’t swoon? Well, I don’t really have time to swoon because I’m on my way to a Blasfemmers meeting. By the way, did you know I’m a feminist? Do you still find me so alluringly green now that you know that? Or does that make it more fun? Are you a hipster and is this ironic cat-calling, so tasteless and rAnDoM that it’s cool again? I don’t understand what you expect to accomplish! Please clarify!

No wait, please don’t!

But I don’t say any of that. Instead, I pull and tug at my sweater, trying to hide my shameful greenness.

“You look like Michael Jackson!”… great.

No comment.

But the worst cat-calls are the ones that don’t at all try to pretend they aren’t really insults.

One night, last summer:

I was waiting to cross the street, heard my phone receive a text. Took it out. Someone was confirming a rehearsal time. The lights changed; I started to cross. I put my phone back in my purse and took out my day-planner to write down the time. Not your typical street-crossing activity, I admit, but not really anyone’s business either. As I passed in front of the waiting car, I hear their voices: “Oooh, what are you writing in your diary? I hope it’s about me! Dear Diary, my vagina stinks.”

For a moment it was like trying to swim upstream as I struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Then it clicked, just in time to shout and gesture expletives as they sped away.

Later that night, walking home:

“Hey, what’s up? What? You won’t talk to us because we’re black?”

Yes. That’s the reason. I’m not talking to you, strange men in the dark of night, because I am a racist. If you were white, I’d be all like, “Heey booyss, hoowss it goin’?” That’s exactly how I interact with strange white men on the street. Because that is a safe thing for a woman to do at midnight.

NOT.

Two nights after that:

I was downtown hanging out with my Mom. I had been telling her about those two events earlier that week. Also talking to her about some guy who got all up in the grill of my feelings without really knowing what he was stirring up, and how I was trying to figure out what to do with all the disappointment, yet again.  Somehow these two topics were combining to make me feel incredibly hopeless about love, and awfully lonely.  I left for home feeling dejected, too exhausted to cry as I slowly descended on the escalator to the subway. A middle-aged man was on his way up.

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“Hellooo,” he cooed, eyebrows raised. Not particularly creative, but I didn’t have the energy to ignore him. Instead I watched him as he glided towards me, the tired weight of my eyes resting heavy upon him.

“What, so sad?” he said.

I wish we lived in a world where I could say, “Yes, so sad, and here’s why: because despite all this attention I get for doing absolutely nothing, I’m still lonely. It seems like it’s love and admiration that’s being heaped on me by strangers every day when I leave the house, but its not. It’s insult and aggression. If in some strange other universe you appealed to me, and I offered myself, I know you wouldn’t have me. Your anger is palpable. I think you might hate me. At the least, you have taught me that my place is to feel isolated, ashamed of being remarkable, and no matter how I try, your words still echo in my ears every time I talk to a man I genuinely care for. Those echoes make it a struggle to believe I can be taken seriously.”

Yet—yet—once in awhile:

A crisp, sunny February day. I’m out in my new neighbourhood, wrapped up in my vintage velvet coat. A man hovering outside the Roti Shop on my block calls out to me in his lilting Caribbean accent.

“Beautiful. Lady. Good Mornin’!”

And it was. And I felt, indeed, like a Beautiful Lady.

I can’t fully explain why this one felt so different from the rest, except maybe that it was genuine and benevolent. It brightened my day, and I think that was his intention. He wanted nothing from me, and wasn’t angry at me for reacting, not reacting, enjoying or feeling angry or shamed. Amid the din of the cat-calling, when the weight of all the bizarre loneliness inflicted by the flood of commentary threatens to pull me down, I think of this one. The compliment was nice, but that’s not really the important part. It’s just a relief to remember that being a Beautiful Lady should be nothing but a good thing.

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And now, to make us all feel better, here are a bunch of cute pictures of cats with phones:

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catcall

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Cat Calling Mum

Picture by Mark Richards-Bruce the Cat dials 999 and gets the cops calling!

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Keep it to yourself, bozo.

Keep it to yourself, bozo.

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Michael and Amanda

by Amorina Kingdon

Men-V-Women-battle-of-the-sexes-18750658-392-332

For the first time in a decade, as I jogged along the seawall in Victoria this morning, I thought about my ex-boyfriend Michael and my then-friend Amanda. Specifically, I found myself thinking about their interactions, their intense dislike of each other, and how a few conversations with them left unexpected, deep imprints on me.

Michael was my first serious boyfriend in university. He was an engineering student from moneyed West Vancouver stock. He prized rationality, action, and logic. He was an impressive person, and everyone thought so. He knew his single malt scotch, introduced us all to sushi, built a bar in his dorm room, was not afraid to confront anyone, and once, he yelled at a cabbie for leaving the meter running while he ran to a bank machine.

Amanda was my dorm-mate during first year, and then roommate in a shared house. She prized loyalty, creativity and music knowledge. An overweight girl in pyjama pants, she walked imperiously, was an only child, and tried to solve conflict by starting small, (a tactic us girls are all taught is polite, and later grow up to find the rest of the world derides as ‘passive aggression’). She could, however, be remarkably direct if need be. A dedicated film student, she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of filmography, and called herself the ‘floor mother’ in res even though no one else did. She also complained… a lot – about her weight, her house, or why she was still single.

On the surface, the reasons for their animosity were that Amanda’s complaints made her a negative person, Michael didn’t like her, and since she found him cold and unsympathetic, it drove their mutual dislike even further. She had few traits that made her ‘likeable’ — he possessed many traits that commanded respect.

“Why do you hate her so much?” I asked Michael, one day.

“She’s completely negative, she’s always complaining but expects everyone else to bend over backwards to make her feel better.” Michael said. He moved sharply, economically, wrapping a scarf and getting his keys.

“She doesn’t,” I say. “She just feels like you don’t like her.”

“I don’t,” he said.

“You don’t try,” I say, frustrated. Even though I am nominally on his side, I still feel the need to try and explain, defend my friend, because deep down inside, I know I am more like her than I am like him. If he can think this way about someone not too dissimilar to myself, what must he think about me? I think back to every offhand complaint about my weight, and imagine this same ire rising in him, this same contempt. Yet he is not someone who feels the need to expand his circle of understanding or empathy, and I start to get this twisted, tearful feeling of needing to explain something important to someone who doesn’t care.

“Why should I try?” he said. And then, “When something is wrong, I do something about it. She’s always bitching about how she’s fat, but she eats like shit. She complains she doesn’t have a boyfriend but she doesn’t try meeting people. She never actually helps herself.”

“Why do you hate him so much?” I asked her one day.

“He’s arrogant,” she said in a clipped voice. “He’s disrespectful to me in my own house.”

Like a Pavlovian trigger, the automatic, don’t-even-think-about-it phrase from my ascribed script drifted through my head, learned from millions of female pep talks and only six pre-described emotions that women were supposed to feel: you’re just jealous.

“Why don’t you guys just talk?” I said. “He’s very rational. If you explain…”

“Yeah,” she snorted, interrupting me. “Right. All he does is tell me what I’ve done wrong, what I should do better, and then shuts down the conversation unless I do those things. He doesn’t like me and he’s really, really disrespectful. In my own house.”

“He…likes you fine…” I said.

Ten years later, running along the seawall, I think about this conversation.

I do this because for the last two kilometers, I’ve been running entirely on focus; a flimsy bag of mental carrots and sticks.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Run, bitch.

You’ll feel so good once you finish this.

Sweat is just fat crying because you’re punching it in the face.

When these give out, my body will win, and I will stop.

Jesus fuck, I hate running.

Why are you doing it then?

Because when I’m not running, I love running.

You know you COULD push yourself further. You use your brain to drive your legs. When you don’t make 5k, it’s because you quite literally don’t want it enough. Yet you want to HAVE DONE 5K. Where does the want or the need go?

I just want to be thinner.

I know. You’re always complaining about it.

Oh, fuck you. I just want to be okay as I am.

I realized a few things about Michael and Amanda, all in a rush:

Amanda’s complaints were born of an inward dialogue that society had taught her to have with herself, which didn’t reflect her true thoughts. Her complaints didn’t reflect a desire for change. They were something else.

Michael, the sort of person for whom the world could sport a sticker saying “For us, by us”, took her at her word, because for him, action was always possible and never restricted. He presumed Amanda had the agency to solve her own problems, and his ire was a product of according her the rights and freedoms of his world.

But Michael could never know what it was like to be Amanda: working under a different set of expectations, and far from the ideal.

Amanda could never know what it was like to be Michael: someone for whom aggression can usually net results and admiration; someone for whom ‘likeability’, that nebulous nothing-quality, was not necessarily a factor in his friendships, his jobs, or his happiness. He wasn’t expected to be likeable, only to engender respect. A man of action in every sense of the word, surrounded by frustrating, inexplicably hamstrung girls.arguing[1]

The expectations stemming from their gender caused these two people to find themselves in a power struggle – a struggle for likeability on her part and respect on his – which ended in dismissal and contempt on his part, and hatred and impotent rage on hers.

What does any of this have to do with feminism?

Amanda was a perfectly average person for whom, due to her age and gender, likeability trumped any other form of social necessity, and self-deprecation was the only acceptable way to discuss herself. I have observed that quiet self-esteem is a fleetingly rare thing for most girls or young women. Consciously or unconsciously, women are typically considered public objects, and opinions on their every physical and character trait, on their likeability, are publicly traded commodities.

Amanda knew that everyone noticed her weight, her singledom, the state of her house: those were the only things that they needed to know to assess whether they liked her. When she happened to come up on the wrong side on all counts…she was, quite literally, not good enough.

But the truth was…. she liked being single. She didn’t want to spend 6 shitty months losing 40 pounds. And deep down, she didn’t really care if the domicile was less than spotless. That was the truth of her, and she didn’t hate herself as much as she led us to assume. But because she was female, she had to either meet these expectations, or explain why she wasn’t.

And for most people, the quickest way to a) acknowledge a failure to meet an expectation and b) express your desire to rectify it, is with a complaint. In fact, for most women, that’s what a complaint is. It’s not, as is commonly misunderstood, simply ‘being negative’, nor is it asking others to do something about it for you. It’s a direct reflection of the expectations you feel guilty for failing to meet.

Michael, on the other hand, had already met his set of expectations. He was six feet tall, lean and tight-tendoned, his weight never fluctuated. He was attending a prestigious program, he had money and a near-guarantee of continuing to make more. He didn’t need to be single or attached, he didn’t need to be anything physically other than ‘not too fat’, and the state of his house was assumed to be something far beneath what he needed to worry about. He didn’t need to do anything to achieve social acceptance other than to be smart enough, be aggressive, and finish his degree. (All things, note, that Amanda was doing too. But none of which weighed in any balance for her – not while weight, status and cleanliness were on the scale).

Michael was okay in society’s eyes when he rolled out of bed. He had nothing to apologize for; and therefore, nothing to complain about. He assumed the same was true of everyone; therefore Amanda, who wouldn’t ‘help herself’, engendered his contempt.  He felt no need to be nice to Amanda for courtesy’s sake, because he did not need her– her presence, approval, or lack thereof had no effect on his ability to exercise his will.

Amanda felt a need to be nice to Michael as a default, because to do otherwise would be unlikeable. His disdain would mean cruel verbal sallies that rendered her weakened and emotionally vulnerable, while the same conflict did not take anything from him. And she had been raised to believe she must be the social lubricant, the default positive, in all social interactions.

Michael would come to our house without feeling the need to talk to Amanda, or ask if it was too late or too early, or if he could use the kitchen. Because to him, she was an unlikable girl, she didn’t merit social status, or respect. Therefore, Michael gave nary a thought to niceties that would have kept their animosity to a low simmer.

Every woman knows a Michael. I imagine that many, if not most, women catch themselves, from time to time, complaining without fully understanding, or believing, their own words. Usually, it’s about something they feel guilty over failing to do – often, failing to even want to do. Many women then hear a rebuking voice in their head, and pinpoint the exact person who would say some version of “Stop complaining. Just do something about it.”

And when logic fails to give a reason to ignore the voice, perhaps the following might: you are operating under a different set of expectations.

I ran until I cycled through every motivational thought I had and I couldn’t summon the energy to give a shit anymore. I ran five kilometers today, which is about 400 calories, or about a tenth of a pound. Do you like me better for knowing that? Maybe to you, it’s a benchmark that helps count towards my likeability.

But for me, that’s a direct measure of how much appropriation of society’s standards I can sustain. It was a beautiful, blue, oceanic day. I should have walked.