Sunday, January 28, 2007

Life is short, what do I read?

It is extremely frustrating to be reading an excellent book or article on racism/sexism (choose one), only to have the author either ignore or make hateful statements about racism/sexism (choose the other). A great anti-racist book that embraces sexism enrages me, and vice-versa. My first impulse is to get rid of the book or article. Am I being too harsh? Is a great essay on sexism ruined if it ignores the racist issues entwined with the feminist ones?

I've been thinking about this for a while: where do I draw the line on things I allow into my brain? Then yesterday, I read a post at The Unapologetic Mexican that almost made me dance. Nezua doesn't just get it right, he gives a brilliant display of analyzing both racism and sexism. Go read the post (if you love movies, you'll especially appreciate his analysis).

The bottom line is this: I don't want to spend time on things that focus on one anti-oppression issue while ignoring other blatant examples of oppression. To be clear: I have no problem with articles or books that focus exclusively on feminism, anti-racism, ableism, or class issues-such works are appropriate. My problem is with authors who attack one type of oppression vigorously, while simultaneously engaging in another type of oppression.


sly civilian said...


and thanks for the link.

radfemlezzie said...

Hey! I was totally going to ask you to link to that post--I saw your comment over there. That article is GREAT!

Amy's Brain Today said...

I'm back. This is a good question. I notice no one wants to talk about it.

I don't know if I want to throw out every book that doesn't get sexism, racism, etc. I think it can be a really good exercise in critical thinking and awareness to pay attention and say, hey, this author is missing THIS big point, and that makes a big hole in the argument. What would the argument look like if X were taken into account? Would it be any different? Would it be stronger? Would the argument then no longer hold? The problem, I think, is in not being AWARE of whatever is being left out. There's nothing wrong with saying, I got this and this and this from this book or article, but I wish the author had/hadn't done XYZ.

Just my 2c.

(In other news, Blogger has coerced me into switching to the new blogger so I shouldn't have problems posting here anymore.)

spotted elephant said...

Yeah-nobody wants to talk about it, and I really did want to hear what people think.

That's a really good point-not only can you "keep" the good things from the author, but we all need practice with this type of analysis. My knee-jerk response doesn't allow for any of that processing to take place. It is however, deeply satisfying from an anger viewpoint. :)

I hate Blogger.

Amy's Brain Today said...

Well, dear, I HAVE been known to throw books across the room. So, it doesn't always work. There has to be something worthwhile there in the first place. :)

Pippa said...

Oh you just love being provocative don't you!! I totally feel like you do. Its a crushing disappointment to be engaging with someone who writes wonderfully against one form of oppression only to suddenly be confronted by their internalised homophobia (for example. I give as an example, Jill Soloway's book Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants. I was getting along nicely with her politics and then she just threw up all over me with some guff about her camp counselor being a "big, fat, stupid, jew hating bitch", amply demonstrating that "fat" and "bitch" are always okay to use as insults. The book is now in my Bookmooch box. I'm trying not to tolerate this kind of crap now. Last year I let things slide and looked for the bigger picture. Not any more. Onwards and upwards, radical me!

belledame222 said...

Nezua is Teh Awesome.

as for the question:

well, it depends what you want to -do- with the piece of writing in question. and, how you feel. i mean, i have no problem getting rid of...well, no, i'm lying, i have a -real- problem getting rid of -any- books, but shoving them into the pile of "get rid of eventually, no i mean it this time"--if i truly feel just too turned off to deal.

otoh, i have some books that i find offensive for one reason or another, but i keep around because 1) they have enough other stuff i find valuable 2) usually, the book is a product of its time/place/context.

i have a lot less patience for contemporary authors who don't get it at that level,it is true.

and, that goes double or triple for bloggers, (and journalists to a leser degree, i suppose, esp. ones that get & respond to letters publically) if only because in that instance the author has the opportunity to see and respond to how hir words are coming across, right now; if sie ignores it and keeps right on going, well, that sort of adds to the whole turn-off factor.