And another thing

The anti hysterectomy crowd uses the same online harassment tactics as MRA’s and gamergaters. They vandalize wikipedia pages, harass, use sock puppet accounts and use fear tactics. And yet, we don’t call them out. We should. So I’m doing it now: If you cannot participate in civil discourse, then you are no better than the misogynists.

If you want to critique the practice of hysterectomy, fine. Maybe critique the fact that women of color, poor women, disabled women are disproportionally affected by the surgery rather than pushing essentialist bullshit.

I Feel Fine

So, I want to be absolutely clear: My health has not been aversely affected by my surgery. Before my surgery, I had tried everything, but the pain from endometriosis kept me bedridden. I was out of options and I was being kept in this state because the specialist I saw regarding my options “didn’t believe” in the possibility of a woman not wanting to experience pregnancy. I was aware of the potential averse effects of the surgery, as every-fucking-one has a story about a great-grandmother or great-aunt who is a “shell of their former self” after having the surgery. And yet what they described sounded a hell of a lot better than be bedridden from constant pain, which is where I was before my surgery. So I took the risk, after doing considerable research. And I can now hold down a job and wear pants and get out of bed every morning, which were all things I could not do before my surgery. Now, I would not recommend the path I took as fitting for anyone but me, but I also don’t pretend to be qualified as a medical professional.

I do not regret my surgery. I regret living in a world where women are seen as baby incubators, where people think that having a uterus is what makes you a woman, and where saying “I’m not miserable after my hysterectomy” gets you harassed by trolls. And as much as that sucks, it is still better than being bedridden.

The narrative of the miserable hysterectomy patient has been allowed to dominate the discourse. Why? Because we like to see women (and by this I mean cis women) as primarily existing for their reproductive roles and if we believe that existing outside of that role makes us miserable, we’ll adhere to it. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just the way social construction works.

I am truly sorry to anyone who has had the surgery and it hasn’t helped. I am sorry for anyone who didn’t want the surgery and was coerced into it in any degree. But your experience does not negate mine and it does not give you the right to dismiss my experience.

I will keep saying this: Having the surgery was the first time I felt treated like a person, not a means to babies.

And finally, if you compare the surgery to rape on this blog, you will be blacklisted, and good riddance to you.

I Read That Awful Chait Article So You Wouldn’t Have To

So, recently, New York Magazine published a piece by Jonathan Chait, in which a white liberal-but-not-too-liberal man bemoans the rise of political correctness. I’m not linking to it, but I assure you that you can find it if you go to the Facebook profile of the guy who always lectures you about free speech when you complain about being harassed on the street. Or you can get there from here, which is a pretty good takedown of the article. This is also a good critique.

Now, a few things worth noting:

First, I don’t hate free speech. I’m heavily invested in a program that teaches students about the constitution and I love the First Amendment. I especially love the part where the government can’t drag me from my home at night and throw me in prison for criticizing it. But let’s be honest, there are certain people who try to hide the fact that they are jerks or mean-spirited people (or bigots! gasp!) under the cover of free speech.  Free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. It also doesn’t mean that I have to build you a podium or lend you a megaphone. If you use the n-word in my living room, I will tell you to leave, and I am not violating your constitutional rights. If you say things that hurt people and there are consequences, your constitutional rights have not been violated.

Second, I do acknowledge that some spaces have something of a “Gotcha!” culture, where it seems like a competition to see who can be the best, most inclusive person, the result being that everyone is walking on eggshells. Some of the most inclusive, conscientious (or as Chait would call them “p.c.”)people I know have criticized Gotcha! culture, and I do believe people who foster that kind of thing are misguided. But that’s not what Chait is talking about, because if it were, he would have used different examples. Chait’s piece is, instead interested in maintaining the status quo, under the guise of liberalism. I think it would be best to examine some quotations before getting on with my general thoughts.

Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering.

While that may be true, Chait is not an expert in trauma who knows how to administer controlled exposure, nor is anyone who brings this up in an effort to dismiss trigger warnings, and I find it hard to believe that he or most people bringing this into the trigger conversation really care about how to best treat trauma. I have mixed feelings on trigger warnings, and I worry that they may become a substitute for actual compassion (something I am not in danger of accusing Chait of having) for people suffering from Rape Trauma Syndrome, but I do think it is fair to give people asking for them the benefit of the doubt that they are just trying to live with trauma in the best way possible and that they know themselves better than the guy writing anti-p.c. think pieces. First of all, using trigger warnings does not mean full-scale avoidance. It may mean avoiding something temporarily and waiting until they feel like they’re in the right frame of mind to approach it, for instance. Even if someone where to avoid every piece with a trigger warning, that still wouldn’t mean total avoidance, because despite the picture Chait paints, most of the world isn’t a place full of trigger warnings to give people with trauma a heads up. The real world is a place where far too many people insist that if you have an issue with surprise exposure to graphic depictions of violence, you are unfit to participate in society as a whole, which is also kind of a subtext of Chait’s argument. Now, maybe I’m being unfair to Chait about all of this, and I’m sure that he would never deliberately try to make someone relive trauma, but I’m angry because this passage is disingenuous and makes it seem like Chait actually cares for those suffering from trauma, when in reality he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his words.

Indeed, one professor at a prestigious university told me that, just in the last few years, she has noticed a dramatic upsurge in her students’ sensitivity toward even the mildest social or ideological slights; she and her fellow faculty members are terrified of facing accusations of triggering trauma — or, more consequentially, violating her school’s new sexual-harassment policy — merely by carrying out the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration.

While I agree that you’re going to encounter ideas with which you disagree in the process of getting an education, but as a woman getting a philosophy degree, I routinely had to defend not only my right to participate in the discourse but my value as a human being all in the name of “the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration.” All of this is a way of saying that the values of “the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration” has a lot of problematic ideas built in that should be critically interrogated, rather than upheld.

Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing.

That is called context. People have different life experiences, which contextualizes what they are saying. This isn’t very hard, nor is it unique to “p.c. culture” or liberal spaces. I and many women I know have had our ideas dismissed because of our gender, only to have men suggest the exact same idea to have it received with praise. I suspect that Chait is actually objecting to the fact his being male doesn’t carry the weight it used to. But having been told that my defense of my worth as a human being (because I was a woman who could not reproduce and I was disabled) was invalid because I brought up my own experience, I like to think that people’s experience navigating racism, sexism, and any other oppressive -isms out there carries weight.

Chait goes on to discuss at length the inner workings of a Facebook group exclusively for women writers, a group of which there is no way he could be a part, suggesting that he got all of the posts he is criticizing second hand, perhaps without context.

In a recent discussion of rape, someone asked me “Where is the male perspective?” My answer: “It’s written into the law.” All of that to say that the perspectives that Chait seems to think are missing have been taken for fact all along. Trying to discover whether language builds oppression or oppression builds language is a chicken/egg problem with no easy solution. While no one likes “Gotcha!” culture, the point Chait misses is that language has hurt a lot of people and he needs to acknowledge that his position is one that has advantages, namely that he is never left out by lack of inclusivity.

6 Ways to Make Feminism More Inclusive to People Who Have Had Hysterectomies

1. Stop Comparing Hysterectomies to Rape

Rape as a metaphor or comparing things to rape is verboten in feminist circles. Yet, the rape/hysterectomy comparison is for some strange reason, completely okay to some feminists. This is a gross mischaracterization and it is harmful to survivors of sexual assault and it positions hysterectomies as something that is always inherently harmful, not as a procedure that is only harmful in certain contexts. Comparing a hysterectomy to rape erases any complexity, which in turn ignores the quality of life concerns that could lead someone to seek out a hysterectomy.

2. Acknowledge There is More Than One Story

Negative hysterectomy stories dominate the discourse, particularly those of middle class or higher white ladies who are sad because they can’t have [more] babies. Those stories are valid, but they aren’t the only stories. There are valid critiques of the way the surgery has been used eugenically on women of color, disabled women, and poor women, but those often get overshadowed by women who have the privilege to get their stories out. Also, the narratives surrounding regret don’t offer a lot of complexity-one might regret the lack of information they were given while acknowledging that their options were still rather limited. Others might regret the circumstances under which they had the surgery but not how they reacted in the circumstances. Allowing for complexity resolves a lot of these issues.

3. Cut it Out With All The Essentialism

When we talk about the harm that is done as a result of hysterectomies, please avoid implying that the harm is rooted in the fact that having a uterus “makes” someone a woman. Doing this reinforces the idea that women exist primarily to reproduce, which is anti-feminist to the core. If you are going to critique hysterectomies as an unnecessary surgery, fine. If you are going to discuss the fact that this has a gendered dynamic tied to women’s bodies as public property, perfectly valid. But don’t equate having a uterus with being a woman.

4. Stop Using “Women” When You Mean “Mothers”

I have no problem with feminism tackling issues that only affect mothers. However, when you conflate “woman” with “mother” you are essentially erasing the existence of women like me. When you discuss issues that only affect mothers make sure you’re clear that you’re talking about motherhood. Understand that women who can’t have children are still affected by misogyny, but they may be affected in different ways.

5. Don’t Get Into Bed With The Enemy

Most anti-hysterectomy feminists are transphobic. This is not a coincidence, but because they have a very specific view of what it means to be a woman that is rooted in essentialism.Yet many feminists who reject Germaine Greer on grounds of transphobia have used what she said about hysterectomies to condemn my decision. The trouble is, you can’t separate Greer’s transphobia from her views on hysterectomies. She is opposed to hysterectomies because of her views on what it means to be a woman, so stop using her to further your anti-hysterectomy agenda.

6. Don’t Allow Anti-Hysterectomy Groups to Dominate the Conversation

There is an anti-hysterectomy group that, like Beetlejuice, rears its ugly head every time someone discusses a hysterectomy on the internet. They have vandalized the hysterectomy wikipedia page, they troll hospitals and try to stop women from having the surgery. I’m not actually naming them here because so far they’ve actually not found this blog and I would really like to keep it that way. The trouble with this group, beyond their inability to accept alternative views and their sketchy relationship with science, is that they use many internet tactics that feminists have long criticized. Allowing them to dominate the discourse within feminist circles is contradictory and suggests that the ends justify the means.

Hysterectoversary

Today marks one year since my surgery. I’m feeling oddly nostalgic, maybe it isn’t so odd. Much has happened and my life has most definitely gotten better. I had intended to write a long post looking back on the night, but I have a lot of reading to do, so Instead I thought I would highlight some posts that will be coming soon:

The Hysterectomy Story, In Multiple Parts: I’ve never told my story from the very beginning, and I would like a chance to do that. It’s long, it took over twelve years, so it will probably be interspersed throughout the other posts.

You Can’t Opt Out of Misogyny: Basically, there is a mother-centered feminist school of thought that routinely likes to imply that it’s motherhood, not gender, that causes misogyny. Not true! Stay tuned for why.

How to Talk About Issues Relating to Motherhood Without Throwing Those of Us Who Can Never Be Mothers Under the Bus: Part 1 of a series I’m snarkily referring to as “Language: It @#$@ing matters”* Basically, following from the above post, I want to offer some alternatives to the universal language I see a lot that can be alienating.

How Not to Talk About Hysterectomies in Your Feminist Critique: Basically don’t compare them to rape. But also, a lot of other things. Part two of the series mentioned above.

How My Body [Hasn’t] Changed: A lot of people tried to talk me out of the surgery, because of course they did, babies being more important than a woman’s health and all. I’ve been given a list of things that would go wrong if I had the surgery. Some of them make sense, sort of, some of them don’t. I’m going to go through that list and talk about what has or hasn’t happened. [Spoiler Alert: I’m Mostly Okay].

Why I Can’t Get Behind A Lot of Efforts to Reduce the Numbers of Hysterectomies: I’ve hinted at it before, but the way a lot of people want to reduce the number of surgeries is critically flawed.

Campus Sexual Assault Prevention, Demystified: I intend to post this jointly on this blog and The Seven Year Reading Project. Essentially I want to explain why it matters and why we need more than to just leave it to law enforcement.

The Incredibly Long Refutation of “Choice Feminism.”: It has been a long time coming. Choice feminism, or the intellectually lazy idea that every choice a woman makes is empower/feminist simply because she made a choice has always bothered me. So I intend to do a series in which I explain its shortcomings and discuss alternatives.

So that is what is to come. And now, to celebrate the end of the year/my hysterectoversary buried in books.

*swears redacted in the event that a student somehow finds my blog.

10 Most Annoying Things That People Say In Response to Hearing That You’ve Had a Hysterectomy

10. “You can always adopt/use the services of a surrogate.”

This isn’t inherently bad to say, but it also shouldn’t be the first thing out of your mouth when you hear someone has had or is going to have a hysterectomy. If they bring up parenthood, it’s totally fine, but otherwise, it sort of suggests that reproduction is all you are thinking about. Instead, ask if they are okay, if there is anything they need, if they want to talk about it, etc.

9. “I’ll pray for you.”

Again, this is not an inherently bad thing to say and it might be a good thing to say if they mention being worried and you know that they’ll find comfort in these words BUT if you say this in a different context it can kind of sound like judgment, not unlike the sort of religious judgment discussed below in number 4. If they seem to have accepted the surgery and everything that comes with it, don’t say this.

8. “I could never date you.”

I’ve heard this a number of times, and the funny thing is never once have I actually been trying to date the person expressing these views. When you offer this up without any prompting, what I actually hear is “No one could ever date you,” which is something I honestly struggle with and don’t need to hear reinforced. So, unless you’re actually in a dating situation with someone who has had a hysterectomy, don’t say this. If you are in a dating situation with someone who has had a hysterectomy and you don’t think that you’re okay with that, be nice and don’t actually say it. Yes, they may figure it out, but trust me, I’ve both had people I’ve dated tell me that they couldn’t be with a woman who can’t reproduce and I’ve had people make up excuses to spare my feelings, and the latter is always better, even if I know the truth and it makes me sad.

7. “But having babies is the most important thing a woman can do!”

Funny enough, I’ve never heard anyone say that fathering babies is the most important thing a man can do.

6.”You’re betraying the sisterhood/in collaboration with the patriarchy,” or any version of “Having this surgery is misogynistic/makes you a traitor to women.”

Stop. Just stop. I have a lot of thoughts about the abuses of hysterectomies in medical culture. I think this is an important subject, one that warrants much discussion and I’m glad that there are feminists willing to address this. But any critique that is rooted not in how the procedure has been applied but the fact that it exists is essentialist and cissexist. Furthermore, extending that critique to women who choose the surgery for themselves is really insulting. I’m not a choice feminist. I hate choice feminism with a fiery passion because it is reductive and intellectually lazy. But I find it odd that in a world where the dominant feminism is all about respecting women’s choices even if they are inherently anti-feminist choosing to have a hysterectomy stands out as the betrayal of all women. I don’t owe it to other women, feminist or not, to have a baby or to even have a uterus.

5. “You practically have male privilege now.”

This is something I want to write a larger post about, but there is an idea pervading certain branches of matricentric feminism that women can “opt out” of experiencing misogyny by not having children. If that were the case, wouldn’t there be more women who don’t have children? As you can see from this post, I’ve been harassed about having unprotected sex, more or less fetishized for not being able to reproduce, told that my life has no meaning and I have no worth, and told that I’m not a woman. It’s kind of hard to think that this is not misogyny.

4. “You couldn’t get married in my church” or any other variety of “my religion thinks you’re worthless now.”

If you don’t know me well enough to know what my religious views actually are, it’s pretty fair to say that I’m not practicing any religion that would treat me any differently because I can’t reproduce. Even if the person you are talking to does practice the same religion that you do, it’s really not going to do any good to tell them this. I mean, odds are they’ve sought spiritual counsel on this subject, and even if they haven’t, it’s really none of your business.

3. “So you can have all the unprotected sex you want?”

Yes, and I can get all the sexually transmitted infections I want, too! Avoiding pregnancy isn’t the only not to have unprotected sex and I really hope that most people actually know this. It is worth mentioning that a lot of times I get the impression that the people saying this are really asking is if they can have unprotected sex with me, which is creepy and gross, so don’t do that.

2. “You don’t have periods and you can’t get pregnant? You’re like the perfect girlfriend!”

Your standards for “the perfect girlfriend” seem to be pretty low in that case. When I think of the perfect romantic partner, I think of things like “loves to read” or “finds dachshund puppy videos as adorable as I do” or “Accepts that I am a flawed human being but doesn’t see my lack of a uterus as one of those flaws” or “finds dachshund puppy videos as adorable as I do.” (Yes, it really did need to be said twice.) When people say this what I hear is “It would be fun to have sex without worrying about consequences for a couple months/years before I’m ready to settle down and have children.” Because, while not everyone sees children as part of “settling down” people who take this view inevitably do and they don’t understand that I will get hurt in the process.

1.”Are you really a woman?” or “You aren’t a woman.”

Ah, yes, gender identity. Gender identity is complex and complicated and something I intend to spill a lot of virtual ink on later, but I’m not going to get theoretical here. So in the simplest possible terms: a uterus does not a woman make. (I want that slogan on a coffee mug, like, really badly.) That is really all you need to know. Also, who made you supreme arbiter of gender?

On The Dismissal of Rural Communities

A few months ago, one of the websites I frequently read posted an essay in which the author discussed a number of conversations in which the view was expressed that one was not a “real woman” until one gives birth. In the comments several people expressed the view that “no one actually thinks this way.” Feeling a particularly quixotic drive to joust with this metaphorical windmill, I replied that people do in fact think this way, though it is something that biological parents and people who fully intend to become biological parents often don’t see, since the slight is never used against them. I gave several examples from life in my hometown, such as how I’ve heard people refer to a thirty year old teacher with a house and a master’s degree as a girl and a pregnant 16 year old as a woman*. The reply I received was essentially “Yeah, so that happens in rural and conservative areas, but it doesn’t happen in more progressive areas and larger cities,” suggesting that rural experiences are less “real” or valid or worthy of discussion.

This is not the first or only time I’ve seen this view expressed, in fact it is quite common to hear a dismissal of life outside the big cities as somehow less real. If you’re living in a small town and living outside the status quo and you express your frustration, well, it’s your own fault for living there, because those people are obviously not going to accept you as you are. It ignores the fact that leaving isn’t easy. It ignores the fact that people deserve to be treated with respect by those around them and dismissing people from small towns, rural areas, red states, etc. and saying that they’re never going to treat anyone who is different with respect so it is the responsibility of those who are different to leave doesn’t hold people responsible for how they treat others. Plus, if everyone who was different left there really would be no reason for people who act this way to change their attitudes or become more accepting. Furthermore, you’re not just writing off the intolerant people, you’re writing off everyone who either can’t leave or have made a life and wants to stay despite the fact that it’s difficult at times.

An otherwise wonderful friend who I love dearly who hails from a large coastal city would frequently irritate me with his judgments of rural Northwestern Ohioans (or, more generally Midwesterners). While the judgements were never directed at me and he routinely told me I was the exception, I was still being judged. He was still placing himself in a superior position because of his background and judging those around him for being “backwards.” The fact that I escaped this label did not mean that I escaped being judged or the idea that people who grow up in large cities (particularly coastal cities) are more naturally more cultured, more educated, more compassionate, and in short “better.” It’s hard for me to articulate this view, because being  different from most members of my community, even members of my family, has shaped me as a person and I do feel frustrations with the attitudes that pervade my community, the same attitudes that frustrated my friend. And yet when he is expressing his opinions I cannot help but feel like I’m somehow inferior, not because I’m like the people he’s judging, but because he feels like he occupies a high place of judgment.

I don’t intend to stay in rural Northwestern Ohio forever. I may have grown up here, but I don’t feel the strong ties many people do, in part for the reasons discussed above. I don’t think that the attitudes common here are above criticism, and I certainly do spend a lot of time criticizing a number of the local attitudes. I also acknowledge that I am in privileged position in a number of ways and that can never be ignored. All of that said, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss rural communities as lost causes and people from large cities (especially on the coasts) need to remember that loving where they live/where they are from does not mean they get to stand in judgment.

*That is not to say that owning property or having an education should be the defining factors of adulthood, only that it is clear that in this conversation, the sole defining factor of what made one an adult was pregnancy, and it led to granting adulthood to a high school student and denying it of a teacher who has an established career.

On Choice and Coercion: When All Options Are Not Equal

Trigger Warning for discussions of reproductive coercion.

Every year or so, I see an utterly perplexing letter make its way into an advice column I happen to be reading. It may as well be the same letter. The letter goes something like this “My sister/daughter/best friend/cousin/coworker/or other significant person of the female persuasion in my life is seeing a new guy. They’re getting kind of serious, and from what I’ve seen and from what she has said, he treats her like a queen. But I know he has to be abusive, because she’s decided that she no longer wants children.” Now, obviously it’s possible that, in the process of being a sketchy, unethical, or even abusive partner, there might be some convincing or, worse still, coercing, someone into the decision that they don’t want children. And it is incredibly hard to judge from a letter, but these letter writers usually spend at least a paragraph extolling the new guy’s virtues and the only evidence offered for his abusive behavior is the fact that the woman in question has decided that she doesn’t want kids. To me, that says that the author of the letter is uncomfortable with the idea of someone opting not to have children, not that anything suspicious is happening within the relationship.

It is worth noting that that I’ve never seen a letter panicking about someone deciding to become a parent after starting a new relationship, even though reproductive coercion is more likely used to coerce someone into getting pregnant against their will than to stop them from getting pregnant. In fact, I’ve seen a number of instances of “someone changing their mind after meeting Mr. Right” being lauded as cause for supreme celebration. Now, I obviously don’t want to conflate someone changing their mind about having children with being coerced into having and carrying an unwanted pregnancy, but the “you’ll change your mind narrative” does largely work to make reproductive coercion invisible, which in turn empowers abusers who use this tactic. Ask anyone who says they don’t want children (or even people who have decide not to go the biological route of having children), and they will tell you that the most common reply is that they will change their minds, usually “after meeting the right person”. When changing one’s mind is both treated like an inevitability and then celebrated as though it is always the “right” decision, it puts forward a narrative that [biological] parenthood is the only option and people resisting it have chosen wrong and will one day come to their senses or regret it. Within that narrative there is no way to interrogate the possibility of coercion happening.

Depending on how you look at it, reproductive coercion is either as new as the invention of birth control or as old as human reproduction itself*, though it was only within the past five years that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have taken notice of the issue. It’s scary to think that people whose profession centers around the idea of reproduction** are just now realizing that reproductive abuse is an issue. While I don’t doubt ACOG’s*** good intentions, if they truly want to help end reproductive coercion they’ll examine how their own attitudes about reproductive coercion may enable reproductive coercion through making it invisible. For instance, regretting a tubal ligation or a hysterectomy are considered actual, diagnosable conditions from which a patient may be suffering. The underlying assumption to the pathologizing of regret is that the patients having these surgeries will of course change their mind and want [more] children one day. Again, the choice of having [more] children is not treated as having two equal options, but a natural step on the road to having [more] children. This is, of course, used to keep people from having the procedure. The implication is that as long as embracing pregnancy is seen as inevitable, we’ll be too busy celebrating to notice when someone may not want to be pregnant. Likewise, by requiring spousal permission for a tubal ligation, these doctors may be putting more power in the hands of reproductive abusers, rather than asking why a woman might beg her doctor to perform a tubal ligation and not tell her husband.

Again, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to change their minds, or that people who change their minds should regret it. I was once convinced that I never wanted children in any way and I’m now on the fence about foster care adoption, so I know that it happens. But treating someone changing their mind as inevitability and having [biological] children as always “the right choice” makes it difficult for people who have been coerced into having and carrying an unwanted pregnancy to talk about their experiences, which in turn makes it difficult to get help. This means coming to terms with the idea that some people will never want kids.  Some people may change their minds, but that’s not a reason to put forth external pressure or to assume that biological reproduction is the right choice for everyone. Recognizing multiple options and normalizing the idea that not everyone wants children is the first step to creating a culture of openness that will allow for the difficult conversations about reproductive coercion not to be erased.

*That is to say that one could argue that before the advent of birth control, while there were certainly wanted pregnancies, women often had little choice in the matter of becoming pregnant. Whether one views the idea of the inevitability of pregnancy and motherhood as coercion or maintains that it only became coercion once society advanced enough to see pregnancy as a matter of consent is a subject that could spawn (wordplay!) a lengthy debate.

**I’ve long argued that the separation of women’s health from pregnancy would lead to a better approach to women’s health, since, for many women living with chronic reproductive illness, viewing the treatment of these conditions as mere maintenance so that they can one day reproduce is insulting.

*** I think that’s their acronym? It is now.

The Eleven Types of Critical Theorists You Encounter in Graduate School

Critical Theory, meet Listicles. 

1. The One You Love So Much They Change How You See About the World.

They’re probably also the one you took one of your first theory seminars in, to be all honest, but you don’t want to analyze that further because you hate to admit that it could be someone else.

2. The One You Like, But They’re In a Bitter Death Feud With The Guy/Lady From Number One, So You Can’t Actually Admit it.

From where you are, their views are compatible, but they’d probably both hate your guts if you expressed that view. Fortunately they and everyone else who might have a stake in this argument are probably all dead.

3. The One You Absolutely Hate.

Maybe you hate them because their work is racist/sexist/ableist/classist/homophobic. Maybe you hate them because they are awful to read. Maybe it’s because of an academic rumor about how they treat people. But everyone has a theorist they absolutely hate.

4. The One You Don’t Hate, Though You Abhor Their Fan Club.

Sometimes perfectly nice theorists attract a following that is anything but perfectly nice. It’s not really their fault that they attract hipster disciples who are probably misreading them.

5. The One You Will Never Completely Understand.

It’s okay, since you’re pretty sure no one else, including the theorists themselves, actually understand what they are saying. See also: Deleuze and Guattari.

6. The One Who Embraced Nazism

Heidegger. It’s incredibly hard to take him seriously with that whole Nazism thing. And honestly, reading his theory kind of makes you see how it happened, so you may feel dirty when you read his work.

7. The One That You Will go to Your Grave Insisting Isn’t a Real Critical Theorist.

Okay, let’s be real, if your books just summarize a bunch of theory and insist that theory is dead, you aren’t actually a theorist. Nope. Not even a little. I’m looking at you Terry Eagleton.

8. The Purposely Dense One.

You’re not really sure if they are trying to confuse you to show how much they have read or if the denseness itself is a meta-commentary on the evasive and labyrinthine nature of language, but you’re fairly certain they know how hard to understand they are. You may find yourself talking like them if you read to much.

9. The Other Purposely Dense One.

See number 8, only in an entirely different subfield of theory. Just hope they never cowrite a book together.

10. The Other Generic French Ones.

In brief, they are either responding to Lacan on the phallus, or postmodernism/poststructuralism. They are most likely defining the same three terms differently and shifting how they relate either way.

11. The Other Generic German Ones.

Because of the exact make up of your department, you probably won’t know much about them beyond the fact that they’re called the Frankfurt School and that you aspire to one day have a bunch of dachshunds named after them so that you can call them “the Frankfurter School.”

#YesAllWomen

I wanted to get involved in  but much of what I have to say is too long for 140 characters, so I thought I would post it here. More thoughts on Elliot Rodger to come, maybe.

because a campus security officer told me he ignored rape reports because he didn’t want to “ruin his life.” (taken from my twitter account).

 Because survivors have told me that they instinctively worry about that, too, and they subconsciously sublimate their own suffering and worry about ruining their attackers lives.

 Because I’ve received countless rape threats for the heinous crime of having opinions.

 Because I’ve had those threats dismissed as “just trolls” and “not misogyny.”

 Because I’ve been asked to “tone down my feminism” to make a man who believes marital rape is his g-d given right more comfortable. No one ever asked if  his misogyny made me or other women uncomfortable, and I doubt they would have asked him to “tone it down” if we expressed that it did.

 Because I’ve known numerous professional women who’ve had men outside their field explain to them why misogyny isn’t a problem in their field.

 Because young men found it  funny to walk across campus yelling “rape squad.”

 Because the first time I told that story, I felt compelled to justify what I was doing on campus at that time and why I’d had that drink with my thesis advisor and classmates.

 Because this past weekend, when a bunch of frat boys barking like dogs at me from the window of a moving car as I was walking across (a different) campus, I immediately took it as a statement about my appearance rather than the fact that they are likely just huge assholes.

 Because many of wonderful, well-meaning people I know are just now discovering why women so often live in fear.

Previous Older Entries