Facebook · fast feminism · social media

The Politics of Facebook

It’s no secret: I spend a lot of time on Facebook. One friend recently told me that I am “the world’s most facebook-active woman,” which I know is untrue, considering the posting rates of, well, some other people I know (which I use as a moderating compass).  Recently a friend posted on my fb wall a link to an article making the rounds on the interwebs arguing that women with short hair are deranged and masculine, with the comment that she “knows I like infuriating posts.” This is also true, to an extent–I like getting enraged about stupid things people say about feminism, and then sharing in the hopes that other people get riled up as well. Sometimes that process backfires, and friends seem to fall into more of a state of existential despair; I get comments like “I-am-so-angry-why-did-you-post-this??” (<paraphrased, in response to a clip about a new book arguing that America is declining because there are fewer manly men in leadership roles. I will not provide a link.). The last thing I would want is to foster apathy or powerlessness in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

In truth, it tends to be relatives or old friends who tend to follow my Facebook postings the most closely, and often my more overtly feminist or political posts are aimed at those outside an academic setting who may not otherwise have the same exposure to those ideas. Sometimes, in my sheltered academic world, I forget how non-ubiquitous feminism is. Recently I mentioned to a 30-something friend-of-a-friend who was visiting New York that I am now a writer for a Canadian feminist blog, and she stopped me a few sentences later to ask “I noticed you said you write for…a feminist blog? So..you’re a feminist? What…does that even mean?” Almost choking on my chicken paillard, I tried to explain that, you know, there’s still a myth that feminists are man-haters, but really we’re just aware of and trying to address ongoing structural inequalities in the world. I had a similar conversation with a guy in the hotel industry whom I encountered at a party last year, who actually laughed in my face when I said I’m a feminist. This word still has a sting, despite attempts to rid feminism of its stigma (though I have problems with such simplified equations as well, as I don’t think feminism should equate to passive belief in some abstract notion of “equality,” a fraught term in itself).

So, call me a slacktivist if you will, but in my limited sphere as I pick away at my dissertation, Facebook has become an outlet for advancing my own political agenda while remaining receptive to the responses and positions of others (and of course striking is far preferable, hurrah Erin!). Sometimes my timeline simply blows up with debate, which I both love and fear (SMAD is a real thing, people, and I think I have it!).

But how emotional or extreme should our posts be? Should we all be social media provocateurs? Obviously, the answer to that question would differ according to the person and situation–I know plenty of activist-artists who seek to raise raucous, and good on ’em. But I worry about my own more emotional posts that often dive right over logic or rational discussion in their expression of outrage. Aren’t I just lowering myself to the same level as these ludicrous pockets of culture when I post inflammatory articles, adding an equally inflammatory comment to the top, with the intention of eliciting other extreme responses? And, in reposting offensive beliefs, isn’t there a chance that someone will step in and counter with “hey, but this guy has a point! Feminine men are ruining America!” I’m not sure a further polarization of issues is really what we want, but neither is avoidance; it’s important that we don’t remain ignorant of or (worse) become desensitized to the dangerous hogwash that emerges from the likes of Fox News.

I’d like to argue here (with shaky reference to Greek tragedy) that anger can be a useful incitement to heightened awareness of crucial issues facing women and activists today–either online or elsewhere. This week I’ve been reading Bonnie Honig’s Antigone Interrupted for a Fem Theory Reading Group  at Fordham. Honig addresses the politics of lamentation, claiming that we must learn how to mourn without fetishizing or romanticizing the object of mourning, how to call for change without undermining the power of the particular–all part of the “agonistic humanism” that Honig wants to advance. In chapter four, Honig argues that our grief, like Creon’s when he learns of his wife’s suicide as he holds his dead son in his arms, should be both ruptural and concessive: we should allow ourselves to be interrupted by grief, to let ourselves be overtaken by emotion, but also to attempt to reinstate our grief within or against a recognizable political structure. “Lament, as différance, is not a basis for politics but is a sign of the partiality of our codes of grief and of the limited ability of our codes of grief to control or redeem our losses by embedding them in economies of meaning that are supposedly themselves impervious to rupture and interruption” (120). That is to say, lament, though not necessarily political in itself, reveals that the institutionalized structures we have in place for dealing with grief are insufficient in covering it over. Our grief is always partial and singular, but should be put to productive use, while recognizing the limitations of such concessions. Ritualistic burial ceremonies may attempt to harness and contain grief, but lingering ruptures remain that must touch and affect some kind of political system.

So public outcries of sorrow, frustration, suffering, or angst, are okay; sometimes there is a need for the nonerudite and unreasoned in response to shitty things. Antifeminism is awful, and feminists should be allowed to respond in flaying gestures of lamentation, even in the somewhat flimsy sphere of social media; not every act needs to lead to revolution for it to be politically powerful or rejuvenating. But you sometimes have to put up with some pretty shitty responses in return, and you often have to follow up with a more rational explanation of the article or clip you’re posting and the argument you’re advancing against it, to try to prevent alienating or polarizing opinions even further. Social media culture is admittedly a far cry from fifth-century Athens, but today, as I [over-]analyze yet another long debate about feminism that transpired on my wall (this time in response to the response to the article about short hair and derangement, which does deserve a link!), Honig offers me some reassurance that emotional indignation can sometimes be productive.

Similarly, and on a lighter pedagogical note, such expressive possibilities account for why I’m a defender of attention-grabbing ejaculations from texting culture such as emoticons, emojis, and capslock abbreviations (“HAHA WTF I KNOW”), because they can sometimes communicate more effectively than drawn-out, rational discourse. Of course, we need to speak the same language here, and as Honig claims, lamentation should never be in itself the basis for politics. But it can be a starting point.

So I guess I’m offering a defense of inflammatory online posting in certain situations, with many caveats: know and be sensitive to your audience, be ready to explain in cogent language what the limitations of the argument you’re both exposing and attacking are, and sometimes, it may be best to forgo the link. But also, quick tip…there’s a great privacy function on Facebook that allows you to hide certain individuals from your posts. Sometimes, friends, it’s simply not worth it…

 

classrooms · community · fast feminism · slow academy

New Year, Old Work: Some thoughts on the long game

January. For many people working in academia this month is the second opportunity to assess where one is, where one wants to be, and perhaps to think about how one might get from here to there. January is often a month of resolve: less of this, more of that. In previous years we have reflected on personal goals and professional aspirations. Last year, after a particularly formative December, I wrote about my resolve to see women. Rather than seek some new resolution I want to reaffirm and recommit myself to a version of that resolution I made a year ago.

December 2012 brought acts of national and international public activism that were flash-mobbing the country. Idle No More instigated actions, moments of solidarity, resistance, and possibility for a more just and sustainable future. It was a vital moment, and it was a moment in a long history of Indigenous resistance and activism in the midst of a country that still refuses to take responsibility for its colonial history. One of the crucial lessons I learned working with students, community members, and colleagues in the past year is that tenacity and resolve are fundamental to long-term change. Long after the media has turned to some new story the work continues.

For me, December 2013 brought another kind of reminder of the tenacity needed for the long game; of fundamental and deep changes that are needed in the fight for social justice. I was reminded in a much less public way of the necessity of seeing women. Discussions and arguments about gender and literary culture in Canada didn’t sweep the front pages of news media this winter, and they shouldn’t have. Not in the way that the work of Idle No More did. But reflecting on some of the events of this December and last December I am reminded of the resolve, dedication, and relentless actions big and small that are required of us if we are truly going to change this world.

Of course — and relatedly — January for me also means the beginning of a new semester. More so than ever I begin this new semester with the acute awareness that it may be my last one teaching for a while or, possibly, forever. Never mind the hysterics, this is realism: each month I watch more brilliant peers choose to leave this profession because there is no room for them in it. Their choices are sometimes deliberate and conscious, and they are sometimes simply choices that are made for them by outside forces. One of these days I will choose too, or the choice will be made for me when the work simply dries up. I used to be of the (narrow) mind that the pedagogical work I have been trained to do only functions in a classroom space. How wrong I am. Knowledge isn’t only made in a classroom, not by a long shot. It is passed down through conversations with elders and mentors. It grows through connections with people, with place, with land. In Canada the classroom is but one recent and all too often myopic space that is inflected with its long history of colonial imperatives, but it doesn’t have to be. It isn’t always. It is also a space for radical generosity and difficult urgent work. I resolve to continue learning.

I was also wrong in my former thinking that the professor is the conduit of knowledge. I forgot that a conduit is a container and that energy, or water, or knowledge can flow different ways. So this year as I finish my syllabi I have added a new component for myself and my students. I have the rare opportunity to collaborate on a syllabus with one of my colleagues and I have borrowed his template for an Academic Contract. The premise is simple and timely: both teacher and students write short resolutions to dedicate themselves to the necessary work of critical thinking in the service of intellectual freedom.

 As I walk into a classroom tomorrow, meet a new group of students, and work through the scope of the classes we’ll be experiencing together, I will also offer them my resolve to do the hard, vital work of critical pedagogy inside the classroom and outside it as well.

fast feminism · slow academy

Reflections On Risk and “Running with the Pack”

There is a certain exhaustion that comes with teaching within a field. As a scholar trained in the field of Canadian literature I periodically find myself tired of the eternal return to the question “what makes it Canadian?” But that exhaustion is soon replaced with a redoubled sense of urgency and resolve. If students are coming into university classrooms asking these same questions year after year then this becomes an opportunity to unpack assumptions, address stereotypes, and support new critically engaged writers. That same exhaustion that comes from consistently returning to the same question ceases to be as edifying and refreshing when it happens outside the classroom and instead occurs amongst peers.
This fall has proved once again that the questions “why does gender matter?” and “why does feminist epistemology matter?” have to be answered yet again. Indeed, it would seem that those questions, which are so often rooted in the ways that narrative and discourse have been harnessed to produce particular and partial representations of the nation, have to be addressed yet again within the field of Canadian literary production.
Events in the last few months would suggest that a persistent issue with literary critical culture in Canada is at best a serious myopia and at worst misogyny. I am of course referring to David Gilmour’s statement that he “doesn’t love women writers enough to teach them,” and that he “only teaches serious heterosexual guys.” I am also referring to Tim Bowling’s recent interview with poet and critic Carmine Starnino in CV2 in which Starnino refers to the work undertaken by CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts) as not the “real work” that literary culture needs, but rather merely an “annual ‘count’” that produces “panicky responses.” Each of these statements betrays fundamentally gendered and dismissive language, yes. And gender discrimination—not to mention discrimination at the level of race and class—are systematic and entrenched inequities in Canada, not just Canadian literary production. Both Starnino’s and Gilmour’s claims reveal how very much work there is yet to do. My fundamental concern here is neither Starnino nor Gilmour per se, but they provide useful and recent examples of what does concern me. In what follows I focus first on Gilmour’s statements, then Starnino’s in order to unpack and address the larger structural inequities and misogyny their statements represent.
I’ll start with Gilmour, because his statements went viral to a degree that I suspect Starnino’s will not. The fact that Gilmour’s statements went viral matters because the comments sparked a revitalized debate about misogyny in Canadian literary culture. It also matters that Starnino’s statements were made after the Gilmour debacle. Gilmour’s remarks were offensive on a number of levels. First, I find it deeply concerning that a professor—with all the rights and privileges that come with that position—sees no misogyny, racism, or homophobia in his statements. Gilmour’s remarks about not teaching literature by women, people of colour, or queer people (which he suggests slantwise when he says he prefers to teach “serious heterosexual guys”) reveal his own fundamental discrimination. It would be one thing if he only revealed his own biases and prejudices, but when you are granted the privilege and opportunity to teach students at a public institution you have a responsibility to act in an ethical, critically engaged manner. Imagine what it must feel like to be a woman, person of colour, or queer person in one of Gilmour’s classes. What is specifically upsetting and perniciously damaging about Gilmour’s blithe remarks is that they reveal the ongoing presence of misogyny, racism, and homophobia in our culture right now.
I am a board member for Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA). It is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote and help enact equity in Canadian literary culture. CWILA has proved two years in a row now that gender discrimination exists in at least one key arena of Canadian literary culture. What we have learned through the process of enacting The Count (a census of thousands of literary reviews in Canada, that census which Starnino suggests is “not the real work”) is that it is extremely difficult to quantify “sexism” “racism” and “homophobia” in how people choose to review literature and whose texts they choose to review. Gilmour’s comments deriding the work of women writers, writers of colour, queer writers, and indeed any writer who is Canadian doesn’t undermine CWILA’s work, it validates it! One of the reasons we at CWILA feel that Gilmour’s remarks have gone viral is that they make explicitly concrete the sexism, racism, and homophobia that exists in otherwise nuanced and abstract ways.
Indeed, I for one am glad that Gilmour made his remarks in such a public forum, because while they are hardly isolated in their myopia they served to remind us what kind of vigilant action is required. Action is being taken in response to Gilmour’s remarks. I see action in response to Gilmour’s statements happening in two interconnected ways: First, his comments have incited a positive internet backlash that is generating crucial conversations around critical pedagogy, sexism, racism, and homophobia in the classroom. People are talking about what kind of damages are wrought when critical practice is not brought to bear on the creation of a syllabus.
The second way action is being taken is a bit more complicated and might tell us more about the culture of inequity in which we live: Gilmour has received primetime space on television and in all kinds of news media—not to mention blogs and Twitter. Indeed, that platforms like Sun Media are now interested in hearing from CWILA is a by-product of the complicated ways in which privilege works. Sun Media contacted us because of what a privileged, white, male ‘professor’ at the University of Toronto said to a reporter he denigrates as being “a young woman looking to make a name for herself.”[i]So the media’s reaction to Gilmour—especially those media sites that have gone to Gilmour to give him more space to speak—are functionally validating his position that the only voices worth listening to are “serious heterosexual guys.” Ultimately, I am not interested in whether or not Gilmour shifts his rhetoric. I am interested in what the larger Canadian culture decides to learn from another example of misogyny.
Gilmour’s statements around only teaching what he loves are offered as an explanation for the narrowness of his syllabus. His comments that suggest professors should not be made to teach outside their areas of expertise to satisfy “political correctness” make me deeply uncomfortable. Of course, I am a woman who teaches Canadian literature, writing by queer writers, and writing by people of colour. But what genuinely concerns me about Gilmour’s statement here is that it suggests that professors should only teach what they know, and what they recognize. We are literature professors who operate in the Humanities, he and I. And the Humanities are an unfinished project. This is what I mean: in their classical iteration the Humanities were conceived as enriching human existence. Similarly, in its most basic iteration the Enlightenment cast Humanity in the realm of the possible: if only humans worked hard enough to broaden their minds, strengthen their bodies, and exercise their imaginations, then the possible was infinite. The concomitant problem with this aspiration was definitional but real: who or what is human? Who makes the decisions regarding access to knowledge production? Who decides what kinds of knowledges areknowledges as such? Find the answer to those questions and you’ve come to the answer of why Gilmour’s statements are so problematic.
The definition of who and what counts has never been as open within the Humanities as it could be, and thus those of us who fall on the outside of the definition in practice, if not in theory, come from long and varied histories of working outside the dominate sphere of legibility. To my mind then, Gilmour’s comments underscore a particular type of myopia: an inability to see beyond one’s own privilege.
How does Gilmour’s rather blatant misogyny help us think through the more pernicious gendered iterations of Canadian literary culture? How can the statements of an individual serve as a means of addressing pernicious and systematic discrimination in the field of Canadian literature?
Specifically, how might the “Gilmour affair” help us read Carmine Starnino’s recent comments on Canadian poetics as indicative of larger structural inequities and not simply as a smug diagnosis of gendered representation in the Canadian literary scene? What can we learn from Carmine Starnino’s positioning of himself as a writer, reviewer, and public intellectual? In his interview with Tim Bowling in CV2 Starnino recounts his difficulty in finding female reviewers. “I cajoled, wooed, flattered,” he writes. While some “didn’t see themselves as qualified” others “the majority… believed they were too opinionated to survive the experience.” Furthermore, he closes by suggesting that websites such as Sina Queyras’s Lemon Hound have been successful because “female contributors feel like they’re part of a pack, like they have cover.” Starnino’s point is two-pronged. On the surface he posits that women need strength in numbers and that sites like Lemon Hound facilitate that numerousness. But look closely: when does one need cover? When you’re already under fire. There is an implicit acknowledgement that women who take up public space in the Canadian literary scene are always-already at war. Further, by utilizing “pack,” especially in reference to a site with “hound” in its name, Starnino elides women with animals rather than with a literary school or coterie. Women are under siege and they’re just a pack of bitches.
A few things are happening here, and they all hinge around damaging myopias in Canadian literary culture. Let’s table for a moment his own privilege as a white male critic in Canada and focus instead on the poet-critic’s use of language. Indeed, let’s start with that term poet-critic. Typically, the term refers to a poet who is also a critic rather than, say, the relationship between a poet and a critic. In other words, a poet-critic is someone whose authority as a commentator is rooted in a very particular subjectivity. The poet-critic works from a position of both privilege and risk as someone who both creates and critiques. The privilege here is much different than Gilmour’s; here, privilege comes from the implicit suggestion that writing poetry makes one an authoritative critic. I am not particularly interested in considering the potential issues of this assumption. Rather, I want simply to point these additional issues out. What interests me is the risk of this subject position: the poet-critic risks myopia when he or she rejects a broad readerly audience and speaks only to a narrow coterie. I am not a poet-critic. I am a critic and teacher who works in a university setting and who writes literary criticism that is typically about gender, poetry, and poetics in Canada. When I write literary criticism it is true that I often write for a specific audience. That audience is generally a literary one, but it is also, always, with a pedagogical purpose in mind. My work is grounded in the fundamental belief in the necessity of critical pedagogy for the creation of a sustainable future audience. Thus, when I write, my critique, my explication, my contextualization is aimed at building discourse, or at least providing the information for future discourse. As an educator my responsibility is to a current and future public. I work with students, yes, and I write towards an academic and non-academic public. I am not a part of a group, a school, a circle, or a movement of writers. Or at least not in the same way a poet-critic may be. What Starnino’s rhetoric first underscores is not only a divide between critical practices in Canada, it also points to a question of naming: when is a group of like-minded or similarly-politicked, or aesthetically-conversant people a “school,” “circle,” or a “movement,” and when is it just “a pack”? In short, there are structural differences in Canadian literary culture—especially at the level of where criticism happens—that might begin to explain limiting blind spots that curtail the development of a flourishing critical literary discourse. Indeed, we cannot assume that there are not deeply ideological underpinnings inherent in the very forums in which we want to practice our criticism.
However, these structural differences do not go far enough here to explain the degree of gendered violence inherent in some of the language used by both Starnino and Gilmour. How should we read Starnino’s dismissal of a national organization (which is only in its second full year) as the “they” to his “we” in the following exchange?
                       TB: What do you feel about CWILA [Canadian Women in the Literary Arts?]
CS: They’ve done a lot of good – and the numbers (both for books reviewed by women, and reviews of books by women) appear to be on the rise this year. They should feel proud to have played a role in that. But, for me, the real work is much larger than an annual “count” and the panicky responses around it. We need to embolden young women.
Here, Starnino implies another gendered division between serious critics, not-yet-serious critics who are still too “young” to be serious critics, and people involved with CWILA. It takes neither a literary critic nor a language-attentive poet to identify “us” versus “them.” Echoing his earlier use of gendered language in his description of “cajol[ing], woo[ing], and flatter[ing]” would-be female reviewers (are they the “young women” he suggests need emboldening? Is that how he imagines emboldening? Is this the same “young woman” Gilmore suggests was just “looking to make a name for herself”), Starnino makes clear his derision for CWILA’s work and the feminized responses it apparently produces. Moreover, the implication of Gilmour’s and Starnino’s emphases on youth suggests that young women are the only women who are worthy of “emboldening.” Feminism 101 teaches us that misogyny, like homophobia, racism, and other forms of inequity, is structuralin its form and function. It affects everyone—young, old, in-between—albeit in differing ways. What is more, the statement that CWILA “should feel” rather than be  “proud” underscores the paternalism of these remarks.  Given that poetry is at its most basic an attentiveness to language and given that Starnino is an advocate for precise language, it seems impossible that he is unaware of the tenor of his diction. While these statements are troubling on their own, when taken alongside some of his other writing directed at CWILA – and especially the writer Jan Zwicky – another troubling trend emerges, albeit banal in its eternal return.
In a 2012 post entitled “Cue the Violins, Folks” Starnino writes that “Michael Lista speaks truth to stupidity.” He’s referring here to a very public exchange that emerged between Zwicky and Lista shortly after CWILA republished Zwicky’s essay “The Ethics of the Negative Review.” Briefly, Zwicky argues that the ethical role of the critic is to engage with the work itself rather than engage in evaluative criticism. Lista’s lengthy response can be found online, as can Zwicky’s rebuttal and a host of revealing commentary. What troubles me is not the charged discussion that emerged but rather the ways in which that discussion was so deeply and perniciously gendered. Under an excerpt of Lista’s response Starnino writes, “I’m not sure what good Lista’s riposte will do. Zach Wells tried to knock some sense into Zwicky’s essay when it first appeared. And I did my damnedest in my introduction to A Lover’s Quarrel.” Knock some sense? Really? And what, then, do we make of Zach Wells’s attempt to “knock some sense” into Zwicky’s article if we then turn to his 2009 post “CITRIC BITCH’S THINKING IS SHIT”? In this post Wells clearly references writer, critic, and teacher Sina Queyras’s Lemon Hound, a site that was Queyras’s own literary blog in 2009, but has now evolved into a multi-authored literary quarterly, aka the pack. Here’s an excerpt:
                     Citric bitch thinks: “Litcrit is sick—I’ll fix it!’
                     Sic ‘im, citric bitch, sic’im!
                     Citric bitch is yipping.
                     Citric bitch is griping.
                     [….]
                     Drink piss, dimwit citric bitch,
                     Kiss this critic’s nightstick!
Unlike, for example, F.R. Scott’s “All Spikes But the Last” which clearly calls out E.J. Pratt in an attempt to correct his racial myopia in “Towards the Last Spike,” this is hardly poetic innovation in the service of critiquing myopic literary production (especially given the odd inhabitation—mocking? Or flattering?—of the identical poetic constraints used by Christian Bok in Eunoia). Indeed, I am hardly the first to address this poem. For example, Jon Paul Fiorentino’s “Sexism and Silence in the Literary Community,” or Brand Cran’s open letter reference Wells’ poem to address the larger structural issues I am pointing at. Instead, Wells’ piece is an excellent reminder of the ways in which gender violence operates in language. Let’s not forget: language makes things happen. Language is what we use to identify personhood. Allusion, metaphor, synecdoche, all of these literary devices create and sustain inequitable and violent relationships. “Knocking sense” into an essay hardly masks the violence of the implied synecdoche. “Kiss this critic’s nightstick” doesn’t even bother with figurative language or the absent referent, it is a threat couched in poor verse. When this “poem” is read in conjunction with Starnino’s commentary and diction, Gilmour’s dismissals, and, yes, CWILA’s growing statistical research it seems clear that there is much work to be done. Again, I am far less interested in whether or not individual poet-critics recognize or shift their violently gendered discourse. This is not about the individual poet-critic. This conversation is about recognizing, articulating, and unpacking malignant myopias in Canadian literary and cultural production. Yet again.
Canadian literary criticism will thrive with more engaged and rigorous discourse, of course. If we want a sustainable and future-oriented Canadian literary culture, it will require an ever-evolving attentiveness to the work of production and the work of criticism. But if the events of this fall have done anything they have served as a clear reminder that the existence and expansion of organizations like CWILA are vital to the ethics of that work.
Works Cited
Bowling, Tim. “An Interview with Carmine Starnino.” Contemporary Verse 2: The
Cran, Brad. “Lazy Jerkism: An Open Letter to Carmine Starnino.” Brad Cran.http://bradcran.com/vancouver_verse/an-open-letter-to-carmine-starnino/
Fiorentino, Jon Paul. “Sexism and Silence in the Literary Community.” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jon-paul-fiorentino/sexism-literary-community_b_3188385.html
Starnino, Carmine. “Cue the Violins, Folks.” The vehicule press blog.
Vehiculepress.blogspot.ca/2012/06/cue-violins-folks.html
Wells, Zachariah. “CITRIC BITCH’S THINKING IS SHIT.” Career Limiting Moves. Zachariahwells.blogspot.ca/2009/02/citric-bitchs-thinking-is-shit.html


[i] It is worth noting that the University of Toronto Department of English Acting Chair Paul Stevens publically circulated the following message:
A message from the Acting Chair of the English Department, Professor Paul Stevens.
Dear Colleagues:
Like all those of you who have seen David Gilmour’s comments in the Hazlitt magazine on teaching literature at U of T, I was appalled and deeply upset. They constitute a travesty of all we stand for. I will be pursuing the matter further today. There seem to me two points that immediately need to be emphasized. First, David Gilmour is not a member of the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and second, his ill-informed and offensive views could not be less representative of the passionately held values and actual practices of the Department. Please feel free to circulate this message as you think appropriate.
Many of you have already been trying to set the record straight — many thanks to Nick Mount, Heather Murray, Alex Gillespie, Michael Cobb, Holger Syme, and Katie Larson.
Best, Paul
Paul Stevens Professor and Acting Chair Department of English University of Toronto

fast feminism

Stop dissing women’s use of technology!

I found it particularly ironic that on the same day Aimée tweeted her meta-selfie from the CBC studio where she was giving a feature interview for Spark, the hashtag #feministselfie erupted on Twitter. Go read Aimée’s post to be inspired to share your research with the media, and present yourself to the world as the expert you have become in your field. Because otherwise, in the absence of smart and nuanced commentary, we are left with opinion pieces which always (want to) see the worst in how women do anything, and especially in their use of technology. This trend needs to stop.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js We need to stop the inter-generational browbeating, as the one in the Jezebel opinion piece that sparked the #feministselfie hashtag; or the one in which Sinéad O’Connor was trying to teach Miley Cyrus what was wrong with her video, for some of the reasons Amanda Palmer mentions in her own open letter. We need to understand that, for better or for worse, feminism is not monolithic, and my definition might not equal yours, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect each other’s different stances, and examine, discuss, even debate the many intersections that traverse it.

And do you know why? Because there are enough people who do not identify as feminists or allies, who are more than ready to put us in our place for how women–yea, so much for non-monolithic understandings, I know–use technology and/or social media. Remember the Pinterest debacle and the attendant hierarchy that belittled women for using it? That needs to stop.

Whatever way one uses or does not use technology or social media has to stop being a marker of cultural capital. If you opt out of social media, that’s your choice, and it is legitimate. If you think Facebook works better for you than Twitter would, because it gives you a meaningful connection to far-away friends and family, that’s awesome. However, we also have to admit that other people’s technological choices and uses are just as valid. How about we start rejoicing in difference, and the potentials of a variety of different platforms–understanding what they’re for, how people use them (in significantly different ways), and who owns them, and how they are monetized–instead of expecting to reconcile everything in identity.

After all, nobody wants to be the one pulling the classic Bourdieuvian “I was into Arcade Fire before they became mainstream.”