drunkblogging: fudge off, Jessica Valenti

Oh look, someone called out Jessica Valenti for being a shitty writer and behold! An epic blog post whining about it! Huzzah! I’ve got a beer and a shot of whiskey, and I’m going to see if I can critique this shit with the delightful kiss of alcohol and maybe an awesome record. Hang on, I’m-a get the booze in place and put on Master Of Puppets.

…that’s better. Awww yeah! Cannot kill the family, battery is found in ME! BATTERY! BATT-ER-Y! Anyway.

So Valenti’s pissed because Nina Power wrote a book called The One-Dimensional Women, which, as part of a more general critique of modern feminism, characterizes Valenti’s personal brand of feminism as facile and self-serving. I should note that have not read Power’s book, though it does look mighty interesting from the bits available on Google Books. Anyway, the quote that’s gotten Valenti pants-shittingly furious is:

Stripped of any internationalist and political quality, feminism becomes about as radical as a diamanté phone cover. Valenti ‘truly believes’ that feminism is necessary for women ‘to live happy fulfilled lives’. Slipping down as easily as a friendly-bacteria yoghurt drink, Valenti’s version of feminism, with its total lack of structural analysis, genuine outrage, or collective demand, believes it has to compliment capitalism in order to effectively sell its product. When she claims that ‘ladies, we have to take individual action’, what she really means is that it’s every woman for herself and if it is the Feminist™ woman who gets the nicest shoes and the chocolatiest sex, then that’s just too bad for you, sister.

OH SHIT, VALENTI! FUCK! Someone pointed out that your relentless emphasis on individual actions may be a little navel-gazey, and while the personal is indeed political, focusing your politics exclusively on your personal deeds and feelings is hardly constructive. I would like to pop in a quote here from the wonderful Chandra Mohanty, which I feel describes the writing of Valenti and her ilk very well: “The 1960s and 1970s slogan ‘The personal is political’ has been recrafted as ‘The political is personal.’ In other words, all politics is collapsed into the personal and questions of individual behaviors, attitudes, and life-style stand in for political analysis of the social. Individual political struggles are seen as the only relevant and legitimate form of political struggle.” I felt particularly jocular when I read Valenti’s rebuttal and got to the part where she’s like “I know about collective action because I WRITE A BLOG WITH UMPTY MILLION VIEWERS AND WE WRITE LETTERS AND DO GOOGLE BOMBS AND SHIT.” Yeah, you write a fucking blog. It’s not a “community.” Can anything be a “community” now? Me and the fucking cats and this glass of Evan Williams are a community! We’ve got a ponY!

Oh, and as for your insistence that you wrote a book and it was stuffed with structural analysis the way a turducken is stuffed with various bird meats: yes, I have seen you do structural analysis. That doesn’t mean it’s not superficial and derivative and resembles a horrible first draft shat out by someone in my Women’s Studies 101 class.

Something I was not aware of was that critiquing terrible writing means you’re an elitist. But apparently, OH YEZZZ:

A common critique of [Full Frontal Feminism], and of Feministing when it first started, was that they weren’t “serious” enough. For some reason, some people think that if you’re making feminism palatable or giving it mass appeal, you must be doing something wrong. Better that feminism is limited to an elite few, and that anything written about gender justice is reserved for those lucky enough to go to grad school or who live in a world where feminism is readily available and discussed often.

No, dumbshit, that’s not my fucking critique. I am not scared of the unwashed masses gaining access to writing about gender equity. My concern is that you seem to think the way to get people to read feminist thought is to dumb it down a whole lot, and say things like “feminists have better sex because we’re self-actualized,” (in the interest of fairness I should note that it’s not q direct quote, but I think it’s a fair summation), and drag out that tired old line about “i used to think feminists were hairy and hideous and dour but now I know better.” Guess what? I, too, maintain a femme-y appearance (in a slobby Road Warrior extra kind of way, but nonetheless) and am a feminist. Lots of women do this. it’s not a huge fucking deal, really. And by attempting to distance yourself from THOSE FEMINISTS you are propping up some fucking offensive myths about feminism in the name of supposedly dismantling them.

Valenti accuses Power of “ignoring the reality of women’s lives.” You wanna talk about “ignoring the reality of women’s lives”? How about how your entire fucking assumed audience is young white hetero American ladies, at least for Full Frontal Feminism? Which is something that you have been called out on REPEATEDLY (look here for more) I am seriously pissing myself over the dazzling level of myopia on display here. Also, I switched the recrod to Dio! Fucking yes! RAINBOW IN THE DAAAAAARK

If you can’t tell from this post I am so over the imperative to be nice in feminist circles. I mean, I don’t think Jessica Valenti is a horrible person or anything. I just get real frustrated with this kind of garbage. I HATE calls of “OMG elitist,” when it comes to books on theory, it’s personal for me. I grew up in a family that was poor but bookish. We may have had a trailer with mice infestations and kitchen tile that was peeling up, but my mom always made sure I had books to read and wanted me to do well in school. You people who insist that The Poors can’t understand intellectual shit, you are erasing my personal history and being fucking insulting and kind of secret classist to boot (oh, they can’t understand what we’re saying, the poor dears, let’s dumb it down for them).

Anyway, yeah, being nice? overrated. Critique (of hideous enforced gender norms) is what feminism was founded on, for fuck’s sake. I am a hater and I’m fine with it.

And I’m now officially drunk. Threee sheets to the wind. Thanks, Jessica, you whiny fuck.

I would like to offer a bonus angry Hulk punch to Sady Doyle and Tiger Beatdown. SADY?! WHY?! I like your writing a lot of the time. You bring the funny. Why must you defensd such a miserably incompetent writer just because she is one of your feminist blog cohorts?! Are we the Mafia now? Should I start leaving horse parts on the furniture? I don’t wanna.

(Sober-er ETA: Just to be clear, any advocacy of violence is not at all serious. And I do not mean “waaah, I am disagreed with,” here, I mean “this is not, in my view, up to the standards of critical thinking I usually see on this here blog.”)

Time to stumble to the health food store for a snack. Who wants yogurt? I think I do! My gut will love this!, though my liver and I are stilll not on speaking terms.

~ by Smellen on January 24, 2010.

18 Responses to “drunkblogging: fudge off, Jessica Valenti”

  1. Completely ignoring the subject of the post (not that I don’t disagree with the general tenor of it, but I’m wayyyy too tired to think about right now), I’m confused as to why I have a pingback from here? It’s not a bad thing at all, I just don’t see a link to me and am thus terribly lost. This is perhaps because I am tired and my meds haven’t kicked in and there’s no coffee around.

    Still! It’s nice to be noticed, even after my poor blog has been neglected for so long.

    • It’s in the paragraph where I’m yelling at Valenti for saying that Power “ignores the reality of women’s lives.” I really liked what you had to say on the whole kerfuffle over that book and the accusations of “meanness” on the part of the critics.

  2. Kathy Miriam wrote a long multi-part essay on one-dimensional feminism as well:
    http://kmiriam.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/one-dimensional-feminism-and-the-election-of-2008/

    Not only was feminism founded on critique, it demanded deconstruction and self-awareness. Which seem to be tossed out the window with infighting situations like this, especially re: class as you said. Rebuilding after deconstruction is the hard part, and after X-decades of said decon maybe rebuilding is due. But rebuilding should make you bigger, not be a game of who to exclude because of how they look or how much they earn or OMG they said this about me…

    • Honestly, I’m kind of not on board with some of what Miriam says there. I agree with her that liberal feminists refusing to critique Democrats for pulling a lot of the same shit Republicans do is ridiculous, but…the “male state”? Really? I would make some comment along the lines of “gender is not the only locus of power,” but people like bell hooks and Gloria Anzaldua have been doing that since before I was born, so…eh.

      It’s also true that you can find the stinky traces of neoliberal ideology in sex-radical discourse (ie: “freedom” is the freedom to purchase whatever sexual accessories get you your jollies): again, this has been covered before in the realm of feminist academia, with Laura Kipnis’ Ecstasy Unlimited. (I recommend it, it’s scathing and hilarious but not at all reductive. Her later work on porn is a bit disappointing, though.) But I think she’s mischaracterizing a lot of people’s arguments when she sums them up as “some of these clowns think waxing and stripping are empowering, herp derp.” I’ve seen a few women say that they feel empowered stripping (in the sense of “ha ha, it’s so easy to squeeze money out of these clowns”), but that’s not the end-all be-all of third wave feminist thought on sex work, as I’m sure you’re aware. Also, if you take a peep at my previous post, you’ll see my thoughts on the feminist politics of appearance. (short version: stop talking about your body hair, what you individually do with it is hardly an issue.)

      Plus she fawns over Mary Daly. No thanks.

      Anyway, yes, rebuilding after deconstruction is essential, and a lot more difficult than said deconstruction. I will readily admit I have no overarching feminist game plan, and can only offer bits and pieces of what I find and like. But maybe it’s better that way? I don’t have a ready feminist answer for every situation ever, and I think anyone who thinks they do is probably wrong.

      • Re: Miriam, I agree with *you* more than I do that original article, but it seemed worth tossing into the ring. bell hooks is a good invocation: she’s done so much in this arena to complicate all arguments, including the personal/political one.

        “I don’t have a ready feminist answer for every situation ever, and I think anyone who thinks they do is probably wrong.”

        Fuckin-a right. That’s becoming a personal standard for evaluations: the less totalizing and more complex an argument, the more worthwhile it is. Complexity, however, is not synonymous with convenient “sophistication” or denial-based glossings. You know that; I’m just typing now.

        Addy inbound.

    • Oh, and you should send my your address because I want to mail you things.

  3. I’m currently sick as a dog and unable to properly write up my responses to Valenti + Co, but this post has made my day. Cheers! Nina

    • Ha ha! Glad you liked it. I’ve been frustrated with Valenti/the popular feminist blogosphere in general for some time. I suppose it was guaranteed to drive me to drink sooner or later.

  4. Hah, see? That’s what I get for reading and commenting early in the morning. Thanks for the link, though!

  5. [...] this terrifically witty and spirited response to criticism of Nina Power/Infinite Thought’s new book, One-Dimensional Woman, which should [...]

  6. HAHAHA! :-D oh, thank you. thank you! this made me happydance. I’ve been steaming ever since reading the mess that precipitated this blog post! more, please.

  7. exactly. thank you for writing this.

  8. [...] Valenti and Nina Power, which escalated throughout the feminist blogosphere (including this post by Smellen and a subsequent retort from Sady at Tiger Beatdown): Power’s new book suggests that much of the [...]

  9. [...] review of Maggie Stiefvater’s book Shiver, and this post here, which refers to my drunk-ass shouting about the Jessica Valenti/Nina Power blogfight about a month ago. (Apparently, that post’s [...]

  10. this post is awesome. nina power is fantastic!

  11. I don’t know why I am finding this only now. It’s so fucking funny, and true, true, true!

  12. Woah, this is, like, way old and you haven’t updated in a zillion years and I dunno if you’ll see this but, whatever, just wanted to say I really enjoyed this, and I think you’re right. I don’t think the One Dimensional Woman is a great book or the best Nina Power is capable of, but I thought her criticism of Jessica Valenti wasn’t just accurate, it seemed pretty sympathetic as well. Whereas the ad hominem coming from the Valenti camp is pretty pathetic, I mean she did the whole “if you criticise me holy shit it means you can’t have read all my work!”, then the accusations of elitism, and the generational thing when Power is about the same age as Valenti I think? Just, she’s a professor, she’s a specialist in Alain Badiou and also logical atomism I think, and in the Frankfurt School judging by the title of this book, and I forget where she teaches, but at least she’s a teacher and translator. Whereas Valenti’s being all “I’m populist me” when she’s basically trying to bring all of feminism under her own brand name.

    • Hey! I think I recognize you from my brief flirtation with Tumblr…anyway, I do still maintain this blog, even if I don’t have much time to actually write for it these days (picture a monster movie poster with the words Grad School Ate My Life, that’s about it).

      Yeah, the elitism thing got to me too, because that was also what annoyed me about the defenses of Full Frontal Feminism – the idea that poor people can’t understand big words, or something. And yeah, Power is an academic and some of the stuff she writes is for a pretty specialized audience (I don’t know Badiou very well myself), but that particular book was quite readable and no more “elitist” in its concepts and language than Valenti’s, I think. Just using a bunch of swearing and vernacular doesn’t make your work better for The People, jeez – some working-class people understand words that are quite a lot longer than you’d think! Wow! Nothing against swearing/vernacular, of course, but responding to arguments with the words “puke” or “fuck that” is just so lazy, you know?

      And seriously, does Valenti not remember how one of the VERY COMMON criticisms of Full Frontal Feminism was that it assumed a white, middle-class, relatively privileged audience? Don’t try to posit yourself as some kind of Voice of the Common Woman when A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE (I think I linked a few of them in this post, if not a simple google search for “full frontal feminism criticisms” should bring up a bunch) have pointed out that’s not the case!

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