Textbook narcissistic rage

I missed this two years ago – someone called Flavia Dzodan wrote a nasty misogynist piece attacking a list of feminist women for crimes like getting paid for writing articles. Ross Wolfe wrote a post in response titled, aptly, Identity and Narcissism. (I see a lot of that combination these days.)

So it would seem that Flavia Dzodan — an Amsterdam-based marketing consultant — denounced me last night. All this as part of a highly-public (online) breakdown of staggering proportions. Not just me, of course. Quite a few others were likewise singled out for abuse in Dzodan’s hate-filled tirade, endearingly titled “I hate you all media vultures.” Most of those she called out were well-known feminists: Louise Pennington, Laurie Penny, Michelle Goldberg, Becca Reilly-Cooper, Glosswitch, Helen Lewis, Meghan Murphy, Julie Bindel, and Gia Milinovich.

Funny thing, I’m friendly with all those women now, and get to share in their jokes. I have all the luck.

In a roughly thousand word blogpost, dripping with invective, she accuses everyone of profiting at her expense. We’re “media whores,” according to Dzodan, “the top of a vat of turds floating in our own media shit.” By contrast, she and her supporters are “the bootstraps we pull in the hopes of rising to the top,” since we’ve allegedly co-opted her language, ideas, and freedom.

It’s always nice when a woman calls a bunch of women “whores.”

What originally set her off was just a casual remark about a picture someone sent me of Flavia after I said the impression I got from her website photo was that she was “white.” Didn’t mean anything by it. Seemed reasonable to me considering her last name sounded Serbo-Croatian — something Slavic from the Balkan peninsula. Anyway, the photo I received afterward only confirmed my initial impression…Going from the picture above, I have to say that if I saw her on the street I’d probably just assume she’s white. That doesn’t mean she is white, or that she identifies as white. Just means that she looked white to me. Unfortunately for everyone involved, merely stating my opinion resulted in her throwing an epic tantrum across the Twitterverse. Reilly-Cooper later noted, correctly, that Flavia’s whole reaction was almost “textbook narcissistic rage.”

That sounds familiar. It sounds like the epic tantrums that a few people like to throw if someone accidentally uses a “wrong” pronoun to refer to them.

Wolfe goes on to a little parenthetical meditation on narcissism, citing Christopher Lasch.

Today’s networked political theater finds a different stage, not in the streets but in the depthless realm of cyberspace. It would be too neat an inversion to take very seriously, but the temptation is there all the same: Could Frantz Fanon’s disquisition on Black Skin, White Masks have finally turned back on itself, so that an emancipatory politics subjectivity can only be articulated from the standpoint of the most oppressed? Perhaps a kind of “white skin, black masks” approach to radicalization? This insight would hardly be limited to Flavia Dzodan, extending to many white radicals for whom the only authentic form of struggle is that of “the Other.” Mike Ely of the Kasama Project comes to mind as the sort of archetypal whiteboy who likes to call other whiteboys “crackers,” in some vain throwback to 1960s black nationalism.

That’s probably even more popular now – as in all those white feminist women who like to rage at what they furiously call “white feminism.”

Meghan Murphy also wrote a piece about Dzodan’s public tantrum: My feminism will reject misogynistic screeds, or it will be bullshit. That title made me laugh, because the reason I became aware of Dzodan at all is because people keep posting and re-posting that stupid meme “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit” and attributing it to her…as if it were so profound and so original that it had to be attributed to someone, when in fact it’s just a stupid internetty blurt. What a tragic source of fame.

On to Murphy’s post.

A number of feminist writers, myself included, were attacked and defamed online (yet again) in an abhorrently hateful and misogynist diatribe today. Many women spoke out, naming the vitriolic words as sexist, ad hominem attacks, professional jealousy, and manipulation.

We were called “media whores” and “turds” who had no ethics, humanity, or compassion (an ironic accusation when stated within a completely unethical post maligning female writers and journalists, dehumanizing them, and calling them a bunch of hateful, misogynist names). We were accused of selling out and of the crime of *gasp* being paid for some our work.

The author writes:

“I hate you all Glosswitches, booblediboops [sic], Laurie Pennys, Louise Penningtons, Julie Bindels, Megan Murphys [sic], Michelle Goldbergs and your ilk. The B Classes of white feminism fighting tooth and nail for a place at the table. At our expense. With your writing commissions, the coins tossed in your direction by the men who own the media you so desperately want to be part of.”

Not all of the women she lists are paid writers or journalists, for starters — and the author seems to have a completely deluded understanding of how much money one makes doing freelance writing (hint: not very much!). Beyond that, it is pretty appalling to attack women for being paid for their work. Is that not the very opposite of what we are fighting for?

Oh no no no – feminism is all about continuing the grand old tradition whereby women’s work is never paid, because it’s not “work” in that sense, it’s just what they do out of their throbbing maternal instinct plus their innate talent for getting stains out of bathtubs.

To be clear (though it shouldn’t have to be said), this is not about “righteous anger” nor is it about people “speaking out” nor is it about “critique.” There is NO critique here. There are no politics here. These are sexist, unethical, manipulative attacks and I am sick to death of fellow progressives or feminists defending them. This is indefensible.

And yet…Flavia Dzodan invented the unique, irreplaceable combination of words, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit,” so everything else she ever said is also perfect, yes including calling women “whores.” Get with the program.

And if people are supporting this behaviour out of fear, it’s time to look at that. Because if you are afraid and staying silent out of fear, something is wrong. Because, as the ever-on point Glosswitch wrote, “my feminism is not about being afraid.” Because you know who rules and controls and silences women through fear? Abusive men. Met any? Recognize that feeling of walking on eggshells, never quite sure when you will become the target of an attack? Yeah. That’s what the patriarchy does. It forces us to live in fear and stay silent because of it. It teaches us to take up as little space as possible in the hope that we will go unnoticed and, therefore, safe from attack. This shouldn’t be the goal or outcome of feminism.

Both Glosswitch and I have said it before, and who knows how many more times and how many more of us will need to say it again, but if your activism is focused on vicious, concerted efforts to silence women, you’re not doing feminism, you’re doing misogyny. And I promise you — I fucking guarantee you this — supporting bullies won’t protect you. It will not save you from being bullied yourself. Because some day you’ll step out of line and become the target yourself.


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