[Update August 19. I've edited this, and I'm going to edit some of the comments. Very Orwellian; very memory-hole. Yes; too bad. I disagree with myself about much of this now, so I want to get rid of the worst of it, and thus the worst of the comments it triggered. I make mistakes. It happens.]
Sexist epithets. The subject keeps coming back. We think we’ve killed it and then it pops up again, undead. The disagreements of the past month have brought it back more robust than ever and fifty times as large.
Russell Blackford has astonished me by consistently brushing them aside as unimportant. I’m pretty sure that in one of the many epithet-discussions we’ve had here he told me he’d stopped using “bitch” because of what I and others had been saying. I seem to have lost my influence.
A lot of people whom I’d believed sensible are showing irrational streaks over this issue. E.g. it’s not that hard seeing what Watson did wrong – but some folks seem determined to protect her at all costs…
Likewise, we’ve been getting totally unnuanced discussions of insults like “twat”. I don’t actually like these, either, as it happens, because I think there is at least tendency for them to express and reproduce sexist attitudes …but not everything is the same, and it’s possible to tease out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately. (E.g. I’m far more worried about the use of “cunt” as an insult, because its primary meaning is still the female pudenda; whereas “twat” has lost that meaning to some considerable extent. I think that “fool” is now its *primary* meaning.)
Not here it isn’t. In the UK and Australia/New Zealand maybe, but not in the US – and even in the UK and Australia/New Zealand it hasn’t completely shed its misogynist aspect; not all women even there think it’s perfectly all right. I set off a discussion of the subject on the WMST list a year or so ago and there were a lot of emphatic comments from UK/Aus/NZ women saying hell no it’s not ok.
Anyway – this business of teasing out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately – that’s a lot easier for people who are not named by the epithets than it is for people who are. That is (I almost regret to say, at this point) a textbook example of privilege. When people throw around cunt and twat and fucking bitch and smelly snatch, they’re not naming Russell. They are naming me. I can be dispassionate and analytical about the (putative) distinctions under some circumstances, but not under all. I can’t do it when a mouthy woman is being called those things in public over and over and over and over again. I’m not dispassionate about that. I can’t be.