Notes and Comment Blog

“Newsworthy” is not a justification

Oct 4th, 2016 8:24 am | By

Emily Nussbaum tweeted

A wise and balanced Ferrante-take corrective by @NoreenMalone, which I agree with 95%:

and linked to Malone’s article, Elena Ferrante’s ‘Unmasking’ Wasn’t the End of the World.

Sigh. Yeah great, but nobody said it was the end of the world. Why do we have to be “balanced” about everything anyway? Why is “balance” necessary in this case? Why can’t we say authors have a right to be anonymous if they want to, and journalists have no duty or responsibility or obligation whatsoever to strip them of that right and that anonymity, and that it’s that much more ugly and domineering when it’s a man stripping a woman? Why is it “unbalanced” to say that?

Malone’s piece is annoyingly dismissive.

Gatti’s logic here is not exactly airtight, and does have an unfortunate whiff of “she was asking for it.” But Ferrante’s true biography had long been an object of interest in newspapers and magazines…Despite her anonymity, Ferrante has given plenty of interviews,especially recently. If the pseudonym allowed us to encounter her work in a specific way initially, the status of the work has changed in the last several years: Enormous success comes with burdens as well as benefits, but it certainly makes her identity more newsworthy than it was when she first started writing under a pseudonym.

What the hell does “newsworthy” mean? Other than “people are interested in it”? People are interested in lots of things that they have no right to know more about. Again: having a desire does not create a right to have that desire satisfied. I realize that’s a terribly “unbalanced” claim, but I’m sticking to it. Curiosity about other people is all but universal, but that doesn’t translate to some universal duty to make everything public. It doesn’t matter that Ferrante’s identity was “newsworthy”; it was still hers to keep to herself if she chose.

According to the current conventional wisdom, the exposé was a kind of emotional violence, both against the writer and the readers; further, goes this thinking, there is a particular roughness inherent to a male reporter unmasking a female author who has asked for privacy. The New Yorker’s Twitter account uses the language of consent: “In his apparent unmasking of Ferrante — the journalist does not explain why he felt free to take her ‘no’ as his ‘yes.’” As does Charlotte Shane, a writer and co-founder of TigerBee Press, who tweeted, “Leave it to a goddamn man to decide that the tremendous gift that is Elena Ferrante’s writing needs to repaid with senseless violation.” In The Guardian, Suzanne Moore writes that “those who love Ferrante’s work are appalled, partly of course because she writes so well about the ways in which men humiliate women.”

How is that “the conventional wisdom”? Yes a lot of us thought it and said it, but that doesn’t make it the conventional wisdom. I’m not sure it’s particularly “balanced” of Malone to call it that.

It is true that, thanks to the searing portrait of male cruelty her novels paint, the mere mention of Ferrante’s name might get many of us in the mood to discuss a generalized terribleness of men. And yet this all seems to me both an almost-insulting underestimation of the fortitude of the author, and a severe overestimation of the harm that might be done by connecting universally praised work to its actual creator.

That’s not your decision to make. It’s not ours. It certainly isn’t Claudio Gatti’s. It’s not anyone’s but Ferrante’s. “Consent,” anyone? I don’t find Malone’s callous dismissal the least bit “balanced”; I think it’s quite warped.

They broke my mic

Oct 3rd, 2016 6:12 pm | By

Alec Baldwin does Trump on Saturday Night Live.


Gatti thinks he knows better

Oct 3rd, 2016 5:40 pm | By

Deborah Orr has a blistering piece on the privacy-stripping of Elsa Ferrante. Orr is a massive fan of Ferrante’s work, has interviewed her, and is a contributor to “the new edition of Frantumaglia, a collection of writings by and about Ferrante that particularly seems to irk Gatti.”

But here’s the thing. I do not give a stuff who Ferrante “really” is. If I have a right to know, as Gatti argues, I don’t wish to exercise it. Gatti, as far as I’m concerned, has violated my right not to know, while Ferrante protected it. I was more than willing to play my small part in giving this writer the space she needed to write as she does, and gratefully accept my reward – her books and the pleasure they give to me. I abhor the fact that this man, and those who published his speculations, rode roughshod over that perfectly satisfactory contract between writer and reader.

And the writer’s stated wishes over more than two decades, with zero public interest reason to do so.

[S]uccessful women are still expected to account for their ability to balance work and home. A female foreign correspondent will be expected to account for the fact that she has to leave her children behind. A female prime minister will still face insinuations that she hasn’t fully experienced life as a woman’s life should be experienced, because she hasn’t had children. This is the way in which Gatti thinks Ferrante should be held to account – checked over, to see if her creative life is a suitable match to her domestic life. Successful women can’t “have it all”, goes the mantra. We must be allowed to inspect this woman, to ensure that she hasn’t managed it. With men like Gatti in the world, it’s perfectly understandable that a person might want to avoid all that nasty, sinister scrutiny.

Damn right. We don’t want men like him in our faces, and hiding is one way to avoid them.

Gatti thinks he knows better than the people who know and care for the individual that Ferrante inhabits. I very much doubt that he does. The future impact that his intervention could have on Ferrante’s creativity appears not to have figured in his calculations. That’s how much he really cares about Ferrante’s readers and their rights.

He cares about himself and his ability to tell an admired woman who’s in charge.

Listening to Gatti on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning, as he attempted to justify his vast, self-righteous intrusion, I was struck by how strongly he seemed to feel that people should be punished for their success, that somehow, by failing to subject her private self to public scrutiny, Ferrante was pulling a fast one. (The truth, I imagine, is more likely to be that he wants what she’s got, and can’t see why she should eschew the personal inconveniences that he would gladly embrace in her shoes.)

Gatti now seems to find it unfair that a woman may have chosen to write herself out of her own writing, largely, one suspects, because such self-effacement is alien to him. I daresay he would not be able to comprehend the stitching of a patchwork quilt, just for the sake of making beauty. If you want to work, achieve money and acclaim, then play by our rules. That seems to be Gatti’s horrible message. Ferrante’s writing is suffused with explorations of how aggressive and damaging to women such attitudes are. No wonder he wants to damage her back.

No doubt Ferrante didn’t actually want men telling her what she should really be writing about, as Gatti presumes to. Why would anyone want to be told that they were doing something bad and disrespectful by failing to write about their mother and her family? The obligation to write about and talk about her own family, and be defined at least in part by a terrible past, seems to me like something else that Ferrante would have wanted to free herself from. Gatti, however, has exercised his own perceived right to put Ferrante back where he can keep an eye on her. It is a terrible and ghastly violation.

It only makes me more furious as the day goes on. We just can’t be allowed to get on with doing our work in our own way.

Random man decides what rights Elena Ferrante can have

Oct 3rd, 2016 5:00 pm | By

The LA Times on the assault on Elena Ferrante’s privacy.

Ferrante had closely guarded her secret. The author specifically said — in her rare interviews — that she treasured her anonymity.

And that should be her right. Authors don’t have to tell us anything about themselves. Not one thing.

Gatti’s article was met with outrage by many in the literary community, including Roxane Gay, Ruth Franklin, Philip Gourevitch and Pamela Paul, decrying the journalist’s exposure of Ferrante’s true identity.

Rob Spillman, the editor and cofounder of the literary magazine Tin House, called Gatti’s report “immoral” and “unethical” and suggested that readers consider canceling their subscriptions to the New York Review of Books.

It is highly immoral and unethical and the NYRB should never have published it. Doing so is a punch in the face to all their writers, and to their readers too.

Gatti defended his report to the Guardian, asserting that “she and her publisher seemed not only to have fed public interest in her true identity but to have challenged critics and journalists to go behind the lies. She told us that she finds them ‘healthy.’ As a journalist, I don’t. In fact, it is my job to expose them.”

No it is not, you self-righteous shit. It is not your job to strip away the anonymity of people who want to be anonymous unless they are using that anonymity to do harm.

Gatti told the Guardian, “I believe that by announcing that she would lie on her own ‘autobiographical’ essay, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown.”

Spoken like a rapist. Spoken like a man who thinks he has the right to ignore the stated, explicit, fervent wishes of a woman who writes novels, and strip off her pseudonym as he would strip off her clothes before raping her.

The notion that Ferrante and her work are public property

Oct 3rd, 2016 12:29 pm | By

Stig Abell at the TLS on why the TLS wouldn’t have named Elena Ferrante:

His piece bears all the hallmarks – the signs, the stretch marks – of his effortful need to explain away what on the surface might seem a needless intrusion into a fellow writer’s privacy. He wants us to be convinced of the notion that Ferrante and her work are public property: the books are a “sensational success”; despite her anonymity, she has become an “oddly public figure” (a description where “oddly” can reasonably be translated as “not a”); she wrote a book arrogantly “purporting in part to outline her family background”, offering “crumbs of information designed to satisfy her readers’ appetite for a personal story”; her identity will “assist us in gaining insight into her novels”; and so on.

She was asking for it; she was dressed like a slut; she’s a prude who needs loosening up; she should have stayed home; she loved it; she’s a bitch.

I am the editor of the Times Literary Supplement, one of very few titles that is analogous to the New York Review of Books. So it is reasonable to ask: if Gatti had come to the TLS, would we have published him?

The answer, I believe, is no.  We would have been tempted, of course. A solution to a genuine literary conundrum does not arise often. It would make people talk about the TLSand bring them to our website. Of course it would.

But I write this surrounded by people who have devoted their lives to the world of books and authors, because they believe it is worthwhile and civilized. We would have discussed the piece, and I think we would have asked: what good does this do Elena Ferrante; what good does this do the TLS; what good does this do the world at large?  The answer is, resoundingly, too little on all counts.

Or even more simply they could have discussed the piece and observed that Ferrante clearly does not want to be outed and allowed that to settle the matter.

I, too, would have been uneasy about the gender politics of all this.  Ferrante has talked about “male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, still bent on subordinating us”, and – while I am sure this was neither the motivation of Gatti or the NYRB – there is the regrettable, sulphurous whiff of a female artist being “mansplained” here.  We may never know all of the reasons for Ferrante’s desired anonymity, but it is dangerous to assume they are simple and straightforward.

I wonder how he’s sure this was the motivation of neither Gatti nor the NYRB. I’m certainly not sure of that – in fact I think it was Gatti’s motivation at least. (The NYRB can’t really have a motivation, being a periodical, not a person.) I think it was part of Gatti’s motivation and I think it’s way more than a whiff. A man deliberately brushing aside a woman’s long and often stated determination to remain anonymous? More than a whiff, and more than mansplaining, too. Stripping in public, at the very least.

Oh well, it’s only a woman.

It must provide certain documents

Oct 3rd, 2016 12:07 pm | By

The Times has more on Trump’s little difference of opinion with the New York state AG.

Mr. Trump’s foundation has come under increasing scrutiny amid questions about his fulfillment of large charitable pledges and his lack of financial support in recent years.

The foundation’s compliance with the rules that govern nonprofit groups has also been a concern. The New York Times reported last month that Mr. Trump’s foundation does not show up on the charity registers in many states and The Washington Post subsequently reported that the foundation did not have the certification necessary to solicit money in New York.

Well he’s a very busy man. Very busy. So many women to insult, so many contractors to cheat, so many lies to tell. I’m sure he simply overlooked the certification thingy.

Mr. Schneiderman’s office is investigating Mr. Trump’s foundation to determine if it is in compliance with state laws, including how it spends its money.

In the letter, his office provided notice to Mr. Trump’s foundation that within 15 days it must provide certain documents required to be filed by organizations that solicit contributions, including audited financial statements and annual financial reports. It also must file any “delinquent reports” for past years within that time frame.

Uhhh oh. 15 days to file reports for past years? That sounds like a tall order. But maybe he has them on file and just forgot to send them year after year?

Or could it be that the reason he never registered is because he didn’t want to be audited and that’s because…

Oh no surely not.

As though yet another man had stripped a woman naked

Oct 3rd, 2016 11:17 am | By

Bina Shah just posted a brilliant piece on the outing of Elsa Ferrante. She discovered the novels this summer and was smitten.

“Reading” doesn’t describe what I did; “devoured” is the better word. I couldn’t put the novel down until I was at the last page, and then I immediately picked up the next one, like a chain smoker who wants the next cigarette before the first one is even finished (Here’s my Dawn article about the series, if you want to know more).

She didn’t care that she didn’t know Ferrante’s real identity, but other people did.

Particularly men, who claimed that perhaps the author was actually a man, because how could a woman write so well and so evocatively about violence, poverty, and politics?

Oh good god.

That’s why Mary Ann Evans wrote as George Eliot: so that she could write about big subject without men saying she was getting everything wrong.

Shah quotes Ferrante on her reasons for liking to be anonymous, and her threat to stop writing if anyone outed her, and cites her dismay on reading last night that an anyone had done just that.

To what end? Is she Donald Trump that her tax statements had to be searched out and leaked?

No she is not! Writers are not automatically public people, and they don’t owe it to anyone to be public. It’s none of our damn business.

Shah wonders if Gatti felt he’d struck a blow for truth.

It didn’t feel that way to me. To me, it felt as though yet another man had stripped a woman naked and paraded her around, the way they do in villages in rural Pakistan when an insult to a family or tribe or man’s honor has been perceived. The village elders decree that the only way to avenge that honor is to take a woman from the offending party or family, strip her, shave her head, and make her walk in front of everyone.

We’ll bring Ferrante down to size, is what it feels like.

Exactly. It does feel like a man publicly stripping a woman.

Trump’s fraud has caught up with him

Oct 3rd, 2016 11:00 am | By

A brief interlude in my fulminations at the outing of Ferrante – yes that’s going to be continuing for a bit – to share the breaking news that a judge has ordered Trump’s “foundation” to stop soliciting donations.

The New York attorney general has notified Donald Trump that his charitable foundation is violating state law — by soliciting donations without proper certification — and ordered Trump’s charity to stop its fundraising immediately, the attorney general’s office said Monday.

James Sheehan, head of the attorney general’s charities bureau, sent the “notice of violation” to the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Friday, according to a copy of the notice provided by the press office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).

The night before that, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s charity had been soliciting donations from other people without being properly registered in New York state.

Now why would he fail to register his foundation? Hmm.

But the Trump Foundation never registered under article 7A of New York’s Executive Law, as is required for any charity soliciting more than $25,000 a year from the public. One important consequence: Trump’s foundation avoided rigorous outside audits, which New York law requires of larger charities that ask the public for money.

Ah. Maybe he didn’t want to be audited. I wonder why that might be.

Schneiderman ordered the Trump Foundation to supply the state, within 15 days, with all the legal paperwork required of charities that solicit money from the public.

In addition, Sheehan ordered that Trump’s foundation provide all the financial audit reports it should have provided in prior years, when it raised money without legal permission. He said that if Trump’s foundation did not stop its fundraising and file the proper paperwork, that would be considered “a continuing fraud upon the people of New York.”


She felt she had gained a space of her own

Oct 3rd, 2016 10:50 am | By

Ruth Spencer at the Guardian compiles a collection of observations by Elsa Ferrante on why she wants to be anonymous.

“The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies.” – The Guardian

“I’m still very interested in testifying against the self-promotion ­obsessively ­imposed by the media. This demand for self-promotion diminishes the ­actual work of art, whatever that art may be, and it has become universal. The media simply can’t discuss a work of literature without pointing to some writer-hero. And yet there is no work of literature that is not the fruit of tradition, of many skills, of a sort of collective intelligence. We wrongfully diminish this collective intelligence when we insist on there being a single protagonist ­behind every work of art. The individual person is, of course, necessary, but I’m not talking about the individual—I’m talking about a manufactured image.” Paris Review

“I simply decided once and for all, over 20 years ago, to liberate myself from the anxiety of notoriety and the urge to be a part of that circle of successful people, those who believe they have won who-knows-what. This was an important step for me. Today I feel, thanks to this decision, that I have gained a space of my own, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful.” Vanity Fair

Over twenty years ago. It’s been working for her all that time, yet now a nosy guy and the male editor of the NYRB felt entitled to break it.

“More than 20 years ago I felt the burden of exposing myself in public. I wanted to detach myself from the finished story. I wanted the books to assert themselves without my patronage. This choice created a small polemic in the media, whose logic is aimed at inventing protagonists while ignoring the quality of the work, so that it seems natural that bad or mediocre books by someone who has a reputation in the media deserve more attention than books that might be of higher quality but were written by someone who is no one. But today, what counts most for me is to preserve a creative space that seems full of possibilities, including technical ones. The structural absence of the author affects the writing in a way that I’d like to continue to explore.” The New York Times

But Gatti and Silver said no, you can’t, we won’t let you.

“As far as I know, my readers do not despair at all. I receive letters of support for my little battle in favor of the centrality of the work. Evidently, for those who love literature, the books are enough.” Vanity Fair

Oh, readers, and the author – who cares what they think. Strip her naked!

She writes so well about the ways men humiliate women

Oct 3rd, 2016 10:20 am | By

Suzanne Moore is disgusted at the violation of Elena Ferrante’s privacy by a loathsome man and the NYRB.

It does not matter who she really is. She is not accountable to us in any way. Oh, but apparently she must be treated like a fraud or a criminal or dodgy celeb and stripped of her privacy …

An appalling, pompous private investigator claims to have found her through examining the financial and real estate records of a translator who lives in Rome. This literary doxxing by this self-appointed arbiter of “truth” is a nasty violation. Claudio Gatti has no right to unmask this author. His excuse is that because Ferrante had said she may “lie on occasion”, she has relinquished the right to disappear behind her books. He goes as far as to suggest that this woman’s husband writes her books. Who is this man with no grasp of literature, imagination or respect for privacy who says politicians should not lie and therefore he can do this to a bestselling author? He is just an idiotic bin rummager. And what is the New York Review of Books doing publishing this detritus?

What indeed? What were they thinking?

And why is it that men like Gatti (and like Trump) are so incapable of noticing how rapey it is to abuse women in this way?

Those who love Ferrante’s work are appalled, partly of course because she writes so well about the ways in which men humiliate women. “Male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us.” Indeed.

That. Exactly that. It’s infuriating.

We just think that this kind of journalism is disgusting

Oct 3rd, 2016 9:15 am | By

A woman novelist writes under a pseudonym. Her books sell. One of them is nominated for the Booker. So what has to happen next? A man has to rip away her pseudonymity, that’s what. The New York Review of Books, of all publications, has to help him do it by publishing his sleuthing work.

An Italian journalist who published the true identity of the “anonymous” author Elena Ferrante has said he did so because she is “a public figure”.

Claudio Gatti published a story in the New York Review of Books outing the author, who writes under a pseudonym, as Italian translator Anita Raja.

He said: “Millions of [Ferrante’s] books are bought by readers.

“In a way I think readers have the right to know something about the person who created the work.”

Bullshit. We may have the desire to know something about the writer, but a desire is not automatically a right. Just because we’re curious doesn’t mean we get to satisfy our curiosity, any more than Claudio Gatti’s throbbing erection would mean he gets to rape Elena Ferrante. His “justification” is just another “show us yer tits!”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “I did it because she was a very much public figure.”

Bullshit again. A pseudonymous novelist is not a public figure. Some kinds of public figure should not hide their identities: people in government, banking, lobbying, corporations, that sort of thing – people who have real power over us. But novelists? Please.

Ferrante’s biography on the [Man Booker] Prize’s website reads: “Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. This is all we know about her… [she] has stayed resolutely out of public view.”

And that is her business, and not ours.

Gatti said he was able to identify her by the significant payments that had been made to her by the company, which appeared proportionate to the success of Ferrante’s books.

On Sunday evening, Sandro Ferri, Ferrante’s publisher and one of the few people who is known to know her identity, criticised Mr Gatti’s story.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Ferri did not deny Mr Gatti had correctly identified the author.

“We just think that this kind of journalism is disgusting,” he said. “Searching in the wallet of a writer who has just decided not to be public.”

It is disgusting, and it’s especially disgusting when it’s a man doing it to a woman. It’s a very ugly power play, and it’s all too rapey.

Several high-profile authors have also spoken out against the decision to publish the author’s real name.

Jojo Moyes's tweet

JoJo Moyes, the author of Me Before You, was one of the writers to criticise the journalist in a series of tweets.

“Maybe Elena Ferrante has very good reasons to write under a pseudonym. It’s not our ‘right’ to know her,” Moyes tweeted.

Indeed it’s not.

Another writer who has spoken out is Bina Shah, who said what I was thinking:

Didn’t Elena Ferrante have the right to her anonymity? Another woman stripped naked, metaphorically, by a man.


Salman Rushdie said on Facebook that all writers should do the I am Spartacus thing. I am Elsa Ferrante.

Guest post: It’s back to reinforcing our mind-forged manacles

Oct 2nd, 2016 5:29 pm | By

Originally a comment by Seth on It means whatever you want it to mean, darling.

Shit like this makes me despair. I’ve spent most of my politically conscious life believing that the endgame of gender politics was removing the notion of gender entirely—breaking that all-too-human need to categorise things that’s resulted in certain behaviours being considered ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. In my vision of society, it shouldn’t *matter* if some people who grow beards like to wear earrings and dress in pink and be in touch with their emotions (in fact all people should do more of the latter), and it shouldn’t *matter* that some people who lactate prefer to be firefighters or lumberjacks, and none of that should keep people from being assertive or self-confident or pursuing any skill or career that interests them. I always thought your plumbing should have about as much to do with your worth as a person as your eye and hair colour or your navel’s status as an innie or an outie.

But no; we live in a world now where well-meaning progressive people with beards and penises say they’re ‘femme’ if they’re sensitive and kind instead of being hyper-aggressive assholes, and where well-meaning progressive people with vaginas who don’t like pink or dresses or the thought of being homebody prom queens say they’re ‘transmasculine’. Instead of building a world where they can just be people, to live and die by their own auspices, we’re building a world where they’re—where we’re—all judged by the same old impossible standards that nobody’s ever been able to live up to.

It would be so much easier on everyone if we just broke the standards and let people express themselves however they wanted. But that’s not how our pattern-seeking brains work, I guess, so it’s back to reinforcing our mind-forged manacles.

Fascista Americano

Oct 2nd, 2016 5:23 pm | By

Latino Rebels reports:

Mexican Literary Magazine Just Published the Most Powerful Trump Cover Ever

Leave it to a Mexican literary magazine to boldly go where few media outlets in the United States have gone. Here is what Letras Libres 

tweeted on Wednesday night:

Every inch a fascist.

Gender sucks!

Oct 2nd, 2016 5:09 pm | By

Gender sucks!

I am an adult human female. I do not identify as cis. I am not cis. I am a woman trying to fight with every fibre of my being against everything that my “gender identity” tells me to be. Woman as defined by society is not my gender identity. My gender identity is fuck this oppressive bullshit, and let me be a human fucking being.

Unfaithful man sneers at woman married to unfaithful man

Oct 2nd, 2016 12:14 pm | By

Trump is still attacking Clinton because her husband fucked around without telling her, as if that were her fault.

Donald J. Trump suggested during a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday that Hillary Clinton was not “loyal” to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, an insinuation about their relationship that plunged the 2016 presidential race further into a personal battle.

Mr. Trump told the crowd in Lancaster County, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia, that Mrs. Clinton’s only loyalty was to her donors and herself. He added: “I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill, you want to know the truth. And really, folks, really, why should she be, right?”

Trump fucked around on his first wife. No doubt he considers that her fault as opposed to his.

For Mr. Trump, who is trailing badly in polls with women, the new attack on Mrs. Clinton is a risky strategy. At the rally, he also repeated his criticism from the debate that Mrs. Clinton lacked the stamina to be president, a comment that many women viewed as sexist.

To make his point, he mocked her stumble at a memorial event on Sept. 11, when she left early with what her doctor described as a bout of pneumonia. He swooned back and forth at his lectern and then walked away from it, pretending to lurch forward.

“Here’s a woman, she’s supposed to fight all of these different things, and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car,” Mr. Trump said. “Give me a break.”

The Times includes a video clip of his mockery, which shows the contempt with which he said and did that. The man is a loathsome piece of scum.

Not the fun kind

Oct 2nd, 2016 11:30 am | By

After revisiting the nonsense of “femmes” and how much better they are than those horrible people called “women,” we need Meghan Murphy on our need to be braver.

We live in a time wherein basic feminist ideas have become unspeakable, while anti-feminist slurs and smears are widely accepted and even celebrated by those who claim to be social justice activists and progressives.

Regardless of the risks, I cannot, in good faith, support the neoliberal, individualistic notion of “gender identity”  — not as a feminist who understands how patriarchy came to be and continues to prevail or as a leftist who understands how systems of power work. I do not wish to be silent in the face of regressive and anti-feminist discourse, because I know that my silence does not help empower other women to speak out. I do not wish to abandon my sisters who have already suffered immensely for speaking out.

And another thing: it’s only getting worse.

As feminists, what we really are doing is working towards an end to gender — a thing that was invented and imposed in order to naturalize the sex class hierarchy that positions men as dominant and women as subordinate. One has to ask how progressive it is, from a feminist perspective, to accept the notion that gender is both real and innate — a thing that one can be born with, as this is precisely the tactic used historically by men to defend the idea that women should not be permitted to vote, work outside the home, or hold positions of power in society. Women were constructed as naturally “feminine,” which meant we were too emotional, irrational, and weak to engage in the public sphere as men did. Men, by contrast, were said to be more suited for public office and to hold positions of power as they were innately assertive, rational, unemotional, and tough.

Are we, as feminists (and as a society) really comfortable moving backwards in this way, by accepting gender roles (which exist only to naturalize and enforce sexism) as innate rather than socially constructed?

And then dressing them up as “femme” and pouring scorn on actual women for not being hip enough to “identify” as “femme” instead of just being a tedious boring afab woman.

It’s time to put our fear aside. Here is what I have learned about feminism (the real kind of feminism — not liberalism, not queer politics, not pro-capitalist rhetoric centered around personal feelings of “empowerment”): Regardless of what we do or say, as radical feminists, we are persecuted, smeared, and silenced. This happens because we stand up for women, hold men accountable, and criticize patriarchy unapologetically. We are called “SWERF,” “TERF,” “whorephobic,” “femmephobic,” “transphobic,” “anti-sex,” “moralistic prudes,” and so on, not because we are terrified of trans people, prostituted women, and sexuality, or because our politics are centered around “excluding” particular individuals (unless, of course, those individuals are anti-feminist — then yes, you will likely feel “excluded” by feminism), but because these terms and slurs effectively silence and exclude us. We are no-platformed and blackballed, discredited at any opportunity, to the point that others cannot associate with us, support us, or share any of our work (regardless of the content of said work), lest they too be tarred with the same brush.

Been there. Got the Tshirt.

You can call us whatever you like, because we know what you really mean: Feminist. Not the fun kind.

Anti-feminists are winning and will continue to win so long as we stay silent. They will continue to claim the identity of “feminist” while smearing and vilifying movement women. Leftist men will continue to proudly call us anti-feminist names and censor our work, comforted by the support and silence of these “queer activists,” “sex worker rights activists,” and liberal feminists — people who have shown themselves as traitors to women and whose politics consist of inventing new words to disguise male supremacy and violence against women. It’s up to us to speak out and to stand by our sisters, despite the repercussions.

Because by god nobody else will.

Women steal everything

Oct 2nd, 2016 10:49 am | By

Like a leopard going back to a rotting carcass, I’m going back to that “Roundtable” on what we mean when we talk about femme, even though I said yesterday I couldn’t stand any more of it. Maybe if I just limit myself to the parts where the awesome femmes throw shit at women, I can get through it.

In my experience, many cis women of all ages feel that my identity as a non-binary femme somehow invalidates theirs. Lots of people like to consider themselves radical without actually being able to make any space for people coming from a different place. My experience of femininity is linked to empathy and understanding that to be feminine is to be less safe in this world, so I understand the need to have spaces that are exclusionary out of respect for our right to protect and value ourselves. But there is a large community of feminists who are misleading in terms of how inclusive they’re actually willing to be.

But being “inclusive” isn’t the goal, nor should it be. Black Lives Matter isn’t required to be “inclusive” of white people in the sense of including them as Black. Feminism shouldn’t be required to be “inclusive” of people who aren’t women. Feminism is about women. We’re allowed to say that.

On the idea that an older generation of people think only women should claim the word femme: I’m afraid I don’t even get that argument, possibly because I’m not super smart but also possibly because that argument is bananas? Cis men are described as “butch,” so does that invalidate an entire self-identified group within lesbian history? No? They get to keep that one? It’s almost like the femme identity… is invisible. Sorry. No, kidding, but I think femme has always been relevant. I don’t think we’re reinventing or reclaiming the word, I just think it’s not been seen.

Right. Nobody saw anything until last week. Feminists never had a clue about any of this until people born after 1999 explained it to them.

The word femme, for myself specifically, is a departure from traditional femininity. I see femme as the rebellious teenage daughter of femininity. Femme is the process of taking the feminine words that were placed in my body, words like “soft, weak, quiet” and transforming them into: “wild, loud, confident.”

No, that would be “feminism” actually.

Femme invisibility is still very real, and extremely difficult to navigate. And I do think that a lot of it has to do less so with any sort of purposeful femme erasure in queer communities (although that is extremely prevalent), and much more to do with the fact that it’s an identity being co-opted by folks who aren’t queer. I think a lot of our discussions around femme invisibility in queer spaces center around masculinity, and those are valid and important discussions, but I’d love to see the conversation change and try to look at the ways our identities have been taken by straight (white) women who want cool points.

Bingo! Women fuck up everything. Cunts.

And that’s the last one – the “Roundtable” wasn’t as long as I thought.

After reading this I have even less idea than I did before why Sincere Kirabo thought it was a good idea for him to say that Women in Secularism is about women and femmes. Femmes appear to despise women, and reject all identification with them, so why would Women in Secularism be about women and femmes? It’s like saying Black Lives Matter is about black people and racists. It’s about saying that and calling it inclusive.

It never stops amazing me how willing and eager people are to treat women as an evil oppressor class.

Another fine bishop

Oct 2nd, 2016 9:53 am | By

It’s Trump’s world, and we have to live in it.

A GOP candidate for Kentucky’s state house was caught posting racist images of the Obamas — and his defense was that “Facebook’s entertaining.”

Dan Johnson, who is also the bishop of the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, KY, posted and shared at least two photos of the Obamas portrayed as apes. A sign in front of his church reads: “Jesus and this church are not politically correct.”

Right. It’s “politically correct” to refrain from publishing photoshops of people as chimpanzees.

Johnson went on to insist that the offensive posts are the norm for presidents throughout history and, therefore, not racist.

“I looked this up. There has been no president that hasn’t had that scrutiny. Not one. I think it would be racist not to do the same for President Obama as we’ve done for every other president,” he said.

Oh yes, it would definitely be racist not to publish photoshops of the Obamas as chimpanzees.

Trump world.

He knew we could use the tax code to protect him

Oct 2nd, 2016 8:43 am | By

Somebody sent the NY Times three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns. You’ll want to go to the source, if you haven’t already, because it has all the documents and the extras.

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

So if you’re rich enough, you can take a big gamble (or three or five) and if it fails, you get to make tax payers pay for a chunk of it. Seems legit. Why wouldn’t tax payers want to fund casinos and luxury hotels?

“He has a vast benefit from his destruction” in the early 1990s, said one of the experts, Joel Rosenfeld, an assistant professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. Mr. Rosenfeld offered this description of what he would advise a client who came to him with a tax return like Mr. Trump’s: “Do you realize you can create $916 million in income without paying a nickel in taxes?”

Mr. Trump declined to comment on the documents. Instead, the campaign released a statement that neither challenged nor confirmed the $916 million loss.

“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.”

The statement continued, “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”

Right. By the same token, Trump knows how to cheat people and avoid paying them for work they do or products they create, so he’ll be brilliant at infuriating anyone who tries to deal with him, like, you know, heads of state around the world.

The Times underlines that it’s all legal. The tax codes allow him to do that, and his accountant knows how to make it happen.

But if Mr. Trump lacked a sophisticated understanding of the tax code, and if he rarely showed any interest in the details behind various tax strategies, Mr. Mitnick said he clearly grasped the critical role taxes would play in helping him build wealth. “He knew we could use the tax code to protect him,” Mr. Mitnick said.

According to Mr. Mitnick, Mr. Trump’s use of net operating losses was no different from that of his other wealthy clients. “This may have had a couple extra digits compared to someone else’s operation, but they all benefited in the same way,” he said, pointing to the $916 million loss on Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

In “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 best-selling book, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Mitnick as “my accountant” — although he misspelled his name. Mr. Trump described consulting with Mr. Mitnick on the tax implications of deals he was contemplating and seeking his advice on how new federal tax regulations might affect real estate write-offs.

Mr. Mitnick, though, said there were times when even he, for all his years helping wealthy New Yorkers navigate the tax code, found it difficult to face the incongruity of his work for Mr. Trump. He felt keenly aware that Mr. Trump was living a life of unimaginable luxury thanks in part to Mr. Mitnick’s ability to relieve him of the burden of paying taxes like everyone else.

But he did it anyway. I’m reminded of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News – “But at least I feel bad about it, folks.”

It means whatever you want it to mean, darling

Oct 1st, 2016 5:26 pm | By

So, Sincere “women and femmes” Kirabo included a link for the “femmes” part: a link to What We Mean When We Say “Femme”: A Roundtable. So let’s read it. It’s guaranteed to put us off our dinner, but let’s read it anyway. It’s from July, so not too out of date yet.

Femmes. We live in different places. We’re different ages. We have different gender identities. Some of us are people of color, some of us are white. In this representative sample, we are Autostraddle writers, or artists, or musicians, or educators, or all of these things. The only thing we have in common is that we’re queer and that, in our own deeply personal way, we breathe life into the word femme.

So the word is meaningless. It doesn’t name anything, because of the infinite (and oh so impressive) variety of femmes. Femmes have “different gender identities” but they’re all femme – can you make sense of that?

Come on. “Femme” is French for women; it’s a subset of lesbians; it means girly, or feminine. Except – wait! – it means that but in a special, new, complicated, thrilling, woke, correct, impressive, don’t you wish you were as cool as we are way.

When did supposedly leftist politics become so entangled in personal vanity and peacocking? When did it become just a way of saying “I’m special and you’re not”?

This shit is about as left-wing as Bonwit Teller.

But like so many other differences, we don’t agree on what the word femme means to us. This is the beauty of gender fluidity. We live in a world where it is totally possible to claim the same word as someone else and completely disagree on what the word means.

It means everything! And nothing! It means so everything and nothing that we can have round tables about it, and bore each other senseless discussing it!

But above all, it means we get to tell women how fucking conservative and useless they are, and to get out of our way.

There are people today who are angry, they think that only women should call themselves femme. They think that if you’re not a lesbian or bisexual woman and you’re calling yourself femme, you’re contributing to an erasure or appropriation of the history of lesbian and bisexual women. These people are talking in a really binary way. In my observation, it seems to be a generational thing. But the people who are most affected by these opinions are trans women or transfeminine people, and I feel like if trans women and transfeminine people are telling you that you’re doing something fucked up, cis women should listen to that.

Of course you do. That’s the whole point, isn’t it – telling women they’re wrong, and fucked up, and the wrong generation, and just generally awful, and should shut up or better yet go away and die. And it’s so radical and woke and wonderful to say that. It’s the best political idea ever.

On the idea that an older generation of people think only women should claim the word femme: I’m 36 years old and I find that kind of restriction on “femme” to be abhorrent and willfully cruel. No femme friends of mine — and I’m lucky that they are numerous — believe anything like that, and many of them are my age and older still. If they did, I’d dump them on the spot! The “erasure of lesbian history” narrative is weak and fearful, that’s all. If it takes you longer than a millisecond to know the answer toDo I want to be weak and fearful or do I want to be kind?, then I haven’t got time for you.

Right? Right? Right? Women are so shitty, aren’t they? They’re just the worst. We all hate them. Femmes are much better than those shitty horrible women people. Ew.

On a more positive note, I think of femme today becoming more inclusive as an acknowledgment of what already was rather than a new reclamation. It always feels new once you realize who you are and choose not to hide it! I’d love it if we all welcomed non-cis femmes into the light with open arms and a friendly “What took ya so long?” knowing full well the answer, and knowing how brave you have to be as a femme in this world.

Yes!!!! Let’s hate and banish all the cis women, and welcome all the non-cis femmes, so that there just won’t even need to be any women any more. They can just do all the cooking and toilet scrubbing, and let the rest of us get on with being awesome and woke.


Damn, that’s only about a tenth of the way down the page. I’m not going to read all this shit.

But that’s where we are now – we’re at the point where people are calling themselves “femme” and shitting on women in the same breath. We’re at the point where people are pretending it’s the height of social justice to do that. We’re at the point where the Social Justice Coordinator of the American Humanist Association (really) rewrites Women in Secularism so that it’s about “women and femmes.” Maybe in a week or two it will be renamed Femmes in Secularism.