Sunday, April 22, 2012

Subject Z

A new (to me) blog popped into my facebook feed: The Big A Word. The latest post is about what has been coined "Subject Z Criticism".
This kind of criticism involves building up a false notion of the thing that you'd really like to criticise and then blaming it for not filling your expectations. It's a deceptively reasonable-sounding form of criticism, too, in that it asks seemingly reasonable questions about the responsibilities and priorities of an interest group. The trouble is, those responsibilities and priorities are the domain of other groups, not the one being criticised.  The formula looks a bit like this:

'Why does Group A always talk about Subject A? Why don't they ever mention Subject Z?'
For example: Why don't feminists focus more on environmental issues? ('Cos I'm too fucking busy focusing on not losing my right to bodily autonomy and getting an equal paycheck for equal work, motherfucker.)

It's an interesting piece and a worthwhile read, but I do have one small quibble:
The only thing to be said for Subject Z Criticism is that it means that the criticiser can't really find much wrong with what you're doing. All they want to talk about is what you're not doing as though that were some kind of indictment against the fact that you belong to that group in the first place

No, no, no, no. At least in feminist terms, no. From my experience, Subject Zedders do find plenty wrong with what we're doing-- they find everything wrong with what we're doing. It's an issue of Concern Z is more important, so why are you bothering to waste your time with Concern A? I would say that it's a fundamental misunderstanding, but often there's an underlying malice. Otherwise, why bother bringing up, say, male circumcision during a discussion of FGM? Men are more important than women, therefore we should be focusing all of our energies on making sure their precious wee-wees don't get cut.

Of course, I may be looking at this with a much more narrow focus than intended. There is a disturbingly large number of people who's first reaction when coming across any feminist issue is, "but what about the men?" because they honestly cannot see the value in what we're fighting for and they will use any oppurtunity to stop us, whether they realize what they're doing or not. And I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!

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