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Apr. 21 2010 - 7:58 pm | 1,336 views | 1 recommendation | 40 comments

Criticizing feminism is like shooting fish who need bicycles

Last week’s trigger warning posts (1, 2) caused quite a brouhaha in the blogosphere. Combined, the two posts have thus far generated over 25,000 page views and counting. But was it really the subject of trigger warnings that got the feminist blogs so worked up?

Judging by the backlash, I believe it was my pointing out an increasingly difficult to refute fundamental truth of feminism in the 21st century:

These days, feminism isn’t a movement at all, really, but a collection of blogs obsessed with the pop culture it claims to be victimized by, a forum for women who promote themselves as victims of a patriarchy that no longer exists, a pretend movement that contains within it no forward movement at all, only a fetal-like desire to curl up on itself, muttering Women’s Studies jargon, and handing out trigger warnings like party favors at a girl’s-only slumber party.

In fact, among the hundreds and hundreds of comments generated elsewhere on feminist blogs in response to my post, it seemed this issue was the one least tackled, and yet it is the one that I suspect generated all the histrionics. After all, it’s not something that can be addressed head-on by feminists without some frightening soul-searching on their part. Why? Because it’s true.

This was articulated perfectly by Feministing commenter Heather Aurelia, who spoke for the entire feminist movement, and seemingly with a total lack of self-awareness, when she wrote:

Douchebags like her make me more of a feminist. I just consider somebody like her more of a reason to get off my ass and do something….maybe tomorrow…lol, jk.

You see, the contemporary feminist only pretends at “doing something” as much as the current state of feminism only pretends at being a movement.

In actuality, feminist backlash is pure fantasy. When feminists say they’re going to get out there and actually do something, they’re LOL just kidding.


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  1. collapse expand

    No, I think patriarchy very much still exists. I look around and I see examples of it all the time.

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    Of course people weren’t upset at you mocking rape survivors and other people with PTSD. Sexual assault isn’t something that people are sensitive about at all.

    No, they were bothered by your deep insight and thoughtful commentary on the state of feminism as a whole. The same type of comments they hear all the time from trolls, and typically end up laughing at and gleefuly riducling, rather than providing a serious response. But when articulated by you, such comments became earth-shaking threats to the feminist paradigm. And that’s why they ignored you.

    Not because if you’re so ill informed as to seriously believe that there’s no longer any need for feminism, and that there’s no feminist activism in the real world, then there’s clearly no point in trying to talk to you about it. I’m sure there’s nothing more enjoyable than trying to teach feminism 101 in the comment section of a blog post.

    Oh, and taking the actions of one person to be representative of an entire group is in no way the very definition of discrimination, so it’s not like you’re proving your internalized sexism yourself, or anything like that.


    I can see why you don’t think there’s a need for feminism. You’re a white, conventionally attractive, hetero, cis-gender, able-bodied, middle-or-higher class woman. You’re privileged. In the lottery of life, you have been lucky. You are not a representative sample of all women; nor are your family members or colleagues. There are feminists who are equally lucky, but they have the presence of mind to a) recognize what indignities are still aimed at them, limited though they may be; and b) have some empathy for other women in the world.

    BTW we all read that part the first time. Stop fishing for compliments and page hits. You’re like a child who’s been told by their parents that they’re a genius, gets a B- on an essay, goes to the teacher to say there’s some mistake, and won’t stop questioning it until the teacher gives them an A just to shut them up.

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      I can see why you don’t think there’s a need for feminism.

      Ehhh, I don’t see where she comes out and says something like “Equality is here, so shut up.” Now that would be stupid (apologies to any funny-looking men’s rights types — whose root problem is probably that they don’t have the mental wherewithal to administer the sort of snark-beatdowns that keep women mildly interested — but it would).

      Seems more like Breslin is inferring that she can do without the mental gimps who fuck everything up nowadays with their pussy-ass indignation. Of course, I don’t know, nor really care that much, because every cause/scene/organization is overrun with wrist-to-forehead oversensitives AFAIC.

      You’re a white, conventionally attractive

      To be horrifically honest, I’ve dumped chicks who are my own (and Breslin’s) height of 6′1″. It’s a power thing. So I’m sure Breslin’s life hasn’t exactly mirrored Pam Anderson’s. Hey man, maybe she’s one of you.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Of course, I don’t know, nor really care that much…

        So, why are you commenting?

        I’ve dumped chicks who are my own (and Breslin’s) height of 6′1″. It’s a power thing.

        Way to reveal your anxious masculinity!

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          > > Of course, I don’t know, nor really care that much…

          > So, why are you commenting?

          Practicing my italics tags, silly.

          > > I’ve dumped chicks who are my own (and Breslin’s) height of 6′1″. It’s a power thing.

          > Way to reveal your anxious masculinity!

          Way to avoid any refutation of your being a wrist-to-forehead oversensitive. (Would a round of 69ing be completely out of the question, just curious…?)

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Way to avoid any refutation of your being a wrist-to-forehead oversensitive. (Would a round of 69ing be completely out of the

            LOL, it’s funny that you’d think I’d bother refuting the opinion of someone who’s afraid of tall women.

            (Would a round of 69ing be completely out of the question, just curious…?)

            What were you trying to accomplish with that comment?

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    1. thanks for some rationality in the irrational world of so-called feminists…
    2. i *used* to describe myself -an old, white, priveleged male of the species- as a ‘feminist’, but i dog damn sure don’t want to be identified with the screeching harpies who infest the ‘feminist’ blogs like feministing and pandagon…
    (i stopped visiting those places after being CENSORED one too many times for nothingburgers that didn’t even deserve a ‘trigger-alert’…)
    3. they -as with far too many unaware pwogs- are NOT in favor of free speech (otherwise, why don’t they practice it ?); AND they want to cordon off the world with all its icky (male) complications and grey areas to make their own little ’safe space’ that ignores problems instead of confronting them…
    (um, why am i a unfair monster for wanting to have an exclusive men’s club, again ? ? ?)
    4. you could NOT talk about, debate, speculate, or -especially- JOKE about, well, about virtually ANYTHING without the screeching harpies descending upon your liver to shred it with their bloody beaks…
    5. these young-and-stupids could not tolerate ANY opposition, counter-arguments, or smallest of criticisms directed at their shibboleths, myths, and misconceptions…
    6. perversely and hypocritically enough, while excoriating any/all males (and male-symps) with vile language, unfair charges, made-up bullshit, guilt-by-reason-of-having-a-dick, and generally CENSORING and attacking adversaries they don’t agree with; THESE self-styled ‘feminists’ practiced ALL of the various bad behaviors they accused ‘trolls’ and other critics of practicing ! ! !
    amazing: none so blind…
    they go on (INTERMINABLY) about how insensitive men have made the world simply unendurable, how we fuck their heads up, how we are evil incarnate AND just don’t ‘get’ that we are evil incarnate (so thus DESERVE to be bashed over the head about our incarnate evil in perpetuity!),
    ALL THE WHILE USING THE EXACT SAME ‘EVIL’ words, personal attacks, and unfair generalizations to put us knuckle-draggers in our place…
    wtf ? ? ?
    so feminists being over-the-top pissed off and bashing ANYONE who dares question their premises and principles is fair and just, but when males of the species do the same behavior, it is abhorrent…
    hmmm, and they wonder why men consistently go off about wymn (sp?) being irrational, over-emotional, and incapable of dispassionate discourse on, well, just about ANY subject which traduces their pet theories…
    feminists self-refute themselves, and we stupid men are to blame for *that* too…
    *sheesh* i wish i was born gay, at least i’d have someone rational to converse with…
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

  4. collapse expand

    At some point you’re really going to have to let this go. Your inability to do that comes across as sour grapes (“like shooting fish on a bicycle?”). But one thing I’d like to make clear, because if you can understand this then maybe you can put this to rest once and for all: trigger warnings were never an exclusively feminist thing. Bloggers use them, some are feminists, some are not. Your continuing to try to link them is a lost cause. As it’s been said by many respondents in the last blog entries, and as this new post continues to demonstrate, your aim seems not to discredit trigger warnings as ineffectual, but to use them as some proof that your theories about feminism are correct. And I’m sorry, but that is dishonest, and I think it’s safe to say you’ve lost a lot of credibility as a writer. Except among the few who are already members are your choir.
    You’ve made your bias clear on the subject. More posts on it aren’t going to add to your argument.

  5. collapse expand

    Susannah Breslin, will you marry me? ‘Cause that’s how much I love you for writing this!

  6. collapse expand

    “But was it really the subject of trigger warnings that got the feminist blogs so worked up?”

    Yes. It really was. Because you continue, and continue, and continue, to not understand what they’re even for or that they *don’t* have an exclusive link to feminism. Please stop writing about this now.

    “it seemed this issue was the one least tackled, and yet it is the one that I suspect generated all the histrionics”

    Why? Because the … lack of histronics clearly and conclusively proves it was the most reacted to bit… because you think so, despite no evidence to show it?

    I’m afraid that the more you write about this the more baffling your intended logic becomes. I mean, that actually just doesn’t make sense. It’s neatly qualified with ’suspect’, but it’s based on nothing.

  7. collapse expand

    Feminism vs. feminists:

    “Many Feminist Writers Confuse Feminism and Feminist Leaders” at http://tinyurl.com/d76px4

    Feminists vs. men:

    “The Doctrinaire Institute for Women’s Policy Research” at

  8. collapse expand

    Do you seriously not understand the point of a trigger warning? Many people reading these blogs are victims of rape and sexual assault. If there is any chance that something in one of those blog posts will trigger unpleasant memories for these people, then the only decent thing to do is warn people. You say that you are more likely to click on something when it says “trigger warning”… okay, those warnings are obviously not meant for you, what harm does it do you having them there? None! It does help women who are interested in these topics but uniquely sensitive to depictions of rape and sexual assault as a result of personal histories about which you know nothing.

    It really saddens me to see that there are smart, successful and obviously well-educated people out there who still have so little respect and compassion for rape survivors that they would suggest trigger warnings are frivolous. I suppose rape survivors ought to just stay off the internet entirely if they aren’t prepared to see or read graphic content that might cause them anguish.

    As for your complaint that feminism clings to a patriarchy that no longer exists–where do you live as I would like to move there? In my small town patriarchy is a huge problem. Churches here don’t allow women to speak in meetings or vote on issues. The public school counselors, principals and administrators are all men, the office workers all women. Applying for a part time job at the grocery store in high school? Girls are always cashiers, boys always stockers. Want an abortion? You have to drive more than 70 miles to find a planned parenthood, but there is a crisis pregnancy center no more than 15 miles away. When getting a marriage license I had several government employees question my sanity when keeping my own last name while trying to convince me to take my husbands name. Women earn less than men in this country, we pay more for insurance, we get sexually harassed by people on the street, our every decision is under constant scrutiny. We are so entrenched in patriarchy that women are sometimes the worst offenders when it comes to criticizing other women for being too bitchy/slutty/fat/skinny/ugly/stupid/prissy/butch/high-maintenance. The list goes on and on. Of course you know all this. At some point you’ve heard people policing women’s decisions (like the decision to included trigger warnings in blog posts) and decided that was a good idea, good for society to demand perfection from women and then ridiculing them when they fall short of your ideal.

    To Art Guerrilla- You sound way more pissed off than I have ever heard any woman (feminist or not) sound. Just fyi

    • collapse expand

      Come on a second. Not sticking up for Breslin, because she’s simply too tall for me (and probably losing sight of whether or not she’s just pulling a bad troll), but if a rape victim is so fragile that she’s going to have a mental breakdown over something she saw on the internet, she needs to stay off the internet — with all its porn and shitty disturbing news — and go see a shrink. Nannying doesn’t work for adults. Adults who see themselves as God-appointed administrators of some vacuous, mollycoddling form of censorship are going to be the targets of trolls and roundly ridiculed. Do you not trust adults to stop reading things when the words hurt them?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Dude, the last two posts have tons of comments on exactly this point. They’re linked in the above post. Click through.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Current statistics show that about 1 in 6 women in the US have either been raped or sexually assaulted. I would agree with you that the few of those women who trigger warnings target (women who were victims of particularly violent rapes or who were raped recently enough that they have not yet recovered mentally) probably know better than to go around trolling 4chan, but if there is any place on the internet they should be able to visit without worrying about seeing content that will trigger panic attacks or worse, it’s feminist blogs. Usually the trigger warning is placed when there is a graphic photo or video, though occasionally they are used for particularly graphic descriptions. I am not saying that every website should have to use trigger warnings. Of course not! My point was that if a blogger wants to use them, who does it hurt? Advocating that bloggers who currently used them should stop seems pretty callous.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          I’m with ya. I personally have no problem with it, as long as the definition for such an obscure shibboleth is posted in 52-point font on the top of every page. Otherwise, these hypothetical hypersensitives are going to get zapped anyway, so what’s the point?

          The thing is, nothing is sacred on the net. Net anonymity can breed that special kind of cruelty that’s unique to miltary torture and whatnot. With anonymity, snarky types don’t have to contain their snark to behind-the-back gossip and stuff.

          Not saying there’s everything right about it — I think the shit encyclopediadramatica.com writes about blacks and stuff, for example, is fucking stupid. Just a reality-check. Don’t people have better things to do than tarring-and-feathering mediocre writers like Breslin?

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            I think you’ll see the “tarring and feathering” has for the most part been a sincere effort to explain what she does not (and even admitted to it) understand. Ignorance can be a pretty dangerous thing. That’s part of the beauty of the internet. For all the crap out there, there is an intelligent, astute audience to put it in check.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        yeah, and war vets need to stay out of society, what with all the loud noises and people.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  9. collapse expand

    1. that is kind of weird: i have an email alert of a post for a post which does not exist ! ! !
    hee hee hee
    2. oh well, i *was* going to reply to the non-existent post, now i am flummoxed… the poster made some throwaway statement along the lines of “oh, and artguerrilla, you sound more angry than anyone i’ve ever heard…’ sumpin’ like that…
    A. um, wasn’t mad in the least when i made the post… *HOWEVER* -as the bumper sticker says- if you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention…
    ho ho ho
    B. the point of my ‘mad’ rant, was NOT that people (in this case, chicks) should not be ‘mad’, but that they should not be CENSORIOUS hypocrites who are mad as wet hens at practically all men and excoriate them mightily and often unfairly, but don’t allow men to be mad -AND ‘unfair’- too…
    sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander…
    ha ha ha
    3. yes, i *DO* get mad about free speech issues: it is THE bedrock principle upon which every other ‘right’ is based… that so-called self-described progressives (and reichwing uber-constitutionalists even more so) do NOT actually believe in and practice free speech is more maddening than whatever moronic, wrongheaded blah blah blah they are blah blah blah-ing…
    not only disappointing and hypocritical that many (most?) progressives do NOT practice free speech, but that they do NOT see anything ‘wrong’ with that attitude…
    now *those* cloud-cuckooland residents are mad as hatters…
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

    • collapse expand

      I’m sorry, this is off topic, but you sound mad as a carrot.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        excellent, kelswitch…
        hee hee hee
        i number my issues so you can easily respond to actual points…
        ho ho ho
        is or is it the disjointed style which offends so ? ? ?
        ha ha ha
        *sigh* so pitiful it is a lesson silly pwogs need to re-learn repeatedly with many iterations and reiterations: stop fixating on style over substance…
        ak ak ak
        now: did you have any refutations, counter-arguments, or citations regarding the issues at hand ? ? ?
        (no no no)
        my aim is twue, kampers…
        (…i know this world is killing you)
        art guerrilla
        aka ann archy

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      “Free Speech” does not mean that anyone has to give you a megaphone. Just like it’s not a violation of free speech, or censorship when a newspaper does not print your letter to the editor, it’s not censorship when someone decides not to publish your comments on their personal blog. If Blogger or Wordpress denied you your own blogspace because they disagreed with your views, that would be a violation of free speech. See the difference?

      Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from ridicule, or that the person you’re talking to has to listen to you. You can go door to door, or cold call random people across the country, to raise awareness about something, or to try to convince them of your views. They do not violate your freedom of speech when they close the door in your face, or hang up on you.

      This is not my opinion of what “freedom of speech” ought to stand for, as a feminist. This is simply the rational way to interpret the right.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  10. collapse expand

    Can I just say how much fun it is having an inbox-to-inbox debate about censorship and free speech on a heavily moderated thread?

  11. collapse expand


    I’m such a clever writer! Yay, attention for meeeeee…

    But why isn’t anyone commenting on my *brilliant* take-down of ALL FEMINISM. That was the best part!

    Stupid trigger-warnings. Why was everyone talking about those instead of how *smart* and *right* I am? Everyone totally missed the point!

    I know! I’ll post it again! That way, those silly feminists won’t be able to avoid justifying everything they’ve ever done to me, until they realize that they were wrong all along.


    (Sits back and awaits accolades)

    • collapse expand

      1. ms breslin is not necessarily ‘clever’ for pointing out the obvious, but she is fairer, more clear-minded, and richtig about the issue more so than the fembots who are bashing her…
      2. i am all for equal pay, smashing the patriarchy (read: authoritarianism), and generally ensuring the rights of EVERYONE, including the, um, “fairer” sex…
      3. HOWEVER, the endless victimization (again, MOSTLY the young-and-stupids who are the banshees), pathetic yearning to child-proof the world, and otherwise insisting on a thornless rose of an existence is maddening…
      The They ™ (in this case, misguided feminist scolds and mistaken moralizers) are -in fact- WRONG, objectively and rationally…
      4. the point another poster made obtains: IF someone was horribly victimized such that if they see ANY reminder of their trauma they fall to the floor, their eyes roll back in their head, their tongues loll out, and their brains freak out, THEN that damaged soul needs to stay in the baby pool with their swimmie floats on…
      m’kay ? ? ?
      the 90%+ of us who were either fortunate to avoid such trauma (OR DEALT WITH IT), do NOT need to drain the pool so a few tortured souls don’t feel ascairt of the deep end…
      IF the victim’s attacker had on a blue sweatshirt and is subsequently freaked out by the color blue, do we eliminate all things blue in the world so as not to re-traumatize the victim ? ? ?
      i don’t think so…
      the fact is -in regards to ANY victim of ANY type of crime, accident, or wrongdoing- THE VICTIM has to make peace with the world; the world does not -and IS NOT- going to accede to their self-centered desires to eliminate any/all reminders of their trauma…
      feminists give feminism a bad name…
      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I hesitate to comment on this further, since it’s pretty clear to me that Breslin tacked her link to this onto her last post (which was “The Last Post on Trigger Warnings, I Totally Promise!!”)to keep riding off of the “controversy” and try to keep getting page hits. But since she can’t do another trigger post now (at least without looking really desperate,) I’ll go for it.

        The thing is, to get worked up over what other people are doing on their turf is incredibly arrogant and petty. It’s like me going over to your home and telling you that you are running your household incorrectly. Why would anyone have a problem with people doing something that works for them, as long as it DOES NOT AFFECT YOU?

        Because, that person just can’t let feminists do anything without them sticking their nose in it and criticizing.

        The world is not perfect, there is a lot of hideousness we have to deal with. And so, people do what they can to cope until they are strong again. (Therapy, rehabilitation, etc.) And perhaps Ms. Breslin is so tough that she doesn’t need anyone’s help to get by in life thankyouverymuch. That’s her. There are a variety of people in this world that are not her.

        But there may come a time when you are close to drowning and you need someone to throw you a buoy. I just hope someone is there for her when she needs it… and will not chide her, taunt her, and call her weak for needing it.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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        one other thing: the point another poster made obtains: IF someone was horribly victimized such that if they see ANY reminder of their trauma they fall to the floor, their eyes roll back in their head, their tongues loll out, and their brains freak out, THEN that damaged soul needs to stay in the baby pool with their swimmie floats on”

        Hyperbole much? Isn’t this the very kind of overdramatization you are criticizing feminists for? Really, that is very childish. It looks like YOU are the one threatened by trigger warnings. “Oh NO! I can’t have trigger warnings in MY world!! This simply must stop!” So I have to ask: Why are you threatened by them?

        To clarify: “This article is about sexual assault” allows the readers preparation, or the choice not to read. You know, choice. It’s a grand concept. Of course, they can take the opportunity to roll around on the floor and convulse, but I’m betting they probably don’t, and would say “WTF dude?” at your suggesting that they do.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          It’s pettier than that. It’s not “I can’t have Trigger Warnings in my world,” it’s “Hey look, a net nanny, and me with no one else to troll.”

          You used the analogy of a soldier avoiding society for the loud noises. Sometimes shell-shocked soldiers in need of help go to support groups. Relating experiences is an integral part of support groups, isn’t it? Do soldiers in support groups preface each story with “This might get gross, guys. Some of you may want to block your ears.”

          Or maybe we’re arguing about 2 different issues. Where are you coming from? Did you experience something and then had nightmares because you read something on the net? I mean, if not, what the fuck are you doing and who are you so quixotically trying to protect, exactly?

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            well, I’d say it would be pretty arrogant for me to say “I am not bothered by content on the internet (whether or not I’m a survivor of trauma) so no one else needs these warnings. And even though trigger warnings have nothing to do with my experience in the world, I’m going to write four posts about them, because they bug me so dang much, telling everyone how stupid they are, and how they are proof of feminist victimization… or whatever, you know, I’m really just trying to find another way to get those dang feminists that (I allow) to work my nerves into a tizzy.”

            Yeah, soldiers use talk therapy. They also use dogs that give them trigger warnings so they can navigate society, as I’ve said.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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    As others note… no, really, the subject was trigger warnings and Beslin was, simply, incorrect about what they are and how they’re used – and that, really, “feminism” is not the point with trigger warnings, anyway.

    Most people ignored the “feminism is dumb” aspects of Breslin’s posts because they’re not worth the time to discuss them. Breslin offers no definition of the “feminism” she’s not really describing, and she argues about Straw Feminists who don’t really exist,rather than citing actual examples of actual feminists and why she disagrees with whatever, well, feminism is as she understands it.

    It’s telling that Breslin’s main backers for this line of argument in comments are mostly white and male, and along the lines of “I’m tired of having to apologize for being a man.” This, too, is not feminism. I am a man, and a feminist, and it means mostly that I’m concerned with equality and fair treatment for women as I am for men. As a gay man I’m well aware that there’s a connection between the way society denigrates and disrespects women and sees gay men as “less than” for being like women. You can read a lot of writing about that, and other feminist issues, on any number of blogs, mine included. But spending hours or pages arguing basics with Breslin is pointless.

    All of this is astonishing to me, coming from a woman who’s already done compelling, interesting work on looking at the production of pornography and how it affects women who work in it. Making the connections between how society views women – especially as sexual objects – and how porn trades on those views, seems like a basic, obvious, point in understanding our cultural problems with porn and how porn and the treatment of womenin porn complicates so many other cultural issues. And I suspect, for all her shtick about being tough and antifeminist, Breslin probably gets a good bit of this. I think she’d offer more insight, and start a more productive conversation, getting out of the provocateur stance and actually joining in a more complex discussion of actual feminism, actual feminist issues, and actually relating her own experiences as a woman to that of others.

  13. collapse expand

    Susannah, I have a joke for you!

    I made it up myself. I think you shall enjoy it. Okay. Ready? Here we go.

    Q. Why are feminists obsessed with pop culture?

    A. Because they’re too dense to appreciate the classics.

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    About Me

    I'm a freelance journalist, blogger, photographer, and creator of TheWarProject.com. I've written for Newsweek, Details, Harper's Bazaar, The Daily Beast, Radar Online, Variety, Salon, Slate, Wired News, The New York Post, The LA Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Vancouver Sun, The San Francisco Examiner Magazine, Playboy.com, and many other publications. I've appeared on CNN, Fox News, "Politically Incorrect," and NPR. Currently, I'm working on a novel. My email is susannahbreslin at earthlink dot net.

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