March 14, 2017
In 1998 Everlast released the song “What it’s like” off his Whitey Ford Sings the Blues album. The song wasn’t a die-hard chart topper like Next, Brandy and Monica, or Shania Twain but the song was picked up by radio stations that didn’t typically play the music Everlast was known for, Hip-hoppy rap with a touch of the blues. It addresses homelessness, abortion, violence, drugs, and poverty but above all the fallibility of the human being.
I’ve seen a rich man beg I’ve seen a good man sin
I’ve seen a tough man cry
I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin
I heard an honest man lie
I’ve seen the good side of bad and the downside of up
And everything between
I licked the silver spoon drank from the golden cup
And smoked the finest green
I stroked the fattest dimes at least a couple of times
Before I broke their heart
You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start
The song is a poignant social commentary on how we make assumptions about others based on our position in life.
So often in life, we find ourselves in an argument where we are simply talking past each other even though we are talking about the same thing. Consider the word clouds from LaTonya L. Sawyer’s piece “All in Together Girls…”, the top five keywords, by grouping, were Beyonce, feminist, feminism, black, and women in all three. But for academic feminists notice the word “just”; for homegrown feminists notice the word “being”; for middle feminists notice the word “about”. Each group was coming from a different position. Maybe just was about justice but it’s easy to assume that being is about just that being a black woman and living feminism from your perspective and maybe the word about characterizes an argument that is trying to reconcile the differences between two very different vantage points through understanding.
Of course what is most important in all of this is that a discussion can be had about a discussion that could not have been had been it not for the online medium. So many conflicting voices would have never been heard (even if they weren’t always listened to) if blogs didn’t exist. Some feminists saw Beyonce as a “bottom bitch” while others saw her as a “free and fully realized woman” and they are both right…but they are also both wrong. Beyonce is sharing something with the American public in the same way that mommy bloggers are: experiences. The album and the blogs share the same themes “finding community and looking for economic power” and simply categorizing them as doing one or the other alienates those that are looking for one or the other and those that are looking for both. Online expression as blogs, Tumblr threads, or music are part of the “evolution of community” is it safe to categorize views that we don’t explicitly agree with as sub-standard? “We live in an era in which people distrust institutions, but there is an increasing trust of each other,” says Elisa Camahort Page and this begs an important question about academic feminism. Is it becoming an institution? When Alana Jones went searching the internet for personal connection and found none she realized she had to make those connections herself. She created a place where her “intersecting identities” could be acknowledged by “challenging privilege and exploring and centering” her identity. Does academic feminism do that, and if that is the goal, is it doing it well?
Blogs are amazingly characterized by Andi Schwartz as “participation in counterdiscourse” that does not require the safe places or trigger warnings that prevent people from expanding their consciousness because they do not censor the “normative” which is a nice social word for the institutionalized standards of ideology. Ideals are wonderful concepts but they are not standards, they are too abstract and impossible to realize since they are always in flux. The first definition of the word “queer” is something strange or odd; I prefer the synonym curious. When Schwarz says that “queer lives depend on the existence of queer space” they are not just talking about femmes or anyone else in the LGBTQ community – to see it that way is reading past their words – they are talking about anyone that is not strictly normative and when you really think about it from the perspective of human fallibility and individuality, that is all of us.