An open letter to the internet

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Dear @muh_patriarchy,

I would like to formally apologize for making snippy comments on pictures you posted to instagram.com last night. I was trying to show my brother the late-July #catsagainstfeminism response to the #womenagainstfeminism phenomenon that directly preceded it, and I was frustrated to see that the more recent posts were not clever feline anthropomorphisms, but several of your posts which did not feature cats nor tasteful satire but, instead, for example, a crying infant with a facebook shield and a tumblr sword with the facetious tagline “I’M A SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR.” It was not my place to say “We misunderstood feminism w/ #womenagainstfeminism and now we are misunderstanding #catsagainstfeminism,” and it was extra inappropriate to continue, “what is cat? what is culture? what is feminism? lol.” I had drunk a beer or so and perhaps did not think before I commented.

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Anyway: what did I even think—that the truth of my snide comment would convince you to remove the hashtag and return the cats-against-feminism purity to instagram.com? That you might suddenly decide that your worldview is the product of a hateful echo chamber that perpetuates stereotypes that continue to hold back human consciousness, or at least the consciousness of teenage-obsessed American culture? That was silly. You should be able to hashtag whatever you want, and maybe even make some friends in the process. Youth of America who are competent in photoshop: follow your arrow! Expose your talents to the ether. Learn in the process! I sincerely apologize for being the hashtag police. Because really, those cats didn’t really write those refutations of feminism. They didn’t even take the pictures. Feminists did, and no one said we have the power to read the minds of cats just because we refuse to let gender roles predict our world views and actions. It is just as likely that cats DO understand feminism and see its proponents as whining babies. Cats are fucking smug and superior, and as far as they can tell all humans have an equally infinite amount of rights compared to cats, so many that I don’t have to list them all right now. I don’t want to patronize you.

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Having said that, I would like to explain certain thoughts I had while navigating your instagram account, as I prefer to address difficult ideas on a keyboard instead of on my computer phone. I’ve recently turned off autocorrect so my words don’t carry the same gravitas, if you know what I mean. Again, I acknowledge that I was also disgruntled during this navigation, which additionally would cloud my ability to see any logic to its coherent conclusion. I made assumptions about who you are and, perhaps, I did not check my white privilege, as you were concerned that I might not have done, as perhaps I am not doing right now.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 1.48.25 AMBut let’s take this as an example: a Jezebel article from 2007 that you posted 2 weeks ago. It strikes me as strange for two reasons. First, it seems that you are not sharing information that you consider meaningful in order to enrich a debate, but rather that you are delving into the site’s archives in order to cherrypick incendiary proofs of feminism’s hypocrisy. It’s currently 2014, as it was two weeks ago. I value scholarship which is generally conceived as a positive activity, discovering ideas that excite you and make you a more understanding and vibrant person. By the way, there are lots of great articles written about the failures of Jezebel, especially as it becomes more clear that the site is  a cartoonish rendering of nuanced issues, much like men’s rights gotcha memes. Second, you quote Animal Farm, which is a pretty immediate flag that you are a teenager, or at least to me in that moment. Again, I was rushing to conclusions because I wanted cat photos whose satire reflected my own philosophy and whose cuteness is—dare I say it—universal; and I had consumed what I am pretty sure was two beers. I’m on vacation, but none of this is an excuse. However, the most recent comment was from a young man who computer-phone-thumbed “Animal Farm was my summer reading assignment,” followed by a fist bump emoji. Either this gentleman is twelve or being horribly failed by whatever school system has decided that the academic growth a student should achieve in two-odd months should be limited to 30,000 words of thin allegory. When I was your age I read lots and lots of books because the world of ideas is a beautiful ever-expanding place that you can visit and get lost in. I assume this to be true because I doubt you are older than my 29-year-old self and that is how I have spent the past fifteen years. Unless you are thirteen, in which case you’re probably doing about as good as I was. 1999 was a bad year for everybody. You don’t have to read The Female Eunuch, but, you know, books. And that doesn’t mean The Fountainhead on a loop. But wait, I’ve done it again. I’m sorry. I should stick to positive statements. Not having experienced the Gryffindor side of the world of ideas’ magic is not a deficit but an opportunity for enriching experience. I don’t know enough about the mythology of Hogwarts to see that metaphor to its end and argue that the men’s rights corners of the internet are populated by budding Draco Malfoys, so I’ll avoid it and stick to what I know. Have you ever spent an afternoon in a park reading William Carlos Williams as the light through the breeze-touched leaves danced upon the page? You’re still plenty young! Maybe you have, and you didn’t like. The diversity of experience is a blessing after all.

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So, yes—you got me. I proved your point about sidestepping the issue, and you seemed to enjoy the attention, which is fine—which is great—because you got me thinking, and that’s what this is all about. I am not personally doing anything to fix the unequal sentencing for men and women, which is quite well proven. This is not a competition. Write intelligent essays and I will read them! At the same time, I have not had anything to do with the American court system since I was last not selected to serve on a jury three years ago. On the other hand, what does concern me is the trajectory of culture, and that is why I was commenting on the context of your post instead of the content which, again, was a fairly irrelevant 2007 Jezebel article. “children read animal farm to become adults…adults read complicated literature and intelligent discourse” was not the mature thing to say. What I can now articulate with this trusty macroblogging platform and this computer’s illuminated keyboard is that I think you should realize that the choice of what kind of culture you decide to consume amounts to the way that you develop as a person and the kind of life you will end up living. You have lots of time to read different kinds of books, see different kinds of movies, encounter different kinds of music, think through lots of different ideas, and THEN share with the world any insights you have. Don’t let your intellectual development and the expansion of your very soul wither in the light of a smartphone. Those who think differently than you are a precious resource. And that is why I not only ask your forgiveness for not treasuring your different direction for the cats-against-feminism hashtag—I thank you for your worldview, which so crisply diverges from mine. Perhaps George Orwell is underrated by the politically correct academics of the present day, and perhaps my opinion to the contrary is “Emma Watson-loving pedo logic,” as someone commented on your post regarding the string of comments I left on your instagram account last night.  One can never escape his or her own perspective, however much we long for an objective view of ourselves. How do you handle the indefinite 3rd person singular pronoun, aka the singular “they”? I’m always looking for opinions on the subject. I also realize that I jumped to the third person plural. But it’s OK to make mistakes, right? That’s what I hope. Or is that what you mean when you say feminists have replaced God with feminism? It allows us to be bumbling hypocrites because at the end of the day feminism will forgive us if we give ourselves up to it?

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So, again, I am writing to you as you sleep, and you will find this message in the morning when you wake. You will share it with your echo chamber and I with mine. I will continue to believe what I have come to believe, and you will continue to do so for yourself. I will see the idea of the sexualization of young Hermione as a disgusting expression of patriarchal lowest-common-denominator culture, just as Emma Watson identified it as a catalyst for her own beliefs about how society depicts women. You and your followers will relish in the injustice this trope commits upon a living breathing human being, that her supporters (and those who don’t place Orwell up with Joyce and Woolf) as practicers of “Emma Watson-loving pedo logic.” I will continue to believe that those who articulate the best parts of themselves with the greatest intentions are doing good for the world; and that those who initiate a countdown to the purported release of nude photos of someone in retaliation for such an articulation are doing something terrible. You’re welcome to think otherwise, it’s a free country.

tumblr_n9g90tzYyc1thkqcyo1_1280In good news: the internet outside instagram.com has a better hierarchy for the display of images, which is not the most recent first. I don’t need to explain google to you, I’m sure. In short, once I get off my phone and onto a laptop I can look at these pictures forever and remember those late-July days when satire restored a certain level of sanity to the internet. I’m afraid though from here it’s just gonna keep getting worse.

 

 

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