Her Bad Mother

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Fights Like a Girl

As I note here with some frequency, I have spent a long time in the university system. In the Academy, Social Sciences and Humanities quadrant. Where they take their feminism seriously. (You don't think studying the Feminist Hermeneutics of Xena, Warrior Princess is serious? Then you are clearly a slave to the passive misogyny of the masculinist knowledge system that dominates Western culture.)

So it is that I have participated in many a discussion, many a debate, about the place of women is spaces that have been traditionally occupied by men (which is to say, if you are a certain breed of feminist, all public spaces). Some of these discussions have bordered on the absurd: as I recounted in my post on the politics of the term 'mommy blogger,' I once had the unique pleasure of debating the question of whether or not the term caucus - as in, should we form a women's caucus in order to have a forum for women's issues in the department? - was inherently sexist. Because, you know: COCK-us. Language can rape, people. Gotta watch that.

Yes, I mock. Because so much of the content of these debates seems, to me, to be ridiculous. But I do think that the general thrust (OMG she is completely brainwashed by the phallocentric MAN) of these discussions is tremendously important. Where and how do women fit, as women, in public spaces? And - what does it mean to speak, as a woman, in those spaces?

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, as I have been thinking about Linda Hirshman and my reaction to her recent contributions to the public debate about what women (and in particular mothers) should be doing with their lives. I'm not going to flog that particular horse any further right now (although I do retain flogging rights and intend to return to flogging at a later date); what I'm interested in at the moment is how, exactly, I am thinking and talking about these issues, and whether there is anything particularly feminine about how I am going about this discussion. What I'm thinking about is, how am I speaking - how are we speaking - in the public space that is the blogosphere?

Queen of Spain got me thinking about how we - mama bloggers - speak about the issues that interest us when she said this in response to my War post:

A big, fat AMEN sista... except for one thing. I like the fighting.

I think it means we're arrived. The men fight about crap ALL the time. They debate. They have heated exchanges. They do what they need to do to make their points HEARD. So I think that this fighting is the next, necessary step in equality. We're finally so good with ourselves, as a gender, that we can openly and freely debate what is best and what is horrible about all the various choices we have.

Sure we like to be all huggie and happy and pat each other on the back and support one another...but why can't we do that and add some smack down? Why do we always have to be so peace and love? Is THAT lack of agression, that fear of a fight that really dooms us? I say bring on those morons like Caitlin and Linda who want us all to be in one box or the other. Let's all duke it out with them. With each other. Then let's all go get pedicures and laugh about it later.

I've been thinking about this for days now. When I first read the comment I thought yes! But then a moment later I thought well... yes and no. And then I went back and forth between yes and no for the next few days.

I love disagreement. Disagreement - the clash of opinions - is the motor of real dialogue. But must disagreement always look like fighting? This is where I get stuck. I loves me a good smackdown. But to my mind, a smackdown is not dialogue. It's battle. It's where the stronger or the more rhetorically agile defeat the weaker or less nimble. It can be as sophisticated as Socrates' smackdown of Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic (the mother of all smackdowns!) or as brutish as a playground taunt-match (you're stupid/no you're stupid/no you're stupid/I know you are but what am I?) When I say that I'm going to smack down Linda Hirshman I don't mean that we're going to sit down over tea and exchange ideas and then agree to disagree. I mean that I am going to pull the full might of my brain and years of study into my figurative fists and that I am going knock her about until she (or the dummy-Hirshman that I am using as a punching bag) cries mommy. Which is to say, until I have fully shown her up to be WRONG. And I'll have fun doing it.

I likes me this kind of fun. But I wouldn't have it at my friends' expense. Not just because I think that it would be mean - and I do think that it would be mean - but because I don't think that it really furthers discussion. If I just out-and-out smack down Hirshman, I'm closing off any real possibility of taking her ideas seriously - and as much as I disagree with most of her arguments, I think that they are worthy of serious consideration. In order to engage in real dialogue with Hirshman's ideas (much as I would like to smack her for many of them), I need to take them seriously. I need to respect them, or be respectful of them, even as they make my foot tap impatiently and my hands clench up into fists.

But, but... here is where I cringe a little bit at the possibility that I sound just like a girl. Isn't this just like a woman - or, at least, a certain kind of woman - to wring her hands and insist upon civility and good manners and listening skills? To tsk tsk at the boys as they wrestle gleefully in the dirt, as they punch and pummel each other, and then marvel as they ride off on their bikes together?

Is there something inherently feminine (whether this is femininity is rooted in culture or something else, I'm not touching here) about avoiding the fight? About disparaging the fight? About insisting, sweetly, that we can all disagree politely, nicely? If there is - and I am certainly not sure that there is - are we, as women, missing out on something so long as we insist upon civility in all quarters?

We do disagree with each other, occasionally, in the mama-blogosphere. There's not a lot of disagreement, but I think that that's largely because we've self-selected ourselves into this community and are accordingly, for the most part, like-minded. Another reason, I think, is that as mama-bloggers we tend to discuss quote-unquote issues within the context of our personal experiences and struggles, rather than in some more neutral context, and this limits the terms and scope of debate (the issues discussed in the Basement are not open for debate, for this reason, unless the poster has asked for some critical response.) And what disagreement there is, is (with a few exceptions) civil disagreement. There's not a lot of mommy-blogger cage match going on (nor, it's worth observing, is there much daddy-blogger cage match. Shame, that.)

I like that our disagreements are, for the most part, civil. But, again, are we missing out on something? Would we be having more fun if we got a bit dirtier from time to time? Would it be more progressive? (But even if it would be all of these things, wouldn't it be antithetical to all that is great about the parent blogosphere? Or could the blogosphere use more tension - more bending of the bow, as a certain German philosopher would say?)

I have much more to say about this, but in the meantime, before I tell you what I think (which requires that I actually think, which requires sleep, which remains just out of my grasp) - what do you think?

Civility is the refuge of Last Men, tards. Bring in da noize!


Blogger Piece of Work said...

I actually like this kind of disagreement, whether it's "feminine" or not. I think there's a lot to be said for civility and politeness and compassion--and I'm not sure that trying to be like the guys is a solution worth attempting. I don't like fighting, but I do enjoy conversation and disagreements. DOes that mean I'm fighting like a girl? And does fighting like a girl mean that I'm missing out on something? I don't think so.
If anybody's missing out, it's the guys, letting their machismo get in the way of true discussion. There.

1:10 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Apathetic? no. No great passion or commitment? Hell no. Need more sleep to fight? HELL YA!

I’ve often thought about this “issue” (in between baby death-cage matches and diaper changes) and I have discussed it with husband (who often wonders why we - mommy bloggers - aren’t fighting dirty more) and I can’t even agree with myself, much less anyone else. Is it our “self-selected” community that makes us agree most of the time? Probably. I have been tempted to throw some of my more radical ideas out there, to see if I could stir something up but then I just get back to my bubbegum posts because I’m too damn tired to fight. Maybe when I get more sleep I will start kicking sand but for now, I’m just looking for hugs and support.

BTW - I’m going to update my Borat post to answer some of your questions. Check it out later tonight.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

The only problem I have with the whole "fight" thing is that it implies that someone is right and someone is wrong.

And how can you be wrong as an individual? Male or Female!

I mean yes..there are morons out there who are totally unhinged from this plane of reality and are just wrong....but when it comes to being a woman or a mother...how can one way be right and the other wrong?

1:47 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

I hear you on this. I understand the arguement. I think I agree.

But, do I think we are missing out on something? ... not really. Would it be more fun to get dirtier from time to time? ... I'm not so sure.

While I hate to harp on gender differences and would never want to be found guilty of evoking the image of a "weaker sex" (I work for a feminist org that has had that cock-us debate before too!). The reality is women, okay some women, okay ME ... *I* tend to let my emotions be affected in an agressive smack down. Getting dirty can go places with my emotion that aren't pretty and that would impede my ability to make a solid arguement or to have a progressive outcome.

I think that civility and Respect and politeness are good form. If you want to make progress, you need the person with which you are debating against to HEAR you. Getting dirty doesn't always allow for that. Challenging a POV with kindness (or like a "girl") more often brings people closer to a middle ground because you can hear conflict easier that way.

I also think that disagreement and fighting are two different things. Disagreement and debate are healthy and productive. In my opinion fighting is not and it is not an indication of "having arrived at all".

1:47 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Me again because apparently I have too much time on my hands today.

Maybe if our world leaders had more female representation and an appreciation for an ability to "fight like a girl" then we'd have less blood shed in our world.

1:57 PM  
Blogger The City Gal said...

Amen big sista!

I agree. I have always avoided kicks and punches because I am afraid to lose my cool. I thought it was the feminine way, hence the smarter way.

But 3 weeks ago, something happened!

My buddy and I (have know each other for years and never fought before) had a debate that turned into a shouting match, and for the first time in my life, I saw it necessary to yell, scream from the bottom of my lungs and fight like a man until I shut him up.

I fought with my best friend and I named him names!!! 2 days later he called as if nothing happened! Apparently that's the guys' way!!!


1- We can agree to disagree without a figh, because it is easier and doesn't take a toll on us. (i.e. ruining your whole day)

2- When necessary, we can also kick, punch, yell and scream without hesitation until the enemy backs off. Then we go back to our cool selves.

That would be my strategy (if I get elected to the City Hall) as a female leader.


2:53 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I think there is also a certain underlying difference in the way men and women communicate that makes their arguing look more like fighting. Men will raise their voices and try to talk the other person down - and to me, the talker looks like an obnoxious asshole. Men take up space - physical, sonic, verbal - trying to push the other guy out, steamroll him. Women for the most part prefer, most often in a debate situation (and I'm not talking about when they are trying to get their way about library fines here), to win on the strength of persuading the other to see and agree with their point of view, rather than just winning by shutting up the "opponent." Perhaps it comes back to wanting to build concensus, be liked and likeable, also more typically a feminine concern.

For myself, it depends on what you are talking about. I think it's interesting and intellectually stimulating to turn over ideas, look at them from different angles, discuss in a way that everyone can share their differing ideas. I like it if I can be pushed to present my thoughts more clearly then usual and be made to consider someone else's. I don't always cling to my original opinion, either. Sometimes I'm quite fluid. That is if it's more abstract.

Something that I feel passionate about? Hell yeah, tape up my knuckles, I'm going in swinging. (This is why Misterpie and I don't discuss politics very often!)

3:23 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I try not to get myself pulled in to the whole feminist debate over what makes a "good" mother. From time to time I do enjoy a good, heated debate but motherhood as seen from the working vs. non-working camps I will not debate on. As a matter of fact, most things about motherhood I won't debate about because if there's one thing I've learned in my long tenure as a mother (almost 15 months without dropping her at the closest Salvation Army - yay me!) is there are many right ways, and wrong ways, to parent and as soon as I pick a side I usually end up eating my former position. Motherhood is changeable.

As for debate in Mama Blog-land, well that gets tricky too. This is the first female dominated social group ('Demented and sad, but social.') where I have felt true kinship and sisterhood and I shudder at the thought of rocking the boat. Does that make me meek? Possibly. But I'm enjoying this rah-rah sisterhood, along with the input of our brothers-in-parenting, and I hate the thought of someone laying the smack down, with the purpose of starting a good natured debate, and it being taken the wrong way because its the written word without the benefit of immediate, personal rebuttal.

Wow, sorry to hijack your comments. I guess I had a lot more to say about this than I thought. Thanks for touching on this topic!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Tearfree said...

I think this whole argument over being civil and respectful is a complete red herring.

Have you ever noticed that when people say stuff like “It’s not 'what' you said but 'how' you said it,” it usually is, in fact, 'what' you said that made them mad.

Take the latest Flanagan and Hirschmann episodes. Neither of these women has been uncivil or disrespectful (unless of course you stretch the boundaries of disrespect to include making unknown readers feel uncomfortable with their personal choices.) Their detractors, on the other hand, have displayed a marked tendency toward incivility.

So, really I don’t think this is an issue about girls fighting differently than boys. I think it’s an issue about people who don’t want to hear statements like “this is best for children” and “this is best for feminism” and who desperately want or need to convince themselves that the decisions they’ve made are the right ones and that all choices are equally good.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

RTK - I'm not talking about reactions to Hirshman et. al. (talking heads) so much as I am about the way we speak to each other (Though for the record, Hirshman came out swinging at her detractors and took some pretty uncivil shots at mommy-bloggers, among others.)

Any time that I think about or begin to write about Hirshman's arguments I want to take the gloves off. Not in the sense of getting ready to curse and call names, but in the sense of real rhetorical smackdown - tearing her (her ideas) a figurative new one by attacking her ideas and demonstrating the thousand and one ways that they can be shown to wrong. The way a good formal debater or lawyer or overfunctioning grad seminar participant shreds his or her opponent. I'm always tempted to do this, for fun, with the talking heads, even though it doesn't really get us anywhere (and in any case I agree - and said so in my war post - that vitriolic responses to Hirshman usually reveal that the attacker feels threatened). But as much as I love a good rhetorical scrap (and have engaged in many a one in the classroom, conference hall and bar) I would never do this with the arguments of a fellow blogger and/or friend. Why?

The easy answer is that (as Socrates shows by beating Thrasymachus at his own game) although such games are fun and impressive, they don't get us anywhere in terms of advancing or understanding ideas. But that hasn't stopped men (and some women) throughout history from enjoying smackdowns. And I certainly do it in other quarters.

So why not here? Do I desire too much to be liked here? *Is* this a girly (girl among girls) thing? Or just a civil thing, an honour-among-friends thing?

I'm probably overthinking this, but hell, that's what I do. Especially on no sleep.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

Excellent and most perfect post. Loved it. Am printing it. Am sending it to people I love and loathe so they can perhaps fully understand my feminist stance.

Debate is great. Sometimes, however, I just chalk it up to "Well, she's an asshole" and chalk it up to that. Because sometimes, people really are just assholes. People, women included.

4:49 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I'm not going to presume to have any answers about the feminine mystique of fighting, but I have to think that nature has a lot to do with it. Not fighting in the same way, in my mind anyway, doesn't mean we are forced to be passive.

I keep wondering why we are forcing ourselves to be what, perhaps, we are not? Some people raise their voices. Some people whisper. Who's to say which voice is more right?

Great post. Lots of yummy food for thought.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Baby in the City said...

Watching footage of soccer celebrations from all over the world last night it struck me (again) how effective sports could be used to solve disputes. Millions of people all the world over accepted who lost, who won. So much better than a war. (I'd dig out a Sontag reference on the paralells of sport to fascism if
I had the time, but no.) Anyhoo, when I think of 'fighting like a man', I think less of war - not interested in that - and more of sport - VERY interested. Sport has its rules, civility if you like, but you are in it to win. WIN. You are supposed to beat your opponent. Just fairly. With skill.
I personally wish there was more lively debate in the mommy blogosphere. Everyone is so intelligent and has a depth of experience. I think it would be extremely interesting and worthwhile.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Tearfree said...

Um, Urban Mummy, did you miss the Zidane headbutt that everyone's talking about? Today is not the day to talk about civility in sports.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Tearfree said...

Bad mother,

Hirschmann is a philosophy professor for gawd's sake. I'm sure she'd welcome substantive critiques of her argument that didn't give way to character assasination. From what I've read, she objected to the "Linda's so mean" school of critiquing and, ahem, well, I won't go there.

As for your desire to be liked, the challenge is to rip someone's argument to pieces AND be liked. There are quite a few people who succeed in doing just thatthat. And BTW, they don't rip the arguments apart as a game, but because they think it's important that faulty, seductive arguments be exposed.

6:59 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

RJK - do you rip your friends' argument to shreds and expect them to like you? There's a difference between exposing bad arguments on an intellectual plane while keeping it respectful and llighting into people you know and like. That is not to say that it's not possible to have differing opinions, but that you might feel more concern about treading carefully. After all, theese friends are not professing to be experts and putting forth edicts about What Is Right, most of them are expressing a personal opinion, albeit in a public forum. I think there's a difference in their intent and how it should be handled as a friend rather than a critic.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...


Again, this wasn't about Hirshman. I'm pretty sure that Hirshman gives no shit whatsoever about whatever I might say about her faulty (tho' emphatically not seductive) arguments, and, yes, I'm certain that as a self-professed philosopher she'd defend my desire to do so. But, again, not about her. She was a jumping-off point for me to consider the difference between my comportment in academic environments and in this one, the better to consider my own thoughts about debate vs. fighting vs. whatever.

But you may have answered my questions. I'm not provoked to active or aggressive critique in the blogosphere, perhaps, because I don't very often come across egregiously faulty arguments. In fact, I would say that I don't come across many 'arguments' at all - what's out here is people speaking their own truth to power and even where I might disagree with some 'truths,' I respect the authors too much to aggressively and directly challenge them on the grounds of intellectual critique. So, in those cases, I say that I hold a different view and maybe go off and write my own post about my own views.

Discussion is more amenable to friendship than is out-and-out critique, as Kittenpie nicely suggested above.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been the kind of person to go for their throats, including in online forums--what I've found in the mommy blogosphere is that most of hte discussions don't trigger that reflex in me because they're not right/wrong subjects. Someone posting that they introduced solids to their baby at three months is an anecdote, not a debate, and whether or not I would have done the same thing doesn't change the fact that it wasn't my life and they aren't trying to tell me what to do. On the other hand, if someone posts that some law should be changed, I consider that a debate, not an anecdote, and I go in swinging if I want to. Danigirl posted recently about the Canadian daycare debacle, and I didn't pull any punches in her comments section.

So I think it says more about the subject matter of the momosphere than its inhabitants. Someone posting about why they chose breastmilk or formula--not a debate. Someone posting about the evils of formula or the grossness of breastfeeding--that's a debate, and I treat it accordingly. And it has, so far as I know, not cost me any friends.

8:54 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

If it is feminine to 'disagree' rather than 'fight', I think we should consider ourselves lucky we tend to do the former. When we disagree, that leads to discourse, and we usually listen to the other position to try to understand it better (especially in the respectful environment that is the mommy blogosphere). When we fight, we are mostly concerned with defending (and imposing) our position, without any effort towards learning the other view.

I've yet to write about Hirshman and Flanagan (and intend to). I think they both have valid arguments. I also think it's a good thing their claims are so objectionable--they get us thinking, and talking and getting passionate about these issues.

The more we think and talk (and write!) the more we learn.

9:58 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

P.S. Love WonderBaby's tattoo t-shirt. What does it say?

Did you get it at that new store on King W?

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Effective debate requires a clear understanding of both sides of the discussion. If you are ignorant of the salient points of the other side, then you will not be able to effectively defend your own position.

Women are often much more emotionally attached to their positions than men are. Therefore, they don't WANT to understand the other side. Debate - or even discourse - is hurtful, because it's perceived as a personal attack. And that's why I believe women are less inclined toward debate.

Kyle routinely engages male friends in religious debate, and their relationships are no worse for wear - even after discussing such a personal and potentially contentious topic.

Working in IT, I've had lots of male friends. We've pissed each other off (although it took A LOT), but I noted how differently they handled it, and likewise, I handled it differently than I would with a female friend.

I love open discourse; it's how I learn from others. But what turns me off are sweeping statements passing unsubstantiated judgments. Conversely, what turns me on are those who are willing to entertain a different point of view, especially that which is diametrically opposite their own. That demonstrates confidence and intelligence and a true desire to know others and learn from them.

10:21 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

such an interesting post, and a topic I have been mulling over since I first walked (ok, stomped) into the whacky world of the blogsphere.
Is everybody really so damn diplomatic? Are we pussy-footing around our true opinions under the guise of being nurturing, sensitive and gentle when really we are just afraid of alienating our 'audience' and losing readers?
Well, I'm not exactly sure. I have refrained from 'pulling out the punches' in comments on occasion, but mostly because I would rather think more about it and perhaps write a post that invites opinion, not just dictates it.
It's a tricky thing, but much of the beauty of being a woman is that, hopefully, we can retain an inherent understanding of each other while understanding that if we all thought the same way, it would certainly be a boring tribe.
A tough one.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Communicating in text on any topic, not to mention a controversial subject is tricky, especially when you don't know the writing style of those with whom you're having the discussion/disagreement. We could spend lots of time re-writing our comments to reduce instances where offense is given but not meant . . . however, that really takes a lot more time, and sometimes you're trying to have a faster, more natural conversation.

I get a lot of email at work and see how people handle themselves getting in and out of flamewars. More men than women, but I wonder if that's mostly due to the much higher male population in the office, rather than fight style.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Tearfree said...

Hmm, well I pretty much conduct myself the same way at work in the academy as at home when it comes to arguments. I wouldn’t dream of shredding someone’s ideas just for fun in either place. I have zero interest in that. I’ll only shred people’s ideas if I think they’re dangerous or dumb or will have a potentially negative impact on others.

Quite frankly, if I had to describe the overall philosophy of the Mummy Blogosphere it would be deeply muddled choice-ism. As Katha Pollitt writes in her most recent column: “Feminists have indeed traded that language for the I'm-OK-you're-OK language of personal choice, and are now in the philosophically absurd position of smiling politely at everything women do, from naked mud wrestling to home schooling. But what happens when the choice is a bad idea, for yourself, for other women, for society? Don't we ever get to talk about that?” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060717/pollitt

And I’ll say this for the very last time and then bow out of this discussion: I think that when your readers get all worked up it’s a classic shoot-the-messenger scenario. What seems to upset them, at core, is the idea that not all choices are equally valid (because for all their differences, Hirshman and Flanagan both make that point) not the way that message is delivered.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I'm generally not one to talk so much in comments, but RTK keeps messin' with the argument so what the hell...

1) The only circumstances under which I'll 'shred' arguments 'for fun' is, as I said, with talking heads like Hirshman. And then only when the arguments are, in whole or in part, dumb or offensive.

2) The idea that there is a 'philosophy' in the 'mommy blogosphere' is a puzzling one. There's much that I could say about this but I'll leave it at this: I don't see it.

3) People react to judgments about their choices. This is true for most people, and was a central point in my war post. To charge that this is uniquely true of my 'readers' (I assume that you are referring to mommy bloggers more generally) is baseless. In any case, the debate about the Mommy Wars was back a few posts.

Metro Mama - I got the onesie at TNT Kids in Hazelton Lanes.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Haute Mama said...

You buy the cutest baby t-shirts!!
Can u believe I cna't find the "mutha sucka" shirt anywhere here in Vancouver because apparently it offends certain people!!!??? What a bunch of pruds in this city!!

12:09 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I think part of this has to do with the personal nature of blogs. A blog is someone's virtual home, and so you're less likley to go messing up their home.

Would you walk up to a woman giving her baby a bottle on her front porch, snatch the bottle out of her hand and lecture her on the benefits of breastfeeding? Of course not. And like that, a person talking about the fact that they formula feed on their blog is not really a topic open for debate: it's simply that woman expressing her personal feelings.

Now, if the same woman was sitting on her porch, yelling at passerbys, "You breastfeed your baby? That's sick, you weirdo! Go back to the jungle!", you might feel inclined to speak with her and enter into a debate, or even a fight. The same on a blog - if soemone was writing that they think all who breastfeed were wrong, well, they're opening themselves up for a fight.

It's the difference between a person expressing their individual truth and a person stating what they believe to be a universal truth. And for most topics in mommy blogging, people are more likely to be sharing their individual truths and less universal truth.

Maybe this means we prefer to leave the fighting to the talking heads? I dunno. Personally, I stick to my own truths most of the time, but I do enjoy a little debate by bringing in my thoughts on others trying to spread their own individual truth as "universal truth" (like Hirshman).

And when it comes to debating vs. fighting, I prefer debating. Fighting is half a debate - you only care about winning, and you aren't listening to anything said by your opponent. No common ground can be made. Sure, the adreneline feels good afterwards, but you didn't actually do anything.

Sheesh, I got long-winded. OK, shutting up now.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Have you read the book "Girlfighting"? I found it to be an excellent analysis of the socialization of womens fighting techniques....Ergo the Horizontal Relational agression that we tend to perpetuate.

I also wonder if some is simple brain chemistry, HBM? Have you read Wonder of Girls/Wonder of Boys? I am fascinated by the research that shows the different chemical/neural responses in male/female brains - especially when processing fight/flight response.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm here, I just haven't had time to comment yet. I've been trying to comment, but little people keep interupting me.

I think, my whole point in enjoying the fight thing was that I wish more Mommybloggers would speak up and not just post about nothing.

That made no sense. I think I'm going to go post something about what I mean. Because if not, I will hijack this entire thread.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

If you spend any time on the BabyCenter bulletin boards, you know that neither the subject matter (personal, anecdotal) nor the gender (female) of the mommy-blogosphere can fully explain the very high degree of civility and support we typically encounter around here. If you would like to see just how mean and nasty a mom can be, go onto a BabyCenter birth club and mention that you're planning to CIO.

I think the key is that little trash-can icon below each comment. There really isn't any point in trying to start a flame war if your inflammatory comment can be removed whenever the blogger sees fit. Trolls can stir up a lot more trouble on a bulletin board, where the intensity of the response keeps the thread afloat for days.

Since most of us commenters have our own blogs, there's a healthy helping of do-unto-others going on as well: I reveal a lot of personal things on my blog, which means that I'm vulnerable - too vulnerable, perhaps, to risk going around ripping other people to shreds.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

I dont have a "philosophy" to my blogging, nor do I necessairly ascribe to one in the blogs I read. I am attracted to Mommy Blogs because I was gobsmacked by motherhood and all of its delicious hell, in the same way I was obsessed with infertility message boards back in the day.
I absolutely self-selected and I damn well better expect support and commiseration and comaraderie and virtual Pomegranate-tinis from my fellow Mom's. It's what I dish out, after all.

I do think most women fight differently than most men. Is it a feminist issue? I think its just a tendency issue. In my marriage we started out with me fighting for understanding and him fighting to win. But I usually won. (And my husband is tremendously competitive and comes from a long line of sore losers.) Now we both argue for clarity and I still win, but he learned to stick to the facts and I learned to not stake our relationship on every little scuffle. I dont feel like either of us let our gender down by being more respectful and shutting up and listening for a minute.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a certain honor code that is the underpinning of a smack down. If you can attack me, I'll love you. That's true respect. Often the formulation of respect happens in the cage as in *cage fighting*. (I actaully harbor fantasies of doing a dissertation on women cage fighters when I get around to doing grad work in American Studies.)But I'm a dark, chthonic Camille Paglia kind of feminist. I love beauty and anger. And I *love* that 'ole German philosopher to whom you referred.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actaully, I wish I knew more real-life women worth fighting with. I just nod and smile when I'm dealing with a soccer-mom/supermom dud at the playground. In that way, I'm totally non-assertive. BUT, when it comes to writing, I consider that in itself a form of argument. I wish I'd get some more cage-action with the ladies. I wanna do it! I'm sick of doing it with the boys, HA!
Of course, I'm just talking about the ideas/philosophic stuff. With feelings and mommy stuff, I just do hugs. I mean, duh. I'm not a jerk. We totally need hugs. That stuff's just intuitive, I think. I think we *always* do that right as 'mommy bloggers.'

4:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey HBM, I'm coming to this late, but oooh it's a doozie of a post. Love it. These are questions I have been thinking about too--like you, looking at this whole thing from a wholly more academic perspective and thinking "what *is* going on here? Your ideas here have really been interesting to me.

Here are some of my initial thoughts on this. First about fighting (or rhetorical debate) and context. One thing that gets me going when people make sweeping declarations about Blogs (all blogs) is that they ignore the issue of context. The community you are referring to here--call us Mommy Bloggers, or liberal bitch bloggers with some good dudes for variety, well in some ways we seem pretty defined and the unspoken rules relatively clearcut. This is a space for creative expression, support, empathy, soul-searching, and some questioning. I would hesitate to directly take someone on within what I identify as "my" community, and I tend to steer clear of the blogs that are coming from somewhere else.

I guess the debate you are thinking about here might need the explicit setting up of a different context, where we state openly--"this is a place for debate--please feel feel to engage, critique, disagree. this is *not* about personal attacks... here are the rules." The context of our community dictates that critiques can be read as attacks, and it's intriguing to me how very delicate people are about making sure comments are supportive and connective rather than critical.

That said, and I am now going to contradict some of my own point here--while the open rhetorical debate that you and I twisted gals loved/loahted in the context of academia (and some of it is pretty covert and nasty as you know) I think debate, engagement, negotiation over the meanings and pressures of parenthood and gender--they are ALL here. Not always openly argued over, but nevertheless everpresent in these spaces where we are coming together and processing where and who we are--as mothers, women, etc...

It's certainly not all mutual cheerleading (though that is nice) there's a whole lot of messy stuff we're all working through here--collectively. It's not debate, but it is struggle. So just because we're not debating, it doesnt mean we're not debating. Y'know?

4:44 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

It's been well-documented that women as a whole use language to build relationships, while men use language to demonstrate or obtain power. Generalization of course, but this certainly explains a whole lot, including Mother Goosemouse's interesting assessment.

Disagree (shocker) with RTK who says people get upset over the message alone and not the delivery system. Women are very sensitive to nuance. If you've ever been or had a friend you know this. It's the difference between saying "yes, that makes your butt look big," or "you know, I really do love you in that other pair of pants." Unless you're dense, you get the exact same point. One just doesn't make you feel like crap.

For example, RTK: When you start a comment with "Um," it's a nasty way of saying, "I'm smarter than you." See? Sensitive to nuance.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of the author Deborah Tannen, who has written about the innate communication differences between men and women. I do think that has a lot to do with the dynamics of discussion in places where you might find "more women" or "more men." I don't think women are less afraid to engage in discussion, I just think that we are more prone to try and convince through emphathetic means -- by sharing our own stories, by persuasion. I certainly don't think that makes us a group of people who sit and smile and nod with nary an intelligent thought. I like to think it's just a more civilized way to discuss. Reverting to name-calling or referring to someone else's position as "dumb" is certainly nothing I would expect to see in a rational and intellectual discussion.

I do think the exception to this is certain forums where anonymity is more common -- i.e, the BabyCenter site and others like it. The people who express strong opinions in a less respectful manner (through name calling, etc.) are generally able to do so through a certain level of protection. Just like I wouldn't invite myself over to a friend's house and proceed to rip apart their parenting approach/religious beliefs/what have you to shreds, I would not expect to visit a friend's blog and start acting disrespectful. That's not to say I would not disagree, and even enter into a debate via comments -- I just do not ever see myself doing it in a way that outsiders would consider fighting. That's not really the way I debate or discuss in real life.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Bobita said...

I am a bit of a conflict lover, myself...so I recognize my own bias in this comment...

It seems to me that women (whether it is socialization or biology) who fear fighting or believe it to be inherently masculine...still fight...they just call it something else. And sometimes...do it differently. Because for women, relationship is so very, very important...we tend to try and disagree nicely. So as not to lose the relationship in the process.

But when women are afraid to disagree...I have often seen it turn very ugly in the end. In an effort to preserve relationships(or the appearance of relationship...the appearance of civility) there is this covert passive-aggressive back-stabbing that happens.

Now, this is still fighting...it is just dishonest (?) fighting. It is fighting that pretends to be friendly. But it is never friendly.

So, perhaps we the women...need to start fighting in public. Really disagree...in public...for everyone to see. In such a way, maybe we can start to chip away at the fear women have of disagreement...and start to create a culture of security and safety about disagreement. And then maybe we can have relationships in which we feel safe enough, confident enough...to disagree and still remain genuine friends.

Sorry for the hijack!

1:49 PM  

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