The Silence of Our Friends

Sunday, April 08, 2007

More Sofia Coppola Feminism

It isn't all about white privilege, it's also about class privilege, American Exceptionalism and blindness to the affects of colonialism. It's privilege vs marginalization of just about any other group. This is why they can say feminism trumps every other oppression. They are blind to intersectionality of oppression and how we are all played off each other to keep us in our place, they play right along with that in fact. So how about an example of class privilege?

Wooo Hooo! Kactus is back posting at Super Babymama and gives the perfect example in Travellers' Blues. The middle class white American feminists at Pandagon are talking about globe trotting and mingling with the natives, and are blind to the fact that most people in America can't afford to do that. But wooooooooooo some poor person, benjb, comes along and spoils their fun and watch the fireworks. The dumbest of dumbasses over there goes on to say that since benjb is "privileged" enough to own a computer he has no right to say anything. If Sofia Coppola Feminism ever makes it into a dictionary I don't think it would be necessary to give a definition, a picture of Amanda would suffice. No other feminist is quite this quick and willing to jump down the throat of anyone who dares confront her or any other middle class white American woman on her privilege.

For those of you who have never experienced poverty, poor people are allowed to spend their money any way they wish, just like you. They decide their priorities and generally find a way to pay for some sort of entertainment. When I was broke I still managed to pay for cable. I could have eaten a little better or bought more clothes or turned the heat up a little higher, but my mom and I decided we wanted cable and were willing to eat meatless spaghetti, mac & cheese, hotdogs, etc to do it. The same goes for internet access, and there are programs in this country that try to renovate computers and give them to poor people instead of polluting our landfills, or friends give them to poorer friends, or people just save up what little money they have to buy one second hand, etc. Poor people also generally work, but are not paid a living wage, they may still have computer access at work. Poor people also may go to school and have computer access there. Poor people may even go to a public library for computer access. Only an asshat middle class white American woman would think that only wealthier Americans can afford a computer and internet access or would judge someone poorer who makes that a priority. She may have thought she was turning the tables but some of these class issues are not even within the realm of possibility for alot of Americans. Regularly spending $40 to get your privates defurred, or hundreds to get that perfect pair of Manolo Blahniks, or flying to Tahiti to dance with the natives. It's a little different then judging someone who saves what little they have to get internet access or $30 to go out clubbing with their friends once in awhile. Sure, you can spend your money on whatever you want, but not everyone can afford it and it damn sure is going to appear frivolous to people who are struggling to make ends meet. Then to turn around and make a poor person feel frivolous for not living homeless in a cardboard box? Some people have no compassion or shame.

Anyway, just go read Super Babymama, Kactus gives the whirlwind tour of Milwaukee!

19 comment(s):

* mind is open mouth blown*

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 4/08/2007 6:56 PM  

to be honest, I do suspect that Amanda was just being sarcastic. But it doesn't change the fact that her sarcasm got the point across: stop being so whiny, you whiny brat, you're making us uncomfortable.

By Blogger kactus, at 4/08/2007 8:28 PM  

Yeah it's sarcasm but its teh kind of sarcasm that basicallys ays stay on our side!

side with teh privileged dam n you

It was a fucked up dismissive thing to do and she tried to pull holier tahn thou later

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 4/08/2007 9:49 PM  

Oh I understood the sarcasm. She's saying don't question what I spend my money on and I won't question what you spend your money on. That's why I wrote that last part about being frivolous. Besides wealthy people ALWAYS question what poor people spend their money on, it goes with the whole narrative that rich people are good and deserve what they have and poor people make bad choices and are bad people or else they would be rich too. I think it's high time they question that narrative.

By Blogger Donna, at 4/08/2007 9:57 PM  


I didn't read the comment thread at Pandagon, but I generally can't stand these types of conversations: privileged white folks boasting about how they slum it when they travel to "exotic destinations". I've even heard conversations like that get very competitive as different folks attempt to one-up each other to establish their Special White Person credentials (to paraphrase Bint's certificate): "Well Molly my dear, I slept in a mudhut next to a brown person with dirty bare feet!" "Oh Heather, I ate disgusting mush out of a brown person's hands!" *sip of chardonnay by the pool*

What's funny is that if you listen carefully to such conversations, they're actually assertions of class superiority based on sophistication: the "ugly American tourist" is less highly educated and embarrassingly unsophisticated and lower class; whereas the sophisticates are just so down that they swig kava with cannibals in jungle huts. Like James Bond or Thomas Crowne, no culture is beyond their universal all-emcompassing grasp.

Another problem I have with this is that "adventure tourists" can actually be much more annoying and imposing on local folks than "ugly tourists". At least regular tourists are confined to certain areas which locals avoid other than for work; and they just fork over some money and leave. But "adventure tourists" often act as if no person or temple or bar or beach is off-limits. Atlasien takes an excellent look at this phenomenon here.

As a sidenote, in my view it doesn't have to take all that much money to travel if you're, well, kinda like me; i.e. unencumbered by things like oh say spouse and kids and home and debt and rigid plans for the future; being a guy helps too. We all make sacrifices in alignment with our priorities, and my priority is, to put it in very silly terms, to "walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu" (except that I'm actually an Asian Buddhist martial artist). Not that there's anything special about this. But for example, when I traveled most extensively in Asia, I just scraped together enough money for a one-way ticket and went. It took me more than a year to make it back to the US. I pretty much improvised and hustled my way, more or less broke the whole time. Mind you there were many times that I would have loved to stay in an "ugly tourist" hotel with Western-style facilities. Just sayin.

I hope all this wasn't too tangential...


By Blogger Kai, at 4/08/2007 10:50 PM  

I especially liked this comment, early in the thread:
"When I was last in Puerto Rico for a conference, three of us grad students were utterly sick of the expensive, uniform and downright bland (at best) food offered around the conference hotel. So, we went walking, and found this ‘restaurant’ down a tiny thin side-street that really was nothing more than a converted home’s kitchen, right on the street.

And the food was INCREDIBLE! And CHEAP! We were served by this gorgeously-huge mature black Jamaican woman, on plastic tables and chairs … I can still remember her plantains and red-beans and rice, made fresh … *drool*"

Um. Ok.

But you know it does make me think, how can travellers visit a culture without treading clumsily all over it? I mean, we Americans do tend to be full of good intentions but bad manners.

I feel saddened by the knowledge that no matter where I travel to I will always be the outsider.

By Blogger kactus, at 4/09/2007 12:06 AM  

Wow, Kai, I must have been channeling you, cuz I wrote my comment before I read yours all the way through. I'm in perfect agreement.

By Blogger kactus, at 4/09/2007 12:09 AM  

Donna what you've described re Tahiti and Blahniks are not middle class. I'm upper-middle class and have never been out of the country, my shoes are $50/pair, and I eat alot more ground beef than steak.

Now, as a weathly person(I feel that way, compared to 20 years ago) who was once a poor person I don't question what poor folk spend their money on, because I know sometimes getting TV really is worth giving up the meat. Sometimes rich people got where they are from paying their own way through college (that's right, mummy and daddy didn't have the bucks, so I waited tables and worked nights in a nursing home),and through working 70 hour weeks. So, what I'm saying is, generalizations about rich people are just as valid as generalizations about poor people.

By Blogger Rootietoot, at 4/09/2007 8:18 AM  


Oh geez if that's what comments were like, I'm glad I decided not to read. The core of that little passage is so clearly about the novelty of the Other. Plus, it sounds like what these folks mean by "off the beaten path" is, like, a one-time 20-minute walk down the road for lunch!

As for unintentionally trampling on cultures that one is visiting, I have a lot of thoughts about this, and have formed something of a methodology for exploring foreign lands and cultures, which I won't bore you with. Obviously the best way to travel to another country is to be invited as a guest of someone who lives there. Lacking that, I guess I can sum up my honest feelings by saying that most Americans should probably stick to the beaten path (or at least the somewhat well-worn path) and drop the pretense of wanting to genuinely experience "exotic lands". I just don't think most Americans have the inclination or the stomach (both figuratively and literally) for the Third World.

Genuinely curious types can of course do a stint volunteering with any number of NGOs doing relief work; to me that's a good simple approach for hardier folks who really want to travel in order to learn something about the world and change themselves (this is sometimes called "voluntourism"). But if you're just looking for a pleasant vacation, I say stick to resorts. These days eco-tourism is exploding, and I think that's a great way to spend hard-earned vacation time. Through eco-tourism, you still get to experience remote geographies, natural beauty, and get maybe a slight sense of local culture. And that's probably enough.


By Blogger Kai, at 4/09/2007 9:58 AM  

Rootie, I'm very much like you. I also live in a middle class neighborhood and don't have a pair of Blahniks. Buuuuut neither of us is a Sofia Coppola Feminist either. I'm not saying that all of them are exactly like that either, but there does seem to be a connection to consumerism, trendiness, and status symbols with these women. It seems to be about how things appear instead of how they actually are. Even their attempts at learning culture are about having a meal with the locals and not much else. Which, by the way, I also do, but to save money! I don't call it learning a new culture. Anyone with a brain knows that tourist areas are overpriced and if you want to save some money, eat at the restaurants the locals do, shop at the markets locals do, etc. (This goes for American tourist areas too.)

Anyway, don't think that every middle class person is a Sofia Coppola Feminist. Alot are like us and have worked our way out of poverty and would never judge someone who is struggling, because we have been there. I don't know, I just get the feeling that some of these women think that struggling is paying their student loans off because daddy made them take some responsibility, or eating ramen noodles the week they overspent at the mall.

By Blogger Donna, at 4/09/2007 11:59 AM  

Kai, that's what I was thinking too. Some of them don't realize there are many ways to be the ugly American. The stereotype is loud, ignorant, and demanding, but the sophisticate can also be ugly. The patronizing American who is quieter, ignorant, and demanding. What they are talking about is expecting an educational experience from people who owe them nothing and probably aren't interested in educating them. I think if you visit a country for a week or less just stick to the tourist routine. The country developed tourism to show you what they want you to see and learn in a short time, they've already made it easy for the week or less tourist. You aren't there long enough to learn the society, politics, or culture; so stop bothering people.

By Blogger Donna, at 4/09/2007 12:10 PM  

Kactus, I loved your tour of Milwaukee! Some of these tourists really do need to see some local color right here in America.

The comment you posted is what gelled it for me, it is patronizing. The whole feel is that they are doing the locals a favor by showing interest and giving them a little business. "Nice food, lovely huge mature black Jamaican woman. Now I can feel good about myself for leaving my hotel momentarily and mixing with the riff raff."

By Blogger Donna, at 4/09/2007 12:18 PM  

" I don't know, I just get the feeling that some of these women think that struggling is paying their student loans off because daddy made them take some responsibility, or eating ramen noodles the week they overspent at the mall. "

Well, that's just people. When I was eating ramen because that's what I could afford on a waitresses income, the person sitting next to me in English Lit was whining because her daddy bought her a 3 yr old car and she wanted a new one. The thing is, we aren't responsible for anyone's behavior but our own. It doesn't affect me if someone buys $500 shoes, because I know where I am in the world, and competition for what's best isn't part of it. I have found that laughing at these people baffles them, and makes me feel good, so...

By Blogger Rootietoot, at 4/09/2007 1:42 PM  

well of course Donna my idea of a whirlwind Milwaukee hood tour was pretty facetious, but it has its grounding in some stuff I've been thinking. Like, why are poor people and their food exciting and exotic when they are in another country, but here in America (yes, I'm being America-centric but only because that's what I know) poor areas are just...depressing and poor and probably full of crime. Are poor folks only exciting when they've got a cool accent and maybe a different religion? And still, then again, there are plenty of places in Milwaukee and other American cities where the predominant language is not English and the food isn't steak and potatoes and the god isn't Jesus. So why aren't the tourists leaving their downtown convention hotels and hanging out in the southside taquerias?

A few years ago my sister visited me in my home. This is a rare occurrence because, of course, I live in the hood and they are solidly non-hood types. And I remember my sister having to ask me for a translation when one of the neighbors greeted her--in English but with a very strong Mississippi/Milwaukee inner-city-influenced accent. And then she called her husband in Hawaii and was exclaiming over the fact that there were actually people wallking around with 40s in paper bags! Just like on tv! I was offended and mortified that she reduced my home to something trivial like that, something she sees on television but never imagined really happened in real life. She doesn't touch below the surface, she doesn't know the complexities of where I have made my home for so many years, the good and the bad and the funny and the ugly. For her it was just a foreign experience.

I certainly don't want to be a stop on some tourist's quest for an authentic experience. I don't want me or my neighborhood to be nothing but a curiousity.

And Kai, I read that link you provided, and yes she was talking about many of the things that I've thought about and noticed. Great article.x

By Blogger kactus, at 4/09/2007 6:13 PM  

Those comments at Pandagon sound like people describing a trip to the zoo. And the tragic thing is that they probably have no idea how condescending they're being.
I know a guy who when he sold out of dotcom world went around telling everyone about his intention to "backpack around Asia". When he got back it turns out that he made a stop-off in Singapore, where he stayed at the Raffles hotel. You know, the one that used to be known as the fanciest hotel in the world? I've been there. Backpacking it ain't.
He had plenty of "look at me interacting with the locals and sampling their exotic folkways" comments, too. Idiot.

About the point that poor people are entitled to spend their money any way they please...that really can't be stated often enough. Amanda's little smack-down was sarcastic, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't nasty intent behind it. I've seen poor people's choices in terms of how they spend money picked apart all the time, by people who have never in their lives had to manage on a really limited budget.There's something startlingly arrogant about criticising someone for how they handle decisions that you yourself will never have to face.

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 4/11/2007 2:28 AM  

In the UK we have middle-class 'gap year' students (between high school and university), who go off on Mummy & daddy's funds, spend a year 'backpacking' or volunteering at some madw-for the-bourgeoisie photogenic voluntary project and then come back boasting they've had an authentic third world experience.

I've actually spent the day touring Amsterdam with Amanda and she is in actuality far from being an 'ugly American' tourist.

But shit, that comment was just twatty and so was the whole thread.

By Blogger Republic of Palau, at 4/11/2007 1:21 PM  

Rootie, I don't care much one way or another how people spend their money. I do care about how they judge poorer people though and the hypocrisy. I also think it's the way they expect everyone to be just like them, think just like them, act just like them, live just like them. You get the idea. That's why it was offensive talking about jaunting about the world like everyone does this when they know damned well that there are few in this country who can actually afford that, but they forgot, because everyone is just like them, does the same things they do, etc. I think most of the time we're only giving them a little tap to say, be more mindful of your audience, have a little sensitivity.

There was more wrong with the post than that, but Kactus does a better job laying that out. When you aren't sensitive to people in your own country, how can you be expected to be sensitive to people in the countries you are visiting? The ones you are expecting a quicky cultural experience by having a meal cooked by the strange and exotic "other". You have to be able to see the other people near you as human before you can see those other people way over there as human as well.

RoP, I don't think Amanda is a horrible person, but damn, that woman does not want to learn! And especially not from people who she sees as inferior, and no she ain't KKK, but she refuses to see that she has white privilege and class privilege and has fun smacking down POC and poorer people while acting like there is nothing wrong with it.

By Blogger Donna, at 4/12/2007 10:10 PM  

Your latest piece about class resonates with me. I've never been any color but pink, but I've been broke, for one reason or another, most of my life--never poor, just no money. When I talk to my friends about being okay with a retirement nut of under 100K they look at me as if I am sweet, but addled. Until 1998 I had not a sou in the bank, nada. I saved over 20% of my gross, on average, over a period of 5 years and bought a car for $11,000 (the closest thing to "new" that I will ever own). In that same period a number of people I know have bought houses for huge sums of money, put a couple of new cars in their driveway every other year, gone on vacations to places like Disney and enrolled their kids in expensive schools and extracurricular activities. Not that I begrudge them doing what they want to with their money, but some of them have negative net worths and huge mortgages as well as having credit cards maxed out at over 20% per annum interest. Who's addled?

Give me being broke over indebtedness every day of my life.

By Blogger democommie, at 4/13/2007 7:15 PM  

Hi Donna,

I'm new to your blog and have been enjoying your writing. One question: how exactly do you define "Sofia Coppola" feminism? Is this shorthand for "privileged, young, white" feminism?

yours truly,
(nelle) Confused in Canada

By Anonymous nelle, at 4/14/2007 4:52 PM  

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