Thursday, 15 November 2007

And now for fluff

quoted someplace, actually by a feminist I respect:

“I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist.”
-Sally Kempton

So uh, what was that again?

You became a feminist as an alternative to coming all over the place with great glee? :)

(oddly, sometimes reading through the sex wars it seems like this is the case for some folks...)

I am tired of "masochist" as a catch-all for "person with problems who doesn't stand up for himself." Masochism is about sex. It's about fun.

I don't mind jokes. I'm not the "humorless" sort of feminist. But I'm tired of this phrase being presented as this shiningly witty one-sentence explanation of the need for feminism.

That one was older than moldy cheese before I was born.

*stamps dumb quote with [OLD MEME, MUST LET DIE]*


subversive_sub said...

Hear hear. I'm actually reading a book right now called "In Defense of Masochism," that deals in part with popular use of "masochist" in non-sexual contexts. ("I worked overtime every night this week; I guess I'm just a masochist.")

Trinity said...

Oh neat. Is it a good book?

echomikeromeo said...

I kept that very quote in my quotes file for a while because it just annoyed me no end, being as it makes no sense.

While I'm making my first comment, I'll just mention that I love this blog. I'm sort-of figuring myself and my sexuality out, and reading what's here has helped me a lot.

Trinity said...

*smile* Glad to be of help echomike. :)

And yes, it IS baffling. It's weird to me that a lot of people find it inspiring. It's taking a descriptive word (about some pretty awesome people, IMO) and saying it's a bad thing to be. But that's inspiringly feminist.

I actually hope the person who I filched it from sees this. I wonder what she'd think if she did.

subversive_sub said...

It's pretty good so far, I'll probably write about it more over at my place once I've digested it a bit.

Lisa Harney said...

Yeah, sadist and masochist carry some seriously negative baggage. That usage denies that anything good or healthy can come from anyone who identifies as either.

verte said...

I enjoyed 'In Defense of Masochism'. I keep meaning to get in touch with the author...

To be honest, proclaiming oneself a feminist in some circumstances is probably more masochistic than proclaiming oneself a masochist!

I'll have the coming all over the place with great glee bit, though, please. :)

Trinity said...

"Yeah, sadist and masochist carry some seriously negative baggage. That usage denies that anything good or healthy can come from anyone who identifies as either."

Yes, and that's... prejudiced nasty words. I don't like it used as a way to explain why feminism is awesome, that you're not like the people I date. (Or me too, really... though I make a rather wussy painslut)

thene said...

This begs a question; how should we describe people who, in a non-sexual, non-BDSM context, willingly subject themselves to pain? If you believe it's inappropriate to call such people masochists, what description should be applied instead?

The above example is an iffy use of the word, but it's not like there aren't situations where such a word is needed - I wouldn't know how to describe people who go in for this sort of thing as anything other than masochists, for instance.

Trinity said...

I'd see that ultramarathon as about endurance testing more than I would as pain for pain's sake. How are you using the word "masochist" there?

thene said...

Simply that those runners are inviting physical pain - the course being expressly designed for pushing limits, being uphill and crossed at the height of summer, etc. Exposure to a high level of pain is clearly an intrinsic part of the process, even if the 'goal' is slightly to one side of that (endurance, pushing limits, winning a medal, whatever).

I read the original Sally Kempton quote as meaning that to not be a feminist was similarly opening oneself to suffering (I think 'suffering' fits closer than 'pain' for the way I read it), and that being a feminist would help her avoid this suffering. I don't know the context so I can't know if she recommends this path to every woman, or if she sees feminism as the only alternative to what she calls masochism...if she did, I'd be a deal more offended than I am with it as it stands.

The fact remains that sometimes people want to describe non-BDSM-related situations where people willingly take pain/suffering for no necessary cause, whether it's endurance feats or living life in a way that's uncomfortable. I guess there was some way of framing such things before the word 'masochism' entered the language, but I don't know what that way was, and I don't see any pressing reason to return to it while the word's clearly getting a lot of use.

Heck, maybe the word creates the situations - Person A sees Person B doing something painful, Person A discerns no purpose to the act (what Person B thinks is a mystery), so Person A associates the pain with the unknown purpose because there's this handy 'masochist' box available for this purpose?

[I am rambling now - my brain is throwing up odd instances of the word, like the one right at the end of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe: 'Arthur began to suspect a masochistic streak in Ford Prefect - the increasing difficulty of the journey seemed to give him a sense of purpose that was otherwise lacking. He strode onwards relentlessly.' Why ditch that kind of use of the word? I'm not seeing how it's offensive to apply it to non-sexual things like that, and it does seem to have its uses.]

Lisa Harney said...

Yes, true, but the way words get used shapes how those words are perceived. If being a sadist or a masochist is almost always presented as something that's negative and awful, then some of that will get transferred to people who identify as sadists or masochists in BDSM, who identify this way because that's what they enjoy.

"Glutton for punishment" gets the same point across as the above quote without stigmatizing the idea of masochism.

alterisego said...

But it stigmatizes the idea of being a glutton for punishment, doesn't it?

I find fault with the Kempton quote because I see masochism as the opposite from how she presents it: for me it's an empowering notion.

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