On my way to work today, I read an essay called Kanye West Is Better at His Job Than I Am at Mine (But I’m Way Better at Being a Fake-Ass Feminist.
This part leaves me breathless::
"I want the fact that I've read, and taken notes, on everything ever published by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Imani Perry, dream hampton and Rebecca Walker to prove to everyone — especially women I'm interested in — that I'm way too thoughtful to be a dickhead. I wanted folks to know I've made my male students reckon with being born potential rapists, that I have defended black girls in need of abortions from rabid pro-lifers at abortion clinics in Mississippi. I wanted women to know I was a man who would always ask, "Are you okay? Are you sure you want to do this?"
I couldn't wait to tell some men –- but only when in the presence of women — how sexism, like racism and that annoying American inclination to cling to innocence, was as present in our blood as oxygen. When asked to prove it, I'd dutifully spit some sorry-sounding mash up of Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West and Mark Anthony Neal. But just like them, I never said that I know I'm sexist, misogynist and typical because I routinely fuck up the lives of women in ways that they can rarely fuck up my life. I never said that I've used black feminism as a convenient shield, a wonderful sleep aid, and a rusted shank to emotionally injure human beings who would do everything to avoid emotionally injuring me."
I had this conversation with Jesse about the article, because he thought it was "AMAZING" and I had kind of dismissed it as "a mess":
Me: I reallly want to know what you think of this essay but I feel like I have sent you too many articles already: http://gawker.com/5935845/kanye-west-is-b
Jesse: this essay is AMAZING. I was not expecting it.
Me: I feel like it is almost good.
Jesse: What reservations do you have?
Me: I think it might be a case of the essay being so personal that how I feel about the PERSON becomes how I feel about the essay. [This is why I hate the book Cunt, by the way!]
Jesse: that actually seems pretty appropriate in this case.
Me: I don't feel convinced that this dude is going to behave differently, but he thinks he is a big hero for admitting his faults. Like when white people write big essays confessing their racism.
Jesse: yeah for sure
Me: I think it is an IMPORTANT essay and it left me sort of breathless, but I wanted more. I wanted him to be specific and take ownership and say what he was going to do differently from now on. Why did you think it was so amazing! I want to know!
Jesse: I think that it is not heroic and there is a risk he thinks it is... but yeah important, exactly. it may have a footprint bigger than what he says if other men read it and go "oh... me too."
Me: Yeah yeah! That's the value I think for sure! People seeing themselves in it.
Jesse: saying what he would do differently would have made it a more complete story about him, and given us more of a chance to decide whether he was improved, but he's not our friend, so it doesn't really matter how he changes. I think.
me: But then what? Yeah that's what I mean I guess about feeling "This guy seems sort of half-assed" and then feeling "This essay is sort of half-assed". It seemed like it was just all of a sudden over?
Jesse: then approaching situations with a greater awareness of their fallibility, which is different for everyone and may or may not have been helped by this essay going into detail. I feel bad judging him too harshly though because the only way we have of knowing he may be half assed is his own admission. for all we know it's like oskar Schindler saying "I could have saved more" and we are all like "probably not?" if he hadn't injected that into the end of the essay, we as readers wouldn't have questioned the heroic quality of the essay, would we?
Me: [I wish I had said "I think the confession is the only heroic part of the essay! But I didn't mentally put that into words until just now]I am trying to figure out how I wish the essay was different but I can't think of a way.I guess I don't have to know a way. I'm glad you like it. I wanted to talk to you about it as soon as I read it.
Jesse: thanks for sending it to me! I think you're right that it's not perfect - I mean it's a self-indulgent MESS - I just do appreciate it.
Me: Can I post the conversation about the essay in my LJ, with a link to the essay?
Jesse: Yeah totally! call it "Jesse mansplains away my feminist objections to this man's feminist essay"