Ashley is @sailor_P00N on Twitter, where she advertises herself as “BIG GAY HATE MACHINE . . . I’m the feminist Rush warned you about.”
She has piercings in her right nostril and the middle of her upper lip. She shaves the sides of her head, she wears dramatic eye makeup, and she is obese. Her appearance over the years, Ashley says, has been “an exciting adventure.” Oh, did I mention that Ashley is obese? Because she mentions that a lot, the same way she mentions her lesbianism a lot. Of course, she’s got a Tumblr blog and her profile describes her as a “Fat femme lesbian feminist.” More than an attitude, this is an ideology:
So-called “fat-positive feminism” is a movement that “addresses how misogyny and sexism intersect with sizism and anti-fat bias.”
This movement has been analyzed by Women’s Studies professors who invoke “neo-Gramscian theories of hegemony” to explain how “power hierarchies” contribute to the oppression of fat women:
Problematizing the existence of a singular, oppressive beauty standard has been a useful corrective to monochromatic understandings of gender inequality and oppression. However, the emphasis on feminine beauty and the body as a site of individual meaning and empowering play is prone to a naive self?determinism that assumes that women act completely voluntarily, thus minimizing corporate domination and the “normalizing power of cultural images” . . . The persistence of domination in the realm of beauty ideals raises serious questions for our two cases of beauty rebellion, as well as for the cultural turn in beauty analysis. Can resistance to beauty ideals rely on therapeutic, individually focused strategies, or must activists also target the institutions and material structures that support hegemonic beauty standards?
Feminist theory justifies Ashley’s view of her obesity as resistance to the “normalizing power” of “hegemonic beauty standards.” For feminists, obesity is not a personal problem, but a political issue in the same way that feminism, by a sort of theoretical alchemy, transforms lesbianism from an individual erotic preference to a revolutionary challenge. The lesbian feminist sees herself as a freedom fighter against heterosexuality, which is condemned as “the ideology of male supremacy.”
Feminism reframes psychological maladjustment (an individual’s inability to fit into normal adult life) as a critique of society. It is not the individual’s failure to adjust that is the problem, according to feminist theory. Rather, society’s definition of “normal” is inherently wrong and oppressive. Feminism insists that the misfit minority are justified in rejecting “socially constructed” expectations — the gender binary imposed by the heterosexual matrix, in Professor Judith Butler’s jargon — because the normal majority are beneficiaries of oppressive privilege exercised through Foucauldian discourses of power.
Are these ideas crazy? Well, I’ve been accused of ableism for using the word “crazy” to describe feminists who make a point of discussing their mental health problems. Feminists hurl labels like “ableism” at their critics in the same way Stalin’s enemies in the 1930s were accused of being “Trotskyist saboteurs.” Feminism is a non-falsifiable theory. Anything and everything can be cited as proof of women’s wrongful oppression by a male-dominated society. The correlation between feminism and mental illness (remember that Shulamith Firestone was a paranoid schizophrenic) therefore is construed by feminists as proof that (a) male supremacy inflicts psychological harm on women, or (b) psychiatric treatment is one of the mechanisms the patriarchy uses to control women, or (c) both. Whatever explanation she offers, no feminist is ever personally responsible for her own problems, because somewhere there is always a male scapegoat who deserves blame.
Therefore, when Ashley isn’t posting alluring selfies on her Tumblr, she’s on her “pop culture criticism” blog Pussy Goes Grrr, talking about being in a mental hospital for bipolar depression, an experience she interpreted through a feminist perspective:
I guess it was silly of me to think I’d be safe from sexism in the nut house. Beyond the fact that there’s an long history of institutional sexism in mental health facilities themselves, there’s a simple reason why I should’ve known better: men would be there. Men don’t stop participating in sexism or perpetuating microaggressions just because you’re all sick.
The most overt example was the man who told me how beautiful and sexy I was every chance he got. . . . Gross as his aggressive come-ons were, he was the easiest to deal with. His explicitness made it easy to report him to the techs. I felt his wide eyes moving over me even though he stopped speaking to me. I watched him move on to a patient who was more receptive to his grossness. . . . I was relieved that he’d stopped talking to me.
There were other men who were more difficult to deal with.
So, a man who was hospitalized for mental illness found Ashley “beautiful and sexy.” Ashley was released from the psychiatric ward last year, and yet heterosexual males continue to pose a threat to her:
it doesn’t f–king matter how “nicely” or “respectfully” you ask a lesbian out on a date if you’re a dude. it doesn’t matter how much you clearly express that you don’t have any expectations. that. doesn’t. f–king. matter.
because there is a social expectation and pressure for women to accept relationships with men. so even if you are being “nice” and “respectful” you are still creating a potentially coercive situation even if you are not intending to. there is an inherent power imbalance and when you disregard a lesbian’s sexuality (because i don’t care how respectful you are about it, you are still DISREGARDING their sexuality for your own feelings) you are disrespecting their identity and boundaries.
please understand how compulsory heterosexuality works. it’s not like a cold that you get over and suddenly you’re totally sure in your lesbianism. there is constant social pressure for women to include men in their sexuality and when you ask a lesbian out on a date you are an active participant in that. that is not respectful. That is not nice. there’s is literally no way to do such a thing respectfully.
Lesbianism is not a problem, heterosexuality is — that’s the bottom line of feminist gender theory. To invoke the title of a Women’s Studies textbook, Feminism Is Queer. Women like Ashley are under “constant social pressure . . . to include men in their sexuality,” and any male who expresses interest in any female is “creating a potentially coercive situation” because of society’s “compulsory heterosexuality.” A man who is attracted to Ashley is attempting to coerce her, so don’t even ask.
Men must never talk to Ashley, because there is “literally no way to do such a thing respectfully.” Men are “participating in sexism” simply by being heterosexual and they are “perpetuating microaggressions” if they talk to women. This kind of anti-male hostility (a characteric paranoia, “Fear and Loathing of the Penis”) provides the emotional basis of feminism, which is why it is impossible to debate a feminist.
Facts and logic can never refute emotions like hate, fear, envy and self-pity. It does no good to cite indicators of widespread opportunity for women (e.g., females are 57% of U.S. college students) nor to point to the examples of happy, successful women in society, because evidence cannot change the feminist’s feelings of victimhood.
“Feminist consciousness is consciousness of victimization . . . to come to see oneself as a victim.”
— Sandra Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (1990)
Her “consciousness” enables the feminist to evade responsibility for the problems in her life. Even to suggest that a woman could be responsible for her own unhappiness is to engage in “victim-blaming,” according to feminists. If a college girl gets so drunk that she doesn’t even remember having sex with a guy she met at a party, and her morning-after remorse leads her to claim she was raped, your skepticism — or even your belief that the accused should be entitled to due process — makes you a “rape denialist,” as feminists at Oberlin College branded Christina Hoff Sommers. (“A rape denialist is someone who denies the prevalence of rape and denies known causes of it,” they explained.) Of course, Dr. Sommers was not actually trying to deny anything. She was pointing out that the actual “prevalence of rape” is far lower than the deliberately exaggerated “1-in-5″ statistic promoted by feminists. Making such distinctions, however, is not possible in feminist rhetoric, because totalitarians don’t debate their critics, they silence them.
Feminists are always right, because shut up.
Whether they speak the crypto-Marxist dialectic of Catharine MacKinnon or the postmodern babble of Judith Butler, feminists always seek to “win” the argument by silencing opposition, so that feminism becomes the dominant ideology by asserting its authority as the only ideology. Thus, nothing is true unless feminists say it is true, and no analysis is valid unless it is a feminist analysis. This feminist Catch-22 has the effect not only of invalidating anything said by men (because they are men, and therefore, shut up) but also invalidates anything said by a woman who does not share “feminist consciousness.” Feminism becomes an echo chamber crowded with angry chattering lunatics because the voices of sanity are systematically excluded.
“Fat femme lesbian feminist” Ashley is an example of this principle of epistemic closure by which feminists separate themselves from explanations that do not conform to their ideology. Consider something she wrote six years ago when she was 19 and in college:
So, if it’s not obvious, I am an insanely neurotic individual. The kind of neurotic and paranoid that makes me believe that the wholly illogical is actually going to happen to me. Like oh, a pregnancy, despite the fact that I’m on birth control and haven’t had intercourse and haven’t had any semen anywhere near me. . . .
So, I could talk more about my deeply internalized fears of pregnancy and motherhood, the paralyzing terror I experience when faced with the idea of being pregnant and the ridiculous amount of neurosis involved with this (like how I used to be afraid I was pregnant before I was ever even in a relationship) but instead I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about how this has created a bit of a shift in my art.
Click to see her bizarre 2009 drawing “Motherhood.” This “insanely neurotic” phobia of pregnancy is a continuing theme of Ashley’s work, as in her 2011 cartoon series:
That last cartoon begins, “Loving sex while simultaneously being neurotically terrified of pregnancy seems like a conflict of interest,” and features Ashley’s “impressively long list of reasons why I don’t want kids,” including, “I hate kids,” “I would be a horrible mother,” “I’m emotionally unstable,” and “I have no maternal instincts.”
Which is to say, she’s a feminist.
Antipathy toward pregnancy and motherhood has been a core value of feminism for decades. In her 1970 book The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone declared flatly, “Pregnancy is barbaric” (p. 180) and described motherhood as “a fundamentally oppressive biological condition” (p. 202). Fat lesbian Ashley has turned her persistent nightmares about pregnancy into artwork, but she is certainly not the only feminist who views her own reproductive anatomy as an existential menace.
“I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding . . . time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. . . . I don’t want a baby. . . . Nothing will make me want a baby. . . . This is why, if my birth control fails, I am totally having an abortion.”
— Amanda Marcotte, March 14, 2014
A frenzied horror toward the biological and natural consequences of human sexuality is abnormal. At least fat lesbian Ashley recognizes that she is “an insanely neurotic individual” for feeling that way, whereas Amanda Marcotte has no such self-awareness.
Are there men who find feminists attractive? Yes, and the scary thing is not all of those men are locked up in mental institutions.
P.S.: Ashley wants you to sign up for a contest to win a free vibrator, otherwise known as the “Hitachi Feminist Boyfriend.”