Apr 04 2014

Spleenvent Friday: Feminism-as-happiness-destroyer Edition

From the LA Times:

A panel about ladies convened by the right-wing Heritage Foundation avers that

“feminism is bad because women are not as happy as they used to be.”

Discuss.

[I’ll check in later from the car repair waiting room, pity me. But before I go, let me just say that of course women aren’t happy. We've never been happy. Oblivious, yes. Ignorant, sure. But happy? No. Because patriarchy.

Also. The author of the article says “Was happiness the goal? I always thought it was equality.” I am duty bound as a spinster aunt to suggest that the goal was never equality, either, but rather liberation from dudely oppression.

Equality is both unattainable and undesirable.

Carry on!]

Apr 03 2014

The Persistent Sexist Stereotypes in Mass Media Department

From an article appearing in the Chicago Tribune about the latest shooting at Fort Hood:

“When confronted by a female military police officer, he shot himself with his semi-automatic weapon in the parking lot.”

This is an example of sexist bias in reporting. It reveals a couple of things.

Thing one: “male” is still the default human, no matter what you may have been told by “feminists” who insist that patriarchy is dead. The chromosomal makeup of the police officer is of absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the story, and indeed would not have been mentioned at all had she been a dude. But in 2014 “police officer” still means “male.” Whenever there’s a breach in the patriarchal continuum and a woman gets caught doing a dude-job that doesn’t involve children or being pretty, it’s perceived as weird.

Thing two: the Tribune writer has included the “female” detail to add a cheap frisson of extra pathos to a story that needs no extra pathos. In our sexist culture, women continue to be perceived as weaker, frailer, damsel-in-distressier, and incapable-ier. So how wild is it that oh my gosh a woman confronted this terrifying mass murderer?

fthoodPretty much any mainstream newspaper article you read contains a little blob of sexism.

As an aside, a weird photo accompanying this article depicts a woman clinging to the foot of a soldier sitting on the hood of a car. Photography lies, so it’s anyone’s guess what was really goin’ on there, but objectively, as an illustration accompanying an article on a mass shooting, the composition and body language suggest an affirming reinforcement of the patriarchal warrior narrative: anguished damsel in submissive pose literally kissing the foot of the detached and superior dudely hero on high.*

On the subject of the Fort Hood shooting itself: if it’s this terrible when bits of America’s wars escape their foreign boundaries and resurface back home in these isolated bursts, how unspeakable must it be “over there” where the bursts are nonstop?

UPDATE: The New York Times gets it right:

He got out of the vehicle, walked into another building and opened fire again, and then engaged with a military police officer before shooting himself.

He put his hands up, General Milley said, then reached under his jacket. The officer pulled out her weapon, and then Specialist Lopez put his weapon to his head and fired. General Milley described the officer’s actions as “clearly heroic,” adding: “She did her job. She did exactly what we would expect of U.S. Army military police.”

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* We know the soldier is a dude from the caption, which identifies him as the woman’s husband.

Photo nicked from (Deborah Cannon, McClatchy-Tribune /April 2, 2014)
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Mar 12 2014

Spleenvent Wednesday: Web Snippets Edition

A few stories about women from my inbox this morning.

• “The most powerful woman in Hollywood,” Disney exec Ann Sweeney, is planning to ditch her post when her contract’s up. She wants to direct TV shows. It’s so nice that a rich, successful white lady can get liberated from the prison of running Disney to follow her dream. Feminism’s awesome! Meanwhile, other Hollywood ladies are nervous that Sweeney will leave “a large, woman-sized hole in Hollywood’s top executive ranks.” As Beauty2K-approved actor Cate Blanchett lamented at the Oscars, Hollywood’s pink-faced dude cabal regards women as a “niche audience.” Feminism fail! [cite]

• Irish orphanage abuse whistleblower-and-champion Christine Buckley has died at 69. Buckley was a survivor of Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin, where inmates were tortured by deranged nuns as a matter of routine. In her efforts to expose the abuse she met with denials and excuses at every turn, but she wasn’t havin’ it. Quoth Seán Ryan, the government dude who oversaw the investigation: “At great personal cost, she brought to public attention terrible wrongs done to children with the authority of the State. She was an indefatigable champion of those who were abused as children and disbelieved as adults. The nation owes her an enormous debt of gratitude.”

A propos of our recent discussion on the preferred demeanor of the oppressed, Ryan also mentioned that Buckley “was a pleasure to meet and to deal with.”

• A 20-year-old woman has lost half her body weight to attract the attention of “absolute dream boyfriend” Justin Bieber. He still hasn’t tweeted her, though. Relatedly, it is unclear why anybody would want to attract the attention of that snotty little asshole Bieber, but the woman defends him as “misunderstood.” Mang, you just wanna hand that gal a copy of the SCUM Manifesto or something. [cite]

• And finally, our dick-chop headline of the week: “Woman Cuts Lover’s Penis Off With Scissors, Kills Him With Hammer After He Raped Her.” We know this story already; no further details are required. [cite]

Mar 10 2014

International Women’s Day: 24 hours of the “Unique Female Perspective”

celebratewomenAnother International Women’s Day come and gone. How time flies. It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since Western interests last “celebrated” women by putting photos of smiling ladies in colorful turbans on their websites.

I spent International Women’s Day, not celebrating women, but freaking out because my horse Stella had suddenly come down with a mysteriously swollen face. It was as though her head had been inflated with a bicycle pump. Fortunately the vet arrived just before I had to resort to shoving foot-long pieces of garden hose up her snoot to keep the airways open. He shot her full of steroids, charged me with the duty of checking on her every fifteen minutes for the remainder of the day, handed me a bill for $42,678,573.98, and biffed off in the hybrid vetmobile my hypochondriac herd bought for him last year. As he left I waved, “Happy International Women’s Day!” and he said, “Huh?”

stella_swollen_faceLater that same day my hay guy delivered a truckload of coastal square bales. He said what he always says, which is, “You women. You sure love a barn full of hay.” Apparently, hay awareness is weird and gender-specific; men are too manly to give a crap if their horses starve to death because they ran out of hay in the middle of winter. “Happy International Women’s Day!” I said. “Every day is women’s day,” the hay guy informed me.

But I digress.

Every year when International Women’s Day rolls around, I cast a jaundiced eye upon the patronizing Mother’s Day-ish tone of the thing. Yay women! for 24 hours. Inspirational quotations! More pictures of women generally smiling! Vague enjoinders to “celebrate” those pitiful long-suffering women. But what is International Women’s Day, anyway? Who invented it? Who runs it? Who makes money off it?

I did some rudimentary Googling. It turns out (if Wikipedia is to be believed) that International Women’s Day started out as a Marxist holiday. In 1911 German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin organized the first IWD at a socialist working women’s conference in Copenhagen. Leon Trotsky credited a 1917 Women’s Day demonstration in St Petersburg with sparking the Russian revolution. IWD was naturally adopted as an official holiday in Soviet Russia. In 1977, the UN started an annual International Women’s Day dealio dedicated to enbiggening women’s interests and opportunities, which has been wildly successful, as you can see from (among other things) the illegal forced closings of abortion clinics in Texas.

Nowadays in the West, International Women’s Day is more marketing than Marxism. Let the jaundiced eyerolls begin.

The website claiming ownership of International Women’s Day is run by something called Aurora Ventures. “Our name ‘Aurora’ comes from Aurora the Goddess of the Dawn.” So there’s an eyeroll right off the bat.

Aurora Ventures say they promote “economic advancement of women through entrepreneurial and career development.” What they mean is that they are lady-head-hunters working for ginormous corporations (BP, McDonald’s, Cisco, GE, Microsoft) interested in padding their workforce with talent they can get for 75 cents on the dollar.

Here is Aurora Ventures’ inspirational message:

So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

In other words: fill the internet with meaningless platitudes !! And don’t forget to celebrate our Supporting Partners, BP and Scotiabank !!

I clicked the “Events” tab at Aurora Ventures’ IWD website. I was expecting to give my jaundice a good buffing, and the website did not disappoint. There were 262 woman-celebrating events scheduled in the US. Since anybody was welcome to fabricate and post an event on the site, the specimens ran the gamut, from a “True Beauty Fashion Show,” to a live Twitter Q&A featuring those notable expert women Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, to poetry readings (yawn), to “30% off luxury lifestyle products made by artisan groups that empower women.”

Naturally there were several appeals from marketing firms looking to leverage woman-celebrating into some free focus group action: “Tell us, what is your one wish for Womenkind?”

Eyeroll the second.

Womenkind, it turns out, is a marketing communications company “built soundly on the the authentic desires, opinions, and wisdom of women” because “91% of women say marketers don’t understand them” and there’s money to be made from tapping that vast virgin asset. Another clueless firm pretended simply to want to “increase awareness of Women’s Day” apparently as an end in itself, by inviting participants to freely volunteer information about “what women want.” Eyeroll, eyeroll, eyeroll.

An event called “WOMEN IN SUPPLY CHAIN” — no shit — won my Best of IWD Award. It turned out to be a thing at a Miami hotel dedicated to women who have learned “how to run a great supply chain” using their “uniquely female perspective.”

Women! 51% of the population, yet so unique! So mysterious! So unfathomable! So weird about hay! No normal marketing company has ever cracked the code!

Eyeroll x infinity.

stoptellingwomentosmileAnyway, here, via Perry Street Palace, is my contribution to International Women’s Day. You know how a spinster aunt loves an activist street art thing. Stop Telling Women to Smile.

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“Celebrating Women” photo nicked from African Development Fund’s ad on the International Women’s Day website.

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Mar 07 2014

UterusWatch 2014: Texas godbangers’ brilliant campaign to jam women up

Enough about everybody’s hurt feelings; here’s an actual, ongoing crisis affecting millions of American women who don’t give a shit about feminism’s boring Twitter feuds: the medieval State of Texas has unequivocally seized ownership of all Texan uteruses.

I allude to the redoubtable HB2 of 2013, the telegenic filibustering of which bill catapulted state senator Wendy Davis to cosmic prominence last summer (this week she officially became the Democrat candidate for governor). Because you are no doubt obsessed with Texas politics, you don’t need me to remind you that while Davis’s efforts managed to block HB2, it was later passed anyway, in special session by spiteful misogynists.

The bill is very crappy. What it does, among other woman-hating things, is require either clinics to spend millions to build ambulatory surgical centers, or clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. This, the spiteful misogynists asserted, lying through their teeth, was to improve the “safety” of the already perfectly safe legal abortion.*

Well, cash-strapped reproductive health care clinics in poor communities are obviously not going to be able to build surgical centers, and local hospitals operated by conservative godbags are not going to invite abortion providers to join their misogynist rosters, so HB2 was really about obstructing women’s access to legal abortions. Which is itself really about punishing women.

You know all this already, of course. I bring it up because this week more clinics, this time in McAllen and Beaumont, were forced to close down as a result of this crappy misogynist legislation. In all, all but 6 of Texas’ 43 remaining clinics will bite the dust by September. The closings were nasty to contemplate last summer, but now that it’s actually happening, it just makes you want to pull your own head off. The anguish of the clinic directors is heart-breaking.

“We’ve been well aware that Texas has been against us and on us for many, many years,” said Marva Sadler, a regional director at Whole Woman’s. “But I did not think I would see a day where they would have put up such barriers that now that we’re actually closing clinics, and they’re essentially taking away the right to fair and safe comprehensive health care that all women, not only in the state of Texas, deserve to have. […] I’m grieving for the women. I know the day after we close our clinic, they’ll call and that line is not going to have anyone on the other end to answer their questions. Where are they going to go? What are they going to do?”

Indeed. Women from those impoverished Texas communities now face evenmore absurd, burdensome, and potentially life-threatening hassles before they can exercise their legal right to an abortion. They have reproductive health experts like GOP state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg to thank. Laubenberg, one of the sponsors of HB2, really, truly believed, until just last year, that rape kits are what emergency room doctors use for abortions, “where a woman can get cleaned out.”

Laubenberg is a woman, incidentally.

Mang, sometimes you just want take your Mega-Clue1000 ray gun, set it to 11, and zap these oblivious right-wing blisters right in the lobe.

____________________

*Hey, asshole Texas teabag legislators: the risk of death from abortion is only one-tenth the risk of death from childbirth. [Guttmacher Institute]

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Mar 06 2014

Internet feminism hurt my feelings, but then I got up offa that thang

After a decade of web-based patriarchy blaming, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: it is pretty inadvisable to make arguments, oppressionally speaking, that do not take into account the viewpoints of every possible marginalized group, particularly those groups of which one is not personally a member and the specialized interests of which one therefore has no direct knowledge. Of.

Of course there’s no way around that, so welcome to the personal attacks, rushes to judgment, tone-policing, out-of-context misquotations, sanctimonious castigations, and full-on misconstrutions of Internet Feminism. They will give you fits.

The phenomenon to which I allude — lately all the white ladies are talking about it — is attributable not to the usual anti-feminist dudebros, but to the Mean Girls of Feminism Eating Their Own. This describes every internet feminist at one time or another. It’s been done to me and I’ve certainly done it myself. It’s kind of horrible, on accounta it’s painful, but then again, no pain no gain, right?

The lively, free, and sarcastic exchange of ideas is a beloved cornerstone of the internet. Opposing viewpoints exposing legitimate beefs within the cutthroat world of Internet Feminism should always be expressed colorfully, and with wisecracks. Still, it can be argued that one ought to distinguish between justifiable anger and knee-jerk abuse; cannibalism not a literary style. It should not be confused with argumentation.

But let’s back up.

It all starts with the hurt feelings. If you are, as I am, merely a human internet feminist, rather than an omniscient deity of infinite scope and virtue, chances are the nuances and niceties of the Wide, Wild World of Oppression occasionally escape you, and from time to time you unwittingly commit, out of either naiveté or sloppiness, a privilege-based stupidity foul. Hell, I’m probably doing it right now! As I mentioned, failure to grasp every possible sociological subtlety from the point of view of every imaginable oppressed party can — and will — result in dispiriting beatdowns. Your intent is irrelevant. Such is internet feminism culture in its current form.

And what a curious form it is. With its demands that members conform to strict regulations, subject themselves to incessant policing, and submit to discipline and humiliation, much of internet feminism culture looks a lot like — lard helpis — BDSM. This is disturbing but unsurprising. Given that no revolutionary political movement can exist outside of the very oppressive hegemony it seeks to destroy, a system of domination and submission precisely mirroring that of broader society necessarily obtains within internet feminism as well. Spawned by oppression culture, “feminist infighting” is, at its best, justifiable anger run slightly amok. At its worst it’s a sadistic mob indulging in an abuse fetish, slaking the bloodlust of the hive.

Many a spinster aunt finds that this hive stuff can paralyze the lobe, ravage the viscera, or chunk’er into a feminism-funk. For example, its prevalence is why — for the sake of my own delicate stomach lining — I keep disappearing on hiatus. It’s fairly depressing when your own tribe pillories you for unintended privilege infractions, or worse, when they inform you you’re not even in the tribe. In many respects it’s even worse than the “I hope you die in a rape fire” dude-threats. There’s a sense of betrayal and violation engendered by these smackdowns, and it takes a toll. You make some dumbass privilegey gaffe and suddenly you’re Public FemEnemy No. 1; women you had hoped were united with you against patriarchal tyranny turn out to have their own problems (indeed, you are one of those problems), and are now gnawing on your rotting carcass.

I know, right? White tears! But wait, before you kick me out of feminism again, I’m not suggesting that so-called “white feminists” — a designation that often appears as shorthand for “racist transphobic egomaniacal yuppie white bitches who think it’s all about them” — get a free pass. Au contraire; the whole point of all this Internetian discourse is to smash oppression culture, so it’s in everybody’s interest to use their hurt feelings as a privilege clue and quit being part of the problem. Writers of privilege who give a shit about enbiggening their worldview (those who don’t give a shit should not be considered feminists) have a responsibility to examine with an open mind criticism — even sarcastic criticism — dispensed by the differently-privileged. Yet even among those who assiduously self-monitor, obliviousness will occur, so a good old-fashioned privilege-check can definitely be all to the good. To wit (anecdote alert):

Recently I received an illuminating nudge that was strangely free of hostile scolding. A reader calmly pointed out that in a recent post — about ultra-privileged Jerry Seinfeld’s diversity tone-deafness — I had omitted to mention that, as a Jew, Seinfeld, though fabulously wealthy, is also a member of an oppressed minority. Such an intersectional detail should of course be pertinent when discussing privilege in the US. The reader described my omission as belonging to the “erasing Jewishness” genre, which turns out to be a Thing about the existence of which I had been previously oblivious.

Well, it was so weird not to be chastised, pilloried, and kicked out of feminism over this lack of insight, I practically plotzed (but stopped myself before committing a cultural appropriation). Weirdlier, even though the nudge had been civil, I was no less chagrined than if it had been hostile. This chagrin was my cue to implement my standing policy, which states: whenever a concerned reader says “watch out, you’re erasing someone’s Jewishness” I should ask myself, “hey, what is ‘erasing Jewishness’, and did I in fact do it?” Whereupon I stop, Google, and grok. Once I’ve acquired a grasp of the concept, and determine that the answer is “yes,” I cop to it. Jewishness acknowledged; worldview enbiggened; patriarchy blaming lumbers forth into its uncertain future.

Over the years, the spinster weltanschauung has been similarly enbiggened with regard to countless other issues large and small, including racism, trans politics, fat acceptance, disability, mental illness, vaginismus, blow jobs, motherhood, and discrimination against the ginger-haired. The thing is, the enbiggening took place regardless of the tone of the call-out. In the old days I would get pissy and make churlish retorts (the archive is full of’em), but it gradually dawned on me that ceding power to my bruised ego merely sealed my fate as an unenlightened chump. The key, I discovered much later, is not to get huffy and defensive, or to sit back and passively demand to be educated by the aggrieved party, but to get up offa that thang. Sure, when they tell you your head is up your ass you’re gonna sulk for a minute because you’re human, but then you’re gonna get up offa that thang, because you’re a feminist.

Remember, folks: your hurt feelings are the result of privilege. They’re giving you the opportunity to go out and entruthen yourself. Don’t waste it.

Thanks, Internet!

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One of my long-standing beefs is with dudes who love to lecture me that I will never win them over to the feminist cause as long as I keep copping a tude. My response is twofold. 1) fuck you dude, and 2) the moral indefensibility of sexism exists independently of my or anybody else’s demeanor; oppression isn’t any less wrong if the oppressed aren’t ass-kissers. And besides, winning dudes over has never been, to my mind, the objective of feminism. Appeasement will never liberate women from patriarchal oppression. What’s that old bumper sticker? “Well-behaved women seldom make history”?

Privilege-checking and a deep understanding of intersectionality are vital to modern feminism. In fact, they are prerequisites to the ever-elusive solidarity. I strenuously aver that no movement can evolve without a strong influx of ideology from vocal radicals. So maybe yelling “I hate you” at feminists from different backgrounds isn’t the most expedient of all possible solidaritous exercises, but until all the assorted privilege-weilding gets addressed, I don’t see how anyone can reasonably expect members of marginalized groups to “lighten up.” Is there a fine line between schooling and scorching? Sure, but I’ll say it again: either you’re against oppression or you’re not. A civil tone is more pleasant, but (excepting abuse for abuse’s sake; see “mob fetish,” above) not necessarily more effective.

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You know, not everyone who reads a feminist blog is interested in enbiggening her worldview. Apparently there exists a sizable cohort of consumers of Internet Feminism who are content to complain that disturbing shit like this

80's freak of nature Christie Brinkley displays her sexy pits on the cover of a magazine dedicated to patriarchal hegemony because she's way old but maintains fuckability.

80′s freak of nature Christie Brinkley displays her sexy pits on the cover of a magazine dedicated to patriarchal hegemony because she’s way old but maintains fuckability.

reinforces impossible femininity standards, and then call it a day.

Not to give the impression that casting a jaundiced eye upon damaging femininity propaganda is without value. I sure hope it isn’t, anyway, or I’ve wasted a shitload of time over the past 10 years. Jaundiced-eye-casting is the one of the spécialités de la maison here at Spinster HQ.

Fortunately, for them that wants it, feminism offers more than the opportunity to rip on Photoshopped pix of sexagenarian Christie Brinkley posing as a sexy tween, more than the “toxic Twitter wars.” Here’s hoping that sincere seekers of truth will choose to stay and fight on through the distracting twitterclysms of hate, and that cooler heads will continue to calmly nudge toward enlightenment those who thirst for knowledge, compassion, liberation, and a decent margarita.

Seriously, I’m thirsty. Where’s the bar?

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Feb 27 2014

Spleenvent Thursday: Arizona guv vetoes godbag bill

I know, I know, I’m phoning it in, but, in the interest of keeping up a blaming head of steam, the Spleenvents are going to be a semi-regular feature until such time as I whip my blaming schedule into something resembling a shape. I’ll probably have a real post up by this afternoon, but until then, please kvetch at will.

I will begin by linking to a NY Times op-ed column on Arizona guv Jan Brewer’s veto of that asshole godbanger anti-gay hate bill masquerading as “religious freedom.” If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, the column begins

Arizona. Wow. How often do you find yourself saying, “Go, entrenched interests of the business community!” Yet here we are.

and ends (spoiler alert!)

[I]n the United States, victory really arrives on the glorious day when the people with money decide discrimination is bad for business.

Thanks, Arizona.

Wouldn’t it be a riot if people with money decided that the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women were bad for business?

Feb 23 2014

Spleenvent Sunday: double mastectomy art edition

Blamer Soleil Noir posted the following announcement in the comments, but I didn’t want it to get buried there, so here it is just in time for Spleenvent Sunday. You know I can’t resist boostering for a fellow double-masto!

Long time lurker here. No doubt what I’m about to do contravenes one of Twisty’s rules for posting, but I’m going to do it anyway. A good artist-friend here in France is putting together an exhibition of photos that detail her tangle with breast cancer, from diagnosis through to her double mastectomy. Now, because women’s bodies are only of worth as porntastic objects of the male gaze, she has been told that if she wants to exhibit these wonderful, intimate, brutal, touching photos of herself, she needs to find ‘an international angle’. So she has decided to ask the internets for short written pieces about how people around the world react to the photos. The texts will accompany the pictures… She explains it better than I can on her website. We would both really appreciate it if some of you articulate grade-A blamers could contribute your personal reactions to one of her photos. I apologize for taking up your time on something that has nothing to do with this particular post, and would like to thank anyone who cares to participate in advance. Her website can be found here: http://msnourdin.wix.com/msnourdin

There’s one photo in that group (I don’t have permission to reproduce it here; it’s the one with the white bandage) that reminds me of this one time when they performed this goddam horrific biopsy on me, where, prior to slicing me open, they injected me with radioactive dye SIX TIMES, RIGHT IN THE NIP and it hurt really fucking bad and I was crying and begging them to let my sister come in with me but they refused. It would be hard to imagine coming up with a more painful, degrading, and sadistic procedure than that biopsy.

Well, vent your spleen and carry on with your happy day!

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Photo: the author’s 2005 torture-biopsy

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Feb 23 2014

Planet Earth: what a wacky place to be gay

Here’s what happened:

The other evening after tacos my sidekick Stingray and I were lounging around slurping down an extra bottle of wine. Whereupon, as is inevitable with that level of saturation, two developments transpired.

1. I Spotified Madonna and started busting a move
2. LGBT politics became the topic of conversation

Stingray mentioned a fun fact that, because I am feckless nowadays and don’t read as much button-pushing Internet news as I should, I hadn’t purposely considered. She said, “you know how the noses of all right-thinking progressives in the US are out of joint about the highly publicized anti-gay legislation in Russia?” and I said, “yeah,” and she said, “well, surprisingly few of these disjointed probosci have so much as batted a jaundiced eye at the eerily similar laws on the books in many American states.”

“Wait a second,” I said, shaking my groove thang pretty prodigiously. “What eerily similar laws? I mean, obviously marriage equality is still pending here and there, and privatized anti-gay bigotry is still quite the hobby in many dickheaded circles, but what about Lawrence v Texas? Didn’t the Supremes rule back in 2003 that discrimination based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional?”

O, how soon we feckless news-ignorers forget. Lawrence did strike down the sodomy law in Texas, and by extension, all the other US sodomy laws, as unconstitutional. However, discrimination, bigotry, and statutory marginalization all remain totally legal. For example, the very sodomy law “struck down” by Lawrence, though ostensibly rendered unenforceable by the court decision, remains pretty glaringly un-repealed by the great state of Texas. My medieval home state also bans same-sex marriage and, with the exception of a few metropolitan areas, is perfectly content to permit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Oh, and good luck getting a hate crime prosecuted here. And don’t even get me started on the abortion thing, which, since a shit-ton of women are gay, is also a gay rights issue.

Anyway, Stingray, it turned out, had been cribbing from an article in Think Progress or possibly the Washington Post — recollection was murky — both of which claim that 8 (or 9, depending) states have, regarding sex ed in schools, Russia-esque “gay propaganda” statutes on the books.

I wish I were more surprised, but it’s not like gay panic — along with rattlesnake roundups and Cowboy Churches — isn’t a wildly popular pastime in rural locales like Cottonmouth County. Why shouldn’t the hate-virus spread, via infected evangelical rats, to conservative hell-holes the world over?

According to Mother Jones, American hatavangelicals have been infiltrating Russian “Sanctity of Motherhood” pro-birth-rate rallies to Pump. It. Up. Because when you allow homos to run loose through the countryside without beating them up, all the straight people instantly stop reproducing. And everyone knows gay people never have kids. The population will plummet. Gays will singlehandedly destroy the motherland.

On the second morning of the [Moscow] conference, the only American in attendance, a tall, collected man, stepped up for his speech. Larry Jacobs, vice president of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an umbrella organization for the US religious right’s heavy hitters, told the audience that American evangelicals had a 40-year track record of “defending life and family” and they hoped to be “true allies” in Russia’s traditional values crusade.

US evangelicals and Russian birth-rate-berserkers: different alphabet, same belligerent jingoes. I mean, for crying out loud, the Arizona ledge has just passed (although the gov has yet to sign) a bill “allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples in the name of religious freedom.” Because god forbid you should sell a hamburger to a couple of queers. You’ll catch the gay cooties and your woman will turn into a slutty Grace Adler and stop reproducing.

These deluded godbangers are pretty wack. Sometimes I feel like I’m just about the only somewhat civilized atheist yokel in the whole Southwest. It’s lonesome out here on my limb.

A propos of the globalization of hateriffic American family values, here’s an entertaining game we like to call “Spot The Russian Law.” Of the 3 following actual statutes, one is Russian and the others are Texan and Arizonian. If you can tell which is which I’ll eat a Cool Whip taco.

Law 1

No district shall include in its course of study instruction which:
1. Promotes a homosexual life-style.
2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.
3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.

Law 2

Prohibits distribution of information that is aimed at:
1. The formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes
2. Attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations
3. Misconceptions of the social equivalence between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations
4. Enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations

Law 3

The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must:
1. Emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage as the expected standard in terms of public health and the most effective ways to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies
2. State that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code

Answer key:
Number 1 — Arizona. Number 2 — Russia. Number 3 —Texas. Note that in its item #2, the Texas statute references the illegal but still unrepealed law characterizing “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense. The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Feb 19 2014

Rape culture: marriage’s evil(er) twin

The other day I posted a YouTube link to a short film wherein a hapless dude gets a beatdown in a “matriarchal” society. It was a sort of regenderization of a sexual assault set in a bizarro-world where women are the aggressors. I interpreted the tone of the director as something like, “OK, dudes, now do you see how it feels to live in a rape culture?”

Blamer Serial Cereal commented:

Can’t y the x, Twist. Can’t penguin a giraffe. Bad math. Otherwise, nice. Makes me want to throw together a crack team handycam indie short.

Along with an admirable disregard for the convention of subjects in sentences, Serial Cereal raises an excellent point that I failed to articulate in my original post. You can’t simply reverse the roles, or “Y the X”, because there is not a one-to-one, apples-to-apples correspondence between the actors in the primary dudes-vs-dudessess reference scenario. Dudesses and dudes are, in our culture, more like apples and roundworms.

Today’s thesis, brought to you by Captain Obvious, is this: rape culture, not unlike marriage culture, is a pretty heavily gendered culture.

I know, a-doi, right? Well, I was skimming through this scholarly article, Gender and the Culture of Heterosexual Marriage by Karyn Loscocco and Susan Walzer, when my lobe farted out the idea that the dynamic the authors describe, that of detrimental imbalances that obtain in het marriage as a result of internalized gender differentiation, is precisely the same dynamic that produces rape culture.

I am aware that this lobe fart appears to more or less equate marriage and rapiage. Without getting into a whole big thang with you happily married ladies, I’ll just say this for now: of course they’re not the same, but marriage and rape culture are both points on the same continuum of patriarchal oppression. As cultural institutions go, they are of equally ginormous prominence, with marriage as the conspicuously “official” narrative of blessed motherhood and human harmony, and rape culture the furtive, prurient, underground counter-narrative of violent peen-power. They’re equally reinforced by the same patriarchal mores that disproportionately privilege dudes and damage women, having evolved out of the same primordial gender-predicated social soup. They’re two sides of the same coin, where the coin is a wooden nickel.

Here’s a pithy little paragraph from the article:

Societies go to great lengths to create gender distinctions that yield inequality, and then use the differences they have created to explain the inequality (Lorber, 1995). Major articulations of gender construction theory emphasize the pivotal role that defining women and men as opposites plays in the reproduction of women as ‘‘less than’’ men (Connell, 1995; Risman, 1998, 2004; West & Zimmerman, 1987).[p.3]

This contingency not only forms the substrate for marital discord, it’s the whole Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women in a douche bag, i.e., the key concept what permits rapers to glorify, celebrate, and commit rape.

Gender — by which I mean the construct of gender difference (and the concomitant oppression to which it inexorably leads) — is so deeply embedded, so heavily reinforced, and so seamlessly integrated in every aspect of human social structure — from the personal to the interpersonal to the institutional* — that it essentially operates invisibly, and congratulations if you made it through this sentence alive.

What this means is that, nice effort though the film is, you probably noticed there’s something about it that just doesn’t compute. Our gendered brains cannot suspend their disbelief. As viewers, we can’t help but approach the film as members of, and indeed participants (albeit unwilling ones) in, the Patriarchal Matrix: a gender-differentiated, misogynist culture. As in, our only reference point is a culture that is based on grossly exaggerated and artificial gender norms, which norms are internalized to the extent that they not only feel normal, but inevitable.

Thus, even though we grasp the director’s intent, the film’s shirtless female jogger reads, not as “free-wheelin’ member of the master class,” but as “tople$$” or perhaps “degraded”; we can’t buy that she’s not stimulating every dude’s ogle gland. The dude character seems extra pathetic because the mean women around him have so unjustly usurped his position as oppressor. You really can’t Y the X. The concepts don’t translate between the genders.

That’s why regenderization isn’t, to my mind, as useful a persuade-the-oppressor tool as it is an illuminate-the-oppressed tool. As I’ve maintained all along, feminism isn’t so much about using clever arguments to persuade recalcitrant dudes to view women as human. It’s about fomenting a revolution that liberates us from male oppression, screw those dudes’ fucking irrelevant opinions concerning our humanity.

As for marriage culture, I leave you with another pithy quotation from the article:

‘Every woman I know is mad at her husband, just mad mad mad at everything. Every time I bring it up to a woman like me she just goes bananas’ [p.4]

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* I cribbed this point from Loscocco and Walzer.
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