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Jun 10 2005

The Pie Fight Chronicles, Part II

Part II: The Hinge of Fate | Read Part I

I rarely read DailyKos; its fratboy zeitgeist is too circle-jerky for my taste, and the commenters’ obsession with ratings, as well as their deep conviction that they and the Republicans are somehow worlds apart, is more than a little sad. And anyway, if anything crucial to the fate of humanity ever shows up on it, somebody or other links to it eventually.

Such as when Karl-Thomas Musselman of Burnt Orange Report alerted me to the P-FAB (Pie Fight Ad Brouhaha) that had transpired at DailyKos over the weekend.

Even though DKos has never exactly been a port in the storm for women’s issues (viz. this) and even though I have been aware for some time that nothing can expose a liberal male poseur’s inner douchebag like a woman who dares to reject the demeaning roles to which male culture subjects her, I was nevertheless completely disgusted to read everybody’s favorite liberal Markos Moulitsas’ attack on those of his loyal readers who object to the incursion, into their progressive oasis, of advertising showing two women smearing each other with food. The official position of DailyKos is that the “women’s studies set” can go fuck themselves; Kos invites any of his readers who are “humorless” enough to feel betrayed by his views equating feminism with neocon sanctimony to “feel free to be offended.” He smugly observes that the controversy has made the ad the most successful in the site’s history. Take that, arrogant feminists!

“Me,” he writes, “I’ll focus on the important shit.”

Apparently his own readers find this “shit” so unimportant that they posted over 1000 comments on the topic. Not surprisingly, a preponderance of these comments reveals a flabbergasting ignorance of both basic grammar and elemental feminist principle. One enterprising Kos diarist used the controversy as an excuse to post a dozen cheesecake photos. Sensational!

Aside from the usual attempts to deprecate and downplay any issue that threatens the patriarchal ethos, these supposedly liberal posters are chillingly unable to distinguish between adolescent male fantasy and women’s sexuality. A small sample of the progressive ideals of the cream of America’s liberal male crop, condensed, paraphrased (and, needless to say, spell-corrected) for the sake of brevity:

• These pie-fight women “willingly” faked a lesbian pie-pile because it “empowers” them.

• The ad is “humor,” so fuck you if you can’t take a joke.

• The ad is a portrayal of “women’s sexuality.”

• Political women don’t want women to have any sexuality at all.

• The Iraq war is what we should really be talking about.

• You hysterical “women’s studies types” should pick your battles.

• My lesbian roommate really liked the ad, so your views are obviously wrong.

• Objecting to a demeaning portrayal of women in a liberal community is “hysterical, shrill extremism.”

Women are degraded by the constant portrayal of our species as two-dimensional sexbots existing at the pleasure of the alpha-tool ruling class; it’s as simple as that. How anyone could look at an image like this pie-fight ad, or at any of a million others just like it hanging from every branch, and not see the antithesis of enlightenment, seems to me to be a symptom of deep psychosis. But the one thing you cannot fuck with in this world is a man’s right to misogyny; it transcends party lines, borders, religions. As Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch, women have no idea how much men hate them.

Addendum: Thanks to Deja Pseu for the links to the following posts. It’s great that prominent women bloggers are calling out the mighty Kos, but it’s also heartbreaking that they chide him so gently, evidently clinging to the hope that he really couldn’t have meant or understood what he was saying.

Echidne of the Snakes
Pandagon

23 comments

1 ping

  1. deja pseu

    I mean, can you imagine a “liberal” male blogger reacting the same way to being told that some found an ad on their website to be racist? It’s very fashionable among us liberals to make fun of the right’s macho posturing, but some of the boys on our side are guilty of it too.

    I was married (shortly and many years ago) to one of those “liberal” male types who recognized even the subtlest forms of racism, but was willfully blind to sexism.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your blog immensely and have been sending the link to my like-minded friends.

  2. Andrea

    I just found you a few days ago via Yankee Transplant. Love reading you.

    I thought exactly the same thing on reading Daily Kos’s take on this–another guy who is all for feminism, but then when push comes to shove what he really cares about is his right to a cold beer and two naked blond girls mud-wrestling on TV.

    It makes me sick.

  3. Tony Patti

    I have to wonder, dearest Twisty, when I stop to think of my own knee-jerk sexism, if there will ever come a day when men will be able to see the obvious sexism they enjoy every day when we are so completely blinded by our powerful and obsessive adolescent fantasies. It’s a culture of obliviousness, and it’s fueled by blurring the distinctions between fantasy and reality, or even refusing to believe that fantasy is not reality at all. And why do the fantasies even exist at all? The key must be somewhere in the male’s inability to grasp female sexuality, and to instead assume that female sexuality is a drag queen parody of the male desire to dominate and submit.

    You can buy into this brain-dead sexism without hatred, I must insist. Obliviousness is just as deadly as hatred, and twice as patronizing. The oblivious driver who refuses to see you crossing the street is far more likely to kill you than the one who hates you but fears punishment. The contemptible assumption that men are fully capable of understanding exactly how women should feel about casual depictions of sexual degradations is the primary problem with things like TV shows of pie-smearing pinups. Men think that they would like to be a beautiful woman being smeared with pie because it arouses them, and then are not only amazed that any woman could beg to differ, but are actually offended that any woman could challenge their assumptions that something they think they would like is actually, on the face of it, under any possible examination except for arousal, demeaning.

    So you constantly get between me and my arousal, casual and unconscious though it may be. My only redemption is that I can acknowledge it when it’s pointed out to me, since I have started to understand the basic humanity of what you say and separate it ever so slightly from my constant desire to be aroused. But most men, liberal or whatever, when they are first faced with the full horror of their own desires deflated to their very face, react with shock and snarls of defensive fury. To be a man and to be forced from your constant state of seeking arousal is a castrating and undignified feeling. Like admitting you were wrong or something.

    It’s not an unimportant thing to me, to try to understand why and how my own sexism works on everything I see. I’m not going to give up on my desire for arousal – it feels too good. I wouldn’t want to give it up any more than I would want to give up food or air or love. It must have a place, perhaps a private place, where it can work its strange magic. I need it, and I want it to be my crutch and aid. But what I don’t want is for my adolescent fantasies to be smeared all over the front page of everyone’s reality, showing the world just how easily I can be fooled into arousal by the simplest of monkey-see-monkey-do type tricks. Because that’s really as pathetic and stupid as it really is. It’s not really about the women. It’s really about the men refusing to understand the women because they can mentally pull on a cheap pair of ripped up fishnets and a push-up bra and think, “If I was a woman I’d like being demeaned, too! Hubba hubba!”

  4. a nut

    Umm, Tony: huh?

  5. Tony Patti

    What?

  6. Twisty

    I confess, Tony, that this is one of your more cryptic posts. Are you blaming me, confessing to me, or rebelling against me? Are you saying that men want to be pie-women? Are you saying that although you don’t plan to stop having boners, it nevertheless disgusts you? It’s like a chapter from “Brideshead Revisited”!

  7. egalia

    Thanks for this great post. I was already mad as hell, how much fucking worse can it get?

  8. becky

    …these supposedly liberal posters are chillingly unable to distinguish between adolescent male fantasy and women’s sexuality.

    Amen.

    Great Post!

  9. Tony Patti

    Let me break it down, then. I know I tend to write obliquely, but I’m doing quick first drafts, not finely-tuned masterpieces.

    The overall theme is agreement with the great insight you present about how the Daily Kos fellows are unable to distinguish between adolescent male fantasy and women’s sexuality. I tie this into my belief that men don’t hate women as much as they are oblivious to their degradation.

    I then move on to guess that it might be because men don’t understand women’s sexuality, because they are, as you said, unable to distinguish between their own fantasies and the reality of being a women. I wonder if the desires that men project onto women that they use to explain away their assumptions isn’t like putting themselves into a costume like a drag queen, and the results that I thought this plainly implied are the results anyone can see for themselves if they go to a drag show; sad and laughable and cliched, but nowhere near feminist.

    I go on to say that it’s brain dead, but it’s possible to buy into because men are oblivious. I discount hatred as a motive, a motive that you refer to with a Germaine Greer quote in the blog entry. I think it’s more of a patronizing obliviousness than hatred. I point out that just because men are aroused by pie-smearing women, they think that women should be also, because of what I said above about men’s perceptions of women’s sexuality being projections of their own desires, not of women’s. Because men think make-up is pretty, they have to smear on too much of it to walk in a women’s shoes and see with her eyes. They never see how demeaning it is because they think that’s all part of being in drag, which is the limited view they have of being a women. Is this any clearer paraphrased like this?

    Men are amazed, then, from this drag queen perspective that they think is a women’s perspective, that women are not as aroused by pie-smearing pin ups as they are, since they are still thinking with a man’s brain. Smearing a bunch of make up on a man is not sufficient to make him think like a woman.

    He is still aroused by cheesecake either because he digs humiliation or because, like many men, he is always aroused by women who are posturing in ways that signal sexual availability.

    So even though he thinks he’s looking at this ad with the eyes of a woman, he can’t because he’s still aroused by it, and it’s likely that a woman has an entirely different set of reactions to it, especially if she’s at all sensitive to humiliation and finds sexual posturing calculated to stimulate male arousal demeaning for all the reasons you are so good at providing and explaining.

    But the man who thinks he knows what women think is angered by any other reaction except arousal, because he think’s that how a woman should see it, too.

    I realize what makes my post complicated is that once I used the drag queen metaphor to signal how men think women will react and what responses they will have that everything else would follow. When I introduced the aspect of male arousal, I was showing that even though you can put a left-wing pundit in drag, he’s still aroused by sexual material that might not arouse a woman. I should have made it more clear that the left wing pundit is in metaphorical drag only because he thinks he’s thinking like a woman, not because he’s aroused by being in drag, like the drag queens one sees lurking around the convention center In Bologna looking for tricks to turn.

    Then I stuck a paragraph in about how I’m often fooled, confused and confounded by arousal myself. I further note that when a woman doesn’t react to something that arouses a man with arousal it can be intimidating for a man to have his assumptions challenged, because his idea of being a woman is as superficial as the paint on a drag queen’s face.

    I end it all up with an attempt to justify my need to be aroused and to enjoy it. I say that it’s kind of embarassing how simple it is to trick me – or any man, really – into arousal, and make it clearer that this attitude is not about the women’s place, but in what a man thinks he would like if he were in a women’s place.

    I hope this helps. If not, well, I guess I’m incomprehensible!

  10. deja pseu

    Here’s the thing, Tony: I think some men are also blinded by their sense of *entitlement*. A lot of men, including Liberals, feel entitled to materials that arouse them (or even just make them laugh), even when it’s pointed out to them that they’re degrading to women. People can feel very threatened when you question their sense of entitlement, and I think that also informs a lot of the adolescent reactions over at Kos.

  11. Twisty

    But Tony! Our paths diverge at your first sentence. I don’t see how men can be oblivious to women’s degradation. We’ve been pointing it out to them left and right, in simple words they can understand, since time immemorial. Either men are all deaf and functionally retarded–which contingency I think we can dismiss, given the appalling mounds of male geniuses piled up on every street corner–or they have a more sinister reason for ignoring our reasoned arguments. Germaine Greer thinks the reason is hatred, and I agree with her. One has only to open any magazine (or read DKos!) to see the evidence of this contempt.

    How do I know it’s contempt? I’m not a man, after all. Well, I know because it feels like contempt. It has the result of making me feel hated. And it’s not just me. Women say this all the time. But men respond, no, no, your perceptions are wrong, we don’t hate you, we just don’t get you, you unfathomable thing. To which I say: what’s the diff? If it walks like a duck…

    Deja Pseu is correct about the ruling class’ delusion of entitlement. Not only is it responsible for the dust-up at the popular blog, but it’s the whole driving force behind America’s obsession with young blonde pussy, with Cheap Crap From China, with oil, with war.

    Entitlement is a symptom of contempt.

  12. Lil

    Twisty, I experienced street harassment constantly during teens through 30s, and continue to experience occassionally in my 40s. This inspired me to try to understand this “fun” that men have objectifying women. I still fail to completely understand it, or really BELEIVE it, hard to fathom. But I did become skilled over the years at detecting and combatting objectification when it comes at me.

    A few weeks ago, some guy apparently feeling manly while loading a truck with other manly guys said “Hi” as I walked by in my heels. That was all. His “hi” was full of mockery, and as a quite skilled sexual harassment survivor, I stopped and said, “Are you being friendly? That ‘hi’ doesn’t sound friendly.” The walking example of genius admitted that no, he was being “funny.” I asked why it was funny. He said, “Who said it was funny?” “You just did” “Who did?” Back and forth like that, till I walked off, in awe of the male mind.

    What I thought of as I walked off was Abu Graib. What is the connection? How “funny” it was to the soldiers to degrade the captives. When the man saw me, the heels, the female body, was referrent to the degradation he and his couple billions of friends act out toward women every night, sometimes during the day. The women’s underwear — of course it’s degrading! The degradation is part of the definition of women’s sexuality, women’s bodies, and therefore a woman walking by, her female body, her female sexuality accentuated by the heels.

    The nightly rapes, the exploitation, the tortures, the exposures, the coersions — it is all FUN, and you see pictures of it at every newstand, in fact you can’t even find a newstand that doesn’t openly display pictures of sexual exploitation of females.

    The “hi” was funny because the exploitation is funny. He just needed a feminine body to walk by to remind him of the humor, the fun. The objectification.

    Another point: What do we think of when we think of Abu Graib? The woman torturer, and the men tortured. We know the woman’s face, we know her name. But the vast numbers of men soldiers who initiated and carried out the sexual degradation and torture of the captives — we generally don’t know their names and faces. They are not famous.

    Isn’t it ironic how the media managed to make a woman the icon of the torture, which men did, and men do to women every day, torture and degradation the media also makes almost invisible and unnamable. Like Kos would say, what men do to women certainly isn’t “important” the way the torture of male prisoners is important. It is just too fun and funny to be important.

  13. Tony Patti

    How can men be oblivious to women’s degradation? It’s so simple. They tell themselves, I wouldn’t mind it if some women did it to me, so what’s your problem.

    I’m not excusing, I’m explaining. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s because of this other bad thought habit. Not to mention outright denial, which is a fucking epidemic in this country.

    Then there is anger and hate, especially in sexually frustrated adolescent males who can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, to bring it all back to the post that inspired me. But that doesn’t interest me as much as the more subtle blends of sexism at my end of the feminist scale. Anger and hate are pretty cut and dried.

    I’ve got nothing to defend, since I’m just guessing and trying to show some insights. I’m outraged too, and at the same time, trying to understand how I fit in. There’s such a huge gulf between would-be rapists delighting in heckling women who walk down the street and guys like me, of course.

    It’s that point where guys like me start to unconsciously act and react like guys like him that interest me, since self-examination is the only hope of anyone who wishes to improve.

  14. Chris

    I think the comparison between the civil rights movement and the feminist movement is very interesting, because of the contrasts between the movements that ultimately allowed people (especially white men) to internalize at least some aspects of the civil rights movement’s message (or to learn how to pay lip service to it, at least), while those same (white) men have been almost completely incapable of internalizing much of the feminist movement’s message. The differences ultimately relate to the way we reason about social and ethical situations, and the way that discourse facilitates and can potentially change that reasoning.

    First, let me say that I don’t think it’s because men hate women. Granted, I agree wholeheartedly when Greer says, “A few women hate all women all of the time, some men hate some women all of the time, and all men hate some women some of the time,” though I’m note quite sure whether I fall into category 2 or category 3. It’s not a question of whether men hate women. The problem with the explanation is that during the civil rights movement (and probably even today, and that includes some white male liberal bloggers), white men hated black people too. Still, something caused us to hear a message that we had resisted hearing for millenia. What might that have been?

    I can’t say for sure what, exactly, did the trick, but I can say what it wasn’t. It wasn’t rational discourse. People rarely make social and ethical judgements based on rational decision-making processes. Instead, they make them based on intuitive, affect-laden processes, and the only way that discourse of any kind can affect those intuitive processes is by changing our representations of what we’re judging. Thus, changin the way people judged racism and its targets required changing the way people represented racism and its targets. My impression is that this occurred primarily through the speech of highly skilled and charismatic civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King. He in particular was very good at casting the plight of African Americans in image-rich and highly personal prose, thus painting a highly compelling and personally-relevant picture of that plight.

    It doesn’t appear to me that, over the last 50 or so years, the feminist movement has had anyone who has been able to do that. At least, there hasn’t been anyone who has been visible and produced the same sort of representation-changing, and thus intuition-changing speech. Thus, while most of us are quite good at recognizing instances of the most overt racism, we still can’t tell sexism from a cream pie. Until men’s representations start changing, they’ll continue to judge sexism and women with intuitions derived from degradement-justifying representations.

  15. Echidne of the snakes

    I’m always gentle in my chiding. The idea is to do the “good cop – bad cop” routine, and I’m the good cop!!! Because I got there first, maybe?

  16. Twisty

    I believe, Echidne, that it’s because you are more thoughtful and judicious than I am, dropping as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. That’s why you are of the snakes, whereas I am only of the occasional toad!

  17. Morgaine Swann

    “alpha-tard ruling class” – that’s BRILLIANT! Can I use it?

  18. Twisty

    Chris, thanks for your thoughtful comment, to which I unfortunately lack the time to respond in kind. Essentially, the hate I’m talking about is not, perhaps, practiced consciously, nor is it some sort of simmering, roiling, seething thing. I don’t believe men are even aware of it. It’s attatched to molecules in the air, maybe. Which is why the most charismatic woman in the history of charisma would be unable to convince fans of the patriarchy that their culture is violently oppressive. MLK was, from the point of view of white men, at least a man. But men, as a class, don’t listen to women. I know this because, for years, whenever I’ve said to a man “porn makes me feel bad,” the response is always some variant of “there’s something wrong with you.”

    A propos of all this and the Kos business, I found referenced at DemiOrator an analysis of a Kos discussion, which finds that 51% of comments made by men got responses, while only 28% of comments made by women did. Interesting.

  19. Samantha

    This is my first time here and I’m very impressed with the caliber of thought and excellent writing. Just wanted you to know.

  20. Steve Pick

    A lot of fascinating comments in this thread. It occurs to me that Chris’s ideas comparing racism to sexism (and, by extension in my mind, anyway, to homophobia) deserve a lot more consideration.

    I think the difference, aside from Twisty’s excellent point that Martin Luther King was indeed a man, not a woman, is not necessarily in the message or the messenger. It’s in the complicated questions of sexual desire. We all learned over the last fifty years that sex is a good thing, not a bad thing. We learned that repressing sexual desire is a horrible thing. We learned that trying to conform to somebody else’s views of sexuality just plain and simply fucks us up.

    So, sexual desire, whether it’s genetic or imprinted at an early age, is a powerful thing. I believe it’s fluid over a lifetime, but I don’t believe I can consciously control it. People can’t help what they’re attracted to. And, people can’t very easily change the things which trigger sexual impulses.

    Now, we come to the intersection of sexual desire and gender relations. I don’t understand the pie fight thing any more than I understand sado-masochism, but I do understand that some people have it encoded within them to respond to this thing sexually. If you are a person who finds excitng the idea of two women wrestling each other covered in cream, you’re gonna be confused when somebody points out that this is demeaning to the majority of women. If you’re a person who gets turned on by pornography, you’re gonna be confused when confronted by accusations that porn is bad.

    In general, I think it’s possible to come a long way in the understanding between men and women. But, when conflict arises between sexual openness being good and sexual oppression being bad, it’s easy to understand (not to accept) the standard male response. As long as we’re dealing with the human race, and the inability to simply start raising a new generation outside the current culture, the best we can hope for is incremental improvements in understanding where things have gone wrong. This doesn’t mean it’s pointless to blame the patriarchy. It does mean it’s going to take a lot longer to get to the point where we have to blame something else.

  21. Twisty

    1. Thank-you, Samantha. I appreciate it.

    2. Steve, I’m sorry, but no, it is not easy to understand the standard male response. Basing a whole system of oppression on what boils down to being horny is just too fucked up to understand.

    Nor do I believe that when a bunch of guys in an internet forum tell a woman to shut the fuck up and enjoy the pie, that they are expressing “confusion.”

  22. Steve Pick

    I’m not trying to explain the entire system of oppression. I’m only trying to explain at least part of the male reaction to being told that the action which is being found arousing just happens to sometimes (hell, much of the time, just for the sake of argument) be part of the oppression. You’ve seen me try to argue with guys who don’t believe patriarchy exists. When I’ve told them they, just as I, benefit from its existence whether we like it or not, they refuse to believe it. Most guys, at least the ones in my social circles, want to think they’re working on a level playing field. It ain’t pretty when you find out you’re complicit in the power game just by virtue of living in our society.

    As for the guys on daily Kos, a site I long ago stopped visiting for a lot of reasons, I agree with your point, though I’ll mention that you yourself have cited a large range of responses. But, basically, the urge to tell women to shut the fuck up comes from the self-destructive urge to attempt some form of realpolitick, wherein individual rights are divided up as if they don’t mean anything beyond the possibility of a small victory.

  23. hecate

    Steve raises an immportant issue. I wonder if these things arouse men because of something organic in their nature, or have they been trained by advertisers and pornographers to associate fake boobs and fake pie fights with arousal?

    There is a long overdue conversation about porn that needs to happen and soon.

    The fact that feminists aren’t bringing it up constantly is a gift that men just do not appreciate.

    Kos and crew don’t get that we are already stfu every day that we don’t hunt down rapists and chop off their penis. We are suppressing a vigilante urge when it comes to stalking and poisoning mean who beat their wives. And when it comes to child molesters, well, they should just spend time imaginging what will happen when we stop suppressing our urges. Our patience with the political ignorance of real life issues of health care and justice and the environment and corporate corruption has completely and totally run out.

    Meanwhile boys like Kos would be quite sad to find their little party power bases just a little more rickety when there’s no one around to buy their book or go to their conference or take their picture except their little boy posse. I know he and his posse are certainly not getting any more of MY money. Women are everywhere and we are tired of just being dissed by smart asses like Kos.

    Women’s studies set indeed.

  1. Alas, a Blog

    Daily Kos Kerfuzzle

    I don’t think the word “sexist” makes liberal guys quite as crazy as the word “racist” makes white people. But sometimes it comes close. Case in point: Some readers (mostly female,

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