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Nov 25 2006

What I forgot to include in yesterday’s essay would fill a book

femininity.jpg
Woman demonstrates loyalty to patriarchal overlords through apparent voluntary compliance with Feminine Directive (Absurd Footwear Division). Hotel San Jose, Austin TX, November 11, 2006.

[The first paragraph may express aspects of a non-sequitur unless you have read yesterday's essay on torture and feminization]

If the force required to feminize a fully-realized human man is considered torture by the Red Cross, then why isn’t the force required to feminize a fully-realized human girl also recognized as torture?

Femininity is a humanitarian emergency, but like most humanitarian emergencies, it is invisible.

Invisible, that is, to all but the insignificant nobodies it oppresses and the few agitators who make noise but are usually denounced as crackpots.

Femininity, if you’ll permit a brief review, is a humanitarian emergency because it enforces practices and behaviors (boob jobs, FGM, ‘beauty’ expenditures, the ‘veil’, the flirty head-tilt, pornaliciousness, fashion, compulsory pregnancy, marriage, et al) that are dangerous, painful, pink, or otherwise destructive; that are rooted in female subordination; that exist only to benefit Dude Nation; and that are overwhelmingly represented as inviolable cultural traditions in blind compliance with which comfort, contentment, and personal fulfillment are supposedly found and from which deviation is discouraged by ingenious punishments ranging from diminished social influence, to unemployability, to ridicule, to imprisonment, to death.

Femininity, in other words, is a bad scene.

I’m gonna write a novel where a human woman — let’s call her Jill — is abducted from her bungalow by aliens who, to her great surprise, don’t try to exploit her or probe her or make her clean toilets or insist that she reproduce even if it will bankrupt or kill her. The aliens are surprised, in turn, that Jill does not grasp how a race of sentient beings can exist that is not based on ‘civilization’, i.e. dominance and submission.

Feeling sorry for her, the aliens give her invisible technology that would never be developed on her own planet because of its patriarchy-jamming properties, and send her home. The technology is contained in a pair of really comfortable shoes from which emanates a force field that strips earthlings of their ability to discern physical and cultural differences between members of their own species. The hilarious result is that nobody knows who’s a dude and who’s a chick, or who’s hot and who’s not, or who’s a boss and who’s a slave, revealing once and for all that the pretty concept of ‘inner beauty’ is and always has been a joke. Thusly deprived of the means to properly administer fear and loathing, everybody has a nervous breakdown. They also all starve to death, since nobody can tell the impoverished Mexican immigrant farm laborers from the rich honkys.

The aliens, who had not anticipated that their comfortable force field shoes would cause the total annihilation of the human species, feel kind of bad about all this, especially since their favorites, the atheists, also snuff it, but they cheer up when it turns out that rocks eventually inherit the earth. This ending represents a departure of sorts for me; usually I have bacteria inherit the earth.

The aliens, incidentally, don’t reproduce at all; they are weird, glittery organic minerals exuded from some sort of dripping stalactite in a cave; that’s why they relate to the rocks. Also, at one point in the novel, the President of the United States wakes up from a 3-day-drunk/revival and attempts to have Jesus blow up the alien ship, but before he can stumble over to the Presidential God Hotline, the aliens turn him into a stone crucifix that weeps tears of blood, which Jill hangs on the wall in the amputee ward at the VA, where it briefly enjoys popularity among religious pilgrims as a miracle and among survivors of foreign wars as a cause for celebration.

48 comments

1 ping

  1. Pinko Punko

    Perhaps these a-holes could suffer incredibly ironic demises?

  2. Edith

    Twisty, the new Joanna Russ. I always knew it.

  3. ::Wendy::

    Is there any way that a person can be confident that thier taste in easthetic design, for example shoe-shape, is more profoundly based on a liking for particular shapes, curves, angles, than on a patriarchially determined prefernce?

    Example from my life, My boot collection includes a pair of classic 10 hole Dr. Martens. Comfortable, functional and aesthetically pleasing (to me). It also includes a pair of purple winkle-pickers. These are also comfortable (1 3/4 inch heal) and I find the colour and shape pleasing. If I wear my Docs men I’ve never spoken to before, continue to not speak to me. If I wear my purpe pickers, men I’ve never spoken to before actually tell me I’m wearing a fabulous pair of boots. To me, they are both fabulous, just one pair appeals to the patriarchy. Is making choices irrespective of percieved patriarchal approval realistically possible, is acknowledging that some choices will alighn witrh patriarchal approval and some will not an OK perspective?

    Naturally this troubles me because I suspect myself of implicitly condoning and seeking approval of the patriarchy… I don’t believe that I explicitly do this, which is a good start :-)

  4. ::Wendy::

    the way I double-check myself is by asking – if this item was worn by a man would it still have the same (or near similar) aesthetic appeal

  5. slashy

    “the way I double-check myself is by asking – if this item was worn by a man would it still have the same (or near similar) aesthetic appeal”

    This works for my entire shoe collection, doc martins, mountain climbers, be-ribboned heels and all, but that could be because when I picture a male human in my shoes I picture the pretty gothling boys of my neighbourhood who would, and frequently do, look great in my shoes.

    Possibly I use this as an excuse to get away with ridiculous abuses of platform boots.

  6. Buttercup

    Twisty, it’ll be an instant classic. Can’t wait to read it!

  7. Buttercup

    Wendy, that’s similar to the litmus test I apply to ugly cars. (i.e. hummers.) Would people still buy this and consider it smashing if it cost 12,000.00 US? I’m thinking the answer is no.
    Also, not explicitly condoning the patriarchy is a mild start, you should try explicitly shunning the tools and devices and works and see how that feels for a while. Let us know.

    Slashy, I hope that someday you’ll see fit to post pictures of the gothling boys in your be-ribboned heels.

  8. diana prince

    ah, Doc Martins. I rue the day when I had to throw mine out because they’d been utterly worn out after something like 8 years. Mine were that cool cherry red colour.

  9. Burrow Klown

    I can’t wait to read it!

  10. CarolS

    Isn’t the plural of “honky” spelled “honkies”?

    Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  11. Twisty

    “Isn’t the plural of “honky” spelled “honkies”?”

    No.

  12. norbizness

    Well, maybe they’ll save Kilgore Trout.

  13. thebewilderness

    That whole panties on the head thing has been bothering me since the media started including it in every story as though it were equal to being shackled in stress positions. I think it serves a different purpose for those who practice the ritual humiliation of captives and those who report it. It seems to me that since the weak understanding of what constitutes ritual uncleanness extreme enough to be deprived of heaven among the torturers is the reason for the panties on the head. The inclusion of it in every media report seems to serve another purpose entirely. Partly to demonstrate that the rules against torture are so silly that they include putting womens underwear on the captives head. Partly to demonstrate that the victims are subhuman enough to be bothered by panties on their head while their arms and back are being strained beyond endurance. Plus the requirement that any story in the US media must include some allusion to naughty bits if it is to be read by a public held in contempt by publishers.
    I will not trouble you with the reasons I think the sociopaths who do the torturing use womens underdrawers.

  14. marsha

    Somedays when I despair, my misfit self in a world of patriarchy lovin asshats,I read your blog and know that I AM right. YEAH TWISTY!!!! Love the blog design too. Looks amazing.

  15. Ron Sullivan

    Twisty, the new Joanna Russ.

    Damn, somebody else I miss. Anybody know what ever?

    I’m thinking this could be a boon for the condors, at least temporarily. After that, the rocks. Silicate types especially.

  16. thebewilderness

    This is a bit off topic, except that it is the topic. The falsies voting is open.

    http://survey.prwatch.org/public/survey.php?name=falsies2006

  17. Hattie

    You will tear my Keens off my cold dead feet.

  18. scratchy888

    Ah! Shoeses. I have such tiny feet that I hardly know what to do with them. Yet I now have delicate new shoes, purchases for a wedding. I do luxuriate in the power of their purchase — somehow a lucky shot because I managed to make all the calculations correctly from a mere image and an internet shoe conversion chart. High arches, narrow width and tiny overall in length have all been catered to. Had I made an error in the instance of this overseas purchase, it would have cost me prettily.

  19. deciduousfruit

    For an excellent take on the high heel shoe issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwoSb-iLwFw or search ‘Judith Butler’ and go to the second clip listed. Its in French but still très fabu!

    of course, I wear annoyingly uncomfortable shoes on alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays so my laugh at this clip is bittersweet.

  20. mearl

    I’m almost 6 feet tall and have size 12 feet, so I’ve pretty much been left out of the whole rabid shoe-frenzy thing that a lot of women get caught up in. I don’t need to be any taller, and most shoes don’t come in my size. I’ve been forced to wear guy’s shoes for most of my life. This is somewhat related to the size restriction (according to retailers, women with big feet don’t exist: we really are dashing from tree to tree in the vast, frozen north, eluding photographic capture), but is also due in part to my own aesthetic taste. I’ve noticed that since I haven’t been inundated from the age of 10 with heels, I can’t put up with wearing even “kitten” heels for more than half an hour. The idea of pinching my feet into stilts that aren’t even vaguely shaped like a foot and lurching around in them day in and day out, priding myself on how I “learned to walk” in them, sounds like the epitome of self-torture. A few weeks ago while tromping around for 3 hours taking pictures in the downtown area of our city with a friend, I mentioned that my feet were getting sore and I couldn’t imagine how hers felt. She was wearing jeans with SJP-style heels. She insisted that they were “actually pretty comfortable.” In amused disbelief I choked out, “Relative to what? Disembowelment?” I realised that “comfortable” IS relative; in her case it’s relative to spike-heeled, odd-angled, leg-blood-supply-blocking knee-high boots. And/or disembowelment. I’m sure none of this is news to anyone here who has thought about it. However, it reminded me again how women are trained into hurting ourselves (while looking like unbalanced morons in the process).

    If they really wanted to torture male prisoners, they could make them attend a prison club night in 4-inch heels and dance for 6 hours nonstop. Who needs underwear on the head?

  21. deciduousfruit

    Am I missing something or is there no listed Twisty email address? I ask because I wanted to point something out without any particular commentary to a post. Anyway, crazy “news” broken by ET tonight, http://www.nakednews.com/ That’s right, naked ladies stripping on camera while “reporting” to us the daily dish. I’m not really baffled so much as mentally numbed by the inanity of this. Of course, if I had any sense I wouldn’t even bother turning on the tv anymore without locating my special patriarchy block-o-matic viewing specs.

  22. marsha

    Oh yeah, and I stopped wearing heels years ago after looking at my grandma’s horribly corned up, bent in, deformed by modern foot binding feet. She only wore heels for years and years and years and she was left gross and in pain. I’ve also had another friend of mine, who has been a stripper and dominatrix, experience degeneration of her tendons, ankle bones, and knees from those extreme shoes.

  23. Pinko Punko

    I think it serves a different purpose for those who practice the ritual humiliation of captives and those who report it.

    TBW- this is what I waas dancing around but couldn’t put my finger on it.

  24. Pinko Punko

    100% super dittoes, TBW- very very astute.

  25. ::Wendy::

    Slashy friends are onto something. as is Eddie Izzard with his ‘equal clothing rights’. Wikipedia have a detailed article on it – but it is portrayed as ‘fetishist’ rather than an expression of easthetic and comofort. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-dressing

  26. jc.

    Just about the time my daughter started daycare in the middle 80s the enlightened (pro socialism, anti imperialist U.S., anti video, “feminists”, “socially progressive, i.e.: compulsory daycare because it was so much healthier than parents and proper social training for children, et al.)women teachers of my age seemed to suddenly, en masse, throw off their uniform of palestine shawls, Same(lapp) boots and unisex overalls and start shaving their legs, wearing more make up and “sexy” shoes.
    My daughters daycare meals became dominated by women role models discussing dieting, beauty tips and house purchase.
    These same women educators ensured that only fat free milk, light margarine and light cheese were served so that their “needs”, if perhaps not the childrens dietal needs, were served.
    I never had much respect for most of these persons earlier leftish views and convictions, which I felt were merely shallow and fashionable (today most of them are swedish versions of republicans). I still have never forgiven them for their continual uncaring brainwashing for femininity by their continual irresponsible egotistical rolemodeling in an environment that was supposed to have children in the center.
    We all were approaching 40 and i suppose these women feared that they were losing “it”. The fact that they “voluntarily” began to wear high heels, a fetish slaveshoe of torture and impracticality that had been out of fashion for at least 10 years is still the symbol, in my memory, of their total mindless herd capitulation and the forerunner of the total mindless consumer or be consumed world they live in today.
    Jesus they didn´t even know how to walk in them.
    But my daughter does.
    And yes some of the responsibility is mine.

  27. The Scarlet Pervygirl

    Wendy: I don’t think that whether you’re wearing something you find enjoyable or capitulating to the patriarchy is something anyone but you can say, since only you know your own mind.

    Either way, you’ve already lost. You genuinely like the winkle-pickers; if you stop wearing them, then patriarchy has won, because it has caused you to change your behavior–to limit what you love–in reaction to it, manipulating you into diminishing your own life. But if you continue to wear the shoes, maybe you ARE sending the message that misogynists can dress women–all women–however they please. The problem with patriarchy is the same problem with many kinds of evil: it takes what you love and makes it ugly.

    I have found no satisfactory paradigm with which to address this issue other than a mix of caprice, escapism, self-doubt, and antidepressants.

    With any object I’m thinking about attaching to my body, I ask myself three questions: Is this object a signalement of sexbotulism? Does this object trade motility, comfort, or bodily health for attractiveness? And, What would Jack Sparrow do in this instance?

    My personal vote is for continuing to wear them: the style isn’t (as far as I know) overtly linked with pornaliciousness; they’re comfortable and useful; and Jack Sparrow would totally dig them. Also, they are scary.

  28. emma goldman

    Oh, high heels, how I loathe thee. I never wore really high or spike heels–they interfered with motility in a major way–and I haven’t worn even lowish heels in a very long time. I DO love me some cowboy boots, however. I discovered them awhile ago, and found that they are stylish (to me), comfortable, and useful for protecting my feet from various elements (wet, cold). And my line of work–baking and pastry–doesn’t allow for anything except really sensible shoes. Were I to leave this line of work and reenter the “corporate” world, I still would rely on flats and my boots.

    which is a long-winded way of saying that you’re exactly right, Twisty, particularly about the practices femininity enforces.

  29. hedonistic

    Much as I love to shoeblog, today I wish Twisty would blog about The Sweater Lady on the Staples commercials. I just saw the commercial for the first time this morning and the persona screamed FETISH to me louder than all my 200 pr of high heeled shoes combined.

    Twisty’s cultural references resonate strongly with my own personal experiences (crispy bean casseroles, china patterns, I could continue) so the Sweater Lady MUST resonate, yes? Unless they don’t have Sweater Ladies in Texas. Dunno.

    I think Holiday Sweater Ladies are more supportive of the Patriarchy, and consequently more frightening, than women wearing politically incorrect shoes. Down with the Holiday Sweater Ladies I tell you!

  30. Vibrating Liz

    Jill for President!

  31. Pony

    Liz! So good to see you. I was looking over Finn’s site for information last week. How are you doing?

  32. thebewilderness

    Dear SPG,
    I nominate sexbotulism for word of the day honors.

  33. little cabbage

    Longtime reader, first time poster…

    I’ve actually always had a little bit of a different theory about the women’s-underwear torture thing, but coupled with yesterday’s post, I’ve realized that the underwear thing is basically the perfect torture method for PR purposes.

    For patriarchally-charged men who think that women’s underwear is Teh Dirty, the dynamic is much like you describe, O Twisty One: the ultimate humiliation, etc etc. These men are also more likely to approve of torture, so it’s great for them.

    But for women and for those of us who don’t consider women’s underwear particularly egregious, “underwear torture” takes on a very different role. Because underwear on the head, to us, is so mild, so not horrible, it actually suggests to the reader that the rest of the torture wasn’t all that bad either. I mean, if it was really that bad, they’d have talked all about the horrendous methods of causing pain that are available to people who care to do so, but underwear on the head? That’s nothing! The people who considered that a form of torture must not have known how to really torture these guys!

    Which, of course, isn’t true. But the inclusion of the underwear-ing suggests that there wasn’t actually enough “real” torture to talk about, so they had to include the “merely” uncomfortable/humiliating stuff.

    Quite a coup for the torturers and their journo aides, indeed.

    Just my take on things, of course.

  34. hedonistic

    Funny, how what started out as (I believe) a post about the torture of feminization, this is turning ONCE MORE into a thread about feminist vs. nonfeminist attire, especially shoes. I just spent the last two hours on a road trip thinking about this post, and about meaning.

    My father’s roots are Anabaptist/Calvinist (aka The Brethren), a rather exclusive religious sect of which the Amish and the Mennonites are a part. My mother is a southern blueblood (which explains the Franciscan china), but it was my father’s aesthetic that ruled our days: Sensible modesty. Wordliness was frowned upon, especially consumerism. Our clothing was homespun (even our underwear!). We were not allowed to wear heels, makeup, or anything above the knee. We were not allowed to cut our hair or pierce our ears or wear anything that looked like lingerie. Only BAD girls did those things.

    Once a year, besides the sneakers we needed for gym class, my sister and I were allocated ONE pair of shoes. They were sensible. Mother was partial to oxford-style buckle and saddle shoes. I hated them with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

    (I didn’t even realize how ingrained this Calvinist aesthetic was until a daycare employee referred to my own daughter as “the little Amish girl” and I freaked out at the horror of what I must have been doing to her. It’s insidious, I tell you.)

    Anyhoo, this is turning into a longwinded way to get to a point: Despite the fact that this modest, anticonsumerist, sensible aesthetic would probably get the Radical Feminist Stamp of Approval, my upbringing was PATRIARCHAL TO THE CORE. Probably as bad as, or perhaps even worse, than the abuse some of you suffered from being forced into your feminine drag. My fashion/shoe fetish is definitely a reaction against my own upbringing: For me, high heel shoes, pencil skirts and hair gel really ARE transgressive. During the times of my greatest indulgences in my feminine drag I really WAS experiencing them as feminist statements, even though Team Patriarchy still won in the end.

    Now I wonder if an Amish man would experience a pair of homespun underwear on his head as torture. What about a LaPerla thong? I don’t know. Perhaps he’d only be confused.

  35. Pony

    I thought it was about the feminization of torture. The torture of feminization would be the sash in the back of my bureau drawer, which annonces Miss xxxx of year xxxx. I keep it not in celebration of anything but reminder of what I refuse to be. There are no shoes in my home that don’t have New Balance written on them.

  36. ::Wendy::

    Thanks to scarlett pervegirl for this clothes purchasing litmus test:
    1) Is this object a signalement of sexbotulism?
    2) Does this object trade motility, comfort, or bodily health for attractiveness?
    3)What would Jack Sparrow do in this instance?

    I’ll add a pre-cursor to the list:
    0) ‘do I need it’
    because simply the act of purchasing clothes appears to have been made the province of the girly. The only part of shopping I enjoy is talking to and watching other people during the process. All this ‘born to shop’ stuff is just the biggest load of patriarchal capitalist bollocks.

  37. jbeeky

    I knew people in college that used underwear as a quickie scrunchie when needed. Not me of course. Others. From….Canada.

  38. Pony

    Now *that* is transgressive.

  39. redneckmother

    I knew people in college that used underwear as a quickie scrunchie when needed. Not me of course. Others. From….Canada.

    ‘Strue. In fact, that’s the best use for thongs. Wear one in yur hair early enough in the morning to IHOP and no one will bat an eye.

  40. redneckmother

    ‘your’

    damn!

  41. finnsmotel

    You had me at “abducted from her bungalow by aliens”.

  42. Lauren

    let’s call her Jill

    Yes, let’s call her Jill. Would it be unfeminist of me if I had a pink ass for you to kiss?

    I look forward to your impending answer.

  43. Ron Sullivan

    What the fuck, it it contagious? Ms Bacall* owes someone an apology.

    *the only Lauren on the planet, obviously

  44. Twisty

    I thought everybody more or less knew my real name is Jill.

  45. Lauren

    Well, way to go. You just outed yourself to, uh, me apparently.

    Me? I’m just reactionary. I still have a pink ass.

  46. Ron Sullivan

    I still have a pink ass.

    No bitemarks? Tsk.

  47. Twisty

    “Yes, let’s call her Jill. Would it be unfeminist of me if I had a pink ass for you to kiss? I look forward to your impending answer.”

    I’ve been giving some thought to this strange comment, and at last am prepared to admit that it perplexes me. All I can figure is that something about the word ‘Jill’ appears to have made Lauren extremely anxious that I become acquainted with the color of her ass (for those who missed the revelation, Lauren’s ass is pink).

    As part of my ongoing Reader Ass-Color Outreach Program, I am always delighted to know the color of people’s asses, particularly the color of those asses sat upon by fellow bloggers I admire, but I can’t help sensing that a certain something about Lauren’s tone — something about that segment of her remark, for example, wherein she invites me to kiss her pink ass — suggests that her attitude toward me is not altogether as warm and tender as it might appear on the surface. In fact, I am seriously considering the possiblity that facetiousness may be at hand.

  48. Pony

    Did someone just call bullshit? Twisty you are one dream stylist.

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