«

»

Jan 30 2009

Friday burlesque blogging

I was just kidding about turning I Blame the Patriarchy into an empty vessel of YouTube-itude, but that did not stop veteran blamer B. Dagger Lee from sending in the vid below. It is a strip-tease, and therefore is not “work-safe,” which is a phrase one applies, as I understand it, to web pages that do not contain the Lord’s Prayer. Not that you really need to know whether the video is work-safe; apparently all corporate and corporatesque networks block I Blame the Patriarchy as a matter of course.

Anyhow, if you would do me the favor of watching the video before reading the rest of this post I would be greatly obliged. I ask this to ensure the — I dunno — purity of your response to it (quiz follows). If you aren’t going to watch it, fine. Go have a sandwich while the rest of us enjoy some good old-fashioned entertainment, you old prude!

Quoth BDL on the subject of the video: “I think I’ve found a strip performance that subverts the patriarchy. Okay, I exaggerate, but I think it pokes at it a little.”

I don’t want to tip the taco cart in advance or anything, and I may be wrong, but I predict that old BDL is about to catch it a little. Ah well, she brings it on herself.

So, onward: What you may not know about the stripper is this: she is London lesbo performance artist Ursula Martinez. Here is her one-sheet:

She sets fire to her tits, interrogates her parents, re-defines class, blurs fiction with reality, cures homosexuals, gives birth to penises, tells autobiographical stories, deconstructs performance and sings South London suburban flamenco – from high brow to low brow, from spectacle to confessional, from live art to light entertainment, Ursula Martinez produces solo and collaborative performance for theatre, site-specific, installation, cabaret, night club, film, television…… birthdays, weddings and Barmitzvahs!

And now for the quiz: does a previous apprehension of the context of this video, i.e. that Martinez is a “lesbian performance artist” with a significant body of subversive work under her garter belt, rather than a garden-variety exploited woman, in any way alter the meaning of her strip-tease? I mean, if you didn’t know anything about her artsy lesbo curriculum vitae prior to watching, would there have popped into your astute blaming head the slightest inkling that Martinez is subverting patriarchy? Does the fact that it is a comedic performance impart philosophic value sufficient to derail the patriarchally-programmed response — by which I mean prurience — to a naked woman pulling objects out of her vagina onstage? Does Martinez, in fact, poke at it a little?

My own view is that, out of context, this video is sexploitation. In context, it is sexploitation.

I’m not a big proponent of the “artist’s intent” school of art criticism.

I don’t presume to know Martinez’s intent, but supposing, as BDL does, that she aspires to a send-up of raunch culture by riffing on its beloved burlesque, she doesn’t quite succeed. Granted, there is something refreshingly — and sort of weirdly — un-pornulational about this performance, but in the end she turns her vagina into a punch line, just like a long line of misogynist pigs before her. As 20th century sexist gasbag Jean-Paul Sartre wittily opined in Being and Nothingness, “The obscenity of the female sex is that of everything that gapes open.”

Under the auspices of patriarchy, female onstage-ical nudity, comical or not, performance art or not, cannot overcome the woman-hating cultural conditions, so sweetly described by Sartre, that have been placed on it. Indeed, the lone comment (as of this writing) on Martinez’s YouTube page suggests that the viewer has been unable to distinguish between naked strip-tease performance art and pornography:

“is she a psycho, cause only a psycho woman can get naked in front of all that people [sic].”

I assert that the commenter lacks such fine discerning sensibilities because in our culture there is no difference between women, psychosis, and, of course, obscenity.

103 comments

  1. rootlesscosmo

    I’ll take a pass on the video while expressing agreement with Twisty’s point here. Artist’s intent is a piece of information that may or may not be worth having, but (as a lot of artists insist) the work is the work, and we take it on its merits, such as they are, in the context of the patriarchal culture we all live in, not the post-patriarchal happy land we long for. I think Martinez probably does want to subvert the patriarchy; I also think she underestimates its ability to absorb “subversion” and re-purpose it to reinforce patriarchal power.

  2. Twisty

    “I think Martinez probably does want to subvert the patriarchy; I also think she underestimates its ability to absorb “subversion” and re-purpose it to reinforce patriarchal power.”

    Precisely. This sentence comes closer to my point than anything I wrote!

  3. HazelStone

    Does it matter that I don’t have sound? It seemed like more boring burlesque otherwise. If she wanted to subvert the male gaze, bumping and grinding may not have been the route I’d have chosen.

  4. Twisty

    Hazel, the soundtrack is stereotypical mid-20th-century “take it off” strip-tease music.

  5. slashy

    Sometimes I can be found taking my clothes off onstage in what is described as burlesque (or rather gurlesque, which is the variety that exists for queer female audiences, a very large proportion of which audience is also frequently found on that same stage).

    I don’t really think about what we do onstage as sticking it to the patriarchy in any big way- I mean, if the patriarchy was watching, I’m sure it’d be leering and stroking it’s hard-on, causing all involved to vomit up their morning tacos. But it’s fun, for us, and community-building, for us (and no doubt our idea of fun is heavily influenced by the cultural smog we swim through) and I find it, as a source of fun & community building, significantly less troubling than a wholesome evening in watching “Television’s Sexiest Female Corpses” or whatever they call the cop-corpse shows these days.

    Videos of the kinds of performances we do aren’t available, because our shows aren’t recorded, because everyone in that women-only space knows exactly how what happens within that space would be taken outside of it (ha ha ha ha look boobies! They would cry. Wouldja lookit that vagina? They would exclaim. Oh, the dear little thing thinks she’s being feminist, the poor oppressed darling she knows not her own mind! They would sneer). So no YouTube videos, not I’m sure that they would advance my case among the Blametariat. I mean, sometimes onstage, not only am I getting naked, but I’m wearing PINK. Feel free to disregard anything I have to say ever in response to that shameful revelation.

    But, I know that the space that I perform in there is a very small, privileged one, populated entirely by feminist-identified, queer-identified, female-identified human beings in a Western nation who have the luxury of deciding to perform for one another for fun (certainly not profit). One does not imagine that our experience of OUR burlesque, and the relationship between our performers and our audiences (where the cross-over is huge, and most of the audience have been or are performers), is actually the same as the burlesque experience of the rest of the world. And so one does not imagine that the onstage shenanigans of a bunch of privileged, exhibitionist dykes performing for one another is actually the same as a wholesale approval of all of the realities of burlesque or all of the realities of women getting naked on stages. But for all it’s smallness, that space does exist, and hey, I thought it’s existence belonged somewhere in this discussion.

  6. yttik

    There was something refreshingly different about that video. There’s some intelligence behind it, some humor. It doesn’t come across like the usual porn and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Do I think she’s subverting the patriarchy? No. I also don’t think she’s “empowering” women in general with her act.

    I think there’s a part of me that admires women who embrace their insanity. I like the crazy girls. As Twisty says, “there is no difference between women, psychosis..” I’d much rather see this women revel in her craziness, then watch someone like Britney Spears be exploited. Remember the crotch shots of her and her meltdown and the way it was all sexualized? It broke my heart, let’s emotionally rape a young mentally ill girl on TV and market it as entertainment??

    But I will say that it’s just pitiful that my expectations are so low that I’m forced to observe that this video is slightly less offensive then all the rest.

  7. Rachel

    I think she is intending to subvert, or at least to poke fun. I don’t think it succeeds particularly well. I also think that the live audience would be getting even less of the message than those of us watching the video. Her expressions and gestures would look a lot less exaggerated from a stage than in the torso shots on film (if you’ve ever seen an actor who has only done stage doing TV, you may know what I’m talking about) and the only thing that made it particularly different, really, was that she looked like she thought it was really, really silly rather than giving a great display of putative sexual arousal on stage.

    It seems more like she was trying to make fun of stripteases for being “cheesy,” like college boys watching Orgazmo. It is, apparently, acceptable in many young-person circles to disdain porn due to its “cheesiness,” but not, of course, for its commodification of and violence to women’s bodies. This disdain is often expressed in watching a great deal of it, supposedly in an “ironic” fashion, and I wonder if that’s not what this is: Making lighthearted and rather toothless fun of the striptease for its style rather than its substance.

  8. LCforevah

    Ursula’s orientation doesn’t matter, her intent doesn’t matter and root is correct that Ursula’s subversion just gets appropriated.
    Nakedness as shaming and the concept of modesty are constructs used to keep women in line and it continues to be difficult to remove those concepts from current culture.

    “The obscenity of the female sex is that of everything that gapes open.” Says who? Why, a man of course.

    Twisty, it’s so refreshing to see you refer to Jean-Paul Sartre as a sexist gasbag. I never understood the attraction to his philosophical outlook by women or anyone who could think straight.

    My first and only exposure to him had been in relation to his treatment of Simone de Beauvoir, his supposed love, and I couldn’t bring myself to give him any further credence. I took his shite behavior and dishonesty to signal jealousy of Beauvoir’s work and consequent world reputation.

    “There can only be one important person in this relationship, Simone baby, and it has to be me.” That’s how he struck me, and I’ve never changed my mind.

    I was only nineteen at the time, and my reaction to his crap seemed
    more personal than intellectual. I doubted my instincts. After decades, I’ve seen his behavior repeated time and time again in both personal situations and on the larger, world stage. My instincts are right.

    He is a sexist gasbag, and his philosophy is sexist gasbagism, IBTP.

  9. Kathleen

    I don’t want to derail this discussion (I agree with Twisty! and rootless cosmo!) but I have been wanting to discuss with the blametariat-minded *what is up* with what slashy so aptly describes as “Teevee’s sexiest female corpses” as the direction in which every goldarned cop show has gone in the past 10 years. I love cop shows! I can no longer watch any of them! IBTP! But I also think, okay, BTP is the general explanation but what of specific ones — why now, why so saturating the airwaves?

    As for subversive naked ladies, as a feminist I can’t be against them. But it does seem like ooh subversive naked ladies has been around since the beginnings of oooh subversive art and the subversive naked ladies of yesteryear all tend to look pretty darn patriarchy-friendly in retrospect. So just betting on the historical odds, I don’t think this one is gonna blow the top off this crazy old world.

    And, totally not to harsh on performance art too much, but this onion piece is funny on some of the patriarchy-neutral pretenions of the genre:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28231

  10. Anna Belle

    Wow, good post. I followed the steps, so here’s my reaction.

    The video ended with me saying out loud, “That was awesome!” That was my first reaction, and actually, it remains my reaction.

    Then I read what you had to say and I did question it, but in the end, my reasoning if this:

    First of all, that she’s in charge of what she does with her vagina I saw as a good thing. So what if she turns her vagina into a punchline; it’s her joke and her vagina, and her one-sheet suggests to me that she knows what she’s doing with regard to cultural criticism.

    Also, I agree about pornography and female nakedness, but are we talking about no naked images of anything? The comment below in particular left me wondering if there is ever an acceptable context for feminine public nudeness, and if not, how different is that from, say, patriarchy through at least the Victorian age?

    Under the auspices of patriarchy, female onstage-ical nudity, comical or not, performance art or not, cannot overcome the woman-hating cultural conditions, so sweetly described by Sartre, that have been placed on it.

    (sorry, I don’t know the codes for quoting yet)

    Now, I don’t think that her strip subverts the patriarchy, but I agree that it pokes fun at it. I like that she’s not using her body to elicit a sexual response, but a humorous one. It makes me wonder what the immediate reaction was. I bet people that saw the show live talked about it a lot. We saw it in video and here we are talking about it. Maybe there’s value in that, and maybe in a way, it does challenge some aspect of patriarchy, even if it’s not direct hit.

    My 2 cents. Going back to read others’ thoughts.

  11. Jackie

    I don’t think it’s so much an issue of artistic intent so much as audience. I agree that an artist’s intent doesn’t particularly matter, because successful communication is a big part of art and if the intent doesn’t match up with how the art is interpreted, then it’s a failure in a way. But I think that the reason that this doesn’t come across as particularly subversive is that we feel compelled to look at it through the eyes of the dominant culture instead of our own. In this case, the patriarchy-minded will interpret it one way and the feminist-minded might interpret it in another way, but I don’t see the reason why one interpretation should trump another. It is super weird that what was probably meant to be subversive can so easily be interpreted as the opposite, but as people who actually get the joke, why should we care if most people won’t?

  12. Anna Belle

    “I think Martinez probably does want to subvert the patriarchy; I also think she underestimates its ability to absorb “subversion” and re-purpose it to reinforce patriarchal power.”

    Precisely. This sentence comes closer to my point than anything I wrote!

    That makes more sense to me. I do wonder about that, then. Good point. I’m pretty much of another camp, that believes historical/cultural context and artistic motive are interesting considerations that can enhance interpretation (though it also can have it’s problems). I don’t think they’re required, but I think they can add another level of meaning.

  13. Claire (CJ)

    I don’t need to see the video to know that a woman stripping in public is not radical or progressive. It’s simply not. It’s status quo. Business as usual. The vast majority of the audience will take away from it what they’ve been taught to take away. Scandalous Sexy Siren.

    Not subversive in any way. Quirky, perhaps, but not subversive.

    CJ.

  14. PhysioProf

    Nakedness as shaming and the concept of modesty are constructs used to keep women in line and it continues to be difficult to remove those concepts from current culture.

    The truth of this is apparent from the facial expressions of the audience members interspersed into the video.

  15. mir

    The thing about ironically doing something, anything, is that you’re still doing it. Exhibit A: the mullet.

  16. goblinbee

    I was hoping she would pull the last red hanky out of her stilettos, and then kick the dang things off. Forever.

  17. draconismoi

    I’m a contract worker for various nonprofits…and I assure you that any place I’v worked (In San Fran, Boston & DC) in the last 2 years has not blocked IBTP. And if they did I would get it unblocked pretty quickly – there’s no porn here and you can’t shop – so they have no grounds to block us from blaming during our breaks.

  18. Twisty

    “First of all, that she’s in charge of what she does with her vagina I saw as a good thing. So what if she turns her vagina into a punchline; it’s her joke and her vagina, and her one-sheet suggests to me that she knows what she’s doing with regard to cultural criticism.”

    I would counter that in a patriarchy no woman is truly in charge of her vagina. She ought to be, and she can say she is, and she can even believe she is, but by the time the kettle boils over there’s no getting around the fact that women, even lesbian performance artists, are members of the sex class. This means that our bodies are a) owned by the state and b) controlled by male impulse.

    When I was but a callow youth, I thought it would be a good idea to buy into that whole grrl thing, so I made myself a T-shirt with the word “SLUT” on it, and wore it around in a good faith effort to be subversive. Much later it dawned on me that I was merely agreeing with the dominant culture’s notions about what consitutes fair use of me.

  19. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I’m blocked from viewing videos here, but I don’t think I need to see it: I know I have the right to use my vadge as a punchline whenever I want to because that particular “right” has been given to me by Society.

    I’d never lay claim to what any punch line MEANS, however, because that right (to assign meaning) has NOT been given to me, which I believe is Twisty’s point.

  20. magriff

    Well I’ll give her this, she illustrates quite well just how DORKY burlesque is…

  21. Kate

    Skipping over the rest of the comments… my impression is that this is the standard “have fun with ‘em” burlesque type and sadly isn’t any kind of new idea at all. That music, though! Like the worst bits of any James Bond theme repeated over and over to the point of unconciousness.

  22. LisaB

    I cannot for the life of me imagine what was supposed to be subversive about this performance. First, I think I have a pretty good sense of humor and I didn’t find it funny in the least. It looked like one of those America’s Got Talent shows, except with full nudity allowed. Oh, look, the hanky came out of her vagina this time — tee hee, isn’t that clever! How was this subversive of anything except maybe cheap magic tricks?

    What was the context? What were the other performances at this event? I sincerely doubt that this audience was feminist-ly enlightened in any way by this performance, unless ALL the performances were slyly subversive, and the audience knew that they were being called upon to detect irony, satire and sophisticated artistic commentary. Doubtful.

  23. B. Dagger Lee

    I think Twisty and rootlesscosmo’s points are not easily refuted, so I’ll cave right now and agree, because I’m more of a lazy provocateur than any kind of rigorous thinker. I also like slashy’s self-critical analysis. I truly am enjoying what you all have to say.

    I’m disappointed that no one has yet commented on how the triumphant climax of the performance is that she pulls out a bloody vagina rag! Ya-hoo! I thoroughly enjoyed that part. But I’m perimenopausal, and so obsessed with all things menstrual.

  24. Cycles

    … and the only thing that made it particularly different, really, was that she looked like she thought it was really, really silly rather than giving a great display of putative sexual arousal on stage.

    That’s what struck me too. She appeared to be matter-of-fact about her situation. She was putting on an act, and she was naked, but she wasn’t doing it in the way that most people are used to seeing it onstage.

    I wonder how many thought, “Hm, she’s funny, but the poor thing’s not a very good stripper.”

  25. Kate

    BDL, that went right over my head! Thank you for pointing that out. OK, the vid goes up a few ranks on my meter for that.

  26. mj

    i thought it was funny & cute & not a bit sexual. she seems so comfortable with her body–its like she’s telling a joke, using her whole body. i really thought it was awesome. i wish i was that comfortable with my body. id be nude all the time. as it is, im happy im able to breastfeed in public. my breasts to me have become what nature intended them to be, & if someone else feels differently about them, fuck ‘em–they’re mine.

  27. Uccellina

    And here I thought she pulled the hanky out of her ass at the end. Huh. Well, regardless of orifice, I enjoyed the show and thought it was funny but not subversive in the least.

  28. AngmarBucket

    Ah yes, the good old “We’ll teach you to oggle naked women, by showing you more naked woman! Let that be a lesson to you!” school of feminist thought. It’s sadly quite popular in feminist comic book circles, where it’s assumed that if we just make the guys more cheesecakey then everything will be okay and equitable, right!?

  29. luxdancer

    The first thought that came to my head was: Why don’t we see more male magicians doing the full monty to prove that they’ve got nothing up their sleeves?

    Granted, I don’t really follow the stage/street magic scene so maybe there are male magicians doing that.

  30. A.

    I thought it was funny, but not particularly subversive–for exactly the reason Rootlesscosmo summed up so well. The patriarchy is already well aware of the humor potential inherent in stripping and men’s responses thereto. I saw the “punchline” coming far enough ahead to think, “I hope she doesn’t–and she did.” I was hoping she’d fake toward pulling the hankie out of her vagina (or ass), to make sure that the whole audience was anticipating that as the punchlines, and then take it out of her hair or something.

    That said, the two uses to which female nudity as spectacle can be put in patriarchal culture are sexiness and humor–sexiness if the woman is conventionally attractive, humor if she has a body type so contrary to conventional beauty standards (that is, if she’s fat or old, or both, with bonus points for being nonwhite) that the idea of being aroused by the sight of her is inherently hilarious. So I guess there’s something vaguely subversive about the artist in the video going for humor, even though as far as I can tell she’s attractive enough to be considered worthy of turning on a bunch of random men. It doesn’t quite parse, though, and I keep coming back to (again) Rootless’s comment. I buy that she’s trying to be subversive, I buy that a subversive reading of the performance is possible, but I don’t buy that patriarchy can’t re-subvert the subversion.

  31. LCforevah

    Uh…. is she trying to subvert the stage magic or the stripteasing?
    I just realized I can’t tell.

  32. Puffin

    Yes, what Kate said up there – my (limited) knowledge of burlesque is that it is meant to be humorous, a usually bawdy and vaudevillian play on stripping? In which case this, like every other “alternative” take on porn, is just more of the same.

    Like I can just picture a dude in the audience, leaning back on the rear legs of his chair pointing toward the stage and uttering, “Now that’s what I like – a stripper who don’t take herself so gahdamn serious.”

  33. Moo

    So, I followed your instructions to the letter, although I was very apprehensive about seeing the video. Once I caught on to the concept of the act I was riveted and at the end I gasped in amazement. I’m guessing that it is probably a pretty simple magician’s trick, but I still found it impressive and funny.

    I was apprehensive about the video because I didn’t want to watch a women pornulating herself. So,it was interesting that her stripping immediately went from being the most attention getting part of her act, to just a supporting role of misdirection and a prop for her act. Even her bumping and grinding wasn’t “sexy”, but just reminded me of the standard magician flourishing and posturing to take your mind off what they are actually up to.

    I certainly didn’t respond to her act as a poke in the eye of the patriarchy. But, I really liked it! It felt clean, somehow.

  34. Veganrampage

    Egad. Where is Hedgepig with the toilet/receptacle references when you need her?
    I agree with rootlesscosmo and Twisty. Artistic intentions don’t mean beans. I used to fool around with directing plays. If my intentions weren’t reflected in the performance who gives a shit? As for Sartre, and it seems this is rarely brought up, he happily staged his plays in Nazi occupied Paris, and continued to write as if everything were just hunky dory. Apologists will say that was his way of “resisting”, but I not only call bullshit on this but total bullshit. The great Jean Paul Sartre was nothing more and nothing less than a lousy stinking Nazi collaborator. We should dig up his corpse and shave his head.

  35. CLD

    Videos are blocked here as well [thanks for not making this a vidblog, Twisty!], but in my mind’s eye, I can’t see the typical male looking at her performance through any eyes but the Patriarchy’s and still seeing it as a sexual performance for them.

  36. Mo

    So, a couple of more context-providing items to look at.

    First there’s the venue, because while the artist’s orientation and intent might not matter a whit if it’s not pointed out to the audience, the space in which the event takes place is of critical importance to the performance and the message it provides.

    While we are watching this on you-tube on the internet (which is porn’s biggest playground), the people at the venue are attending an event at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival which is a premier comedy festival. And, if I’m not mistaken, that’s a show at the St. Denis Theatre, a very established, respected theatre venue.

    This isn’t a burlesque show, it’s a comedy venue. The people in the audience didn’t come to see a naked women performing, and in fact, it likely was pretty shocking when she started to do just that. Even if I hadn’t pointed this out, you can see some of it in the audience’s sometimes uncomfortable and often startled reaction.

    This may or may not change your mind about the her success at undermining the patriarchy, but it does alter the impact of the performance on the audience: her body’s more a tool of confrontation than an object of titillation, especially given the stride and attitude of the performance and…

    The second thing (and I can’t believe that I’m the first to point it out) is that it’s a *blood red* cloth that she’s using to pull out of her nethers. That might not be a big shocking or confrontational thing to you me or the Blametariat, but I’ve seen first hand how controversial and in-your-face-patriarchy highlighting menstrual acts can become.

    A number of years ago in the town I went to university in, an artist run gallery, right on the main street in town in a display window put up an installation of a quilt. In the pattern of the quilt was the shape of a woman, kneeling on a bed, pulling the quilt up around her (no body detail but the shape), however all of the quilting cloth between her thighs was in blood colours. The town went into *outrage*. A heated debate ensued, the city demanded that it be removed from the window, the gallery refused, the city threatened to cut funding. The gallery told the city to stick it’s funding and stuck it’s guns, eventually having to move to a smaller gallery to keep open, but removing their dependency on the city’s funding – and therefore the city’s approval.

    So I agree with B Dagger Lee: it might be overstating it to say that it subverts the patriarchy 100%, and it might still be problematic in relation to women’s bodies and the troubled, co-opted place of them in entertainment, but I think it’s a misrepresentation to say that it’s not successful at all.

    A lot of the people in the audience would have very felt challenged by the act, both because of the surroundings and by the last handkerchief trick. Despite the fact that people are laughing doesn’t mean it’s just a joke, either.

    (I’ve probably crossposted this with the world considering how it’s been open on my screen for freaking hours now as work keeps conspiring to interfere with my blaming!)

  37. jayo

    I was disappointed, but not surprised, that the only clothing she did not take off were those awful high heels.

  38. TP

    I agree with everyone else, in sum, it was a great magic trick, she didn’t act as desperate for male attention as much as she acted as if it were all a big joke, and that artistic intentions don’t count, so that, in the end, she’s still a seemingly unwitting tool of the patriarchy.

    That artistic intentions don’t count isn’t always true to me, though. I have had the great good fortune to see Karen Finley do some of her amazing work, and her intentions were absolutely unavoidable. Though at the time I myself knew nothing of radical feminism, it’s obvious to me that she knew a lot about it. When she used nudity in her art, it hurt like a slap in the face, even back when I was pretty much the average dude who would have enjoyed it as much as he could if she had let the slightest prurience into her art.

    This is why the mere mention of her name among many art twits will bring peals of derisive laughter and sneers of contempt. She made my dick wilt! That’s not art, that’s just being a fucking bitch!

    The shame of being the naked one in front of the clothed is the shame of degradation, and because we are damaged by the hierarchical psychosis of the patriarchy, that sexualizes domination and submission from the cradle to the grave, we are supposed to be aroused by it.

  39. madeleine

    She moves not like a sexbot but like a person. The audience – look at their faces – is not titillated, it is fascinated and overawed by a ‘real person’ playing a sexbot and going so far with it. I don’t know if this in any way subverts the patriarchy, but it is a loud and clear comment on it. She uses her nudity as a prop to get that effect.

    Consider another performance with nudity, by a Jewish woman some years ago. It was an exploration of the fact that naked female bodies took on new meanings and connotations because of the Holocaust.
    The setting is a small, two-room apartment with a wall-sized one way mirror between the rooms. Behind the mirror, visible to her invisible audience, the artiste lived with her two months old son for 2 or 3 weeks. Nude. She was visited by her husband and friends (dressed), wrote stuff, took baths with her son, had meals, just lived. For the audience in the other room (who had walked there specially to see it, wanting to see it because of the artistes text about her intent), left and right of the mirror two films were projected, one of three middle-aged Jewish women bathing and taking showers together, the other of a realistic, brutal gang rape. Both movies were made with volunteers, who told me they enjoyed it a lot.

    Not every use of female nudity is sexploitation. Using nudity to comment on sexploitation… extremely blurry borders, I think. Does it become sexploitation as soon as one man is watching? Has anyone seen female nudity used in art where it was definitely not sexploitation or is that impossible?

  40. Spiders

    Like most of those “philosophers” Sartre had way too much time on his hands.
    With the vid, I watched a couple of minutes without the sound, and thought almost right away that she was trying to totally take the piss out of the whole striptease thing and show just how stupid it is, apart from everything else that it is.
    I agree that you can’t really subvert patriarchy/porn culture in this way, although I was mildly impressed that she somehow manages to take her clothes off without seeming “sexay”. Even the guys watching had confusion on their faces, like “Ok she’s doing all the right things, what’s wrong with this picture?” Maybe that’s the subversive part BDL was seeing.

  41. thebewilderness

    I am reminded of what the old patriarchs say. “If you can’t get the boot off your neck, just pretend it’s a vibrator.”

  42. Veganrampage

    TP-
    Yes yes yes, Karen Finley, thank you I forgot to mention her, I was so wrapped up in blaming Sartre. I had even ventured out at night in NYC to some horrid night club to see her, when I was well past my night club phase. She is infuckingcredible. She can’t wilt enough dicks for me, Great Goddess bless her! Blametariat, if Finley passes your way, go see her, no matter how horrid the venue; radical feminist performance artists not always being the best paid in the big P and all. What a great discussion. This is not typing into the darkness, surely. Christ on a cracker do I love this site.

  43. slythwolf

    I was gonna watch the video, Twisty, because you really seemed to want me to, but it’s not there anymore. Apparently it violated YouTube’s terms of use.

  44. Twisty

    “I was gonna watch the video, Twisty, because you really seemed to want me to, but it’s not there anymore. Apparently it violated YouTube’s terms of use.”

    What tha. And things were just starting to get interesting! Fucking YouTube.

  45. slythwolf

    That artistic intentions don’t count isn’t always true to me, though. I have had the great good fortune to see Karen Finley do some of her amazing work, and her intentions were absolutely unavoidable. Though at the time I myself knew nothing of radical feminism, it’s obvious to me that she knew a lot about it. When she used nudity in her art, it hurt like a slap in the face, even back when I was pretty much the average dude who would have enjoyed it as much as he could if she had let the slightest prurience into her art.

    That sounds like she actually did what she intended to do–actually accomplished what she set out to. To my mind, that’s why artistic intent is irrelevant: so many artists don’t accomplish what they set out to accomplish, and then insist that they should be given credit for it as if they did. They fail, and insist their work be treated as if they had succeeded.

    It’s kind of like how dudes will say they didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, they didn’t mean to objectify you, they didn’t mean to be a misogynist douchebag, as if that makes it all okay.

  46. vitaminC

    A tad OT, but have any of y’all seen Amber Hawk Swanson’s work? Basically, she had a sex doll made of herself and has done a huge series of work with it. Pretty interesting. Thoughts?

    http://amberhawkswanson.com/artwork/356608.html

    DEFINITELY not the Lord’s Prayer/safe for work, by the way.

  47. B. Dagger Lee

    Man, every time I try to peruse cute animal videos on youtube, the topic section is riddled with porno and no youtube employee seems to care about that. This, they yank? Because of traffic from a feminist site, hmm?

    Anyway, the artist is Ursula Martinez and the piece is called “Hanky Panky.” Below is a link to what seems to be a non-objectionable, no ad or voiceover site.

    h ttp://users.skynet.be/pdauwe/ursula_martinez.wmv

    You have to remove the space after the ‘h’ in your browser address bar.

    Go, Mo! Go, TP! I was thinking Finley and also a performance by Carolee Schneemann called, “Interior Scroll.”

  48. Jezebella

    I love that the hankie is blood-red, yes indeed. Reminded me of Judy Chicago’s “Red Flag”:

    h
    ttp://www.mum.org/armenjc.htm

    However I agree that naked ladies is, was, always shall be fodder for the patriarchy, and no amount of intent to subvert will de-pornify a naked lady. It would’ve helped if she took those damned shoes off. I kept hoping she’d pull the hankie out of her shoe at some point or other.

  49. rootlesscosmo

    I wouldn’t say the artist’s intentions are irrelevant, just that an argument based on them shouldn’t trump criticism on other grounds. Put another way, the intentions are part of the context; they don’t erase it.

  50. Hedgepig

    I’m going to have to start keeping pen and paper handy, so many of you blamers are so darn quotable.
    Being southern hemispherical I got out of bed Saturday morning to read the Friday burlesque discussion (that’s where I was, Veganrampage)and of course arrived after the vid was removed. I went ahead and read the post and the whole thread before getting to the Reverend Pope BDL’s helpful link (thanks, your grace)and only then viewed the performance, so I’m no use whatsoever to Twisty’s experiment.
    My sullied response, however, was to notice (as Mo did) that it was a nice, middle-class comedy venue with nice middle-class audience who probably would have been shocked to see nudity, not to mention a RED hanky pulled out of a vagina. We all know from years of watching tampon/pad ads that no absorbent materials in the vicinity of a women’s private parts can be any colour other than light blue. And that makes me sort of wish she’d pulled a bloody tampon out at the end as the denouement.

    I’m inclined to agree with what mir said (i.e. “The thing about ironically doing something, anything, is that you’re still doing it. Exhibit A: the mullet.”)
    But then, I also think irony can be a powerful tool. What if Twisty’s T-shirt had said “spinster aunt” rather than “slut”? It’s still agreeing with the dominant culture’s notions. I suppose the difference is that “spinster aunt” implies childlessness and singledom, which have blamer cred, whereas “slut” implies enthusiastic orifice for male insertion, which doesn’t. Is it that we have to be careful about which qualities attributed to women by the P we want to re-claim, and which are a dead loss? Is dancing nude a dead loss under patriarchy? Should I just go and have another morning coffee? At last, a question I know the answer to.

  51. ma'am

    Another non-mutually exclusive idea to those who watched, is why did you watch? It’s not like you are surprised by the ending. The repetitive music and exactly the same repetitive movements, I think in every way if memory serves correct. For me the answer is that I watched in fascinated horror (same as for the Obama Girl) while at work (warnings were more tempting than useful). While men’s motivation may be different here, we are all sort of pigs.

  52. Ala

    “The obscenity of the female sex is that of everything that gapes open.”

    Does this not apply to the anus too, of which men all have one? Or the mouth, which everyone has one? Why does that goat Sartre apply it to the vagina exclusively? If he thinks everything that gapes open is obscene, then everyone’s obscene. I find his argument idiotic and illogical.

  53. ElizaN

    As far as Sartre’s concerned, I have nothing whatsoever that gapes open. In fact, just seeing his name makes my nostrils slam shut.
    I can’t get the video to load, so I’m going to go be a sandwich-eating prude. I’m confident I like sandwiches more than strip shows, anyway.

  54. Carpenter

    Well I couldn’t watch the vid so I read the post then found an edited version elsewhere online. So consider be a biased data point.

    Eh, just kind of ridiculous I guess.

    However a moments research tells us this person also works in cabaret shows named La Clique and Medium Rare. Checking out the websites it looks like run of the mill creepy-type circus cabaret. In my opinion run of the mill creepy type circus cabaret relies heavily on semi-naked women and traditional female sexiness. Only very rarely have I ever seen semi-naked men and male type sexiness, and when I have the male members of the audience all became extreeeeemely uncomfortable. I used to like circus stuff, esp crazy juggling and acrobats. However it has also been my very judgmental experience that 1) the kind of people who are into such event think that they are way more socially progressive than they are and 2) these people were the ‘Magik the Gathering’, Renne Faire, trench-coat kids in high-school and now are trying to make up for all the sexiness they missed out on-but the late discovery of sexiness just repeats existing gender paradigms in the overarching culture.

    So I would say that although a debate about if it is possible to mock porn with mock-porn is a good one, this particular performer does not seem to be intellectually equal to the debate engendered by her. She just seems like a slightly cornier circus act.

  55. Alderson Warm-Fork

    While I won’t dispute anything about Sartre being sexist, or about him being able to overshadow Beauvoir on account of being male, his philosophy was not crap.

    “If he thinks everything that gapes open is obscene, then everyone’s obscene. I find his argument idiotic and illogical.”

    His argument hasn’t been mentioned here. His argument is no doubt badly-written and hard to follow, but it is unlikely to be fully expressed in a single contextless quotation.

    And I don’t think it’s generally very reasonable to judge individuals in terms of whether they have sufficiently risked their lives in resisting occupation. Indeed as a general rule it seems like victim-blaming, even if Sartre himself isn’t much of a victim.

  56. delphyne

    I made a long post but it seems to have disappeared, but the short version is that attractive women doing slightly grotesque things on stage is neither new nor subversive. Just because something is shocking (although a lot of the men in that audience looked very pleased indeed rather than appalled) doesn’t automatically mean it is some kind of a political act, even if it does arouse strong feelings.

  57. Gayle

    I found Amber Hawk Swanson’s doll photographs deeply disturbing. I know it’s a doll but, to me, it suggests a disabled woman, unable to defend herself.

    Like others upthread, I thought the Ursula Martinez Magic Show burlesque was fun and entertaining.

    I don’t see how it can be viewed as subversive, though. What’s subversive about it?

  58. Nolabelfits

    Okay…I did not read all the responses, but I did watch the video. I thought the vag thrusting was kind of awesome. Not only did I enjoy seeing it, but thrusting a vag is something you don’t see in porn. In porn, women are usually sticking their ass/cunt out rearward, whereass this vag thrusting was kind of “in your face,” kind of like the dick in porn. So, maybe something subversive there. Just sayin….

  59. Gayle

    Hmmm.

    Nolabelfits, I thought what you called “vag thrusting” was the bump in the old bump and grind.

  60. SolNiger@gmail.com\\

    After having read everyone’s comments I wasn’t expecting to be won over by the video; but I was. I saw a woman who was using her body in ways other than those reccomended by the patriarchy.

    And she had a swagger, through all the stripping and winking.

    I have engineered my life to be a feminist bubble; sometimes I experience faint, mirage-like, post-revolution moments. This video fits right in with when stripping will only be as ‘naughty’ as jousting is life-threatening now.

  61. goblinbee

    ElizaN: “In fact, just seeing his name makes my nostrils slam shut.”

    Lord, this was funny.

    Puffin: “Like I can just picture a dude in the audience, leaning back on the rear legs of his chair pointing toward the stage and uttering, ‘Now that’s what I like – a stripper who don’t take herself so gahdamn serious.’”

    Exactly.

    And, A, I was hoping she’d surprise us too. The vagina seemed so predictable. Like she needed to drive home the point that she was a female magician!

  62. Whoa Nigel

    HazelStone asked about the sound. The music played is entitled “A Shot in the Dark”, the theme song from the eponymous sequel to “The Pink Panther.” I understand Twisty’s call on the typical stripper music thing, but it is clear also that Mancini was trying to parody the spy movie themes of the era.

  63. Hollywood Marie

    Is this the burlesque described on her site as “hanky panky”? YouTube took the video down, so I can’t watch it, but I read the reviews of it on her site and if it was supposed to be subversive, the critics obviously didn’t get it. And worse, she still posted their idiotic comments on her site.

  64. Hedgepig

    “His (Sartre’s) argument is no doubt badly-written and hard to follow, but it is unlikely to be fully expressed in a single contextless quotation.”

    If LCforevah is quoting JPS accurately, then I don’t believe a context exists in which the statement “The obscenity of the female sex is that of everything that gapes open” is tolerable.

    Curiously, while ElizaN’s nostrils slammed shut when she saw Sartre’s name, mine flared. Mon dieu, quelle obscene, non?

  65. Catie

    So, regardless of the intention, all resistance to the patriarchy (using humor or otherwise) is subverted to serving to the patriarchy. I understand it, and yet I find it extremely depressing. This is a recurring viewpoint on this site, but I still feel the need to express it occasionally…

    Anyone else?

  66. Catie

    Also, I’m currently looking for some new fem literature. Feministing and their “Not Oprah’s Book Club” recommendations are as boring as new job-type sensitivity training. I realize I might be stealing the thread, but does anyone have some suggestions? New stuff, please.

  67. TwissB

    Twisty’s launching critique and Rootless’s summary of it, plus Kathleen’s Onion news item about Ivan the performance artist and Mir’s priceless mullet example about sum it up for me.

    It was fashionable not so very long ago for self-protective academic fembots to carry on i heavily footnoted papers about Madonna as a transgressive artist. Yeah, right. I never could see slavish conformity with lots of attitude as anything but slavish conformity.

    I recall Karen Finley as the poster girl for the campaign to claim NEA money for artists on the premise that artists’ entitlement to public support was in direct proportion to their ability to bite the public hand that fed them. The tendency of sexist male critics to embrace Finley as their pet “feminist” artist sets off my crap detector.

    Finally, slashy’s “Teevee’s sexiest female corpses” is a keeper.

  68. Twisty

    I would like to thank you all for your delightful insightful (desightful?) commentary. I am especially delighted by ma’am’s observation that this post has got a bunch of feminists sitting around consuming internet porn. For this ironical twist of fate I would like to blame BDL, but ma’am is right: nobody held a gun to my head.

    So is it porn? Color me Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it.

    SolNiger, I know what you mean about the post-patriarchal bubble, but in a real post-patriarchal society Martinez’s act could not exist, because stripping would not exist. Stripping only exists now because women are toilets.

    Feminist revolt would wipe the male gaze right off their faces. I wonder if the weekend feminist really understands how drastically this would change everything. And I mean everything.

  69. AdmirerofEmily

    I thought it was grotesque.

    “Look I can pull a hanky out of my vagina! You think the vagina is sacred or obscene and should only be seen by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes, well take this you comfortable middle class folks! Look, if I pull a crazy face, that makes it even funnier. oh, how I subvert your expectations of preety, naughty secretary. I’m even naughtier than you thought! Ha ha.”

    I don’t know, maybe she was trying to say, the human body is just a body, it’s just human, so why the big deal. But the patriarchy, methinks, is bigger than her, so I think ‘it’ just saw a nude chick to leer at. “Tits on stage! Yeah!”

  70. speedbudget

    @ Catie: I am currently reading _Loving Frank_ by Nancy Horan and getting a nice education in early 20th century feminism. It’s an interesting read.

    About this video…I went on YouTube to find it. I think it’s funny that they took it down off this site because we are discussing academically rather than sexually as it is obviously supposed to be discussed, judging from the comments over there. /eyeroll

    Anyway. I watched after having read comments, and I am ambivalent. On the one hand, I liked the repetitive body movements, before and after full nudity. The fact that her body movements stayed exactly the same kind of did something to the show. Made the nudity less of the “point” or something. I’ve been a while out of my criticism classes, so I’m not articulating well. Does anybody get what I’m saying?

    On the other hand, the excitement in the faces of the men AND women in the audience was interesting. There was also some confusion in there, too. What with, hey. This lady is naked….but for some reason I’m not getting all hot. I’m sure there were some men who were. Some men get hot about women outside in sweatpants and a loose just-out-of-bed bun. But for most, I think they were surprised about the fact that a woman can be naked and not be the cause of an immediate erection. Cause she’s going about things exactly as she did when fully clothed.

    I did like how she pulled the hanky out of her vagina. I mean, she bent over in a very unsexy way and pulled just like ya do in the dang public toilets changing your ‘pon. I will agree with whoever said upthread that I think it would have been BEYOND AWESOME if she had pulled a blood ‘pon out of there. Totally unexpected and wonderful, that would have been. *sigh*

  71. delphyne

    Yup, pulling things out of vaginas is nothing new. A trip to certain bars in Thailand will put pay to that idea. Probably quite a few of the men in the audience will have visited those bars too and will be fully aware of the connection. However subversive she thinks she is, it won’t haves stopped a number of those chaps going home and masturbating about watching her stripping down from her buttoned up business suit to sexy underwear, a thong then naked except for high heels. Creating erections in the patriarchy is a Bad Thing.

    Her muteness is another problem. Naked women with their mouths shut is a standard patriarchal product. Her silence may mean that she provides herself with some distance between her and her audience, and is also able to keep one part of her private but really she’d be better to start talking about the message she wants to put across and keep her clothes on.

    In the post I made that got eaten I mentioned radical feminists who used to pour concrete mix down the toilets of sex cinemas in Leeds, or Nikki Craft’s Preying Mantis Women’s Brigade who gave out the M.U.S.H. award (Merchants United to Save Hustler), a fifteen inch golden phali that ejaculated Cream of Wheat onto a display of Hustler images, in public presentations to the stores who continued to sell Hustler. Now that is subversion.

  72. polly styrene

    Or you can just accidentally set off the fire alarm in whatever patriarchal institution you happen to be in. Basic, but does the job.

  73. tinfoil hattie

    Hey delphyne! (waves)

    I think this would have been a much more “subversive” act if I were performing it. And I mean performing it in all my extremely fat, lumpy, unshaven, unwaxed, unplucked, middle-aged, stretch-marked, saggy-breasted, un-made-up glory. Maybe even pulling out a REAL tampon.

  74. Anna Belle

    When I was but a callow youth, I thought it would be a good idea to buy into that whole grrl thing, so I made myself a T-shirt with the word “SLUT” on it, and wore it around in a good faith effort to be subversive. Much later it dawned on me that I was merely agreeing with the dominant culture’s notions about what consitutes fair use of me.

    Ahhh, see, the shirt I wore in my callow youth had a picture of a lady with a gun and a caption that read: Dead men don’t rape. I still believe that, ftr.

    I’m not into the whole grrrl thing and I never was. I was kind of a third wave feminist for about six months, then that Spy magazine issue came out with Hillary in leather on the cover, and I promptly realized what bullshit that was.

    I don’t know that I agree that every vagina is owned by the state, but it’s something to consider, and so I will. That’s part of what I love about this blog, the potential for thinking and mind-changing.

  75. delphyne

    Hi tinfoil hattie! I can see what you are saying, and what you describe might be a little more subversive but not by a great deal I don’t think. In patriarchy one of the standard ways for women to get attention is to get naked (whilst keeping our mouths firmly shut), so although women with our less conventionally attractive bodies might be subverting the good to look at stereotype if we perform naked, the bottom line is that we are still submissively taking our clothes off in return for attention from or being listened to by the chaps in charge.

    Another question would be what effect does Ms Martinez have on other female performers? Does what she does make them feel more or less pressured to take their clothes off to get gigs or reviews? My guess is that it would be the latter. After all we’re only talking about her because she got naked, not because she performed some marvellous piece of radical feminist politics. Similarly what effect does she have on audiences and their expectations? Because seeing people naked becomes pretty unshocking after a while – look at how acceptable and commonplace porn is now – we barely register it a lot of the time.

  76. Lewis

    For brilliant writing by a radical feminist, look to Carolyn Gage. Her “Sermons for a Lesbian Tent Revival” is a guidebook for ALL women (not just lesbians) to understand, blame, and survive the patriarchy. Her thinking is a natural fit for blamers. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I bought ten copies for friends and almost each one of them has in turn bought more copies for their friends. IBTP that more women don’t know about Gage’s work.

    You can get “Sermons…” at this address at Lulu:
    h ttp://www.lulu.com/content/3878916

  77. Veganrampage

    Alderson Warm-Fork-

    As far as Sartre and victim blaming goes, we’re talking apples, oranges and nazis. It is one thing to join an active resistance and risk your life and those of your family and friends. It is another thing to keep your head down, quietly write your plays and hope to survive the occupation. Finally, and this is my problem, it is quite another thing to actively stage your plays so the nazis can say “look, we aren’t so bad, life continues as normal, we love art” which is exactly what the nazis did say and use Sarte for but all he gave a shit about was staging his plays. I didn’t mention his philosophy as it doesn’t apply here.
    Theresenstat; I’m sure you have heard of it. This is exactly the type of nazi propaganda a willing world swallowed at face value. Same situation with Sartre.

  78. Lewis

    As for this performance… can art ever be subversive if it doesn’t transcend or transgress the artist herself (because, by definition, she is already a tool of the patriarchy)? I may be saying the same thing that others have said, but this performance seems to be a restatement of the definition of a woman that the patriarchy has already placed on Martinez. The performance may be satisfying in an “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” vein, but in the end it is just illuminating authority, not subverting it.

  79. TP

    Finley is the poster girl for feminist performance art and the symbol of the contemptible excesses of the NEA as imagined by right-wing fuckwads, but that shouldn’t set off your crap-o-meter, Twissb.

    At an artist’s talk before her show, she sketched out a personal history that made my hair curl. There was a journalist named Jimmy Breslin who wrote an article claiming that her art consisted of shoving yams up her cunt. Though untrue, this claim has captured the imagination of the public in ways that are entirely predictable, and for Finley, entirely destructive. She called it rape – Breslin raped her by disseminating this lie, and Jesse Helms raped her by using this lie as a tool to destroy the NEA.

    She envisioned performance art as something non-patriarchal in essence, since it wasn’t based on objects that establish a hierarchy of ownership.

    As for feminist books, in light of the discussion being centered on porn, I think instantly of one of my favorites: Catherine MacKinnon’s “Just Words”, which is very useful for understanding the difference between free speech and images of sex crimes.

  80. Nolabelfits

    NO one had mentioned that she’s pretty fucking good at the magic. Somehow that got lost in whatever message she was trying to get out there.

  81. Carpenter

    I think it is just a very silly strip act. Look at her website, you can also checks out the stunt where she sets her tits on fire. That ain’t easy to do, but again it is just an outrageous burlesque act. She even used the word “post-feminist” to describe it. Surely it isnt subversive.

    At best she could be trying to convince everyone that strip acts can force you to try to look at more of a whole person, a non-sexbot with a sense of humor or mad fire skillz, and of course many blamers view the existence of such a strip act as impossible.

  82. Spiders

    I’ve filed that concrete down the toilet thing away for future reference.

  83. orlando

    La Clique is indeed middle-class safe/naughty performance. It even sold out in Dublin, which has a pretty low tolerance for anything genuinely provocative. It does, however, include just as much bare and sexualised male flesh as female. I think Martinez might have been the one I saw who played Jerusalem on a kazoo inserted in her vagina (while keeping her dress on).

    Lewis, surely illuminating authority is the first step to subverting it? In fact, while rootlesscosmo’s comment about the patriarchy’s ability to absorb and repackage subversion is spot on, I don’t think that in itself should be a criticism of the work. On the contrary, because everything we do will find a place within the patriarchy’s framinng (illustrated by the hypothetical audience member thinking “a stripper who doesn’t take herself so goddamn serious”) we can’t let that stop us making whatever gestures we can come up with towards mocking and deriding that framing.

    The comments that centre on the imagined reaction of idiot male audience members come close to making this performer resposible for the responses of men to her, and we all agree on how we feel about that slippery slope, I think.

  84. thebewilderness

    Nolabelfits, I think that might be because almost everyone knows how that trick is done with the fake palm thingamy.
    I thought that was part of the intent. To use a trick that doesn’t require an up your sleeve stash to debunk the up your sleeve suspicion that audiences bring.

  85. TwissB

    TP – I think that I may have been less than clear in my comment about “Karen Finley as poster girl for the campaign to claim NEA money for artists on the premise that artists’ entitlement to public support was in direct proportion to their ability to bite the public hand that fed them. The tendency of sexist male critics to embrace Finley as their pet “feminist” artist sets off my crap detector.” I wasn’t referring to Helms and other foils, but to the artists who made her their poster girl in their campaign, along with Maplethorpe, Andres Serrano (creator of “Piss Christ” and “Poop” consisting of 66 piles of variegated excrement) etc. The sexist critics I referred to are all self-styled liberals.

    It seems to me that artists who rely on such routine shock effects (ridicule or exposure of something that the social fathers have decreed must be adored or concealed) have a lot in common with evangelists who rely on SIN to preach salvation. Wouldn’t, in both cases, their act bomb if the audience reacted with a bored “So?” Besides, men don’t mind seeing a woman make a fool of herself by taking her clothes off in public, whatever her alleged message.

    In contrast, the press, who showed no restraint in trashing Catharine MacKinnon as a prude and a censor, stayed away in droves when she spoke on her book “Only Words” at the National Press Club and effectively disappeared her speech. MacKinnon’s critique cannot help but make fools of them and their First Amendment pieties and that’s the blasphemy that really shocks them. The funniest reaction was Jonathan Yardley’s review of the book in the Washington Post in which he railed at MacKinnon as a censor and then huffed that the Harvard Press should not have published her book.

  86. delphyne

    My point about the male audience members’ response to her was to point out that it is not possible to take her performance out of context, orlando. A conventionally attractive woman stripping from business suit down to nothing but high heels has a prior meaning in the patriarchy whatever other kind of wishful thinking some people want to indulge in about it.

    Do you want actions to be politcally effective? Because if you do then don’t do something that will give all the misogynists in the audience a cheap thrill. If this wasn’t being claimed as somehow at the vanguard politically, I would pay no attention to it whatsoever, but once again women are being sold a bill of goods that claims that something that is actually damaging to us is somehow empowering (empowerful, ahem) or politically progressive. This is just a hipster version of lipstick, high heels and pole-dancing. And she appears to be indulging in at least two of those things.

    There are some acts that cannot be absorbed by the patriarchy – like concrete in the plumbing of a sex cinema (it must have cost them a fortune to sort that out. Spiders I’ve marked it down for future reference too and am trying to work out the practicalities) or Cream of Wheat being ejaculated over Hustler magazines from a giant phallus. Those sort of actions have to be suppressed instead, which is why we don’t see feminists getting excited about them in the same way we see some getting excited about a woman taking her clothes off in front of an audience. “It’s so subversive!”. No it isn’t.

    Have people here looked at Nikki Craft’s website? I won’t link because my post will probably disappear again. Why not take a look at it and we maybe can talk some more about what political subversion is, because seriously, I think Nikki wrote the book on it.

  87. Hedgepig

    delphyne, I think we all know that a lot of men have one possible reaction to/interpretation of female nudity. But many men have only one possible reaction to/interpretation of a woman doing anything, in fact, just being female. I can imagine some misogynistic men might find a group of women handling a large fake phallus and spraying a semen-like substance over dirty magazines in some way titillating. I’m not sure that we can ever be certain that any act by a woman under patriarchy cannot be re-subverted for its purposes.
    Concrete in the plumbing of a sex-cinema is a great idea with concrete (sorry) benefits i.e. stopping abusers from operating, and personally I’m attracted to good practical vandalism more than I am to symbolic protest. But anything that involves a symbol of any kind is vulnerable to patriarchal re-purposing.

  88. delphyne

    I think you’re reaching a bit there TBH Hedgepig to undermine my argument. If misogynists were going to find pornography being destroyed in such a manner was a cheap thrill for them you can be goddamned sure that it would already be happening for male audiences somewhere in the world and there would be vids of it to find on You Tube. On the other hand buttoned up lady strips off down to her high heels is probably on show every night of the year in patriarchy.

  89. Lara

    “It is, apparently, acceptable in many young-person circles to disdain porn due to its “cheesiness,” but not, of course, for its commodification of and violence to women’s bodies. This disdain is often expressed in watching a great deal of it, supposedly in an “ironic” fashion, and I wonder if that’s not what this is: Making lighthearted and rather toothless fun of the striptease for its style rather than its substance.”

    You hit the nail on the head right there, Rachel. I couldn’t put my finger down exactly on what it was that made this only slightly aesthetically different from your common striptease, and not really subversive at all. You’ve described it perfectly. Thank you.

  90. Lara

    I can’t believe no one has yet pointed out the fact that this is a WHITE woman on stage performing this. If she is hispanic, she is still of predominantly European decent, and that makes a difference. What if she had been Black? Or a dark Hispanic woman? Or Arab?
    We should all know by now, as feminists, that Black women’s bodies have traditionally always been up on display for the consumption (literally and figuratively) of predominantly White males: from the slave auction block to the strip club stage. White women’s bodies may be seen traditionally as “pure” or “temples,” but Black women’s bodies (as well as the bodies of Native American and even Hispanic women) have traditionally been seen as “dirty” “sensuous” “spicy” AND “inviolable.” This makes a tremendous amount of difference in any kind of meaning Martinez’s performance conveys.

  91. lauredhel

    I fail to see the delightful plusses of stopping up the toilets. The bosses might have to fork out some cash, but the people who are going to be wallowing in the shit are going to be the cleaners – poor, almost certainly women, and quite likely immigrant women of colour.

  92. delphyne

    They’d have to get plumbers in, Lauredhel. I don’t know about what happens where you are, but plumbers are highly paid here in the UK. I don’t see how shit could actually get past concrete stopping up a toilet, maybe you could explain the physics of that. It would also close down the cinema as they wouldn’t be allowed to operate without facilities.

    Quietism rules OK I guess though. Let’s set fire to our breasts instead because it’s not like women are ever set on fire for being women even now in this world. That’ll show the woman-haters.

    Do you have any alternative suggestions for subversion?

  93. delphyne

    Funny that you don’t mind the cleaners wallowing in the shit (and probably semen) when they are just cleaning up after sex cinema patrons, Lauredhel. Why is that?

  94. atheistwoman

    But yes Delphyne, cleaning up semen is empowerful. As is cleaning bathrooms to begin with. Because it lets them work yanno*. And without a doubt all the women being exploited inside the shop are white and totally love it! And setting your tits on fire is the bees knees! Have I made my point yet!(wrt the sarcastic explanation points). Anyway don’t you know that women can’t do anything to oppose the system, unless it’s doing exactly what the system wants?

    *Rather than questioning why anyone in their right minds would be cleaning other people’s bathrooms if not for fear of poverty. And why the hell is that? One fucked up world.

  95. Donna

    IBTP for my inability to view the vid on this here site. I’m not going to bother to search for the thing elsewhere because reading the comments of the Blametariat have given me a good enough idea of what is going on. I’m just going to say that the analogy of women-as-toilets is probably the most apt thing I’ve ever read on this site, which is saying something because I never cease to be gobsmacked by the aptness of the Blamertariat.

    Therefore, the notion that a woman can chuck her clothes and gyrate onstage in just about any public situation and have it subvert the patriarchy is nigh on unimaginable. “Oh look! There’s a toilet! And it’s engaging in amusing and eccentric antics! I will especially enjoy relieving my incontinence in this particular one!”

  96. ivyleaves

    Great commentary. Two things from me:

    1. Yes, I thought the shoes were the next logical step, and then she would be done.

    2. If the redness of the hanky coming from the vagina was meant to shock by referring to blood, then it should have been white until it came from the vagina. Otherwise, we all missed the point for the most part. Brown would have made it even better, because I thought it came out of her ass as well.

    Very meh, in my opinion, and without the nudity, I suspect she would be unemployed.

    As far as the lesbian performance space with stripping, I would really like to see some discussion of the misogyny of lesbians, which these days is really getting to be overt as exemplified by the “boi” paradigm. IBTP, of course.

  97. vitaminC

    I found Amber Hawk Swanson’s doll photographs deeply disturbing. I know it’s a doll but, to me, it suggests a disabled woman, unable to defend herself.

    @Gayle:

    Yeah, I think that’s part of the point. The doll looks just like her, and she’s standing RIGHT THERE with it (or photographing), yet people feel free to do the most disgusting things to it since it can’t fight back. It’s the ultimate victimization.

    It’s doubly creepy because it reveals the kind of treatment she herself might experience at the hands of these strangers if she weren’t able to defend herself–and in some cases, even if she were.

  98. Dr. Psycho

    Oh, how did I know that a striptease posted here would be Ursula Martinez’s magic act…?

    I would call this equal parts subversion of the patriarchy, and inventive patriarchal striptease (which might be even more subversive).

    I like seeing a nice healthy-looking naked woman — by which I mean a woman who looks like she’s healthy-minded enough not to be coy or flirtatious but simply “here I am, take me or leave me”.

  99. delphyne

    Valerie Solanas had some plans. They didn’t involve high heels, nakedness and red hankies though:

    “SCUM will become members of the unwork force, the fuck-up force; they will get jobs of various kinds an unwork. For example, SCUM salesgirls will not charge for merchandise; SCUM telephone operators will not charge for calls; SCUM office and factory workers, in addition to fucking up their work, will secretly destroy equipment. SCUM will unwork at a job until fired, then get a new job to unwork at.

    SCUM will forcibly relieve bus drivers, cab drivers and subway token sellers of their jobs and run buses and cabs and dispense free tokens to the public.

    SCUM will destroy all useless and harmful objects — cars, store windows, `Great Art’, etc.

    Eventually SCUM will take over the airwaves — radio and TV networks — by forcibly relieving of their jobs all radio and TV employees who would impede SCUM’s entry into the broadcasting studios.

    SCUM will couple-bust — barge into mixed (male-female) couples, wherever they are, and bust them up.”

    When men are claiming something is subversive to the patriarchy, you can be sure it’s a rubbish idea.

  100. Daisy P

    The old principle, “I read it for the articles” sort of applies here.

    No…you (they) look at it for the nudity, the woman’s nudity, you don’t care about artistic interpretation, or having any kind of “artistic literacy”….even academics would not care about the “irony” of a performance like this. I kind of get what she’s trying to do, but the wrong people will be looking if she is trying to get a message across in that way.

    Sorry, but by the time I got to this thread, the vid had been removed, and had to do some mighty nimble scrolling, even on me nice little rolling mouse to get down to here, so am going by comments alone.

    Oh and, “The obscenity of the male sex is that everything fills up, swells up, and spews poison”. Daisy “Satire” Puke.

  101. Natalia

    Hmmm. She has an interesting career. The renowned idiocy of YouTube commenters isn’t her problem – it’s the problem of YouTube commenters.

    It ain’t my problem when some guy calls me a “whore” for exposing a shoulder in public either. Might not be performance art, but fact is, we all judge each other on appearance, we all react to each other’s bodies (us being corporeal beings and all) – and I think that sexist reactions are the responsibility of the sexist in question.

    As for artistic intent – I think that how it is received depends on the audience in question, and audience is not at all uniform – even the biggest misogynists in this world will differ as to how they approach her performance. Some will say it’s a sin. Some will laugh at it. Some will be appalled. Some will be challenged or terrified by it – and express anger to cover for their feelings. Saying that intent and/or audience demographics don’t matter it’s like saying that the only correct reading of, say, the work of Kate Atkinson was done by the Daily Mail when it became outraged that a “chambermaid won the Whitbread.” In essence, it would mean that we shouldn’t create anything at all – lest a group of assholes, any assholes, appropriate it or twist its meaning.

    As an undergrad, I did my thesis on Kate Atkinson’s second book – and while I don’t think it necessarily came close to her own intent, it was pretty different from what the Daily Mail wrote about her. Of course, I always knew that my thesis was never going to be read like the Daily Mail is read – but that didn’t inspire me to throw up my hands and announce to my prof that it doesn’t matter and that I’m going to the pub instead of finishing it. You do what you must, after all.

  102. Hedgepig

    Natalia, I was trying to articulate your viewpoint a few days ago and totally failed. I kept fleeing the Blame button at the last moment thinking nope that’s not quite what I want to get across. So, thanks for that, and ditto.

  103. acm

    for what it’s worth, the video was subsequently pulled…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>