Faithful readers know that, when it comes to feminists who struggle with their own internalized misogyny, the spinster aunt is forbearance itself. But I just have to say I am goddam astonished by some of the comments on the Meghan McCain post. And I’ve survived not only the Great Hummer Wars of Aught-Six, but also Fucktardgate, Concentration-Camp-As-A-Metaphor-For-Public-School-Gate, Foie Grasgate, and of course dear old Cuntalinagate, to name but a few, so when a blog comment astonishes me, that’s saying something.
If you’re one of the drive-by blamers who skips the comments section — perhaps because you justifiably fear encountering sentences that begin with lowercase letters — you have not been privy to the interesting result of a study I didn’t even know I was conducting. That is: something about McCain’s photo [click here for the backstory] induced some otherwise reasonable women — women who self-select as advanced patriarchy-blamers — to take their latent sexism out for a tiptoe through the tulips.
Having analyzed the raw data, the Spinstitute for the Study of Feminine Odor’s preliminary findings are these: an acute sensitivity of the viewer to messages encoded in pornography has led to a sort of confusion, or unresolved conflict, between patriarchal mores concerning the implicit nature of women, and the antifeminist implications of femininity performed at or near pornographic levels.
In other words, a small subset of blamers — at times deploying rhetoric which is indistinguishable from that of Dude Nation — has apparently determined that McCain’s potential to benefit from her position on a pornulational continuum justifies sex-based castigation. That this castigation is ostensibly offered as a critique of patriarchy speaks to the confusion to which I previously alluded.
These findings were surprising, as I had more or less expected some more or less universal analysis from a radical feminist viewpoint, an analysis covering the social and political factors that form the armature of a matrix of femininity in which all women’s behavior — including wardrobe, grooming, and facial expression — is rigidly monitored and restricted.
Such are the vagaries of blaming.
Excerpts of some of these comments follow. Nearly all of these comments also contain mitigating “I also blame the patriarchy!” remarks, making for a bizarre juxtaposition of sublimated patriarchy-blaming and subconscious, knee-jerk misogyny. Click the handy links for full context.
— “[H]er breasts look really uncomfortably smashed together and up. it looks to me like she has big breasts for her frame and she was sitting around the apartment and thought they looked good in her new Wonderbra and decided to show off on Twitter a little bit.” [here]
— “Here’s the thing- of course the object of blame is the legions of twitter people, but we can’t just give McCain a “pass” on intent because she is female. This is a “sexy” picture. That she, of her own volition, posted. Tank top or no tank top, the facial expression and tilt of the head says it all. And there is NO POINT to the picture, no context whatsoever, no article that it illustrates- it is just a picture of Megan McCain. I can only think that she put the picture up because she happened to take it, happened to think it made her look pretty, and put it up because she wanted POSITIVE feedback from her friends, essentially, praise about how pretty she is.” [here]
— “Looks to me like the requisite lips out, head tilted downward but eyes up’ boob showin’ crap teenage girls post on myspace all day long. A joke, perhaps? Or just business as usual. How old is she anyway?” [here]
— “[H]ow is it not okay to comment on her breasts? all I was saying was this looks very uncomfortable. lighten up.” [here]
— “Liking the idea of McCain doing some chores around the joint. Whichever joint you like.” [here]
— “Megan [sic] has been making the rounds trying to start a career as important-to-listen-to commentator and editorialist on every show and outlet that would have her. This isn’t all about losing the shit at the sight of tatas. It is also about the counter-point of her spilling out of her top with her attempt to make a career as having more to offer than nepotism and requisite partriarchy-pleasing cute blondeness.” [here]
Well. These authors seem to be placing a pretty high premium on McCain’s intent. And they seem pretty comfortable in asserting an infallible familiarity with McCain’s innermost nature, for they have somehow divined this intent precisely. Maybe they have access to 8th-dimension vortex-portals through which they may mind-meld with Internet personalities. They assert, peering through their vortex-portals into the mind of Meghan McCain, not just that her intent was to titillate, but — and here is the critical jump — that this odious species of intent (slutism!) releases them from their oath of feminist solidarity.
You know how when a rapist is prosecuted, and the slutty intent of the victim is so acutely divined by the defense (‘she didn’t fight back hard enough; she must have wanted it,’ etc) it may be used as a psychbomb to dehumanize her to the jury? It’s like that.
Or take women who post self-portraits on the Internet. Say we get our hands on one of those vortex-portals, so we know without a doubt that their intent is to titillate. Does it logically follow that they then desire a torrent of sex-based hate speech? Meanwhile, do even the feminists buy the whole women-are-masochists myth and just sit idly by while misogynists rip the titillators to shreds?
Anyway, intent, schmintent. I would urge the reader to recall how little intent has to do with anything. Particularly with the experience of the end user. The result is all that matters. Your boyfriend — if you haven’t taken my advice and dumped him yet — possibly loves you, but when he farts in bed and flaps the covers, who gives a flip about his intent? Do you not gag and think him a Philistine?
Which, before all you fart-flappers get lathered up, is my little metaphor for the metaphorical odor that metaphorically drifts, unbidden, from the condition of male privilege into the metaphorical nostrils of the oppressed.
The authors of the quoted remarks will no doubt complain that I have misinterpreted them, and protest that they really do blame the patriarchy. No doubt I have, and no doubt they do. I mock them not. Far from it. Their responses are understandable. As an Internet feminist who has long advocated that women cast a jaundiced eye upon sexual manipulation as a means to empowerfulness, I concur that it sucks torpedo-turds that antifeminist capitulators walk in our midst.
I submit that there is a line between (a) a critical analysis of the performance of femininity and (b) personal attacks that intone the doctrine of Dude Nation. The whiff of “she asked for it” wafting from the subtext in these comments is fucking gnarly, and cannot be interpreted as anything other than the sacred writ of rape culture. It is impossible to read that stuff and not come to the conclusion that patriarchal standards have significantly contributed to this antipathy toward McCain (and her perceived manipulative bodaciosity) at the expense of discourse on the larger issue.
Which larger issue is this: women are the sex class, no exceptions.
“She asked for it” is not a legitimate argument for a sex-based beatdown, not in real life and most definitely not on Savage Death Island.
Savage Death Island, for those who are new, is my whimsical name for an imaginary post-revolutionary society in which women enjoy the same personal bodily sovereignty and human status as anybody else. Because you know what? The way things stand now, a female worm has more autonomy than a female human.