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Aug 03 2010

Spinster aunt wastes time

Of the many time-wasting hobbies in which spinster aunts are known to indulge, one of the most beloved is the close reading — or megamicronalysis, to use the clinical term — of some passage of text or other.

Why the close reading? Why not para-sailing? Why not chemical engineering?

Because spinster aunts used to be English majors, and old habits die hard.

Not an English major? Don’t know or care what the heck I’m talking about? Fantastic! A close reading is when a total nerd takes a chunk of text and gives it the Everlovin Eye of Scrutiny. By which I mean, she whips out her language-loupe and inspects the text-chunk, line by line, word by word, letter by letter, with assiduous concentration on tone, point of view, verb tense, style, connotation, imagery, symbolism, syntax, literary device, motif, theme, punctuation, density, negative space, texture, aroma, atomic weight, or what have you. These attributes — atomic weight et al — form the subtext. A subtext contains layers of meaning that cannot be conveyed by the text’s superficies alone. In fact, the meaning of a subtext’s layers often exists solely in the mind of the total nerd. That’s what’s so marvelous about it.

Subtexts and all their perilous possibilities are irresistible to English majors.

Once a text has been flayed open and every aspect of its shimmering sub-substance lies exposed and quivering in the 60-watt light of the English major’s second-hand desk lamp, the close reading is complete. At this point it is customary to write a long, tedious paper that maybe two people in the world will ever read, in which the English major not only reveals the results of her megamicronalysis, but craftily uses her findings as evidence supporting whatever brilliant and obscure argument she’s making about the text.

Why make a brilliant argument about text at all? Why not do something useful like go down-the-coast and cap that fucking oil leak?

Indeed, it is a question for the ages. One hypothesis: the English major has deduced that English words strung together in certain sequences can express certain ideas, almost as though they were a kind of language. Furthermore, she has realized that her strings of words can express ideas about somebody else’s strings of words, and that these ideas are just too fuckin replete with philosophic value not to synthesize into a long, tedious paper that ultimately draws weighty conclusions about the human condition. Also — brace yourself — close readings can be performed on other close readings, creating string upon string upon string of words expressing this, that, and the other thing, ad infinitum, until the whole of human genius has been explicated, turning the very cosmos itself into an open if slightly long and tedious book!

Thus is the close reading, if one is of a certain lowbrow temperament, immensely satisfying to execute.

In the cut-throat world of patriarchy blaming, close readings are particularly valuable. In the parlance of people who write things about things, “teasing out” the subtexts concealed within garden-variety patriarchy-generated texts (news reportage, field guides to Texas lepidoptera, Italo Calvino short stories) can reveal realer truths about the culture of oppression that might otherwise languish in obscurity where they do no women no good no how.

A favorite self-replenishing source of patriarchy-generated text falls in the Emails Sent In By Dudes category. Say, here’s one now!

Twisty,

Despite my being a male reader of your blog (and one who doesn’t even meet the commenter criteria), I know that neither you nor any other feminist has a responsibility to explain feminism to men. I’m kind of stupid, however, so I am going to go ahead and ask you for your opinion on a recent issue, and for advice on how to proceed. Also, I know that you don’t have definitive authority to speak for feminists, let alone women, but I still seek your opinion as a person far more experienced in these matters than I. I am asking that you grant this, not as an obligation, but as a favor from one possessing wisdom to one sorely needing it. There is undoubtedly some male presumption on my part in asking this, but I would ask that you look beyond that to see that I am honestly endeavoring to do what is right.

The case I am writing in regards to is that which is reported here:

[yadda yadda yadda]*

Sincerely,
Jeremy

Jeremy is asking for something, a thing to which he seems to be aware that he is not entitled, but which a lifetime of dude-on-dudess interaction has nevertheless taught him to expect. He appeals for an exception to the Spinster Prime Directive by asking a spinster aunt to define rape for him, so that he can look smart on some other blog.

Jeremy presents his case in first person, from the point of view of an entity described as a “male reader.” This gives us important information about Jeremy. It tells us straight away that Jeremy has determined that the most basic tenet of the blog — “if you’re a dude, don’t ask me shit” — does not apply to him. We may therefore identify him as a schmuck.

Jeremy refers to “I” or “me” eleven times in this single paragraph. Nine times he refers as “you” to the Internet feminist known as Twisty. His conversational tone (“I” and “you”) suggests that Jeremy perceives a relationship between himself and Twisty. Although he sees himself as the dominant figure in the relationship, Jeremy wishes Twisty to regard it as one approximating that of sovereign/supplicant, where Twisty is the sovereign and Jeremy the supplicant. We infer this because, whereas Jeremy describes himself as “kind of stupid,” he floridly flatters Twisty as “one possessing wisdom” and “experience” who is in a position to “grant” what Jeremy wants. This gambit is transparently calculated to butter Twisty up, that she might cast a benign eye upon his heartfelt plea and do him the favor of setting aside her Internet feminist agenda by telling him what to think.

It is clear, however, that Jeremy doesn’t actually consider himself stupid. We know this because a) in the entire history of the entire Internet, there have only been like two instances of people writing stuff online who were not convinced absolutely of their own moral authority and intellectual superiority, and even these were later shown to have been hoaxes, and b) because Jeremy chucks around, albeit awkwardly, a few 50-cent phrases that he wouldn’t expect a genuinely stupid person to chuck (“definitive authority,” “honestly endeavoring”).

In fact, describing himself as “kind of stupid” and admitting up front that he is not qualified to take part in patriarchy blaming’s cutting-edge dialecticals is merely common self-deprecation, a device used to suggest a sense of humor and a bit of submissiveness where none actually exists, the better to cajole a boon out of a reluctant boon-granter.

In other words, Jeremy is a disingenuous suck-up.

The self-deprecating claim of stupidity allows Jeremy to acknowledge Twisty’s unequivocally stated lack of interest in running a school for boys, while simultaneously deploying an affect so irresistible that Twisty will have no choice but to abandon — “not out of obligation, but as a favor” — her stated mission and personal beliefs in order to cater to his whim.

Why should she do this catering? Because Jeremy is “honestly endeavoring to do what is right.” It is common knowledge that there are no worthier recipients of favors from Internet feminists than honest dudely endeavorers. For, honest though his endeavoring be, Jeremy simply cannot achieve do-rightness without Twisty’s guiding hand on the rudder of his conscience. Is this because he is too lazy to read 17 books on radical feminist theory?

Yes. Yes, it is.

If there’s one thing an English major learns from having had to write, over the course of her academic career, 73 or 74 papers on The Great Gatsby, it’s that when a first person dude claims he’s honest, he lies.

Yes, ladies, the world and the Internet are crawling with dudely entitlement; it may come disguised as the lying lies of obsequious flatterers, but when it does, the English major has it covered like a fuzzy pink seat on a toilet.

_________________________
* Here is the rest of Jeremy’s email. Feel free to address, in the comments, the “recent issue” [!] of rape-by-deceit.

But first: You know, the only reason men are so anxious to define rape all the goddam time is to keep women from getting away with having too much autonomy over their sexy selves. If I were to define rape for anyone who thinks rape requires defining it might go something like “It’s rape whenever she says it’s rape, douche.”

To summarize, a Palestinian Arab was recently convicted for Rape by Deception on the grounds that he claimed to be Jewish in order to have sex with a Jewish woman. There is some question as to whether he actually intentionally deceived her, but that wasn’t really relevant to the discussion, which quickly turned to whether or not this should be classified as rape. In the comment section to that blog post (which you may want to read for context), I attempted to make the argument that this would, indeed, count as rape, on the grounds that deceiving someone in order something they would not otherwise do is coercion, and that coerced sex is rape. In a later post I attempted to clarify this by stating that I find coercion, of any form or severity, to be the defining factor in whether an instance of sexual activity is rape, admitting that there is some degree of variability in the severity in these rape acts, which by this definition includes everything from violent rape, to statutory rape, to prostitution and pornography, to lying about one’s interest in a long term relationship.

Opposition from the other commenters has caused me to question my argument, however. Some have pointed out that it might tend to infantilize women, and others that it is offensive to victims of violent rape to dilute the term by including so much in the definition. Further, there are several counterexamples (such as a women lying about her sexual history to avoid scaring off potential sexual partners, or a light-skinned woman of African descent lying about her racial ancestry in order to marry into white society) that I desperately do not want to classify as rape, but would seem to follow from the system I put forward. If opposition to my arguments were universal, I would withdraw my argument, believing it be a case of an oppressor blind to oppression. However, a couple of commenters have supported my conclusion, at least one of whom I have cause to believe is female, so I am stuck.

I would very much appreciate your opinion on this matter, and am more than willing to accept that I may have been dramatically wrong in my conclusion. I understand that you may choose to use this E-mail on your blog to make example/fun of.

88 comments

3 pings

  1. ew_nc

    Dear Jeremy,

    With regard to your first explanation paragraph, please make use of our friend, Mr. Punctuation.

    Oh, and you’re a tool.

  2. ew_nc

    One more thing.

    Twisty, this hobby of yours sounds exhausting!

  3. XtinaS

    simply cannot achieve do-rightness

    Dudely Do-Right!

    I understand that you may choose to use this E-mail on your blog to make example/fun of.

    That’s very permissive of you, Jeremy.

  4. Hedgepig

    “Jeremy simply cannot achieve do-rightness without Twisty’s guiding hand on the rudder of his conscience. Is this because he is too lazy to read 17 books on radical feminist theory?

    Yes. Yes, it is.”

    This is what shits me to tears about liberal dudes. They’re happy to spend their lives pursuing women, fucking women, living with women, being cooked for by women, being cleaned for by women, having children with women, conducting the most intimate relationships of their lives with women, but the idea that they should have to waste their important dudely time on a thorough examination of the actual condition of women doesn’t seem to compute.

    Ask a liberal dude to read anything about feminism or women’s history and he’ll act like you’ve suggested he has an obligation to become expert on an obscure religious sect that flourished briefly in a small town in Croatia at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

  5. Schnee

    Hmm…methinks this falls into the category of ‘every decoding is another encoding’.

    I think Jeremy usually has to pay women to dominate and abuse him and he wants a massive freebie from the Blamatariat.

  6. lawbitch

    Eddie Haskell, this ain’t Dear Abby.

    I second what Hedgepig said.

  7. Comrade PhysioProf

    In fact, the meaning of a subtext’s layers often exists solely in the mind of the total nerd. That’s what’s so marvelous about it.

    Yeah. That’s a pretty fucken schweet dealio.

  8. Shelby

    Jerers tone is patronising, although I’m unclear from the subtext if he even recognises he’s being so. No, actually I don’t give a fuck.

  9. sonia

    What a nice man. Maybe we’re wrong after all.

  10. Jill

    sonia
    August 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    What a nice man. Maybe we’re wrong after all.

    It might be the vinho verde talking, but this is the funniest goddam thing I’ve ever read on this blob. I mean blog.

  11. Tomecat

    @Jill re: Sonia–nope, I’ve been reading here for a few years now, and that there is some funny stuff.

  12. nails

    Hedgepig- actually, my nigel has read Intercourse, among other things. Dudes who ask questions like Jeremy’s are obviously not the rare dude willing to read radical feminist theory in their free time though.

  13. Barbara P

    Please be forewarned: the following opinions are from a non-English major. (Proof? The use of a colon in the preceding sentence is probably incorrect. At the very least, the writer of this comment did not bother to check.)

    Anyway, Jeremy seems to regard Twisty the way Steve Irwin (used to) regard an especially vicious and dangerous “snawyk” or “crawk-ih-dahl”.

    Though I took no delight in Steve Irwin’s demise, his pseudo-respect for the “objects” of his inquiry always rubbed me the wrong way. “Ooo, look at me, poking a stick at ‘nature’ to see if she’ll bite. Ooo! Ha ha! She almost got me! Wow!” (Note: The use of “she” here is very intentional.) It was essentially a display of domination & superiority (like the way bullfighters fight bulls, another practice I find repulsive).

    That said, perhaps it’s not really that entertaining watching Twisty constantly getting poked by a damn stick, even if she does bite hard and have sharp horns.

  14. incognotter

    Seriously, when I am approached about an issue like that my response tends to be “you don’t merit my actual thinking on the subject because history suggests this is all just an attempt to entrap and discredit me in your little mind somehow.” Until you show good faith in simple discussions and actions you don’t get to tackle more complicated subjects, dude.

  15. AileenWuornos

    Rape is rape, is rape, is rape. Darn it, what’s so difficult to comprehend about that? But I suppose this man has already demonstrated comprehension fail.

  16. Katy

    Christ in short pants, this guy also thinks writing in an unclear, wordy, pretentious style makes people want to read his crap. Jerk.

  17. Vinia Bright

    “a light-skinned woman of African descent lying about her racial ancestry in order to marry into white society”

    Did Jeremy email this to you from the year 1850? I wonder how he’ll react when someone informs him that women of “African descent” (both light and dark skinned) marry into “white society” without lying about their “racial ancestry” every day of the week?

    Actually, I don’t wonder. Where does Twisty find these people?

  18. JenniferRuth

    I’ve read many radical feminist books and I gotta admit that I still have questions from time to time.

  19. speedbudget

    Jill, thank you for a lovely return to those heady college days and nights spent snuggled into a cube at the library or my dorm room, happily parsing obscure sentences in the thick middles of books I had the misfortune to just read, waxing rhapsodic about MEN.

    One thing I’m sure glad for from that though: The Yellow Wallpaper

  20. Citizen Jane

    Oh my God. I totally do all of that when I talk to people of colour about racial issues. Wow, I must have seriously pissed some people off with that. Someone give me a smack now.

    On a completely different note, I take a lot of issue with defining rape as “It’s rape when she says it is,” mainly because most victims don’t call it rape even in the most extreme cases. If someone can use power and domination to make a woman have sex she doesn’t want, they can sure as hell use power and domination to make her say that’s a-okay.

  21. Vicki

    It isn’t that this dude literally don’t have time to read those books: if he has time to be reading and commenting on blogs, he has time to read books on potentially uncomfortable subjects. I grant that there are people who really don’t have that time: they’re working two full-time jobs (counting childcare and other forms of caregiving as work here) or dealing with serious medical issues of their own.

    I’m fairly sure that along with blog commenting, he’s got time to watch baseball or play video games or do sudoku puzzles. Those aren’t evil activities: I unwind with sudoku myself. But that is time that he could take and use for studying feminism. There are libraries and ILL if he lacks the money to buy the texts.

  22. norbizness

    So long as you don’t look over my shoulder to check for hidden comic books, then yes, I am reading the fifteenth of seventeen books about radical feminism.

  23. sargassosea

    “Opposition from the other commenters has caused me to question my argument, however.” – Dudely Do-right

    Because some dudes on the internet shoot you down with hackneyed *it‘s only rape if x, y and z* and *don’t dilute real rape victims’ experiences!* you feel the need to question your argument?

    And you read this blog? Yeah, right.

  24. Pinko Punko

    I think the argument from the other side of this case was advanced at Feministe- I can’t remember where I first read about it. The post there focused more on the racism.

  25. DawnCoyote

    Is it bad that I find Jeremy sort of charming? It’s probably this utter lack of judgment on my part that led me to attempt a reading (close-ish by necessity) of Steven Pinker’s “The Stuff of Thought”, which is as pedantic and insufferable a piece of crap as has ever graced my night table. I will hereby be abandoning said attempt, despite its convenient soporific effects.

    Also, this post http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-streetmilan-in-color-milan.html appeared in my feed between the one I’m replying to and your post above. I found this charming, also.

  26. Cyberwulf

    My favourite part is when he says that if everyone was agin’ him he’d back down, but only because they’re clearly unteachable, of course.

    I’ve seen a lot of dudes pouncing on this case as an example of how women are constantly crying rape and making up shit to land good men in jail, so I’m very suspicious of any dude who wants to discuss it with me.

  27. humanbein

    Dudes are constantly parsing, examining, deconstructing, analyzing, fantasizing, planning, organizing, and strategizing rape. Usually they call it fucking, but they all know, either superficially or deep down in the hidden depths of humanity that exist under the thick layers of cultural conditioning that they need to call themselves “men”, that a certain amount of the fucking they themselves have actually done had overtones of rape. And this drives them crazy, especially those who poke their noses into feminist thinking.

    Men are trained to chase women down and fuck them. They are trained to make them have orgasms. A real man does these things, and finds pride in them. But the coercive nature of these ideas isn’t hard to see, even before you read Dworkin.

    The complicity of men in rape culture is the number one reason why men cringe at the idea of reading feminist thought. The basic humanity of humans with male parts can overcome this reluctance at times, but the full horror of masculinity while continuing to identify as “masculine” is impossible to reconcile. Obsessing over what is and is not rape is a symptom of this confusion.

    Any person who identifies himself as a man first and a human being second is sexist. Masculinity is misogyny. Doing a flip and identifying yourself as feminine when you have male parts isn’t any better, unless you can’t help it for whatever reason. That which is common to all humans, the best of all of us, is why I call myself humanbein.

  28. Jill

    Nice blamin, humanbein.

  29. Earnest O'Nest

    If you pardon my French, what Jeremy does in the e-mail is in the original version of the saying: “Reculer pour mieux enculer.”

  30. acm

    …that it is offensive to victims of violent rape to dilute the term by including so much in the definition.

    but, of course, in no way offensive to victims of date rape or other coercion to deny their victimization legitimacy by saying that only violent rape “counts”…

  31. Jennifer Weild

    Ask her nothing, dudely dudes, for she
    before all else does thee in truth despise.
    Do not protest thy honesty. Twisty
    knows well the lies thy phallus signifies.

    Aloft above her ranch the boiling hawks
    the smallish, brownish birds and mice do hunt,
    while Twisty Jill o’er interwebs doth stalk
    the stupid man who dares her wield her gun.

    Do not, dear dudes, assume sincerity
    will shield thee from the spit of her contempt.
    She can to thee attribute no real parity.
    Your penis by itself leaves you exempt.

    Tremble then, dear man, before you post,
    or your head surrender to her cruelty’s boast.

  32. Cthandhs

    What’s with scoring rape? Does the argument for “violent rape” or “date rape” mean that someone “wins”? What purpose does that serve?

    The important questions are: Did the woman want to have sex/perform sexual acts? What are the consequences of the act(s)? Are those consequences sufficient to mitigate the damages done by the act(s)?

    Speculate, grade, analyze, question, the meaning of the term “rape”, or how big the rape umbrella is; doesn’t matter. It’s all just dudely justification.

  33. violet

    Does he also post as “whitesteps” on The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ forum? (a UK newspaper). Enquiring minds would like to know, or they would if they weren’t already too busy getting hammered on cheap vodka in honour of the release of “Mansplaining! The Movie”:

    “When I look at the perpetrators, the oppressors, the exploiters, the apologists, the deniers and the bullies, no. When I look at the mass awakening of women who have finally had enough, yes.”

    Oh, I see. It’s one of those times when Men Are The Enemy, and Women Are Rising Against Them.

    I’m a male who believes strongly in feminist principles. I like equality. I agree with much of the feminist literature I’ve read. I accept that most claims that feminism = misandry are misguided (and often no more than ignorant misogyny ).

    And yet, according to too many feminists, I’m not really allowed to help. I’m treated with mistrust when I try to show my support. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been bitterly accused of trying to Make It All About Men, pretty much by virtue of being a man. I’ve been turned away from an event before, on grounds that my presence might make women uncomfortable (?).

    It’s sad, really. I stick to my principles because it’s what I believe in. But I suspect a great many potential male allies will feel alienated and shut out by this pointless Us vs Them narrative.

    You’re throwing away a lot of allies.”

  34. Bushfire

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book on radical feminism but I know what rape is.

  35. Sylvie

    He supplicates so hard, you might have to knight him to shut him up.

  36. tinfoil hattie

    You’re throwing away a lot of allies.

    Shit. I knew we were doing feminism wrong.

    And I’m ever-so-sorry your very presence makes me uncomfortable, you of the raping/maiming/slicing/beating/ torturing/murdering half of the population.

  37. Blamerella

    I love it when Teh Dudez get butthurt when it’s explained to them that women who are drunk or high are not, in fact, fair game.

    “But what if we’re BOTH drunk?”

    “But what if she’s throwing herself at me?”

    Disingenuous bullshit like this continues to be presented as an argument when we live in a culture where alcohol is the #1 date rape drug and the general notion of plying women with alcohol to wear down their inhibitions is celebrated.

  38. SelinaK

    As a white woman, I do frequent black feminist/activist websites and blogs, but I never have the audacity to come in and tell anyone that they’re ‘doing it wrong’ and threaten them with losing potential allies if they don’t give me my props for showing support. I’m just there to listen and learn, I don’t have a neurotic need for anyone to praise me for gracing them with white presence.

  39. XtinaS

    Shorter violet:

    “I, a dude, am going to tell advanced blamers on an advanced blaming blog how to Win Allies and Influence People, as though I were the only person to come up with this and subsequently attempt to educate you.  You poor irrational dears!”

    Allies do best when they shut up and listen/learn, not when they admonish the oppressed group on how they could be nicer, douche-merengue.

    Especially on an advanced blaming blog!  Are you lost?

  40. Bushfire

    Yes, “Violet”, you will be turned away from events for women, because you’re not one. Instead of whining about how the oppressed will not cater to the oppressors whim, how about creating positive changes in the men’s spaces that women can’t even get into?

    BTW we’re not losing any allies in leaving the whining men out. Any half decent ally of any cause knows the #1 rule is SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

  41. Mooska

    Ha! I read (and posted on) that thread too, Violet, and of the pantheon of arseholes infesting it, whitesteps indeed stood out as the single archetype of NiceGuy(TM). Most of the rest were at least pretty open about their misogyny.

    However, while very much enjoying the dissection of Jeremy’s email, I must admit that the Israel case referred to has caused some confusion at Casa Mooska, due to the unusual head-on intersections of prejudice and the absence of claims of direct coercion.

  42. Saurs

    Also chiming in as a non-fan of whitesteps and that entire CIF thread. CIF in general, actually. I only read it when I’m feeling masochistic.

    XtinaS and Bushfire probably ought to re-read violet’s comment, most of which, is, in fact, a quote.

  43. XtinaS

    That would explain why there’s that extra quote mark at the end, there, I suppose.

    violet, my apologies.

  44. Jonathan

    @Hedgepig:

    “This is what shits me to tears about liberal dudes. They’re happy to spend their lives pursuing women, fucking women, living with women, being cooked for by women, being cleaned for by women, having children with women, conducting the most intimate relationships of their lives with women, but the idea that they should have to waste their important dudely time on a thorough examination of the actual condition of women doesn’t seem to compute.”

    Intercourse now available on both the Kindle and iBooks, yet the liberal doods still resist! They’ll eagerly furrow their brows and plow through their e-book download of The Art of War, even though none of them will ever be generals. But getting a dudely liberal to read Intercourse? Even though many of them will inflict themselves on women? You’ll have an easier time flogging them with their iPads.

    “You’re throwing away a lot of allies.”

    With allies like that, who needs saboteurs?

  45. humanbein

    violet, men love to imagine they are oppressed by women. Especially women who react with distrust and suspicion to “feminist men”. There’s no such thing as a feminist man. Identifying as a man is simply a sexist action.

    White men can never understand oppression. Since they have the invisible unfelt freedom of living without any real oppression, they can only imagine it like little kids scaring themselves under the covers with ghost stories and a flashlight. If you had the slightest clue about oppression you’d understand exactly why the only rational reaction an oppressed class can have to the presence of an oppressor is to feel oppressed.

  46. HazelStone

    He used “in regards to.” On purpose. Eeeeew.

  47. Jill

    HazelStone
    August 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    He used “in regards to.” On purpose. Eeeeew.

    I know. It burned off my eyelashes when I read it.

  48. Cecelia

    Can I say, thank you Twisty for being my cheeky-feminist-humor-may-find-myself-a-place-in-the-literary-world-but-then-I-remember-that-literature-is-a-dude-thing-to-begin-with-ellipses-the-human-condition-and-such-hedonistic-frivolous-interests-do-not-actually-include-me-subjectively-because-they-include-such-things-as-blatant-patriarchy-which-may-be-the-root-of-said-problematic-human-condition-to-begin-with-so-why-really-bother-anyway-ellipses – oh shit, I found the answer. – role model.
    1) I apologize for the hyphenated rant.
    2) It sucks that I’m only halfway through my undergrad English degree.

    Oh, art, how I loved you so.

    And thanks again humanbein, for being one.

  49. violet

    No worries XtinaS, I probably could have formatted it more clearly. The cheap vodka was winning at that point.

  50. EmilyBites

    Scary amounts of yes, humanbein.

    Men are enormously invested in excluding all the sex they’ve personally ever had from the definition of rape, otherwise they might have to admit they’ve done some raping, or something pretty like it. Or maybe that their sexuality is in fact that of a rapacious predator. Or maybe that they kind of are a rapist.

    They don’t like thinking about all the situations in their lives in which coercion was the name of the game. That drunk chick they ‘helped’ to her room, that time they asked their girlfriend to do it nine times and she said no eight times and then said nothing, when they knew a woman wouldn’t sleep with them sober so they bought her eleven shots…and so on and so I blame.

  51. Comrade Svilova

    Like Mooska, I have my own questions about the specific case Jeremy and internet pals were discussing, but whenever I hear that a group of dudes have gathered together to discuss what is “rape-rape” and what is not rape, I smell Ulterior Motives.

    With the case in question, I’d rather discuss “is it racist or not” and perhaps look at intermarriage and the dynamics of the patriarchy that reinforce the idea of “our group” and “your groups” (where “race” is concerned).

  52. Uppity

    Here in Canuckland, we had a recent slapdown over the ‘definition’ of rape. Some time ago, rape as a criminal charge was replaced with sexual assault (which has degrees, I believe), but this dude politician, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, wanted to emphasize how extry-bad Rape is by reinstating it as a separate crime. His proposal didn’t go far because Catherine Kane, in charge of the criminal law policy section at Justice Canada gave him what for. She said, “The replacement of the antiquated rape offence by the current sexual assault offences reflects the reality that the sexual integrity of any and every victim can be violated by any form of non-consensual sexual activity.”

  53. Blamerella

    EmilyBites, that’s why the doodz are so defensive about it not being rape when the chick is drunk.

  54. AlienNumber

    Dear Twisty, you may enjoy reading this interview with Mary Norris, copy-editor at the New Yorker.
    http://andyrossagency.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/copy-editing-at-the-new-yorker-with-mary-norris/

    p.s. why is it “at the New Yorker” and not “for the New Yorker”? Disclaimer: English is my second and a half language.

  55. phio gistic

    Short version:

    “Butbutbut, men lie to women in order to have sex with them all the time! You can’t call that rape! If you did, we’d all be rapists!”

  56. ginger

    There are so many women who are raped and who can’t report it or who will be hurt more by the system or their neighbors or their families or total goddamn strangers if they report it that we *have* to embrace the guideline “If she says it’s rape, it’s rape.”

    I am confused, though, as I often find myself confused, at the intersection of the patriarchy with other power structures. The victim, here, assumed the privilege of being a Jew in Jerusalem where (unlike everywhere else on earth) she’s part of the dominant culture, religion and class. Privileged people usually do not even see their privilege, often cannot even see that people without their privilege exist. She did not enquire into his background, a detail that proved absolutely critical to her perception of him as a desirable partner, because she was privileged to assume that everyone who isn’t visibly different is just like her.

    Jeremy is a pretentious suck-up, and the “infantilizing” issue is irrelevant. But I think there are things in this case Blamers should talk about. What do we do when someone who is an active participant in a classist, racist dominant paradigm in all other ways falls afoul of the patriarchy? Do we turn a blind eye to the fact she’s a bigot, and just say, “Well, even a bigot can be raped,” overlooking the fact that it is only through the very construction of that bigotry that she rued her sexual encounter?

    (I know I’m not a familiar name here. But, damn it, even though I haven’t read much of the feminist canon because there were too many endnotes, I’ve lurked here a bunch, I sat through a dismal college graduation speech by Kitty McKinnon in the late 80s, and I’ve been agonizing for decades about whether my grooming decisions reinforce the dominant paradigm. I’m now and ever have been a feminist and I think I’ve earned the title Blamer.)

  57. Frumious B

    @gnger: Intersectionality is tough stuff, but yes, even bigots can be raped. The construction that any woman (person) cannot be raped due to their participation in blah blah blah is central to rape culture. Please continue to analyze the racism in the situation, but lose the insinuation that the woman could not or would not have been raped because of her participation in bigotry.

  58. eb

    A Jewish man gives $100 to a man he thought was also Jewish. After discovering the man to be an Arab, the Jewish man went to the police and charged the Arab man with theft because he never would knowingly have given money to an Arab. The Arab man is now in jail for theft.

    How many men would come to the defense of the Arab men? I imagine not many, if any. Would it even make the news? Probably not.

  59. Eurosabra

    As a Jerusalemite, I can tell you that the recent case law on this so far involved 2 Jewish-Israeli men, one who made “fraud in the inducement” economic misrepresentations, such as promising government housing and welfare help he was in no position to grant, and another claiming to be a neurosurgeon, which is an implied “fraud in the inducement” of economic benefit (Yes, a commodity model of sex, ick.). Kashour is a married father of two, and he might have some obligation of fidelity to his wife seeing as though his marriage, as far as we know, is structured as a traditional Islamic marriage. I say this knowing that “passing” is a standard and necessary tool of E. Jerusalem Palestinians at times, particularly people like Kashour who do highly-mobile messenger and delivery jobs or merchants within a tourist-cash economy. This is one of the few Israeli laws applied somewhat equally, and the reaction of some feminist blogs, like Feministe, has been problematic, to say the least, given the train-wreck which is prosecution of sex crimes, trafficking, cult sex slavery etc in Israel in general. (And the colonial praxis of the State of Israel w/respect to Jerusalem Palestinians in a larger sense.)

  60. eb

    He ‘might’ have some obligation of fidelity? I bet his wife has every obligation of fidelity.

    As for the government housing fraud – who cares? That’s because it involved two men. When a man robs a man it’s not news and there are no questions as to who has been harmed.

    When it comes to rape. the victim is always an accessory to the crime.

  61. Eurosabra

    To clarify, the previous case law involves individual Israeli-Jewish men who made those representations to Israeli-Jewish women, in two separate cases. And yes, Kashour’s wife would find herself divorced in a heartbeat, if not worse, should she spontaneously cheat. But the question of whether her family could separate her from an abusive/unfaithful husband is an open one.

  62. Hezbella

    This is not a case about rape, but rather another example of Israel’s blatant race-based policies that criminalize sexual relations between Jews and Arabs. Had the man in question been Jewish and guilty of, say, lying about his income, or had concealed his male pattern baldness with a convincing toupee, it’s unlikely the case would ever have gone to trial. Because the defendant was Palestinian, his ultimately harmless (and sad) deception is tantamount to rape in the eyes of Israel’s judiciary. And let’s not kid ourselves that the court’s ruling in favor of this particular woman was representative of its enlightened views about feminism, but rather indicative of a broader movement to criminalize all aspects of Arab life in Israel as its government works towards ridding itself of a despised ethnic group.

  63. joy

    Wow! Whoever knew that close-reading would ever come in handy. (I learned it at a fancy-pants charter high school, from a second-wave feminist teacher no less.)

    Turns out I’ve been close-reading everything to spew forth from dudes, funfeminists, basically everybody, for years and simply never knew it.

    Whatever one wishes to call it, the strategy is absolutely invaluable for cutting through, if not outright translating, the hateful bullshit that assaults women’s eardrums and eyes on a nonstop basis. 24/7, 365, with or without help from the media.

    It’s like putting on those Magic Eye glasses and finally being able to see the hidden design. Or getting bifocals. Or something.

  64. Katherine

    As to dudes who want to be allies but are afraid of being chased off feminist blogs; you don’t help us by derailing discussions on feminist blogs. You help us by being our allies in the real world. By believing women who say they have been raped. By taking our side when our boss takes credit for something we did or thought of. By laying the smack down on your buddies who think a drunk woman is fair game, or who belittle us behind our backs. By raising your sons and daughters as equals. By campaigning for more programs to bring up the average wage of women. By voting against parties that limit women’s rights. By working against rape culture in your job. By donating to women’s shelters, welfare programs in third world countries, and anything else that would benefit women. By not raping us. By not being butthurt on blogs discussing the wrongs that men generally do. And so on.

    You are an ally if you HELP us, not if you come to feminist blogs to pontificate. In fact, if you are pontificating, you are wasting time that could have been used to help us, both your time and our time that we spend responding to you.

  65. ginger

    (I was clear that I’m female, right?)

  66. Eurosabra

    Odd that every previous prosecution under this law has been of a Jewish man making an economic misrepresentation of potential benefit to the (Jewish) woman he got sex from. Israeli-Arab men make love with Jewish women every day, while their sisters plug away chastely at Computer Science degrees at Haifa University. A caricature to match your caricature, Hezbella.

  67. Hezbella

    Jews are legally forbidden to intermarry in Israel, unless one spouse converts to the other partner’s religion. If neither spouse will convert, the engaged interfaith couple must travel abroad to wed–ironically, Israel gives legal recognition to intermarriages taking place abroad. Shipler’s research indicated that in the 1980s these courageous couples were primarily Jewish women married to Arab men. . .

    http://www.interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/popular_culture/Jewish-Muslim_and_Jewish-Christian_Intermarriages_in_Israel_Romeo_and_Juliet_Revisited.shtml?rd=2

    Here is a video clip of a recent government sponsored campaign to discourage interfaith marriages:

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/news/watch-new-ad-campaign-targets-jews-abducted-by-intermarriage-1.8605

  68. Jill

    Another reason marriage has got to go is these wack ideas of “intermarriage” and “miscegenation.” The obsession with policing, monitoring, governing, censoring, and regulating the contents of women’s personal vaginas and uteruses, up to and including which wackaloon fairy stories may be believed by the tribes to which the various parties belong, is one of the mondo-est cornerstones of patriarchy. Marriage, and the resulting family with its genetically pure captive offspring and dutiful obeisant wife-slave, is patriarchy’s primary replication unit.

  69. Eurosabra

    The “policing” by ad campaign and propaganda exists because intermarriage exists in only one direction, and it removes a Jewish woman from her family, city, and community, rather than bringing her Muslim spouse into a wider connection with Israeli society. People with anti-libertarian tendencies are going to value the collective above the individual and they are going to lobby their community members about their life choices. Everyone is legally forbidden to intermarry without conversion, because the function of religio-communal identity in the former Ottoman empire is what it is.

    Shipler is almost thirty years out of date, La Guardia almost ten, and the prospects for civil marriage in Israel held up (as everything) by the war.

  70. AoT

    “the prospects for civil marriage in Israel held up (as everything) by the war.”

    That’s absurd. The mind boggles.

  71. Inverarity

    “Lobby their community members about their life choices” sounds like a nice way of saying “call them miscegenists and race traitors.”

  72. Lesley

    Twisty warms the cockles of this English major’s heart.

  73. Hezbella

    “Everyone is legally forbidden to intermarry without conversion, because the function of religio-communal identity in the former Ottoman empire is what it is”.

    To Eurosabra:

    In other words, Israel’s system of “Democracy for Some – Discrimination and Injustice for the Rest” is irrelevant to a case involving the prosecution of an Arab based on the testimony of a racist nut bag crying rape after her sexual partner failed to identify himself as a member of a despised ethnic group. By that logic, we can justify ethnic cleansing under the banner of “collective self-interest” and downplay its significance as long as the perpetrators are Jewish and the persecuted Arab and/or Muslim. Your comments seem to suggest that the crimes of apartheid era South Africa were similarly excusable because the white minority there also believed their “religio-community identity” would be compromised by the proximity of non-whites in their midst.

    As much as “Move along people, there’s nothing to see here” is an admirable attempt to downplay uncomfortable facts, (Israel upholds a system of apartheid and is engaged in ethnic cleansing) it hardly addresses the issue of “rape” as it’s defined in a nation founded on the violent fantasies of a persecuted people united in the common cause of further victimizing those they have violently displaced. The mere suggestion of “rape”, in the context of brutish, brown “others” using subterfuge methods of coercion to violate white “womanhood” is always an effective way to rally public support for policies that further entrench inequality. Women’s bodies are always convenient props when governments need sex up their cases for enhanced measures of subjugation. Fascist (and fascist-like) regimes always rely on the rhetorical tropes of home, hearth and beleaguered ‘womanhood’ to silence dissenters at home. The most recent example being the imminent stoning of an “adulterous” woman in Iran to boost the neo-con case for a military strike against its non-existent nuclear weapons program. Jessica Lynch and Terry Schiavo were also involuntarily recruited to be poster girls for foreign and domestic policies that depended on public support for the increased powers for a war time president and his enablers and cronies occupying the nation’s bully pulpits.

    The daily humiliations that Israel’s Arab population endures, as well as the criminalization of every aspect of their lives, whether it’s home building, seeking employment, getting married, traveling, sending their children to school, . . . are just part and parcel of Israel’s grander schemes of expansion fueled by an increasingly apocalyptic mindset bent on destroying itself to make a point about its imminent destruction at the hands of an ever present enemy. In this case, the stealth enemy is no more than your garden variety horn dog, only too aware that his second class citizenship was a legally enshrined impediment to getting his rocks off.

    Jill – no argument on the subject of marriage as an asinine and wholly unnecessary institution. The point here is that Israel, the largest beneficiary of US aid, (and if you believe the falsehoods it puts out daily in our news media “the only functioning democracy” in the ME ) only grants rights to its citizens according to their religious or ethnic affiliations; a fact that too many blamers seem unaware of in their selective advocacy for women’s rights. There are some here who choose to overlook Israel’s expanded definition of rape that criminalizes sexual activity between Jews and Muslims, seeing an opportunity to split hairs over the notion of “consent” as it applies in the non-level patriarchal playing field. Again, no disagreement here on that point. But I would argue that feminism can’t exist in a vacuum, or be a mutually exclusive of other forms of oppression.

  74. Eurosabra

    It would be amusing if it were not so sinister, removing a man from his role as provider for his family for 18 months. The sexualized “passing” of female Palestinian suicide bombers, is analogous, as is the Palestinian woman who lured an Israeli man to his death by personal ad (though at least she did not pull the trigger herself.) So there is a lurid and deadly underbelly to sexualizing oneself as the Other that sends a very specific message, and is intended to, however adept the State of Israel is at disassembling Palestinian and Israeli-Arab communal life. I would in this context applaud Kashour for the relative mildness of his intent and actions. As for the rest, you are, after all, Hezbellah, so your discourse is to be expected.

  75. Amelie

    Wow Jill, I am surprised you allowed the victim blaming comments of a rape victim go unchallenged. This is a case of rape not racism!!!.

  76. Lara

    I think I like “lying lies” the most out of Twisty’s quotables in this post :)

  77. Lara

    I am Egyptian-American and a radical feminist, so I feel like I have some right to speak on this matter Eurosabra and Hezbellah are discussing. We should not ignore the ethnic/religious power dynamics going on here, however, I would never go as far as saying that the woman is “crying rape” (what an awful phrase anyway!) or a “nutbag.”
    The problem here is that the Western and Israeli media are emphasizing the so-called Muslim-Arabness of the man (perpetrator) and the Jewish-Israeliness of the woman (victim) to play up anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment already festering in the states and parts of Western Europe. The question isn’t whether or not this guy raped this woman, THE PROBLEM is that there is a double standard regarding what is considered acceptable sexual behavior between “ethnic groups” (hilarious that Israeli Jews are distinguished ethnically from Arabs as they are both Semitic!): would a Jewish man who lied to, or hid his real identity from, an Arab Muslim/Christian woman in order to sleep with her be ostracized? Nope! The fact of the matter is that Israeli Jews (and there are Israelis who are also Christian or Muslim) have much more leeway and freedom in their sexual and marital choices than Palestinians (both Muslim and Christian) do.
    So, yeah, as Hezbellah pointed out, women’s bodies are being used as battlegrounds for ethno-religious injustice and oppression, AND they are also used by individual men for their own posturing and gratification. The point is that in the intersections of patriarchy and anti-Arab genocide women get screwed over double-time! IBTP!

  78. Eurosabra

    A Jewish-Israeli man who lied to a Palestinian-Muslim woman to sleep with her, or court her, would, depending on her family’s interpretation of the event, community ties, and socio-economic status, wind up dead at the hands of her family in an honor killing, or as a target of opportunity for terrorists, the way a middle-class college-educated Palestinian women lured a man to his death with a personal ad. Alternatively, he might be handed over for punishment under the same law, and Palestinian Muslims or Christians, particularly citizens of Israel, might find the application of colonial law in their favor a delicious irony. The impossibility of pursuing a Palestinian woman romantically is folklore among Israeli men, with even Israeli Muslim men finding their relative prosperity resented.

  79. medusa

    Dear Eurosabra, Before calling yourself a radical feminist, maybe you should read a thing or two about COLONIAL FEMINISM, of which your postmodernist prose reeks. Unfortunately Israel, like patriarchy, will only change through the violent resistance of its victims, so I do not plan on trying to sway you with the power of ideas here. Sorry Eurosbra, but you are a settler, and your possession of lady-parts makes you no ally of mine. The colonial state of Israel is dialectically connected to the present situation of women across the Arab world and the current phenomena of “Islamism” of which the academy is falling over itself to try to explain without referencing Zionist colonialism or US imperialism. But unfortunately I have the same policy for Israelis that Twisty has for misogynists/men (and I share that policy too), so you will have to go educate yourself – in my experience, the only thing more excruciating than trying to re-educate a misogynist is trying to re-educate a Zionist. Israeli/Jewish exceptionalism is the only thing that comes close in insufferable arrogance and material efficacy to male exceptionalism. Anyhow, I fucking adore Twisty’s blog, but if readers here cannot agree that colonialism and war are the most advanced expressions of patriarchy, then I am afraid I am not among allies here.

    P.S. All* sex is rape, ladies. All men fucking lie to get it and to convince you that you have consented. The only thing exceptional about this story is the Israeli exceptionalism.
    *more than 99%

  80. Xena

    I’m one of the “dudes” that derailed Jeremy’s argument on feministphilosophers. Actually I’m a dirt poor single mother of 2, one severely disabled, trying to get a social science degree in Rich White Boy fucking Hell. I follow the other blog to make better sense of my political philosophy electives. I have as much or more reason to hate the patriarchy as any one of you, and I’ll still defend Jeremy’s apparently sincere interest in feminism.

    Some of you have been way too crass with Jeremy. He usually sides with the radfem position on fp, and you accuse him of being some Kyle Payne type? Shame on you. He expresses his confusion as a philosophy undergrad (I’m guessing by his apparent level of expertise on other posts) in trying to interpret legal arguments posted by PhD’s, law profs, and top level experts in Women’s Studies departments, and you condescend to him like he’s some high school boy? Double shame.

    In light of new evidence in this rape case, I’ll suspend commentary until more evidence becomes available (though the story’s changed so many times I’m still skeptical about the guiding principles behind the Israeli court system). I came over to defend a potential ally.

    Katherine, at least your criticism was constructive. To the rest of you maneaters, we need all the politically well connected allies we can get, male or female. Don’t offer contempt for courtesy. For all we know, this guy may be offering us smallpox infested blankets, but he might be another John Stuart Mill in the making. Mind your manners, and extend the fairness you’re asking for. Jeremy’s been more than fair to your position.

  81. soopermouse

    “The colonial state of Israel is dialectically connected to the present situation of women across the Arab world”

    Antisemitic much?

  82. Saphire

    Xena, excuse me ‘mind my manners’?

    I’m a man- hater, i.e. I’ve had enough with my oppression, realising I’ve gotta live a life of it. I hate men for oppressing me. This spreads a little to you.

    I can condescend to who I want, including you. You’re on the wrong blog!

  83. Leda

    All sex is rape? That statement might as well read all sex is not rape, as by making it you are implicitly stating that no woman is able or willing to consent to sex.

    So, you have both a telepathic link with all women everywhere AND you think that women are incapable of controlling their own bodies. Period.

    That is, if all sex is rape, then rape is the normal mode of sex and rape loses all meaning.

    Since “rape” has now lost all force of meaning, what about actual victims of rape? Your statement reads incredibly disrespectfully to the victims of actual rape and sexual abuse.

  84. Xena

    So, Saphire, how would your hatred of all men for the oppression that SOME men have put on you spread to me? I’m not male and I don’t believe we’ve ever met, so I couldn’t possibly be oppressing you.

    If you think it’s ok to condescend to somebody who’s had the sort of life experiences I’ve had (only a few of which were defined in my comment above) doesn’t that make YOU the oppressor?

    But I will concede that this blog is not my idea of a good time. That radfems are even ABLE to conform to their ‘wymyn only’ views on everything demonstrates a type of privileged upbringing that I’m not lucky enough to have experienced. Rich white lady quilting bees are SO not my thing.

    Before I step off for good, I’ll leave the parting suggestion that you wymyn add some bell hooks to your mandatory reading list.

  85. Xena

    Saphire, you’re not one of the commenters that called Jeremy a suckup, a pervert, a masochist and all the rest. Odd that you would perceive my critique of somebody else’s bad manners as an opportunity to point out how you’re entitled to condescend to me. Meh. I’m off to more interesting blogs.

    Good luck with your hatred. I hope it doesn’t interfere with your health.

  86. Xena

    It’s interesting how we get deleted when we mention how wymyn are reinforcing classist shite when they condescend to single moms, and how this is just as bad as chauvenism.

    I don’t even want to know why you people would delete a suggestion to add some bell hooks to your reading list.

    I’m with Leda on her commentary on rape.

  87. Dana

    ““The colonial state of Israel is dialectically connected to the present situation of women across the Arab world”

    Antisemitic much?”

    Arabs are a Semitic people. More so than many Jews, who more often than not descend from Eastern European converts rather than from Hebrews.

    And I’ll go you one better. If religion is bullshit, which is what most people here seem to argue, then there’s no reason for the State of Israel to exist. For that matter, there’s no reason for Judaism to exist. (Nor Islam, nor Christianity, but those are not my central point just now.) The irony being that the modern State of Israel, even with its theocratic laws, was founded on a Zionist movement set in motion by, among other people, atheists. That’s right–unbelievers were some of the biggest movers and shakers in the early movement.

    Well, an atheist has no reason to want an Israel, since the particular ethnicity of Judaism *requires* religious belief, otherwise it has no purpose. And radfems have no reason to want an Israel, since again it is based in religion.

    And the sad part is that even if everyone in the debate cared about religion and wanted the Jewish religion to prosper alongside all others, the simple fact is that Jewish scripture forbids a re-founding of the State of Israel until the return of the Messiah.

    Do you see Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem? I sure as hell don’t, unless they’re getting an unusually large influx of Mexican immigrants these days.

    Any way you look at it Israel is a scam.

    And you can say “antisemitic” if you want but seriously, *what* “semitics”? So many of them with German and Russian names. Give me a break.

    I’m all for giving that Semitic land back to the actual Semitic peoples who inhabit it. And we can keep on waiting for Jesus. I’m in no hurry.

  88. Eurosabra

    Debating indigenous status usually devolves into various racist claims if one stops talking ONLY about those born in the Holy Land and alive there today versus those born elsewhere and alive there today, which is a somewhat serviceable distinction in some theories of citizenship relating to a binational successor state in Israel/Palestine. The type of racist claim (about Jewish descent) you make above. So many people who identify as Palestinian are non-Semitic in origin that an equally problematic Israeli could exclude them as merely descendants of Muslim Balkan and Turkic invaders of Eretz Israel. I don’t think using the other side’s diversity to deny their identity is a good tactic, but, y’know, it lets me know where you stand.

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