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Feb 16 2014

French feminist regenderization film de la semaine

Rape-is-normal is the predominant message received by any woman who spends any time at all either online or living, you know, anywhere. Which is why feminists of a certain stripe have been known, from time to time, to fantasize that if men could experience harassment on the International Female Scale (i.e., incessant, daily, and potentially life-threatening), if only for a little while, they might have a bit more compassion for the revolution. Instead of being all “rape is fucking hilarious” and shit:

Collect'em all!

Collect’em all!

But I digress.

This week’s film presents the sexual assault from the point of view of a male victim in a woman-controlled world (the violence isn’t explicit, but it’s explicitly implied, so it could be a little triggery). Proclaimed by the Guardian as having gone viral in less than a week, “Oppressed Majority” is 10-minute film by Eleonore Pourriat that portrays a day in the life of a white dude living in an oppressive matriarchy. We watch his personal sovereignty erode away little by little as he gets condescended to by a neighbor woman, patronized by a sweaty close-talking bare-chested woman jogger, wolf-whistled, harassed with obscenities at a stoplight, assaulted at knifepoint by a gang of lady thugs (who bite his dick!), mocked by a woman cop at the station house, and accused of asking for it by his unsympathetic successful businessman wife. There’s also a scene where he attempts, white-feminist-style, to hip his servile male child-care worker to the fact that he shouldn’t let his wife force him to wear a burka.

There are worse ways to spend five minutes than to ponder how Pourriat’s violent dystopia, in which the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women are regendered and perpetrated against a hapless dude, at first reads like an absurd fiction. You just can’t conceive of a social order where dudes are required to cover their entire bodies in a sack or are chased down the street by gangs of white chicks threatening to bite their dicks off. Then, because you’re no deluded dishrag, it registers that this absurd, violent dystopia is not only real, it is your normal life. Yick.

As women we tend to brush off our daily doses of sexism and harassment, rationalizing them as no big whoop, or just another little annoyance, or the cost of doing business. We’ve all internalized these hatey, rapey messages and, weighing the possible repercussions against personal autonomy, often decide that we have no choice but to suffer in silence. But a little regendering, like in this film, can be illuminating and inspiring, even if you’re a jaundiced old professional patriarchy-blamer trained to spot daily misogynies hiding in plain sight.

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T-shirt photo via Huffington Post

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13 comments

1 ping

  1. CRW

    “at first reads like an absurd fiction”

    Yeah, as you say, an incredibly painful thing to watch, because it is so incredibly painful to realize how calloused I am to the daily reality of it for women. It’s still almost impossible to watch.

    As were these (comments in reaction to article titled “Woman Kills Her Rapist By Setting Him on Fire”):
    http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/.a/6a00d83451b4ba69e2019b0450287b970d-pi

    I sent the above comment list to my daughter: “What’s so horrific about this series of comments is that they’re so much more horrific than what they’re satirizing. Sometimes it takes a modest proposal to catch a glimpse of the truth.”

    She replied: “Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, Mom, but I disagree that these comments are more horrific than what people (perps, victims, and others) actually say about rape. They are exactly what I have heard and even naively felt myself, as a victim of rape.”

    and I said: “Right, I mean it’s horrible that these comments seem so shockingly awful about a man being set on fire when they’re actually what we hear about rape all the time. (I should have just posted it without trying to explain it – dark satire like this doesn’t work as well with an explanation.)”

    (Sorry, I think I don’t know how to add a link to a comment)

  2. Ashley

    AWESOME. Why can’t they make a tv show out of that. There are so many situations I would like for men to be able to see. This perspective is really the only one that makes it possible to understand what it feels like. Otherwise people just don’t get it.

    It is really validating to see that stuff on film. French feminists are pretty kick ass.

    Twisty, I’m going to reblog this.

  3. gingerest

    I have encountered this vid elsewhere on the web and others have complained about the burka scene, but, lo, your reading validates my own, namely that it skewers good-intentioned, patronizing white feminist racism/religionism.
    Also, no pressure, but I am loving this new Twisty-writing-lots thing.

  4. Rain

    I just watched this video today and was wondering how different it would be if the victim wasn’t white. Also mentioned that, if the patriarchy has to have everything spelled out to this detail in order to finally get through it’s thick head, it can just shove it.

  5. Twisty

    @Rain I know! I was thinking it would be cool to make a film like this and re-race it.

    But I don’t see this video so much as a tool to train dudes about the suckage of sexism, but rather — as Ashley suggested above — as a validating kind of thing for women who have unwittingly internalized the hate and may benefit from seeing it exposed in this role-reversal context.

    Dudes don’t need a movie to explain that sexism is bad. They already know it sucks to be a woman, which is why they all get so hatey about effeminate men and why they won’t get caught dead carrying a purse and why they love to be vile on the internet. They know, but largely they don’t care.

  6. speedbudget

    I only wish they had used the far more common experience of women being assaulted/raped by someone they know and trust. Try getting that story past a police officer.

  7. Twisty

    Amen to that, speedbudget.

  8. Bree

    Sure. Liked it pretty good until he called it a “feminist society.” I was going to share on Facebook but after that, decided not. Because blamers KNOW that dudes think a “feminist” society would be like this. Sigh. They *almost* had it.

  9. KittyWrangler

    It was a nice effort, but I wish they’d countered the inevitable “hurr hurr topless girls raping me awesome! I’d love that!” by not making every woman save the landlady very young and attractive. Not to lend credence to the nasty myth that harassment is bad only when it’s from ugly men, but it’s hard for any reversal to break through the stereotype that all men are supposed to want sex from all (hot) women all the time.

    “Reversals” are rarely ever clear-cut; needing to tweak to every little element the closer you look is like zooming into a fractal image. Like, the real life male counterpart to the landlady doesn’t get his hair done and fully make his face up to take out the trash or wear tight clothes with dainty impractical sweaters draped precariously over his shoulders, so I don’t see why a woman in a “matriarchy” would, either. And so on and so on. But I still love reversals. That “homeless” lady did a good job yelling too, that was pretty realistic.

  10. Mildred

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPAat-T1uhE
    Oh my gosh! Please watch this – Its Dustin Hoffman talking about his role in Tootsie… I’ve never seen a man… get it like this before.

  11. Serial Cereal

    Agree with Bree: calling it a “feminist society” is a mistake. The short shows a “masculist” society, just with women acting as prime movers. We aspire to far more than treating others like that.

  12. Lizor

    It’s a good film, but it also underscores how limited these gender-swop memes are. I wonder how the words “bitch” and “twat” as an insult to the ruling class could/would play. Calling someone a “cock” just does not have that special shaming power, does it? And of course there’s the fact that penetrating someone’s body and being penetrated are very different things physically and psychologically, not to mention unwanted pregnancies and children which are not so swop-able. And I can’t help but notice that the distopia of the film is a gender swop of a world where a bunch of plain looking women are surrounded by oppressive chippendale-calendar dudes.

    The other difficulty is a lack of historical context – like being the gazillionth generation of human who has been told that deep down you’re nothing more than a fuck hole and baby incubator, no matter how decorative you might be.

    This Australian Bangladeshi comedian does a great riff on reverse racism – showing how far back you have to dig to make your swapping example resonate.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M

    All of that said, I do think it’s a good film. I just wish it was not so difficult to impress upon folk how profoundly fucked up it is living in this gendered shit-show.

  13. lizor

    Oh yeah, and calling it a “feminist society” really really really sucks big time.

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