Mar 06 2014

Internet feminism hurt my feelings, but then I got up offa that thang

After a decade of web-based patriarchy blaming, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: it is pretty inadvisable to make arguments, oppressionally speaking, that do not take into account the viewpoints of every possible marginalized group, particularly those groups of which one is not personally a member and the specialized interests of which one therefore has no direct knowledge. Of.

Of course there’s no way around that, so welcome to the personal attacks, rushes to judgment, tone-policing, out-of-context misquotations, sanctimonious castigations, and full-on misconstrutions of Internet Feminism. They will give you fits.

The phenomenon to which I allude — lately all the white ladies are talking about it — is attributable not to the usual anti-feminist dudebros, but to the Mean Girls of Feminism Eating Their Own. This describes every internet feminist at one time or another. It’s been done to me and I’ve certainly done it myself. It’s kind of horrible, on accounta it’s painful, but then again, no pain no gain, right?

The lively, free, and sarcastic exchange of ideas is a beloved cornerstone of the internet. Opposing viewpoints exposing legitimate beefs within the cutthroat world of Internet Feminism should always be expressed colorfully, and with wisecracks. Still, it can be argued that one ought to distinguish between justifiable anger and knee-jerk abuse; cannibalism not a literary style. It should not be confused with argumentation.

But let’s back up.

It all starts with the hurt feelings. If you are, as I am, merely a human internet feminist, rather than an omniscient deity of infinite scope and virtue, chances are the nuances and niceties of the Wide, Wild World of Oppression occasionally escape you, and from time to time you unwittingly commit, out of either naiveté or sloppiness, a privilege-based stupidity foul. Hell, I’m probably doing it right now! As I mentioned, failure to grasp every possible sociological subtlety from the point of view of every imaginable oppressed party can — and will — result in dispiriting beatdowns. Your intent is irrelevant. Such is internet feminism culture in its current form.

And what a curious form it is. With its demands that members conform to strict regulations, subject themselves to incessant policing, and submit to discipline and humiliation, much of internet feminism culture looks a lot like — lard helpis — BDSM. This is disturbing but unsurprising. Given that no revolutionary political movement can exist outside of the very oppressive hegemony it seeks to destroy, a system of domination and submission precisely mirroring that of broader society necessarily obtains within internet feminism as well. Spawned by oppression culture, “feminist infighting” is, at its best, justifiable anger run slightly amok. At its worst it’s a sadistic mob indulging in an abuse fetish, slaking the bloodlust of the hive.

Many a spinster aunt finds that this hive stuff can paralyze the lobe, ravage the viscera, or chunk’er into a feminism-funk. For example, its prevalence is why — for the sake of my own delicate stomach lining — I keep disappearing on hiatus. It’s fairly depressing when your own tribe pillories you for unintended privilege infractions, or worse, when they inform you you’re not even in the tribe. In many respects it’s even worse than the “I hope you die in a rape fire” dude-threats. There’s a sense of betrayal and violation engendered by these smackdowns, and it takes a toll. You make some dumbass privilegey gaffe and suddenly you’re Public FemEnemy No. 1; women you had hoped were united with you against patriarchal tyranny turn out to have their own problems (indeed, you are one of those problems), and are now gnawing on your rotting carcass.

I know, right? White tears! But wait, before you kick me out of feminism again, I’m not suggesting that so-called “white feminists” — a designation that often appears as shorthand for “racist transphobic egomaniacal yuppie white bitches who think it’s all about them” — get a free pass. Au contraire; the whole point of all this Internetian discourse is to smash oppression culture, so it’s in everybody’s interest to use their hurt feelings as a privilege clue and quit being part of the problem. Writers of privilege who give a shit about enbiggening their worldview (those who don’t give a shit should not be considered feminists) have a responsibility to examine with an open mind criticism — even sarcastic criticism — dispensed by the differently-privileged. Yet even among those who assiduously self-monitor, obliviousness will occur, so a good old-fashioned privilege-check can definitely be all to the good. To wit (anecdote alert):

Recently I received an illuminating nudge that was strangely free of hostile scolding. A reader calmly pointed out that in a recent post — about ultra-privileged Jerry Seinfeld’s diversity tone-deafness — I had omitted to mention that, as a Jew, Seinfeld, though fabulously wealthy, is also a member of an oppressed minority. Such an intersectional detail should of course be pertinent when discussing privilege in the US. The reader described my omission as belonging to the “erasing Jewishness” genre, which turns out to be a Thing about the existence of which I had been previously oblivious.

Well, it was so weird not to be chastised, pilloried, and kicked out of feminism over this lack of insight, I practically plotzed (but stopped myself before committing a cultural appropriation). Weirdlier, even though the nudge had been civil, I was no less chagrined than if it had been hostile. This chagrin was my cue to implement my standing policy, which states: whenever a concerned reader says “watch out, you’re erasing someone’s Jewishness” I should ask myself, “hey, what is ‘erasing Jewishness’, and did I in fact do it?” Whereupon I stop, Google, and grok. Once I’ve acquired a grasp of the concept, and determine that the answer is “yes,” I cop to it. Jewishness acknowledged; worldview enbiggened; patriarchy blaming lumbers forth into its uncertain future.

Over the years, the spinster weltanschauung has been similarly enbiggened with regard to countless other issues large and small, including racism, trans politics, fat acceptance, disability, mental illness, vaginismus, blow jobs, motherhood, and discrimination against the ginger-haired. The thing is, the enbiggening took place regardless of the tone of the call-out. In the old days I would get pissy and make churlish retorts (the archive is full of’em), but it gradually dawned on me that ceding power to my bruised ego merely sealed my fate as an unenlightened chump. The key, I discovered much later, is not to get huffy and defensive, or to sit back and passively demand to be educated by the aggrieved party, but to get up offa that thang. Sure, when they tell you your head is up your ass you’re gonna sulk for a minute because you’re human, but then you’re gonna get up offa that thang, because you’re a feminist.

Remember, folks: your hurt feelings are the result of privilege. They’re giving you the opportunity to go out and entruthen yourself. Don’t waste it.

Thanks, Internet!

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One of my long-standing beefs is with dudes who love to lecture me that I will never win them over to the feminist cause as long as I keep copping a tude. My response is twofold. 1) fuck you dude, and 2) the moral indefensibility of sexism exists independently of my or anybody else’s demeanor; oppression isn’t any less wrong if the oppressed aren’t ass-kissers. And besides, winning dudes over has never been, to my mind, the objective of feminism. Appeasement will never liberate women from patriarchal oppression. What’s that old bumper sticker? “Well-behaved women seldom make history”?

Privilege-checking and a deep understanding of intersectionality are vital to modern feminism. In fact, they are prerequisites to the ever-elusive solidarity. I strenuously aver that no movement can evolve without a strong influx of ideology from vocal radicals. So maybe yelling “I hate you” at feminists from different backgrounds isn’t the most expedient of all possible solidaritous exercises, but until all the assorted privilege-weilding gets addressed, I don’t see how anyone can reasonably expect members of marginalized groups to “lighten up.” Is there a fine line between schooling and scorching? Sure, but I’ll say it again: either you’re against oppression or you’re not. A civil tone is more pleasant, but (excepting abuse for abuse’s sake; see “mob fetish,” above) not necessarily more effective.

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You know, not everyone who reads a feminist blog is interested in enbiggening her worldview. Apparently there exists a sizable cohort of consumers of Internet Feminism who are content to complain that disturbing shit like this

80's freak of nature Christie Brinkley displays her sexy pits on the cover of a magazine dedicated to patriarchal hegemony because she's way old but maintains fuckability.

80′s freak of nature Christie Brinkley displays her sexy pits on the cover of a magazine dedicated to patriarchal hegemony because she’s way old but maintains fuckability.

reinforces impossible femininity standards, and then call it a day.

Not to give the impression that casting a jaundiced eye upon damaging femininity propaganda is without value. I sure hope it isn’t, anyway, or I’ve wasted a shitload of time over the past 10 years. Jaundiced-eye-casting is the one of the spécialités de la maison here at Spinster HQ.

Fortunately, for them that wants it, feminism offers more than the opportunity to rip on Photoshopped pix of sexagenarian Christie Brinkley posing as a sexy tween, more than the “toxic Twitter wars.” Here’s hoping that sincere seekers of truth will choose to stay and fight on through the distracting twitterclysms of hate, and that cooler heads will continue to calmly nudge toward enlightenment those who thirst for knowledge, compassion, liberation, and a decent margarita.

Seriously, I’m thirsty. Where’s the bar?

____________________________

Feb 27 2014

Spleenvent Thursday: Arizona guv vetoes godbag bill

I know, I know, I’m phoning it in, but, in the interest of keeping up a blaming head of steam, the Spleenvents are going to be a semi-regular feature until such time as I whip my blaming schedule into something resembling a shape. I’ll probably have a real post up by this afternoon, but until then, please kvetch at will.

I will begin by linking to a NY Times op-ed column on Arizona guv Jan Brewer’s veto of that asshole godbanger anti-gay hate bill masquerading as “religious freedom.” If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, the column begins

Arizona. Wow. How often do you find yourself saying, “Go, entrenched interests of the business community!” Yet here we are.

and ends (spoiler alert!)

[I]n the United States, victory really arrives on the glorious day when the people with money decide discrimination is bad for business.

Thanks, Arizona.

Wouldn’t it be a riot if people with money decided that the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women were bad for business?

Feb 23 2014

Spleenvent Sunday: double mastectomy art edition

Blamer Soleil Noir posted the following announcement in the comments, but I didn’t want it to get buried there, so here it is just in time for Spleenvent Sunday. You know I can’t resist boostering for a fellow double-masto!

Long time lurker here. No doubt what I’m about to do contravenes one of Twisty’s rules for posting, but I’m going to do it anyway. A good artist-friend here in France is putting together an exhibition of photos that detail her tangle with breast cancer, from diagnosis through to her double mastectomy. Now, because women’s bodies are only of worth as porntastic objects of the male gaze, she has been told that if she wants to exhibit these wonderful, intimate, brutal, touching photos of herself, she needs to find ‘an international angle’. So she has decided to ask the internets for short written pieces about how people around the world react to the photos. The texts will accompany the pictures… She explains it better than I can on her website. We would both really appreciate it if some of you articulate grade-A blamers could contribute your personal reactions to one of her photos. I apologize for taking up your time on something that has nothing to do with this particular post, and would like to thank anyone who cares to participate in advance. Her website can be found here: http://msnourdin.wix.com/msnourdin

There’s one photo in that group (I don’t have permission to reproduce it here; it’s the one with the white bandage) that reminds me of this one time when they performed this goddam horrific biopsy on me, where, prior to slicing me open, they injected me with radioactive dye SIX TIMES, RIGHT IN THE NIP and it hurt really fucking bad and I was crying and begging them to let my sister come in with me but they refused. It would be hard to imagine coming up with a more painful, degrading, and sadistic procedure than that biopsy.

Well, vent your spleen and carry on with your happy day!

_____________

Photo: the author’s 2005 torture-biopsy

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Feb 23 2014

Planet Earth: what a wacky place to be gay

Here’s what happened:

The other evening after tacos my sidekick Stingray and I were lounging around slurping down an extra bottle of wine. Whereupon, as is inevitable with that level of saturation, two developments transpired.

1. I Spotified Madonna and started busting a move
2. LGBT politics became the topic of conversation

Stingray mentioned a fun fact that, because I am feckless nowadays and don’t read as much button-pushing Internet news as I should, I hadn’t purposely considered. She said, “you know how the noses of all right-thinking progressives in the US are out of joint about the highly publicized anti-gay legislation in Russia?” and I said, “yeah,” and she said, “well, surprisingly few of these disjointed probosci have so much as batted a jaundiced eye at the eerily similar laws on the books in many American states.”

“Wait a second,” I said, shaking my groove thang pretty prodigiously. “What eerily similar laws? I mean, obviously marriage equality is still pending here and there, and privatized anti-gay bigotry is still quite the hobby in many dickheaded circles, but what about Lawrence v Texas? Didn’t the Supremes rule back in 2003 that discrimination based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional?”

O, how soon we feckless news-ignorers forget. Lawrence did strike down the sodomy law in Texas, and by extension, all the other US sodomy laws, as unconstitutional. However, discrimination, bigotry, and statutory marginalization all remain totally legal. For example, the very sodomy law “struck down” by Lawrence, though ostensibly rendered unenforceable by the court decision, remains pretty glaringly un-repealed by the great state of Texas. My medieval home state also bans same-sex marriage and, with the exception of a few metropolitan areas, is perfectly content to permit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Oh, and good luck getting a hate crime prosecuted here. And don’t even get me started on the abortion thing, which, since a shit-ton of women are gay, is also a gay rights issue.

Anyway, Stingray, it turned out, had been cribbing from an article in Think Progress or possibly the Washington Post — recollection was murky — both of which claim that 8 (or 9, depending) states have, regarding sex ed in schools, Russia-esque “gay propaganda” statutes on the books.

I wish I were more surprised, but it’s not like gay panic — along with rattlesnake roundups and Cowboy Churches — isn’t a wildly popular pastime in rural locales like Cottonmouth County. Why shouldn’t the hate-virus spread, via infected evangelical rats, to conservative hell-holes the world over?

According to Mother Jones, American hatavangelicals have been infiltrating Russian “Sanctity of Motherhood” pro-birth-rate rallies to Pump. It. Up. Because when you allow homos to run loose through the countryside without beating them up, all the straight people instantly stop reproducing. And everyone knows gay people never have kids. The population will plummet. Gays will singlehandedly destroy the motherland.

On the second morning of the [Moscow] conference, the only American in attendance, a tall, collected man, stepped up for his speech. Larry Jacobs, vice president of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an umbrella organization for the US religious right’s heavy hitters, told the audience that American evangelicals had a 40-year track record of “defending life and family” and they hoped to be “true allies” in Russia’s traditional values crusade.

US evangelicals and Russian birth-rate-berserkers: different alphabet, same belligerent jingoes. I mean, for crying out loud, the Arizona ledge has just passed (although the gov has yet to sign) a bill “allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples in the name of religious freedom.” Because god forbid you should sell a hamburger to a couple of queers. You’ll catch the gay cooties and your woman will turn into a slutty Grace Adler and stop reproducing.

These deluded godbangers are pretty wack. Sometimes I feel like I’m just about the only somewhat civilized atheist yokel in the whole Southwest. It’s lonesome out here on my limb.

A propos of the globalization of hateriffic American family values, here’s an entertaining game we like to call “Spot The Russian Law.” Of the 3 following actual statutes, one is Russian and the others are Texan and Arizonian. If you can tell which is which I’ll eat a Cool Whip taco.

Law 1

No district shall include in its course of study instruction which:
1. Promotes a homosexual life-style.
2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.
3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.

Law 2

Prohibits distribution of information that is aimed at:
1. The formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes
2. Attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations
3. Misconceptions of the social equivalence between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations
4. Enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations

Law 3

The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must:
1. Emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage as the expected standard in terms of public health and the most effective ways to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies
2. State that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code

Answer key:
Number 1 — Arizona. Number 2 — Russia. Number 3 —Texas. Note that in its item #2, the Texas statute references the illegal but still unrepealed law characterizing “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense. The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Feb 19 2014

Rape culture: marriage’s evil(er) twin

The other day I posted a YouTube link to a short film wherein a hapless dude gets a beatdown in a “matriarchal” society. It was a sort of regenderization of a sexual assault set in a bizarro-world where women are the aggressors. I interpreted the tone of the director as something like, “OK, dudes, now do you see how it feels to live in a rape culture?”

Blamer Serial Cereal commented:

Can’t y the x, Twist. Can’t penguin a giraffe. Bad math. Otherwise, nice. Makes me want to throw together a crack team handycam indie short.

Along with an admirable disregard for the convention of subjects in sentences, Serial Cereal raises an excellent point that I failed to articulate in my original post. You can’t simply reverse the roles, or “Y the X”, because there is not a one-to-one, apples-to-apples correspondence between the actors in the primary dudes-vs-dudessess reference scenario. Dudesses and dudes are, in our culture, more like apples and roundworms.

Today’s thesis, brought to you by Captain Obvious, is this: rape culture, not unlike marriage culture, is a pretty heavily gendered culture.

I know, a-doi, right? Well, I was skimming through this scholarly article, Gender and the Culture of Heterosexual Marriage by Karyn Loscocco and Susan Walzer, when my lobe farted out the idea that the dynamic the authors describe, that of detrimental imbalances that obtain in het marriage as a result of internalized gender differentiation, is precisely the same dynamic that produces rape culture.

I am aware that this lobe fart appears to more or less equate marriage and rapiage. Without getting into a whole big thang with you happily married ladies, I’ll just say this for now: of course they’re not the same, but marriage and rape culture are both points on the same continuum of patriarchal oppression. As cultural institutions go, they are of equally ginormous prominence, with marriage as the conspicuously “official” narrative of blessed motherhood and human harmony, and rape culture the furtive, prurient, underground counter-narrative of violent peen-power. They’re equally reinforced by the same patriarchal mores that disproportionately privilege dudes and damage women, having evolved out of the same primordial gender-predicated social soup. They’re two sides of the same coin, where the coin is a wooden nickel.

Here’s a pithy little paragraph from the article:

Societies go to great lengths to create gender distinctions that yield inequality, and then use the differences they have created to explain the inequality (Lorber, 1995). Major articulations of gender construction theory emphasize the pivotal role that defining women and men as opposites plays in the reproduction of women as ‘‘less than’’ men (Connell, 1995; Risman, 1998, 2004; West & Zimmerman, 1987).[p.3]

This contingency not only forms the substrate for marital discord, it’s the whole Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women in a douche bag, i.e., the key concept what permits rapers to glorify, celebrate, and commit rape.

Gender — by which I mean the construct of gender difference (and the concomitant oppression to which it inexorably leads) — is so deeply embedded, so heavily reinforced, and so seamlessly integrated in every aspect of human social structure — from the personal to the interpersonal to the institutional* — that it essentially operates invisibly, and congratulations if you made it through this sentence alive.

What this means is that, nice effort though the film is, you probably noticed there’s something about it that just doesn’t compute. Our gendered brains cannot suspend their disbelief. As viewers, we can’t help but approach the film as members of, and indeed participants (albeit unwilling ones) in, the Patriarchal Matrix: a gender-differentiated, misogynist culture. As in, our only reference point is a culture that is based on grossly exaggerated and artificial gender norms, which norms are internalized to the extent that they not only feel normal, but inevitable.

Thus, even though we grasp the director’s intent, the film’s shirtless female jogger reads, not as “free-wheelin’ member of the master class,” but as “tople$$” or perhaps “degraded”; we can’t buy that she’s not stimulating every dude’s ogle gland. The dude character seems extra pathetic because the mean women around him have so unjustly usurped his position as oppressor. You really can’t Y the X. The concepts don’t translate between the genders.

That’s why regenderization isn’t, to my mind, as useful a persuade-the-oppressor tool as it is an illuminate-the-oppressed tool. As I’ve maintained all along, feminism isn’t so much about using clever arguments to persuade recalcitrant dudes to view women as human. It’s about fomenting a revolution that liberates us from male oppression, screw those dudes’ fucking irrelevant opinions concerning our humanity.

As for marriage culture, I leave you with another pithy quotation from the article:

‘Every woman I know is mad at her husband, just mad mad mad at everything. Every time I bring it up to a woman like me she just goes bananas’ [p.4]

___________________
* I cribbed this point from Loscocco and Walzer.
____________________

Feb 18 2014

Pussy Riot: an exercise in jaundiced scrutiny for the patriarchy blamer

Pussy Riot. cc Denis Bochkarev

Pussy Riot. cc Denis Bochkarev

We’re glad that the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot have been sprung from the stony lonesome, but now that they’re all up in the news again (most recently they were arrested — and subsequently released — for walking down the street in Sochi) I’d like to gently remind the patriarchy blamer of the possibility that they are not quite what they seem.

Here’s the 2012 post I wrote about the hidden dudely porntastic agenda behind Pussy Riot, and here’s the source material for that post.

The gist: whenever there’s wild mainstream interest in a supposedly radical feminist cause — particularly when the interest takes the shape of unbridled support — it behooves the patriarchy blamer to apply a bit of jaundiced scrutiny. This is because the media rarely support any feminist cause that doesn’t, at its core, primarily promote the interests of dudes.

Jaundiced scrutiny is the cornerstone of patriarchy blaming.

At the very least, can we please stop ignoring that the band name is Pussy Riot, for chrissake? Madonna — let’s face it, she’s not always the most reliable source for solid feminist analysis — thinks it’s awesome that they’ve made the word pussy “sayable” in her home. But one might, and I do, argue that pussy is a porn word, a dude word, a demeaning, reductionist slur. Salivating news dudes really dig saying it over and over on TV, so clearly it has worked as far as hooking Western media. Savvy marketing no doubt, but it’s pretty disappointingly enstinkened by pornulated sell-out (see the afore-linked 2012 posts, above).

Because liberal media is controlled by dudes, and because most of the Googleable primary source material is in Russian, it’s difficult for the non-Russian speaker to tease out what is actually going on, feministically speaking, with Nadezha Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. Their general anti-Putin message is certainly beloved of the dudely West, and they are always characterized as feminists, but media don’t ever seem to report on what, if any, specifically feminist activism they’ve got goin’ on. What we know is this: since getting out of jail and rising to international prominence they’ve been kicked out of Pussy Riot (for straying from the “ideals of [the] group — feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult”). However, the pair appear not to have accepted their involuntary resignation; Time magazine reports that they “stole the show” from Madonna last week by reading protest statements at an Amnesty International fundraiser in Brooklyn before biffing back to Russia to get arrested at the Olympics. Which event coincided nicely with the publication of a new Pussy Riot biography.

So, to recap: Their creepy knitted balaclavas are kind of cool. And yay, they’re out of jail. But what the heck do they actually stand for?

It cannot be denied that, whatever their agenda, they are extremely courageous women. Yet I can’t help wondering if English-speaking news outlets would have been so enamored of them if their band name had been Vulva Riot.

Feb 17 2014

Hail to the P

Here at the bunkhouse we recently had the opportunity to curl several jaundiced lips at another commercial for a femininity-compliance product. The product was Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash.

Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash is a chemical detergent intended to scour the offensive, disgusting filth off your nasty vulva, a body part that nowadays — in an apparent campaign to permanently blow my lobe — is always and inexplicably referred to as a “vagina.” That is, unless you’re Summer’s Eve, which reduces both women and their vulvae to a thing they simply call “the V.”

“Hail to the V” is the slogan. Hail to the V? I have complained about this before (clearly to no avail); Summer’s Eve is a repeat offender. Back in 2011, their vulva detergent mascot was a talking hand — a spokesfist if you will — contorted into a suggestively vulva-like pose. The spokesfist urged women to take the “V 101 Quiz,” and then hail their “V”, and then prove their commitment to V-hailing by purchasing the Fleet Laboratories line of perfumed twat surfactants, the better to sandblast that nasty thang with some femininity-compliant consumerism. The Summer’s Eve position is that women require toxicant-infused products before they can sufficiently “love their V.”

On the notion of “loving” one’s “V” I have only this to say: picture a commercial for a product called Mystic Garden Lemon-Fresh Dick Polish where a dude in a towel caresses his own shoulder and is enjoined to Love his P.

Back to the commercial: a husband accidentally showers with Summer’s Eve V-Hailing Potion, then spends the rest of the day in a comic effort to keep the lady “V”-cooties off him by pulling cars with his teeth, mowing the yard, and chopping wood.

[An alternate interpretation is that he knows that shit’s full of toxins and is just trying to get the house in order before he succumbs to a fatal overdose of methylchloroisothiazolinone.]

Anyway, as he flops on the couch crushing a beer can, his sardonic better half says, “that was close!” He’d almost turned into a fucken V from using that detergent!

Well, you just want to hand that wife three things: 1) a radical feminist consciousness-raising pamphlet outlining the 437 ways in which she would be better off not being married to a fucking idiot gynophobe, 2) a ticket to Savage Death Island, and 3) a margarita.

But I digress.

I assert that this commercial appeals to women because it validates their secret observation that men perceive (and rightly so) femininity to be degrading. But uh-oh, it simultaneously feeds women’s self-doubt and anxiety about stinky genitals, and suggests that they themselves ought to engage in the very femininity ritual that their dude wouldn’t be caught dead doing: the purchase and application of vulva-specific solvents and perfumes to aid in their ceaseless efforts to conform to strictly defined gender roles.

Or maybe I’m overthinkin’ it and, as Rebecca Cullers remarks in AdWeek, the commercial succeeds simply because everyone can agree on the premise that “guys are dumb.” In TV commercials there is no shortage of smart, Beauty2K-compliant women characters who are inexplicably and heteronormatively attached to horrible dudes.

In an act of wild surmise, one might hypothesize thusly: advertising agencies have determined that actual women, who buy most of the crap advertised on television, identify in droves with these pretty, virtuous characters who slog through life mopping up one buffoony husband’s blender explosion after another, even as they hold down two jobs, raise the kids, and strive to achieve “glowing” skin. Why would actual hordes of women identify thusly unless they were, as a class, disproportionately stuck in relationships with morons?

Marriage is an outdated, misogynist, and unfeasible institution. More on that later.

Feb 16 2014

Spleenvent Sunday: South Austin graffiti edition

Aloha, blamers! It’s Spleenvent Sunday, so this here’s your weekly open thread.

Today’s photo: charming graffiti on South Lamar next to Lulu B’s Vietnamese sandwich trailer. I am so pleased to have documented this priceless artwork when I did, because the last time I drove by it had been painted over with the letters “FAGS.” South Austin, it’s a real hotbed of progressive thought.

[For some unknown reason Flickr now lets you scroll through my whole photostream from a single embedded photo, so if you mouse over and click the right arrow a couple times you can see a picture of my fat dirty horse Pearl at dawn.]

Housekeeping note: you will be jazzed as heck to hear that I have finally slogged through the ginormous backlog of unmoderated comments that had accumulated during my recent 4-month hiatus. If you submitted one, and it was not written from the point of view of a dude (see below), and it didn’t insult anyone too much, and it wasn’t longer than a couple of biting paragraphs, you will find that it has been published at last and your eternal happiness has therefore been assured.

And I know you will enjoy the following pithy observations from the reject pile as much as I did:

“True feminism comes from Allah, who has assigned men and women each to their proper roles and stations, and made the former larger than the other as a symbol of his dominion over the weaker sex.”

Awesome, dude! Thanks to your thoughtful comment redefining misogyny as feminism, now I know my proper station, but why do you suppose Allah made me larger than a shit-ton of dudes?

“to all radical feminists: the men who you hate so will never respect you if you keep calling yourselves radical feminists. you will never win. as a man, the message I see here is one of female dominance rather than equality for all.”

Say, that’s what feminism needs: more misogynist dudes who have no idea what feminism even is and think I care if they “respect” me! Why didn’t I think of that?

“Right now, a sandwich is not being made. Maybe if you “ladies” put as much time into ironing as you do whining you could find a man.”

Oh snap! Good one, Oscar Wilde!

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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Feb 14 2014

A gal can have facets

Wendy Davis, as Time magazine has said, is no Ann Richards. Well, duh. As surprising as this may be, it’s not the 90s anymore, either.

[My close personal Twitter friend George Takei tweeted this recently:

takei_tweet

]

Seriously, what’s with the incessant comparisons of Davis to Ann Richards? [And they are incessant; try searching Ann Richards at the Huffington Post, for example, and you’ll get a buttload of Wendy Davis results.] Is it because they’re both Democrats? Maybe a little, but the vast majority of former Texas governors were Democrats, and you don’t see anyone comparing her to, like, Dolph Briscoe. Nah, it’s because women are a totally alien species, and can’t be compared to men, only to each other, vadge to vadge. Texas has had only two woman governors (out of a total of 47), and the first one, Ma Ferguson, is a largely forgotten snippet of Depression-era trivia. Therefore, modern Texans know only one sort of woman governor, and she’s a wisecracking charismatic grandma who doesn’t wear pink track shoes.

Ann Richards used to follow me everywhere. Las Manitas, Austin TX, 2004.

Ann Richards used to follow me everywhere. Las Manitas, Austin TX, 2004.

You know, Wendy Davis may be no Ann Richards, but sometimes even Ann Richards was no Ann Richards. To wit: she was a fellow film buff, and an ERA supporter, and more or less a big ole feminist, but in 1993, Richards experienced a problematic brain fart and actually signed into law a bill that criminalized homosexuality. Noooooo!

Not too similarly, Wendy Davis is now coming out kinda-sorta in support of a 20-week abortion ban AND an open carry gun law. Noooooo!

There’s context, though. Richards had been vocal about getting rid of the sodomy law, but alas, was compelled by circumstance to sign the bill anyway. Yeah, she could have vetoed it, but doing so would merely have left the original sodomy law on the books, and would have lost ground in other areas into the bargain. Her modern detractors accuse her of having thrown gay rights under the bus because she was somehow cowardly. While no one would argue that it was her finest hour, I believe that otherwise her record vs. the good ole boys speaks for itself. She appointed openly gay people to her administration for crying out loud. As far as I know, no Texas governor has done that since.

This amorphous post, you will have cleverly perceived, has no point. Before I got sidetracked by a nostalgic Ann Richards reverie, I had originally intended to show that Davis is plenty Richardsesque e.g her gutsy stand against the restrictive abortion bill she filibustered, whereas Richards herself was not always as Richardsy as one might like in that she never officially lobbied for gay rights. I was going to call this post “A gal can have facets!” I was then going to segue into an examination of the language Davis employed in her recent, so-called “flip-flopping” 20-week abortion ban remarks, and use them as a springboard for a big old rant. Quoth Davis:

My concern, even in the way the 20-week ban was written in this particular bill, was that it didn’t give enough deference between a woman and her doctor making this difficult decision, and instead tried to legislatively define what it was,” Davis said. […] “It was the least objectionable…I would have and could have voted to allow that to go through, if I felt like we had tightly defined the ability for a woman and a doctor to be making this decision together and not have the Legislature get too deep in the weeds of how we would describe when that was appropriate. [Dallas Morning News]

I’ll spare you the usual long-winded gasbaggery. Here’s the gist, beginning with the language pro-choice folks always use when trying to mollify the hatas:

The decision should be between a woman and her doctor.

This dainty phrase makes the lobe throb. The infuriating implication, obviously, is that a pore dumb lady couldn’t possibly be trusted to decide all by herself whether her personal person should be used as a host for a parasitic growth. It infantilizes the woman and cedes her agency to a second party.

Look, a pregnant woman should be able to get a pregnancy terminated as she, and she alone, sees fit, without a state inspection of her motives, period. It isn’t too likely that hordes of lusty wantons are foaming at the mouth to line up at the clinic for a last-minute abortion because it’s their idea of a good old time, but even if it were, so the fuck what? It’s a woman’s personal uterus. Will she regret it later? Maybe yes and maybe no, but again, so the fuck what? It’s her personal uterus.

The “difficult decision”-making process should not have to involve some hired, second-party stranger. Neither should a woman’s interaction with the medical establishment have to be any more detailed than with any other contractor. “Here’s my insurance card. Kindly remove this growth at once, and don’t be stingy with the pain meds.”

Personal sovereignty is not a medical issue.

Vote for Davis anyway!

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