President Obama is shocked/shocked that more and more members of the military appear to be confused about precisely which sorts of violent, antisocial behaviors are patriotic, and which are criminal. Here he responds to the grim 411 that sexual assaults in the military are up over 30% since 2010:
“I want [the victims of sexual assault] to hear directly from their commander in chief that I’ve got their backs. I will support them. And we’re not going to tolerate this stuff and there will be accountability. If people have engaged in this behavior, they should be prosecuted. [...] I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.” [USA Today]
Obama can hardly be astonished that a couple of half-assed sensitivity training courses have failed to eradicate the military epidemic of moral turpitude; “this stuff” is necessarily endemic to the armed forces. That’s because a high moral purpose is absolutely antithetical to the systematic perpetration of deadly force, which perpetration is, after all, the whole raison d’être of the whole flippin military. To wit:
As I suggested in yesterday’s post, the United States appears to have created a warrior class with a culture distinct from that of the general fun-lovin’, happy-go-lucky populace. Despite lofty romantic narratives alluding to honor and quiet heroism and national pride, military culture is ultimately grounded by mores that place a higher value on group cohesion through dominance than on compassion, justice, or truth. These mores are necessary both to foster the required fierce sense of tribal unity, and to permit the execution of the required acts of intimidation and aggression — acts that would be considered psychotic under any other circumstances. Mounting body counts on all sides obfuscate the very concept of “greater good.”
The thuggy, murdery, cannon-foddery nature of the wars becomes more difficult to ignore, while simultaneously the sexual assault rate climbs: coincidence? I think not. It’s nice that the president “has [the victims'] backs,” but if he thinks that it’s even possible to extirpate violent behavior from a tight-knit culture based on violence, that dude seriously needs to answer the clue phone. As these relentless wars drag ever onward, it is to be expected only that fewer and fewer members of the military will be able to survive such extreme cognitive dissonance with their moral compasses intact. Warfare debases all humanity.
It was a narrowed, bloodshot eye that I cast upon this morning’s Google News top headline: “US air force sexual assault prevention unit chief charged with sexual battery.”
Prepare yourself to not be shocked in the least. The sexual assault prevention unit chief was a dude, and the person he neglected to prevent himself from sexually assaulting was a woman. Quelle surprise.
The news reports all endeavor to help us understand the salient facts of the case: Air Force guy didn’t just grope a woman, he drunkenly groped a woman. Ohhh, well it makes sense, then. Deficiency of sobriety is a popular theme in sexual assault narratives. As everyone knows, a drunken dude can’t help it, and a drunken woman deserves it.
Although, you know, it has occurred to me that maybe dudes whose inebriation causes them to refrain from not raping women should just lay off the sauce already. And get themselves castrated. For the common good.
Stupid Air Force guy looks so bummed in the photo, doesn’t he? Well, he should lighten up! Nobody, unfortunately, is gonna castrate him. Even better for him, guilty verdicts in cases like his are all but chimerical figments. Should so fantastic a verdict happen — against all odds — to achieve escape velocity from the crumulent black hole of misogyny that is the typical jury trial in a 21st century American sexual assault case, chances are that a sympathetic higher-up will simply overturn it. That’s what this 3-star general-cum-astronaut did with the aggravated sexual assault conviction of one of her dudely underlings. And she’s not alone.
Although, you know, it has occurred to me that maybe governments that train a hierarchical warrior class to go around oppressing and killing on a global scale should not be surprised when its members routinely exhibit hubris, entitlement, violence, criminality, and antisocial moral lapses.
I love the smell of a transgender politics dust-up in the morning. Mmmm.
I strongly urge those readers for whom transgenderism is problematic to examine the roots of their bigotry, and to consider adopting a more reasoned, tolerant and inclusive platform.
For those who are interested in the Savage Death Island argument supporting the right of all persons to exist on their own terms, today I’m republishing the relevant parts of a post I wrote back in 2011, omitting the superfluous preamble (for connoisseurs of superfluous preambles, the unabridged version can be found here). I’m plagiarizing myself for two reasons. One, the old essay is better than the one I wrote yesterday. Two, because the first essay racked up nearly 800 comments, it seemed judicious to start afresh than merely to link to the crowded 2-year-old page.
* * * * * * * * * *
There are three aspects of this trans “debate” that particularly chap the spinster hide. One is that it is even considered a debate. Is there anything more demeaning than a bunch of people with higher status than you sitting around debating the degree to which they find you human? I don’t think so.
The second hide-chap is the main anti-trans “argument.” It goes:
Unless you were born a woman, how can you really know what women’s oppression means? You benefited from male privilege once; how can we trust you? Your male junk threatens us. You mock us with your affected femininity. You’re not authentic.
This argument is phobic and dumb. It proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny, the premise that there exists a standard or authentic “woman’s experience” of oppression that derives entirely from childhood indoctrination and imbues the experiencer with some kinda moral authority. The premise is false. An experience of womanhood is not the experience of womanhood. Take, for example, the issue of privilege:
Some women have a little privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege and then lose it. Some women have zippo privilege and then get some later. Some women only ever have zippo, period. Some women are atheists, have short brown hair, drive red Fords, have scars where their sex organs used to be, can’t get health insurance, eat only vegetables and shave their mustaches.
Thus we see that there are infinite manifestations of womanity, both in terms of privilege and otherwise, each topped with its own unique little dollop of oppression. Of the gazillion factors that comprise female awareness, the condition of having been born female is but e pluribus unum.
Not only is there no “standard” women’s experience of oppression, but a primary experience of womanhood is in fact inessential to the understanding of oppression. It is not necessary, in order for the oppressed to unite behind the common cause of liberation, that every oppressed person should share the background experiences of every other oppressed person. It is not only not necessary; it is not possible. The imposition of such jingoistic strictures precludes all possibility of revolution.
Oppression is oppression. Race, ethnicity, religion, pigmentation, sex, gender, health, education, class, caste, age, weight, ableness, mental health, physical health, marital status, employment status, diet, IQ, internet access — any combination of these or a thousand other arbitrary markers may be used by the powerful to justify oppression, but the net result is always the same: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough.
My third point strikes a somewhat different and theoretical note. It has long been the contention of all expert spinster aunts that the notion of gender is itself a fiction promoted by the usual hegemonic patriarchal forces as an instrument of oppression. A person can only be “trans” if there are rigidly enforced gender roles from which and to which one might transition. Obviously, post-revolutionary society will not be burdened by tiresome gender constructs at all; nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.
I would love to delve into this at greater length, but the aforementioned time constraints compel me to put a sock in it. Fortunately, yesterday blamers Nails and AlienNumber were kind enough to link to Daisy Deadhead’s excellent essay on Savage Death Island’s executive director Andrea Dworkin and her remarks on transgender politics. The remarks, excerpted by Daisy from Woman Hating (1974), are sensible and kind and radical and a breath of fresh 70?s air. And they pretty precisely express the Savage Death Island doxa. Essentially, Dworkin’s saying that everyone has a right to exist on her/his own terms. Duh, right?
Transsexuality* is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a “disease” with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person’s visible sex and make it consonant with the person’s felt identity.
Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgement that transsexuality is caused by a faulty socialization. More probably, transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.
There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.
One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.
Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.
Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.
I recommend reading Daisy’s essay for a bit more context. Nails has a new post on the topic too.
* In 1974, “transsexual” was the term for what we now call “transgender.”
Gender is the most important fucking concept in the world. It’s the ur-fucking-concept.
Smith College won’t admit trans woman Calliope Wong, no way no how, because her birth certificate categorizes her as a dude. Apparently the only way Wong can change the check-box from “dude” to “dudess,” in the eyes of Smith, is to undergo sex reassignment surgery, which she hasn’t done. Says Wong:
“Transwomen are most likely not ready for surgery at 17 or 18, the typical age of a college applicant. It’s a monumental personal decision that usually arises from years of introspection and deliberation.”
So Wong can’t just declare herself to be whatever it is she is. Woman, they say, is denoted completely arbitrarily by lacking a dick. Not by any of the other factors that might just as easily be employed to differentiate members of the sex class from members of the regular class. Factors such as hormones or chromosomes or giggly head-tilts or — heaven forfend! — personal preference. The genitalia are the only thing anyone gives a fig about.
The carpet must match the drapes. One must be consistent, down below, with what one advertises up top. A girl can’t have a dick. The entire fabric of the universe, in fact, depends entirely on girls entirely not having dicks. No dicks, not of any kind.
That’s right; as is usual in all matters pertaining to everything, nothing matters but pure, unadulterated pussy. So Wong needs a doctor’s note stating that she’s had vaginoplasty. She must become legally penetrable. She has to get a fuckhole installed. That’s because the Global Accords define “woman” as “that which can be fucked.”
Someday, when future humans are lounging around the pool, strumming lutes and basking in the sunny uncomplicatedness of gender-neutrality, they’ll look back on this and laugh.
Tangentially: I get that lots of people are sure as shit, such that they actually want or need sex reassignment surgery. But is that really true of everybody? Setting aside for the moment my firm conviction that gender can and should be made irrelevant by feminist revolt, I have always thought it was super discriminatory that, in the cut-throat world of sex and identity, one is generally expected to buy the whole farm in a one-time-only sort of a deal. What if I wanted to be a dude, but maybe not forever, and without having to lop off any of my shit or going through monumental introspections and deliberations? As in, I’d merely announce “Yo, I’m a dude! Lead me to the drugs and bitches and higher paychecks!”
Forget it! Gender is not to be trifled with. It is the most deadly serious social construct ever invented. The gender-binary police state doesn’t accept, no way no how, that gender can be fluid. Before granting a sexception, they require that a person literally be in emotional crisis, and demonstrate an irrevocable commitment to the Establishment by subjecting herself to the medical industry for barbaric surgical procedures. And when I say barbaric I’m not jokin’ around. Do you realize that vaginoplasty essentially takes a peen and turns it inside-out? I mean, I’m hardly one to cry out “oh dear what about the peen?!” at every turn, but Jesus in a jetpack, that’s gotta smart.
So don’t give me any of that womyn-born-womyn crap. Wanna be a girl? Be a girl. A person shouldn’t have to implode her body parts just to go to fucking Smith. I seriously doubt that by letting Calliope Wong in, the joint’ll soon be overrun with entitled dudebros in drag.
NOTE TO COMMENTERS: The entitlement of trans women to basic courtesy and compassion is not up for debate. If you’re an anti-transite, I will ban you.
Fat acceptance hasn’t been discussed much here at IBTP, probably because, until recently, I pretty much thought I got it. Like: fat people are human beings? Sure. Of course. Now let’s talk about the misogyny of pencil skirts, tiny handbags, and high heels.
So a few weeks ago I was informed by medical doctors that, although I am skinny, I am obese, ostensibly because I have been eating junk and drinking too much for the past year.* Here’s the post about that.
When I used the word “obese” in that post I was gently informed by fat blamers that the term is offensive. “Obese” is used by fat-hatas as a synonym for “fat,” “fat” is not the equivalent of “unhealthy,” and “obese” medicalizes a perfectly natural variant of normal. I was sent to Kate Harding’s blog.
Harding explains that being fat is not the equivalent of (my words, not hers) being a barnacle on a La-Z-Boy. She has to point out this distinction because the bogus equivalence she describes is overwhelmingly the narrative in modern discourse, and is the root of anti-fat bigotry (see Michelle Obama’s cringe-inducing Skinny2K-Compliance campaign “Let’s Move!”). Tangentially, she also avers that even if a fat person is sick, she’s obviously still entitled to the same respect one would accord a human being. Because she’s a human being.
So, according to Kate, I’m not obese; I merely eat crap and don’t exercise. A dessicated old aunt teetering on the brink of a metabolic cliff. A slothful, self-indulgent sicko.** That I also happen to be thin proves that “fat” illness can happen to anybody, not just fat people.
Fair enough. No argument here.
Having read Harding’s blog further, I have concluded that, although “obese” seems to be the term favored by the medical establishment to describe the state of my fatty guts, my identifying as obese on this blog appears to be somewhat analogous to a dude commenter calling himself a feminist, i.e., it’s insulting.
Anyway, this whole episode has pointed the glaring spotlight of cold hard truth on, not merely my fondness for Funyuns, but also on a gaping sort of hole in my oppression-culture literacy. Namely, that I don’t know jack about the fat acceptance movement. Which is pretty disgraceful, considering that it is such a major issue within the purview of patriarchy blaming.
To be continued.
* Although here is a 2007 article from Junkfood Science, provided by blamer Blue, suggesting that the results of a huge, 8-year health-food clinical trial (the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification Trial) totally debunked the notion that diet has anything whatsoever to do with health.
After more than eight years, there were no difference in the incidences of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks or strokes among those who ate “healthy” and those who ate whatever they pleased.
The thesis of this essay seems so out-there that I am almost tempted to believe it.
** Actually, I would hesitate to classify my outdoorsy life of shoveling manure, chasing horses around, and hoisting hay bales as “sedentary,” so I can only conclude that either my diet of potato chips, Fresca, and Prosecco was even crappier than I thought, or something more sinister is afoot. Nice.
As I revealed in the comments to yesterday’s post on Big Gulps, Sarah Palin, and metabolic disease, I recently had my personal auntly body fat measured. They dunked me like a donut in a sort of clinical baptismal vat, whereupon it was revealed that the spinster aunt is comprised of 37% fat.
This, it will not surprise you to hear, blew my entire lobe (the extra fat globules made the explosion particularly glisteny). Based on my being generally underweight, of bird-like aspect and of lanky build, the assumption had always been that I am skinny. But no. I am obese. Clinically and for real obese. Some of the fat is subcutaneous, the la-di-da no-big-whoop kind of fat. But apparently a goodly slab of it can be found festering in the dank hidden recesses of my abdomen, in the shape of the far more sinister visceral fat.
Sidebar: yesterday, when I suggested that better education might help liberate the American populace from toxic diets — a remark that was perceived by some as classist — I was writing from the perspective of recent fat ignorance. Before I got dunked and subsequently gave reluctant audience to a reading of the Riot Act, I of course knew that sugar is bad and fiber is good, but I was a little shaky on the science. The fact is that although I am privileged, white, suburban, and overeducated, as well as a world-renowned expert aunt who can afford monthly road trips to Whole Foods, I had never before given a moment’s thought to visceral fat, much less its unique (as opposed to sub-q fat) characteristics or its specific role in the jolly Parade of Fatal Human Diseases. I do concede that because of the aforementioned socioeconomic factors, I am in a better position than many to address my hidden globs. But it has nevertheless occurred to me that I am probably not alone when it comes to lack of visceral fat awareness. No, education alone can’t, as blamer Saurs pointed out, make you not poor or give you a fat-free liver. But it’s got to be better than no education. You can’t fight what you don’t know.
Anyway, it turns out that, whereas subcutaneous fat — muffin tops, saddle bags, bingo arms, et al — is actually beneficial, goodly slabs of visceral fat are, in a word, not. Particularly for cancer patients, among whose ranks I am, reluctantly, counted.
To help me achieve a fully-realized panic attack over this latest healthbomb, my ever-obliging oncologist gave me this book Fat Chance by, oh what the hell’s his name, Lessig? Ludwig? Whatever, I keep calling him Dr Zaftig. He’s a practicing childhood obesity specialist who uses No. 1 Science Information to explain in terms that even a spinster aunt can understand the relationship between sugar, processed food, and metabolic disease.
Before you go all Savage Death on my ass, let me say that this Dr Zaftig is no fat shamer. He might even be construed as an advocate, asserting that obesity is not, as is popularly imagined, a function of character flaws or lack of willpower, but rather the inevitable outcome of heredity combined with the flaws in the so-called American diet. Zaftig doesn’t suggest anything new or earth-shattering. His advice consists of the usual “less sugar, more fiber, and have a little olive oil on your salad.” But he does advance a theory explaining how an aunt can be underweight and obese at the same time, which I found pretty enlightening. I won’t bore you with the soporific details about insulin, lipogenesis, the fucking Maillard reaction, and correlations with cancer and dementia and whatnot. Suffice it to say that I have beaten a hasty retreat back to Kale Nation.
Don’t construe this post as an ad for the book, by the way. In the first place, I haven’t applied to it the jaundiced eye of feminist analysis; I’ve only read it from the perspective of a skinny obese aunt who wouldn’t know a lipid if it poked her in the eye with a sharp stick. In the second place, Zaftig is a dude, he’s a privileged member of the Establishment, he’s got a NYTimes bestseller, and of course he’s been on NPR, so what are the odds that that his argument doesn’t contain hidden agendas and dominant-culture affirmations galore? He certainly does take a pretty paternalistic tone when writing about his feckless soda-swilling patients. And his attempts at humor could be used to make corn syrup. But I will say that at least he’s not as condescending as, say, the NIH. Theirwebsite says
“Our bodies have a complex system to help keep our weight at a healthy level. In some people, this system does not work normally.”
Whereas Zaftig refreshingly declines to label obese persons as “abnormal.” He avers instead that the cause of obesity rests, not with an individual’s supposedly “abnormal system,” but with the normal body’s completely reasonable response to the wackaloon processed, refined, and artificial foods that in recent decades we Americans have been conditioned, and in many cases coerced, to accept. This conditioning, he maintains, is the direct result of profit-driven efforts of the mighty Fast Food Industrial Complex.
A propos of which efforts, have you seen any reviews of that Pink Slime dude’s book Salt Sugar Fat? I haven’t read it, but it’s supposedly an expose about how the processed food industry specifically designs toxic convenience foods to be both addictive and cheap, then poisons the citiizenry all the way to the bank. Quoth the NY Times, the author
“visits with neuroscientists whose M.R.I.’s of test subjects demonstrate how the brain’s so-called pleasure centers light up when the subjects are dosed with solutions of sugar or fat. He then describes how consultants and food scientists calibrate products — ‘optimize’ them, in industry-speak — to maximize cravings.”
And did you get a load of Stephen Colbert mocking the so-called “bliss point” by using a giant taco shell as a chip to scoop up a dip made entirely of Tostitos?
You get my drift.
Anyway. Using the Zaftig argument, it is hypothesized that my high fat content is a result of my having reverted, over the past year or so, from a fancy privileged vegan life to a “convenience” diet of refined flour products, potato chips, “liquid sanctimony” smoothies, Fresca, Thundercloud Subs, too much wine, cookies, and Amy’s frozen entrees (mostly the kind with cheese sauce and potatoes). The hypothesis is on its way to being confirmed; I have lost an estimated 2 percentage points worth of fat in as many weeks, merely by adjusting this program to reflect a more lentil-heavy foodlosophy.
Which is my usual long-winded way of saying: I grasp that, though it still poses mondo health risks, skinny obesity is, at least in terms of women’s oppression and membership in the sex class, orders of magnitude less stigmatizing than fat obesity, and I’m sorry I fatshamed. And concerntrolled.
Gulp on, Palin. Nothing says “Freedom!” like the right to cook your liver in its own fat.
No spinster aunt would presume (except in her dreams) to tell anyone over the age of nine what to eat. We aunts can but lead by example, sanctimoniously choking down our raw-kale-on-Mestemacher-fitness-bread sandwiches, perhaps while casually describing the process by which ad-lib fructose turns the viscera into diseased slabs of fat.
However, one can’t help thinking that if the populace were to enjoy — say, through improved, non-corporate-sponsored education — a more thorough understanding of the human metabolic process, the hi-larious spectacle of historical footnote/reactionary buffoon Sarah Palin chugging a defiant gallon of soda at CPAP yesterday would have had all the comic overtones of a slow suicide. The caption might as well read “I support the right of the beverage industry to profit from poisoning you, me, and the millions of poor and underserved who have no access to decent food!”
Bloomberg’s giant soda ban was a dumb idea, but if the discourse it provoked hips a few more people to the link between fast food, poverty, megacorporate profits, and metabolic disorders like diabetes, I say, you go, girl. When waved as a banner to rally the troops, however, the Big Gulp has all the inspirational ideological zing (and even fewer of the health benefits) of “Leggo my Eggo.”
CNN’s Poppy Harlow is sorely bummed over the demise of the tearful Steubenville rapists’ “promising futures” at Sunday’s sentencing.
Oy, the Steubenville coverage! One barfs.
Sadly, a seasoned and cynical patriarchy blamer more or less expects, at a time like this, to be continuously squinting a jaundiced eye at the discourse. I doubt there’s a woman among us who couldn’t have written the whole thing in her sleep with one lobe tied behind her back. Since yesterday’s sentencing of the Steubenville rapists, we’ve seen some truly breathtaking examples of virulent misogyny and male supremacist wagon-circling, in the shape of
• An endless loop of footage of the rapists collapsing in court. Their self-absorbed weeping is repeatedly mistranslated by a nation in denial as “I now grasp the enormity of my crimes and I’m just as sorry as can be.” In fact, as anyone who has ever been 16 knows, the rapists are simply bummed by the unexpectedly harsh consequences of having been caught.
• The notion that sports figures are entitled to a free pass. Satirized (somewhat triggeringly) here by the Onion.
• The torrent of violent online victim-blaming, rape-denying, and generalized misogynist hate speech. Typing strings of obscenities about rape victims never gets old!
• The requisite airing of the List of Shit Women Do To Confuse Dudes Into Raping Them. They’re drunk. They leave the house. They’re girls. These conditions still pass for consent in a rape culture.
• Most nauseating of all is the heartwarming Hollywood rewrite of the ending: the poor, chastened rapist boys bask in the hopeful golden rays of hope that hopefully they have “learned an important lesson” and will go on to “lead productive lives.” Thus is their cruel and vicious rape recast as an After School Special.
But the news isn’t all bad. The Internet Feminist Backlash to the infuriating afterschoolspecialization by CNN and others has been swift and sure. The buttload of excellent feminist analysis has been a pleasure to read. Check out this great piece — destined to become an Internet classic — by Freethought blogger and “professional fun-ruiner” Miri, who writes:
I don’t want to hear anything more about the “ruined futures” of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond. The verdict did not ruin their futures. They ruined their futures, when they made the decision to rape someone.
[... a bunch of trenchant remarks well worth reading ...]
I want to hear more about what makes you a rapist and less about what makes you a victim, more about structures and less about individuals, more about justice and less about revenge.
A tiny window of opportunity has opened. The spotlight on rape culture is starting to get in through the chinks in the mainstream. For example, a petition to persuade CNN to issue a public apology for their infuriating “Tears for Rapists” coverage has over 27,000 signatures at Change.org.
Color me desperately idealistic, but at this moment it might actually be possible to enbiggen the discourse just a smidge. We must try like mad to adjust the common perception of rape, as well as outdated ideas of “consent,” to something a little more in line with women’s reality. Specifically: that stopping rape requires men to stop raping, not women to stop drinking, walking, dancing, smiling, wearing an outfit, or attempting to simply exist, like men do, as sovereign entities.
So tweet your asses off, blamers! And if nothing else, sign that fucking petition!
Several hair-raising events transpired at Dreadful Acres/Spinster HQ this weekend. Hear my tale.
The nieces Finn and Ro-Tel, ages 7 and 9, were here for a sleepover. Like all little girls, they are horse crazy. It is not enough that they have unlimited access to actual horses while they are here. In the bunkhouse they like to amuse themselves with toy horses as well. Ever the doting aunt, I maintain a supply of these future objets de landfill in a special cabinet.*
I’d bought a new addition to the plastic herd since the nieces’ last visit: an eventer set with Breyer horse, saddle, bridle, and rider doll complete. The doll was dressed, inexplicably, in a track suit. I’d selected it specifically because of the weird track suit, actually. It’s baggy and sort of sex-neutral, sending, I hoped in my ceaseless naivete, the message that this girl cares more about keeping her eyes on the prize than looking like a dudefantasy. But when we extracted the doll from the excessive packaging — a gaudy box showcasing the tracksuited doll and her mount against a breathtaking rolling green backdrop untouched by global warming — my lobe began to pulsate. Under its unisex duds, the doll was a proper mutant. That’s right, I’m talkin’ straight up Barbie syndrome. Gazongas like missiles, wasp waist, toothpick legs about 17 times as long as they ought to be, microscopic noselet, insipid smile with Porn2K-compliant parted lips. The face, with its giant dead mascara eyes, recalls the toddler beauty queen prosti-tot, while the bullet-boobs are pure Penthouse, and the blank expression is vaguely suggestive of both compliance and hardening cheese dip.**.
I grasp that Barbie syndrome isn’t breaking news, but that’s no reason to ignore that it’s still standard practice in 2013, and that it’s still flippin’ icky.
Once apprised of my mistake, I naturally wanted to remove the doll from the niecely midst, but this was a no-go; they’d formed an instantaneous and unbreakable bond.
Feeling remorseful over my unintentional reinforcement of the patriarchal pro-femininity mores, I almost considered not making them eat cauliflower for dinner. In the end, though, they not only ate the cauliflower (tossed with olive oil and roasted at 375F for 21 minutes) but proclaimed for the first time in their lives that they “loved” it. With this triumph I was feeling pretty cocky about my auntly abilities.
Until TV hour.
The show they had see was “H2O: Just Add Water” on the TeenNick channel. It is, apparently, the best show ever. This Disney-esque series, to my gape-mouthed horror, is about a trio of teen mermaids. Hot teen mermaids, which I suppose goes without saying (they resemble inflatable sex dolls in that YouTube still, no?). They’re garden-variety gorgeous, white, blonde 16-year-old besties living on dry land until someone throws them in a pool or they fall into the ocean or a drop of rain splats on them. That’s all it takes for everything below the waist to morph into a dolphin tail. Whereupon the girls acquire some sort of magic water-balloon-throwing superpowers, as well as become marvelously proficient at swimming underwater with their arms straight out in front of them, their glittering dolphin tails peenistically pumping them onward toward new romantic teen adventures.
That mermaid tail detail, incidentally, has always irked me bigtime (in addition to the general tiresomeness of fetishistic mermaidian folklore, of course). Mermaids are supposed to be half fish, right? So I’ll allow the fish-scales. But their tail fins are without exception depicted as horizontally oriented, like cetaceans, not vertically oriented like fishes. So my question is: what the fuck? Read a fuckin’ book on marine biology, why don’t ya, all you mermaid illustratin’ dickheads.
By the way, according to Wikipedia: “The US National Ocean Service stated in 2012 that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found.” Thanks, National Ocean Service! We were all wondering.
Anyway, this episode of “H2O: Just Add Water” was a relentless femininity-stereotype fandango. The three hot teen mermaid protagonists are foiled by a less hot, chubby, unpleasant mermaid antagonist. This mean mermaid is unpleasant because she believes one of the hot mermaids has stolen her cute blonde boyfriend, for whom she pines. To settle the score of the stolen boyfriend, there ensues a magic water balloon superpower fight, and Mean Girl emerges victorious. But her triumph is short-lived. Cute Boy and Mean Girl do a scene where she thinks they’re getting back together, but Cute Boy says no, he loves Hot Mermaid now. Thus is the natural order restored: clingy deluded Mean Girl gets dissed; adorable blonde boy gets a girlfriend more suited to his cuteness level; and the three hot teen mermaids do a sexy underwater teen bikini sperm-swim.
So, to recap:
• Skinny blonde girls are awesome.
• Chubby girl is bad.
• Girls physically fight over a boy.
• Cute boy schools bad chubby girl in the error of her ways (she will probably die alone).
• Bikini-clad mermaids with taxonomically confusing tails are aspirational figures.
The nieces were transfixed. I couldn’t even begin to determine how to put together a feminist critique that they would comprehend. I just babbled some crap about how femininity is a construct designed to perpetuate the low status of women in society, and also, mermaids are bad role models. Not surprisingly, they were all, “Huh? Whatever. Can we have ice cream?”
I mean, I couldn’t even get them through 24 measly hours without subjecting them to all manner of malignant misogynist brainwashing. The spinster aunt trucker hat is off to all you mothers who have to deal with this shit day in day out. Jesus in a jetpack!
So what’s on your spleen?
* No one has ever accused me of failing to lavish upon my young relatives material goods in the shape of cheap crap from China. I’m not proud of it, but it is — as I have heard my fellow idiot jacknuts assert when seeking to absolve themselves of personal responsibility by suggesting that Fate Unremitting has once again smote their Free Will with a blood-caked sword — what it is.
curve slightly, like plastic spoons
being worked in a hardening cheese dip.
Begging your pardon, but this morning it is necessary to link to Fox News.
It is not often that my delicately balanced obstreperal lobe will tolerate more than a few milligrams of Fox’s unsophisticated, hostile, and overwrought discharges. In fact, in order to regain cable news harmony within my lobe, today I will require a few minutes with the only TV peenpundit who makes me smile instead of puke, Reverend Al. Why do I put myself through this? Because the aforelinked video concerns a topic over which the village crones of Savage Death Island have been known to brood at no small length. I allude to the apparently batshit-ludicrous idea that the best way to prevent violence against women is for men to not do violence against women.
Let me rephrase that with an excerpt from the Ancient Scrolls, in case I was too long-winded just now: Wanna stop rape? Don’t rape!
Details in a moment. First I’ll describe the video.
It contains an exchange between Democratic thinker-lady Zerlina Maxwell, some antifeminist Stepford wife with severe Stockholm syndrome, and heat-packin’ gasbag Sean Hannity. You don’t watch Fox News (duh), so no doubt you’re unfamiliar with Sean Hannity. If you picture a pinkish little penis with a pinkish little penis-face who shouts at everybody but listens to no one, that’s the guy. Little pink Hannity is always worked up. In today’s video (from a broadcast last week) he’s worked up about a Colorado gun bill that would ban conceal-carry on college campuses.
Here’s the backstory. HB 1226, the Colorado bill in question, is in committee. The senate hears from an emotional college rape survivor who argues that if she’d had a gun, she could have prevented her attack. State Senator Evie Hudak (D) claps a hand to her throat and sighs melodramatically to convey compassion, thanks the student in a sympathetic maternal tone for sharing her “unsettling” story, and breaks right into the old “statistics are not on your side” argument (a valid argument, but not the subject of today’s post).
You see what’s happening here? This young rape survivor, as well as the issue of campus rape, and by extension the whole of violence against women in general, are being kicked into the tired old political football role. Violence against women becomes a hapless pawn in the apparently more politically interesting but vastly less morally exigent issue of gun control. On exhibit is an actual rape victim who argues the NRA position: that she wouldn’t be a victim at all if she’d been allowed to carry a gun. Young, female, brave-yet-vulnerable, her voice wavering, she is a poignant figure. Contradicting this tragic young woman is a pro-gun-control state senator, who, let’s face it, is gonna look like an insensitive bully no matter how pseudo-maternal her manner or what the gun violence statistics say. The grilling of rape victims for political purposes is just plain distasteful. Even a spinster aunt who grasps Sen. Evie Hudak’s point must think to herself, “crikey, what an asshole.”
So when Hannity plays the clip of Hudak handing it to the college student, he announces that Hudak’s gun statistics have been “debunked” (although by whom, and to what degree they should be adjusted, he does not say), and informs the panel that he is “angered.” He wants women to be able to protect themselves. With guns. According to Hannity and the 2nd Amendment extremist cowboys who are suddenly so deeply concerned about women’s welfare, women need guns to protect themselves from rapists, therefore gun-control legislation is pro-rape. Guns supposedly even things out between weak, vulnerable females and strong, virile rapists. Who, Hannity wants to know, could possibly argue with that?
Why, his panelist Zerlina Maxwell, that’s who.
Maxwell and the Spinster Aunt Coalition are two hearts that beat as one on this subject. She argues (and I paraphrase) that this conceal-carry argument is a red herring. By putting the onus on women to solve the problem of rape, she says, it fails to address the actual cause of rape. Which is men. Training men not to rape women, avers Maxwell, is the answer.
Remember the ancient scrolls: Wanna stop rape? Don’t rape!
This simple, elegant solution is so antithetical to the human world order that it is commonly judged to be loony. Hannity, like all misogynists, doesn’t even seem to hear Maxwell. An African-American woman is talking, so all he hears is “blahblahblah, some bizarre shit about women not being responsible for rape, blahblahblah.” Teach men not to rape women? Ridiculous! Impossible! Inconsistent with the Judeo-Christian view of the cosmos wherein men are good and women are debased humans who corrupt them to evil! Evil exists, Hannity says, plain and simple; it’s out of men’s hands! The implicit corollary of his thesis is that, because men clearly can’t do jack shit about it, it must fall upon women to deflect evil. Thus does Hannity, aided by his antifeminist Stepford minion, shout Maxwell down.
It is apparently lost on Hannity that, in shouting down Maxwell, herself a rape victim with relevant opinions, he’s doing precisely what Senator Hudak did (though she managed to do it without shouting) to the college student, which so offended his noble woman-protecting instincts.
It turns out that this feigned interest in “protecting women” isn’t really about gun control at all. It’s about protecting the dudely prerogative at all costs. The dudely prerogative hinges on a narrative that goes a little something like this: evil rapists are masked villains who are clearly identifiable by greasy hair, beady eyes, and their universal habit of lurking in shadows (or they’re black dudes). They are not the regular college fellows you meet at parties who believe that, by a) having a beer with them and b) not brandishing a flamethrower, you a) consent to surrender your personal sovereignty and b) agree with DudeNation’s premise that you are a toilet. Such college dudes are merely following — forcibly, as is their right — the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women. For there it is written that abuse is consistent with the basic function of women.
So if it’s rape you want to prevent, screw the gun laws; it’s the Global Accords that need changing. The low status of women in the dominant culture prevents men from not raping them. Train men not to rape? Hell yeah. Better yet, as Tara Murtha opines at RH Reality Check, teach them what rape is, because apparently they don’t even know that much. Even better still, explain to them that women are human beings, not toilets, give them a pop quiz on it which if they fail will cause them to forfeit their nuts, just to make sure they comprehend, and go from there. Gun laws aren’t gonna do jack shit.
Needless to say, Maxwell was flamed like a tiki kebab for daring to suggest that men should be socialized to view women as human beings.
Oh, and before you go all gun-control on my ass: that’s not the topic of the post! The topic of the post is how, by using rape as focus in the gun control debate, the public discourse ain’t doin women no favors.
The crushing demands of patriarchy blaming have necessitated that the blog be updated less frequently than in days of yore. Posts may or may not appear, sporadically. Readers may experience crappier than usual customer service. Please don't send emails expressing dissatisfaction with the moderation process; I am already aware that it is imperfect. Meanwhile, hang tight. Regular blaming, conforming to your exacting standards, will probably resume sooner or later.