Mar 18 2013

Spinster aunt curls lip at afterschoolspecialization of Steubenville

CNN's Poppy Harlow is sorely bummed over the demise of the tearful Steubenville rapists' "promising futures" at Sunday's sentencing.

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!

__________________
Hat tip to Chris Clarke.

CNN still from YouTube.

Mar 17 2013

Spleenvent Sunday: media, mermaids, and auntly inefficacy in pre-revolutionary America

Several hair-raising events transpired at Dreadful Acres/Spinster HQ this weekend. Hear my tale.

Breyer horse dollThe 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.

**

The whores
curve slightly, like plastic spoons
being worked in a hardening cheese dip.

– From “All-Nite Donuts” by Albert Goldbarth

Mar 14 2013

Rape prevention gun debate: as usual, it’s not about women, it’s about preserving the status quo

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.


__________________
This article was inspired by the aforelinked essay “Why Zerlina Maxwell Is Almost Right About Teaching Men Not to Rape” by Tara Murtha.

Mar 10 2013

Spleenvent Monday

We were members of the Buddy Holly Glasses tribe.

We were members of the Buddy Holly Glasses tribe.

Omigod, the week I’ve had. You know the week I mean. Sick horses, sick horse-girls, daylight savings time, 80-year-old mom gets a new computer, yadda yadda. So I almost forgot about Spleenvent. I know! I suck! But please enlarge, with all speed, on whatever theme weighs upon your spleen, even though it’s Monday.

Here’s my spleenvent: I found this picture under my desk this morning. It’s me and my girlfriend Lori Blue, the night our all-girl punk band played at the St Louis Music Awards in, I think, 1998. Lori wore her famous naugahyde Nehru suit. I remember my silver-sparkle Les Paul wouldn’t stay in tune no matter what I did so I sucked even worse than usual.

Lori was an awesome drummer and all-around good egg. Drugs and booze and a gun killed her about a year after this photo was taken. I still think, maybe every day: if only I’d been able to get her out here to the country in time. To the fucking simple life, you know? Where the air isn’t heavy with closing-time desperation, and leaning against a fence with a cup of coffee in the morning, listening to horses chewing hay, would have been a pretty good reason not to kill herself.

I know, I know. But fuck, you know?

Morning-after edit to late-nite wine-drinking post: During fits of maudlin regret and bathetic nostalgia, I always forget to remember that old Lori was as dirt-averse a girl as ever whacked a snare. She wouldn’t have lasted five minutes out here in Manure Pile, Texas. Also, she never drank coffee.

Mar 05 2013

Sexopreneur pimps out hotties to losers

A person can either be generous and proactive, or attractive and submissive; any other combination would throw the whole system of human oppression into chaos.

A person can either be generous and proactive, or attractive and submissive; any other combination would throw the whole system of human oppression into chaos.

A spinster aunt can take a patriarchy-blaming hiatus, but misogyny never sleeps. While I was off on sabbatical, this deeply sad “dating auction” site popped up. That’s right, I said “dating auction.” Whats-your-price- dot com (I can’t bring myself to link to it; take out the dashes if you wish to see it for yourself) is where “generous people” bid on “dates” with “attractive people they normally wouldn’t meet.”

In other words, repulsive loser pervdudes buy the attention of financially strapped women who ordinarily wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. How it works is, the “generous person” browses the site, selects a woman, and makes an offer. The woman can (and should, for the lovamike) demand more. An agreement is reached, and Brandon Wade, the website’s CEO sexopreneur, takes a cut off the top. Says Brandon Wade (that’s gotta be his pornstar name, right?), dating is about “economics, supply and demand.” He claims that gajillions of people sign up for accounts just to see what their “dating value” is.

If this business model succeeds — and why shouldn’t it, as there is no shortage of either desperate women or pornsick dudes who flatter themselves that they are “generous” — it’s because women’s confinement to the sex class ensures their commodification. That a woman should be apprised of her “dating value” seamlessly integrates with a woman-hating Hot or Not culture. If she doesn’t find out on an auction site, she need only walk down the street. DudeNation isn’t shy about its ratings system.

“Gone are the days for settling for whatever was in a bar,” continues Brandon Wade. His auction site “guarantees results.” Apparently “results” means “an actual woman will actually degrade herself by renting out her society to you, no matter how repellent you are, without you having to win her over by closing time.”

Here are some of cyberpimp Brandon Wade’s bizarre date suggestions for the “generous person”:

If you need to go to the mall to pick out a new tie anyway, invite her along and maybe get a hot pretzel while you are there.

Put on funny accents. Go around town asking for directions to places that don’t exist.

Go bowling, but remember to order pizza.

Perhaps you remember old Brandon Wade from the runaway bestseller The Definitive Guide to Sugar Daddy and Mutually Beneficial Arrangements. That’s where he argues that “sugar babies” don’t have to be “young bimbo-victims.” Kept women can, he asserts, be “women of substance.” Women of substance love tagging along to the mall on tie-shopping trips, fingers crossed that sugar daddy will buy’em a pretzel.

You will be unsurprised to learn that on its home page, wypdotcom has a big photo of a pair of hottt chixxx, their lips parted as per the global porn regs, embracing. The tops of their heads are cut off, naturally, but that’s not the important part of a woman. They don’t need brains when they have a “generous person” to remember to order the pizza.

Thanks to blamer Maria, who says this website caused her to “lose her lobe.”

Mar 03 2013

Spinster aunt launches SpleenVent Sundays!

Gatorful-o-pooGiven that I Blame the Patriarchy is adopting the ponderous 7-day post cycle, with the likeliest post day to be Thursday or Friday, I thought it might be fun to institute a Sunday Open Thread tradition to fill in the gap. I am dimly aware that there’s a reason this probably won’t work, but I’ve been on blog vacation for so long I can’t remember what that reason is. So until I figure it out: anti-venting, anti-anecdote, and anti-hijacking rules suspended! All other rules apply!

Okay, I’ll start. Over the last few days I’ve picked up on a theme running through the comments. It can be summed up with “I’ve been dealing with some nasty anti-feminists lately and ______________.” So what is your most recent nasty anti-feminist experience? Let’er rip.

Also, unrelated specifically to antifeminist encounters, have you checked out Bushfire’s blog? I loved this post on demolishing the public school system and her revolutionary ideas for the Idyllic Speculative-Fictional Shulamithian Utopia Education (my characterization, not hers) that might replace it. I would get certified in Horse Shit Studies and spread my skill throughout the world, for My New Manure Management Technique is Unstoppable.

Mar 02 2013

Well met, olde blaming friendes

Horse legsMy fusty old lobe has been warmed by the welcoming response of the blaming community to my coming-out-of-retirement announcement. It’s great to be back. I think all I needed was a little breather. I’m feeling pretty goddam blamerly again. A new aunt.

So let me hip you to the new situation.

To facilitate my agrarian conceits (see Dreadful Acres), I have hired a new assistant, Dusty. Dusty is an awesome 18-year-old horse-crazy horsegirl who loves horses, and she’ll be taking over my farm chores twice a week. Theoretically this will free up two whole afternoons for me, so I can biff off to town for lunch and/or write a blog post, like every week.

I say “theoretically” because Dusty, though excellent in all other respects, has come down with the flu, and can’t come to work this week at all. She so informed me by phone this morning at 7:15, using the thin, frail flu-voice that I invented when I was a teenager for the purpose of conveying to an employer a sense of the devastating extent of my infirmity. It’s gratifying that the flu-voice is still seeing some action.

Anyway, although I occasionally might be able to swing it more often, I can pretty much promise at least one post a week, once young Dusty is restored to her former vigor. Not as frequent as when I was in my blogging prime, to be sure, but like I always say, you get what you pay for at I Blame the Patriarchy.

And now it’s back to the salt mines for me. Those horse feet aren’t going to pick themselves.

Mar 01 2013

Miss Popularity

Sexy lipstick blog or feminist politics? You decide.

Sexy lipstick blog or feminist politics? You decide.

As part of IBTP’s ongoing (as of yesterday) casting-of-the-aspersions at the vagina ghettos with cutesy chick-identifying titles in which mainstream publications bury women’s opinion, let us turn today to the Washington Post’sShe the People” blog. See how the word “she” is cleverly underlined in lipstick? This tells potential women readers that a tawdry smear of carcinogenic cosmetic is suitable as a symbolic representation of their other-y identity, while simultaneously warning potential dude readers to avoid this boring chick content at all costs.

By the way, let me clarify that I in no way cast the aforementioned aspersions at the bloggojournalists themselves. They’re (mostly) doing some fine writing. It isn’t their fault that their views are widely considered “special interest,” a designation that legitimizes their segregation behind a lipstick smear.

It is through a narrowed eye that I perceive a persistent journalistic obligation to categorize women’s issues separately from regular old human rights issues. This is dumb. Why is rape, for instance, a woman’s issue? It’s men who are doin’ all the raping. Look, rape isn’t a “women’s issue.” Rape is a global humanitarian crisis. So how come it is always relegated to the status of a niche cause (or, as I point out below, used as the basis for oh-so-hilarious fratboy tweets)? Because deep down in the collective consciousness, rape is still considered to be consistent with the essence of women, and as we have seen, in a patriarchy women are not fully human.

Heck, I’ve digressed again. I beg your pardon. I seem to be a little rusty. Moving on.

Teen beauty queen porn. What WaPo reader can resist its sweet charms?

Teen beauty queen porn. What WaPo reader can resist its sweet charms?

So where was I? Oh yeah. So, one of the posts from the She the People blog heads today’s “Most Popular” list in the WaPo politics section. Has the subject of this popular post anything to do with, perhaps, VAWA passing the House? Or, perchance, was Aly Neel’s excoriation of the rampant rape jokes in the Twitter frat house getting a lot of clicks?

Sadly, no. The most popular post is summarized thusly:

“Teenage beauty queen surrenders crown after release of porn video”.

The public humiliation of a beauty queen: was there ever a more cherished subject in all of journalistic history? In the above-referenced piece, “Dear Melissa King, I wish you the best,” She the People blogger Bonnie Goldstein mercifully plays down the prurience. Which is not to say that she doesn’t have a little fun at the expense of Ms. King, the 18-year-old Miss Delaware Teen USA whose pageant career was cut short by the inevitable emergence of a sex tape. After mocking King’s official Miss Teen biography (it is painfully mockable, sadly), intimating that she is a bimbo, and characterizing teen pornulation as one of life’s little “character-building challenges,” Goldstein opines magnanimously that, despite her public shaming, King “can still have a satisfying and productive life.”

As the 1968 Miss America Sheep-Crowning Incident referenced in yesterday’s post suggests, it’s pretty easy for enlightened feminists to cop a condescending tude toward pageant girls. What might be less hilarious, but more useful, would be copping the tude toward the all-pervasive misogynist cultural forces that permit and encourage the ritual humiliation of girls, both pageant- and non-, to begin with. On the spectrum of women’s oppression, beauty pageantry and its fetishization of feminine perfection is only a click or two removed from pornulation and prostitution.

If, as Goldstein says, Melissa King made the video because she “thought it would be fun” and she “needed the money” for college, two things are pretty fucked up. The first fucked up thing is that a teenage girl could ever equate fun with sexploitation; only in a pornsick society that rewards self-denigrating appeasement behavior could such an idea be entertained by a young kid. The second fucked up thing is that self-denigrating appeasement behavior pays so much better than get-your-hands-off-me-you-perv-I-am-a-human-being behavior.

One thing Goldstein gets exactly right is her observation, based on watching television (yay TV! You go, Bonnie Goldstein!), that self-denigrating appeasement behavior seems to be the norm these days.

“I’ve seen enough episodes of “Girls” to understand that uninhibited sexual experimentation is not so uncommon in schoolgirls today, and tolerating humiliation is a healthy sign of an independent spirit.”

It’s funny ’cause it’s true. I don’t mean that tolerating humiliation is a healthy sign of anything. But it’s true that all media, everywhere, at all times, send the message that it is.

Feb 28 2013

Hi, Mom!

Kathrine Switzer running the Boston Marathon in 1967

Hey, what about that 3-hour documentary on PBS the other night? I’m talking about “Makers: Women Who Make America,” a short history of the women’s movement in the US. Despite the title, during the station break a voiceover described the doc’s subject as “women who ‘helped’ shape America.” Women are helpers, yo, just in case this film causes you to forget that for a moment.

Here, Voiceover, let me “help” you kiss my entire ass.

However clunky the commercial breaks were, the film itself is a success, and I recommend it. Amanda Marcotte gives it a tidy going-over in Slate, so I don’t have to. As she points out, the filmmakers do a pretty good job during the first 2 hours chronicling the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. There are interviews with the likes of Brownmiller, Steinem and of course the redoubtable Oprah, grainy footage of disobedience, biographies of influential feminists of the day, etc. The wrenching defeat of the ERA by reactionary antifeminist villain Phyllis Schlafly and her gang of unisex-bathroom-o-phobic right-wing ladies is particularly gripping. I agree with Amanda, however, that the film’s last hour gives short shrift to contemporary feminism, instead obsessing on the hoary old bezoar “having it all,” and completely ignoring what she calls “the explosion of online feminism.”

As part of that explosion, I naturally would have preferred a more critical analysis of the “choice feminism” phenomenon; that is, feminism as a lifestyle tool for personal gratification (I choose to get a boob job for me, therefore getting a boob job is feminist, etc), but putting that topic over is a pretty tough sell. And I can explain why in two words. Zooey Deschanel. From The Week:

Zooey Deschanel isn’t ashamed to be “adorkable,’’ said Logan Hill in Glamour. The quirky star of TV’s New Girl has become a controversial figure for many feminists, who’ve attacked everything from her bangs and childish dress sense—she favors polka dot dresses and tiaras—to her habit of tweeting about puppies, kittens, and cupcakes. This cutesy behavior, they argue, infantilizes women. “I’m just being myself,” says Deschanel, 33. “There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f—ing feminist and wear a f—ing Peter Pan collar. So what?”

Deschanel apparently believes that “choosing” to align her public persona precisely according to misogynist male fantasy is a “choice” and a feminist act. But I digress.

“Makers,” in sum, is an energizing romp down memory lane what got me thinking about maybe getting back into the Internet feminism game. Two things specifically triggered my blogging response.

One was the heartbreaking scene wherein a woman who, while isolated by her abusive husband in the 70′s, secreted away copies of Ms. magazine and devoured them on the sly when the abuser wasn’t looking. Ms. was her lifeline, the only way she could know she wasn’t alone. Dang. My antiquated 2nd-wavism notwithstanding, throwing my voice back into the explosion might not help anyone feel a little less alone, but then again, it might. I used to get emails all the time from women who say IBTP helped them. And I suppose there’s always room for a little more feminist awareness, as I will reveal via personal anecdote in a moment.

But first, I can’t go another second without blaming out a really hide-chapping thing.

Hottt! Pinkkk!

Marcotte’s aforementioned piece on “Makers” is ghettoized on the Slate site in a section called “XXfactor: What Women Really Think.” The “XX” is in hot pink, of course, to distinguish this content as NSFD (not safe for dudes), as well as to remind readers that “XX” is only one X away from XXX, which as modern dudes and the funfeminists who love them know, succinctly describes the hot-pink essence of women. But come on. “What women really think”? Really? So all the other shit women write — the stuff that isn’t under the XX heading — is — what? What men think? Is “What women really think” really still considered so weird and niche-y that it cannot be quietly assimilated with the regular content?

Pretty much. Regular content is what dudes think. Dudethink is what drives all media that are not specifically feminist.

The vagina sections maintained by mainstream publications are insulting. It’s insulting that human rights issues pertaining to women’s oppression are not considered human rights issues at all, but instead are devalued as women’s issues. Millions of people can and do ignore women’s issues and live their entire lives not giving them a second thought. I suspect this because (and this is the second thing that motivates me to start blogging again) –

Anecdote Begins Here

Elephant ear– my 78-year-old mother called me during the “Makers” broadcast and said, “Are you watching this? I had no idea any of this was going on.”

There was a rustling in the air as a herd of pigs flew by. My mother, a lifelong patriarchy-denier who has lived her whole life not giving women’s issues a second thought, was actually watching a film about the women’s movement. And, incredibly, she was eating it up with a spoon. It was, she said, a real eye-opener for her.

“I had no idea this was going on,” she kept saying. “I’ve had my head in the sand!”

By “this” she meant that she’d had no inkling about the extent of sexism, no awareness of the 2nd-wavers’ extraordinary feats of activism. My mother lived the insular life of a businessman’s wife. She raised me and Tidy, cooked, schlepped, laundered, chauffered, and kept the homefires burning. My father would enthrone himself at the head of the dinner table and expect to be waited on. “Is there any more bread?” he’d say, and my mother would spring out of her chair. This apparently felt completely reasonable to her.

“Pop, why don’t you get your own bread already?” I’d begun to snipe feministically in my teens. I was pretty self-involved back then, but even I could tell that my father’s sense of dudely entitlement was demeaning to my mother. I sorely wanted them both to realize this — for chrissake, wasn’t it obvious? — and to knock it the fuck off. However, my revolutionary attitude was routinely ignored by my mother and consistently mocked by my father. Neither my mother, whose entire identity was invested in feminine subservience and the patriarchal vision of the nuclear family, nor my father, who was the oblivious beneficiary of her servility, were interested in feminist revolt. And so it stayed that way for the next 40 years. Until two days ago, when my mother watched that film.

It was with mixed emotions that I listened to her wax incredulous about the women’s marches and the Miss America sheep and the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, and to hear her laugh about Pat Schroeder claiming to have made more meals at home than Phyllis Schlafly ever did, and to watch her wrap her mind around the completely new-to-her concept that a woman’s uterus is the property of the state. On one hand, I was absolutely thrilled that she was finally coming around to the idea that maybe patriarchy does exist. On the other hand, I was kind of pissed that, for my entire life, whenever I’d tried to mention any of this, she’d dismissed my crazy leftist gibberish with the “here we go again” eye-roll.

“Maybe I should start reading your blog,” she joked the other night.

Just in case she does, I guess there oughtta be something for her to read. So here ya go, Mom. Enjoy!

On a final note, the PBS airing of “Makers” was sponsored by a subsidiary of Unilever, a global cosmetics conglomerate. Plus ça change. Le sigh.

Dec 22 2012

Spinster aunt casts yet another jaundiced eye at media stereotyping

I am about to make a remark about media coverage of infamous tragedies. Although the remark is inspired by the coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings, it nevertheless isn’t going to be sentimental. Therefore I am obliged to point out at the outset that, even though I do not invoke higher powers or beat my breast because the Newtown victims were “babies,” it doesn’t mean that I actually condone the shootings. I am, for the record, fond of children and against mass murder.

If you’re wondering why I bother to make such a ridiculous statement, it’s because in the past, when I’ve made certain patriarchy-blaming remarks concerning the megatheocorporatocratic influence on the cultural narrative of this or that National Megatragedy, and failed to express with sufficient floridity my own personal antipathy toward the original abomination, I have been construed as a sociopath, cold fish, fiend in human shape, etc. So, once again: I assure you that, like any conventionally socialized human, I am perturbed and disheartened by the Sandy Hook shootings. If I thought that following the script by platitudinously “sending my heart out” to Newtown would in any way alleviate any suffering whatsoever, send it out I would. But better to let more qualified persons attend to the unimaginable grief of the survivors, while I stick to my area of expertise and give my nieces an extra chin-chuck tonight at the annual Lower School Christmas Pageant.

Niece #1, you are undoubtedly wondering, is going to be an adorable sheep; Niece #2, a Child of Bethlehem. It is the opinion of the Lower School Music Director that Children of Bethlehem should wear sheets tied at the waist with rope, jaunty scarves wrapped around the head hippie-style, and a pair of Tom’s shoes. It promises to be quite the spectacular.

But enough about me and my cute nieces and their teachers’ questionable taste.

Nothing whips up the news media like a mass shooting. People get pretty sentimental about children, so consequently the news are describing the Sandy Hook events with some pretty extravagant language. “The slaughter of innocents” is a phrase you hear a lot. To which I respond, oy vey.

Here is where I’m supposed mention how odious it is to murder little kids, so that I am not mistaken for a child-hating ghoul. See paragraph 1, above.

You will get no argument from me that murdering little kids is about as odious a thing as there is. The argument you will get from me is that murdering kids isn’t intrinsically any more odious than murdering anybody else. A life is a life. Characterizing child victims as pure, immaculate angels recasts them as mythical paragons. This robs them of their humanity, degrades the status of adult victims by comparison, and casts an unhelpfully fanciful Biblical tone over the whole tragedy. It also perpetuates a culture of patronization. Let me explain:

Coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings relies on the “slaughter of innocents” theme because the demographics of the incident — no sympathetic male victims — precludes the media falling back on their usual gambit. I allude to the “women-and-children” gambit.

It has long been an auntly peeve that news copy forever, consistently, and without fail discriminates for no good reason between male, female, and child victims. You know, as in “Seven victims, including 4 women and children, were pulled from the wreckage.” Regular people, i.e. men, are the default. Invariably “women-and-children” are invoked as a separate unit to impart that extra delicious little jolt of maudlinosity. It’s a cheap tactic, and it works because of news media’s profitable grasp of gender bias.

Specifically: in our misogynist, child-oppressing culture, adult women are not only infantilized as the emotional equivalents of children, but as a package with children are widely recognized as diminished inferiors who, because of their essential debilitation relative to adult men, are intrinsically more pathetic. Even bathetic.

But not more tragic, mind you. “Tragic” is an elevated state to which victimized women-and-children are entitled to aspire only under certain circumstances. First they will have demonstrated some distinguishing noble trait, such as previous celebrity (Princess Diana, Gabrielle Giffords), heroic action (Victoria Soto) or exceptional pluck (Elizabeth Edwards). Conversely, males upon whom misfortune is visited tend to pre-exist as tragic by dint of their noble, godlike sex alone, since the requisite degree of respect is already built in to our society’s appreciation of dudeliness. Like, it’s wack, but a guy like John Edwards, who cheated on his dying wife and committed criminal acts to cover it up, isn’t even dead, but is nevertheless viewed as a tragic figure, his fall from grace cushioned by pre-existing dudely nobleness.

As stereotypical units of poignancy, however, women-and-children victims are largely reduced to objects for tragedy-fetishists. Portraying them as helpless innocents invites not only sentimentalism, but a kind of cloying, pitying prurience that is easily and routinely exploited by the 24-hour news channels. Banality and bathos are the enemies of truth and beauty.

On a related note: if there was any question about misogyny and news reportage, clock this, yall: in the Sandy Hook coverage, it cannot have escaped your notice, 2 deaths are consistently left off the body count. One, of course, is the shooter, for whom nobody can be expected to cough up much compassion. The other is Nancy Lanza, the mother he shot 4 times in the head. No sympathy for her, either, as she doesn’t rise to the level of the slaughtered innocents. In fact, she apparently deserved to die for having spawned a cold-blooded killer. Because no sufficiently satisfying motive for the school shootings can be discerned, the cry issues forth, “Why?” To which it is replied by sighing sages and philosophic pundits, “alas, there are no answers.”

Oh please, of course there’s an answer; Adam Lanza was a dude with a severe and untreated mental illness. But that’s not melodramatic enough, apparently. Thus is the mother suspected of creating the monster. How would the popular imagination ever cope with aberrant gunslinging dudes if it weren’t for their diabolical, sin-originating mothers?

Older posts «

» Newer posts