Thursday, August 31, 2006
Pandagonhas something to say to all of us coffee-cup feminists.
And so does Gayle, another commenter, on a more touchingly tender personal level:
"You rip up threads and purposely stymie legitimate discussions with all your mock outrage because you have a personal vendetta."
Well, dip me in marinara and call me Six-Fingered Tony - indeed I do. But I'll get to that later.
Look, I didn't want to have to do this. I didn't want to bring the good and productive discussion down to a pointless and self-indulgent personal level while grinding my own personal axe. I didn't want to indulge in the masturbation of grief and shame out here in public in front of God and everybody. And I sure as shit didn't want to have to think about the seven worst years of my life ALL DAMN DAY, re-living every detail like I was back there again, experiencing it all over again like some sadistic Groundhog Day of my own mind.
But I feel like I have to speak up, say something, ANYTHING, anything to make the discussion real and tangible and connected to the human experience, if for no other reason than to remind us all that it's not just the words that are thrashing it out on the blasted heath of the Interweb. It's not just a matter of our dueling participles and wrestling metaphors - we're all real flesh-and-blood-and-soul people out here behind our keyboards and in front of our screens. The only way I can think of to remind people of that is by sharing. Well, oversharing, probably.
Nonetheless, once more into the breach...
For about six and a half years, between 1996 and 2002, I was a coffee-cup feminist. And a good one. Everything I did, said, typed, read, cooked, ate, shit, flushed, purchased, sold, wore, stripped, sucked, fucked, choked on, accepted, rejected, inspected or selected was controlled utterly and totally by my husband at the time.
I've spoken about him before, Mr. AbEx. He's the reason why I know it sucks to have to clean up your own bloody vomit after oral sex. He's the reason why I know that it's sometimes just as dangerous to be a housewife as a prostitute. He's the reason why I lived, and why I almost died.
But that was my life. I was okay with it, for a while. Over time I became less okay with it. Over time I had to do ever more exotic mental gymnastics to bend around and through and over and under the crazy situation I put myself in.
The important thing to know here is that immediately prior to meeting him, I was one out-n-proud queer-ass radical-feminist womyn-with-a-y. Seriously - one day I was pasting up flyers for the Pope Protest (yes, I threw condoms at Pope John Paul II - gives you an idea of just how ancient I really am), the next day I was packing my heels and pearls and teetering off to go be Mrs. America.
But he's the reason I know, deep in my fractured bones and in my damaged brain and in what remains of my shattered heart, that your philosophy will not protect you.
What - you think you can hide under a book? a pamphlet? a manifesto? an idea? You think raising some magic umbrella of consciousness will protect you from a rain of humiliation or a hailstorm of fists?
Feminism did not shield me, because The Patriarchy wasn't beating me. A human being was beating me. He was, his fists were, both true and real. He was not a figment of the collective imagination. He was not a concept, a generalized sort of shorthand to symbolize centuries of suffering. He was a fellow human being.
Do you blame Communism for some mindboggling number of Ukrainians slaughtered in the thirties? No - you blame Stalin, the man himself.
Do you blame Agrarian Utopianism for the slaughter of millions of Cambodians? No - you blame Pol Pot, the man himself.
Nobody blames Nazism-the-ideology, Nazism-the-philosophy, Nazism-the-shorthand for inexpressible evil, Nazism-the-word for the horrors of the Third Reich. We blame Hitler, his lieutenants, his adherents, those willing to take his philosophy and make it real in human terms.
As for me, what's left of me, I blame the Patrick-archy. I hold him personally accountable for everything he's ever done to me. I don't care where he learned it or who he learned it from - other men live perfectly well without learning to be monsters, and women learn to be monsters equally adeptly. I don't care about his illusory privilege or his brother's privilege or his assumed life of plush entitlement that amounted to ring-around-the-collar wage slavery.
As much as I blame him, I have to blame myself. I know that. But I thought - I knew - that if only I tried harder I could be the sort of woman he could be proud of, admire, not hit.
The strange thing is, I felt the same way about my female partner. That's important in this discussion too.
Let me ask you something, all-a-y'all - did you feel it when he hit me? Did somehow his fist hit your face? wrap around your swanlike neck? break your fragile bones? Did his words assault your ears with the force of all the sticks and stones of all the schoolyards of your life? Did my behavior, my striving, my working to please him, PUT A SINGLE BRUISE ANYWHERE ON YOUR BODY?
I can't claim the title Radical Feminist anymore, if even I ever could. Ultimately feminism in all its flavors asks more questions than it answers, at least for me.
But now I'm a woman with a "why". I'm okay with that.
And that brings me to my personal vendetta.
As my husband, Antiprince The Gentle*, often says - "blog comments are often edited to give the appearance of hegemony." (or words to that effect - correct me if I'm wrong, darlin'.)
Often, editing is not even needed, if enough people (six or eight, that few) whomp up enough affirmations in the comments section, it looks like the whole world agrees with the blogger, and only a drooling halfwit or truly reckless vandal would disagree.
I got news.
I disagree. Strongly.
And I know there are others out there who disagree too. So what looks like a personal vendetta is not only a personal vendetta (brought about by allowing myself to get insulted about stupid shit - meh, I am as god made me) but an attempt to make sure all parties are represented. ALL parties.
Feminism, radical or otherwise, is not hegemonic. It just ain't. Too many different people have had too many different experiences to make it so.
OK - I've had enough. I have a headache. if you've made it this far, I, Six-Fingered Tony, salute you.
* Antiprince the Gentle is also Antiprince the Decent, the Brave, the Musical, the Handsome, the Human - I did not mean to reduce him to a single quality in service of this essay (of rather dubious quality anyway). Forgive me, darlin' for using you as a rhetorical device, but I had to attribute the quote somehow.
from The Quotable Delphyne:
"“Radical” in radical feminism means going to to the root i.e. examining the roots of women’s oppression - male supremacy."
But disagreement about the nature of those roots shouldn't knock a girl out of the radical feminist tree, and too frequently it does just that.
I mean, to stretch a metaphor from the sublime to the ridiculous - is the root a taproot, long and solid and singular like a dandelion's? is it a great spreading network like an oak's? a tangled mat like grass?
What if we assemble an army of women, all armed to the teeth with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction of all sorts, from silver spoons to jackhammers to dynamite to clamshells, everyone bringing the very best, sharpest, diggingest tool they can get their hands on, and get all psyched up to attack the root, dig it up, yank it out, annihilate it -
"Excuse me, your jackhammer is really noisy and the exhaust is killing those other plants."
"WHAT? WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I'M OPERATING A JACKHAMMER!"
"Had you considered what that dynamite will do to the endangered Hubblebank's Spotted Parakeet population?"
"Look - do you want this root out or not?"
"Hey! Get your shovel off my foot!"
"Oh, don't be such a baby. Get your foot out of my way!"
"say, what's gonna happen when those roots die and this tree falls down on our heads?"
"tree? what tree? we're not uprooting that tree - we're uprooting these vines! what are you wasting your time uprooting a tree for? jeez that's stupid..."
"I don't know; I thought we were working on that tree too..."
"oh, yeah, like you'd know what you were doing with that stupid silver spoon."
"It was good enough for my grandmother..."
"your grandmother stole it from my grandmother. that's why I'm digging with this plastic spork >sigh<"
"dude, you stepped on my clamshell!"
etc. ad naus.
And what if the really crazy thing is that if we all just put down our tools, grabbed the thing and pulled real hard on the count of three, maybe it would just surrender itself from the earth and we'd all go sprawling and tumbling in a big sweaty heap, and then we could all go home.
Ok - clearly that got out of hand. But it's not useful to ignore the fact that there is NO CONSENSUS as to what constitutes the roots of male supremacy, such as exists.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Britain has outlawed violent pornography on the internet, according to Yahoo News.
Some excerpts from the Yahoo News bit:
"The new laws -- which will cover pornography online and offline -- will ban possession of images depicting "scenes of extreme sexual violence", plus other obscene material like bestiality or necrophilia.
"For example, it would cover violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in 'serious and disabling injury'."
"Under the proposals, the maximum penalty for publication, distribution and possession for gain of obscene pornography would also be increased from three to five years' imprisonment.
"The Home Office said they did not intend to target people who accidentally access obscene pornography nor those working within the mainstream adult entertainment industry, which works within existing obscenity laws.
"The project is in response to a consultation launched last year and comes after a 50,000-signature petition against extreme Internet sites promoting violence against women for sexual gratification was presented to parliament."
Is the Yahoo article accurate? Is this how it really happened? Any thoughts?
I'm sure you'll find it compelling reading, right up there with Marx and Solanas and that Unabomber fella. It will set y'all straight. Have no fear.
Ok. Here goes.
The Sexbot Manifesto:
Let your "no" mean "Fuck No!" and your "yes" mean "Hell Yeah!"
>crickets crickets crickets crickets<
Um, seriously. That's it. What do you want from me? What did you expect?
Seriously - I feel bad when I can't keep up with the big swinging theory discussions. It's a lot easier for me, frankly, to comment on shoes and undergarments and pictures of naked people - things I can see, touch, feel, experience for myself in the immediate material world. I get that shoes and undergarments and pictures of naked people are, in a sense, philosophy made real, ideas formed into shapes and textures I can comprehend with my eyes, ears and fingers - but that doesn't make the philosophy itself any easier to grasp.
So, struggling to make sense of the whole "if you wear high heels The Patriarchy wins" thing, I wrote this paragraph, over at Twisty's :
It’s not really the shoes. It’s not really the clothes. It’s not the ribbons or the bows or the boning or the heel or the random odd sucking of whatever sticks out. It’s how we assign meaning to these objects and actions. And those meanings will vary from person to person, some folks investing them with deep symbolic resonance, others with barely a second thought.
And Witchy replies:
However the individual assigns meaning to objects or actions, or not, the patriarchy has the final say and that makes the assignations of the individual totally meaningless in the great scheme of things.
Well, that's a good point. HOWEVER, this is what I've learned about The Patriarchy's great final say -
It's not fixed and rooted and eternal. It's capricious and whimsical and malleable according to perceived economic and social needs that change with time, location, available natural resources, advances or regressions in technology, the phase of the moon, the direction of the wind.
In the 1940s in America, women went to work in factories. Women were encouraged to make whatever child-care arrangements were necessary to allow them to participate in the War Effort. The Patriarchy loved Rosie the Riveter. Factory work was not just allowable female behavior, it was good and patriotic female behavior. Work if you love America. Stay home and the Axis wins.
At the end of the war, women were encouraged to go home and leave the world of work for pay to men. The world of work for pay was never exclusively a man's world before the WWII, but The Patriarchy would erase the history of women's work for pay in a successful propaganda war that drove women of all classes back home by the mid-50s. Factory work, or indeed work of almost any kind, was no longer good and patriotic female behavior. It was bad, unpatriotic, even seditious behavior, tantamount to treason. Stay home if you love America. Work and the Communists win.
The act of fitting a nut to a bolt took on a different meaning in 1956 than it had in 1946; a different but equally arbitrary meaning. In 1976, maybe things change again, and suddenly it's okay to work on an assembly line again, if you don't mind being called a "women's libber." In 1986 and 1996 and 2006 maybe a woman's assembly line job means something different still - but none of it changes the fact that women were punching a clock in 1936 and 1926 and 1916 and 1906 with nary a peep of accolade nor condemnation from The Patriarchy. Before The War, The Patriarchy didn't give a crap about assembly line girls. During The War, The Patriarchy loved assembly line girls. After The War, The Patriarchy didn't want to know from assembly line girls. But the job itself remained. The girls remained. Some girls even remained on the job, because they took it upon themselves to define it -
Regardless of how The Patriarchy feels about women working in a factory -
"this job means I can feed my family since my husband was shot in the war/left me for some floozy overseas /ain't no good nohow."
"this job means I have independence and don't need a husband."
"I love the plant. I love my co-workers like family. Shit- I just love the assembly line and its rock-solid predictability and the cool hard feel of nuts and bolts and the smell of machine oil."
I'm saying - the true meaning of a job emanates from the job-doing individual, not from outside influences. The consistent and reliable and unchanging meaning of an action derives from its actor.
Of course, one can always change her mind - shit, The Patriarchy changes its mind all the damn time, is my point. The only way to stay sane is to thine own self be true.
And, from the Department of Non-Sequiturs, now is as good a time as any to remind us all that high heels were originally made for men to wear, not for men to admire.
I feel that the meaning assigned to objects and actions by me, by you, by the individual using the object and performing the action, is more important than the meaning assigned to them by this figment of the mass imagination, that which is powerful only because we empower it.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
just for the record, THIS is not a corset:
This is a fancy and expensive sports bra. I guess some come with ribbons down the front to look like froofy corset laces for those into bows and stuff. Those pinkish lines indicate where some plastic reinforcement (or boning) goes - it's plain white plastic, usually, kind of flexible - more flexible than the average underwire in a bra -the kind I'm thinking of has similar properties as those white plastic cable-tie style riot handcuffs you sometimes see police carry into seething angry mobs of the violent unwashed. If you're the sort of girl who likes to exercise but feels distractingly floppy while clocking your 6.8 minute mile in what amounts to a spandex bandaid, I can see where such a garment could be an answer to your prayer, as long as the boning didn't work itself out of its channel and jab you to death. (for what it's worth, I am a distractingly floppy girl -- or is it woman-of-flop -- and this is the sort of garment I might consider if I ever determined to shift my ample ass off the sofa and run again.)
Now THIS is a corset:
It is probably worth mentioning that E.J. Swartwout was a lady, according to the US Patent Office. It is also probably worth mentioning that Miss Emma Swartwout's modifications to the type of corset commonly used in the 1890s were likely considered a great improvement in corset technology, offering unprecedented freedom of movement and ease of wear over such canvas-and-spring-steel lace-up straitjackets as were available previously.
Before we complain about that wispy little camisole up there (woven entirely of children's tears thanks to the fine folks at Nike), it may be useful to consider that our foremothers waged all out war amongst themselves during the late 19th and early 20th centuries over their undergarments - there was a "hygenic dress" (? correct me if I'm wrong on the name) movement, tittilating whispers of tight-lacing cults in girls' boarding schools, class issues, race issues, health issues, that rib-removal thing -
god damn but if the more things change, the more they stay the same...
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The society we live in functions by keeping sexism alive and well. Radfems seek to change this. Discussing the individual's right to prostitute themselves is at best irrelevant to our aim.
If/when we do live in an equal society, when the Patriarchy ceases to exist, then it would be worth examining the benefits or otherwise of prostitution as a career choice.
Until then the focus needs to be on eliminating the oppression of women, children and some men, and one of the manifestations of this oppression is prostitution.
So, eliminating prostitution is part of a wider program to eliminate oppression and bring about an equal society. I can understand how that makes sense.
And I'd be a total monster if I didn't want to eliminate oppression and bring about an equal society.
I wonder if prostitution in its current form would persist post-Patriarchy. No Patriarchy = no patriarchs, right? No male privilege to cater to? No male entitlement to satisfy? No demanding dicks to suck in exchange for currency? Liberated from The Patriarchy, would a man even consider the thought of contaminating a woman's sacred bodytemple with his dirty money, to satisfy his selfish and anti-social needs?
Maybe the institution of prostitution is not a cause of Patriarchy, but is symptomatic of, or maybe parasitic to, the institution of Patriarchy (such as exists). Without a systemic sense of male entitlement to satisfy, the whole male-entitlement-satisfaction industry would collapse. But I'm not sure that eliminating the male-entitlement-satisfaction industry would do much to eliminate the pre-existing sense of male entitlement (such as exists).
So I wonder if thinking that the elimination of prostitution will help make Patriarchy disappear is a type of magical thinking, similar to thinking that taking cough syrup will help cure pneumonia.
But this whole chicken-egg word game doesn't really address the reality of daily life for those women who exchange sexual activity for money, whose circumstances and opinions are as widely varied as the women themselves. Neither does it address the situation of people who think that those women who do barter sexual activity make life just a little harder for those women who don't.
But I'm still thinking, Jo.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I have no problem with that in itself. I've exchanged all manner (and I mean all manner) of sexual activity for things I've needed - a hot meal, a ride home, a kind word and shelter from the elements - how is that any different from exchanging the same sexual activities for the money needed to purchase such things for myself?
Regardless of how I feel about prostitution in the abstract, right this very minute some vast uncountable number of wretched and miserable prostitutes wish they could get into some other line of work. Right now, some vast uncountable number of women and girls are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world.
That's awful, if it's true - and I believe it to be true. I'd love to do something about that. I'd feel good about that - like I really helped women. I would love to put some time and money into helping them. I'd feel righteous and proud and good about myself if I did that.
Except I really can't feel all that good about myself, can I? I can give resources to the cause, yes, but maybe I shouldn't let myself off the hook that easily, not until I convince my own body and my own mind that what I perceive as pleasure and desire is really pain and shame. Not until I surrender to the pressure to recast my own sexual experience to fit with current theories of oppression, to rewrite my own history. Not until I admit my own complicity as a running dog of the patriarchy and denounce all the other sick fucks who refuse to accept The Truth.
I can't speak for every so-called sex-positive so-called feminist, but I know that I spend a lot of time and mental energy responding to the pervasive vapor of martyred superiority that clings to legitimate radfem critique - like a thick fog, it's nowhere and everywhere at the same time, the gaseous cloud that mists over every innocent, sincere, and even true statement with "I care about Class Woman and you don't." "I know the truth and you don't." "I don't need what you need." "I don't degrade myself like you do." "I have more integrity/self-esteem/inner strength than you do." "It's not really your fault that I'm better than you, but I'm better than you."
It's hard not to come away from such a conversation without my mind being dominated by a single question:
"So you think you're better than me?"
90% of blahblahblah? whatever. Thousands of women blahblahblah? whatever. Suffering-bleeding-false consciousness-patriarchy? whatever. I don't come away educated or enlightened from these interactions. I come away with a bigger chip on my shoulder than I had before.
I imagine innumerable impatient eyerolls from the blogiverse - "That's your baggage." "You're reading too much into it." "Nobody ever said that." That's the subtle and perverse beauty of it though - nobody has to (or dares to) come right out and say "I'm better than you." But it's there, woven between and through the lines. Self-righteous superiority: you're soaking in it. And before I can even begin to learn from, or even understand, the antiporn/antiprostitution/antiBDSM position, I feel like I have to tell its adherents something:
How you fuck, or whom you fuck, or whether you even fuck at all, does not make you superior to me.
Marching in the army of an ideology does not make you superior to me.
Rhetorical skill does not make you superior to me (though it will certainly make you more entertaining).
You know what would make you superior to me? Kindness. Consistency. Humility. Ability to see through or rise above the all-too-human frailties that I can't seem to overcome. Committment to understanding instead of indifference and contempt.
To that I would surrender.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
"Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers."
I could not have been more surprised if I had caught them wearing brassieres on their heads trying to resurrect Ronald Reagan with a TRS-80 and a set of jumper cables.
It's pretty surprising - I mean, if the Tucker Maxes and Joe Francises of the world are an accurate indicator of what men do all day, one certainly doesn't expect to come upon two bleary-eyed stoner boys vociferously debating central questions of feminism. The fact that there was dissent on the question at all was intriguing enough on its face, but the depth and breadth to which they explored the nuances of the question was really remarkable.
Both guys responded strongly to aspects of the question that truthfully hadn't even occurred to me.
AdequateDer disagreed with the statement, saying that a woman, even a woman with children, need not consider herself primarily a housekeeper - in fact should not, as such restrictive pigeonholing could prove detrimental to the survival of her family (such as in cases where a woman is a single parent) and to her own mental health.
This led to much discussion as to whether a homemaker was the same as a housekeeper, and whether the term "housekeeper" was pejorative.
My husband Antiprince took a different view. He agreed with the statement (quel horreur!) - but he read the statement very differently. He read the statement as:
"Mothers (female adults who are parents)
may have careers (owe allegiance to businesses and workplaces),
but their first duty (trumping their allegiance to businesses and workplaces)
is to be homemakers (to establish an environment where family members can blossom and thrive)."
He further elaborated that male adults who are parents also have a primary obligation to their families over any other obligation.
Myself, I disagreed with the statement, but that may be simply because I come from a long line of legendary household slackasses, and I interpreted "homemaker" to mean "housekeeper."
But the question really became "what makes a 'home'?" Antiprince thinks that "home" is not necessarily a location, but a concept, a state of mind, and that it is the obligation of both parents to firmly establish this concept, whether a family lives in a palatial tuscan-style villa or a traveling circus tent.
We all eventually came to the conclusion that the question was sort of like a Rorschach test, our answers being more useful for what they revealed about us than anything. For my own part, I'm pretty sure our opinions on the subject say more about our own individual mother-related baggage than our feelings on the politics of motherhood.
In the end, we all thought it would be interesting to open it up for wider debate.
Is either analysis more sexist, or less sexist, than the other?
And what makes a home, anyway? Clean dishes? Polished furniture? Love?
Is "housekeeper" a pejorative term?
Monday, August 07, 2006
2. One book you have read more than once? Of Human Bondage (and in the Guilty Pleasure category - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)
3. One book you would want on a desert island? The Better Huts and Hammocks Desert Island Cookbook
4. One book that made you laugh? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
5. One book that made you cry? Many books have gotten me a little misty-eyed over the years, but none have matched Bridge to Terabithia for pure cathartic-sob-inducing power.
6. One book you wish had been written? Umberto Eco For Dummies (see #8)
7. One book you wish had never had been written? Malleus Maleficarum
8. One book you are currently reading? The Name of The Rose
9. One book you have been meaning to read: Pornified
10. Now tag five people Jean, AdequateDer, RenEv, EL, AmberRhea
Sunday, August 06, 2006
It gives me no small pleasure to introduce to y'all our best friend, who has just whomped up his first heapin' helpin' of heady commentary, insightful observations, brainy musings and other fun things.
He's a smart guy and VERY musical. He's refined, sensitive, well-read and interesting. We don't know what he's doing hanging out with us...
Go be a good neighbor! Say hello! Introduce yourself.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
"You sound like a bunch of men".
"This sounds like men talking."
"You're probably a man."
What does that mean, to sound like a man? How does masculinity come across in an online forum?
Is it simply a pejorative or are there qualities of written speech which read masculine-ly? feminine-ly?
how can we be sure that we're not all twelve-year-old boys?
Not sure where I'm going with this but I'm just sort of curious - what kind of gender markers stand out in an online environment? Or is it not a matter of gender markers, but that the term "man" is shorthand for "I am using the worst possible insult I can come up with in order to convey my boundless contempt for you"?
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
They promised to turn my (stupid damn busted craptacular useless never-wanted-anyway) cellphone back on, once I cleared the balance.
I cleared the balance. some random customer service professional promised my phone would be reconnected. five hours later some other random customer service professional said that would be impossible, wouldn't give me my money back and disconnected me after promising I could speak to a supervisor. I left the room in tears and a wreck, and my husband took a shot at it - he got essentially the same treatment with the added bonus of being cussed out by some customer service pottymouth and he too was summarily disconnected when he asked to speak to a supervisor.
I wouldn't have minded if I'd have been allowed to speak to a supervisor. I wouldn't even be posting this if I had been allowed to speak to a supervisor.
As I clearly need to avoid stress and other freakouts, I will attack this again tomorrow with a clear head and a pad and pen nearby to take operator numbers and note lengths of time on hold and so forth. I'll get 'em. I will.
but in the meantime, I just thought the world would like to know that SPRINT is a den of lying thieves.
I know some of y'all think I oughta get my head examined but this is getting out of hand.
the triage nurse shakes her head and gets the nurse practictioner. the nurse practitioner clucks her tongue and gets the physicians assistant. the physician's assistant scribbles something on a clipboard and gets the on call doc. the on call doc gets the ER neurologist - we play some fun mercy-type games and then he orders tests. the ER neurologist scans the CAT and pronounces it "negative" (in the good way) but wants to confirm with a lumbar puncture.
punCTURE! PUNCTURE! PUNCTURE!
45 minutes of "you're going to feel a little pressure" and one wild-ass sciatic-nerve crisis later, the guy says "I can't torture you any further. I'm sorry. here, take some of this motrin and call this neurologist in the morning." I was too shook-up to give him shit about it. God, the sweat, the fear, the pain of a lumbar puncture gone awry.
I keep trying to tell people "headache? migraine? bad crabmeat?" and they shake their heads and go "stroke...stroke...stroke..."
but we don't know until we see the neurologist.
y'all rock for checking up on me.