“We should not be so desperate to establish the seriousness of rape that we stigmatize intelligent discussion of it.”
The author of the essay, Charlotte Shane, builds on arguments made by Camille Paglia in 1991 and Germaine Greer in 2006 that rape discourse is not in opposition to the patriarchy, but operating within it. (I’m sympathetic to the idea that there is no escape from oppressive systems.) Shane quotes Greer: “The only weapon that counts in rape is the penis, which is conceptualised as devastating…The notion of rape is the direct expression of male phallocentricity, which women should know better than to accept.”
The dominant narrative of rape does not reflect Shane’s individual experience and is harmful to her emotional health. She tries to avoid suggesting that other women who have been raped (compare: “rape victims”) should “suck it up”, but you should decide for yourself if she’s successful.
Shane doesn’t really offer a recommendation for how rape should be handled differently except to say “rape is an individual’s experience, not a collective one”. This is basically a standard 3rd-wave/postmodern perspective: the abstraction and reduction of patriarchal modernism is the problem, so don’t look for a universal solution.
Ashley Judd wrote an insightful essay criticizing the media for speculating on her plastic surgery. Here’s the money shot:
Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly…The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others…
However, she notes “inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time.” Here’s my distorted thinking:
Her plea would be more convincing if her entire career weren’t built in a system that handsomely rewards female beauty. She should be held responsible for deciding to capitalize on her appearance while more talented but less beautiful actresses cannot. In particular, she is being paid to be the face of H. Stern Jewelery and an Estée Lauder cosmetic brand called American Beauty.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking celebrities are people like you and me. They’re brands that sell based on their appearance. Speculating on Judd’s face is no different from discussing the shape of the iPad 3. The problem is not that we care about Judd’s plastic surgery, the problem is that we care about Judd at all.
Despite the author it’s a good essay.
I came across the “college liberal” meme today and this instance blew my mind:
It’s absolutely right. If you are unhappy about the lack of whatever-minority-you-are in whatever-positions-of-power-minorities-aren’t-in (science, business, politics, etc.), you have an obligation to try to gain power. If you feel like you personally aren’t suited for particular positions of power (eg: you don’t like science or math), you need to realize that you’ve been socially conditioned to be that way and accept that that’s the full explanation for why minorities aren’t in power. It’s no mere conspiracy theory.
This is a post-feminist argument: women aren’t in positions of power because women don’t like gaining power; if you want to gain power, be less womanly.
Maybe rather than fighting against your social conditioning yourself, you think your energy would best be spent overthrowing our societies conditioning? That’s like becoming an intellectual with the intent of leading the revolution. In socialism, a revolution lead by intellectuals is known as “socialism from above” and resulted in Stalinism. Lenin was in favour of “socialism from below” – a revolution lead by workers, which recognized intellectuals as no more helpful than bourgeoisie. So maybe rather than get that degree you should go organize a union at Walmart?
Personally, I don’t believe that social conditioning in general can be overthrown. So your only hope is to crave out little niche situations that make you happy. Maybe a Women’s Studies degree is good for that?
This Huffington Post article has been bouncing around the blogosphere for a few months. The author, Yashar Ali, argues that telling women their emotional behaviour is “crazy” is a form of “gaslighting“: convincing someone they’re crazy by questioning their perception of reality.
I wish I could agree with him, but Ali mostly misses the mark. We live in a masculine society. Any non-masculine behaviour is defined by society as insanity. Therefore, men are correct in calling women insane when they act like women. This is basic Foucault: society (not abusive individuals) uses the label of “crazy” to assert power over dissenting behaviour.
Asking men to redefine sanity for themselves is like asking someone to see the code of the Matrix. Instead of just telling individual men not to make gaslighting speech, we need to reform society to value feminine behaviour as much as masculine behaviour.
The Toronto Star ran an article on a family that is raising a gender-neutral infant. Not surprisingly, the article is a bit muddled on the distinction between sex and gender: gender neutrality is achieved by keeping the baby’s sex secret.
Given that the family’s two older children (2 and 5) identify as boys but cross-dress, I’m struck by the sense that being secret-sexed is actually less subversive of gender norms. But one of the experts interviewed for the article is a psychologist who speculates that being secret-sexed will deny the child the opportunity to identify as transgendered, which suggests than androgyny and genderqueering are rather more subversive. I suppose in the simpler case of transgender, it would be easy to tell people “he is a boy” or “she is a girl” without specifying sexual characteristics.
Much of the criticism of the family’s decision is based on the difficulty that ambiguous people have fitting into society. Heather Mallick kind of gets the point that that’s the family’s point: this difficulty needs to be removed for everyone to actually fit into society instead of just fake it. Obviously, keeping their baby’s sex secret for 4 months as a media stunt is quite effective at furthering that debate. (Fox News ran a surprisingly balanced article.)
Their eldest child has decided to homeschool kindergarten because, the article claims, he feels that going to school would restrict his gender expression. Regardless of how their parents construct their gender identities, I think being raised in a gender-critical environment will have a larger impact on these kids.
Note the order of the title, it’s not Maude and Harold, because Maude isn’t much of a character. Normally I’d take this opportunity to do my favourite off-beat reading by proposing that she’s a figment of Harold’s imagination, but I have a more important issue to discuss:
Maude, like many women in film, is not a fully-developed character – she even ends up in the refrigerator for Harold’s benefit. More specifically, she is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a very important trope in Western texts.
This extensive blog that refers to them as “Amazing Girls” explains how Manic Pixies are misogynist:
The Romantics’ ideal of the pure and naturally innocent woman, a creature morally inferior to men but capable of spiritual perfection — in short, a childlike vessel for the projection of masculine ideals.
And Eye Weekly, in doing a similar criticism of 500 Days of Summer as my own, explains the damage caused by the Manic Pixie archetype:
There’s something very underrated about sane, functional women who act their age and do not try to be spirits of pure light and joy.
Given that I’m “an soulful, brooding male hero, living a sheltered, emotionless existence”, I definitely hope to “leave [my] cold, grey existence and one day meet this magical woman [so my] life will be transformed”. Yet despite my love of misogyny in cinema, I couldn’t relate to Harold. Maybe because being obsessed with death became trendy and then cliche since this movie was made? Maybe because although there’s more to Harold than Maude, he’s still not a very well-developed character? Maybe because the movie didn’t deliver an explicit sex scene (art isn’t supposed to make you comfortable)? I don’t know why, but the movie didn’t click for me like contemporary myths of the Manic Pixie.
The Tyee recently ran a hysterical (pun intended) book excerpt on how the evil pharmaceutical companies are trying to help women have more fun in bed. The authors’ concern is that the way licensing in the US works, a drug cannot be sold and insured unless it’s treating a formal disorder. So if a pharmaceutical company discovers a drug that fixes a problem people have, they need to get scientists to explicitly define that problem as a disorder before people are allowed to have the drug.
Rather than discovering “natural” classifications of disorders, scientists invent disorders and test their definitions for internal consistency with a treatment. I guess this sounds really horrible if you’re an alarmist modernist, but I’m not sure who else in society would be better qualified to invent disorders? As the article warns, “drug companies are sometimes involved in…giving a little known condition renewed attention”!! And sometimes the companies are so insidious, that they give attention to widespread but ignored conditions like women’s sexual function.
Because after all, heaven forbid we have a way to solve common problems: “to what extent are women’s problems of desire and arousal really the signs of dysfunctions, or rather common sexual difficulties being portrayed as diseases in order to sell drugs?” Instead, the article advocates a movement in psychiatry called the New View, which says that patients’ disorders are mostly caused by “the broader context of her life, her relationships, and the wider society and culture in which she lives.”
I wonder what New View psychiatrists tell their patients? “Your disorder is caused by society; I’ll try to have it fixed by our next session.” If society is broken, why is it unreasonable to take something to cope? Men clearly appreciate having sexual dysfunction treatments (because men are capable of separating psychological and physical desire for sex), who are we to tell women that they shouldn’t want them too?
Jezebel is a megablog that runs a combination of trashy celebrity stories and mid-brow feminism. I find the combination weird, but that’s probably because I’m a guy: they’re both things that contemporary women like to read about. I don’t subscribe to Jezebel because I can’t stand the gossip, but I appreciate it when one of my lady-friends tells me about a good feminist post. Especially because Jezebel’s feminism posts tend to have unintentionally hilarious comments.
My friend Caitlin recently pointed to a pair of posts on the rape charges against Wikileaks’ Talking Head, Julian Assange:
The second one is particularly interesting. I haven’t bothered to read the comments – let me know if you see anything funny.
The bottom line as I see it: Assange certainly appears to be an asshole, so I suspect there’s something behind the charges. Western governments are applying an awful lot of pressure to apprehend this particular rapist, so it is persecution in a way. Regardless, Wikileaks would probably be better off today if they didn’t have a Talking Head (maybe they can pass teh cables over to Anonymous?)
I’ve run into a situation where sexism might be taking place against some of the women in my class. And that “maybe” is a form of sexism itself.
We’ve been invited to apply for a shoot in Brazil as an extra-cirricular project. It’s a week in the jungle shooting along the Amazon followed by a week in Rio shooting Carnaval.
One of the women came to me today and said she’d been told that they wouldn’t “pick a girl” because “it’s a week in the jungle carrying 50 lbs of gear” and “the girls aren’t as skilled technically as the guys”. The teachers, “of course”, wouldn’t be picking “a girl”. (This was said to someone who is far ahead in the whisper buzz for best documentary and who “already lugs piles of equipment around”.)
Jill’s spot-on-analogy is: “imagine they had said that about — and to — a black person.”
Whether the selection is biased or not, that one of my classmates told this to her was probably intended as a chilling effect. I’m thinking of going to someone, but it’s impolitic for me to go to the profs, as there’s a suggestion they’re implicated.
There’s a woman on the selection committee — should I mention this to her? I’ve been googling sexism ombudspeople at my school and can’t find any. I was considering spoiling my application in protest (“I am qualified because of XYZ — and I think you should send one of the women in class”), or going to the corporate sponsor directly.
Complicating this is that there are about 1/5th as many women as men in the class so the discrimination could just hide behind sampling noise. Anyway — the deadline is fast approaching. Ideas? Let me know ASAP.
I am trying to defeat my classmates through fair competition and aesthetic achievement, not through white male privilege!
As a computer science undergrad, one of my (and my girlfriends’!) favourite books was Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs. The book is about a group of Microsoft programmers who leave Microsoft to found a start-up company, before the dot-com bubble. Besides the characters’ career arcs, a large part of the book is about [SPOILER!] Daniel and Karla gradually getting together. Ultimately, Microserfs is a romance set in a very realistic Silicon Valley.
Coupland effectively rewrote Microserfs as JPod, changing the setting to Electronic Arts in Vancouver. Except JPod skips over the few months where [SPOILER!] Ethan and Kaitlin start dating. In his rewrite, Coupland removed the aspect of Microserfs that I liked best: JPod is a boring piece of crap (that made for an even worse TV show).
The only two films about programming that I can recall are Hackers and Antitrust. Both films have male protagonists supported by technically-competant love interests: Hackers was Angelina Jolie’s first major role her best haircut ever and I don’t remember much about Antitrust, but Wikipedia assures me that the girls kicked ass*.
I finally got around to seeing The Social Network, which got a lot of attention when it came out for its “angry nerd misogyny”. Writer Aaron Sorkin flip-flopped on whether it was a pure Hollywood fantasy, sexed-up to sell tickets, or if he was accurately reflecting the mysogyny of the tech industry. I think The Social Network was an amazing script, making a fast-paced film out of typing and depositions, but maybe I would have liked the film more with some romance?
* Although Rachael Leigh Cook’s career-best hair was in Josie and the Pussycats.