September 20, 2008

So Chapter Three isn’t as done as I thought.  In keeping with the spirit of the chapter (on masculinities), some anecdotes:
-Multiple cars full of guys passed as I sat in the backseat of a cab heading home last night.  Most of them were eating – things they could hold in one hand and tear at with decisive, teeth-baring head-shakes.
-R. sometimes falls asleep with his head tucked into that intimate crook between my ear and my shoulder.  I love that.
-I overheard a guy telling his friend about the other night when his drunken girlfriend changed her mind partway through sex, and that he continued anyway because ‘no’ doesn’t count or matter when she’s drunk.  And that she cried after… “bitches, eh?”  I turned around and told him he was a rapist, and got a “Fuck you, you fat cow” in return.
-An ex-boyfriend once told me he could empathize with the ending of Nobody Waved Goodbye. Watching it again with my students last week, I can too.

together at last! That’s right, predicting winter’s expiry date may no longer be a male’s job. The times they are a-changin’.

I noticed the other day that someone made their way here by the search phrase “what its [sic] like to have a vagina.” Interesting. They probably didn’t find an answer at the time, but I abhor dangling questions, so here goes…

It’s a mixed bag. Its sheer existence can be problematic. If you’re thinking of getting yourself one, be prepared to see its likeness objectified and commodified in remarkable ways.

Statistically speaking, you’re much more likely to be raped if you’ve got one. Too bad they’re not detachable.

Porn will tell you that your vagina will enjoy having any penis in it at any time, even if all you’re doing is sitting around being dejected that your cable/plumbing/air conditioning doesn’t work. And that if you don’t really want a penis in it, that doesn’t actually matter – your resistance is part of the fun.

Companies will tell you that it smells terrible, that it’s dirty, and will try to sell you a panoply of products to help you hide your shame.

The Right will reiterate that it’s a precious, precious treasure, really the only thing of value that you have. Don’t worry, you can attend a “purity ball,” at which your father will pledge to keep it safe – because, as the patriarch, it’s his until you’re married, at which point it becomes your husband’s.

Every 28 days or so it’ll bleed.

Its very name will be a problem, and you’ll need to tone that down a little.

That being said, and that was a mighty truncated litany, a vagina is in other ways a joy to have. It’s beautiful, it’s pleasurable, it doesn’t draw unwanted attention to itself at inopportune times, it has its own exercises. It responds to self-touch in ways that little else does, and that very few can rival. It’s self-cleansing, it’s soft and slick and silky. It’s in tune with your moods, your girlfriends’, and maybe even the moon. Truncated litany notwithstanding, I’m quite fond of mine and would recommend vaginas to all of my friends.


November 1, 2007

Finally, a way to mention female genitals without having to say vagina! How vajuvenile. Startling is that part of this term’s popularization comes via a representation of the medical profession, wherein you’d think the appropriate word for anatomical parts would be, well, appropriate.

I guess I’ll take vajayjay over the hushed, embarrassed, “You know, down there,” but I don’t think it’s much of an improvement. Mine’s a vagina. Or, more chummily (because boy is it ever a good friend), my vag. I don’t need to cutesy it up. Cutesying it up suggests that there is something threatening, shameful, dirty, unspeakable about ‘vagina.’ That it needs to be made girlish in order to be safe. No thanks. I’m a woman, and I have a vagina. It doesn’t need to be shaved or waxed back to pre-pubescent aesthetics. It doesn’t need to be surgically altered to appear more pleasing. Like other women’s, it’s beautiful as it is. And deserves to be called what it is. Say it with me: vagina. And again: vagina. And again and again until we all understand, like Lizzie said to me yesterday, that “ideas and beliefs have to be reproduced over and over in order to hold sway. And that very action opens the means for change.” Vagina vagina vagina.

UPDATE This is funny.

Pardon my directness, but I refuse to beat around the bush. The feminists, it seems, have a proprietary interest in female genitalia.

Proprietary interest? Due to the fact that, as women, it’s our genitalia? How dare we lay claim to our own bodies! Quick, someone do something to make women ashamed, to remind them that their bodies are there for public objectification, commodification, consumption and critique! Oh, wait…

No matter what you call it, many feminists don’t want guys attracted to it.

Can we please just let the man-hating sex-hating feminist stereotype die? It’s misogyny feminism has a problem with, not men. And feminists do like sex, remember? We’re even quite good at it.
Yes, I want guys attracted to my vagina. Just not the ones that are scared off by the very word. If you aren’t comfortable with the actual names of my body parts, you don’t get to touch them. Not until you grow up. And the word ‘vajayjay’ isn’t what says “hello… welcome.” You only get that invite from the woman herself.

It has such a sense of taboo that nobody feels totally comfortable talking about it – not even women, but especially men.

My point exactly. So talk about it. Get comfortable. Stop making bush and box and fingering jokes. See Bitch PhD for more.

Feminists are sexy

October 18, 2007

Empirical proof of what many of us have known all along – feminists do it better.

Metro prick

August 16, 2007

I came across this awhile ago and have been stewing about it ever since.
Where do I begin? How about where he began, with ‘choice’ – that she chose to buy and wear the top in question, and as such she, not he, is responsible for his leering. Just how much of a choice is this? Not much of one. There are only so many options – you can either be a woman or be reviled. And to count as a woman you have to flaunt what has been determined as its most obvious marker – your sexuality. North American women live in an environment that assesses their claims to ‘power’ based on how much or how little they flaunt their sexuality (don’t believe me? Haven’t you been following the Clinton coverage?). Out of all the rights second wave feminism fought for, sexual freedom was one of the easiest to commodify and co-opt, to throw back at us and then ask us to be thankful that clothes screaming “I’m sexual!” are now readily available. We are now not just able but expected to present ourselves as sexual, desiring subjects, and if we don’t, well clearly we’re not empowered. The problem is that only certain things are sexy (and not very many), only certain bodies are sexy (and not very many), and to get and maintain those things and that body we have to subject ourselves to a regime of self-surveillance even more hostile and damaging* than the surveillance of, say, this prick on the metro. The power a woman can claim as her ‘own’ eerily resembles the sexual fantasies that have been marketed to men for ages: being ‘up for it.’ Sorry, metro prick, our practices are not freely chosen. This rhetoric of choice transposes responsibility onto the individual woman and away from felt, lived, experienced – i.e. real – social and structural inequalities. ‘Choices’ are pragmatically made with the full knowledge that the playing field is by no means even, that there are material penalties. We don’t have choice, we have a dangerous combination of patriarchy and neo-liberalism.
But perhaps I’m taking this too seriously. Ah, irony – metro pricks now get to have it both ways. Irony is the new defense against sexism: it’s not really sexism if you acknowledge that you know you’re being sexist. Women are supposed to sit there and grin and take this because obviously if the law says we’re equal then we must be and it’s all in good fun, and if we don’t laugh it off we don’t ‘count’ as modern empowered women. It’s a gas, he used ‘funbags,’ he can’t be serious. Yeah, he used funbags. And melons. And jugs. And hooters. And rack. Which doesn’t even scratch the surface of the panoply of ways women’s bodies are objectified and sexualized; this relentless and exhaustive parceling into pieces systemically devalues and divorces the female body from any real sense of a woman as an individual, and, importantly, of women as social group deserving the same rights, protections, and freedoms as men. There are reasons why women are by far the majority of victims in reported sexual assaults. And there are just as many reasons why less than 10% of such crimes are reported to police. Metro prick is just one manifestation of one facet of a much larger problem. The answer? Longer than you have patience for, most likely, so here’s a good place to start: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” (Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler).

*”Because I live in a world that hates women and I am one . . . who is struggling desperately not to hate myself and my best girlfriends, my whole life is constantly felt by me as a contradiction” (Kathleen Hannah)

On my mind:

August 14, 2007

‘I’ could not be who I am if I were to love in the way that I apparently did, which I must, to persist as myself, continue to deny and yet unconsciously reenact in contemporary life with the most terrible suffering as its consequence.
-Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power.

I know it must be hard to fathom that a girl doesn’t care what a smart man thinks about the thing that she cares most about in the world, or that there’s a movement that exists that doesn’t much take into consideration what men have to say on the topic. I know I’m supposed to 1) nod thoughtfully as I process your wisdom, asking clarifying questions about your points just in case I don’t immediately understand something you say, and then 2) offer up some powerful and intelligent argument on why feminism is important, and then 3) try to prove my point with examples from women in politics and a few stories about my grandmother, but of course, in the end, 4) concede that yes, you have some very good points that I will certainly think about, and thank you for educating me about feminism and correcting me on those things I didn’t fully understand about women and the world.

Well, that conversation has been had before and is a bullshit boring ass waste of time that does absolutely nothing for anyone. Pretending to be open to the possibility that I’m a fool for believing what I do is wrong, dishonest, and disrespectful to everyone involved. Being polite and feigning interest, when I’m really thinking “Holy crap, what an indoctrinated, privileged prick he is. Where’s my beer?” is simply no good.

Ornamenting Away

Quote of the day

July 16, 2007

The broader implication is this: that one’s own collaboration with mass-approved violence – i.e., institutional racism, First World nationalism, and apathetic complacency – doesn’t count. Climb the corporate ladder, buy American, tune out on Prozac – these silences equal death. But there’s a popular illusion that ‘violence’ is limited only to the physical, the actual contact of skin on skin. What about the daily devastation of poverty, the lack of child care, the shortage of clean air, the sight of children going without – and one’s own active or passive participation in these devastating institutions? If Jane Six Pack hits you, she’s a lower-class bitch. If Jane Six Pack sits in her air-conditioned stockbroker suite investing in Latin America, it’s affirmative action.
-Veena Cabreros-Sud, “Kicking Ass”

If only

July 6, 2007

There is no Patriarch Headquarters, with flags and limousines, where all the strategies are worked out.
-R.W. Connell, Masculinities

It would be so much more convenient if there was. I’d apply for a travel grant to visit Patriarch Headquarters – give a quick slideshow presentation, have a light lunch, effect some change in the social order. I’d make a day of it.

Stock photography

June 1, 2007

I just received a shipment of books by mail (will someone please divest me of my evil credit card?) and after greedily tearing away the strip that lets the box unfold to reveal your books in all their unread glory I thought briefly that there’d been a mistake in my order – two of the books had the same cover. Compare:

I’m wary of how this is the image for ‘female television viewer’. It’s reproducing the same ideal and idealized female audience that feminist cultural commentary often wants to expose as a pervasive and loaded construction. Out of all the stock images, I get why this one is used, just as I get why chick lit covers are daubed in pink and glitter and high-heels. It’s a shorthand for the audience the publisher wants to create; they want women to see themselves, imagine themselves, as such a woman – affluent, white, sassy who will watch what she wants when she wants to and will make her own meanings in the face of institutional, economic, and narrative logics. It’s easier to market to ‘women’ when you can subsume their diversity and divergences under such an apolitical avatar.
Prime time television is all about such women. But its audience and its critics look decidedly different. The breadth of contemporary feminist media criticism is astonishing and inspiring… I wish its iconography could capture that spirit, rather than reiterating the stock imagery that is proving so problematic in the first place.