I made the mistake of reading the comments on a couple of stories about Danny Brown’s sexual assault. And I’m really troubled. In fact, if you’re ever sitting around wondering “How easy do female rapists have it?” I invite you to peruse the comments on a story about what happened to Danny Brown. What happened was basically his fault because of how he was dressed or because he was flirting with the women in the front rows or because of his persona. Or it wasn’t really rape because how can a woman rape a man? Or why would a man not love it? Or, even if it was rape and wasn’t his fault, he’s a pussy for being all weird about it.
Here’s what it made me think–rapes by women where men are the victims are probably way under-reported. If this is the cultural message–that it basically can’t happen and, if it does, how can you even want to complain about it–female sexual predators have a lot of cover.
I know we talked before about how our society teaches men that having control of your body is a matter of social status and that low status men both don’t have a lot of control over what happens to their bodies and are taught that the way to rise in status is by asserting control over other bodies and how this feeds into rape culture because it reinforces for rapists that society approves of dominating someone in order to gain status, so it’s cool if your dominance of choice is rape.
But I’m starting to think, too, that a lot of weird, unacceptable shit must happen to men all the time and they just never talk about it, so that when something, like this sexual assault, happen out in front of everyone, the response isn’t “What the fuck? I’ve never heard of such a thing,” but “Well, it’s his own fault.”
I know this goes without saying but it’s not his fault. Like all sexual assaults, his attacker decided to attack him and, like many, many sexual assaults, she decided to attack him under circumstances where he was vulnerable and easy to get to and under circumstances where she thought people would be unlikely to call it sexual assault because they’d want to spread some blame to the victim. Or all the blame.
Judging by the comments… hell, judging by the fat that this was a story on NPR called “Was Rapper Danny Brown Sexually Assaulted?” as if National Public Radio should weigh in on whether a sex act a dude didn’t consent to really counts as sexual assault… we have a really hard time accepting the idea that there’s never some kind of extenuating circumstances that might make it okay to rape someone.
I find that distressing.
Talking about mothering practices, especially for a woman who doesn’t have children, is pretty fraught. But I want to say one thing about this whole “My kid never wears a diaper” thing: It never ceases to amaze me how much easier it is for women these days to raise children than it was for, say, women of my grandmother’s era and how much more weirdly complicated these trend-pieces encourage us to make it.
I don’t give two shits (ha ha) if you want to potty-train your kid from the get-go, like these folks, though I am a little bemused/grossed out at the thought of just encouraging your kid to shit outside in an urban area. But my “bullshit” meter goes off when such child-rearing practices are framed as “rediscovering an ancient practice used in other cultures” because are they ancient or used in other cultures? Why are ancient child-rearing practices best? And are these ancient practices really practiced in a house, where food prep goes on?
But the part I find weirdest is this idea that parents do it to “be more in tune with what their kids’ needs are.”
I don’t think this is an unambiguous good. I mean, it probably doesn’t matter one way or another when the kid is a baby, if you want to be all up in its business and know the precise moment it shits (though, having had quite a few babies in my life, I’m perplexed how one could avoid knowing that a baby has shit for longer than a couple of minutes anyway), but I’m not sure that a parent’s–or let’s be honest, a mother’s–sole role is to meet her kids’ needs. Often, especially as they get older, it’s part of a parent’s job to equip his or her children to articulate and meet their own needs.
Sometimes, the Professor will tell me stories of her students piping up in class with a “Well, my mom says…” or complaining when she points out they’re not using inclusive language with a “But my dad say that’s okay because…” And these aren’t freshmen in their first couple of weeks of classes. These are ostensible grown-ups who think what Mom & Dad says should carry heavy social weight with people who don’t even know them.
I don’t think that’s good for kids. And I think they’ve been done a disservice by their parents.
But I also don’t think that it’s good for parents to feel some pressure to be so constantly paying such close attention to their children that they’re willing to follow their children around with bowls to catch their poop. I mean, yes, you’re a parent and yes, that is the most important thing in your life. But the fact of the matter is that your attention is going to slip. The kid is going to bang her head or eat the cat food out of the bowl. You can’t be there every second to make sure nothing bad or unpleasant happens.
But, in a way, this seems to me like the Alli-method of child-rearing, where you’re forced into “right” behavior for fear of otherwise having to deal with some weird, gross poop issue.
Otherwise, wouldn’t the advice be to move someplace warm where you can get an acre or so and let your kid go diaper-free outside where the whole rest of nature poops and it’s no big deal? I suspect that’s never the advice, though, because it’s not actually about what’s “best” for the child, but about a kind of performative parenthood that demonstrates that the people doing it really care about their children unlike the people who don’t/can’t.
I finished the book Hemlock Grove yesterday. It is awesome. The writing is extraordinary and you can tell this is a genre the author loves the shit out of (There’s a nod to Lovecraft that I’m not sure works, but I admired his audacity in doing it–in other words, I’m not sure that acknowledging something in-story is really racist but trusting your readers to know it’s a nod to something really, really racist, somehow makes it non-problematic. Not that I expect a big, complicated discussion of race, but in a book that otherwise has no such discussion, I didn’t know if I was just supposed to like the main character but understand he carries on this racist tradition in honor of his beloved grandfather PERIOD or if that was also supposed to tell me something about how he might be stupidly bound to tradition in some ways. I hope for the latter, but think it’s the former.).
But, in the end, I can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s True Blood for boys. Every place Sookie might be talking about (in the books) or noticing (in the show) a nice body and a hard dick, here it’s all fine tits and wet, glistening crotches. But it’s not just that. It’s how, in Sookie’s world, she has a home she’s firmly rooted to, given to her by her beloved dead grandmother and Peter has a wanderlust–a deliberate lack of home–instilled in him by his beloved dead grandfather.
And I kind of suspect Netflix wants you to draw the comparison as well. Otherwise, why stick a Skarsgard in exactly the position they did?
Which isn’t to say that I’m not hugely excited, still. I am. Here’s the problem I have, though. I think this book is better than the Sookie Stackhouse books. I think the show is going to be better than True Blood. I moreso also think that this is specifically intended as a corrective to the weaknesses in both and, I am 80% fine with that and excited to see it, because I can’t take another season of vampires in board rooms.
I am 20% sad that the “corrective” to the problems of the Stackhouse universe include sticking a dude at the center of it.
Chris thinks it’s stupid that people are upset about The Onion’s joke calling Quvenzhane Wallis a cunt. More bafflingly, he “thought the onion’s joke was hilarious.” Ha ha ha. No. Even setting aside for a moment–which we will come back to–what the joke calls Quvenzhane, it’s still a joke that takes a nine-year-old girl hostage in order to point out how horribly women are treated by Oscar commentary and then shoots the hostage! Ooops, guess what, The Onion and Chris? Once the hostage is dead, you’ve lost your leverage.
Wage acts like Quvenzhane’s appearance in the joke is incidental–that the joke can somehow be about her and yet have nothing to do with her. In that regard, I think Wage is being an idiot. A joke about a person that the person the joke’s about can’t honestly and spontaneously laugh at is probably a joke a lot of people are going to find, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work. A joke about a woman that the woman who is the center of it can’t laugh at and probably shouldn’t even hear unless she’s got a team of people around her to put it in context for her (as Wage seems to acknowledge this joke would take–”So yes, she probably has heard about it. What horrible things exactly are we imagining have happened as a result? A brief explanation by her parents that it was a joke poking fun at institutional sexism and the vacuity of celebrity viciousness in general? A more in-depth conversation about the power of the word “cunt” and how its colloquial usage is pernicious and should be avoided, and how the Onion turned that on its head to make a rather biting point?”) isn’t a joke with a woman as the subject of it. It’s a joke in which the woman is an object. It’s not a joke for her. It’s a joke about her.
And one, if she hears it, she’s just supposed to learn to think is funny. It’s cruel to make jokes about people they can’t willingly laugh at (I keep saying things like “willingly” and “spontaneously” because we are taught from an early age to laugh at things we don’t find funny, things that often hurt us, because people tell us to. I’m trying to differentiate between what people laugh at because they feel pressured to and what they would laugh at if no one was judging them.), but often cruel jokes are hilarious. So, I’m not opposed to cruel jokes.
But when you’re making a joke about someone and you don’t care if that person is in a position to laugh at it at all, then that’s not just comedy–that’s comedy that uses, in this case, a little girl as an object. Again, I say, it’s not surprising that people would find that not funny.
But I want to make another point as well. It is very, very difficult to make a true statement funny. It’s not that it can’t be done, but, if you’re going to attempt it, you need to be prepared to fail miserably. Which, in this case, The Onion did. Wage makes the same mistake when he says, “Because calling a 9 year old girl a cunt is a horrible, horrible thing to do.” Chris, no one thinks that.
Okay, not no one. A very small pool of people in this world genuinely think that calling any girl a cunt is actually horrible. Women get called cunts our whole lives and when we get confused or put off or upset or angry, and we look to the very same people who I’m sure would tell Wage that they think calling a nine year old girl a cunt is horrible, they tell us the people who call us cunts don’t mean it, or we just need to understand where they’re coming from. Or that they’re just joking. (We’re coming back to this in a second.). We get the message over and over again, loud and clear, that there’s nothing wrong, not really, with calling us cunts. Because we are.
You’re incredibly fortunate if you live in a situation where it’s obviously funny to call a nine year old a cunt because of how horrible it is. Because most of us don’t live in situations where people think it’s that horrible at all. They just think it’s true.
For them, The Onion joke was funny for that reason–because The Onion just went ahead and said what everyone else is thinking. But again, then the joke only works if we’re saying that that it’s not important that the person at the center of it be able to laugh at it. It’s funny because it’s true, in this case, works because the people who think it’s funny think so little of women. Could you make a joke in which the punchline is “so-and-so is kind of a cunt” and have it be funny to the very people who regularly get called cunts? I think so. This was, as evidenced by its reception, not that joke.
Why not? I’ve actually been giving this a lot of thought since I read Chris’s post last night. Why doesn’t this joke work for me? And I think that it goes beyond that I find calling a nine year old girl a cunt distasteful (which I do, but I laugh at distasteful shit all the time) or that I find it gross that a little black girl who’s going to spend her whole life being hypersexualized by popular culture gets labeled a cunt, even as a joke, straight out of the gate (which I do and you can find good and useful commentary about that all over the internet). It even goes beyond the fact that I live in a culture where women are cunts so how is a statement of fact really a joke?
And it’s this: Every time I’ve been called a cunt, when the dude who called me a cunt got called on it by someone he respected, his excuse was that he was joking. Every damn time. Can’t she take a joke? And yet, obviously, he wasn’t joking at all. He meant it.
So, The Onion is trying to land a joke that is more complicated than Wage gives it credit for. There’s already a non-joke joke in wide circulation that is “Ha ha, I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay.” Most women are going to hear it in their lifetimes. The Onion wants to make a joke that is “Ha ha, I called this little girl a cunt, but I’m joking in a style that looks like I mean it, so that makes it okay.” In order to land the joke The Onion was attempting to land and not have it veer into the non-joke joke which is the more culturally familiar one, The Onion would have to be the fucking Mike Tyson of comedians (See? In a paragraph about landing punches, I stick in a notorious rapist and it stings and is funny, because I’ve just spent all this time building it up and because we’re talking about how women can’t get away from this idea that we’re just objects for men to use however they want, so hello Mike Tyson. But I didn’t attempt that in 140 characters and I accept that it might not be funny to you.).
I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m not even saying that it can’t be done in 140 characters. But The Onion didn’t do it. They threw “I called this little girl a cunt, but I’m joking a a style that looks like I mean it so that makes it okay” and they landed “I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay.”
I have a theory as to why, too. And that theory is because they had no idea that “I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay” is as prevalent as it is. I don’t think they had the first idea that they were playing right up against an incredibly common trope. Much like Wage, I’m pretty sure that they thought the joke was “I’m saying something so horrible about a little girl that we’ll all laugh because it is so horrible.”
So, what backfired on them, I think, is that they thought they were making a funny original joke about things that are too horrible to say, when really, they were just making a more sophisticated version of the non-joke joke. Probably a wider variety of women on The Onion’s staff would have helped this.
Which brings me to my last point–if you’re going to make jokes ostensibly in defense of women, I’d prefer it if they not disparage any woman to try to get their laugh. But, fine, whatever. If, however, the point of your joke requires that the woman at the center of it probably not hear it, because it would upset her and she wouldn’t understand, and it requires the use of a word as a joke that most of us get called “as a joke” all the time, don’t pretend like it’s a joke about how terrible women have it. There isn’t actually any concern for how women have it in the joke. If you think it’s a problem that we’re objectified and that slurs are routinely tossed at us, you don’t objectify and toss slurs at us in order to protest our treatment.
Don’t pretend like, when a joke relies on objectifying a woman and calling her a cunt, and women are grossed out by it, it’s because women just can’t see what’s so funny about it. Maybe there’s a whole painful context to the joke you’re not aware of. Maybe Quvenzhane’s parents can come by and explain it to you.
I realized today that I have come to appreciate the phrase “off the reservation” in comments. I hadn’t thought about it being racist at all. But I had started to notice a correlation, how like 60-70% of the time, if someone uses the phrase “off the reservation,” they’re probably not going to have a lot of things to say that I need to engage with because I’m not going to find them interesting or informative. And then, of course, once you think about what it means–that someone is somewhere they don’t belong, somewhere that makes no sense, like an Indian off the reservation–voila, it’s not surprising that a majority of people who use it are not people I would want to talk to.
It’s a nice sorting tool.
If I heard someone described as a patriarch, depending on the context, I would assume that either the writer was signalling that the “patriarch” in question had some serious, annoying character flaws to go along with his leadership skills–in other words, that the person being described was an exclusionary asshole–or I would assume that the writer was an exclusionary asshole. The term is another nice sorting tool. I hear it used benignly and I figure there’s a 60-70% chance of the situation it’s used to describe being not worth my bother to try to be a part of.
It kind of doesn’t matter what the dictionary definition of the word “patriarch” even is. Because it is a signal word, also, to women who are trying to navigate spaces where there aren’t a lot of women. No matter what the dictionary says it means, to us it means, “keep your eyes open for the good ole boys club.”
So, you know, I’m not offended to hear Marcus Whitney and Nicholas Holland described as our tech patriarchs. Fine, if I’m around them, I should keep my eyes open for the good ole boys club. Glad to have that clue about them.
But if I were Whitney or Holland and that weren’t true? If I’m not at the heart of some woman-unfriendly hierarchy, I’d be at least confused, if not pissed, about having that signal associated with me.
The funniest part–in a funny ouch way, not a funny ha ha way–is that I would bet you good money a woman wrote that press release, so engrained in all of us is the idea that men have their little tech club and most women, if we’re going to participate in it, do so in supporting roles.
Anyway, words. They mean shit. Some of what they mean isn’t in the dictionary.
Friend-of-blog, Mike Turner says, “It’s not the Soviet Union. We’re not a dictatorship. We let our people make their own decisions,” when speaking about Democrats who still will not fucking get their noses out of my vagina.
Mike, I love you, but I’m about three seconds away from setting up a reminder on my calendar so that I can send Charlie Curtiss a vagina status update once a day. Today’s would read “Thursday: My vagina is pissed the fuck off at Charlie Curtiss.” I’m going to guess that’s how tomorrow’s would read, too. Probably going to read that way for the foreseeable future.
So, Mike, you ask him whether he’d prefer to get my vagina status updates via text or email. And we’ll just time how long it will take for it to dawn on him that what goes on in my vagina is none of his business.
Meanwhile, having to report my vagina status to some politician sure does feel pretty fucking Soviet to me.
Last October local SouthComm blogger Betsy Phillips introduced new SouthComm reporter Andrea Zelinski in an interesting way. Yes, full disclosure counsels that Phillips’ wrote some “homer” PR fluff on behalf of the news corp she blogs for. So, take the cheers with a grain of salt and then verify for yourselves. And yes, it is remarkable that Phillips dropped a double-edged sword of praise for Zelinski qua woman (saying males “don’t really know a lot about the reality of women’s lives” even as she also argued that women’s issues are not different than issues, like jobs, that concern males). Yes, it can be argued that Phillips takes away with one hand what she gave with the other.
Let’s just be clear. I don’t know what Byrd thinks I should have more fully disclosed. I wrote that piece because I wanted to and it’s what I believe. No one asked me to write it. Even when people at SouthComm send ideas my way, they never tell me what opinion to have about those things or how “fluffy” to make those things. But that doesn’t really matter, because I wrote that post on my own.
I’m also not sure how one should “take the cheers with a grain of salt and then verify for yourselves.” Verify what? That I wrote the piece? I did. That I meant what I said when I wrote it. Well, world, if my word then wasn’t good enough, I’m not sure how my word now is supposed to be, but here you go: I meant what I said when I wrote it.
But I would like to thank Byrd for illustrating my point so clearly. In the real world, a woman can be excited about another woman getting a more prominent job writing about politics because she is genuinely excited about seeing more women’s voices in prominent positions when talking about politics. That’s my agenda–support for more women’s voices talking about issues that affect us and support for men who don’t treat women as some strange species that plays by different rules and who don’t write dismissively about us.
In Byrd’s world, if a woman writes positively about another woman, it’s evidence of some secret agenda dictated to her by her SouthComm superiors. In the reality of women’s lives, we don’t all automatically hate each other unless some man tells us to fake it for the general public.
Hell, if all Zelinski did was write about Rhee without using the term “tough cookie” to apply to a grown-up woman making (or attempting to make) national decisions about our educational system, it would be an important change in tone from how adult women making national public policy get talked about here on the internet.
If that makes me a co-conspirator in some grand scheme to… I don’t know what… then consider me a co-conspirator.
1. Someone DMd me a link to this story about Bobby Dunbar who was kidnapped, in some form, a hundred years ago. It’s just a riveting hour of programming. And it really hits your heart about Mississippi right at the end.
2. I said, in regard to this story, that I wanted to figure out how to work “millionaire stunt-dick” into conversation and I got a DM from someone who is not political at all saying “I’d like to think that Romney’s the republican/tea party’s millionaire stunt dick.” I laughed so hard and this person gave me permission to share it, so I hope you find it funny, too.
3. This isn’t from Twitter, but I’ve been listening to the Anchor Thieves’ new album and I believe this song “Rode Sines,” which I was hoping was going to be about a person who perambulates via math, somehow, is about a box car. Like a train car. Not about a box car. From the perspective of a box car. I want to cheer and to grab their lapels and ask “What the fuck, people?” This is what happens when you listen to too much My Morning Jacket, I am convinced.
(Disclaimer: The Butcher is dear friends with one of the guys in the Anchor Thieves and he may have tried to convince me already that the song was from the perspective of a box car and I just didn’t believe him, because you know what I don’t want to think about? Box car consciousness. And yet, it appears the Butcher speaks the truth.)
When I was in college, I took Social Dance and I was regularly partners with this guy I fully expect could have been the Republican Senator from Iowa if the Republican party were still filled with people who appreciated tradition, history, fine scotch, cigars, and minding your own business. You know, the kind of guy who is wrong about everything, but is wrong so brilliantly that you don’t mind dancing with him, even though he’s terrible, because he really wants something from it, and even if you don’t quite get what it is that he wants, you like that he’s trying something he’s terrible at.
Anyway, sometimes we didn’t dance in class. We just had an hour of stretching , which you had to do with a partner. Now, if you’ve ever known anyone like a mid-90s college Republican, you can appreciate the dilemma this caused for him. He was not comfortable touching a woman he didn’t know and trust, but he certainly couldn’t carry on with a good girl in such a manner.
He needed Miss Kitty, I guess. I mean, I know, to type it out, it sounds degrading–like he needed a floozy he liked or something. But it wasn’t exactly that. He needed a woman he could trust whose morals were different than his. Back in the old days, kids, Republicans did trust people whose morals they didn’t always agree with.
I’m not saying it wasn’t problematic, just that it was clearly his hang-up not mine, so it didn’t really affect me other than that I could do him this favor by being his partner.
This is a long preamble to say that, when we had those stretching days, the instructor always put on music by women, only. And she said, explicitly, that she only bought music by women and that, if she wasn’t listening to the radio, she only listened to music by women, because so much of what she heard otherwise was by men. That blew my mind. And she had hours worth of awesome music.
I don’t listen to music only by women, obviously. But I have never forgot the idea she gave me–that your own collection could be really deliberately curated, not just to include music you like, but as an antidote to shortcomings of the broader world.
And if you’d asked me about the split of artists on my iPod, I’d have said it was about 50/50. I think I hear one woman’s voice for each man’s voice that I hear. But I just counted up and I have 82 different women singing to me on my iPod and 155 men.
I know Kathy says that tallying up isn’t really the point, but there’s something about seeing it so starkly. I think the post Kathy’s referring to is partially right–there are a lot of women working in genres that aren’t my bag, because that’s where women are funneled to. But the world is so wide. It’d be nice if we could imagine women inhabiting all of it.
I know a lot of us have been mulling over whether we’re aging out of online feminism, whether it’s just not for us because the presumed audience excludes people like us, or what, so I’m really interested in seeing where Flyover Feminism goes. I’m especially glad it’s going to be a space to talk about defeats and frustrations. Not because I like to complain (I do!) but because I have been thinking a lot about what you do (or might do) when you realize there’s probably not going to be a satisfactory political outcome to the things that matter to you.
There must be some way to go on and to continue to fight. I’d like to know what has worked for other people.
Anyway, I have a couple of things in mind to submit, as soon as I have time to formulate them.
Yesterday did not work out how I’d planned. The plan was for the Professor to come pick up Mrs. Wigglebottom and take her for an adventure while my ceiling was being sanded. But the sanding isn’t actually happening until today, so instead I got a bonus afternoon with my friend while we watched a real-time version of This Old House in the other room. But I totally forgot to tell her about this cool thing I read, which I thought she might find tangentially related to her work. And I was just about to email it to her when I read the New York Times story on The Oxford American.
And then I realized, “Whoa, these things fit together” and so I thought I’d point that out here.
So, this is the link I was going to send the Professor about the phenomenon of the Creepy Dude and it gets into how women are socialized to just accept and smooth over hurt feelings resulting from the Creepy Dude because otherwise, it would be awkward–as if his behavior isn’t already making things awkward. You should read the whole thing, but here’s how it ends.
It’s really fucking sad and unfair. Welcome to our culture, where it’s always this sad and unfair whenever women’s safety is on the line.
This is how far Rape Culture skews our vision. Being sexually harassed and assaulted is seen as something that you should be cool (i.e. quiet) about. But GOD FORBID you break up the weekly games night with the temerity to be a victim of such a crime! Don’t you know that your harasser has the best table for playing Settlers of Cataan?
I don’t know how we fix it, but one step has to be to stop tolerating it when it happens to us and when it happens to people we love. Making our social circles and spaces safe means making them AWKWARD AS HELL and UNSAFE for creeps and predators. It means constantly reframing the conversation away from the dominant narrative, so when stuff like the situations in these letters comes up we can say “That’s called sexual assault and it’s a crime. So I need you to stop talking to me about his feelings and pressuring me to invite him to parties.“
But then, a commenter tells this awesome story in the comments about her husband having to protect a girl from a creepster and how, even as he knew something was wrong, and he kind of saw that the creepster was ruining the girl’s weekend, his wife had to point out to him that the creepster was obviously looking to harm the girl, and the husband just missed it.
With all that in the background, we can now turn to this flabbergasting article in the New York Times about Marc Smirnoff’s abrupt departure from The Oxford American (seriously, if there ever were a story to waste on of your freebies on, this is it). I don’t even know where to start to quote from it. Let’s go with this:
The next morning he berated the female intern in front of the other staff members when she refused to help clean up a mess in the kitchen. Then, after insisting that the intern ride back to Conway with him, he asked her if she wanted to hold hands. She declined, he said, saying she’d rather “hold hands with a dead dog.” Still, he told her he wanted to take her to his favorite make-out spot.
Mr. Smirnoff’s account matched the description the intern provided the magazine’s board. The intern said she was repeatedly humiliated, sexually harassed and intimidated by Mr. Smirnoff on that occasion and others, according to a written statement from her that was obtained by The New York Times.
During a conversation with the same intern earlier that week, Mr. Smirnoff said, he hugged her and kissed her on top of the head.
None of those things constitute harassment, he insisted.
“It was acceptable to her in that moment,” he said, saying that she did not object to his behavior at the time. “My take of it was that we were trying to see if we could revive our relationship, professional and personal.”
A woman tells Marc Smirnoff that she would rather “hold hands with a dead dog” than hold hands with him, and he still claims that his behavior was “acceptable to her in that moment”?! Holy shit! I kind of want to drive to Arkansas just so I can laugh in his face. Forget “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” What part of “I’d rather have putrid decaying flesh in my hand than your hand?” makes you think your advances are cool?
This isn’t “he said, she said” because he’s literally admitting to the things she said he did as a part of his defense. He’s literally (and I’m sorry to keep using that word, but it is exactly right in this case) claiming that, in spite of her hostility as reported by him, since he intended no harm, she had no problem with his behavior. And he’s trying to talk the motherfucking New York Times into accepting that, if his heart is pure, she must have been okay with it at the moment.
Forget that I don’t believe for a second that his intentions were good. And forget for a second how laughable it is to believe that a man as smart as Smirnoff envisions himself as some kind of bumbling, but well-intentioned fool who just doesn’t understand the implications of what he does. Just focus on the idea that he believes, if he can just convince someone that he didn’t mean anything by it, the damning facts which he himself presents should resolve themselves into something that leaves him with the moral high ground.
This is how the creepster gets by. It’s uncomfortable for people to confront them and they get used to being able to use any old excuse to garner sympathy and get people to continue to make room for them. Smirnoff’s story is so illuminating because he’s so obviously angry and confused that asking people to consider his feelings and his intentions not working this time. Which would seem to indicate that it’s worked before.
On so many levels, this blows my mind.
I think I lead a pretty pedestrian life, but I swear to the gods, “bring her flowers; dim the lights; relax her; hug her; cuddle her; take her slow dancing” is “things to do because they’re pleasurable for everyone” not “The Goddess Array.” Seriously? Are our ideas of female holiness so fucking pathetic that “hug her” is a trick of the gods?
If somebody is going to use any “Goddess Array” on me, it better leave me nothing but a quivering, grinning mess in the middle of the bed/floor/dining room table/Montana/etc. Leave the lights on. Open the windows. Let the cops who respond to the noise complaint stand out on my lawn shifting uncomfortably as they realize what’s going on. Make the paramedics blush. Leave me and the seven other people involved with a permanent limp. Make it something college kids whisper about and pass down like a ghost story in the dorms at night. Whatever a Goddess Array is, after we do it, by god, the Tennessee State Legislature better be talking about how to outlaw it to prevent it from happening again.
“Hug her.” Please, Naomi Wolf. Please.
In related news, I could read this book review over and over all day. I do feel like my vagina is slacking a little because it’s not really a mystical experience for me when someone dims the lights, but in my vagina’s defense, neither it nor I had any idea that it should be.
Steven Hale has pretty much the definitive story on the fall of the Democrats. The only piece that seems to be missing to me is the roll of the Rosalind Kurita episode. Maybe it doesn’t, but it seemed to me at the time–and still does–as a crucial pivot point that really read differently to the Democratic Party than it did to voters who traditionally voted Democratic.
I think the Party thought it was playing hardball with someone they perceived of as disloyal.
I think a lot of voters felt that this was a clear demonstration that the Party was so corrupt and so good-old-boy-ish that it would demolish anyone who put the good of the state over the good of the party.
It’s possible that the Kurita incident would have blown up in Democrats’ faces no matter what the Party did. But what it did do sent a couple of messages the Democrats still don’t want to take responsibility for sending. One is the primacy of party interests over state interests–though it sounds from Hale’s article like they may finally get this. The other is the message it sent to women about how the Democratic party treats female candidates. If you know you live in a state where the baseline–across parties–is not very woman-friendly and one party at least puts women in leadership positions, why would you leave your loyalty with the other party?
I mean, I know why I do. But why would a regular Tennessee woman?
Until the TNDP has some good answers to that question, all they can do is wait for the Republicans to fuck up so bad (while hoping their own Democrats don’t go down with them) that women will come back to them in disgust.
I would, if that is the strategy, invite all skeletons in any prominent closets to be dealt with now. Because voters whose motivation is disgust can be easily motivated to leave you for the same reason.
1. Gordon Belt has an interesting post about tracing his Melungeon heritage. He’s descended from Goins-es, which is a pretty good tell. If you’ve got a Goins ancestor from Appalachia, you need to learn about the Melungeons. The thing I thought was interesting here is that his ancestor was a ferryman. And you know the Hulans ran the the ferry out at the end of Bells Bend. You know I always wondered if that wasn’t a survival mechanism–live in a fairly isolated rural place, control the one easy way in or out, and protect yourself from the kinds of hassles other people who weren’t firmly white got.
2. Let me say up front that I think women should be able to breastfeed wherever they want, whenever they want, for as long as the mom and child are both comfortable with it and able to do it. This is not a comment on breast feeding in and of itself. This is, instead, a realization I had after reading Chris Wage’s post. This is like the headless fatty picture. Are there morbidly obese people? Yes. But when we’re talking about the obesity epidemic, you know, the one we illustrate with headless morbidly obese women, is that an accurate representation of who in our nation is seeing rising obesity rates and what their obesity looks like? No. It’s an image designed to disgust you (hence why you don’t get to see her face) and to, I suspect, annoy you that she’s not making herself aesthetically pleasing to you for you.
See?! See how that is a similar dynamic to the Time breastfeeding cover? Are there young, blond, fit women who are dressed like they just got back from yoga class who defiantly let their three year old stand on a chair and breastfeed out in public? Sure, I guess so. The world is big and it takes all kinds.
But when we’re talking about breastfeeding in public–and in fact, when most people are like “Oh, that baby is too big for that”–who are we actually talking about? Babies. Maybe very tiny toddlers. Mothers who don’t want to stand next to a park bench while Junior stands on it to eat, but mothers who want to sit on the park bench and hold Junior in their arms while he eats.
But, this picture is supposed to disgust you–”the kid is too old!!!!!”–and, I think, annoy you that this woman who is aesthetically pleasing is doing something with her tit other than letting it titillate you (hee). The “ew, gross” thing is easy enough to see. But the tricky thing is to see the message of “be angry! This woman whose body is for you is not concerned about what you think and thus all women who share this trait with her are like her, defying you.” But that’s actually the more problematic message, especially since most of us don’t consciously see ourselves as wanting to be the boss of everyone. It plays on something deep–the desire to control–that we don’t often have conscious awareness of.
As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, Hurley, eventually we are all bad girls. You cannot cute your way out of that day of bullshit. You cannot sweetly air-head your way out of that day of bullshit.
Someday you, behaving just as you do every other day of your life, are going to find it’s not longer tolerated.
While you are in the grace period, you should work on milking it for all its worth–get people to teach you things, work on stretching your brain. Because when the day of bullshit comes and you find yourself out of favor, you will need a sharp and quick mind to keep your power.
So, I hope, for your sake, that you’re working on that.
I read this post over at Feministe and I want to say that I agree with her that it’s not clear that more men are being raped in this country than women. I also agree that that number is a lot closer than anyone thought, though.
And here’s the thing–those people eventually come home, most of them. And we already do a shitty job of helping rape victims reintegrate into society, usually demanding of them some admission of what they did wrong to deserve being raped. It’s impossible not to see similar attitudes in our society toward prisoners. Rape is basically seen as the inevitable outcome of going to prison.
I also read this article about how birth control is basically one of the biggest changes in human history and how it’s going to take a century or two for people to really work out what it means. I do sometimes thing that some guys feel like they were promised a world in which they’d be allowed to do whatever they want and some gals feel like they were promised that, if they were good, they’d be protected from the guys who are allowed to do really bad things to, you know, people who deserve it. And I think that some people are pissed that they’re being told “no” and I think some people feel like they’re being left unprotected. But turning on the rest of us isn’t going to get you what you were promised. It was always already a lie.
Ha ha ha. Score one for me for using “always already” in a way that doesn’t feel clunky. I won’t attempt a “problematize,” since there’s simply no way to make that word actually mean something more profound than “makes me have conflicted thoughts I haven’t organized.”
Country singer Miranda Lambert doesn’t get why controversial R&B star Chris Brown was allowed to perform twice at the Grammys on Sunday.
She tweeted on Monday: “He beat on a girl…not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.”
But, you know, if they’d said “We’re not going to bring up on stage anyone who’s a known domestic abuser,” it would have made the Glen Campbell stuff very strange.
Heh. Maybe instead of not letting them up on stage, the Grammy’s should have just taken a moment to invite them all up on stage–anyone who’s known for violence against women. Just to illustrate the depths of the problem.
That would have been interesting.
Anyway, if “I’m not a feminist” means a willingness to speak out against domestic violence, then I welcome “I’m not a feminist”s to the feminist fold.
Late last night, I caught the premier of this show on HGTV. Let me just say two things.
1. If you’re ever wondering if there’s anything about Nashville I don’t like, it’s these people, who permeate a whole strata of Nashville society and are recognizable by their accents which are all the same, but unlike anyone else’s who live here and the way they smile with terrified eyes, as if they are not, at any moment, sure why anyone else is smiling, but are faking it until they make it, hoping no one important will ask them what they’re smiling about. The thing I like best about Nashville is that it takes no effort to organize your life to hardly ever run into folks like this.
2. Why is “let’s make your house look like a hotel” a design strategy? I could even understand it in terms of furniture, but I would stab a person who wanted to put art on my walls that had no personal meaning to me. Ha, obviously, I have strong feelings about interior design. Who knew?
Okay, now on to the observation I have upon watching LeAnn Rimes for 22 minutes. And I want to make this observation in a way that isn’t body-snarking or, well, only body snarking. But LeAnn Rimes looks terrible. It’s not how skinny she is, though I guess that’s a concern people have. It’s that her face looks like a mask.
It’s like this. You know when you see an actor in a fat suit and you see a fat person and you can see, in their faces, that one person is actually in that face and the other person is somehow behind their face? Like you can just see that it’s not their real face, no matter how good the makeup is, because they just look like they’re wearing a mask, somehow.
That is what LeAnn Rimes looks like–like she’s wearing a mask, except that it obviously looks like it’s made out of skin, so the effect is that she looks like she’s wearing a mask made from the corpse face of LeAnn Rimes. And it’s not just her. There’s a whole group of Hollywood women with so much plastic surgery that they appear to me to be more wearing flesh masks instead of their actual faces. But usually, like Joan Rivers, they all kind of start to look the same, that weird old cat-person look. But Rimes’s face looks fine, except for something I can’t quite put my finger on.
I mean, yes, I know I said it looks terrible, and now I’m saying that it looks fine, but I think, weirdly, that it is sliding into the uncanny valley for me. It’s not that she doesn’t look human. She does. But her face does not give my brain the visual cues I need to recognize her as alive.
And that got me thinking about this bizarre beauty standard our society has. I was telling the Professor this afternoon that I feel like we’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing that fat people are supposed to be thin, but not too thin, but “too thin” isn’t a health-judgment but a value-judgment made by other people (so you can be in this fucked up space where you are too thin for your health, but not thin enough to suit other people). And we do an okay job of talking about how thin women feel pressure to be thin in the right ways–still have boobs, have a butt, don’t be too muscular, etc.
But hiding behind “for your health” and “look like the women in the magazines” (even though they don’t look like that in real life) is this emerging, weird “look like you are not really alive” standard. I’m sure we’re supposed to be striving to look like dolls, but honestly, to me, it’s like we’re being encouraged to look like corpses. You know what I mean? When someone dies, you stand there at their casket loking at them and you know whatever animating force that was them is gone. Something in their face just looks not quite right, not quite human any more. And what worries me about the current Hollywood fashion for these mostly frozen faces, is that it seems to mask their animating force as well.
Maybe that’s the point, though.
I don’t know.
Apparently it was just three years ago that science came to learn the shape, size, and structure of the clitoris. Yes, three. As the article says:
“Dr. Foldès has been performing surgery on women who have suffered from clitoral mutilation, restoring pleasure to over 3,000 circumcised patients,” and is dedicated to studying the clitoris for many reasons. “When I returned to France to treat genital mutilation, I was amazed that they were never tried. The medical literature tells us the truth about our contempt for women,” he said. ”For three centuries, there are thousands of references to penile surgery, nothing on the clitoris, except for some cancers or dermatology -and nothing to restore its sensitivity. The very existence of an organ of pleasure is denied, medically. Today, if you look at the anatomy books that all surgeons have, you will find two pages above. There is a real intellectual excision.“
The take-away? Your clitoris is enormous. It hugs your vagina. And it is awesome.
I feel bad for Clarisse Thorn. Especially now seeing commenters over at Feministe talking about how she needs to atone for… honestly… I don’t know what.
Was it a strange thing for Thorn to post an interview with a guy who claims to be a feminist who tried to kill his ex-girlfriend? Yes. Was it wrong of her to close down the thread as people were growing more angry and concerned about whether Feministe was now going to start centering and helping to normalize and legitimize a feminist who tried to kill his ex-girlfriend? Yes.
But, honestly, how was Thorn supposed to have known about the long-standing factional war against Schwyzer, Marcotte, et al?
Schwyzer? He’s an asshole who should be given NO institutional credibility by other feminist sites. End of discussion about that. If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now.
But at this point, looking at how people are talking to and about Thorn? I can’t help but see that part of it is that Schwyzer, Marcotte, et al have never responded in an adequate way to their various shortcomings (and let’s be honest, in some cases–excluding criminal and borderline criminal acts–if you can’t be sorry enough, why be sorry at all?) and have stopped responding at all, and poor Thorn is still trying to engage, so she’s become the focus of a lot of long-simmering rage that she didn’t earn.
How is that something to feel good about? What is the end goal with that?
See? Once you get what the problem is, it’s impossible to deny that it’s still fundamental to who he is as a person.
So, I know I said I was going to give it some time, but, eh, fuck it. It’s actually not worth spending a lot of time on. Here’s the thing: there are a ton of drug addicts in the world out there doing shitty things. Some drug addicts even kill or try to kill other people in the course of their addictions.
That still is a horse of a different color than seeing a woman you ostensibly care about passed out on the floor of your home and you deciding that her life is of no more value, that she would be better off dead, and then making active motions to kill her. That’s not “my life is of no more value, I’d be better off dead” (a common addict’s refrain). That’s not “I need your money for drugs. Oops. I killed you.” That’s “I decided the kindest thing to do for you would be to kill you.”
And that, my friends, is fucking scary. It’s creepy, but not in the way I normally toss “creepy” around. That’s “I don’t view you as an autonomous person with a life of your own, therefore I can decide to put you down without consideration of what you might want.”
There are a lot of things that brought Schwyzer to that point that are reformable–he could get treatment for drug addiction; he could no longer have contact with that woman–things he has indeed done.
But being a drug addict doesn’t make you think that you know better than other people whether they should live or die. Being a drug addict, at most, just muffles whatever part of your brain might send up a warning signal that says “You should not act on this impulse.”
I know this kind of sounds like splitting hairs, but I’m going to split a hair. I think that forgiveness for the attempt on her life can only be given by the woman Schwyzer himself admits he tried to kill. And I think that it is not our place to be doling out forgiveness or withholding it on her behalf. Who knows what she wants? And please, let us all be kind enough to refrain from trying to find out.
But Schwyzer himself has now publicly said that he believed that he was somehow helping or justified in trying to end this woman’s life–either because she was in such a bad spot or because he was so whacked out on drugs or whatever. It doesn’t matter, honestly, why he thought at the time that it was justified. He did.
And even if I can believe that he is truly sorry for trying to kill a person–though honestly, I don’t care if he’s sorry–I don’t believe I have a successful way of knowing that he no longer believes that he knows better than another person what she should do with her life. I am wary of him choosing a profession that lets him hold a position in which he is rewarded for knowing better than young women and getting to guide them to knowledge. That, to me, doesn’t signal “I know I am no better judge than the woman before me of what she should do with her life.” I don’t think running a prominent feminist blog or putting himself out there as a male voice of feminism works to that end either.
I don’t intend to read Hugo Schwyzer. I stopped reading him in 2008, long before he provided all this information about trying to kill a woman.
But when he comes up for discussion on places I do read, or when he posts places I do read, I will be reading with a careful eye about whether what I see before me is proof that he now understands that he is not in a position to judge women or to guide us to the result he thinks is best for us. Because, frankly, it’s only evidence of that change that’s going to make me feel like the fundamental problem has been addressed.
I think this whole issue has been muddied by the way the feminist blogosphere works. People are burnt out on the constant wars, the constant infighting, the purity tests, etc. So, believe me, I understand the impulse to chalk this up to yet another round of this group of people vs. that group of people. And, yes, I get the desire to pull back and talk about these things in the abstract. Can people be forgiven? Can they be redeemed? Those are interesting questions.
But here is the truth. Hugo Schwyzer told a story about himself in which he illustrated that he once came to a point in his life when his belief that he knows better than someone else whether her life as it is has value lead him to believe it would be best if she was put down and he acted on it.
There is not a thing wrong with anyone–women, drug addicts, people who might become unconscious in front of him–for both being alarmed and disgusted at that story AND for being certain that its not our jobs to repeatedly give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s changed.
I, do, though, also want to acknowledge that Schwyzer is apparently a fine teacher and someone at least some of his colleagues and friends feel very positive about and very loyal to.
I’m sure most “angels of mercy” are fine nurses and help and save many people, as well.
So, the esteem his students, colleagues, and friends hold him in really tells me nothing about whether he now understands that he does not know better than women whether our lives as they are have value, since his job rewards him for teaching women things they didn’t know.
And I won’t put myself in the path of him, for the reasons I’ve outlined above–I cannot tell by how he lives his life now that he gets that he does not know better than women what our lives should be like.
I assume everyone else can come to their own conclusions.
I have lots of thoughts on this crap, but none of it is coherent. I wonder, for instance, not just whether you should quote extensively from people without asking when you’re writing about an instance in which people felt that there was a lot of “borrowing” without asking. I wonder if it’s even “fair use” to use whole blog posts without asking permission. I wonder about that dude’s friend, who seems like he might be being abused by his wife, and his friend sees his weird behavior and ascribes the problem to “women” or “feminists” and not to abuse. And I wonder if I really believe in redemption and I think that I don’t. Or at least, I don’t believe redemption then means you get to put yourself center stage.
You know what I’d like to see? A story about abortion restrictions in red states written by a woman who actually lives in one. I’d like to see more stories about working-class women — women are disproportionately poor — written by actual, working-class women. But most importantly I’d like too see the larger sites at least acknowledge that some of those women are a part of their readership.
I think that, at the least, it’s time we start being more critical about stories about people that aren’t by those people and that don’t include the viewpoints and experiences of those people.