Everything is Gendered Forever

12/02/2013 § Leave a comment

Today, I ran an errand. My simple task, to pick up a box of Valentine’s Day Cards for the kiddo’s class exchange. As I was browsing through the cards,  a woman with two children stood next to me, debating which cards to get. Normal. One boy picked Spiderman. The woman insisted that he get a second set “for the girls.” He picked Hello Kitty, after which the other boy teased him about liking the Hello Kitty cards better because “he’s a sissy.” No intervention. I almost foamed at the mouth.

Gendering and heteronormativity at their finest.

Pornography: Please, try harder.

21/10/2012 § Leave a comment

When I was 18 or so, I thought that watching porn was possibly the best thing ever. My friends and I would pile on a couch and watch things like “Teen Girl Power” &c. After all, sex is sexy. Women are sexy. Women who do porn are powerful via their sexiness right? … Right?

Well, not always.

The probs with porn is the ways in which women become the object of men’s sexual desire, rather than women being capable of desire in their own right. Big-breasted, small-waisted, innocent, voracious, cougs (oh, cougs), women being sexy and having sex in ways that are sanctioned by men. Women deviously controlling men by the pants (because women don’t have real power). Shots that pan gynecologically close to a woman’s vagina, that forsake the whole of the people making the porn for the sake of in-depth presentations of testicular physics, the dissection of the body… Women who attempt to look interested in one another while they pantomime lesbian sex with four-inch fingernails. You know, going gay for the male gaze. These are not unproblematic things.  That’s not even counting that I can’t live up to their libidinousness. For that matter, it’s not counting that awkward moment when the person you’re intimate with tries something they “learned in a porno.”

But who cares, right? Women aren’t watching porn. Well…

…hawt…

Some of us ARE watching. Some of us know that women are sexual, and some of us are women who consume sexual media. The centrality of female pleasure is sexy. Watching two whole people having (flushed, sweaty) sex is better than watching a penis ram into a vagina. Women are capable of being sexual, of having desires, and people having sex are (hopefully) interested in fulfilling those desires for each other, rather than attempting to show the myriad ways in which women need penises to survive.

Get your rocks off conscientiously, with the centrality of mutual pleasure.

Privilege Guilt

16/09/2012 § Leave a comment

Last night, Quin and I had a talk about white, heterosexual, male privilege. These sorts of things are always on my mind, but more so than usual this semester, as I work in a women’s studies course. We talked about how he feels when white, male privilege is pointed out to him, and he responded that, although he acknowledges that he has privilege, he refuses to accept that he must be made to feel guilty because of it. I wonder, how much of this feeling of guilt is caused by someone actually working at making you feel guilty, and how much of it is derived from simply feeling guilty when unearned advantages are pointed out? Why are we all so defensive about this?

If you are in a privileged group, it isn’t your fault. That’s why it’s privilege. On the other hand, if your privilege is pointed out to you, and you respond by saying something like “Well, that other person may be privileged, but I’m not because I’ve got black friends.” or myriad other deflections, or if you deny it outright, then there is a big problem. In my mind, the consistent denial of one’s own privilege is grounds for feeling guilty. So is an acknowledgement of privilege but failing to work toward change. As Ani says, “If you’re not trying to make something better, then as far as I can tell, you are just in the way.”

More: Big ups to all the people out there who acknowledge their privilege, accept that it’s no one else’s responsibility to make them check that privilege, and work to be a better person.

African women need your bras?

05/08/2012 § Leave a comment

I have recently (like 20 minutes ago) learned about several different charities working to send bras to African women. Bras are, apparently, sought-after luxury items in the second-hand clothing market in Africa. Charities donate them for women to sell (in the case of Free the Girls, they establish operations with victims of sex trafficking, in order for them to make money and keep them out of the sex trade).

I find this pretty problematic, for a number of reasons, but first let me say that in general, I have no problem with programs that help (especially) women (but also men) to find sustainable work that will help them avoid doing work that is harmful (I qualify sex trafficking as harmful, although not prostitution in general). For example, I do really enjoy organizations like Kiva, that fund microloans to people across the globe (including in the United States).

I find the bra trade problematic because it assumes 1) that the cast-offs of our (western) consumerism are an adequate solution for people in developing countries 2) that there is nothing at all curious about western undergarments as exotic/luxuries 3) that there is nothing curious about class relationships in all this, given that (some) people suggest that the wearing of western-style undergarments will prevent rape because women wearing western-style undergarments are perceived of as being from a certain class background (are the bras visible?) 4) the selling of (ostensibly) exotic(izing) undergarments highlight specific ideas about women and sex.

Props because we’ve all got to start somewhere.

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Seduction

24/05/2012 § Leave a comment

The first book on my summer reading list is Jean Beaudrillard’s SeductionThis might have been a somewhat poor choice, given that I have not read Simulacra and Simulation. I have it on reasonable authority that Seduction is one of Baudrillard’s more opaque texts. He does a wonderful job of exploring and critiquing the hyperreal, the Marxist obsession with false consciousness. In some sense, I am still really grappling with the notion of seduction as the Trompe-l’oeil, as well as the power of reversal, but that’s another story and shall be told another time.  It also made me ponder The Game and ironic processing as seduction, which is also another story that shall be told another time. The first thing that struck me, reading Baudrillard, is the way he talks about women and feminism.

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Men: They Can’t Win

04/05/2012 § Leave a comment

I spent my own period in life feeling disillusioned with feminism. I said stupid things like “Well, I’m really more of an egalitarianist.” So, really, I know what’s up. I’ve been there. In fact, I still say incredibly stupid stuff about feminism sometimes. These days, I am happy to be schooled in the ways in which I am being dumb, so here’s my schooling for others.

Dear People Who Say Dumb Things,

When you say something like “Well, men really can’t win in this situation.” or “What about the male experience?” I fail entirely to see how this is any different than saying, of post-colonial work, “Well, what about the colonizers? They have problems, too!” or “What about affirmative action? White people need jobs, too!” or “That’s just reverse racism!”  Here’s what’s up. I understand that masculinity is just as constructed as femininity, and that, often times, men feel just as constrained by conceptions of manliness as women feel by womanliness. I got it. Sorry about that, the only thing I can tell you is that feminists are on your side on that front. Furthermore, there are lots of men who feel the same, some of whom identify as feminist and some who do not.

Unless you are living in a system of systematic oppression, it isn’t the same. Not even remotely. Further, I will see your refusing to acknowledge that you speak from a privileged position as the whining of an intractable four-year-old who is trying to get peoples’ attention. Nothing personal.

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