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.
27/06/2012 § 1 Comment
Rewind: Last semester, our Buddhism class wrote essays on a close reading of “Subha Speaks Moon as Toy.” Although there were various potential topics to write on, this passage is/can be pretty helpful to teaching about anatman, no-self. Briefly, Subha is a nun out in the forest. She is approached by a suitor who is rather taken with her, who attempts to woo her with worldly possessions and sexual bliss, especially complimenting her on her eyes. Subha rebuffs him time and time again, until Subha proclaims
This little body, this phantom body, does not exist. A puppet can’t exist without sticks and strings. If something does not exist without phenomena, on what can you fix your mind? You see a picture on the wall smeared with yellow ointment – is that it? You’re confused, you mistake the image for the thing itself. O Blind One! I tell you, you run after an empty thing – a mirage, a golden tree at the end of a dream, a puppet show in the middle of a crowd. Delusion, conjurer’s trick! Forget it. An eye is a ball set in a hollow with a bubble in the middle, briny with tears, it secretes slime too. Here, look at this! (The young maiden plucks out her eye to give to her seducer. She is unattached. She has a calm mind.)
In essence, she has no desire for the seducer because she has no desire. In the story, she is a “child of the Buddha” who understands that existence is transient and illusory. That, as Nagasena said, “No real person can here be apprehended.” Aside from the difficulties of getting students to grasp the concept of no-self, again and again students wrote that Subha would have accepted the suitor if he had just loved her for her real self, her soul, her mind.
This bothers me for a number of reasons. Mostly because it serves to spawn more certitudes about What Women Want. The same goes for men, and we can see this pretty clearly in gender-targeted advertising and magazines. (See Ridiculous Tips for a Miserable Sex Life — I’m pretty sure my husband would be uncomfortable if I attempted to “volley [his penis] back and forth like a tennis ball.”)
I do not claim to speak for all women, ever. I do get uncomfortable when people suggest that my plumbing has something to do with the ways in which people are supposed to express themselves to me (lovingly or otherwise). I would much prefer that people be genuine with me.
As a woman, some of the ways that I am supposed to be treated/supposed to behave are as follows:
In our society, women expect to be coddled, pampered and catered to by men. They think with their vaginas — that is, they expect men to tolerate anything they dish out just by dangling the promise of sex in front of them. So they feel perfectly free to be bitchy, moody, inconsistent, and rude. [here]
2. Shave every day. One day’s growth of facial hair is worse than a girl not shaving her legs for a week.
22. If you concede to let us decorate the house without any input from you, then don’t complain when everything is in frilly flowers, and pink motif. [here]
I love it when you’re sweaty. [here]
Guys often want to take the quickest path to sex. But many women prefer the scenic route. “Women want sex but they get to it in a different way,” says psychologist Kirschner, who has helped hundreds of couples achieve a more rewarding relationship. “They want to feel connected and understood, they want to be romanced.” [here]
If those are things you want in a relationship, okay. I think, though, that it’s a little peculiar to expect everyone to concede to those rules or risk being labeled a shitbag, bitch, &c&c. Probably the best way to figure out what your partner enjoys is to talk about it. However, unless you are harming your partner, your way of loving them is probably just fine. What’s more, we all carry out respective meatsacks (see also: bodies) around with us. I, at least, expect mine to be loved by whoever loves me.