Every day is a thrill to be alive, to be human–even when it’s not. Nothing pleases me more than settling into my writing routine each day with nothing on my mind. Reading around the Internet, then, is an adventure: wide open.
Just goes to show you I am not the only one who has muttered, “I’m going to kill that man.” Women have been thinking about killing their men or any man for centuries and leave it to the great artists in Western history to bring that reality to life. Seriously, the captions to these paintings in Gleeful Mobs of Women Murdering Men in Western Art History on the toast.net are the best part, unless you really do get off on cathartic dramatic renderings of raging women tearing men to pieces. Have a laugh and maybe pick up on technique 😉
Emer O’Toole’s Ten Things Feminism Has Ruined for Me in the Guardian is a well-written satiric yet sincere read on what feminism has spoiled–mostly fun–for this writer from her cat to Catholicism to marriage and monogamy. While humorous, she raises some insightful conundrums in compromising that space of the political to enter the more relaxed place of “Hey, it ain’t correct, but it feels good, so I’ll just shut my mind off.”
More than the insights and complaints, I love how she works through her queries in writing, watching the process of working through each dilemma. Here is just one example:
You’re a feminist. You’re questioning the gender-related norms in the world around you, trying to figure out which ones are oppressive (eg, sexual objectification; domestic violence; workplace discrimination) and which ones are OK (lipstick). And you begin to feel that a social system in which people claim rights of sexual ownership over each other’s bodies, and get very angry when these exclusive rights are violated, is a system so deeply imbued with patriarchal capitalist ideology as to make gender equality impossible.
So she recognizes the inherent intransigence of an institution, monogamous marriage, so deeply embedded in the larger socio-economic practice and mindset of a country that values possessions including others’ bodies, which is rife for abuse of women in a patriarchal society. Men still run things around here. Marriage based on ownership filters down to men owning women and children, which was literally true only about a hundred years ago. Women were chattel as Kate Chopin’s ‘”Story of an Hour” reminds us.
Though, I do not doubt that two people can agree that they each have equal “ownership” rights over each other’s body and enjoy those rights, even with jealousy and possession as the basis of policing that arrangement. Two individuals cognizant of their needs and boundaries and respectful of the same in the other certainly can make monogamy work within the patriarchy of capitalism and monogamy. Like everything, it depends on the people entering into and honoring the agreements they make with continuing communication and monitoring about their arrangement when it is not working.
You take your head out of the theoretical clouds and look at the grounded reality of monogamy. You see lying, cheating, shame, even violence, and you think: is this because of love? Or is it because of the idea that we own the sexual function of the people we love? Love should make us happy (I’m looking at you, Anna Karenina). Yet jealousy, so often an excuse for abuse, is romanticised by the logic of monogamy, while love is vilified. Surely, with compassion, commitment and communication, we can find the courage to love differently. Polyamory is the future!
I do not know that romanticizing jealousy correlates to vilifying love, unless she means generally monogamy leads to jealousy and people focus on the keeping possession of bodies rather than the love that binds each to such an arrangement in the first place. Unless she means that love that someone can give to others is curtailed by having it wrapped up in only one other being. There are so many people one comes across in life, many lovable people, and yet many bargain away their love in an exclusivity contract, which seems rather unnatural and doomed as insurmountably contrived and unnatural.
Polyamory, she applauds as the solution, though too quickly. The same kind of honesty and open communication, continual monitoring and negotiation that works for monogamy pertains even more so, even more than doubly so, to polyamory where there are more moving parts to consider. More people means more agreements, which inevitably means more of everything good and bad. Polyamory is not for the lazy or the self-deluded. It is not an excuse to go fuck anyone you want as some do parading under the banner of polyamory. You know who you are.
Compassion, commitment and communication are a lot of bloody work, though. Primary partners, secondary partners: all replete with complex emotions. Sometimes, at 1am on Friday night, when you just want to be out dancing with your friends but are, instead, “processing” with a partner new to poly, you wonder, ‘When did life become one long conversation about everyone’s feelings?’ You remember being 21, and trying to stop your boyfriend from punching a bloke who asked for your number while he was in the jacks. Brutal, yes, but alluringly simple.
Right. Sometimes you want to just fall back into easy patterns, even ones designed, implemented and perpetuated by patriarchy. The familiarity of it is enticing and the noble notion of chivalry is romanticism we have been fed since birth.
Conscious choice to engage in agreed to relationship roles is what it is all about. A feminist is someone who believes in entering into relationships of any form or context, personal, career or academic, armed with information and analytical skills to see through the sedimented, unthinking practices of our culture. That practice does not have to be a battle within the self so much as a vigilance, an intellectual awareness directed to many aspects of life, not just spotting abuse. We are not dupes to advertising when we know what advertisers are up to, and yet we submit and purchase what’s for sale knowingly and willingly.
Relationships of any kind are no different. I may submit my body to my partner’s jealous possession knowing all the implications and consequences thereof, and still sleep at night. The problem is not so much monogamy as much as it is about fairytales’ forever after. Humans want to nail down something for life: this is the way it’s going to be so that I don’t ever have to think about that again. It’s an insecurity thing. Again, it takes honesty and constant checking in with the self to see if the same old patterns are actively and consciously working or just mindless habits. That practice of checking in is a constant of good living. That is feminism in practice.
I have to say, I wish I had written this article What Not to Wear After Age 50: The Final Say by Michele Combs in the Huffington Post sent to me yesterday by someone who truly cares–the same one who sent me the original article this one counters.
Google ‘what not to wear after age 50’ and you will have your pick of thousands of articles telling you what looks terrible on your old ass body.
It’s not just Combs’ tell it like it is humor and irreverence that amuses me or the supportive message of the sender of the article that entertains me with a big ole “right on!” in reaction to this writing. It’s that it is truth, not just defensiveness disguised as truth or solely my truth.
Just as there are rites of passage for 13 year olds becoming men or women like Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s, symbols of acknowledged or expected responsibility for being part of the community of adulthood and baptisms by fire with the drunken night out or at the porcelain pedestal on a 21st birthday, signifying responsibility to the community’s recreating populace, so too there is a rite of passage for older adults, women over 50, in particular: becoming themselves.
50+ women who dress for themselves, to their own comfort and feel-good production, are totems to younger women, a signpost of what’s ahead for them, and encouragement to keep up the good fight of daring to say, “but this is me.”
So much struggling and striving and settling in the 20s, 30s and 40s, in living for others–parents, children, friends, lovers, employers and parents again–I have to believe there is some culminating prize for the effort, and I’m not talking about retirement. Retirement is an illusory carrot invented to keep people from walking off into the night or out to the desert to leave society just when (American) society wishes their less “productive” asses to leave.
Wearing the I don’t give a flying fuck because I’m comfortable style is the reward for a life too long lived giving a shit about things that don’t matter–like how we look to others, the messages our clothing and makeup (or lack thereof) send to others so that they can properly label us and act accordingly. We figure this out when the physical and mental wanes just as the emotional waxes.
You are over 50 for fuck’s sake. Wear whatever you want
Trending with or against the current style dictates for age appropriateness is a choice for the 50 something that she has earned–real choice. She has only one message to send if she has paid her dues to harvest the fruits of her life long burns and labors: I yam what I yam. And perhaps her legacy is in planting seeds in her progeny to do the same.
If I could beam one insight into my daughters’ beings it would be: Stop curtailing yourself to satisfy others. The sooner you allow yourself to be yourself, the longer your happiness will be.
A chronicle of powerful women who made their mark and were slut shamed, “A History of Sluts,” by artists Chelsea Dom and Alice Lancaster, endeavors to expose these women and their treatment.
“Slut-shaming has become so engrained in our culture that it’s now a normal and accepted practice. Women are taught to see their bodies as something shameful. I wanted to show through my project that some of the most powerful and influential women in history have been slut shamed. It’s okay to be confident and empowered. We have to take away the fear associated with the female body, and not ostracize those who openly express their sexuality.”
Fear about the female body brought back memories of some of the early myths about women that embodied such fear like the vagina dentata (toothed vagina) myth of the Greeks.
Fun research this inquiry provoked and here are some of the unearthed jewels:
Vaginas with Teeth–and Other Sexual Myths, which is a riotously good read and short, if you are in the mood to be bewildered and bemused.
And for the completely whacky, there is this movie clip called Teeth, apparently a 2007 movie about a young woman who found she had teeth in her vagina? I missed it when it hit the theaters, so I’m guessing.
In other words, the fear of women and the aggression it provokes is age old. Enculturating women to be ashamed of their bodies, rape, mutilation by self or others, slut shaming and other practices, despite laws, public outcry and international outrage, persist.
Relentless exposure of these practices, specifically brought to women’s consciousness and men’s consciences is critical to change behaviors, and educate as well as empower all people.
I cannot get behind all political art, but I like this project. Art messages the way words do not. The drawn subjects are well-chosen and representative of impactful women. I look forward to owning a copy.
And in a world where women’s narratives about their sexual experiences are routinely called into question, the debate over female ejaculation serves as a reminder that, when it comes to sex, we still don’t believe women. Even when they’re literally wetting the bedsheets with proof.
Lux Aulptraum, a self-proclaimed squirter, questions in The question isn’t if female ejaculation is real. It’s why you don’t trust women to tell you the attitudes toward women’s perceived sexual experience and women sexuality overall. She claims women’s sexual pleasure is suspect because it is hidden, imperceptible to her partner and herself.
What miffed me a tad was learning that Australia has a ban on female ejaculation in pornography on the chance that the ejaculatory substance might be urine and so obscene. Meanwhile, there is no scientific confirmation, according to this article, that female ejaculation is merely urination. Just goes to show you how much there is still a need for feminism.
So, is this pornography or a good idea? Herself.com, copyright dated 2015, claims to be dedicated to women, about women for women, according to their manifesto:
“Herself is a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone. These women are simply & courageously existing, immortalized within these photos. Within their words, their experiences and stories are offered on Herself in the hopes of encouraging solidarity – that maybe we as women will take comfort in the triumphs of others rather than revelling in each other’s defeats. Let us reclaim our bodies. Let us take them back from those who seek to profit from our insecurity.” -Caitlin Stasey
At first glance (lots of bodies to glance at, that being what hits the viewer first), the idea struck me as disingenuous, maybe a marketing ploy. After all, there are seven or so women featured naked with their stories interspersed between nude photos–on the Internet. The metaphor is supposed to be something like the naked truth, but how exactly are these women avoiding the male gaze and pornographic objectification on this public space?
However, after reading the interview questions that each woman responds to, I changed my mind a little, thought more about it. Women respond to many questions ranging on topics from first time sexual experiences, body image, marriage, monogamy, and polyamory, to name just a smattering of the content. The questions are rather blunt and aim for honesty. Few touched on the political such as those about reproductive rights and contraception. The rest are personal.
So what makes this anything more than a sociology graduate school project/case study? Well, the attempt to disseminate ordinary, non-Photoshopped, random, high quality, well-photographed bodies that are not merely categorized in the usual culturally accepted genres of naked or partially clad female bodies, i.e., models, actresses, erotica, pornography, or cadavers, is to challenge culturally acceptable notions of female nudity imposed on the public with other versions of the story of the naked female body. Potentially, it is a direct challenge to the media by ordinary women maintaining control of the deployed-into-society imagery that undergirds bias and affinity, dictates social norms and relegates some bodies to lesser or more valuable against usual criteria, i.e., commercial, aesthetic or familial.
If Herself.com’s game is to infuse media with naked bodies owned and thereby controlled by those throwing their bodies out to the public and not an advertising agency or other commercial enterprise, then I think it is a good idea. However, they will need a great many more bodies to display spanning all demographics: age, race, ethnicity, shape, identity. I will be curious to see where this site goes.
By Israa Nasir
It was around 10pm on a summer night, a few years ago. I was waiting on Queen West for a friend. We were going to head out to a party like any other twenty-something on a weekend. A man approached me and asked if I worked in the ‘entertainment industry’. When I said no, he told me that I had a “really good look for this stuff”. He introduced himself as a film-producer and continued to tell me that his next project was looking for exotic, middle-eastern-looking women and that the pay would be really good (side note: I’m not middle-eastern). As I began to walk away while refusing his offer, he shoved a card into my hand and told me to think about it. I turned the card in my hands and saw that he was indeed a film-producer; he produced pornography, specializing in ‘oriental and…
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Despite what you may think, a real friend is not someone who will stand by you in hard times or beside you in good times or even your dog. A real friend sends you stuff to read, knowing what you like. Well, maybe that isn’t entirely true, but I do appreciate when someone pays attention to my ideas and tastes. Take, for example, the article a friend sent me by Jill Lepore entitled “The Man Behind Wonder Woman Was Inspired by Both Suffragettes and Centerfolds,” appearing on NPR three days ago that starts off this way:
The man behind the most popular female comic book hero of all time, Wonder Woman, had a secret past: Creator William Moulton Marston had a wife — and a mistress. He fathered children with both of them, and they all secretly lived together in Rye, N.Y. And the best part? Marston was also the creator of the lie detector.
Only someone fixated on the subject of the “mistress”–all we own and are enslaved to–as I am, would not only find that opener giggle-in-excitement enticing, but would find the hallmarks of a true friend in sending me such a tasty morsel. Unfortunately, that was really the best part of the write up until the end, when the writer mentions Lady Gaga. The in-between was information-light on Wonder Woman, her story, and the author’s influence by First Wave feminism and Vargas pin-ups in creating the character. Anyone who has seen her knows that she is, in part, an early feminist cultural production (freeing others and herself from the chains of bondage in the name of justice and truth) while socially palatable as traditional object of fantasy female–the voluptuous dominatrix (but sometimes submissive) with American good looks.
Despite my disappointment, the subject did inspire a meditation, once again, on gender performativity and camp, especially after the ending citation of modern day’s most notorious, campy pop gender-sexuality blender–the Lady G. Of course, for me, all roads lead back to Judith Butler. Gender role playing and displaying–what Lady Gaga capitalizes on–with its concommitant effects is Butler’s preoccupation in much of what she writes. In her book Gender Trouble, Butler posits that gender is not merely a biological category and gendered behaviors are not natural; gender is a learned performance of the role female or male in a given culture that has been repeated and imitated throughout a society, performed roles passed down from prior generations. Gender is performativity, not a binary–male or female–but a fluid space on a spectrum of culturally produced notions of the “norm.”
In other words, if you take Barbie, on one extreme of the scale of “girlness” and Superman as the opposite extreme, of “boyness,” most people fall somewhere in between those apogees, closer to or farther from society’s picture of the ideal girl or boy. There are Barbie doll models and there are androgynous indecipherables walking among us. I remember reading in graduate school this passage, which struck me with its truth:
The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again.” (“Performative” 272)
Until today, years after graduate school, I respect her concerns with the politicalization of gender, the reiteration of gender norms that marginalizes those outside the “norm” and her advocacy for counteraction through exposing the nature of gender as an inherited role. Getting folks to realize that gender is produced, not fate, is the first step to understanding it as arbitrary and a choice, neither a prison nor a target for shame and isolation if performed “incorrectly” by society’s standards, i.e., girls who are too much like boys and vice versa. Butler believes that to allow for an inclusiveness of those traditionally marginalized from the heteronormative gender actualizations–homosexuals and transgendereds–alternative performances need to be disseminated in the population, ones that perform alternative gender iterations.
Here’s where Lady Gaga comes in. She mixes up the gender space with non-normative gender depictions. Whereas Wonder Woman is the straight laced asexual power house “feminist” constrained by imagination and norms of her time (created in the 40’s) and those of her creator, thus her bondage to men (See Lepore’s article), Lady Gaga is a shotgun approach to blasting traditional notions of gender and sexuality in her outrageous meant-to-shock live and video performances of vixen lover, lesbian or straight, mistress or chained submissive, engaged in violent or passive poses of gestured gender and sexuality.
Wonder Woman’s feminism is one focused on proving that a woman, in her mixed portrayal–beauty, chastity, submission, virtuosity, strength, domination–is powerful and worthy of respect, can even save society. She competes with men on a man’s level, physical powers, though hers are emitted from material adornments and tools, her bracelets and lasso, harkening bedroom S&M exploits.
Lady Gaga, on the other hand, is a mesh of exaggerated, contradictory blends of the classic and “aberrant” imagery, the socially “non-normative” gender performances such as gay, lesbian, and transexuals. She thematizes gender as a performance. Camp productions such as those of Lady Gaga in her live and video performances do not merely challenge and expose–something Butler might nod to–gender stereotypes, but they also question heteronormative performances of more sedimented institutions such as monogamy, in addition to alluding to the political history of violence against women. Her Telephone video is a gala explosion of deployed gender, sex and violence.
Whereas Wonder Woman as precursor served as the mixed-gendered asexual icon of the truth about gender and role playing, Lady Gaga overplays and performs a cacophony of gender, sexuality and feminist history.
Exposing the inherited cultural reproduction of gender as well as the strategy to deploy alternative social productions of gender is important not only for little girls who want to grow up to be paid equally to their male counterparts and for anyone who wants to love freely and openly without fear of homophobic hate crimes, but also for breaking up the binary that gender has been, historically produced and transmitted from generation to generation. Wonder Woman needs to break those chains, invisible and hard to grasp. Or perhaps we need a man to do it, someone like Mr. Rogers, who, on one of his shows, exposes the Wicked Witch of the North as mere costumed grandma–a performed role; nothing to be afraid of kids (click on the link to view). And just in time for Halloween.
So, who kicks ass, Wonder Woman as suffragette foremother or Lady Gaga (click on the link to find out) living off the capital of her inherited legacy?