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Posts Tagged ‘cultural shame’

The tagline is "Every rose has its thorns." eheh heh heh?

So I just watched the movie Teeth. This is one rich film for a feminist. I highly recommend watching it. If you want to watch it before I give away the plot, I know you can find it for free at Surfthechannel… or you could, like, pay to watch it. Not like I did, but I’m all for that. SO now, DON’T READ FURTHER.

Okay, spoilers commence here. And, another warning: I’m gonna be talking about rape and sexual assault so, TRIGGER WARNING. This is how I saw the movie.

Teeth is the story of girl in high school who is a teenage advocate for The Promise Ring and boils in her repressed sexuality. She meets a guy at one of her speeches about the values of abstinence and immediately they hit it off–they have that special something. This girl lives at home with her mom, dad, and step-brother (?) who is basically the most misogynistic, horrible, sexual-assault-y dude ever. Her parents seem to be, like, the sweetest people everrr. So, after a particularly disgusting encounter with her brother which ends with him saying something like “you know who you’ve been saving yourself for, all this abstinence bullshit… you want me” the girl storms out of her house and decides that she’s gonna risk her “purity” and go out to the swimming hole with cute guy she met at the abstinence meeting. They dive into the water and (arguably) it’s adorable and romantic and I couldn’t help but want them to get some cause hey, they’re both just so darn conflicted and repressed. They kiss and feel guilty… kiss and feel guilty… then the girl swims further down the swimming hole into the cave where it’s rumored that kids “…you know” (subtext: have the sex). She climbs up onto a ledge in the cave where someone had already laid down a sleeping bag. Oh dear. Boy swims after her but she tells him not to come up there. He says “I’m freezing” in the water and climbs up anyway. They sit together and it’s still cute cause they don’t want to make moves but they can’t seem to help themselves and they get to kissing and touching and mounting. Then the girl stops them and says, “let’s go back down.” The guy says okay. BUT SUDDENLY. He mounts her again and starts pulling off his underwear saying things like “let me just try this” and then shouting at her, “I haven’t jerked off since Easter!” and she repeatedly says “NO! I’m SAYING NO!” It is horrifying transition from cutesy first love to a full-on THIS IS RAPE scene. After about a minute of wrestling and violence, the boy ultimately penetrates her. Then we hear a slicing kind of noise. The boy screams and, with difficulty, pulls himself free, gushing blood. A large portion of his penis drops to the rocky ground. He continues crying/screaming and jumps back into the water. This girl has teeth in her vagina (“vagina dentata”) that are apparently activated by non-consensual penetration.

So if that gives you an idea of what the movie is like… I’m gonna skip around through the rest of the things that I found interesting/disturbing/questionable about the movie.

Every male character besides the rather sweet papa turns out to just want to rape our protagonist. After the incident at the water hole, the girl goes to the gynecologist, who, after examining her, gives a furtive glance and seemingly decides that, since she’s never been to the gyno before, she won’t mind if he lubes up his hand and starts fisting her. She is severely uncomfortable, says so, and after a few thrusts, we hear the slicing noise. The gyno shrieks, four fingers fall to the floor, and as the girl escapes the room, the gyno starts screaming “VAGINA DENTATA! VAGINA DENTATA!” After this, the girl approaches another “nice guy” from school who proceeds to drug her and coerce into having sex, but she’s too drugged to feel threatened (thus, no castration this time). She has sex with him and they both smile and they both orgasm and it almost seems nice if it wasn’t that HE RAPED HER. She wakes up the next morning, has more sex with him, but, mid-thrusting, this guy answers his phone and he says “Hey. Yeah, doing it riiiight now. She’s right here.” He looks at her and says, “Say something.” She is disgusted, says, “no.” and asks him what’s going on. He tells her he made a bet with his friends over whether he could fuck her. After a few more words exchanged, he shrieks and, once again, a penis is severed. There is one more instance of this. Then an implied one in the end of the film. I will say that, from my point of view (and as far as I could see on other reviews of the movie), every person dismembered by the vagina dentata seemed to really “deserve” what they got–the penetrators were rendered utterly detestable.

I wonder about the “female empowerment” of the vagina dentata concept, when obviously any woman put in those situations in our world does not have this power over the penetrator. However, is the fear and discomfort that this film provokes in (reportedly) many penetrators an empowerment in some way? That maybe more people will think twice before they just compulsively penetrate?

I wonder about the genre of this movie and how it excuses certain plot points. For example, as a horror movie, I could say something like, “well, in most horror movies, women are disgustingly shallow characters and are nearly always humiliated in a graphically sexual/violent way, so it’s cool that this one is turning the tables.” And thus I justify the feminist goal of this movie. BUT this is a movie about the oft-ignored topic of rape, and the even more ignored topic of female defense against rape. Are women, as targets of the rapes portrayed, supposed to take heart in that there’s one story about a girl who has the magical power to exact justice on her rapist? What is valuable about this story to feminists and/or rape victims? Is this movie really made for these people? Or is this another kind of band-aid movie… a movie that makes everyone feel good about rape because, in this case, justice was served? I’m torn. I hated the rape scenes, but I learned, through the movie, to start feeling okay about them because I knew those fuckers were about to get their dicks handed to them.

I’m starting to hate feel-good movies.

There is also the sort of subplot about abstinence education. This is perhaps the most intellectually stimulating part of the movie. Our protagonist goes to a school where the sex-ed teacher cannot even bear to say the word “vagina” and the school textbooks have huge stickers pasted over the anatomical drawings of vaginas. It is made very clear that this is a misogynist community. What is the value of having a rather campy horror movie with pretty clear implications that abstinence-only sex education is, at best, painfully ironic? Afterall, the protagonist starts out as a fairly confident spokesperson for The Promise Ring.

So, after this long-ass post, do y’all have any thoughts?

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i hate the finger-pointing title of this article, but it is otherwise hilarious.

5. Problem: Your Vagina Tastes Bad
Solution: Vagina Mints

If your partner is reluctant to give you oral sex, it’s not because of pervasive cultural belief that cunnilingus is complicated to the point of being impossible and that vaginas are inherently icky (thus the need to uncomplicate them and un-ickify them with, oh, say, labiaplasty) it’s because your vagina tastes bad. Enter the Linger Internal Vaginal Flavoring, or Altoids for your vagina. Linger assumes you already feel bad about your nether regions, stating on its Web site that the mint-flavored pill “decreases self-consciousness” and tosses out the unattributed statistic that 72 percent of women feel self conscious about their taste and odor. Dubious marketing practices aside, the Linger mint isn’t just a harmless, if asinine, oddity.  Mother Jones magazine did some digging into the origins of Linger and discovered that the vagina mint is no different from a regular mint. In other words, it’s made out of sugar. And putting sugar-based mint directly into your vagina is a recipe for a mint-flavored yeast infection.

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HOUSTON — A suburban Dallas school district has suspended a 4-year-old from his prekindergarten class because he wears his hair too long and does not want his parents to cut it.

The boy, Taylor Pugh, says he likes his hair long and curly. But on Monday night, the school board in Mesquite voted unanimously to enforce its ban on Beatles haircuts, much less anything approaching coiffures of bands like Led Zeppelin. School officials say the district’s dress code serves to limit distractions in the classroom.

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Hey folks. So I posted this link on the facebook a while ago after I saw it on Feministing:

I think it provides a great overview about trans and genderqueer identities (it’s not perfect). Our language doesn’t provide much room for gender flexibility, as you might have noticed. It’s a little awkward, if not, impossible for some people to speak of a person without assigning them a binary gender. As I’ve been working on my thesis, which is essentially about that awkward space–created most obviously by intersex people (people whose sexual make-up puts them outside the sexual binary), I’ve been feeling more and more uncomfortable with gendered pronouns. Especially applied to me. But I also cringe when I find myself categorizing other people who haven’t specified their pronouns to me (which almost never happens anyway). I’m trying to make a conscious effort to stop putting people in boxes and asking more questions like, “what pronouns do you use?” When I was living in New Orleans, my friends had a whole bunch of discussion and reading groups they participated in, and when we went around the room everyone would say their name, why they were there, and the pronouns they preferred. Stuff like that makes me so happy. I know some people feel awkward about it, but, in my personal experience, I have been delighted when people ask me my pronouns (I’m a fan of ze, hir, and hirs, by the way). HOWEVER, the point of this post was to point out a simple thing everyone can do that I think would make the world a better place. So here’s my thoughts:

When you are talking about someone whose gender identity or pronouns have changed throughout their life, please don’t say “okay, so they were BORN a woman… and now they’re a man”. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my thesis is that human sexual development occurs, in fact, on a spectrum. When babies are born a doctor decides what sex, of the two options, that baby belongs to. If the baby is one of the estimated 4% who are born intersex, often parents put them through “corrective” surgery or put them on hormones. Sharon Preves wrote,

“It is my argument that medical treatments to create genitally unambiguous children are not performed entirely or even predominantly for the sake of preventing stigmatization and trauma to the child. Rather, these elaborate, expensive, and risky procedures are performed to maintain social order for the institutions and adults that surround the child.”

In this way, the treatment of intersex children relies on the insecurity and fear of the “adults that surround the child” who cannot tolerate a human being outside the gender binary in their lives. (aside: I think that statement could start an entirely new and fascinating discussion about competitive child-rearing in our society and how consumerist childhoods form) However, it is important to recognize that although intersex people are representative of a small section that the binary cannot accept, everyone is part of the gender and sex spectrum. After all, not all people designated to the “male” category at birth without question have the same “penis”, and not all people designated to “female” have the same “clitoris”. There is a wide range of sizes, shapes, and hormonal drives. So. People aren’t born “male” or “female”–doctors assign these labels, and parents uphold the gender law in the household. I, and I think many trans and genderqueer people, feel that a decision was made for me, out of my control. But human beings made the decision.

“If nature really offers us more than two sexes, then it follows that our current notions of masculinity and femininity are cultural conceits”

Saying someone is “born” one way or another implies that nature made the decision. And the fact is that nature says nothing more than that there are as many sexes as there are people.

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From this NYT article:

In the popular 1966 book “Feminine Forever,” Dr. Robert A. Wilson, a gynecologist, used disparaging descriptions of aging women (“flabby,” “shrunken,” “dull-minded,” “desexed”) to upend the prevailing idea of menopause as a normal stage of life. Women and their physicians, Dr. Wilson wrote, should regard menopause as a degenerative disease that could be prevented or cured with the use of hormone drugs.

“No woman can be sure of escaping the horror of this living decay,” Dr. Wilson wrote. “There is no need for either valor or pretense. The need is for hormones.”

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3325145626_c58349526e_oIt ain’t easy being “obese” on a campus where the trend is to be a skinny hipster.  A place like Vassar should have so many happy wonderful women, and yet hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear some sort of comment come out of my mouth or a friend’s that has some self-hating laced with it, the vast majority of the time referring to weight and body fat. Even my professors who have been so formative in the development of my own feminism all seem to find themselves at the gym running on treadmills like hamsters on a wheel, claiming they need to slim down. It’s hard to find a balance in all of this. Sure we all want to be healthy and beautiful, but what if we already are?

For pretty much as long as I can remember doctors have been telling me I’m overweight or obese and that if I don’t do something about it there will be deadly consequences. Up until recently I’ve always accepted this as fact. And maybe in some ways it is. A lifetime of being the pudgy kid with glasses who gets picked last for kickball is certainly not the ideal healthy life style. And I do have to worry about health, as we all do for some reason or another. My mother has type 2 diabetes as did my grandfather. It’s in my genes, I’m at risk.

But after reading Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose and seeing her BMI Project, I’m starting to wonder just how seriously I should take my doctor’s warnings. Confession: I’m 5′ 6” and a fairly steady 190 pounds, BMI 30-31. I know, it’s alarming. But before we get all fat-phobic on me, let’s think about what that actually means. Last summer I hiked up and down Cadillac Mountain with relative ease. When not at school I travel my hilly hometown nearly all by foot. In high school and for the past few summers when I worked at the school, I walked every weekday a total of roughly 2.5 miles because I don’t have a car. While I’m not very fast, I can swim for pretty long periods of time without too much effort. I take a pretty strenuous yoga class once a week and while I’m no yogi, I manage to achieve new strength and peace with each class. My last checkup alarmed my doctor, because wouldn’t you know I have excellent cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, despite being “Obese” according to my BMI. Everything about my health was normal or better than normal. But still my doctor pulls me into her office to have a “serious talk” with me. It’s time to take care of my health she says. If I don’t do it now I’ll regret it my whole life. But what if I’m actually healthier just as I am?

Could I eat more veggies? Of course, even as an aspiring vegan, I know I don’t eat enough leafy greens and too many french fries. Should I go exercise more? Sure, and so probably should you, dear reader of the interwebz. But maybe as a young non-smoking 20 year old I’m a lot healthier and hotter than I, and you, and my doctor give me credit for. And maybe we should stop freaking out that I’m so fat. Because in terms of health, the only thing really “wrong” with me is the amount of vertical force I exert as a result of gravity, which I’m just gunna put out there I kinda have no immediate control over. I’ve been to nutritionists, endocrinologists, therapists, you name it. Is it poor diet? Poor exercise? Thyroid Problems? High Testosterone Levels? After lots of worrying, shame, depression, and loneliness, I still have no definite answers, and I’m still exactly as I am. And It starts to become obvious that maybe no one can fix me because there isn’t anything really wrong with me, despite what doctors and society tells me. Maybe it’s time to stop the hatin’ and just love myself for myself. I know super rad, right?

So if you call yourself a feminist, stop playing into the patriarchy of the health profession, media, and whatever and start to love yourself, and all your womanly curves, lovely lady lumps, or whatever you want to call them. Love the woman at the heart of this fight–yourself.

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In this post, you will find: some incendiary thoughts to promote discussion. i do believe in these ideas, but i’m open to changing my opinions if compelling arguments are offered. and a bunch of personal revelations. for me, it is about time to come out with it!

  1. Patriarchy is everywhere. Example follows in #2.
  2. Men have the incentive to promote sex-positivism, as they have a lot to gain from the idea that women who exercise sex and sex appeal are using them as tools for empowerment. When in fact, these women are tricked into assuming a very specific kind of power, while forgoing many other avenues of expression and empowerment. Of course men would want to promote the idea that women having sex and being sexy and doing sex-work is a good thing for the women themselves. When in fact, I believe that it hurts women, while helping men to get what they want, i.e. sex. This kind of empowerment is dependent upon male response, and is therefore, not empowerment at all.
  3. Heterosexual penetrative vaginal intercourse is inherently unequal. The man in this situation can orgasm so he has less incentive to stop, while the woman will rarely find it as pleasurable. Most women cannot climax through this kind of sex. Why, then, are they even having it? I know it must feel good for many women. But it doesn’t feel as good as so many other things, for many women. Why do women settle for an action that only feels kind of good sometimes? I have some ideas for why. It is because women feel culturally pressured into having sex, into feeling that they are not complete people if they have not had sex. I know why I sometimes have sex. It is to please the man. Coincidentally, it may sometimes feel pleasurable for me. But even if it didn’t, I would probably have this kind of sex. I have been tricked into attaching some of my self-worth to whether a man wants to, and will, have sex with me. (To my bejai-baby: I love you and we’ve talked about this and you are amazing and it’s awesome that you are willing to not have sex with me, though I won’t thank you for it, as it’s not exactly a favor that you are granting me so much as not prohibiting me from exercising my right that I already have to not have sex.)
  4. It seems unnatural to think of not having sex. But power structures survive from generation to generation by the illusion of naturalness. The oppressor will make the victim think that SEX is how it has always been, that SEX is natural, that SEX cannot change. And the victim will believe him. And it will go on and on and on. The idea that women should reconsider having sex is met with great opposition, even from my like-minded feminist peers!

Thoughts please.

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