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Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Sarah showed me this: Click on meeeee

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more like 30 doesn't rock!

more like 30 doesn't rock!

ive noticed that so much comedy is anti-feminist. SO MUCH. lucie wrote about this a whole ago, so im adding onto that thread.

ive been watching this show, “30 rock”. when i first saw it, i thought it sucked. the main character, liz lemon, is this total mess. i personally dont see what’s so messy about her, but she, and every character on that show, all think that she’s a mess. she likes to eat, it’s like her biggest passion. what’s so fucking funny about that? but everyone laughs at her and like makes fun of her cuz she likes to eat. and because she always seems to be involved with men who are huge losers.

but over time, i started to really enjoy watching this dumb show. even all the female characters are stereotypes: 1. the spinster liz lemon whose life is really not enviable, 2. the jealous attention-obsessed blonde actress, and 3. the skinny young theoretically attractive little child who is supposed to be an adult. the men, though equally fucked up, are portrayed as powerful: 1. alec baldwin plays the part of a corporate wizard, and he’s like so annoying and mean to everyone but he’s made uber likable, 2. tracy jordan fucking sucks and is the dumbest person on the planet, but he is the richest guy ever and throws money around on strippers and getting expensive useless shit.

it’s fun watching this show, but only after making a huge effort to sit in front of the screen, desensitized on purpose, so that i can be entertained by what is deemed entertaining in today’s world…

we need better comedy. we need to parody gender inequalities, not exalt them and absorb them. we need to build a better world using media, instead of having powerful, profit-driven actors (pun not intended) in society using media to perpetuate their own false mindsets.

idk how on earth we can mobilize against this, ideas?

and also, if you haven’t read munzi’s post below, it’s fucking amazing so go read it right now, it involves discussions of unfair perceptions of women.

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blank-slateIrene showed me this. Click here

It’s broken down into 4 videos, and adding them up results in 30 minutes of documentary about intersexuality.

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This is from “Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice” by Clare Chambers. I think it’s a really intelligent clarification of the idea that “gender is a social construct”, a phrase oft-invoked but rarely explained:

In Masculine Domination, Bourdieu asks why gender inequality has persisted throughout history despite significant social change. In general, Bourdieu is concerned with the question of why it is that many forms of domination persist with relatively few challenges: left to themselves and in the normal course of things, individuals will not disrupt structures of domination, such as patriarchy, from which they suffer (or benefit). Even if they have read and agreed with key feminist texts, most women do not stop wearing makeup, taking on the lion’s share of the housework and childcare, wearing restrictive and uncomfortable clothes and shoes that emphasize sexual availability, or being attracted to men with characteristics of dominance such as a powerful physique or job. Even if we believe that our desires are indeed the product of the norms and expectations of a patriarchal society, still we do actually like makeup, high heels, and men whoa re tall, buffed, and wealthy.

A central reason for the success of patriarchy, Bourdieu argues, is its ability to naturalize its distinctions. At the heart of any system of hierarchy is the distinction made between those who occupy different hierarchical positions. The system of masculine domination owes its success at least in part to its provision of “natural,” biological explanations for hierarchy. This point was also made within the liberal tradition by John Stuart Mill in The Subjection of Women. In response to the claim that sexual inequality is natural, Mill asks, “Was there ever any domination which did not appear natural to those who possessed it?…So true is it that unnatural generally means only uncustomary, and that everything which is usual appears natural.

The naturalization of gender hierarchy is reinforced in several ways. Women are, according to the patriarchal story, different from men in that they have different bodies and different biological functions. They must be different from each other so as to reproduce; the differences could not be wished away, for without sex differences we would have no means of perpetuating the species. Moreover, these differences justify different positions on a hierarchy in that they dictate different behaviors for men and women regarding matters such as childcare, breadwinning, and courtship, which affect the wider social positions of the sexes. Instead, Bourdieu argues that the categories of gender are constructed and not necessary. Gender differences start with the socially constructed and thus contingent division of people into two kinds according to their bodies, and specifically their genitals. To say that this is a contingent division is to say that everyone could in theory have the same genitals, or that there is no biological difference between men and women, but it is to say that differences between genitals need not be socially significant. Christine Helliwell describes a tribe in Indonesian Borneo, the Gerai, for whom differences in work, not differences in genitals, are the determinants of a system of classification comparable to gender. Although there are people with different genitals in the Gerai tribe, this fact is not seen as particularly significant, and certainly not as the determinant of gender. While there is a correlation between different genitals and different genders for the Gerai, this correlation is contingent and not necessary. In Western societies, for example it is overwhelmingly women and not men who provide the primary care for babies in their first weeks of life. However, genitals and not childcare are the determinant of gender: a person with a penis who is the prime caregiver for a newborn baby is still a man. For the Gerai, in contrast, it is the work that is determining–a person who performs certain tasks in rice cultivation is a man, even if that person has a vulva. Helliwell herself was categorized as a man for some time after her arrival in the tribe as a result of the work she was able to do, despite the fact that everyone in the tribe frequently observed her genitals when she urinated in the stream used for that purpose. Thus, “As someone said to me at a later point, ‘Yes, I saw that you had a vulva, but I thought that Western men might be different.'”

Genital difference, then, does not necessarily signify different roles or identities. But once the difference between genitals has been instituted as socially significant, it is justified by reference to the naturalness of the distinction. In other words, in answer to the question “Why are genital differences socially significant?” the answer given would be something like “because there are differences in genitals.” Moreover, this difference is further idolized by its naturalness. If we ask, “Why are there differences in genitals?” we will receive the answer “because that is how nature is,” which is something like saying “because it couldn’t be any other way.” This circular reasoning leads, Bourdieu argues, to symmetry between the subjective and objective elements of domination. Subjectively, people believe that there are significant differences based on genital differences. Objectively, there are genital difference. The circularity comes in as follows: people believe that there are significant differences based on genitals, and people are inclined to notice and reify such differences because they believe that they exist. In sum, one of the key reasons for success of the system of male domination is its ability to make itself appear as natural–not only in the sense that differences between genitals are natural, but also in the sense that social differences based on differences between genitals appear natural.

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towelhead I just watched “Towelhead: Nothing is Private” on surfthechannel.com and I can’t recommend it enough.  The film focuses on a 13-year-old, half Lebanese girl named Jazeera and contrary to the title, the movie dedicates much more time to gender issues and the complex relationship between gender and race, than to race issues alone.  The film, which is based on Alicia Erian’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, tackles  a range of feminist concerns (from virginity to homosexuality to the mixed messages women receive as they go through puberty to unwanted sexual advances from older men) and does so with striking honesty as well as a microscopic accuracy.  Recalling my pre-teen years as I followed Jazeera’s story, I often found myself thinking “wow…I thought I was alone in this…”  One scene that really stuck out was when Jazeera discovers masturbation.  That’s right!  Not only do women masturbate, we start pretty damn young!  Discreetly she rubs her thighs together while sitting at her school desk or the outdoor lunch table.  Flashback to when I was in 7th grade and the boy I had a crush on, caught me under these exact circumstances.

Jazeera’s relationship with a black boy in her grade (not ok with her father) was impressively nuanced and it showed how even this very well-intentioned, likable boy could, with his attitude of protectionism and entitlement, add to a troubled girl’s confusion instead of filling the typical, heroic role so often seen in blockbuster films about STRONG, INDEPENDENT women.  In one scene, the boy, who is angry about hearing how Jazeera really lost her virginity, says “that was my blood,” to which Jazeera responds “no it wasn’t.  it was my blood.”

While the film picks up on many feminist frustrations, Jazeera’s trials are not once over dramatized.  Furthermore, the film does not attempt to give a story of womanhood, domestic violence, and rape, a clean, lifetime ending.  The conclusion, while very hopeful, does not offer any feel-good delusions about the future of Jazeera’s relationship with her boyfriend, her traditional father, or her inappropriate neighbor (played by Aaron Eckhart).

While Jazeera remains very shy and mild-mannered throughout the movie, one can see her gradually learning (sometimes on her own, sometimes from others) how to respond to the racism and sexism she experiences.  Are her responses are the best?  I don’t know and I don’t think its very relevant.  But they do very realistically reflect how us conscious creatures begin to notice that something is just a little off.

You can watch the movie on surfthechannel.com.   Five stars.  brilliant.

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