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The play was worse than this edit

The play was worse than this edit

So I just watched, for the first time, Mount Holyoke College’s production of The Vagina Monologues last night. (Find script here) I was expecting to feel encouraged and heartened by the play. But throughout the whole damn thing, I wanted to get up and leave. It was just awful. I hate this play. I’m feeling pretty angry right now, so the stuff I write is not gonna be eloquent or totally thought-out. All the fuck yous are directed towards the author and the characters (and sometimes, the actors who performed it) in the play, not to anyone on this blog (yet, unless someone says something that would make me say “fuck you” to them but I think I’d be more civil to you people because you’re my community). But here are some preliminary thoughts.

The Vagina Monologues are a huge step back for feminism. And here is why (not in order of levels of offensiveness):

1. It glorifies motherhood. One of the last scenes is about how it is so beautiful to watch a bruised vagina covered with shit and blood, giving birth, and being tired right after having given birth. Lady, stop staring at other people’s tired, oppressed vaginas. And stop telling women that having babies is wonderful. It is not. It fucking sucks. I wouldn’t know personally, but this is what every mother says to me, before feeling guilty and quickly saying how much they love their children. I know you love your children, mothers. But that is not the point. The point is that pushing their too-large heads through your too-small vaginas is a fucking sucky-ass way to do it, and it hurts, and what the fuck is this patriarchal glorification of women’s vaginas not only being beautiful (i.e. to be used for sex) but also useful (to give birth). How wonderful! Now you can have whatever you want, men, because women are in cahoots with you because of this stupid play.

2. It condones rape. A 24-year old woman molests a 16-year old girl, and the girl is all happy and loves it because she realizes that she doesn’t have to hate her vagina, that she can be a happy lesbian without depending on a man. Nice job. Now you have to depend on sketchy older women to show you how to really do it. I know how to do it myself, thank you. I have been molested, and I have been raped, but I know perfectly well how to pleasure myself. I learned it on my own, and I don’t like the message that other people have to validate my genitals for me. This is a mixed offense, because I do like the fact that the girl finally is over her past of being raped by a man, and over her past of a repressive mother telling her not to touch her “coochie snorcher.” But more often than not, if you are a sketch older women who molests a younger girl, it’s not going to turn out that way. She’s probably going to feel weird and guilty and molested. It is not a good message. There is also this other scene in which the woman is like this ditzy lady, and she’s talking about how this completely plain person “Bob” first made her see how her vagina is beautiful. Bob is a fucking asshole. He takes off her clothes, even though she says she doesn’t want that, and stares at her genitals for “almost an hour”. He says to her panting, “you’re so beautiful” while staring at her vagina. BOB YOU FUCKING SUCK AND I HOPE THAT YOU DIE. WHY ARE YOU EQUATING THIS PERSON’S BEAUTY WITH THE BEAUTY OF HER PUSSY? Why do you refuse to have sex with her without forcing off her clothes first? It’s not like she hasn’t already given you permission to have your way (see rape) with her. It ends up a happy story, with the woman finally loving herself and her genitals, all due to Bob. Again, I wouldn’t suggest this strategy. Bobs of the world, take warning: do not take off a woman’s clothes when she doesn’t want you to! I don’t care if you’re trying to show her how beautiful she (i.e. her vagina) is!!!!!! It is a form of sexual assault, and it’s more likely going to end up making her feel weird, guilty, and raped.

3. Very few (I think there were two, out of a cast of about 25) women of color chose to participate in the play, which a friend pointed out could have just been coincidence. She said that there also weren’t very many blondes who were acting in the play either (actually there were, I checked). But I think that women of color are probably offended by the play, because a) it doesn’t reflect their concerns and b) because it contains terrible racist expressions. For example, during the dominatrix sex-worker’s monologue, she talks about how much she loves it when women moan. Then she proceeds to pornographically demonstrate the moans of those women she has pleasured throughout her career as a sex-worker. She does an impression of the “power moan”, the “clit moan”, “the vaginal moan”, the “combo clit-vaginal moan”. All fine and good (not really, she was objectifying herself and other women, in order to give the play a measure of commercial success. Nice job compromising yourself so that the play can sell. Really. I hate you, stupid person). BUT THEN, she does the “African American moan” during which she moans in a really deep voice and at the end of it, says something that I can’t quite catch, but that I’m sure plays off some racist stereotype about African Americans. Nice job. You fucking suck and I hate you. How dare you perform this shit? How dare you try to say that black women moan differently than white women? How dare you homogenize a race like that you racist assholes? The message was that black women moan this one specific way, when feeling sexual pleasure. While white women can choose between a vast array of moans. I wasn’t aware that they were reserved, lady. I can’t even go on, this is such bullshit, I’m not sure how to express the violent rage that I am feeling, not sure how to express what is wrong with this particular monologue apart from what I said above. (It is worth noting that in the version of the script that I have posted a link to above, there is no mention of this “African American” moan, so that is just Mount Holyoke actors finding their new unique own way to be racist. But there is one of a “semi-religious” moan during which the sex-worker is supposed to say “oy-oy-oy” like a Jewish person. At my school, the sex worker character said out loud “Jewish moan” and then she did the horrible “oy-oy” and I wanted to kill myself. Nice job being racist again, Vagina Monologues, you never fail to disappoint.)

4. It reduces women down to their genitals!!!!!! (see #2, the example of Bob and the ditzy lady). WOMEN ARE NOT THEIR GODDAMN GENITALS. There’s all this bullshit in this play about how you are your clitoris, how you are your vagina. Fucking bullshit. Shut the fuck up. This is what men say to me everyday of my life. That I am nothing more than my ability to give, and receive, sexual pleasure. I know that receiving sexual pleasure for women is this new thing that they’ve never been allowed to do before, and it’s this like revolution that should make all women happy and take advantage of it. But this tactic of “don’t worry, it will feel good” is bullshit. This is rapist rhetoric. How the fuck is this play being championed as the messenger for the women’s rights movement? This play oppresses women, and oppresses me. I’m fucking angry.

5. There is this overt sexualization of women the whole fucking time they’re talking about sexual pleasure. These women are slithering all over each other in this horrible commercialized way, to indicate how receptive they are to sex, and how their discoveries have brought them so much sexual joy, which they are expressing with promiscuity. The kind of promiscuity that turns on straight American men. IS THIS GIRLS GONE WILD THAT I AM WATCHING? Actors (and no I will not call them actresses even though they’re women) of Mount Holyoke, are you fucking kidding me? Why are you coming onto the damn stage wearing high heels, tight clothes, corsets and fishnets, and talking to me about how I’m supposed to relate to you, to be “liberated” and “sexual” like you? I don’t fucking wear fishnets. I wear men’s clothes and sneakers. I am not going to put on your ridiculous torture-get-up and go around championing women’s rights while simultaneously promoting the values of the patriarchy: i.e. the constant talk and constant use and constant display of the vagina. I don’t like to use my vagina. I don’t want things inside of it. It hurts. I don’t want babies coming out of it. That would also hurt. (I do like using my clitoris, just to let you know Lucie, because I know you don’t want women throwing out the clitoris with the push up bra, and obviously I don’t want that either because glorifying the clitoris is way more okay than glorifying the vagina, in my opinion). I don’t want TO HEAR A BUNCH OF APOLOGISTS FOR FEMININITY, for torturous push up bras and high heels. Femininity deserves no apology. It is horrible and it is a tool against women (see Irene’s post about what makes her heart sing).

6. The play’s whole shtick is about how women shouldn’t be scared to look at their vaginas, and shouldn’t have hatred for it. This is a good point. But you know what? Although women’s self-hatred of their bodies does have to do with men making them feel bad about themselves, I think probably a good reason for women not looking at their vaginas is because THEY ARE MOSTLY IRRELEVANT TO OUR LIVES. All my vagina is good for is having sex with men, and giving birth, and providing an outlet for menstrual blood. THAT IS ALL IT DOES FOLKS. THAT IS NOT WHERE I FEEL MOST OF MY SEXUAL PLEASURE. THIS IS A MYTH FORMED AND PERPETUATED BY THE PATRIARCHY, men, who want you to use their vaginas to have sex with them. Why did this stupid author not name this thing the “Clitoris Monologues”? Though there is some mention of clitoral pleasure here and there, it is hardly the centerpiece of the play. I don’t fucking want to use my vagina. A vagina isn’t even like a thing, it is a space, it is a potential space, which can be opened when it is forced open by a penis or a baby. And I’m not fucking interested in fucking men or giving birth to babies. Fuck you.

7. It is steeped in materialism. Example of the girl who wants comfortable, luxurious consumer products for her vagina, like cotton panties built in with a French tickler, or fur-covered stirrups to put her feet inside when she is having a gyno exam. SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU STUPID IDIOT. I HATE YOU AND I HATE PEOPLE LIKE YOU. Do you know who is weaving the cotton for your damn cotton panties??? IT IS WOMEN IN SWEATSHOPS. Do you know where the fuck fur comes from? FROM CLUBBING SEALS TO DEATH. You are probably not even a vegetarian!!!!! I don’t even understand what the fuck this stupid fucking asshole is talking about. She wants to perpetuate the oppression on minority groups such as sweatshop workers and animals, so that she can fulfill her glorious American-style consumerist attitude towards her beloved vagina. Nice job white American feminist imperialist. No, actually, I was kidding, you didn’t do a nice job. I loathe you.

8. It makes fun of women!!!!!!!!! Feminism is about how women want to be taken seriously, you assholes!!! There are these insane monologues, by characters that are oblivious of their comedic value. There is a character who gets really upset because she thinks she’s “lost” her clitoris. She’s a full-grown woman, might I add. I think its worth noting that the patriarchy does make some women go crazy, and have crazy fears like this. But most women know perfectly well that they can’t lose their clitoris. It doesn’t fly away if you’ve done something bad. Of course, the whole audience erupts with laughter when she is expressing her fear (I can’t find this part on the script either, but I know I heard it last night). How silly, insane, and hysterical this woman is. Let’s laugh at her, and her concerns. And she isn’t the only silly, insane, hysterical woman on the play. There are a number of them, who all say ridiculous things to be funny, so that the play can be commercially successful. I’m incredibly unhappy with this. Enough laughing at women!!!!! Enough using them to make profits at their expense! Enough using feminism for monetary gain! ENOUGH. Just stop it. Don’t laugh at me. Don’t make me sound funny, and insane, and flighty, and womanly. We already have to fight that reputation. Don’t trivialize my concerns, sexist assholes.

9. At the end, there was this really upsetting slideshow about women who have been systematically raped in the Congo as a war tactic. And I suppose maybe it is good for us all to be aware of this happening. Every year, the people who do V-Day pick a different cause, apparently. But then, it ends, leaving us nothing but the assumption that “this needs to stop.” I distinctly felt that “these men are barbaric” but I don’t want to have to be made to feel like that. This stupid slideshow made these women seem like victims who couldn’t do anything in their lives, and the men seem like horrible barbarians. “Dark hordes,” to use the words of Bq. Homogenization. It didn’t say so explicitly, but that was the message. Is looking at this slideshow, and being made to homogenize the men (as nothing but barbarians) and women (as nothing but victims) of other cultures, and then forgetting all about, at all a good thing? NO it is not. It’s bad. (um not really expressing things well here, I have to go do hw real quick) If you want to help women in the Congo, you have to help men too. You have to learn a shitload about it, read and write and talk, and go there and be there. Don’t donate $3 and hope that it helps. Maybe the money is going to go towards the elites with power, who may choose to hurt the victims even more. Do you really know where your donation is going? Have you looked it up? Have you done so much as a cursory internet search? This message of throwing some money at a situation and hoping that it helps to make it better is a terrible message. There should be people at this play who know a lot about it, who give a speech, who lead workshops, who discuss books, on the topic. At any of these ridiculous plays, atleast there should be that measure of follow-up to atleast partially redeem the imperialist know-it-all attitude. (I would like to thank Bq for her dialogue with me, which shed light on all that I discuss in #9, which I was previously almost completely unaware of.)

There’s probably a lot more that I’ve totally forgotten to mention. As I said, I hate this play. It is a step backwards for feminism, and for humanity. And worst, it is considered one of the biggest progresses that the women’s rights movement has produced, which is obviously a really dangerous misunderstanding.

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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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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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