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A podcast, by Gary Francione

although i do not like this deep manly man voice giving all this wisdom, i wanted to share it anyway. thoughts?

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'cuz corsets have everything to do with animal rights

Peta did it again. For those who can’t read the fine print, this ad is apparently advertising for “Animal Birth Control”–so simple even playboy cover-girl Dita Von Teese understands how sexy it is. I’m all for preventing deaths of dogs and cats in shelters, but I don’t understand why we need to objectify women to explain why it’s important to do so.

Here’s my list of issues with this ad campaign:

1. Just generally, what do playboy cover-girls have to do with animal rights?

2. Why glorify this completely irrelevant image of a school girl and professor. Why does female education have to become sexualized? When was the last time you wore stilettos and corset thing to class? When was the last time an adult woman opened up a book with the cover of “ABC”. Oh, and it’s heteronormative.

3. What’s with this call back to ’50s fashion? This is a bigger problem than just this ad, but I get kinda creeped out over this fetish for the 1950s white housewives in big polka dot dresses, and bubblegum pink.

4. If you watch the video on the site, in between/during all of Dita Von Teese’s talking about pets, we see her getting her picture taken in various poses. Are we supposed to be listening to her, considering her voice to be important? Or are we just supposed to be drooling at her body? oi.

5. Oh and what a boring typical idea of sexy. Way to perpetuate stereotypical ideas of beauty with body size, race, and gender. woot.

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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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On Wednesdays, we exaggerate social markers of our femininity.

"On Wednesdays, we exaggerate social markers of our femininity."

Definitions:
– Habitus: The concept of habitus explains how social norms become embedded in individuals. An individual’s habitus develops in response to the social sphere in which the individual lives and acts: a space termed the “field”
– Field: The social sphere in which the individual lives and acts

“…As people respond to the circumstances within which they live, they become accustomed to those particular responses and, over time, repeat them with little to no conscious awareness or choice–whether or not the conditions that first made the response appropriate actually pertain. Bourdieu’s [cited author] preferred example is “the small, quick steps of some young women wearing trousers and flat heels” which have become habitual because they are required when wearing short skirts and high heels. In this way, the habitus prompts us to act in certain ways without needing to go via the mechanism of conscious thought and rational decision-making. Instead, the habitus operates through the mechanism of embodiment. We understand the norms we obey through acting them out. We do not think consciously about them, and consider on each occasion whether to comply with them. Rather, we comply as a result of prereflexive, habitualized action…what is at stake is whether we become certain sorts of people, how particular discourses construct our identities. Thus, MacKinnon quotes a woman coerced into pornography: “You do it, you do it, and you do it; then you become it.” …an individual’s range of possible actions is already suggested by her habitus. If her habitus and field are aligned, what an individual feels included to do will match the expectations of the field in which her action takes place. There will be compatibility  between action and expectation, and the individual is unlikely to be aware of, or consciously assess, her actions and dispositions. Individuals are thus very significantly influenced by the surroundings and structures in which they live. As individuals tend to remain in social contexts in which they feel comfortable, their habituses are reinforced and tend to remain constant [this is one possible explanation for Gloria’s preference of dressing “feminine” because she “just likes it”, I’m not saying that sardonically by the way]. It follows, moreover, that the social structures that influence an individual’s habitus will be strengthened over time as individuals act in ways that are suggested by, and serve to reinforce, those structures. In other words, in the absence of the kind of dissonance between habitus and field that can lead individuals to become conscious and questioning of their dispositions, systems of disadvantage are unlikely to be disrupted by those who are disadvantaged…”

From Pages 53-53 in Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice, by Clare Chambers

That was long.

My point is that I don’t have access to the kind of dissonance (other than online on this blog) between habitus and field that would help me become conscious of my own disposition. What do I really want to wear, or say, or do? I don’t know. I feel like I’m a product of my socialization, and without socialization, I would be nothing. So when I can’t help but wear makeup, for fear that others will judge me if I don’t appear “feminine,” it is because I don’t myself realize if I want to dress up or not. All I know is that many people appear to not take me seriously if I don’t. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to dress up. Other times, it’s nice. I don’t know what I would naturally be disposed to wear or say or do, because it is impossible to find a dimension in which I can explore what is comfortable to me outside of what society dictates.

Maybe for certain individuals, the meaning of “comfortable” itself cannot be exclusive of societal dictates. I think perhaps I may be such an individual?

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Warning – some links NSFW

My ex and I share a flagrantly offensive sense of humor and a taste for the repulsive, but I’m a feminist, and he does college sketch comedy. We’ve been communicating a little bit recently, and doing what comes naturally—I sent him a link to a cookbook incorporating semen in every dish, he sent me a recipe for roast placenta; I made a Donner party riff on the Aristocrats joke, he posted LOLClits.com on my wall four times in a row…wait, WHAT?

LOLClits is a website where users submit photos of female genitalia with “funny” captions. They usually involve googley eyes or hats or something added to the genitals in Paint or Photoshop, and may I be the first to say that they are really not funny?

The original photos are almost all close-ups of female genitalia, never including the women’s faces. The women are all exposed—not only are they in front of a camera, they’re opening their legs and spreading their lips. A lot of these photos include or imply male presence—there are many in-and-out shots, and male-looking hands spreading labia and yanking on clits and piercings. Most of the pictures seem originally intended for someone’s sexual gratification, but on LOLClits, clits and vaginas play the roles of hungry monster, nasty old wizard, ray gun target, shocked plutocrat, dog, Diglett, and even a pimple. And, of course (this is LOLClits—LOLDicks just wouldn’t be funny, right?), the penises are never ridiculed. The male presence in the original photos functions only as a pretext to knock down the women—once you’ve got ‘er exposed, quick! Does her hymen look more like Homer or Flanders? And that’s all she wrote.

The original close-up photos of vulvas and clits and vaginas are completely one-dimensional acts of sexual openness. There’s no push-up bras, no bar-hopping, no multiple partners—in other words, none of the social expressions of sexuality that our culture tries to shame women for—in these photos. In the world of LOLClits, just having a pussy makes you fair game for rotten tomatoes.

And that is incredibly disturbing to me. I know that femaleness marks us for special shame, ridicule, and disregard in boys’ clubs the world over, but I’ve never seen hatred and disdain so pure before. What a wake-up call.

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i’m reading this book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture, by ariel levy. it talks about the increased visibility of sexual expression, in the form of exhibitionism and raunchiness, as evidenced by shows such as girls gone wild, howard stern, as well as the appropriation of pornography by mainstream american culture. it talks about how women, in an effort to share the fruits that men have historically enjoyed, are participating in chauvinistic oppression in order to democratize it for both men, women, and other genders…but the book argues that the movement is essentially misguided and harmful. it’s changing my life. i now no longer know how to dress or whether it’s okay to wear makeup…

i highly recommend everyone read it. it’s a short read. i’m not done yet but i just barely started it and i’m three quarters through it. if anyone has any thoughts, please share.

orkinson

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