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Posts Tagged ‘sexualization’

Sexist Lionso today i went on a walk. i was dressed in a long flowy patterned skirt, a black tank top, flip flops, a long necklace made of shells, two rings, and a bracelet, with my hair in a long braid. FYI my skin is brown and my hair is black and people say that i look “indian” whatever that means. im 5’4″. and i have a long-term boyfriend (which is relevant to this story) and i love him and he is super nice and devoted to me and he is a feminist and he is like one of the few men in the world im comfortable being around.

so on my way home from my walk, i was sweating up a storm because it was hot and humid outside. but i must have looked approachable despite my eclectic appearance, for this 40-something man comes up to me, 15 feet near my house (i hope he didn’t know that that was my house), and says, “hi, i saw you in tarrytown, and its nervous to talk to someone you dont know. and i just think you are really pretty, and you must be a nice person.”

at this point i was still flattered. i had seen this guy walking out of town as i walked into town. i dont remember if i smiled at him or just ignored him. i have this huge problem when i walk in populated places. i dont know where my eyes should go. first of all, im nearsighted, so its awkward to sqiunt at someone who might be someone i know. i dont remember though, if i had this problem since before i became nearsighted a few years ago. so i walk and walk, and there are plenty of people, walking around, or sitting around, or talking to each other. i dont know if it would be aggressive to look at them, and my natural impulse is to look at the ground a few feet ahead of me. it feels safer, since i dont know what people me to do with my eyes, atleast i wont have to watch them be awkward around my own awkwardness. but then, i feel like im being passive and submissive. so i try to look ahead of me at eye level, sometimes smiling at people with babies and pets, but usually not smiling because many people tend to look straight ahead of them and not smile back, and then i feel sheepish for having made the effort of smiling at them. also i worry, what if someone saw me smile at them and them not smiling back, and thought i was a fool?

damn, it sucks to be me? idk.

so i dont remember if this 40-something man, who has a mustache and beard, mostly black, peppered with some white, and misaligned teeth (not too bad, many people have misaligned teeth and they are not altogether unappealing to look at), maybe 5’7″, wearing a faded teal t-shirt and probably jeans and i think dark sneakers…was someone i smiled at the first time he saw me. probably i tried to look at him to send him the message that i wasnt afraid of him (even though i kinda was, im afraid of mainstream looking white people, as well as white men with a weird/cautious gait, which he had). but i tried and looked at the faces of many people i met, so that i wouldnt seem/feel scared of them.

so here i am, on my way back home, pretty much there already. the guy is walking towards me, as though he were on his own walk out of town and then was walking back into town. i looked at his face again and then diverted my eyes to look straight ahead in front of me as soon as i saw that he was nervously meeting my eye. do not want to get into a conversation with this stranger. he says, “hi, i saw you in tarrytown, and i just think you are really pretty, and you must be a nice person.” so i feel like he’s just being a nice person, like my friend alene, who says nice things like that randomly to people, and then is offended when theyre weirded out. i dont want to offend people who are random kind strangers. so i take off my headphones and i say, “oh thanks,” chuckling appreciatively. oh lord. i wish i hadnt. then he says, “if sometime, youre free, i would like to talk to you,” and im like oh shit i shouldnt have let my guard down, but im still optimistic that he means he wants to hang out as friends. im like maybe he just wants to meet someone to be friends with because maybe he is hopelessly depressed and suicidal and maybe a kind word from me would detract him (this reminds me of lucie’s stand-up comedy piece about a similar, though probably fictional situation). but theres a lot of weird tension and i think he is looking at my chest. so i go, “well that would be good, but i already kind of have a boyfriend, if that’s what you mean,” and he’s like “yeah, youre probably too young for me anyway,” and im like “yeah” (i wish really badly that i had said, “youre probably too old for me” dammit. i want to be more assertive and less “sure id totally fuck you, and ofc you can be on top obviously, if only it werent for my pesky boyfriend!” ew ew ew ew this is really grossing me out but thats how i feel, like i might as well have said that instead.)

and then he’s like “how old are you, twenties?” and im like “mhm,” cuz all this is happening too fast for me to formulate how im going to tell him to go fuck off, and he’s like “youre from india, right?” and im like “yeah” and he’s like “and your parents are from india?” and im like “yeah” and i feel really mad that i was so conciliatory and let him get away with asking me personal questions. he’s like “so are you religious in any way?” and im like “that’s a complicated question” and he’s like “yeah, i feel a real affinity with indian culture something blabla spiritual” and im like “mhm,” and he’s like “what’s your name” and this is what im most mad about, that i didnt say “ramona” which is my fake name for creepers who might be stalkers, and tell him what my real name is. and he goes “im jim” and he hands me his hand and i shake it and i ingratiatingly say “nice to meet you” because at this point the choice is between telling him off and potentially getting stalked/killed, or being nice to him and hoping he doesnt bother me anymore due to the nice impression i left on him, at least in my mind anyway. im afraid of this guy and i hope he lets me leave this conversation soon. and then he’s like “have a nice day” and im like “you have a nice day too and thanks for saying those nice things about me, im sure youre a nice person too” and then he walks off in the direction he came from. and im like did he walk all the way back from his walk towards the other direction, to say this to me???? so instead of walking straight to my house i kinda make a little detour and then walk to my house, looking behind me in case he wants to know where i live, and he’s not there so i go home.

well, fuck. was this guy a total creeper? ofc he embodies everything i hate about male-dominated rape culture, he intrudes into my life, probably because he feels (rightly) that i wont tell him to fuck off because im this passive indian woman who is wearing flowy south-asian inspired clothes and jewelry, and he thinks he has the right to comment on what i look like and what kind of person i must be (“a nice person”) and then he asks me out even though that is inappropriate because he is more than twice my age.

so how much should one be scared of a person like this? in general, im scared of most males, even if they dont do anything wrong to me, because i always feel like if things came to a certain climax, they would be mean to me and do something wrong to me. and this is not paranoia, because this is the pattern that has led to much of my alienation with males to begin with, even my little brother, who is not so little anymore. and plus so many of my female friends have to deal with patriarchal bullshit but feel like they cant say anything and then they continue to be kind, though maybe the slightest bit more distant, with these male friends who have hurt them. because women are taught to be graceful about being insulted or intruded upon or used or abused.

fuck this shit. i want to scream through a loudspeaker. i dont want to be graceful or elegant like i was with this man, sad and weird though he might have been. even someone so meek-looking and non-mainstream like him has the ability to make me worried about what he is going to do to me. not to mention his abhorrent rudeness and assumptions about my culture, life, family, religion, and personality. he thinks he has me figured out. he tricks me into shaking his hand. he leaves me unsettled about whether he knows where i live and whether he is going to follow me in the future or if he has already followed me to the point where we talked today. he tricks me into being nice to him when im actually afraid and want to back out of this conversation. im glad though that he turned around and left, instead of waiting for me to leave. though i dont think he understood to extent to which he had been making me uncomfortable. and even though he was somewhat courteous about it, nothing like “you have a hot body” or anything so overt as “i love indian women, they are so exotic, like you!”, everything he said amounts to the expression of a feeling of entitlement to talk to me, to know about me, to ask me out.

ew. im home safe and i took a shower. now im wearing men’s clothes. i feel better about this relatively small event. but i remain worried about the bigger implications of all this. and i worry that he lives in this town and i worry that my rejection made him feel bad and i worry that he may be suicidal and i worry that he will look up my name and follow me around and possibly kill me, like that man who killed the wesleyan student who had rejected his advances.

damn.

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First of all, hey everyone! I’m a new addition to the blog. 🙂 Aida, from Puerto Rico, rising junior at Brown, found this blog through Irene. Hopefully I’ll be contributing steadily. Anyway–I also wanted to let y’all know that I added two websites to the blogroll: Genderfork and Sociological Images. Now, for my first contribution–cross-posted from my personal blagh, found here.

In response to this (blog entry that just has an embedded video) and this:

The author here grosses me out.

That guy isn’t real. Somebody decided to make him up so they could write the “write fuck me on your chest and smile” line, claiming female = victim and that somehow, if only men would understand and be sensitive to this, it would be okay.

Most men aren’t anything like this guy, and for the rest of us the author has done nothing to improve our understanding of “what it’s like to be a woman.” If the author were listening, I’d respond: “Being a grownup means taking the fuck me sign off your chest and telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary.”

Giving a reality check to a straw man, kind of annoying.

*

I see where the commenter is coming from, but I think it’s a *very* shallow reading of that clip. The message I got from this video/scene was different. Writing “fuck me” on his chest would be about drawing a parallel between the symbolic gesture and the reality of inhabiting a woman’s body–a body that is unfortunately read by some as “willing” just by virtue of being female. If the guy had actually gone out with the FUCK ME on his chest, it wouldn’t have been the same thing/feeling…but it wasn’t about him actually doing it. It was about showing the parallel between that and walking around with an INVISIBLE (yet oh so visible) marker of “oh yeah, sure, fuck me, that’s great, I really want it from you, thank you.”

A man walking naked with FUCK ME on his chest would be seen as abnormal, whereas a woman just walking around would not be. Violence against women is perpetrated because it’s, in a way, normalized. This is the narrative that we’ve been given; people assuming a naked man with FUCK ME scrawled on his chest wants and is ready for sex is not realistic, but people assuming a woman walking down the street wants and is ready for sex IS realistic. This whole scene is about the psychological impact; it’s about the female character trying to show this man how it feels by creating a “story” that APPROXIMATES that feeling. Taking that story to reality wouldn’t work, but THINKING about it and thinking about what it MEANS would certainly make an impact.

Woman is not inherently “victim,” but the truth is that in society, many times there is a strong correlation between the two. And if it’s not “victim,” it’s still the receiving end of violence, be it symbolic, physical, or both. And that being said…yeah–if only men could understand and be sensitive to the realities of living in a body marked as “female,” we would probably have less scenarios like this. A man would be way less likely to invade a woman’s privacy like what happened on The L Word if he understood how that shit felt. A man would be less likely to leer at a woman and think it’s okay to grab her ass if he understood how that felt. Obviously it would only be a start. Someone’s knowledge doesn’t predict what they will do with it.

But the thing is, there’s no real way to understand, FULLY understand, unless one has lived through it. Anything else is just an assumption, removed to a certain degree, or a sympathetic thought. No one can TRULY and wholly understand or “feel” what someone else is feeling. We have approximations, yes, and a “common language,” yes, but these are only approximations. Still, these approximations are valuable–very valuable. They’re the closest we have to the real thing, and they are important. And even if we can’t feel exactly what someone else has felt, there are probably huge overlaps, and we can sympathize and find solidarity.

Finally, the “…telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary” comment? Telling people “no” or to “piss off” when necessary is a right (and sort of one’s duty to a certain extent), but to have that right respected? A totally different ballgame. Women usually don’t have the privilege of not having to worry that their “no” may not be respected or even taken seriously. Saying “no” doesn’t necessitate or equal a respect of that “no.” Just because a woman screams NO and fights back, does that mean a rapist will stop raping her? Just because we say NO, does that mean a mugger will suddenly return all our money and leave us alone? Just because a NO is necessary doesn’t mean it will WORK. There are various situations when saying NO just isn’t enough.

And sure, most men aren’t like the guy in the video, who will set up cameras all over your house…but that’s not the point. Most men aren’t rapists, or murderers, or robbers–but we still have to talk about those that are, and represent them in the media, and show that they exist. We still have to show that women are hurt, not to normalize that violence, but to show the realities of the world and that they are NOT ACCEPTABLE. We have to put these things in the forefront so people cannot ignore them, so people have to acknowledge them and get educated and DO something about it. The fact that a (presumably) Average Joe (whatever that is) cannot relate at all to this clip and feels that it provides NO insight into how it feels to be a woman is VERY distressing to me.

Addendum: By this post, I don’t mean to say that ALL women are a certain way or feel a certain way. No monolithic understandings of men and women apply. Kthx.

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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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img_0341So I saw this in the College Center last night and of course I’m wondering, what the fuck? For those who can’t read what it says, (sorry it’s a little blurry) it’s an advertisement for Vassar College’s Rowing team who have their Ergathon, where they row for 24 hours straight as a sort of fundraiser. The flyer is about three feet by 4 feet, I would estimate, and it’s hanging as a sort of banner in one of the most frequented parts of campus.

I know, who would have guessed from that picture?

I have nothing against rowing, or the Vassar College Rowing Team, but I’m so tired of seeing flyers just like this one posted all around campus, from all different orgs.

Why do we feel it is necessary to objectify women, and to reinforce dangerous hegemonic ideas of what it means to be sexy, just to get people to give money or come to an event. What, just because I see a white, skinny, half naked girl, I’m supposed to contribute some money to your organization? Thanks but no thanks.

To be fair there was a smaller poster I saw later on which had a white, muscular man, wearing a kilt, with the same message, “It’s gonna be hot”. And with this I’m forced to wonder, what’s going on? Is this some kind of irony? Regardless I still think it’s reinforcing these hegemonic notions of what is “hot”.

And of course, even if skinny, white, and half naked is what “hot” looks like (which I wouldn’t agree with), who cares? Why is “hot” such a big deal? Why wouldn’t it be enough to simply say, come to the Ergathon and see women show their athletic strength!? Why isn’t that something that makes us get excited?

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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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"You'd be so much prettier if you smiled more!"

"You'd be so much prettier if you smiled more!"

Sadie, one of my favorite writers on Jezebel, had a post today called “When the Nice Guy Down the Street Makes You Uncomfortable.”

I thought I’d share it here because I think a lot about nice guys making me uncomfortable, and it’s a huge hot-button issue on Jez. We all know that the public world is inhospitable when it comes to women’s privacy. Like most women, I get a lot of unwanted attention from men, even in my super-small hometown of 20,000: catcalls, honks, weird semi-come-ons from guys I’m talking to in the park or on the train. Sometimes the shouts are about my boobs, sometimes they’re about my skin color, and sometimes they’re just cause I’m female. Even when I had my head shaved to the bone, multiple guys yelled out lasciviously, “Hey, Sinead O’Connor!”. Like a whole lot of women, I’ve also been the victim of a train wanker.

But Sadie’s post is about the subtler liberties that men take when women are friendly, or polite, or even just interacting—when guys take your courtesy as an invitation to flirt or give you unwanted attention. Sadie mentions her friend who’s creeped out by the guy at the deli, who always notices when she’s not in for a while, and tells her to smile more (which a lot of women hear from a lot of men). Jez commenters follow up with a host of examples of this kind of interaction: a tallchanging deli guy who handed a customer his phone number on a $50 bill,  a co-worker who sent a commenter a love letter after she asked how he was, bagel guys who hoot and holler as you approach their bagel stand and tailor their comments to your expression. As Sadie writes,

It can be hard to explain the complexity of a dynamic in which you just feel slightly intruded upon: in a word, uncomfortable. I’ve stopped going to delis and stores because of things like this; once or twice I even asked a male friend to go in with me which, sadly, always seems to put an end to it. In none of these cases was the guy in question rude or vulgar or even predatory — it’s not like having to brush off a creep at a bar or something — but there was always an excessive interest and a certain lack of boundaries probably only women are aware of. An insinuating look, an overly-long glance, a significant smile can be enough to make a trip to the store a daily ordeal.

At the most superficial level, it’s kind of comforting to know there are people whose minds retain you and your idiosyncracies permanently, but on a thinking level, it’s weird, invasive, and a little disturbing. Why do we have to be sex objects even when we’re getting our air conditioner fixed or handing in a report?

To be on the receiving end of that subconscious power trip is horrible no matter what the context, but the insidious inroads it makes into the minutiae of women’s daily lives are really upsetting. In my own experience, guys don’t understand this stuff. Even the guys I told about the asshole jerkin’ it on the train didn’t really get it—boys who had been writing essays about Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, and Harriet Tubman since grade school.

I do know women who don’t care about this kind of stuff, but it strikes me as especially bad that men don’t get it. Of course the notion that male support legitimizes women’s feelings, which controls our politics and our media, is wrong, wrong, wrong. What worries me is that guys don’t notice the logic of “You should smile more.” It’s the logic of possession, the underpinning of the entire patriarchy, infiltrating our everyday lives, and our relationships with men we thought we could trust, people we thought were allies in our fight. It seems pretty clear that men think women are always available to comment on, compliment, and control. How can we draw their attention to how fucked-up that logic is?

The Jez commenters have also unintentionally created a database of fabulous things to say to assholes. Check it out.

EDIT:
I’d like to add that it worries me not just that men don’t get this, but that anyone doesn’t. This post is not about simple flirting. Flirting is something different from the interactions we’re discussing—it’s not disguised as friendship; it doesn’t presume intimacy or the desire for it, it expresses a hope for it; and your reaction has the ability to make the flirter stop. We’re talking about when someone continues acting like there’s the potential for something more than a random or friendly interaction, when you don’t reciprocate at anywhere near the same level. It’s like no matter what you think of the situation, they still think you’re attainable—they still think they can acquire you. It worries me that anybody, M, F, or Otherwise, doesn’t consider the non-flirt a little intrusive. At the risk of offending women who don’t mind the non-flirt and echoing Catherine MacKinnon, someone I consider pretty paternalistic for a feminist, it seems like if this kind of stuff doesn’t bother you, you’re not paying attention to what you as a person deserve: privacy.

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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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