Tag Archive: feminism

By “to aestheticize,” I mean “to turn into an object of expression,” or “to depict in an artistic way.”

By “text,” I mean any creative output, such as writing, film, photography, painting, design, architecture, or sculpture.

Who am I to say what is oppressive? I am a self-proclaimed theorist of ideology and culture, and I try to understand where oppression comes from in terms of commonplace ideas and the entities that perpetuate those ideas. I refer to these ideas as ideologies. What ideologies are used to justify war, prisons, police states, regressive taxes, laws against poverty and union organizing, and who espouses them? This is what fascinates me: the necessity of these ideologies to maintain the status quo, and who profits from that status quo, first and foremost.

When is it necessary to aestheticize oppression, specifically the oppression of women? Is it when an author wants to depict something that exists “in real life” and not gloss over the existence of such phenomena? Is the purpose of doing so to shock the viewer, to enlighten her, to educate her? Or is it to do the opposite of shock: to cushion, to carry, to create an affinity, a kinship? In short, to provide something that exists in reality, not for the reader to condemn as an oppression, but rather as a reminder of “the way it is,” for her to relate to, whether with the same jarring and helpless resignation she might feel if she were actually being targeted, or with the celebratory embrace of knowing one’s place and accepting it?

Of course, it can depend on the identity of the reader. If a person with a higher level of privilege, to whom the depicted oppressions do not apply or apply to a far lesser degree insofar as being the target of them, views the text in which the oppression is depicted, he may feel reinforced. He may feel that his place in society, which is not in the position of “oppressed,” is not only desirable but just.  At worst he will believe the oppressions which exist are necessary for the perpetuation of society as we know it, which is a desirable end because our society is a great and wonderful thing. He wishes to stand in for the author, as the author’s proxy, and enforce what he believes is the author’s will, putting him in a position of authority. And authority makes him feel strong, which makes him feel like a real man.

At best, much of the time, this privileged viewer will seem to acknowledge to himself society’s failings and the existence of the oppression, and he will thank himself for not being a contributor to it. Better to ascribe all the blame to society itself—the institutions, the media, the relations between men and women that have been passed down since time immemorial—than to feel responsible for an institutional ill, over which the mere individual has no control. At this point, he has bought into it, not even become inured to it but has come to “believe” in oppression, and when he views it in an aesthetic context, he will relate to it just as much as the individual described in the above paragraph, who essentially cannot envision a society without the oppressions, just as this “well-intentioned” fellow can’t imagine himself doing anything to change or remove them, for to do so would make him less comfortable. He remains comfortably silent and willing.

If the oppressed person views the text that depicts oppression, she may also relate, but in a different way. Rather than identifying with being in a position of power, she identifies with the opposite. She may feel understood by the author, insofar as she understands herself as a target of whatever inequity–violence, rape, or unfairness–constitutes the oppression. However, she may not categorize it as an oppression, because in identifying with a depiction of it in a text, she may feel empowered to embrace her role, her place, as a symbol and seemingly a positive one of her identity, for the alternative is to bemoan the preordained, the “given,” “the way it is,” and to do so would be negative and cloying. As Ralph Cintron describes in “Angel Town” in the context of inner city Latino youth, in an environment where respect doesn’t exist, one must create respect. Perhaps her acceptance, her seizure and attempts at ownership of her own oppression are necessary, not a necessary evil or a necessary good. A necessary act, simply for survival. And were these depictions to suddenly disappear, a certain comfort level of her own might vanish with them.

Is relateability, perhaps, the main reason for aestheticizing oppression, and in so doing, popularizing it? Whether to bolster its benefactors, or subjugate its sufferers? Where would popular culture be if it wasn’t for popular biases? Where would society be if it was based on contradiction and conflict and a constant search for more and better knowledge, rather than on a tight-knit, clear, and set understanding of who is supposed to do what and to whom and when? If men didn’t “know” that women are sexual objects that exist to please us, how would we know to pursue them? If women didn’t know that men are the powerful “doers” of society, how would they know to stand around and wait for us to “rescue” them from the dull, stigma-ridden state of being manless and impoverished?

The manufacturers of mass media want us to believe that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves without the influence of the culture industry. People would stop working, men would stop fucking, women would stop producing babies, children would stop paying attention in school, and no one would vote, opting to “do politics” in other manners if at all. The funny thing is, they’re right, to some extent. If people were awakened to the oppressions reproduced endlessly in popular culture, whether by the complicit oppressor (whether he be the silent and willing, or the author’s proxy) or the “empowered” oppressed (without whose oppression she would have no identity), we might notice the injustices inherent to other societal systems—the workplace, the bedroom, the classroom, the government—and act on them. Some of us would work to end them, while others would work to maintain them, to hold onto their positions of privilege, to their dreams of absolute authority, with all the power of the political establishment at their backs.

This, however, is the picture of true progress: a struggle between the profiteers and the exploited. All depictions of oppression should be aimed at challenging the viewer to resist that oppression, and challenge the understandings of where such top-down oppression originates. I say “top-down” because, in the context of the oppression of women but it applies to all structures of oppression, if our society is controlled by men, and so many texts of female oppression and marginalization exist and are circulated, it could be posited that the male authorities which control our society sanction and allow these texts to be circulated, and in fact encourage it, and in fact profit from it, because the centrally-targeted white heterosexual male market is best exploited by being told they have power over and are superior to women, to minorities, to LGBTers, ergo what a wonderful and great society in which we live. And so the oppressions are perpetuated in the same way that the male pursuit of pussy perpetuates the existence of our species: ravenously, and with love only for the status quo which makes us entitled to it.

It is a tough thing, affecting some of us on the left and leading us to betrayal and “selling out”: whether to focus on the misery and discontent of the world—perhaps even extending to the question of whether life is truly worth living in such a world—or to ignore that “larger reality” picture and focus on our own, smaller, more manageable, more affectable world. In that smaller world, whatever is simpler, easier, whatever makes the means of living more accessible to us is what is right, or at least allows it to become that much more acceptable.

With a wide world view, one that focuses on all of the injustice and might even seek to correct it, and rejects all of its tools like patriarchy, gender binary, white privilege, rape culture, Islamophobia, and others, no amount of imperialism is acceptable: no sweatshop labor, no globalization, no corporatism, no finance capital, no collusion between elite classes for the enrichment of those classes to the financial detriment of everyone else. Also no imperialist war, no police state at home, no glamorization of international conflict or terrorism, no commoditization of rights of any kind (to be bought and sold), but the common ownership of such rights by the people.

But in what way is this struggle, save in the minds of its fighters who are few and far between? “A New World In Our Hearts,” is the name of one anarchist collective I have seen in New York. The idea of the struggle itself is invariably linked with ideology: communist, socialist, marxist, anarchist, whateverist. It is as though having a practical, pragmatic cause or quest in this world, that isn’t hugely dependent on complex and often old edifices, is dependent on accepting and indeed defending the status quo, and having no ideals that demand something fundamentally better. And to hold such ideas is to be “difficult.” To act on them can provoke all types of invective, not the last of which is “terrorist.”

Now let’s take a look at the smaller, more manageable, more “self-made” reality. All that matters is ahead of you, in theory, because society has been custom-made to produce those matters as life-goals: job, home, marriage, children, retirement.

All that you give up ideologically by focusing exclusively on the wide, pessimistic view is obversely included in this mode of living, the material and familial experiences that employment and marriage afford you: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview, seeing your child go to her first job interview, an echo of seeing her off on her first day of school.

Does it make you a bad person to focus on this reality? This one is smaller, softer, more fulfilling (because the limits are tighter and more defined), “fitter, happier, more productive,” to quote Radiohead.

This reality is more conventional, and yet it feels self-manifested (“self-made”) because it seems so natural: raising biological children with a life-partner, raising them to be good and responsible citizens who contribute to society, to pass through the gates of society: preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college, employment, marriage, parenthood, promotion, retirement, death at a “ripe old age.” The always-present hope in any good parent: that the child will live better than I did, escaping, somehow, the raft of sacrifices I made, the ream of failures, of heartaches, of mistakes, and sail through life with 100% more boldness and success and ease.

“What’s wrong with wanting that?” anyone invested in this process, such as a parent or friend might say. There is a strange charm in it, to those of us who possess the privilege to witness it, let alone experience it. One such encounter:

I was sitting in Montclair, NJ, (where I lived from age 15 to age 26) eating falafel and drinking San Pellegrino in a churchyard where small children were playing, while church bells rang followed by a train whistle, and all of the myriad restaurants and cafe-type establishments were picking up that lunch buzz: the coffee was brewing, the french fries were sizzling, the air was hot, the sun was out. The little children waved to me and said hello before going back to their little children’s book on the green grass. lady stopped and asked me where she could get a good wrap. I replied, the little Greek place down the street. I sat fifteen minutes among the suburban bliss, and the church bells rang at the quarter of the hour.

Altogether, it was charming. And a little nauseating. These well-to-do people, drinking and eating and working and shopping at the Gap and voting Democrat, all while the CIA funds cannibal rebels in Syria and drones kill civilians in Yemen and Walmart sweatshops collapse in Bangladesh. And all of these people, including me, are benefiting from all of that, all of the benefits of imperialism and cultural hegemony and exploitation and murder.

It reminded me of how John Lennon was criticized for “quitting” activism and releasing “Double Fantasy” about obtaining domestic bliss. Other critics defended him, saying he’d done enough for the world and deserved his bit of happiness. I don’t know where I fall, but I understand both perspectives, I guess.

In the “small-reality” mode of living, where “family is everything,” the possibilities for material and familial experiences are almost endless: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview. They may not seem like it, but all of these are largely bodily pleasures, since they are based on emotions. Nothing else is accomplished with them besides the event itself and the emotions that accompany it.

The small-reality view at least gives you a chance at these pleasures.Focusing on the wide, pessimistic view—where all you see is the negative and the misery and the injustice and try to fight it somehow—takes these chances away, and replaces them with the chance to see something positive done in your lifetime to affect the millions of oppressed people in the world. One legislative victory, for example, among the larger-reality type of person can mean the difference between eating and not eating for hundred, thousands, millions of people. Yet, there’s a good chance that you won’t see all that much, at least not what you REALLY want to see: revolution. The potentials of a smaller-reality viewpoint are a lot to give up when one considers that the means by which to accomplish them already seem to exist in reality, whereas fulfilling the larger-reality potentials require society to be nearly the exact opposite of what it is.

Plenty of left-leaning people celebrate Christmas, drink Coca-Cola, and have children. Even Che Guevara, and the singer from Agnostic Front, and Leon Trosky, and Joseph Stalin (for that matter). They all had kids. An anti-capitalist understanding tells us that having children is a means of perpetuating capitalism, because ultimately children are where labor comes from, and capitalism is based on a steady stream of cheap labor and needy consumers, and the more the merrier (which is why right-leaning types are against gay marriage, gayness in general, contraception/BC, et cetera, any sex that doesn’t produce children. They don’t know that’s why, but that’s why.)

I guess I don’t know. I have no plans to marry or have children. I may adopt. I just don’t want to bring another poor, frightened, doubtful, soul- and dream-crushed little white person into this world, one to whom I’ll pass all of my failings and fears and bodily defects. I’m no one special. My child won’t be anyone special. She or he won’t be “the greatest little guy/girl in the world,” or “an angel,” or any crap like that. She or he will just be a little starving zombie, raised again into an ideology of need and patriarchy. Blech. I say no.

But someday, what if I say yes? Will that make me a bad person? The average liberal on the street of Montclair might not be a bad person, because she or he doesn’t fully know better, hasn’t studied these things, never formed a “larger-reality” understanding (I assume; maybe they’re all sellouts too). But I have, and to turn on it and ignore it and forget it and lose it and “sell out”….that really would be inexcusable, and unforgivable.

Existence precedes essence. I have no escape. Self-affirmation must come in another form than the conventional. That’s all there is to it. I guess I’m a little scared. Of what? Failure, to fulfill an abstract, while the people around me have concrete goals, concrete purposes.

I guess I just need direction, and for a long time.

This is a short paper I wrote for my class on the New Hollywood period of American cinematic history. It is based on two clips, one from each movie: the scene where a naked Mrs. Robinson locks Benjamin inside a bedroom with her, and the scene where Frank and Margaret are engaged in intercourse while being broadcast throughout the unit on the radio.

The clips from The Graduate and MASH both depict the image of a “sexually liberated” woman, in the characters of Mrs. Robinson and Margaret, respectively. Yet each sexual encounter evokes a different reaction from the audience due to the manner in which female sexuality is portrayed.
The Graduate depicts Mrs. Robinson as a fairly unpleasant, manipulative, yet somehow inescapable source of sexual intrigue. Without even being present in the shot, she uses the threat of discontent with Benjamin to get him to climb a staircase and enter a bedroom, when consciously and verbally he is undesiring of doing either. He doesn’t fully know why he can’t resist this threat, although it has something to do with her authority as a person older than himself. One intended purpose of this film, then, is to challenge the authority of age.
Entering the room, she locks him into unavoidably seeing her nude body. His discomfort is, in all likelihood, a source of pleasure for her, because it is through effecting and controlling emotional (read: hormonal) responses in men that she gets her own feeling of power over them.
Margaret, on the other hand, meets Frank within more of a context of apparent equality. They share the same views and have worked well together to implement them. Their initial non-platonic encounter (for lack of a better phrase) occurs immediately after writing their letter of disapproval regarding the state of the unit.
After the quick encounter, Frank wears an expression of randy disappointment at its lack of conclusion, but also of mild conflict. Such encounters directly contradict his, and Margaret’s, supposed demand for more discipline within the unit, among other values. Yet, despite these characters serving as general targets of ridicule within the film, Altman wants the audience to feel numerous reactions towards this scene, one of which is the shared excitement that comes with “being bad.” Hence we are not in the least surprised when he suggests coming back later to “see if she’s all right.” (Though it is left up to the audience whether the sexual pairing of these two haughty, repressed characters is meant to strike us as titillating or off-putting.)
Getting back to Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, we are equally unsurprised that Benjamin is ultimately unable to resist Mrs. Robinsonn; she makes herself so unambiguously available, and is an attractive and willing woman. The moment-long cuts to her various bodyparts use the mechanism of fetishistic fragmentation to underscore the extent to which she is objectifying herself in order to seduce Benjamin, and accordingly, us. What person could resist such an advance? Again, the conflict created by her marital status adds to the excitement that Benjamin, and we as the audience, derive. And, as with the authority of age, The Graduate also seeks to challenge or critique the institution of marriage as it exists within our society as a moral framework.
The second, more conclusive, sexual encounter between Frank and Margaret in the MASH clip is used as a source of ridicule for the other men and women in the MASH unit. They actively disdain Frank and Margaret’s self-righteous, Captain Queeg-like attitudes as officers. Elliot Gould’s character, Trapper, acts in the capacity of the artist and elevates Altman’s critique of authority and conventional morality by literally broadcasting the officers’ profane and unprofessional sexual shenanigans for all to hear. In this way, female sexuality is portrayed within a context of ridicule.
Furthermore, Margaret uses her body to unequivocally invite Frank (with the words, “His will be done!”) into the sexual encounter that will soon be heard issuing from radio speakers throughout the camp. Consequently, the concepts of institutional authority, religion, and general morality are questioned and ridiculed against a depiction of the fulfillment of visceral human lust. And Margaret will receive the nickname of Hot Lips as part of the “slut-shaming” that comes with a woman enjoying sex.
Similarly, Mrs. Robinson’s advances highlight the moral decay within a superficial and unashamedly consumeristic society. To reflect her own insipid boredom and lack of purpose within this society, she takes advantage of Benjamin’s coming-of-age confusion for her own amusement. Therefore, in both films, female sexuality is used to invite criticism of the current social order, and is generally portrayed in a negative light.
At the end of the MASH clip, however, the compromising sounds of Frank and Margaret’s encounter are sent through an echo effect, creating a menacing and disturbing sensation in the audience, which divests the scene of its humor. Trapper and his cohorts suddenly appear bored almost to the point of sadism or at least inhuman exploitation, while Margaret and Frank (the former targets of ridicule) appear victimized. Altman does this as a concomitant part of his basic agenda: to highlight the general inhumanity of penning a bunch of red-blooded human beings up in tents in a foreign country and forcing them to engage in legal murder of another people, and the dehumanizing effect it has on them. Margaret’s repression of her sexuality—until the encounters with Frank, of course—may symbolize another effect of such mixed-up values.
In contrast, Benjamin’s “horror” at the sight of Mrs. Robinson’s body is notably humorous to the audience. His top priority is not getting caught by Mr. Robinson, while Mrs. Robinson seems to not care one iota. Mike Nichols, the director, is ridiculing the greater context of the situation: a bored married woman seducing a young man who is deeply anxious about his future, and all the young man wants to do is not get caught by the woman’s husband. Mrs. Robinson’s sexuality being used as a tool for this ignoble purpose, then, may also be seen as a symptom of a faulty, patriarchal society that gives women no other sense of control than with their bodies.
However, a feminist critique of these films would probably yield an inquisition as to why Nichols and Altman couldn’t depict female sexuality in a positive light, furthering true sexual liberation, rather than reinforcing the stereotypes of seductress and slut.

note: Throughout this entry, I use the terms “woman,” “man,” and the like with the implication of self-identification.

Empowering people, women and men, to prevent sexual assault is important. Most of the of time, the assaulter is known by the victim prior to the assault. I learned this in my Writing Women Safe class at Montclair State University. It is important that both women and men learn how to identify possibly compromising situations and to avoid entering them. For despite all hope for the contrary, it is an irrefutable fact that such situations are a genuine and widespread problem, of epidemic proportions on college campuses, and to a greater extent among transgender women and women of Color. While we’re correcting the revolting misogynistic culture in which we live (filled with Todd Akins, Maxim magazine, Axe body spray, and many brands of shitty beer whose ads require women in bikinis next to chicken wings in order to get men to say “I want that”), women must be empowered to exercise prevention of unwanted advances, while men must be given the vocabulary and social permission to prevent becoming oblivious to either the word “NO” or its sentiment, and to understand that when a woman is incapable of making a decision, the answer is “no” automatically. In short, men must be taught that sex is a decision made by two people, not decided by circumstance or entitlement.

Many of these advances, the aftermaths, and the common victim-blaming that go with them, involve partying, outfits that catch the attention of the preferred sexual partner’s gender, and alcohol. I wish it were taught right along with the pressure-point self-defense training, that if a person feels he or she loses his or her sense of self-control or perspective when drinking at parties, then drinking shouldn’t be considered essential to “having fun” or to “fitting in,” and to hell with what people think. If dressing in certain outfits seems to contribute to misleading situations with horny impressionable men, then women shouldn’t wear them, nor should they feel compelled to wear them. They shouldn’t feel compelled to validate their own sense of self-worth based on whether men have sexual feelings towards them. AND, perhaps more importantly, men need to understand that ANY mode of dress is not in itself a form or even a sign of consent.

Hear me out, and then tell me if you think I’m misguided. It would be fantastic if we could all wear whatever we want all the time. In a way, that would be the ideal situation. However, the reason such problems as gender inequality, body image issues, fatphobia, blaming-the-victim, and others exist is that we base our judgments about ourselves on what society expects of us. What is considered “sexy,” “attractive,” “desirable,” “feminine,” or “masculine,” are concepts suggested by biological implications but shaped, marketed, and disseminated (an accurately masculine term) completely by patriarchal society. Until we overcome these expectations, we will see a distinct contradiction between our desire to be seen as “sexual beings” and our desire to own our sexuality.

We are taught that women dress one way and men dress another. Due to this sartorial gender convention, women were long prohibited from wearing pants. A woman who defied convention and wore trousers, like George Sand for example, chose not to be judged by her physical appearance. Or, if she was going to be judged, at least it would be on her own terms, and not by how attractive men found her. Of course, she WAS judged by her appearance anyway, but in the way that phenomena are so often judged when they completely defy our expectations, i.e. shock and revulsion. Rather than being “beautiful” and “fetching” and “ravishing,” as a socially acceptable woman should strive to be, Sand was judged to be against the natural order of society. Why? Because when a woman decides that being sexually attractive to men is unimportant to her, the “natural” order of female subjugation is threatened, since it is partly based on the power dynamic of sexual predator (male) versus sexual prey (female).

This is partly why men welcome women’s liberation insofar as it produces “women who love sex,” i.e. women who work to fulfill male expectations of sexiness. Many people fail to concretely identify or understand sexual liberation as a form of general self-determination because women are so little encouraged to self-determine their identities in other ways in our society. That is to say, being “sexually liberated” doesn’t appear to actually liberate women all that much. “Even though I’ll never make as much money as men, even though I won’t feel adequate or secure without a husband, even though I’ll leave college to marry, even though I’ll forever be dependent on men for fixing things and snaking drains, not to mention for giving me the purpose of selfless nurturer, even though my children will solidify the end of my ambition, even though I can’t feel safe from rape, at least I have sex because I enjoy it.” Enjoying sex becomes one way in which anyone with such sentiments of powerlessness might feel empowered (like Jane Fonda in “Klute”), regardless of gender, while other areas of self-determination remain unexplored and unrealized. In this way, “sexual liberation” in this extant form is still very much connected to dependence.

Everyone being able to “safely” wear whatever they want all the time would be an incredible step forward, and should probably be the next one. Men need to be INDOCTRINATED with the facts: that clothing is not consent in any form, or under any circumstances. Nor is conduct. Men need to be taught that rape has a broader definition than simply the absence of “no” or the presence of violent force, and that, based on the premise of mutual respect, a vocabulary exists with which the certainty of mutual consent can be established, with no loss of “manliness” and a substantive gain in relative strength of character. (I hope to expound upon this vocabulary in a future entry.) Similar to being too embarrassed to purchase condoms, a person who lacks the willingness to establish this certainty should be able to judge himself or herself not ready for sex. Period.

{And I completely reject all Roiphe-style victimology rhetoric suggesting that the majority of alleged rapes on college campuses are in fact the self-exculpating fabrications of women who merely had “bad sex” or felt bad about themselves having had consensual sex. This patently misogynistic idea asserts the foolishness and low character of those who made the accusations, and “rewards” women only with the agency to commit misdeeds while graciously denying the propensity of men to commit rape, despite a long and factual history of male domination not only over women but over one another.}

Yet I don’t think it contradictory to this goal to also inform all genders, matter-of-factly and from as early an age as possible, about the ideological agenda of our society: to emphasize and exaggerate the centrality of sex to our culture (“sex sells”) in order to maintain this dependence upon men for many aspects of the female cultural identity: i.e. “a woman’s place.” Society is more comfortable with “sexually liberated” women who wear revealing clothing than it would be with women who don’t care about APPEARING sexually liberated. Why? Because by fulfilling male-defined ideas of sexuality, women appearing as “sexual beings” in the expected manner—in form-fitting, colorful, revealing clothing, “living it up” “Sex-in-the-City”-style—may ultimately do more to reinforce “a woman’s place” than to challenge it. And that “place” involves, preferably, willful self-objectification to validate and enhance male objectification. The reacting male mentality is, “If she views herself as an object, I can too!” which is a central component of rape culture.

{It’s the ethical equivalent of, “If a man views himself as a provider, I can demand all the jewelry I want from him.” A common riposte to this state of affairs is, “yeah, so what’s WRONG with that?” which is the same as asking, “What’s wrong with people accepting societally reinforced gender roles, remaining dependent on them for self-identification, reinforcing them in others, and seeing each other purely in transactional terms?” Is there anything wrong with that? I think so. Such lives are unexamined, and as such contribute to complicity in other, less micro and more macro forms of exploitation, such as sweatshop labor, racial discrimination, pollution, the meat industry, the pharmaceutical industry, et cetera. The question then becomes, “so what’s wrong with ALL OF THIS?” Moral relativism to the rescue.}

{(What such men don’t realize is that they are also being objectified—by which I mean defined as an object, except as a dominant object rather than a submissive one—by a culture that exploits their hormonal impulses and implants in their brains a sense of ownership over society, which they don’t actually fully possess. This false consciousness facilitates a state of mutual exploitation [to varying degrees] of men and women, and highlights the underlying premise of my argument: all cultural stratification is maintained for the purpose of complete, full exploitation and the reproduction of cultural hierarchy, which is a characteristic of ruling class ideology. That is to say, it benefits capitalism to reinforce patriarchy, to make men as a whole think they automatically control society, so they can be exploited for their labor power. This will have to be the subject of another entry, though, at some point. I hope!) Much if not most of the remainder of female identification—particularly in terms of career and general place in society—remains dependent on or relative to a woman’s relationship to men: wife, mother, housekeeper, sex-provider, financially dependent or seeking financial dependence.}–remove or move

I get it; women—and people in general—just want to be free to “relax” and “socialize.” What does this mean, though? Does relaxing means drinking alcohol? Does socializing mean eliciting sexual interest from members of the desired sex? Alcohol and alluring attire are both aspects of our society that reflect man’s patriarchal dominion over what women should want, act, and look like in public. They both actively cultivate and reinforce a lack of personal confidence: drink alcohol to FEEL like a million bucks, show some skin to LOOK like a million bucks, (a money metaphor, as though we must make valuable commodities of ourselves in order to enjoy the company of others), to get ahead in life, to be noticed . And men, who are supposed to WANT and ASPIRE TO HAVING all the bucks in society, will necessarily see such women as part of an overall picture of what’s desirable. Why can’t men feel like a million bucks—or just good about ourselves—without them, though?

Alcohol is a “social lubricant,” meaning it makes people more confident talking to each other. It does this by limiting a person’s judgment, including judgments of right and wrong and of the self: of what I’m worth, what I deserve, what’s wrong with me. Ironically, by limiting judgments of what I’m worth, alcohol makes me more likely to place myself in unfavorable situations—with dangerous people, doing dangerous things, in dangerous places, perhaps—situations that are beneath me. Why doesn’t feminism do more to teach people to limit sober self-judgment—to stop finding fault with themselves—and to feel confident talking to members of the opposite sex without alcohol, IN ADDITION to emphasizing that women should feel free to have a good time and dress however they want?

As I’ve already said, sexy clothing is another way to meet societal (i.e. male) expectations. I understand that women should feel comfortable being sexual beings in public. Truly, that is a valid form of empowerment, since the denial of female sexuality is historically part and parcel with the denial of basic humanity. However, when ti comes to clothing, I don’t see an analytic connection between “freedom of sexuality” and “freedom of dressing.” Clothing companies are 99% of the time run by men. While of course there are female designers like Kate Spade, men are the ones whose names you hear the most (Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Yves St Laurent, John Galliano, Manolo Blahnik, Levi, Louis Vuitton, Lee, et cetera). Why do we teach women that it is important for them to express themselves as “sexual beings” when to do so means fulfilling male expectations of sexiness? We should be empowering them to feel like sexual, passionful people WITHOUT meeting those expectations. Men walk around in suits, virile and ambitious as the day is long, and looking like a million bucks. Why can’t women feel the same way?

Social pressure is very strong. Shame is very strong. If a woman appears prudish, she’s a bitch. If she “puts out” too much, she’s a slut. If she doesn’t like to socialize with “normal” people in normal ways and dress normally, there’s something wrong with her there, too. She’s puritanical, nun-like, self-righteous, et cetera. God forbid, if she’s Muslim and wears a hijab, she must be oppressed by men as well! Because women would NEVER actually choose NOT to show off their bodies to attract men and appear “confident” (which, again, is defined in male terms)! ONLY MEN HAVE THE POWER TO COVER WOMEN UP! NOT WOMEN! WOMEN WOULD NEVER DO THAT VOLUNTARILY! HOW WOULD THEY GET ANY RESPECT IN LIFE? HOW WOULD THEY GET ANYWHERE? WHY WOULD THEY LIMIT THEIR FREEDOM LIKE THAT?

I’m being sarcastic. Of course a woman could choose not to be judged by her appearance, or whether she drinks at parties, or whether she even GOES to parties. It’s all a matter of her having an understanding that her OWN definition of strength, confidence, empowerment, personhood, is the most important, not what Captain Morgan or Karl Lagerfeld or Beyonce, or literally ANYONE ELSE thinks about her. This demands a strict doctrine of discipline, whereby feminists of all genders reject all forms of patriarchal sexuality by CHOOSING not to satisfy them. DON’T feel the need to self-objectify to any degree, even though it’s what advertising expects of you. DON’T feel the need to wear makeup. DON’T feel the need to drink alcohol. DON’T feel the need to attend parties where people go to forget their principles, their thoughts, their healthful processes. DON’T accept the judgments of people who deride your commitment to self-determination. DON’T let yourself be exploited for any purpose. Find friends who accept this quality in you, and encourage it in them. MILITANTLY DEFY EXPECTATIONS.

A man who doesn’t respect a strong woman has a piece-of-shit mentality, although I pity him, because such a state of mind deprives him of the awe deserving of half the human race for surviving and overcoming an agelessly oppressive reign over the other half. Same goes for a so-called friend who doesn’t respect her friend’s decision to not drink, or to wear turtlenecks, or to not go to parties filled with idiots and simpletons. That “friend” can go fuck him/herself. A real friend, a real man, a real woman, a real person, will not only respect such a disciplined and self-contained person, but will admire her and put hope in her, and emulate her, and soon, join her in the quest to undo patriarchy and all of the forces that benefit from it.