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Posts Tagged ‘sexism’

NY Mag has a really great article on young woman and alcohol. Apparently we (the ladies) are have taken to imbibing–with coworks, friends, alone–in more copious amounts.

A couple of disjointed things that struck me about the article:

-Third Wave Feminism is painted as being the spoiled, bratty daughter of the last two waves, doing little more than empowering women to thoughtlessly booz and fuck just like the guys. To this I respond: Yes and no. Thirdwavers are not a cohesive group, and for all the thoughtlessness of the louder popcultury types (I’m looking at you, Jezebel) the strides women of color have made are probably the hallmark of this wave. Not that has anything to do with the article really, but I like to throw it out there whenever I can.

-Speaking of boozin’ and fucking just like the guys,  lets talk about the gender assimilation. As women enter highly competitive male-dominated spheres such as high education and certain sectors of the work force, they adopt (consciously and unconsciously) the attitudes and behaviors of their male counterparts to survive. Its a kind of acculturation, adopting the values and norms of the dominant group in order to be allowed to particpicate.  This is not necessarily a good thing, espeically when the norms adopted are as highly dysfunctional and predispossed to perpetuating inequality as those of professional middle class white men (remember, just because they’re the most powerful and pervasive does not make them right–or even rational).  In the article, one of the women interviewed said something akin to ‘I had to be seen as a bitch to get things done, but the drinking made me appear more personable, less lame than the other women unwilling to party and more appealing to work with’.To get ahead professionally, she had to overcome the gender sterotype of ‘the bitch’ by proving she could be as rowdy and drunk as the next guy.

-The author asserts that the sexual component comes in only so much as it is another aspect of choice. Drinking is an expression of control, because women now have the power to choose when and where they allow themselves the loss of control. Sounds sort of convoluted, but its a sentiment not foreign to me. The author downplays the idea that some women drink so that they may allow themselves sexual dalliances they would otherwise think themselves too shy or morally upstanding to engage in. It is my nonobjective and unscientific observation that this behavior is actually rather typical, even if unintentional. I never thought of myself as the kind of person who got especially trigger happy when intoxicated because I’m generally the very forward go-get-’em sort to begin with. When I stopped to recall how many times I engaged in sexual contact with a new partner during or after consuming alcohol, however, I was totally shocked (but not embarrassed–in fact, I laughed myself to sleep). That isn’t to say that these were isolated incidents, the majority of my sexual relationships are relatively longterm, its just they were helped along initially by alcohol. Stop for a second and think about how many times you were drunk the first time you had sex with someone, not just one night stands but with a significant others or long term hookup–you might just find a curious pattern of behavior.

-Oh, and lets also discuss the place of higher education: the more prolonged the period of education, the more deeply ingrained the questionable drinking habits become. Now, why do we hardly talk about the alcoholism of the well educated? Because, as members of the cultural elite, we have the cultural clot to normalize our habits, no matter disruptive to ourselves/our social group they might become. We can stigmatize the poor and less educated’s alcoholism/drug use as deviant because clearly is perpetuates their cycles of economic deprivation, but let ours slide as simply the youthful antics of undergrads, grads, young professionals harmlessly cavorting because we perceive they have no larger social consequences.

As someone who planed on spending her winter break in a state of near-constant intoxication, I must admit this article made me reevaluate my drinking habits in terms of ideology, biology and interpersonal consequences. Some of the best advice I every got was from a Scotsman on a cruise ship: Be good. And if you can’t be good, be safe.

Paternalism asside, they’re words to live by.

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This is what I woke up to this morning–From the same people who bring you Broadsheet, mind you.

There is nothing redeeming about the article itself, which is in fact about how Palin’s ‘hotness’ ought not cloud the judgment of irrational American voters. The majority of the comment section is up in arms.

Let me say this one more time, with feeling: it is not ok to be sexist and demeaning to a female politician just because she happens to be a Republican. Attack her on the issues. Do not photoshop her head onto corset clad body wielding a whip. Would you do that to Joe Biden? No. For the love of god, stop it!

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Last night while watching the final act of the RNC convention, I noticed they played “Barracuda” as an homage to Palin’s high school basket ball nickname while the balloons dropped and I wondered to myself if Heart was cool with the RNC using their song.

Apparently not.

In a statement issued earlier today, Nancy Wilson said:

“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The ‘barracuda’ represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”

This isn’t the first time Republicans have (rightfully) gotten flack for using songs written by leftist. Reagan’s misuse of that particular antiwar ballad by Springsteen is well known but fewer people know that John Mellencamp sent a cease and desist letter to the Mccain camp during the primary because they kept playing “Our Country“. Mellencamp was an Edwards man because, you know, populists with the accents of good ol’ boys got to stick together.

The common thread of these songs are that they’re overwhelmingly inappropriate for the RNC if you actually listen to the lyrics. I mean come on–Female empowerment against sexist business practices? Compassion (in the form of social services) for the working class? Anti-War anything? Now maybe I’m not giving the GOP enough credit–Maybe they’re just so mind-blowingly POMO that my provincial mind cannot wrap my head around it. Sort of like playing Rage Against the Machine to torture prisoners at Gitmo. They’re not appropriating these things out of ignorance, but out of sheer spite toward the liberals who love them.

Hey, it’s possible!

–Maybe.

And now, a word from New Jersey Senator Bruce Springsteen.

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A friend of mine that shall go unnamed had, “is hoping that McCain’s VP choice won’t make the heads of feminists explode with confusion…that will be quite the cleanup effort” as his Facebook status yesterday. I was annoyed to say the least. I think it was the use to the word “feminist” in particular that got to me – Do people have such a low opinion of people who identify as feminist as to think we would be guiled by the militantly antichoice Palin simply by virtue of her womanhood?

Well the GOP thought so, which is exactly why she’s on the ticket. As Adam Serwer on TAPPED put it

The pick of Palin is dripping with transparent condescension, the notion that the enthusiasm behind Hillary was simply the result of her being a woman, that it had nothing to do with what she actually stood for, and in that sense it’s equally sexist. Palin is essentially a hard-right ideologue, and therefore nothing like Hillary as far as substance is concerned. It’s not very different from running Alan Keyes against Barack Obama in 2004. The conservative media reaction has already engaged in paternalistic language, with FOX News reporting on television that “McCain broke the glass ceiling,” implying in fact, that the pick had nothing to do with Palin or her qualifications, but merely her gender. It’s fitting that the party positing affirmative action as a program that picks people exclusively based on race or gender rather than qualification should do something similar given an opportunity for political advancement.

It is also worth noting that Palin is a member of the Faux-Feminist organization Feminist for Life, an anti-choice organization that swaddles itself with the rhetoric of empowerment while all the while shaming women out of their rights. She’s on record as being against abortion even if her own daughter were raped. Fittingly, Palin is against universal healthcare.

When the women the GOP are trying to woo realize that this is simply pandering of the worst kind, Palin will perhaps become a liability.  Ann Friendmen put it aptly when she said: “After all, most of us understand that a woman candidate is not the same thing as a woman’s candidate.”  Then again, it’s very doubtful the media will run with this narrative when they have a god-fearing maverick beauty queen with a gun. Never mind that she has no clue what vice president even does.

Daily Kos has a great round up of other reasons Palin was an abysmal choice. After my panic yesterday, I feel much more secure that Obama will pull it out in the end. Yes we can; yes we will.

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Dylan Rebuttal

To start, the quote “I can’t forgive him for his treatment of women. Everyone forgives him, but I can’t.” was actually meant for Woody Allen. I acknowledge that on the scale of things Allen’s sexism trumps Dylan’s with ease. I do believe that the first is hilarious and the second is a talented writer, but I simply can not help having apprehension about their work due to the sexist elements. Mischa did a good job refuting my here argument and during our 4 hours loitering at Kramer’s. He might have won anyone else over–But my dislike of Bob Dylan stems from an irrational place. So really all I have to say for myself is Fuck Bob Dylan.

Ahem. Have a lovely day.

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Bob Dylan is not sexist music

Had a discussion about this a while ago with the blog’s propriatrix (?)  I’m a huge proponent of Dylan, who I was raised on together with Phil Ochs and Joan Baez.  Mireille says of Dylan: “I can’t forgive him for his treatment of women. Everyone forgives him, but I can’t.”

I’d counter that, short of criminals (paging Roman Polanski,) the artist’s personal life is largely separate from their product. Eliot was a Jew-hater, but he’s a fine poet even if I wouldn’t invite him over for my grandma’s beef brisket.

However, at least one critic offhand has gone beyond the personal and accused Dylan of sexism in the work itself. Richard Goldstein brings it in The Nation:

“Hostility to women is a recurring motif in Dylan’s songs, from “Like a Rolling Stone” to “Idiot Wind.” His love songs, and there are many, bask in feminine submission, as in the ballad on Infidels (1983) that asks, “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” and answers “You know a woman like you should be at home/That’s where you belong/Watching out for someone who loves you true/Who would never do you wrong.”

I’m not going to sit here and defend Infidels on aesthetic merit, (though “Jokerman” has a cool video), but it’s worth noting that the commentators on Songmeanings seem to think “Sweetheart Like You” is actually about Christ and they’re not alone.  Of course, random people on the internet are notoriously unreliable: witness the epic Youtube comment, “”bob dyln sux hes a wannabe jon mayer.”  Not to mention the analysis of Van Morrison’s “Madame George” as being about Morrison’s aunt; a Belfast transvestite; social intolerance; growing up; leaving home; Yeats’ wife; or heroin.  Point is, interpretations are free.

But “Like a Rolling Stone?”  Goldstein’s flat-out wrong.  It’s not about sex, it’s about class — even if it takes a Marxist to notice it.  After that historic rim-shot, how does Dylan open Rolling Stone’s number one song of all time?

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine / Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?”

There’s chapter and verse of this pissed-off poor-boy stuff:

“…Nobody ever taught you how to live on the street / And now you’re gonna have to get used to it…,”

“…Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people / Drinkin’ thinkin’ that they got it made / Exchanging all precious gifts and things / You’d better take your diamond ring you’d better pawn it babe.”

The bitterness is driven by rejection and poverty, not misogyny.

“Idiot Wind” makes a better argument, as the lyrics are pretty nasty at face value. But even that comes with a caveat.  After slamming his lover the whole way through, (assuming there isn’t a different target in the lines about the Capitol,) Dylan turns from away from blame in the last verse…

You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.

…and crucially, changes the pronoun from the “You” he’s been using the whole song to “We.” It may not negate the hostility of the thing entirely, but it’s there for a reason.

Some of Dylan’s other stuff, including “Just Like a Woman” and “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” receives a nice defense here, see pages 64-68.

Goldstein goes on with the condemnation, dropping naughty words for effect:

“What do women think of this shit? We don’t really know, since rock crit (like lit crit) is such a male preserve. But it’s safe to say that Dylan’s current public is skewed toward the (straight) male end of the sexual spectrum.”

Not only is the make-up of the “rock crit” field totally irrelevant, but he has no proof that Dylan’s audience is any more straight male than the audience for rock in general; classic rock in general; folk rock in general; or any relevant genre.  If we want to cite anecdotes, I have a half-dozen women off the top of my head who love Dylan, and a half-dozen straight men who can’t be bothered.  Then there’s the logical leap:

Take Dylan’s trademark elusiveness: The self is masked; nothing is revealed. This stance is a major signifier of machismo in American culture, always has been. Think of all those masked superheroes, or the hard-boiled guys in film noir whose eyes are shown in shadow. Think of Noah’s son, cursed because he saw his father naked. Dylan is steeped in that saga. He’s a keeper of the patriarchal flame.

So: Elusiveness —-> machismo —-> film noir —-> Old Testament —-> “patriarchal flame.

I think I went to grad school with this fool. Actually, I think we all did.  Goldstein wraps with:

I don’t claim that Dylan is determined by machismo–there’s much more to him than that. But I will say that he reaches many men of a certain age and status on precisely these grounds. He digs beneath their ambivalent embrace of sexual equality, the insistence that they acknowledge their interests as a sex, and he proposes that these demands insult the fundamentals. Liberals won’t accept that regressive message when it’s wrapped in conservative politics, as it often is in country music. But because Dylan is as critical of injustice as he is of liberation, he overrides such reservations. And if you take a purely textual approach, it’s possible to forget that his mystique rests substantially on his sexual politics. Dylan is a liberal man’s man.

Same dreck. Even if we concede that Dylan has personal problems with women, it’s a fantastic leap to an “insistence [men] acknowledge their interests as a sex.” There’s certainly no evidence of a political agenda anywhere, even if Bob had some nasty breakups.  Besides which, Dylan isn’t a “liberal man’s man” any more than he’s a liberal’s anything . (“The madness of becoming / What one was never meant to be?“)

Chairman Dylan’s apparant issues with women are rarely if ever about about women. Yes, Dylan has a whole sub-catalogue of “You broke my heart go fuck yourself” material.  Thing is, the central problem to this stuff is rarely if ever the nature of women.  It’s usually about class (“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat,” possibly “Queen Jane Approximately,) or at worst a whiny sort of she-asked-too-much self-pity (“It Ain’t Me Babe,” or that great line “I gave her my heart / But she wanted my soul” from “Don’t Think Twice.”) It’s sex, it’s love, it’s class, but it’s not women qua women.

The best defense of the stuff I can offer is that so much of it can be performed gender-backwards to fantastic effect. Take five minutes of your life (and possibly a cigarette) for this, or check out Nina Simone’s cover of “Just Like a Woman” where she inverts the pronoun to “I”and try to pretend the intent is misogyny.

Defense rests.

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Bikini Waxes for Tweens

“Virgin hair can be waxed so successfully that growth can be permanently stopped in just 2 to 6 sessions. Save your child a lifetime of waxing … and put the money in the bank for her college education instead!”

Yes, you read that correctly.

There is very little I feel I can say on this subject that is productive and not just flippantly indignant. I am bewildered, but not in the least bit surprised. What I find incredibly disturbing is that the hairless pornographic aesthetic has become the norm. To teach girls at such a young age that pubic hair is something to be ashamed of and not a sign of maturing and good health is doing them a disservice. It reinforces (yet again) that there is something inherently wrong with their body and it is not only normal but desirable to go through extreme pain to correct it.

The very act of waxing is utterly brutal. I think there is something very out of sorts with a parent if they freely subject their child to what might as well be medieval torture.

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