purejuice: (Default)
I have been thinking about the third wave feminists' manifesto, which according to Faludi* believes that the Wonderbra -- shorthand for do-me feminism -- is empowering.

The second wave come off as Puritannical when they say it is not empowering, and further, it is a betrayal of feminism.

I'm going to have to be true to my school here. Wonderbras are not empowering and they cause damage to other women by raising (or lowering) the expectations of potential sex partners who are strangers, who then treat other women badly in the sense of hostile workplace, and sexual harassment at work (P.S. You owe this legal precedent, one of the very few marks of progress in the last 30 years, to Catherine MacKinnon).

I'm back to my position on porn, which is, you're not allowed to enact slavery in public. This includes treating non-consenting strangers as potential sex partners, or as people over whom you wish to exert sexual power with no intention of following through, like animals, by wearing a Wonderbra. While the narcissicism is repellent, what is immoral is the contempt for men, and for women. You just don't have the right to be an Uncle Tom.

As for the argument that one has the right to sex, the answer is, you certainly do not have the right to sex. That's very close to rape rhetoric, and quite unfairly I hold feminists -- as I do Israelis -- to higher standards of morality.

What you have the right to, perhaps, is to do it any way you like to, in private, that doesn't involve the soul-murder of someone else. Actually getting some is a privilege, a luxury and a gift, as is celibacy. It's all gravy, and you certainly are not entitled to it.

The third wavers' sense of entitlement to a particularly slavish acting-out of performance sex -- formed, those more erudite than I could probably trace, by frivolous yet vicious academic culture studies and queer theory, as well as the conflation of gay civil rights with predatory sex and cruising rights, all blendered into the horrific stew A-gay Darren Star made of Candace Bushnell's thoughtful, Whartonesque Sex and the City newspaper columns in which every assay of Wonderbra slut ethics had its ineffable tragic -- humanist and not punitive -- arc. In this way, non-monogamous sex can be valued as an instrument of knowing; what one learns, however, is a mile wide and an inch deep. At a certain point, it becomes a culpable waste of energy. I think the appropriation by gay entertainment executives of female avatars is responsible for much of the performance sex ethos, with Marc Cherry and his desperate housewives and Darren Star at the top of the list.

I have to tell you something, baby girl. Gay men and entertainment executives are not feminists.

I think the sense of entitlement comes from the consoling properties of fix-me sex. Consolation really is, apparently, one of only three real spiritual needs, according to the agnostic William James and confirmed in my observation and experience. Unfortunately, the consolation and the fix-me provided by sex is not only temporary, it is fallacious, nugatory and often exploitative. It is my experience that consolation (reduction of anxiety and remorse) comes from altruism (political, communitarian, and charitable, not loving your fellow man), work, and friends.

Any theory that has as its result a sexual ethic which animalizes other people is pernicious.

Enacting slavery in public is soul-murder. Primo Levi and many other survivors of genocide all come to the same conclusion, recollecting emotion in tranquility. It is that the most caustic experience of genocide isn't starvation, extermination, forced labor, vivisection and torture. It is simply the witness of injustice performed on others.

There is a moral universe, Levi argues, in which things once enacted never cease to exist. There injustice lives and torments its witnesses forever.

The Street Singer, Eduoard Manet, ca. 1862

This is alleged to be the first work of art in which a woman returned the masculine gaze. Echoing Baudelaire's contemporary poem:

To a Woman Passing By

The deafening road around me roared.
Tall, slim, in deep mourning, making majestic grief,
A woman passed, lifting and swinging
With a pompous gesture the ornamental hem of her garment,
Swift and noble, with statuesque limb.
As for me, I drank, twitching like an old roué,
From her eye, livid sky where the hurricane is born,
The softness that fascinates and the pleasure that kills,
A gleam... then night! O fleeting beauty,
Your glance has given me sudden rebirth,
Shall I see you again only in eternity?
Somewhere else, very far from here! Too late! Perhaps never!
For I do not know where you flee, nor you where I am going,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)

The female gaze, or the glance returned to the sexually predatory painter's (film makers', photographers', pornographers') gaze can be analyzed in many ways. It is incarnating, most powerfully. To be seen is the entitlement sex appears to confer, but which it probably does not. No one is more invisible than a sexual partner you have discarded, the one who said, You made me feel this high, the jihadis who one scholar says all feel like dwarves. I thought on the day the towers fell, this is about Jews and Britney's belly button.

One of the components of the female gaze is assessment of whether or not Manet/Baudelaire is going to kill her, as per the nostrum Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them. And the energy to repel the murder can come across as an aggressively direct and therefore sexual taking of stock.

And this is a woman who is covered from her neck to the floor. Her tits, whether or not they are in a Wonderbra, are doubly inflammatory, inevitably inflammatory, because they exist only in the imagination of the stranger.

Just sayin'.

*....whose account of the WBF suffers from the very best practices of journalism, that is, careful and judicious coverage of events which seem to be a metaphor for the larger issue, but which are not; only 35 year surveys of scores of thousands of women would reveal something truer about what the second and third wave feminists think, and nobody has the money for that. Guess why?
purejuice: (Default)
The reason the Wonderbra is not empowering, as third wave feminists insist, is that all it gives you is sexual power over others. Validation, agency, human rights and economic parity do not take place, and men think, correctly as it happens, that we can be talked out of our human rights as easily we can be talked out of our pants.

This is the sleeping with the enemy problem. Wasting your agency on sexual power over others, rather than challenging the oppression these same others are enforcing on you within the sexual relationship, is rightly seen as co-optation of feminism. Serial monogamy, in the analysis of such stalwarts as the Fabian socialist Beatrice Webb (Not a Feminist), for example, has got to be the biggest co-optation of political agency that there is: Flashmob revolution calling? Can't talk to you now, got a booty call I need to take. That's what happened to Haight Ashbury pacifism and communalism. Hippie chicks fuck, in the immortal locution of Joan Didion (Not a Feminist), and that's seditious.

Second wave het feminists my age are talking privately about how what the movement produced is the Dutch treat -- more sexual privilege with impunity for men, more feminization of poverty as more children go fatherless. Fathers being the people of whose wage women make 38 per cent. Daddy = college education and professional school. I once had a brother-in-law who worked like a dog, and made a huge amount of money, which he needed because all three of his straight-A children were in college, law school, medical school at the same time. These are grandchildren of Hitler refugees, the great nephews of seven exterminated Jewish families, and the riposte, one could argue, to the Nazi genocide. The world is a better place for cultural capital. It is the baby which cannot be thrown out with the bath water of white privilege or classism.

Sleeping with the enemy and pissing away real power is a mistake the feminists keep making, as Faludi demonstrates in her tale of Bernays co-opting the flappers with their right to smoke cigarettes.

You've got your own property tax bill cigarette now, baby. You've come a long, long way.

And, as David Gates says, a hip capitalist? Is a hip pig.

That paying your own property tax is often sexual kryptonite -- I have a friend who tells a story about a man who fled, ran down the porch steps and jumped into his car and drove away in a panic when he perceived she owned her own home -- with or without a Wonderbra, is the great big shit-covered elephant in the living room. There's nothing I can do for you, he muttered as he sprinted away.

It's enough to keep a girl what Julia Cameron* calls a poverty addict all her life.

Or is it?

* Those of us who know Julia personally find her books much the same as Julia -- 30 per cent brilliant and 70 per cent caca. As she herself is a poverty addict, this part of her book, The Money Drunk, sings.
purejuice: (loaf-haired pats)
[profile] orso_amoroso has sent a link to Susan Faludi on the poisonous generation gap between second and third wave feminists.

It's interesting and depressing. Do-me feminism -- the WonderBra is empowering -- is incredibly damaging and also a self-solving problem. One ceases to be the prettiest girl in the room at a certain point, when you're left with $2500 worth of eye shadow and no parity. This is not power. (I read Germaine Greer's entire seven-pound book on menopause, probably the only person you know who did, and grokked that the entire rant was based on a sexually shaming episode in which the formerly beautiful sex warrior dropped her clothes in front of somebody who made fun of her. So much for power.)

Parity news is bad. Unlike Germaine Greer's perky breasts, nothing has changed in 30 years.

And Slut Machine, formerly of print Bust and now gone cyberat Jezebel, got married, changing the name of her career-making blog from One D At a Time to One D, where there have been no posts since January. It is now protected and she started Mrs. Moz in July. I'm a big fan of hers as a journalist. About the do-me sex I have reservations (see above), as I do the whole Mrs. Moz incarnation. I'm all about being a bad-ass and marriage too, there's nothing about Tracie Egan Morrissey's journey I actually disapprove of; mine wasn't quite as epic as hers sexually, nor did I write about it. Here's a news flash: waking up one morning to see a pistol on my nightstand left there by the current incumbent was pretty much the end of the line for my badass picaresqueism. And the sex was nothing I'm ever going to write home about (with Keef, I claim that I remember it all, no matter what you thought).

But neither hers nor mine is feminist. I think feminism is about good sex, among other things, including bad sex and no sex. Until women control the media, as they do not (I'd be interested in a breakout on women in the executive suites of the new media), feminist sex as represented in the new media the third wave is so proud of "mastering" will be of the Slut Machine variety. (Lots of what you and I secretly know to be D+ sex much marred by the twin fallacies, I'm-so-transgressive and I-am-the-first-EVAR.)

The key being the personal is now cyber feminism, and the young uns are all about wearing fishnets and stilettoes and taunting the old uns. It's my wight to expwess myself! It gets you real credibility and a job, as Mrs. Moz has discovered. But why did she deep six One D at a Time?

Meanwhile, Faludi notes:

The primary hurdles feminism
faces are the enduring ones. Basic social
policies for working mothers are still lacking
and sex segregation in the workplace and the
attendant feminization of poverty have hardly
changed (the top ten full-time jobs for women
in the United States—secretary, waitress,
sales clerk, etc.—are the same as thirty years
ago, and over the course of their prime earning
years women make 38 percent of what
men make); male dominance of public leadership
is still the rule (men occupy 80 to 95-
plus percent of the top decision-making positions
in American politics, business, the
military, religion, media, culture, and entertainment);
sexual and domestic violence remain
at epidemic levels (nearly 20 percent of
American women report having been sexually
assaulted or raped, and 25 percent of women
are physically or sexually attacked by their
current or former husbands and lovers); and
fundamental reproductive freedom is perpetually
imperiled (mounting, onerous legal restrictions;
violent attacks on family-planning
clinics; and no abortion services in more
than 85 percent of U.S. counties).

Nothing has changed. This is as much the fault of the second wave feminists' political tactics as it is the third wave's sellout. Making a living on your back literally has no future in it, and neither does disenfranchised secretary, waitress, sales clerk.

Here's the piece )

This entry was originally posted at http://purejuice.dreamwidth.org/1519563.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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January 2012



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