So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

26 July, 2008

Time Better Spent

So I've been sort of half-assedly observing some of the blogs I read having a small explodiation about something about burlesque and the fallout from same, with the usual suspects having a "Why aren't you people concerned about raunch culture and teh pr0n, this is the most important feminist thing evar!" around the edges.

This is one of those things that boggles the everliving fuck out of me. And I haven't written in a while, so I'll pretend that my bogglement is substantial.

A few issues that this person who doesn't file herself as a feminist has personal some-might-say-feminist interest in, either from personal experience or concern over personal friends, in no particular order:

1) Social support for victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape. The notion that "real" rape is perpetrated by a stranger, and thus being assaulted by a partner, a friend or acquaintance, a medical professional, an officer of the law, or in some other scenario that isn't "leap out of the bushes in the park at night" is not legitimate trauma. The treatment of people who have been assaulted or raped as perpetually damaged and marked by their victim status, and thus unable to have a real life afterwards. Treatment of certain categories of people as unrapeable because of their believed status as subhuman or so-voracious-consent-is-irrelevant, including but not limited to: sex workers, people of color, trans people, disabled people. Addressing the frequency of sexual assault of queer people as a form of orientation and gender policing.

2) Social treatment of nurturing and support - and thus commonly assigned to female - tasks as not really work and not worthy of time, attention, or remuneration. Parenting is a big one of these. Domestic tasks, unless of course one is poor, typically brown, and cleaning someone else's house. Nursing. Elderly care.

3) Health care access in the United States sucks. Especially for the poor, the under- and unemployed, the chronically ill, and the people who fall disproportionately into those categories due to systemic prejudice: people of color, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc.

4) Anti-family culture in the United States is really damn pervasive. (It's also in other countries; the example that comes to mind is an Irish friend.) The default social expectation is that career will overwhelm all other things, meaning that time to spend time with partners, children, and actually having one's life is eaten away by "actually, we expect this overtime". The Price of Motherhood's introduction includes the author noting that she had to write the book when someone asked her, "Didn't you used to be Ann Crittenden?", rendering her entire identity dependent on the job-worshipping culture, and her status as a parent negating even her name.

5) Sex education. If I had gotten better sex ed, stuff that covered how to think about my sexuality and what I wanted to do with it, then I would probably not have been sexually assaulted. Period. Not just "Here are the horrible things that could happen to you if you fuck", but actual awareness of the thing, yes, disease and pregnancy prevention but also, y'know, someone once mentioning the word "consent", say. Good sex ed will reduce pregnancy rates and disease rates, and I bet they'd make a lot of people a whole lot less traumatised by sex due to situations of dubious consent like the one I went through, too.

6) Sexualisation of children. We do not need toddler-sized thongs in the universe. (We could do with girl-gendered clothes for young children being built to the durability standards of boy-gendered clothes, too.) I count "purity balls" as the sexualisation of children, by the way.

7) The whole madonna/whore undercurrent of culture. There's a reason I have a "good woman" tag on this blog. The cultural assumption that there is a good way to be a woman and a bad way to be a woman, and the bad women will be raped, shamed, abused, and discarded is broadly a Bad Thing. And I don't give a damn whether the "good woman" is a fine, upstanding feminist citizen or the pretty virgin-whore (but only available for her lawful owner) or whatever other standard exists: all these standards hurt people. The proliferation of standards upholds the existence of the dichotomy, because it's even more impossible to be a "good woman".

8) The undermining and discarding of women's agency as sexual beings. Which is pervasive and everywhere, whether it's the "sex is something men get from women by tricks or coercion" thing, or the thing I wrote about a while back where discussions of polygamy essentially disregarded the notion that women might have preferences, or the good woman standard of sexual purity, or slut-shaming which is its flipside, or the double-standards of male and female sexuality, or the assumption that a woman who is sexual is generally sexually available, or .... Women's abilities to choose relationships, express their sexuality, or otherwise exercise free will are constantly questioned, and women are pop-culturally treated as the prizes of men with agency.

9) Differential treatment of women's and men's health. Cheap Viagra vs. umpty-lump a month for contraceptive hormones (if they're covered at all). Better coverage for prostate care than endometriosis. Female sexual dysfunction treated as mythological or the fault of the woman's partner(s) rather than a possible legitimate health problem. Women's knowledge of their own medical concerns not being taken seriously. Doctors not listening to women's concerns. Hypermedicalisation of pregnancy and childbirth (sometimes in connection with #4).

10) Appearance policing and shaming. The one I've seen the most of is around weight and diet issues, and it's gone both in the standard-cultural hatred for heavier people direction and some really vicious backlash the other way. A sideline into eating disorders, constant dieting and discussion of dieting, and food obsession (which I'm extremely cranky about at the moment as I'm supposed to go on a celiac diet, and neurotic attentiveness to ingredients makes me miserable and crazy, and wheat is fucking everywhere). But also sidelines into such idiocies as whether or not one shaves and what one shaves, makeup habits, clothing conformity, and that sort of thing. Treatment of visible aging as neutering.

11) Creeping Dominionism. I mean, speaking as a crazed mystic polytheist, I can't say that I'm big on the whole rewrite the universe in the structures prescribed by a particular lunatic-conservative reading of the Bible just to start with, speaking as a woman I don't like what that means for the status of women. Let alone the speaking as a sexual deviant and all. Or someone who isn't interested in religiously justified war.

12) Rape apology. I'm really kind of bothered by rape apology from all sides, she said, with mild understatement. And I've seen whole bunches of really creepy ways of getting rapists and assaulters out of responsibility for their actions. To name a few off the top of my head: "What'd she expect, going home with him?" "If you get assaulted, well, you encouraged it by being a stripper." "She was wearing that short skirt." "You can't rape a man, they always want it." "Of course, the porn indoctrinated him into that behaviour." "Men are all rapists." "It's impossible for a woman to consent under patriarchy." "We have to give this severely disabled woman a hysterectomy so she doesn't get pregnant." "She had more than one partner, she had to expect that people would think she was available." "Flaunting her sexuality." "Trying to pass as a...." All of these get people who commit sexual assault out of responsibility free. They remove distinctions, generate rhetorical chaff, and/or dismiss and denigrate the actual experiences of assault survivors.

13) All women are one woman thinking. I made a few giggle-waves in the blogworld a while back talking about the "woman as arcade game" mode in some cultural thought -- this notion that there's a cheat code that will make women behave appropriately, perhaps like that which can be found in self-help books, and women who don't jump in accordance with the latest programming are defective somehow. But there's also the appropriation of women's experiences by other women, or by men looking for victim stories. I ranted about the pagan equivalent of this thing a little bit ago, like last month, the essentialising of female experience into a genero-goddess. The bullying of women whose experiences don't fit the party line for what women are supposed to be like in whatever subcommunity is looking.

14) The creepy interest some people have in knowing about my genitalia for such things as determining whether or not I should be able to be recognised as married.

15) Underemployment of women in general. Which is partly a consequence of disproportionate amounts of caretaking (and thus not listable as work experience) work falling on women, subtle discrimination, and driving women out of the workplace because dealing with the sexism is exhausting, but also of this massive intersectional mess where, say, older men may be respectable, but older women can't get work.

There. Fifteen things I think more worth spending angst-time on than porn and high heels.


Worleybird said...

Good list!

WordK said...

Ah, crap, the above is me, posting from the "safe for family members" account.

Linden Tea said...

YES to all of the above. Splendid post.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Thanks for writing that.

belledame222 said...

Yep, yep, yep.

4) is an interesting one to bring up, depending on which feminist circles you're around. Some will go -nod nod- and some will immediately suspect you of being in cahoots with 11), among others. and being anti-choice, of course.

--what an ironic phrase that is, "anti-choice," when used by the very same people who swear up and down that when it comes to sexual agency, there IS no choice! it's an illusion! And besides, you're hurting other people with your choice as to how to have sex or present yourself; but NOT when it comes to your reproductive rights, up to and including any possible existential questions over the fetus' personhood. Which, personally, I -agree- that the woman's well-being comes first (I just don't know when "life" begins, but I think as long as one is a symbiotic being it's effectively about the woman), but it does strike me as -odd-, yes.

14) is a really great way of framing: yeah, huh, gay rights, trans rights, and feminism really -do- dovetail, thank you -very- much. That's not even an intersection, to me, that's the same damn path, at least for a ways.

thene said...

So much word. "Why aren't you people concerned about raunch culture and teh pr0n, this is the most important feminist thing evar!" <--this really bugs me because, honestly, those are things that have more effect on men in general than on women in general. And if your 'feminism' revolves around stopping men from having their porn...sorry, I don't think that's helping women out nearly as much as you could be doing.

Dw3t-Hthr said...


You know, it hadn't occurred to me that the 4 & 11 thing was funny, but now you mention it, I'll file it as one of my standard "I come at things from funny angles" things, just one I didn't even notice.

As to "when life begins", I'm of the opinion that anyone who doesn't believe that life is continuous needs a flogging with a freshman bio textbook. I mean, for sheer pedantry's sake, nothing about pregnancy includes abiogenesis. Of course, my beliefs on this point mostly illuminate why I think it's a silly question than any political stance ....

Unknown said...

Yes, yes, yes to all of these.

#4 is especially irksome considering that all these supposed "family values" people don't give a shit about forced overtime, even when it gets to the point of not just damaging families, but causing heart attacks.

#6 - I hate this with a passion. It's all part and parcel of not allowing children to be *children*, pushing them to be "little adults" that seems to be all the rage, and then the flip side of "helicopter moms" who do their 23-yo graduate-student son's wash (why does it seem to be sons so much? Oh, never mind)

#13 - "But there's also the appropriation of women's experiences by other women"...things that have pissed me off lately: (1) appropriation of trans* people's experiences by the cis "female-to-femme" women; (2) appropriation of lesbian women / colonization of lesbian spaces by so-called "political lesbians".

Dw3t-Hthr said...

GG -- I nearly explicitly noted the appropriation of queer women's spaces by "political lesbians" in there, actually ...

Vieva said...

too much of this reminds me of my mother in law.

She didn't want her boy to marry a *feminist* because they're awful. (um, good job with that).

And when we had our son, my husband would get up in the middle of the night to change diapers. And she was APPALLED. Why? Because "he has to work in the morning!"

Apparently spending all day with an infant isn't work. :P

Yeah, porn is pretty damn low on my list of feminist priorities. Nurturing work AS WORK is a hell of a lot more!

Peeeeka-chu said...

And when we had our son, my husband would get up in the middle of the night to change diapers. And she was APPALLED. Why? Because "he has to work in the morning!"

Good lord!!! My mom and mom-in-law were thrilled when my husband did baby duties. Admittedly, he was a "house-husband" until recently, but he took part in his children's lives...

Sage said...

My guy's mom was aghast when he took off a whole year to care for his infant daughter. It might ruin his career (as an electrician - you know, lose a step of seniority a miss a chance to get to do the really high-profile re-wires). Nobody much worried about my career when I also took off a year. Standard.

Unfortunately I think some anti-porn types will see some points on the list as caused by porn. As in, women aren't treated seriously enough at work, or as moms, because porn teaches people that women are second class citizens, etc. If we rid the world of porn it will clear up this negative view of women completely, and we'll finally achieve total equality. It's just so clear and simple, we should all join the fight!

Emphasis on the word "simple."

Anonymous said...


seriously, what a great post.

Anonymous said...

more win for you.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Ooo, you give me a shiny!