Archive for Media

Living Vicariously

I’m gonna carry on squeezing all the feminist juice out of the (nearly) feminist documentary “Women” so as to make the most out of this once in a lifetime chance of watching feminism on the Beeb.

In the first part of the series, called “Libbers”, we get an account of the 1970 sit in at the Ladies Home Journal, organized by Susan Brown Miller. At about 24 minutes in, we are shown real footage of the event, with some of the women taking part in the sit in explaining their objections to the magazine’s editorial content. I was so amazed the first time I heard their arguments that I actually had to pause the video. And since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I went back and wrote a transcript. Here it is.

Susan Brown Miller: “They were feeding women propaganda that was against women’s interests.”
Woman 1: “And in the next month you write an article on Jacqueline Kennedy’s New York apartment. Now we feel that these articles are wish fulfilment articles for your readers who don’t live the way Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Tenney live, who don’t have those jewels, they will never get them, and we think it’s a cruel delusion to put these women up as models for them to try to emulate”.
Woman 2: “They create a gap of frustration”.
Woman 1: “It’s a very inhuman thing to do, to try to make them live vicariously in people like Jacqueline Kennedy”.
Woman 3: “Also to make them think that that’s something to work towards, finding a man who will give them those jewels…”

What amazed me was, one the depth of the insight these women had and two, the fact that most of us feminists today couldn’t come up with something as thorough if we spent years trying. And the reason why is obvious: while these “propaganda” techniques designed for inciting consumption were probably being used for the first time in the 70s, they have long since become de rigour in most of what is aimed at women in today’s media. We don’t notice it because it’s ever present, and it’s all we know. Which is why no one would even dream of using that word “propaganda”. Does anyone even know what it means anymore?

Also, note the emphasis that they put on the fact that the lives of the readers of Ladies Home Journal were nothing like Jacqueline Kennedy’s, so really, what was the point on portraying her extravagant lifestyle in the magazine? What purpose could it possibly serve, except make the women reading that feel inferior and anxious? Nowadays, of course, no one thinks twice about opening the current issue of *insert some fashion magazine’s name* and finding this or that celebrity going on about how wonderful her life is. Today that’s the status quo. Even though the lives of celebrities continue to be nothing like most women’s… Go figure.

The women taking part in the sit in were right then, and they are still right today. Pretty much everything in the media is there to create a “gap of frustration”. Whenever a woman appears on the cover of a magazine is for the sole purpose of putting her up as a model for us to try to emulate. And entertainment might as well be codeword for “wish fulfilment” and “living vicariously in the lives of”. What is “Sex and the City” if not that?

“Living vicariously in the life of” resonates deeply with me. And yes, it is a very inhuman thing to do.

ETA: OMG!!! POST N 100!!! *does happy dance*

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Research Spin

If you’ve been anywhere near The Guardian for the past three days you will have come across this “intent” to curb the hypersexualisation of our beloved media.
There’s absolutely nothing in this new report or in the proposed “action plans” that we feminists haven’t seen at least a billion times since the ‘70s. This is a well known tactic used by governments when they can’t possibly avoid an “issue” any longer: they commission research. “You say there’s a problem? Don’t worry, we’ll look into it, leave it to us.” Ten years pass by and nothing gets done, on accounts that the research is not “conclusive” enough. So then more research is commissioned, another ten years pass by and the whole thing repeats itself again. This system of permanent “spin” is applied to anything that the public might show interest in, from acid rain to advertising aimed at children. The excuse for inaction is “we don’t know for sure yet”. In the meantime, the concerned public is appeased, the outrage conveniently dispersed. It’s a “safety valve” designed to stop pressure from effecting change. Or causing explosions. Both of which are dangerous to the status quo.

The problem is not lack of research, you see. We have known the harmful effects of pornography since the very invention of pornography. Not only we do not need further research, but we have never needed research in the first place. Accepting that we ever did acts to sow doubt in our minds. “Maybe we don’t know it all. Maybe the blatant truth in front of us is not quite what it seems”. So we better go to the big institutions, the big authority figures, the State, the Universities, all of which are designed to keep the status quo intact, to provide us with irrevocable proof that yes, the truth is indeed true.
We don’t need research to tell us that poisoning a river is “bad” any more than we need research to tell us that denigrating images of women are “bad”. And for good measure, we don’t need research to tell us that torture in Guantanamo is “bad” either.
The way to fight back against this “spin” nonsense is to do away with research altogether. You want proof that hypersexualisation is harmful? Our rage is proof enough. We want this to stop and we demand this to be stopped. End of story.
The way to rationalize this approach is to understand that the current state of affairs wasn’t put in place because the research proved it to be the best possible alternative. No one carried out extensive research comparing the benefits of a hypersexualised culture versus a non hypersexualised one and concluded that, yes, hypersexualisation was the way to go. If “they” didn’t need research to put it there we shouldn’t need research to take it down.
Or you can think about it this way: did the government commission studies to prove that bailing out banks was the most favourable social outcome? Thought so. Furthermore, did they go back and said “the evidence is non conclusive, come back in a year or two with better data”? Exactly.
Those in power get to call the shots, independently of whether they make sense or not. The rest of us don’t have that privilege. If we want to change something, we better justify it a thousand times over.

Just to finish this off, take a closer look at this line in the editorial article about this very topic:

“Today a Home Office report proposes action to try to reduce access to the kind of magazines and advertising that appear to objectify young girls, and more education to arm all young people against it.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe there shouldn’t be stuff in our society for which young people should be armed against? What is this? A war?

Maybe it is. A war over who gets to decide what goes on in our minds. And we are losing.

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An Excuse To Discuss “Stepford Sluts”

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 today. Again. Because where else would you get some information about current affairs and your odd spot of comedy but in the most mainstream of media outlets in this country? It was The News Quiz. Presented by a woman, but this time only male guests participated in it. They were discussing Google’s decision to pull out of the Chinese market because of censorship… or something. One man wanted to illustrate some point about Google and he described how one can find (lots of) “D0nkey Pr0n” within some small time interval. The public, of course, laughed.
“D0nkey Pr0n”. In the bloody BBC.

What is a feminist to do upon finding out that, again, there is no place in this planet that hasn’t been polluted by pr0n? Well, go and look up what Gail Dines has been up to, of course!
Last time I blogged about her, she had mentioned the lecture she gave in the Anti Pr0nography Conference that she was about to publish a book titled “Stepford Sluts”. Unfortunately, she hasn’t. She is, however, about to publish another book titled “Pr0nland; How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality”.

So I’m left with no option but to transcript what little she revealed in that lecture about the book.

“Second wave feminism was about resistance at best and at worst negotiation with patriarchy. Third wave is about capitulation. I think much of the Third Wave feminism is the thinking woman’s cosmopolitan.
Let’s talk about what’s going on in the culture. Let’s talk about the move towards what I would call “slut culture”. Why do I say “slut culture”. To explain that I’m going to explain the title of my new book. It’s gonna be called “Stepford Sluts”. You can all guess why. Last year they re released “Stepford Wives”. The film was bombed, for a number of reasons, my main understanding is that it was a ridiculous movie to make in 2006. Why? Because the ideal woman is indeed on her hands and knees but she ain’t cleaning any kitchen floors on her hands and knees. The ideal woman constructed in patriarchy is no longer a Stepford Wife, it’s a Stepford Slut. Equally robotic, equally capitulated, equally mindless and brainless, and equally distressed internally.”

I think she’s onto something. It’s been going on in my head for some time. This “Slut Culture” is the equivalent of the 50s “Housewife Culture”. Its real objective, of course, is the oppression of women. However women see it as “empowering” and will defend it to the grave.

After “Stepford Wives” came the Second Wave. I can only hope that after “Slut Culture” we have a Wave that gets rid of it.

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Harriet Harman Offends Someone

Apparently, Harriet Harman has said something that wasn’t perfectly crafted to offend precisely nobody. As a result, someone somewhere got offended. Cue in the cries of “omgz!! The misandry!!!eleventy!”. (I’ll believe in “misandry” when Ms Word recognizes the word).

Here’s my response to Harman’s comment: I don’t care. Really, I don’t care. Could she have expressed her ideas better? Maybe. But so? Male politicians offend women with practically every word they utter, and somehow no one gets his boxers in a bunch and devotes kilometres of lines of op-eds to it. Which lays bare the real reason why Harman’s speech is dissected and analyzed to ridiculous extremes: because she’s a woman and she’s a politician and she’s saying something, as opposed to saying nothing, which is the natural order of things. If a woman (or a man) has to think and re think every word she’s about to say, she’ll end up not saying anything at all. Truth expressed imperfectly is always better than perfect, pristine truth that goes unspoken. If we demand perfection, we will get nothing. I should know. I demand perfection from myself and I end up writing nada. (Now, “nada” is a word that Ms Word recognizes).

Along with the cries of “the misandry”, Harman has had to contend with accusations of being “anti meritocratic”.
Oh, the meritocracy. Known in this blog here after as the (sh)meritocracy.
I take issue with the (sh)meritocracy from Hell for many many reasons, and I’m planning on writing a book about it the second I finish bumming around doing nothing. I don’t believe in it, I don’t like it, and I think it’s doing more harm than good. Also, it has messed up with my mind and my heart enough already, so it’s personal.

Here’s the basic, core argument against it. The (sh)meritocracy doesn’t work and cannot work because, in a world designed by rich white men for rich white men, the best person for the job which will best serve the interests of rich white men is, expectably, a rich white man. Occasionally a not rich or not white or not man may get the job in question, but only in so far as s/he best serves the interests of (you guessed it) rich white men. We know the story; we refer to them as the “honorary white” (*cof*Obama*cof*), the “honorary man” (*cof*Thatcher*cof*) or the “honorary elite born” (*cof*Blair*cof*).

All this goes back to the age old argument on whether the world should be restructured as we go along or destroyed with a bang and rebuilt from the ground up. I favour bangs, aka: revolutions. Which leads me to the reason why I keep quiet about using my “revolution is the answer” card to all possible issues, which means I end up keeping quiet about pretty much everything. The reason is that I cannot be arsed to write about it I have no idea what to do. I haven’t come up with a recipe for a big bang style revolution that will shatter patriarchy, destroy capitalism and put an end to all hierarchies in society. But the minute I do, I promise I will present the recipe to everyone in this here blog, entirely free of charge and with all the fanfare and fireworks it deserves.

In the meantime, let’s leave Harriet Harman alone. She’s pissing off the Daily Male, she must be doing something right.

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Rose Tinted Standards

Via Feministing I came across this story from the Beeb titled “Should we not dress girls in pink?”
Since this is the Beeb, I think it reasonable to assume they will claim to follow the “unbiased”, “objective”, “fair”, “balanced” mantra of modern journalism. We would, therefore, expect them to provide “both sides of the story”.

Ha! It seems journalistic standards go out the window when it comes to a feminist critique of society.

The article starts off describing how things were colour-gender-wise at the beginning of last century. In order to kick of the imaginary discussion needed for the issue to fit the “he said, she said” reporting template, the article goes on to gives us the arguments from Sue Palmer, who suggests tentatively that all the pink imposed on female children might not be such a good idea.

But some commentators now believe pink dominates the upbringing of little girls, and this may be damaging.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, says the “total obsession” with pink stunts girls’ personalities. “I am very worried about it. You can’t find girls over the age of three who aren’t obsessed with the colour. It’s under their skin from a very early age and severely limits choices, and decisions.

“We have got to get something done about the effect marketeers are having. We are creating little fluffy pink princess, an image of girliness, that is very specific and which some girls don’t want to go along with, but due to overwhelming peer pressure, are having to conform to.”

Interesting. Tame, for my standards, but it gets the point across that something could be a bit off.

The imaginary discussion continues with the opposite arguments made by Mr Gurian. And it goes on. And on. I won’t reproduce them here because they are made up of the same old “everything is peachy” tosh that feminists encounter approximately 14826 times every day.

By the end of the article, Mr Gurian’s name has been mentioned 6 times. Ms Palmer’s? Only twice. Mr Gurian got 316 words in 13 paragraphs. Ms Palmer,167 words in 4 paragraphs.
What was that about “both sides of the story”? Fairness? Balance? Equality between the genders in today’s society that couldn’t possibly be tainted by pinkness in childhood? By the time one is done reading, even radical feminists will be agreeing with Mr Gurian! After all, he explains his arguments in a very rational, convincing way, while Ms Palmer is barely given time to ring a metaphorical bell.

This would admittedly be a good end to the post, but I have something else to add. What first caught my attention after reading Ms Palmer’s words was this:

”We are creating little fluffy pink princess, an image of girliness, that is very specific and which some girls don’t want to go along with, but due to overwhelming peer pressure, are having to conform to.”

Can you see how she has to resort to the idea of “individual liberties”? In this relativistic world of ours, people’s freedoms cannot be touched. No one can come out and say “this is morally wrong”, because hey, some people like “morally wrong” and anyway, “your wrong might not be my wrong” and “who are you to decide what anyone should like or not like”? So Ms Palmer is practically forced to include the rather obvious fact that “some girls have to conform” so as to get across the idea that someone’s liberties to NOT be pinkified are being trampled on through peer pressure.
This “trick” is one of the very few available to feminists and “progressives” to explain to people that something might be wrong with their sacred choices without having to suffer the accusations of being a dictator. “Your beloved choice is an imposition to other people who do not get to choose”. This topic should probably get a post all on its own, but I wanted to draw attention to it here because in this example it is particularly sad. Children do not have “choices”. Furthermore, the should NOT have choices. It is not up to children to decide what is best for them, colour wise or not. Therefore, children’s preference over a particular shade of colour should not count when discussing what’s best for them. And if the desire for “pink” shouldn’t matter, neither should the desire for “not pink”. The fact that some girls “have to go along with it because of peer pressure” is irrelevant. It’s adults who get to decide, not children.

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A Rather Evil Path

How wonderful. There’s a guy at liberal conspiracy who’s telling us what the “real” causes of women’s oppression are and aren’t and how worrying about meaningless little things like re classifying p0rn as actual p0rn won’t do anything to help us. (won’t link to him, it’s easy to find anyways)
First of all, Mr Dude, it’s not up to you, or any man, to decide what the causes of women’s oppression are. That’s something we women have to do, and you men have to put up with whatever decision we come up with.
Secondly, even if it were true that the causes of women’s oppression had nothing to do with lads mags, it is no less true that they do have an impact on women’s everyday lives. And even if they didn’t, their existence still pisses us off. That should be enough reason to get rid of them.
Thirdly, we cannot actually legislate against the real causes of women’s oppression. Because the only way to end with women’s oppression would be for men to stop oppressing women. That exceeds the power of the law. And we have to make do with what we currently have.

Now I’m not going to waste valuable space on my blog explaining things to yet another guy who doesn’t “get it”, who isn’t interested in “getting it” and who will never know I am here writing about his arrogant ignorance. Instead, I’ll focus on how the causes of women’s oppression are related to lads mags/p0rn.
You can visualize the oppression of women as a river with many paths, each one corresponding to a different aspect of life, extending over a huge surface that eventually covers the whole of society. In order to control women’s oppression and to eventually destroy it, the feminist movement has focused on blocking many of those paths that carry the oppression everywhere. It has had some success, of course. The path of the “public sphere” has been blocked to some extent, and now at least it’s not so acceptable to demand women get back in the kitchen.
But as with any river, when one path is blocked, the water has to find another way to get through. And there is one path that no one has been able to block so far. That’s the path of the “sexual sphere”. Never before has the sex industry been so big. Never before has so much misogyny been pouring into what we call “human sexuality”. And it’s terrifying. Women’s oppression is not “decreasing”. It’s merely going where no one can control it. That’s why I favour any measure to contain this constant, ever increasing flux of sexual misogyny. Because when oppression is contained, it becomes easier to destroy.

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The Zero Sum Job Game

Zero Sum Game: zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). ie: if one gains, another loses.

Because the job market is all about competition! And because for you to win, others have to lose! Doesn’t it sound FUN?

Proving once again that propaganda is everywhere, even when we don’t notice it. “Competing is good, so long as you come before everyone else”, “everyone can reach the top if you know the right tricks” and “there’s not enough to go around”.

Dedicated to Lynn Gary, producer of the awesome radio programme Unwelcome Guests and author of the quote above, for providing the world with a good-sized serving of dissent and for giving me a much needed weekly dose of sanity.

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