Archive for the ‘Gender Inequity’ Category

A Womb with a View…to CHANGE

October 12, 2012

“I don’t mind not getting to go to school or have a vocation, to develop my talents and abilities and achieve big visionary goals, after all, most of the Western women who get all those things say that nothing beats being a Mum. Guess I should feel lucky to get started so young….”
NOT!

Jessica Valenti, of the Nation, recently wrote a great piece entitled “I’m not a Mom First” in which she intelligently discussed the gender politics implicit in the current trend for re-mythologizing motherhood as the ultimate expression of femaleness.

Today being the UN Day of the Girl, (though many people won’t know as Google didn’t think nearly as important to mention as the birthday of some Japanese animator to take just one example from the random trivialities they choose to celebrate) and there having been several stories in the press lately from the Jimmy Savile and institutionally corrupt BBC culture to the plight of child brides and child mothers, I thought I’d re-post my comment to Valenti’s article here.

If you want to read the Valenti column and mostly disappointing comments first, here is the link:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/170373/im-not-mother-first

My comment:
I think this is a great article and I totally disagree with people like Penny White, below, who think that “individualism sucks”. I am member of one of the most overlooked and ignored of ALL groups of women, regardless of racial or socio-economic identity, we are even villainized as some kind of unnatural traitors against our sex: that is: women who do not now and will not ever have children! Uppity bitches, the lot of us! I have lost count of how many times total strangers have found it appropriate to ask me within the first 2 or 3 exchanges of chit-chat whether or not I have children. This is even before they ask me that other boring stand-by: what do I “do” (?!) and I am guessing this is because I am clearly old enough to have had kids already and getting too old to be thinking of doing so if not. I find it incredibly sad, not to mention irritating, that indeed women still are looked at in terms of their relations to others, rather than in terms of their own INDIVIDUAL identity and goals and achievments and that little “grandmothers, sisters, wives” speech quote above was nauseatingly familiar to me*. (* see Valenti article)

Women with children ARE expected to be “moms first” and lots of women who’ve succeeded in other walks of life, from movie stars to CEOs, are only too happy to push this saccharin p.o.v. in interviews, further perpetuating the idea that woman is not really woman after all, unless she breeds. Men’s role of fatherhood is still accepted as a far lesser one and one that need never interfere with his career goals: whether they be in the military or as a portrait painter, rare is the man who has been prevented from doing what he wants simply because one of his sperm happens to have taken hold somewhere. Widowed men are practically the only ones who end up raising kids alone. (Until they re-marry another child-carer that is!) Absentee fathers are routinely reunited with their curious adult offspring who go on to have rich relationships with them. Whereas women who walk away from motherhood, oops, only after having given birth are still villified. How dare they not just stick it out! Brigitte Bardot went from being a woman created by God, to something suspiciously less than human when she left the kid behind with her ex-husband. Even Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the irreproachable Nobel-prize-winning heroine of Burma, has been much discussed for daring to put an entire country’s destiny ahead of her “duty” to put children and family first.

Does this ever get said of male heros? Not much.

I intend to take full advantage of the fact that for the first time in human history, we are at a point where not only do we NOT need to increase the population, but women are finally being freed of the expectation that their life ought to be a quest for a partner with whom to bring forth the next generation! Well kind of. At least here in the West.

 

But as shocking statistics of child marriage and child pregnancy worldwide continue to demonstrate, the female IS still viewed on a global scale as nothing more than as a biological receptacle. When we women in the West do not uphold the right for females to forego the experience of motherhood and instead to pursue to the fullest their talents and abilities, when we win Oscars, head corporations, go into space or otherwise achieve on an equal footing with men, only to then get out there and say “oh but none of it matters compared to giving birth to little baby here” we are doing a dis-service to all those girls and women around the world who are being told that every day of their lives and being denied opportunities because that belief is entrenched in their institutions of power and religious authority.

How far away that day (when women aren’t measured by their relationship to others) seems, when even I, an independent, self-employed Western female, am constantly expected to justify why I never got married? Why I never had children? As if I really had to have agonized over this decision and must have some really serious, possibly tragic reason. I am always tempted to lapse into a character from a Victorian novel and reply, “Alas, for I am barren!” It would at least shut them up. The truth is, I always knew I wouldn’t have kids.

 

My life has been about my own personal self-development and my work as a creative and a thinker. I believe that artists especially, have to put their art first. Male artists can be serial impregnators like Lucien Freud, and not “fathers” at all, yet still just get on with their art careers.

How many successful female artists do you, Penny White think have 13 (or possibly 16) children? I’m tired of hearing from privileged Western women about how having children makes people “less selfish” (narcissistic actors love to say this in interviews, post-baby production) whereas I find people with children to be amongst some of the most selfish I’ve ever encountered.

Certainly gigantic welfare families like we have here in Britatin are not known for displaying their qualities of contribution to society.

I am dedicating my life to making the world a better place, through my political activism, my music, my writing, my travels and my friendships. Every jerk that ever lived was somebody’s baby once, so I hope everyone who insists that motherhood is the true measure of the woman keeps that in mind.

Clearly some of those women would’ve made the world a better place by not reproducing!

FAT SLOB SCORES HOT CHICK. (CUE CHEERING?)

January 10, 2011


A friend lent me a DVD of “The Invention of Lying” yesterday and I watched it last night.

Beyond confirming that I really, really don’t like Ricky Gervais, and ignoring the filmmakers’ evident confusion about the difference between “not telling a lie” and “saying whatever the hell comes into your head”, glossing over the breathtaking unoriginality of the last-minute-objection-at-the-wedding climax, and even going so far as to let them off the hook altogether for the cheap-sounding musical score, the film mainly irked me for another all-too-familiar reason, suggested in the title of this piece.

Can anyone out there remember any film ever made in which the storyline focuses on a physically unattractive female winning over the gorgeous alpha-male, purely by means of her wit and self-deprecating charm?

I didn’t think so.

(And before you say “Strictly Ballroom”, let’s not forget that the clumsy and pockmarked female love interest is transformed by that film’s end into, if not exactly the equivalent of beautiful dancer Paul Mercurio, at least a reasonably attractive young woman who no longer bumps into things. She’s definitely not fat and her dress sense improves considerably whilst she also manages to lose the bottle-bottom specs, get her hair sorted, and cure herself of acne.)

Yet how many Hollywood films feature EXACTLY this dynamic, but of course going the other way around? About ten a minute.

What really makes me sick about this particular narrative arc is that whereas the beautiful females are meant to be able to look beneath the surface and see the loveable dude beneath the double-chin and sagging gut, the loveable dude’s quest to win over the beautiful woman is never questioned. So who exactly is the superficial one?

There was a funny moment, one of the only ones, in “The Invention of Lying” in which hapless Ricky professes his feelings for genetically perfect Jennifer Garner; telling her that she is the sweetest, most caring person he’s ever known. This is apparently based on the fact that while she’s reluctantly enduring a dinner date with him, his Mum starts dying and gorgeous Jen goes along to the hospital rather than taking a cab home.

Um, I believe that to be normal human behaviour and not indicative of any great wellspring of compassion in the heart of what can only be a saint.

Ricky’s rhapsody about Jennifer’s shining spirit is a “laugh-out-loud moment” (to use the parlance of tabloid reviewers) not because of any jokes in the script (in fact this is supposed to be one of the film’s many tedious “heartfelt ‘n serious” bits), but because her character, up to this point, has not exhibited a single one of the numerous lovely and eternal qualities which Ricky fabricates that she possesses, but has in fact consistently demonstrated nothing but extreme shallowness, outrageous vanity, and harshly judgmental attitudes towards pretty much everyone. She’s basically a stuck-up airhead cunt. But she sure is pretty! Really, really, really, really pretty!

Isn’t that what Ricky’s character honestly meant: you’re a complete fucking bitch without a single thought in your brain, but I still want to stick my penis in you because fat schmucks like myself never get to bone hot women? (Except in crap movies like this which then make us movie stars so we can hopefully graduate to boning hot women in real life.)

Yup. That’s what he meant. Three guesses who wrote the script.

“Knocked Up”, yes I did see it, no I can’t remember why, worked this same angle. Gorgeous blonde (Elizabeth Heigl) gets drunk and shags stoner loser (Seth Rogan, who’s based his entire career on the “fat slob scores hot chick” thing) resulting in accidental pregnancy. Forgetting that it’s no longer the 1950s and that she’s nowhere near the end of natural fertility, she feels compelled to bear the offspring of her repulsive and embarrassing one-night stand, and during the pregnancy “gets to know him.” Once that’s accomplished, she cannot possibly resist the REAL PERSON hiding behind those sweaty armpits, and lo and behold, TRUE LOVE happens. So she had to overcome her prejudices about below-average looks and he had to overcome…uh….? I think he smokes less weed and has a job by the end, maybe that’s the trade-off.

I recently saw another terrible film, about a bunch of suburban schmos who think they’re bikers, called “Wild Hogs” (OK, I was mildly depressed and watching a lot of TV after Xmas. Shuddup). This cinematic masterpiece featured the beyond-unlikely romantic pairing of Marisa Tomei – wasted in a practically silent supporting role – and William H. Macy. I wondered what could’ve happened to former Oscar-winner Ms Tomei’s career for her to have even considered accepting a part which forced her to squeeze every possible iota of meaning and subtext out of great lines like “Hi!” But besides that, there was absolutely no explanation for why this extremely pretty and fit young woman who owned her own adorable restaurant, would have the slightest interest in the Macy character, who in addition to being a clumsy and socially awkward geek twice her age, sports a face like the ruins of Pompeii: you can just about work out what everything once was, but it’s definitely not in the right place and there seem to be bits missing.

This kind of shit is so standard now, that the hack writers of “Wild Hogs” didn’t even bother to justify the improbable chemistry but just assumed the audience would find it plausible that this exceptionally attractive and together gal was instantly smitten by Macy’s repertoire of endearing antics, which were mainly a heart-melting tendency to walk into walls and being irresistibly incapable of either completing a sentence or looking anyone in the eye. That is, until a 5 minute dance lesson with a, frankly, enormous John Travolta (har har har geddit) results in shriveled Macy unleashing a previously undiscovered talent for world-class partnering. Hot chick in the bag and confidence restored, all he has to do now is overcome 40 members of the pussiest biker gang in the galaxy, which he dispatches with ease and it’s vroom vroom into the sunset!

It’s true that in “Shallow Hal” this sick-making convention was supposedly toyed with, but in fact it reinforced it. I mean, we’re supposed to find it funny that fat Jack Black is unknowingly attracted to a fat girl but not funny that Gwyneth Paltrow should be attracted to fat Jack. No, that’s just her seeing his inner essence shine through.

So why exactly is it that beautiful women are supposed to stop being shallow and stop limiting sexy contact to guys as hot as they are, while ugly dudes are considered “aspirational” for daring to ask out the office hottie? How come ugly dudes aren’t ever asked to look beyond the surface and maybe check out whether the pimply frump with B.O. lurking behind the water cooler doesn’t in fact have some well-hidden but fine qualities? Perhaps she can fart the Star-spangled Banner? Tee hee. Maybe the slightly-over-the-hill woman with the bad perm and irritating giggle who works the till at the local video store is actually in possession of a wicked sense of humour and does this funny dance thing that gets everyone in hysterics, if you just give her half a chance to overcome her crippling shyness?

Movies never seem to ask those questions.

What really pisses me off about this Hollywood obsession with unattractive nerd men pairing up with female winners of the beauty lottery, is that it has bled out into real life. The combination of those movies and the ubiquity of hyper-surreal porn (in which the women are also invariably better-looking than the cocksmen) has resulted in a population of males that all think they deserve to be with women who look like models, whilst taking zero effort in their own appearance and rejecting as unworthy women who are in fact far more superficially desirable than they will ever be.

Some years ago, I lived in the house of a guy who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, overweight, balding-with-long-back-and-sides and bespectacled, and who dressed exclusively in knee-length shorts, flip flops and T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of software companies. He was searching desperately for his mate and I remember hooking him up one time with a female friend close to his own age who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, slender, a bit wrinkly around the eyes, in recovery from crack addiction, and with a great wardrobe of stylish attire.

After we’d all gone out together and then he and I returned back to the house we shared, he actually wouldn’t speak to me for a while. He was seriously offended that I thought he and my female friend were on the same level in the desirability stakes. In fact, I can assure you that she has a far easier time picking up guys than he does picking up girls, but nonetheless he told me she was “damaged goods” and went back to drooling over the recently-single goddess of the local music scene, who was blonde, fit, 20 years younger than him and with a line of suitors that spanned the Golden Gate Bridge.

My tongue loosened by MDMA one evening I tried to talk to him about this.

Has it ever occurred to you, I asked him, that Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful (to give her a pseudonym) might spend a lot of time, energy and money on the following things: exercising, eating correctly, having hair, nails and skin professionally serviced, buying on-trend and flattering clothing?

You are attracted to her at least partially (mostly) because of these things – because of the way she makes herself look, I continued. It’s true that she had good raw material to begin with, but I guarantee you that she, like most other women, then maximized on her natural attributes in order to make the best of them.

Therefore, do you not think it likely that she – like you – might possibly be interested in a mate who is also fit, well-groomed and nicely dressed? Don’t you think she is also interested in appearances seeing that she takes so much care regarding her own?

But no. My poor dear friend really could not see that there was anything wrong with him setting his sights on Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful, nor did he feel it unlikely that she would someday look beyond his shlumpy exterior to unearth the gem that quivered for release beneath all that Adipose tissue.

It’s true that her previous boyfriend had been one of the ugliest dudes in the Bay Area, with facial skin like exploded bubble wrap, but he also happened to be an egoist of monumental proportions who was something of a celebrity on the local scene, which in the attraction sweepstakes cancels out the equivalent of at least two receding hairlines.

Dan Savage, of the brilliant Savage Love “advice” column, once did an extra-brilliant piece about the lonelyhearts issues of the TMI community (that’s Traumatic Brain Injury). Apparently the number-one most desirable feature in women sought by TMI men (this whole article is from a hetero perspective by the way – homosexual beauty fascism being a topic unto itself) was that they be “able-bodied”. Though there are obvious advantages to dating someone who can walk, if you happen to be stuck in a wheelchair, the desire for able-bodied love apparently wasn’t just about convenience and having someone to mop up drool, it was a status thing. Savage quite rightly pointed out the obvious hypocrisy of expecting the able-bodied woman to look beyond the disability and embrace the severely damaged body of the male TMI victim, whilst the male TMI victims themselves were completely unable to do this and were actively disinterested in seeking love amongst their own ranks.

He also noted while doing his research, that though he did indeed occasionally see an able-bodied woman selflessly devoting herself to her TMI lover, he never, as in NOT ONCE, saw an able-bodied man with a TMI woman.

(Before angry male spouses of female TMI victims come after me with pitchforks, let me make clear I’m talking about relationships formed after the injury, not ones that survived it.)

Beauty fascism isn’t nice. It’s not nice to dismiss people because they are physically damaged, or just not terribly cute, because they have no fashion sense, bad hair or rotten taste in shoes. Obviously, we should all be able to look beyond the surface exterior to discover the soul of a person and we shouldn’t be so stupid and naive as to think that a person of great beauty is also a great person.

But one-sided beauty fascism is even worse. This idea that men don’t have to be that great-looking in order to be attractive to women but women, no matter what their other qualities, must still be great-looking in order to attract even below-average-looking men is just super-twisted.

I just went on Google and typed “fat dude skinny chick” and found a popular question on Yahoo Answers to be one that dealt with this dilemma, specifically “How can I get a skinny chick to like me, a fat dude?”

Unsurprisingly, most of the answerers banged on about getting one’s unique and loveable personality to shine through the fat.

Not one person suggested losing some fucking weight.

Get your fucking hands off me

December 26, 2010


Last night I was at a wonderful Christmas party and then, right at the end, the whole thing was spoiled. I wrote a letter to the person I had a conflict with, but as I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again, I’m posting it here.

Dear Dude from Party

If I were a man, would you have thought to grab me by the arms and physically restrain me when I said I wanted to leave?

I doubt it.

Because then you would have had to consider whether or not you had a good chance of victory, should the man not like being grabbed by the arms and attempt to fuck you up. You would have had to look at the guy, assess his strength, size, fitness level and aggression quotient and determine for yourself whether it was a risk worth taking.

Not so with a woman. That’s a no-brainer – unless she’s the female heavyweight boxing champion of the world, you’re gonna win.

The instant I felt your grip on my elbows I knew that this was a battle I could not win and that yes, if it came down to it you could force me to hear you out. Men have been doing this to women since the beginning of time. Exerting their physical superiority in order to make women obey them, listen to them.

How are women to get men to listen?

I can’t hold you down and make you hear me.

That’s why I feel so passionately about secular society and Western institutions. That’s why I hate all religions and Islam in particular. Because they enshrine man’s physical superiority in laws that give him legal superiority as well.

That’s why I want Europeans and Americans to stop bashing the West and try to strengthen our secular institutions and democracy, however flawed. Because here at least, we have legal instruments that make it so the physical law of strength doesn’t run things like back in the jungle.

Here we have laws that say women can do whatever they want and that men cannot tell them how to dress, what kind of sex to have, who to believe in or what to think. Men cannot tell women when they may or may not leave a room.

Men still try to do it anyway, as you yourself demonstrated, but we have LAWS that at least give some avenue of retribution. So-called honour killings still happen in the UK but the murderers can be prosecuted.

You interfered with my free will and as long as there is no Sharia Law in the UK then I, along with any other human being, have the right to decide for myself when I leave a room.

Although I think you are a nice person and I had enjoyed most of your company up until that point, I must tell you that in that moment you may have had no intention of doing so but you DID in fact, re-enact the entire history of male/female relations and it’s a sad one.

Do you remember when, as a child, everyone could pick you up, put you down, make you do anything at all because they were so big and you were so very small? Do you remember how helpless and angry you sometimes felt when, kicking and wailing, the physically superior beast would carry you to your room, deposit you there, and shut and lock the door behind them? Do you?

That infantile fear of being completely dominated never quite leaves those of us who are female.

I know you did not mean to hurt me and had no evil intent, but the ease with which you gripped my arms and prevented me from carrying out my free will did indeed send me into hysteria. Can you understand this?

Earlier, we had had a brief discussion about Islamism and I explained to you that I was distressed by Westerner’s harsh critique of their own history, at the detriment of the better things that have emerged from it. I told you that it troubled me that people in countries where free speech was “allowed” spent so much time attacking the imperfections of their government instead of realizing that the whole flawed enterprise is under threat and that we better shore up the dams. You and Graeme, both men, were typically unmoved by my words, asking me if I’d read the Koran etc.

In fact, I do not express opinions unless I have thoroughly researched the subject so yes, having studied Islam quite enough, I feel secure in my p.o.v. that it is harmful to the cause of gender equity and the principle of separation of church and state.

You proved my case, inadvertently, when you grabbed my arms. You acted as a man who thinks he has a right over me, that my own choice to leave can be cancelled by your will that I stay, enforced by your body. That is exactly the kind of shit I want to make sure is not considered acceptable.

Speaking of not expressing opinions when ignorant, this brings me to the trigger for the final act last night. You were attempting to opine on the subject of ley lines. You didn’t know what the fuck you were talking about. This is not name-dropping but I happen to have been fortunate enough to be personally acquainted with the person who made everyone, including you (though you don’t know it), aware of ley lines in the 20th century. His name, may you never forget it, was John Michell. He was quite simply the best person I have ever known and none will ever match his intelligence, originality, humour, generosity and sheer brilliance. He died last year and I still weep despondently and with regularity over his absence. I am not alone in this. It may sound ridiculously inflated to state that knowing John was like sitting at the feet of Plato, or hanging out with William Blake, but if you bother to investigate you will see that even the mainstream newspapers made such comparisons when he died. One day, if we don’t go up in flames because of some idiotic “religous” war, his name will be up there with Galileo.

If you want to give me an opinion about opera but say you don’t know Puccini then guess what, I don’t give a shit about your opinion because it is incompletely informed.

Likewise, there is absolutely nothing you can say on the subject of ley lines that will ever brighten my mind because I knew the master himself – of whom you’ve never heard (!) – so shut up.

Instead of shutting up, realizing you were in the presence of someone who had greater knowledge than you, and first-hand intimacy with the modern father of the discipline, you tried to physically hold me down when I realized you were a lost cause and wanted to leave.

I know myself and my temper and it is therefore my responsiblity to handle it in the best way possible so as to have the least adverse affect on others. That is what I was trying to do when I realized you were angering me and it was late, we were drunk and I should probably go home.

How fucking dare you second guess my choice.

I did not want to have an argument in Bella’s flat, knew she was trying to sleep and so acted to avoid this outcome.

But by refusing to recognize me as a sovereign being you caused the very explosion I was trying to avert.

I hope that you will never again in your life use your physical strength to make a woman listen to you or to prevent her from going where she wishes.

Though it was unconscious, you demonstrated an ugly reality about gender relations and I pray that it gives you much food for thought.

And finally, before you attempt to discuss ley lines again, read up on John Michell. Had he not come across a battered old copy of Alfred Watkins’ “The Ley Hunter’s Manual” at some charity shop somewhere in the UK, sometime in the late 1950s, I can guarantee that the book would be unavailable today, rather than in print, and furthermore that every single author on the subject since then would have had to find something else to do with their lives as they would be unaware of ley lines. It was John who rediscovered this work and then devoted his life to meticulously documenting and measuring sacred geometrical topography, and whose numbers and proofs were so elegant and beautifully explained that they essentially founded the modern study of ancient measure.

Your ignorance was stunning but it pales next to your arrogance.

No hard feelings. But I hope you learned something from this.

Yours truly,

The Holy Healing Bitch
p.s. Just noticed after writing this that I have bruises in the shapes of fingers on my left arm, just above the elbow. I see your point. Literally.