Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom called 1920s-Era New Orleans, lived a pornalicious young Black chambermaid named Maddy. Maddy worked in the plantation manor of honky Big Daddy La Bouff where, though she suffered racism and economic oppression, she maintained a cheerful, can-do attitude. Much of this racism and oppression was hurled at her by the equally pornalicious Charlotte La Bouff, daughter of Big Daddy. Big Daddy sublimated his sexual desire for his daughter by lavishing expensive gifts upon her. She, in unconscious recognition of her precarious material state, maintained a thinly-veiled flirtation with her father while aggressively seeking a husband to support her. Her hostility toward Maddy was merely a projection of her insecurity, but it was frightening and stressful to Maddy.
One day, a handsome honky named Prince Harry came to the kingdom of 1920s-Era New Orleans from a distant country called Europe. Being callow, Prince Harry was drawn to the wealth attached to the land-owner's daughter, but soon an even more degraded and sexually available creature caught his eye. Prince Harry's economic security allowed him the luxury of "falling in love" with someone far below his station. He was charmed by Maddy's intelligence and her sassy, can-do attitude. This attitude amused him, but because of Maddy's celebrated pornaliciousness and the fact that she was thoroughly indoctrinated with prevailing gender stereotypes, her sassiness was just that, and posed no actual threat. On the contrary, his unaccountable attraction to Maddy let the Prince see himself as open-minded and forward-thinking, reinforcing his comfortable smugness for taking up his bundle in The White Man's Burden.
Charlotte, desperate for economic security, was furious that Harry's eye had strayed. She went for help to Dr. Duvalier, a grasping, Uncle Tom-ing voodoo magician. Dr. Duvalier cast an evil spell on Prince Harry, but Maddy was not going to let her honky opportunity go that easily. She appealed to Mama Odie, also a Voodoo magician, for help. Mama Odie broke the evil spell, allowing Prince Harry to marry the resourceless and therefore assuredly docile Maddy.
Prove me wrong, Mouse.
[ETA: I can't get over the fact that the story is set in New Orleans. "Maybe George Bush doesn't care about black people, but Disney does!" Bah.]
[EATA: Copyrighted material will be quickly and cheerfully removed upon request.]
Thursday, March 15, 2007
March 14, 2007 | I see in the paper that the U.S. Department of Education laid out $750,000 for a study that shows that going to art museums and looking at art is good for schoolchildren, which I would have been happy to tell them for, say, $500 and a nice lunch. I also have some thoughts about the defecatory habits of bears, if the Forestry Service is interested. If the government is paying large sums of money to have the obvious pointed out, then I am your man. Ask me about this war and I'll tell you for free.
I grew up the child of a heteronormative marriage that lasted until death freed one of them, and I could tell you about how brainwashing that is for children, and you could pay me whatever you think it's worth.
Back in the day, that was the only permitted arrangement. Everyone white and decent had a yard, a garage, a female house-slave, a male wage-slave and a refrigerator with leftover boiled potatoes in plastic dishes with snap-on lids. This was before Betty Friedan, before civil rights protections, before non-whites got uppity, for crying out loud. You could put me in a glass case at the history center and schoolchildren could press a button and ask me questions.
A facade of monogamy kept the parents' misery and infidelity in the background where they belong and we children were able to hold center stage in our own minds, where some of us managed to stay. We didn't have to contend with obviously troubled, angry parents trying to make life richer and more rewarding for them. We blossomed and agonized and fussed over our outfits and learned how to perform heteronormative activities and establish economic dominance and do the twist and rape in the front seat of a car back before bucket seats when you could really get someone pinned down, and we started down the path toward begetting children while Mom and Dad stood like smiling, helpless, desperately unhappy mannequins in the background.
Society is about continuation of oppressive gender norms -- in other words, socialization of children. Society does not care about the emotional or physical well-being of any people other than economically powerful adult white males.
Under the old facade-of-monogamy system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning socially mandated quasi-religious imperio-capitalistic rituals among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the point where a child might be able to cobble together a viable support system. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck -- and be able to turn to one of them for protection against sexual or physical abuse.
And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we heteronormative adult white males will have to find some other way of establishing our dominance.
The country has continued to accept comically gay, albeit asexual men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as human, however, all forms of personal expression except those in strict compliance with the hetnorm paradigm must be completely eliminated. Adults are supposed to repress their personal desires and ambitions and not deviate from accepted behavior. That's for the kids. Until we stomp it out.
Last week I visited a grade school not far from where I grew up, and I strolled into a second-grade classroom and, good Lord, those ethnic faces -- black, black, Chinese, Mexican. Only about six kids were decently white, and of those, three were foreigners.
It was I Love Reading Week, and I was there as a colonialist blowhard. So I told them a story about how, back in the day, we were murderous imperialists and rode horses across those flat spaces that are now occupied by horribly polluting government-subsidized agri-businesses, rounding up the Native Americans, even in blizzards. For proof, I displayed my collection of real Indian ears and I got them all to do the tomahawk chop.
They seemed to understand it all, at least the chop-chop part, and they better know their place for having met me. Continue to pay me millions of dollars and I'll continue to indoctrinate you and your young with my out-of-tune singing and faux-nostalgic oppressive ideology.
Huh. That's a handy device.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
My friend Quelle gave me her copy of The Rules when I was getting divorced, and it changed my life. I'll give you a minute to get your gag reflex under control, because, yeah, it's awful. If you've never had the pleasure, here's an excerpt. My favorite part is when they say, "Men who respond to The Rules are not sick or stupid, but quite normal and healthy. Your average guy." Somehow, I don't see the connection between "not sick or stupid, but . . . healthy" and "average guy." Anyway, I certainly don't have a copy of that crap in my house, so I'll have to give you everything from memory. Shockingly, once removed from the feminist acid bath, The Rules offers one--one--very valuable lesson: Men aren't all that. Really. That's the covert thesis of The Rules. It's so covert that almost no one picks it up, but I'm telling you, it's there.
I can see you're skeptical, but hear me out. The stated purpose of the Rules is to get a ring onto your dainty finger. It assumes that any marriage that flows from rigorous application of the Rules will necessarily be a happy one. It is my contrary belief that such a marriage will be a '50s-style tragedy, and that the only man you'll snag with the Rules is an Oedipal case. But to make my pro-Rules argument, I must take you back to my eighteenth year. I had just started college. It was a bright, sunny day, and I was walking across campus when I suddenly became aware of my posture. My shoulders were hunched, head down, elbows drawn in, with my arms crossed low in front to hide my belly fat. Now, I liked at the time to think of myself as a person projecting confidence, but I had to realize that I was wrong about that. I thought about it for a moment, and decided that, even if I'm not confident, I can pretend I'm confident. With difficulty, I straightened my spine, lowered my arms, and lifted my head. I think my new, commanding presence lasted about as long as it took to get across the quad. That time. After that, whenever I noticed myself cowering, I did my best to lift my head and walk purposefully. One day, I realized that I was standing up straight, arms relaxed, weight balanced, and I hadn't even been thinking about it. The upshot is that, by pretending to be confident, I became confident.
The central commandment of the Rules is this: Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. What the Rules "girls" mean by this is that you should act like you don't care whether a given man notices you or not. You should never be overly friendly or encouraging, and you must never take the romantic lead because, as they constantly remind us, man pursues woman. This is most decidedly not the same thing as Thou shalt not be obsessed with men, or Thou shalt not make the quest for a bacon-bringer the center of thy life. But. When you yourself are an Electra case, when you yourself think of male attention as the nectar of the gods, when you yourself have been taught that you and your body exist for the pleasure and comfort of men, this is quite a revelation. Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. Wow. So I started acting like men were no big deal. I started acting like I didn't expect to be taken advantage of. Like I was a real, human person who deserved to be treated like the fucking gift from God that I am. Pretty soon, it wasn't pretending anymore. It was all true.
Now, I don't even like men. That might sound harsh, but really, most men are entitled jerks. A man has to prove himself worthy of my regard before I'll, you know, regard him. This is not solely because of The Rules, but I have to admit, they were a spark. Take those sparks where you can get them, friends.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 shakes of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 435 degrees. Cut out leaves off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Finely chop the garlic and then mix the rest of the ingredients together. Toss Brussels sprouts with the marinade. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then spoon Brussels sprouts onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender and slightly caramelized.
So. Yesterday, I discovered that my dear, darling husband, hereafter referred to as "Sweetie," had been looking at pornography online.
He and I had never really discussed porn, and after a long, tearful, and exhausting talk last night, he sees where I'm coming from. He really is very sweet, though he's one of those who doesn't see his entitlement and its attending innocence. I gave him this article to read, which is a pretty good porn primer for the radfem-curious. Anyway, I thought I might share some of my talking points for any of y'all who have to school their friends and neighbors on the evils of porn:
* This is a picture of a real person, who exists for her own purposes. Her decision to pose nude had nothing to do with you. She did not do it to please you, or because she likes you, or to turn you on. She did it for her own reasons, which probably include paying the rent, feeding her children, and/or not having the crap beaten out of her.
* Even if she thinks she wants to pose nude, why does she think that this is an appropriate way for her to display herself? Why does she see herself as a sex object?
* When this woman poses as a sex object, she is reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class. When you look at pictures of her posed as a sex object, you are reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class.
* Most women who work in the sex trade do so because it's the only way they can make enough money to support themselves. This raises the question: Why should this be the only way she can make enough money to support herself?
* What makes you think you have the right to look at these women when they don't have any clothes on? Before you say, "They volunteered," imagine this scenario: You and I are walking down the street. You say you are tired, so I get down on my hands and knees and offer to carry you on my back. I tell you I am pleased to do it. Is it right for you to sit on my back and let me carry you? Just because someone invites you to degrade them doesn't make it alright to do it.
There was more, but that's the gist. All this was before my big discussion of the socially constructed nature of gender, around which he's still trying to wrap his mind. He's coming along, though.