Monday, April 16, 2007
I mentioned this to Sweetie, who responded that it's a vital element of the story that she's a stripper. I agree that it is important in that it explains the logistics of how she came to be at the party, and in that her status as a sex worker certainly affected how those upstanding college men viewed her. So fine. The news media might have a reason to mention that she's a stripper. But why, my friends, why does it have to be part of the headline? Why does this story have to use the word "stripper" five times? Why does it have to say things like this:
"At the height of the uproar over the charges, even [Durham District Attorney Mike] Nifong conceded that there was no scientific or eyewitness testimony implicating the students. There was only the word of a woman who removed her clothes for money and entertained strangers in hotel rooms."Of course, I know the answer: Clearly, if the only way you can make enough money to support yourself and your children is in the sex trade, then you are at best unreliable, and you're probably a lying slut who was asking for it.
I guess she could have gotten a job at Wal-Mart.
I avoid the nastier quarters of the blogosphere like the plague they are, but I can only imagine what kinds of horrifyingly violent fantasies have been perpetrated against this poor woman. I picture it like a Mad-Lib: "That [___adj.___] [___noun___] needs to have the [___noun___] [___verb___]ed out of her! A little taste of my [___adj.___] [___noun___] will teach her a lesson. She'll be [___verb___]ing for [___noun___]." I certainly don't mean to suggest that only sex workers would have this kind of violent hatred directed at them. Any person of any sex, gender, or color who accuses someone higher up the totem pole of sexualized violence is opening him- or herself up to all manner of abuse, usually in the form of threats of more sexualized violence. "You like to accuse your betters of rape? Well, maybe a little rape will shut you up." What I mean to suggest is that every time they say "stripper" where they could say "woman" or "person" or even "mother," they're ripping away one more shred of her shredded humanity. Sex workers are disposable, and they're disposing of her piece by piece.
But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. This morning I was listening to Kevin and Bean (I know, I know), and they had a segment where they invited calls from people who had had neighbors who had committed hideous crimes. One person talked about a woman who had chopped her husband into bits and then burned her house down around herself; another regaled the greater Los Angeles area with the story of a crippled foreigner who'd hacked up a twelve-year-old boy with a machete. Good mornin'! One man, though, called to say that he had lived next door to the Simi Valley rapist. Something the caller said kinda got to me, and almost made me cry. He said that this guy had "raped like forty people." After being pelted with the word "stripper" all week, after Anna Nicole Smith was carved up like joints for a feast, after all the slings and arrows hurled day in and day out by the Man tryin' to keep us down, I was touched--really and actually touched--when this caller referred to these rape victims as people. "He raped like forty people." I checked, and it turns about that he actually raped about a dozen people (but who's counting), and that all his victims were women, but just for a moment, this anonymous KROQ listener made them not just women but actual people. That's all we want. We don't want to be "equal." That doesn't even make sense. It suggests that you superior men should deign to raise us silly lil' wimmins to your exalted level. I don't want to be equal; I am equal. What I want is to stop being defined by the fact that I happen to have a fucking uterus, and to be defined instead by the fact that I am a human person.
The fact that I have a uterus is one of the least interesting things about me. Half the mammals on the planet have uterii; why should I be pigeonholed by this animal thing? If I have to be put in a box, why can't it be the box of the super-smart, or the moderately lazy, or the easily riled? Why the uterus box? Why not the slovenly box, or the generous box, or the cranky-in-the-morning box? Now, there are plenty of sub-divisions in the uterus box; I guess I'm in the uppity-unfuckable corner of the uterus box. I guess I'm sending you a postcard.
Just the other day, I heard someone use the expression "lady doctor." The fact that the doctor was a "lady" had nothing to do with the story; only the fact that she was a doctor was relevant. But there she was, in that box. That box has a lot of stuff written on the side. It's a list that starts with the word "Female," and goes on say things like "baby source" and "feminine intuition" and "penis receptacle." Doctor, yes, but mostly lady. And if you're a sex worker, don't expect ever to be anything else.
But for one bright, shining moment on a ridiculous frat-boy friendly morning show, one guy, wittingly or not, took those women out of the box. Just for that moment, the fact that they were women wasn't relevant. It was the fact that they were people that mattered.
'Course, I don't think it mattered to their rapist.
Friday, April 6, 2007
"I try to avoid smiling; smiling is a sign of submission in chimpanzees. When you smile, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life." --Dwight Schrute
I'm sitting here in the campus library's computer lab working on my midterms. A little while ago, a couple of dudes down the aisle from me were having a conversation. They weren't being particularly loud or anything, but as the lab is nearly deserted (it's Spring Break), and as I'm very easily distracted, this was, well, distracting me.
After it became clear that they weren't going to shut the hell up on their own, I got up, walked over, and asked them to be quiet. I wasn't rude or anything. Actually, I think what I said was, "Sorry you guys, but could you please keep your voices down?" One of them said, "Sorry," and I went back to work. They continued to chat, albeit more quietly, for a minute, and then they left.
During the whole thing, I refrained from smiling. (I'm still at the point where not smiling takes a conscious effort.) I wasn't rude, and I certainly didn't scowl or anything, but I didn't smile at all. One of the dudes didn't even look at me; when I approached unsmiling, he kind of gazed off into the middle distance with that look you get on your face when you're a little surprised and a little upset, but you don't know what to do. Like your brain is a little shocked and hasn't yet figured out how to respond. The other guy, the one who said "sorry," actually gave me a little smile as he said it. I gave him a little nod in response, but as I turned away, the smile tightened and his eyes narrowed, and it ended as a rather unpleasant expression. I know all this because I was looking them in the eye the whole time. Again I wasn't rude. I was just clear. I think that if I had smiled and simpered that the dudes might have rolled their eyes indulgently after I left, but I don't think they did that. I think they probably called me a bitch.
Regarding our relative social positions, I am a grad student in my early thirties, while these young men appeared to be in their early twenties, which would probably make them undergrads. This puts me higher in the pecking order, but that might not be obvious, especially as people frequently mistake me for being much younger than I am.
The article linked to above finds that women and men who are social equals smile about the same amount, at least in situations where relative social status is very clear. But in situations where status is not immediately clear, women are expected to visibly acquiesce to their assumed lower position until they can show that they are actually in the superior position. I have to imagine that the encounter would have gone differently if the dudes had somehow known that I am a grad student--it would have gone as differently as if I had smiled. In the work situations in the article, the subjects obviously know each other, but with strangers, it is the woman's place to submit; failure to submit is greeted with resentment or worse.
[ETA: I'm not saying that these kids hated me because I'm a woman, or even that the interaction I had was the same interaction they had. I don't know these people. Maybe the one who didn't look at me had just had one of those little vomit-burps, and he was trying to get the sour juices back into his stomach. That takes a little concentration. It could be that the other guy was not resentful of the deadness of my pan as much as the interruption itself. I imagine he might have been trying to seduce his little playmate, and I had disrupted his manoeuvres. Whatever. The danger in using a specific anecdote to make a general point is that that one's interlocutor will focus on the nitpicky details of the anecdote and avoid the larger point. I trust all y'all to keep your eyes on the prize.]
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Here, you can see her hyena-neck, and if you look closely, you can see the spike on the back of her head. She also has a dirt face. In this one, she's sitting on Sweetie's lap, and as you can see, he's wearing his awesome Madonna Inn t-shirt and his monkey pants.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
A few months ago, Twisty posted The Lysol Thing (which festered in my imagination until I woke up one morning absolutely furious that every damned Lysol ad I've ever seen has been directed at women). Anyway, I figured this would be a good project topic for my Genre Theory class, so I did a little research and discovered that there are a ton of these ads out there. Go ahead, get an eyeful. (Cooterful? Blech.) I also found one of the booklets, "Lysol vs Germs," copyright 1938, on eBay. Because I only have two midterms to write, I have transcribed for you the section on "Feminine Hygiene."
As we all know, there is a vast and unquiet sea between fe-mi-nine hy-giene and female hygiene. I don't have time to comment in the lengthy, withering way I'd like, so I've just colored my favorite bits pink. Besides that, I have altered it not at all.
FOR FEMININE HYGIENE
Feminine hygiene is the regular practice of vaginal douching with a cleansing and antiseptic solution. It is an important means of guarding immaculate personal daintiness. It is a habit of grooming among modern fastidious women.
A familiar case of a feminine nervous ailment which the doctor treats is the married woman who is losing her husband's devotion because of neglect of that intimate cleanliness . . . so important to feminine attractiveness and to poise. What a pity, then, that so may married women never receive reliable instruction in the proper technique of sensible feminine hygiene; and so lose that aura of personal daintiness that is so important to poise and charm.
The LYSOL method of feminine hygiene is used by millions of women as a means to intimate antiseptic cleanliness. LYSOL disinfectant is probably the most widely used preparation for this purpose. It is recommended by many leading gynecologists. (A gynecologist is a medical specialist in the functions and diseases of women.) For nearly 50 years LYSOL has been their prescription.
WHAT FEMININE HYGIENE MEANS
A generation ago, the douche was used only as a medication in cases of so-called "female trouble." Today, fastidious women use an antiseptic douche regularly as an immaculate personal habit.
The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb. It is lined with a mucous membrane which produces a secretion as its own means of normally keeping the vaginal passage clean. But as an added means of cleansing, the antiseptic douche may be employed several times a week. If ever there should be anything more than a normal discharge present, a doctor, preferably a specialist, should be consulted.
WHAT FEMININE HYGIENE MUST DO
Your ritual of hygiene must cleanse thoroughly. Obviously, the effectiveness of your practice of feminine hygiene depends on the preparation you employ in your douche. A LYSOL solution is correct for this purpose.
You will not find the LYSOL method difficult to follow. The technique is simple. And it is economical. LYSOL costs less than 1½¢ for one quart of the correct solution for feminine hygiene.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE SOLUTION
LYSOL disinfectant comes to you highly concentrated, for economy. The only possible harm n the use of LYSOL is through your own carelessness.
If the solution is too strong there may be an unpleasant burning sensation. One the other hand, if it is not strong enough, it will not be thoroughly antiseptic. Therefore, LYSOL should be used in a solution mixed strictly according to directions. Whenever you take a douche, do not trust to memory, but look up these directions and carry them out exactly.
The LYSOL douche, properly prepared, is not only cleansing and antiseptic, but it also soothes if there is a slight irritation. If there is any sensation of discomfort afterwards, something is probably wrong and a physician should be consulted.
For the douche, use two or more quarts of water, which should be comfortable warm to the hand. Never use either hot or very cold water. After measuring the water into a convenient container, add one teaspoon of LYSOL disinfectant for each quart of water taken. Stir thoroughly, and then pour the solution into the douche bag. Never prepare the douche by pouring the LYSOL directly into the bag, because by doing so you cannot obtain a uniform solution.
If you use a hand-douche, pour thirty drops of LYSOL disinfectant into a full glass of water and stir thoroughly. Measure the drops accurately with a medicine dropper.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE DOUCHE
The nozzle used in the vaginal douche should be one especially made for this particular use. The end should be perforated so that the water is expelled uniformly in all directions.
When not in use, keep the nozzle clean by immersing it completely in a solution of one teaspoonful of LYSOL to a pint of water in a suitable container, e.g. a fruit jar, keeping the container covered.
Before taking the douche, hang the douche bag in a convenient place, slightly higher than the body. Assume a partially recumbent position. Now introduce the nozzle gently, without force, into the vaginal passage and permit the solution to flow in a steady stream.
Following every douche gently bathe the adjoining surfaces with a LYSOL disinfectant solution of the same strength.
Okay, I have to say that, of the whole rich treasure-trove, just waiting to be analyzed and deconstructed, this has to be my favorite line: "The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb." Wow! I think that's just about the best summary of the patriarchal conception of the female vagina I've ever heard. It is a passage that leads to the womb from the outside. "I've found it, men: the way in!"
[ETA: If you're a dude and you're having trouble processing why this makes me so uncomfortable ("Well, isn't it the way in?"), I don't blame you. That is how we're all taught to look at women's naughty bits. To understand a little better, try this: Imagine that someone has just characterized your mouth as the passage leading from the outside to your stomach. Creepy, isn't it? I mean, yes, the mouth is how food is generally delivered to the stomach, but don't you prefer to think of your mouth as something that's under your control--as a place where you put stuff that you want to have inside your body? Thinking of it as a "passage that leads to the stomach from the outside" makes it sound like stuff goes in of its own accord, whether you will or no. It's the way in. That's a shudder-making thought. I think most people prefer not to have any of their various holes so characterized.]