Posts tagged ‘feminism’

April 8, 2013

A woman’s farewell to the Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher, the most important woman of the 1980’s — I dare say, at least in politics, the most important woman there ever was in the XXth century — has left the building.

Do you have mixed feelings about her (do you even know who she is? I mean, I am young, or at least I think the status should apply to anyone under 30, but apparently people are even younger nowadays)? I do.

On one hand, a woman who knew how to be authoritative without emulating a man; she would often wear a double string of pearls as homage to her twins (a girl and a boy) and work a very nicely done hair and make-up, at least after she became Prime Minister. With a Queen and an Iron Lady, a leading woman by birthright and another by the will of the people, the UK in the 80’s was pure girl power. Right?

The politics of Thatcher was pretty much the politics of the conservative men of her time. Sometimes, it felt like she wanted to be the toughest one in the room — except the room was full of gentlemen and that was still a time in which an analogy between the nuclear arms race and boys measuring up their genitals against each other in the boy’s room felt particularly convincing. As a woman who perhaps had done too much to fight for her place and as far I know, never raised any feminist flags — I believe that actually makes sense if her obsession with liberalism is considered, and that she probably felt that anyone, men or women, should make do with the opportunities presented to them instead of whine about the status quo (not that I agree with that) — Thatcher just played the same game that was being played by everyone else, and everyone else meant the fellas.

A grocer’s daughter who fought for her place in the sun, she felt everyone should fight for their goals instead of having them handed to them by the government. War against Argentina, privatizations, and a fierce defense of capitalism, in its neoliberal form to be more precise, have made Thatcher quite the dubious political figure — if not one of the most important in the XXth century, coming right after some important dudes like her colleague Prime Minister Churchill, FDR and Charles de Gaulle, and also some more well liked and equally relevant guys such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. I’m not sure Ronald Reagan was more important than her (although he did engage into some wicked economics who pretty much ruined everyone else’s during that decade, while her thing had a more restrictive damage. Tough medicine, they say). Their symbiotic behavior was, however, quite emblematic of a time to establish Capitalism’s hegemony or kill us all trying.

Can we separate the Iron Lady from the woman who almost as if unaware of her gender disadvantage in her battlefield of choice has come to be a legend of willpower in politics? Can the deeds be admired without agreement with the ideology behind them? Should gender issues be altogether forgotten as women, homosexuals and every cross or multi-gendered individual (and to be quite precise — is it even possible that anyone isn’t in some degree with a foot in each gender anyway) go about their struggles, as apparently they were for  Mrs. Thatcher at each time she passionately fought for every of her beliefs? Is it time for difference to be forgotten, because it is so obvious and at the same time, so repeatedly proven meaningless, or is it still not, and fight still must be fought for us women to gain our places in the sun without having to play the games of the men who are in power?

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April 5, 2013

Thoughts about femininity inspired by the Mrs. Carter Tour

I guess the drone has become more important than the Queen B

What Beyoncé is trying to do with her Mrs. Carter Tour is a tricky and noteworthy move: she’s affirming her freedom to place her marriage and her experience of raising and having a family, a child — her man’s name the symbol of such — above her own professional persona. What started with her affirming that if a man liked it, then he should put a ring on it, very cohesively led to this point in which the sexy lady decided to shout to the world, rather loudly, that married life is delightful, delicious, de-lovely.

Generous displays of legs and cleavage aside, Beyoncé demonstrates to have a very, very conservative personality — at least when we’re talking about love. She does it without denying female power, saying that it is us, girls, who run the world; however, that doesn´t stop her from telling men they’ll only have her through marriage. Now, she’s not only married, but making a point out of being known as a particular man’s wife.

I guess I don’t have a problem with a woman who says she wants to get married. Honestly, I do to. It’s fine that this is important to people. I think the not-so-early feminist approach to sexuality as a right to, say, promiscuity, somehow became a bit of a dictatorship — as if wanting to only have sex with a person you truly love was a dishonor to the feminist cause, as if sexual freedom had to mean having a generous amount of partners to account for. I guess the whole point is to be able to choose freely and not be judged for your personal beliefs and interests concerning self-presentation, love and sex, right?

In this sense, I enjoy Beyoncé’s message: to be free means to be free, including the freedom of publicly loving to be in a family and to have your husband and your children. It’s like saying, hey, I’m not eating frozen food for the rest of my life just because cooking was imposed to women before me and now women should prove to men they are not here to cook for them (nor themselves, nor anyone. ANYONE!). I like cooking, I like sewing, I’d love to be able to spend a lot of time raising my kids, which are non-existent at this point but shall be made in a reasonably near future, and I don´t think I´d ever be able to hire a maid to clean my house because I feel like a house is too personal a thing to be cleaned by someone else (would you hire someone to wipe your ass if you had money to do so? that’s how I feel about someone being paid to do my dishes). I also share most housekeeping activities with my roommate-partner who happens to be a man and who happens to be a person I really enjoy pampering when I’m not tired from work or anything else that might tire me, and that goes both ways too. To take that message about yourself to the general public is fine and I think is a valid message about femininity.

However, however, Mrs. Carter, that’s not quite the right message. I think with this move Beyoncé takes a strange step towards confusing family with the male authority over the family. And that move takes the flavor of all other interesting ones for me. No, no, Beyoncé, you’re not Mrs. Carter; you’re Beyoncé, not just a man’s woman, and you love your family and you love motherhood and you love your man.

October 19, 2012

Fifty shades of very bad literature

What´s the buzz, tell me what´s happening — that´s what the apostles sing to the Lord in one of the first numbers on the semi-blasphemous rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and that´s also the thought that started popping in my head as I read more and more distinct, even opposing reviews of the new supposedly erotic literary blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.

The reviews that got me particularly curious were those of some feminists who basically destroyed the book for (1) disguising the old quest for Prince Charming in some BDSM, (2) fantasizing about control freaks and confounding sociopathy with BDSM and (3) contributing to worsen self-esteem issues regarding the difficulties some women have to reach orgasm during sex. I found it odd that a book so theoretically forward in terms of its thematic could also be so backwards, and I decided to judge for myself. I now regret that decision, but alas: what is done, is done. Let´s make something of it.

Let´s go first for the literary aspects of the book : it´s horrendously written and it has given me the impression the author has had no meaningful emotional experience in her whole life, as if she was herself actually a teenager with the depth of a Beverly Hills 90210 character. The self-esteem issues the main character and narrator Anastasia has lack credibility; her inner dialogues and conflicts are unnervingly pathetic, as she spends the entire book in a bizarro struggle between her “inner goddess” (what the fucking fuck?) and her “subconscious” (WTFF 2), two aspects of her personality who in a television cartoon would correspond to a little sex driven devil on one side of  her shoulder and Larry David on the other.

The author has a very disturbing obsession with some awful narrative images she repeats over and over again throughout the seemingly endless pages of the book: the way Christian Grey´s pants hang from his hips, the sound of the condom foil packet being ripped open (she mentions it ALMOST. EVERY. TIME.), the way Anastasia bites her lip. All characters are very superficial stereotypes, all dialogues are poorly constructed, it´s all just so… sad! Yes, it makes me sad that a book as bad as this one has made the cut and attracted such a massive crowd.

Having reviewed the absent literary aspects of E.L. James´ work, I must say I also agree with the criticism regarding the backwards-pretensely-forward approach to love and sex the author develops in her book. The BDSM in the book is basically null, except for a lot of talking about it, objects in a red room that remain for the most part unused throughout the course of the events, and some spanking that scare the shit out of the girl. The rest of it consists of blindfolding, tying and conventional sex toys — sorry, that´s not BDSM, that´s almost not even particularly kinky sex anymore. Also, Anastasia, a 20 years old virgin, has countless orgasms in her first day of sex, including one during her first time — and she has never ever masturbated. What? All due to her being masterfully manipulated by sex genius Christian Grey. Virgin girls, please, believe me when I tell you, take responsibility for your own orgasms. Your partner´s ability certainly count for a lot, but there is much we must learn about ourselves first, and work to be done by us every time we have sex if we want to get there.

Grey is a spoiled, filthy rich control freak, and everyone encourages Anastasia to love it because it´s just so great to be the object of those wild displays of affection translated in new cars, phones, computers, clothes, airplane ticket upgrades and showing up without invitation or early notice… right? Isn´t that what every woman wants in the bottom of their hearts? Fuck, no. I like ridiculously extravagant gifts, but I also enjoy being consulted about their convenience from time to time, and most of all, I do not want to exchange my freedom for your expensive presents, thank you.

There´s popcorn literature, I accept that. It´s like Indiana Jones, but written. Popcorn literature, as popcorn movies, can also be brilliant works — think Mario Puzo, Ken Follet, Tom Clancy at their finest (I´d mention Harry Potter but I have not read a single line of it — did love every one of the movies, though, and do find the world J.K. Rowling has imagined a work of welcome creativity). Fifty Shades of Grey is not popcorn literature. It´s just bad, really bad.

October 4, 2012

Freedom and fury: about being able to respectfully disagree

You have not really ever met anyone who is naturally as skinny as this girl? I have.

I wish I was more politically active than I actually am, at least in terms of writing. The fact is I am not only a hard worker but also, a little shy and somewhat afraid to express myself, because I am on the fringes of the conventional and as such, also of the unconventional (maybe most of us are? or not? that´s beside the point, though). I hate the word “minority” — seriously? Some of those deemed “minority” are far from actually being so. I also dislike labels, so that turns my defending some causes rather difficult, but here´s what I believe in a very summed up manner: everybody is just as much as equal as entirely different from each other, and that should be taken into account in any discussion about human rights.

Categories deny the fluidity of individuality and of life itself and in my opinion, they might propel even more discord — say one person is born and raised in India, from European parents — what is that person? Should one be categorized in terms of juridical nationality, of patriotic inclinations (if any — I don´t have any), of ethnic roots (if any is predominant, anyway), childhood cultural environment, mother tongue? How can I defend this person if he immigrates to the U.S.? Oh, as an immigrant, think of him as an immigrant. An immigrant, yes, but I haven´t heard of Sting having had any particular issues being a legal alien in New York, and remember, our guy probably is caucasian, although he might have a foreign accent, and well, let´s say he comes from a rich family. Not he — she, because our guy is a girl — he has undergone a sex reassignment surgery from male to female. Transsexual, then? Well yes, but let´s not forget she is also gay; more precisely, a lesbian? Well, she enjoys sexual and romantic relations with girls. She also firmly believes the USA should not close their facility in Guantanamo Bay and enjoys strictly monogamic relations.

Very few would admit to disliking freedom — of speech, of choice. One believes a particular conduct should be entirely forbidden when one deems that conduct unacceptable or damaging to society. Some of these unacceptable conducts are more or less universally shared as unacceptable, such as stealing or murder, but already with significant differences in how unacceptable they are. Others seem to be in the path of consolidating themselves as granted rights, but still provoke a lot of hate and questioning from many, even if not as openly or as much as before, such as having homosexual relations and relationships. Freedom of movement is a strongly debated issue with radically opposed opinions, and I see no path to consensus anytime soon — regional arrangements acknowledged. Freedom of gender? Well, the first ever genderless human lives in Australia — originally born a male, Norrie May-Welby has undergone sex reassignment surgery and then also felt a void while being categorized as a female, having pledged — and won — the right to declare being of unspecified gender. What about freedom of appearance? Can one be overly fat? Can one choose to be overly thin? What is overly anyway, and to whom? Sometimes yes, your body weight can result in health issues.

My approach is usually this: does it concern anyone but me and my happiness? If yes, what do you care? Is it about my body, my life choices, my love and sex life? I do not feel I have the right to impose on anyone my personal choices regarding those issues and I demand to be reciprocated. And even though I am a heterosexual female who is not uncomfortable with the original gender assignment, I do fight for a lot of what I consider being my rights: to go out for a drink alone with a guy without having him think I am necessarily willing to have sex with him; to be relaxed in a room with a lot of heterosexual men and not have to listen to piggish commentary about women and being called a feminazi when I ask them to stop objectifying women and finding it very normal. To live in the trenches of conventional is just as difficult as being entirely unconventional — there is actually no difference at all, which, I think, validates my point when it comes to _not categorizing_.

My point is, there is no standard profile to anyone and there is very little to be taken for granted in any struggle for any sort of freedom, and that is why I firmly subscribe to courtesy and dialogue when it comes to defending or arguing against anyone´s position. This is not only about humility, it is about freedom too. If the idea is to change what seem to be a strongly shared value, there is no point in imposing authoritatively to your readers or listeners everything you believe in. Can a feminist defend monogamy or enjoy cooking for her family? All gay men should vote for Obama? Can I still diet and try to lose weight even though I don´t think Lady Gaga is fat, nor that it should matter? Am I obliged to conform to the “movement´s” expectations about my behavior to be a part of the “movement”? Will I be attacked or banned from a feminist forum if I say, and that is what I believe in, Karlie Kloss was being as bullied for being “too thin” as Lady Gaga was for having gained weight? It is not the fault of some beautiful healthy skinny ladies that other girls harm their bodies to reach a particular ideal of beauty…

Honestly, no consensus will ever be built on fury, even if that fury is geared towards supposedly defending freedom. News flash: everyone defends freedom. The only difference is if it is my freedom or our freedom. And if it is our freedom, then I should respectfully hear what you have to say, and if I do, disagree in the same fashion.

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