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1984.3 (Viva la Manvolucion) January 23, 2012

Posted by FCM in books!, PIV, politics, pop culture, WTF?.
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part one of this series on orwell’s “1984″ is here.  part 2 is here.

this part was so orwellian i thought it deserved its own post.  i actually wondered for a moment how smart orwell really was: was he so intelligent that he slipped this one by, leaving it up to his readers to notice (or not)?  or was he just a common arrogant stooge, waxing poetic about his fantastical manvolution (dood-volution?) to other doods, the one that included putting girls and women in harms way by fucking them, and unabashed woman-hating misogyny stinking up every other page?

here is some of the dialog pillow-talk from one of orwells revolutionary PIV sessions.  from chapter 2 part 7:

‘Has it ever occurred to you,’ he said, ‘that the best thing for us to do would be simply to walk out of here before it’s too late, and never see each other again?’

‘Yes, dear, it has occurred to me, several times. But I’m not going to do it, all the same.’

‘We’ve been lucky,’ he said ‘but it can’t last much longer. You’re young. You look normal and innocent. If you keep clear of people like me, you might stay alive for another fifty years.’

‘No. I’ve thought it all out. What you do, I’m going to do. And don’t be too downhearted. I’m rather good at staying alive.’

‘We may be together for another six months — a year — there’s no knowing. At the end we’re certain to be apart. Do you realize how utterly alone we shall be? When once they get hold of us there will be nothing, literally nothing, that either of us can do for the other. If I confess, they’ll shoot you, and if I refuse to confess, they’ll shoot you just the same. Nothing that I can do or say, or stop myself from saying, will put off your death for as much as five minutes. Neither of us will even know whether the other is alive or dead. We shall be utterly without power of any kind. The one thing that matters is that we shouldn’t betray one another, although even that can’t make the slightest difference.’

‘If you mean confessing,’ she said, ‘we shall do that, right enough. Everybody always confesses. You can’t help it. They torture you.’

‘I don’t mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you — that would be the real betrayal.’

She thought it over. ‘They can’t do that,’ she said finally. ‘It’s the one thing they can’t do. They can make you say anything — anything — but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.’

‘No,’ he said a little more hopefully, ‘no; that’s quite true. They can’t get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.’

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking. Perhaps that was less true when you were actually in their hands. One did not know what happened inside the Ministry of Love, but it was possible to guess: tortures, drugs, delicate instruments that registered your nervous reactions, gradual wearing-down by sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning. Facts, at any rate, could not be kept hidden. They could be tracked down by enquiry, they could be squeezed out of you by torture. But if the object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings: for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.

impregnable?  really?  impregnability as in-vulnerablity.  impregnability as in-ability to be colonized, penetrated, taken by force.  and its used this way post-coitally, to boot.  one of them was surely still laying in a wet spot of sexual fluids, having had the revolutionary PIV, and this is how and where he uses this word.  ugh.

for men, the word “impregnable” can and does mean only one thing, and thats the way orwell used it: being impenetrable, and secure.  for women, it could mean *either* the thing orwell meant, *or* it could mean (essentially) the exact opposite.  for women reading orwell, we have to read what he wrote in context, then adjust our perspective so that we are seeing orwells world through mens eyes.  you know, the way it was intended.  this is true with the entire book of course, but his use of “impregnable” this way really hammers that one home.

after all the work the radfems have been doing on impregnability-as-vulnerability and what that means, i was actually struck dumb by orwells use of this one word.  i googled, having *my* perspective wrenched so violently from the one we have been cultivating here and across the radfem blogs this whole time.  i had actually forgotten that the word could be used that way.

im·preg·na·ble 1

adj.

1. Impossible to capture or enter by force: an impregnable fortress.
2. Difficult or impossible to attack, challenge, or refute with success: an impregnable argument.

im·preg·na·ble 2

adj.

Capable of being impregnated.

its nice that the female-only identified use of the word is the second definition too, which makes it kind of wrong for us to use it that way.  not wrong in the sense that its the wrong word, but we are *kind of* being tricky here, arent we, when we say it to mean one thing, when its most commonly used to mean the opposite.  seriously, my head still hurts.  im no language expert, and if im missing something here, im sure someone will tell me.

in the meantime, i plan to go back to reading the classics, and not wasting any more time on men, or male authors, even the allegedly “good” or revolutionary ones.  or maybe especially not them.

and now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

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Comments

1. delphyne - January 23, 2012

Art follows life. George Orwell/Eric Blair the attempted rapist:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/feb/17/georgeorwell.biography

“in 1921, Eric had tried to rape Jacintha. Previously the young couple had kissed, but now, during a late summer walk, he had wanted more. At only five feet to his six feet and four inches, Jacintha had shouted, screamed and kicked before running home with a torn skirt and bruised hip. It was “this” rather than any gradual parting of the ways that explains why Jacintha broke off all contact with her childhood friend, never to learn that he had transformed himself into George Orwell.”

FCM - January 23, 2012

so i spent 3 days of my vacation submerged in the words and worldview of a rapist. what a shock.

that should always be assumed, shouldnt it, when we engage with men, and with their work and with anything they do. its all very orwellian and i am glad at least we have a word for what that means. the scene i quoted above, where they have the revolutionary PIV and dood would be guilty of AT LEAST attempted impregnation if not attempted murder (by impregnation) in a sane or just world, is *also* enjoying his freedom being free from the surveillance by big brother, but SHE isnt free of HIM. whenever they are alone together, SHE is surveilled by big brother (him) and he isnt. he really is free, and shes not. because he is there.

when he talks about not being able to get into your MIND, HE is already very much in HER mind, she LOVES BIG BROTHER (him) and she is no doubt trauma-bonded to him from the revolutionary PIV and fear of being pregnant. what would happen to HER if she were impregnated? its not so easy to hide the indiscretion for HER. does he care about that? could they do it in a way that didnt put her at risk, and at more risk than HIM? YES, actually, they COULD. but of course they DONT.

and in the end, the when big brother does break him, and when they DO get into his mind, what he says and honestly feels and believes is that he LOVES big brother. loves him. just like the woman LOVES womens version of BIG BROTHER, in this case, our doodly protagonist whos vaginally probing her for the revolution. trauma-bonding feels like LOVE. i know that bc ive been there, and bc we are starting to know about how trauma and trauma-bonding works in other contexts too. and we all know this is true, bc its a completely known and predictable female-specific response to having PIV, even if we never knew WHY before, we know it happens. and men do it anyway. that is mind control, and they can and are getting into our minds. our minds are impregnable, in the female-sense and our bodies are too.

i could probably write a few more parts to this series, but i dont know if i will. the whole book is relevant to our situation, and whats interesting to me at the moment is that orwell, the rapist, got it so right. howd he do that?

2. Hildegard - January 24, 2012

De-lurking to thank you for this and for all your work. I just discovered radfem blogs about six months ago and they’ve been a lifeline for me as I deal some difficult changes in my life.

I read 1984 some years back, but one of the moments that really stuck out for me was when Winston has just started a routine of sleeping with Julia, and then one day Julia tells him they’ll have to call it off that day because she’s started her period. Winston experiences a moment of rage because he can’t have sexual access to her, which he’s begun to take for granted— he consciously feels he has a right to her body, and he’s frustrated and jealous that her body has enough autonomy to do something that has nothing to do with him and his sexual “needs.” Then suddenly the scene turns all mushy and poignant as Winston reflects that, if he were *married* to Julia instead of just having these furtive hookups, he’d have to learn to get used to these regular “disappointments.” Of course the only way “disappointments” makes sense in this context is if we understand that marriage means Winston gets unfettered, unquestioned access to her body the rest of the month, every month. In other words, Winston’s “love” for Julia is precisely his desire to have her in a position of constant, default sexual access. And we’re supposed to applaud this moment where Winston becomes domesticated and tender.

My disgust and vague horror with that scene and its implications was only one of about 10,000 moments in literature and in real life that set me on the path to my feminist awakening.

About “impregnable,” it’s funny because I was just thinking about it a few weeks ago as being one of those paradoxical words that have two essentially opposite meanings. At first I just assumed that the basic difficulty is that it reflects two different meanings/usages of the trickly “in-” (or “im-”) prefix: one negating (“NOT” able to be taken), and one involving making a verb out of an adjective (“to make [someone] pregnant”). But after reading this, I browsed around in the OED and from what I can grasp, it looks like the two meanings aren’t even etymologically related, because the “pregn” part actually comes from a different Latin root in each case. The “fortress” meaning is ultimately derived from “prendere” (to take or seize) while the other meaning is from “pre” + “gnatus” (born). So apparently the words weren’t meant to be opposites, or to be related in any way– i.e., one wasn’t derived from the other– yet they ended up converging into the same form.

Of course the end result– that we now have a single word which forces us to think about female impregnation in terms of conquest and vulnerability– has *huge* implications, and what I’d really love to read somewhere is a history of how this word has been exploited and manipulated in literature because of its latent ambiguity. That’s exactly what’s happening in the passage you quote here. I don’t think anyone can possibly say either usage is “wrong” or even “tricky”; the two meanings just constantly play off of one another in the mind of any English speaker.

FCM - January 24, 2012

Thanks for that! I knew someone would have something to add about the language part. In a way, it would make more sense if the words were related, because, well, the concepts ARE RELATED, that’s what we’ve been talking about this whole time. It’s a bizarre mystery that the words aren’t related at all, and it makes it seem as if its just a coincidence that the concepts play off each other the way they do (if the origins of the words are what you say). This is a Wtf moment for sure.

And yes, I remember the part about julias period too. Tender, poignant, yes. It’s so upsetting that seventh graders are reading this book, it really is. It really couldn’t be more obvious that we are being set up from day one.

FCM - January 24, 2012

Does anyone think orwell used this word this way in this spot bc it was ambiguous, and “orwellian” to do so? Or was he just talking to the doods in his doodly way, using the doodly version of the word bc it was the right word, without considering that it was also the exact wrong word? How smart was he? Obviously, I’m leaning toward NOT THAT SMART. I suspect it was completely unintentional, in the exact same way he must’ve been completely ignorant of the ways he was exactly describing the tactics of patriarchy, and what female oppression looks like, and how it operates. There’s just no way that was intentional. Is there?

3. Hildegard - January 24, 2012

Yes, in my previous comment I was going to use the word “chance” or “coincidence” to describe how the word impregnable ended up with its two different meanings, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because the relationship *is* so obvious. Of course, etymology really makes no difference at this point; through constant usage the two meanings of “impregnable” are inevitably linked in our minds whether we know the history of the two meanings or not. It’s just weird and fascinating to me 1) that we tend to think of the linkage between the two meanings as being metaphorical when it’s as literal/physical as it could possibly be, and 2) that because of the fluke in the history of the words we now end up with a single word meaning two perfectly *opposite* things. It’s like we’re telling a nasty little joke every time we use it in either sense. It’s just so perverse!

And so I think it’s hard to talk about intentionality in a case like this. I totally agree with you that Orwell probably wasn’t “smart” enough to consciously use the word to mean both things at the same time, and to expect that his readers would appreciate both meanings on a conscious level, and get the irony or whatever. But at the very same time I can’t believe he was utterly oblivious to the other meaning, just because I don’t think any English speaker, male *or* female, ever *can* be. That’s what’s so perverse and treacherous about this word, imo. Just because the two meanings are opposite doesn’t mean that they cancel one another out, so that you can think of one at a time— on the contrary I think each meaning gets some of its energy, if you will, from the other. Even as you’re thinking about a fortress, or a human body, as being “impregnable” as in resistant to attack, you’re constantly thinking about the horrifying *possibility* of its being attacked and “impregnated”. You can’t help it, because the word is right there, and you can’t immediately cancel out its other association even if you want to. And by the same token, if you’re thinking about someone being “impregnated” (or “impregnable” because she has the capacity to become pregnant), because of the associatiation you’re constantly thinking about the potential of the body being breached and overtaken. That possibility gives the word an extra emotional charge, whether it’s horror from the female perspective or excitement from the male.

So no, I don’t think Orwell had the slightest intention to let us think about the possibility of Winston actually impregnating Julia. The concern in that passage is totally male-identified. But I do think the *idea* of impregnation in the “female” sense is all over that passage, but only as a way of encoding Winston’s feelings.

FCM - January 24, 2012

okay, but anecdotally, i think i actually *did* forget the other meaning of the word. im just saying. i actually had to google it, and i emailed someone to confirm that this was, indeed, the case and that i wasnt crazy. so (anecdotally) i wonder if the more male-identified you are, the more likely that you would forget that the word had the other, female-identified meaning. so that the more male-identified you are, the less likely you would be to even understand what the radfems are talking about, when we talk about “impregnability as vulnerability” and the more likely you would be to think we are literally speaking jibberish, and that our words cant be taken at face value bc they dont mean what we say we mean. fun-fems and others are always accusing radfems of speaking in metaphor, when we most certainly arent. its like they dont understand the words on the fucking page. and that this is true in the case of “impregnability as vulnerability” IN PARTICULAR. i dont know the answer, again, im just saying. *i* had to google it, and i rarely google. what you describe is fascinating too, and entirely plausible. perhaps not everyone would forget the “other” meaning of the word, and maybe i didnt forget it on every level. just the conscious level. which isnt insignificant is it?

its just totally, totally bizarre, and so highly relevant to what we have been talking about all this time. its stunning, is what it is. i was struck absolutely dumb when i realized it.

FCM - January 24, 2012

also, thanks for de-lurking! and so glad you are finding the radfem blogs useful. :)

4. Hildegard - January 25, 2012

Hmm, maybe you’re right and many people either don’t know or don’t access both meanings. I do think the mental process I was describing takes place on the unconscious level though, so that these two meanings are likely to be lurking in the mind of anyone who has *ever* heard the word used in both ways, even if they later forgot one of them. I also think the female-specific definition is actually the most straightforward of the two, and that even male-identified readers would always be aware of it on some level and could never write it off as “gibberish” when it is used in this way. But maybe that’s just naive of me!

Yes, “useful” is not the word to describe the radfem blogs and books (Dworkin, Greer, Daly, also Adrienne Rich and Susan Brownmiller) that I’ve been just devouring in the past few months. At this point in my life I absolutely *had* to find some oases of sanity where these ideas were being discussed, or I would have lost my mind.

5. gax - January 25, 2012

Saw this and thought about how it makes clear that women of various feminisms or non-feminisms know on some level that PIV is not good for them: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxg31g7hWr1qewacoo1_500.jpg

6. zeph - January 25, 2012

I believe the two meanings of impregnable are linked, because latin is a patriarchal language, it has vanished the original meanings by separating them.
In Babylon the goddess Ishtar wears a fortress or tower on her head as does Artemis of Ephesus and many other ancient mother goddesses. Fortress is a goddess epithet in some traditions.

Because she is the creator god her impregnability is vitally important, she brings forth life parthenogenetically from herself and therefore cannot have been preceded by a male god. This was the original meaning of the virgin birth and when christians prevailed over the great city of Ephesus and its goddess Artemis, Mary took on many of her attributes. She was a patriarchal version though, because she was impregnated by god the father who had not existed as a concept in earlier times.
The goddess is impregnable though she is pregnant, the woman is impregnable because she is pregnant.
A couple of links on Artemis below: http://reallyrad.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/Artemis/
http://reallyrad.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/the-temple-of-artemis-at-ephesus/

Orwell was very clever, and wether consciously or unconsciously he dehumanises Julia, by linking the concept of impregnability to the maintenance of humanity, in that scene. All men are misogynists; Orwell is still a great writer but it is good to see him subjected to a feminist critique.

FCM - January 25, 2012

thanks for that zeph! really interesting.

also, re the tumblr image, ALL women across time and place understand viscerally and intellectually, and through experience and observation, that the penis is specifically harmful to girls and women, and that men inflict harm this way. its *only* this small pocket of women in the west, liberal and PIV-positive feminists, who seem interested in denying what all women everywhere know. its stunning, and obvious, and their denials are as bizarre as they are disingenuous. the facts are there, and everyone knows it. even men know it. but the fun fems denials persist, and they become incoherent and rageful when challenged. of course, they are unable to defend their position, which is indefensible. yet they try, by shutting down every conversation that reveals any of these truths, and that includes the truth about MAAB and FAAB and that transwomen arent women. its all related.


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