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1984.1 (Surveillance) January 8, 2012

Posted by FCM in authors picks, books!, pop culture, radical concepts.

i had the opportunity to read orwell’s “1984” recently.  i dont remember if i ever read it before, having blocked out most of my junior high school years, but i can say for certain that this time was my first time reading it through a radical feminist lens.  as everyone probably knows, 1984 is about a “dystopian depiction of totalitarian society” and is supposed to be SCAWY!  disturbing!  cautionary!  tale!  my response: meh.  welcome to my world, dood.  and, mary daly tells it better.

as everyone probably knows already…this classic tale is told from the perspective of some dood who fancies himself a part of the resistance to an oppressive totalitarian regime that places extreme controls on its citizens in both public and private.  this, even as he works every day creating propaganda including destroying the past, and rewriting history to serve the interests of the state.  literally rewriting it, as in changing facts, and destroying all existing evidence that things didnt really happen the way the state says it did.  once the proof of the actual history was destroyed, like first person accounts for example, where the witnesses were exterminated and the story rewritten, it was impossible to prove or even credibly maintain that it happened the way it really happened, *or* that there was any fraud afoot.  prove it!  and you cant.  (more on “the memory hole” to follow in part 2.  mary daly does *that* better too).

in the beginning, its our doodly protagonist’s *thoughts* that are allegedly revolutionary, and he very slowly and timidly moves to action which includes, apparently, taking an oath of willingness to do “anything” for the resistance, including perpetrating extreme violence without asking any questions about it (but without ever actually doing anything at all — srsly, absolutely nothing happened in this book); and having PIV.

wait, its revolutionary to have PIV?  when literally EVERYONE is already doing it under the current regime and they always have?  oh, okay!  and its especially revolutionary when the woman’s *thoughts* about it are positive.  talk about thought police.  are women ever going to stop falling for that one?  i hope so.

anyway, the surveillance aspect of orwell’s frightening totalitarian regime made me laff and laff.  as *women* are being surveilled constantly by men, and we live under a frightening totalitarian regime run by men, understanding that this story was intended to be fiction, and a uniquely cautionary tale that was nearly inconceivable to everyone until orwell put it to music struck me as funny mkay?  hello!  women cannot get away from men.  many women sleep with men, men are there all the time, all the time (even in orwell’s world, you were safe from scrutiny in the dark, as long as you were quiet.  not in womens world!  or, not in het womens world anyway).

when orwell wrote about the “telescreens” that were present in every single room, even the bathroom, he may as well have been talking about womens reality of being watched, scrutinized and thought-policed by men and patriarchal institutions 24/7.  in the case of the telescreens, it was very scawy that there was no way of knowing when you were being watched and when you werent, (meaning, whether an actual person was reviewing the video or not) so you had to assume you were being watched at all times and act accordingly.  so, in the interest of self-preservation, policing yourself became second nature.  how terrible would that be?  wow.  how dehumanizing.  how demoralizing.

in the presence of orwells telescreen, it was advisable to wear a pleasant facial expression at all times.  this was to quell suspicion that one was engaging in “thoughtcrime”.  ok that sounds familiar.  pictures of the loathsome “big brother” on every wall, in every home and workplace and public space (hmm, like artwork?  framed pics of boards of directors?  portraits of governors, justices, or the president?)  there were no laws, no written ones anyway, but everyone knew that certain activities and behaviors (and facial expressions!) were reasonably likely to result in negative outcomes.  wow, that sounds really terrible, doesnt it?  it frequently takes a brilliantly tortured male artist’s mind to come up with such implausible extremes that have never come to pass and hopefully never will.

the bad guys also infiltrated, baited, lied, and utilized networks of spies to surveil the oppressed class under orwells unthinkable totalitarian regime thats never happened, thank god.  and what the oppressed class was *thinking* was what the oppressors wanted to know.  not what they were doing, or planning to do, but what they were thinking, in their own private spaces and within their own hearts and minds.  now thats good totalitarian oppression.

interestingly, in orwell’s universe of over-the-top fearmongering, oppressive controls in both public and private, and harsh consequences for any deviance thoughtcrime, our doodly protagonist eventually figures out that capitulation doesnt work: once he had engaged in thoughtcrime, he was doomed and he knew it.  so, he just continued merrily down that road, come what may.  of course, having engaged in thoughtcrime and therefore branding himself a deadman, the proper thing to have done wouldve been to commit suicide before they came for him.  thats for anyone interested in being a good citizen under an oppressive totalitarian regime that surveils you, violates your obliterates the concept of privacy, and monitors not just your actions but your thoughts too.

of course, in orwells world, upon recognizing oneself as a deadman, it seems that its “human nature” to suddenly become interested in staying alive for as long as possible.

SO.  was orwell right about that?  and are women human?

stay tuned for part 2.


1. Mary Sunshine - January 8, 2012

This is such a blast from the past! I read it when I was young, late 50’s, early 60’s. Heh. I remember the (male) liberal cultural responses to it: Ooooo — scary! how can we stop 1984 from happening!

And then it all so boringly and predictably happened, and then some. As if it hadn’t been happening all along.

It’s a bit of a trip to me to see that people are still reading this. More and more, I live in all kinds of time warps.

FCM - January 8, 2012

yes i think its required reading for all wannabe politicos (and public schoolchildren). my school seemed to really like hemingway and i am left with the impression of having read a lot of him, but nothing sticks out. strangely, i have blocked most of that out and cant remember much of anything i read in school at all, particularly between grades 7-9. perhaps i have a natural resistance to institution-friendly misogynyist male blowhards…

i know mary daly used some male authors and patriarchal work as “springboards” for her own work, and i wonder if she used 1984 when forming some of her own concepts. like the patriarchal reversal (WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY etc) and the ideas of surveillance and the memory hole. of course, the politicos think orwell was a doodly genius and MD is MANHATING AND TRANSPHOBIC!!!!!!!!1!!1 funny (NOT) what is done to the work of a man and the work of a woman (and a radical feminist) when the points are essentially the same. it was pretty wild reading this (or re-reading it) after having read all the MD and russ and dworkin and the blogs i have read these past few years. patriarchy is a totalitarian regime, and men are the thought police over women. it really couldnt be more obvious.

2. karmarad - January 8, 2012

Yes, that was a milestone in political literature. What a shame that Orwell never connected his futuristic fable to the situation of women. I have written previously that I feel I’ve led my life under a “blight”. This article expresses a lot of the features of that blight. What makes male society most uncomfortable is when a woman tries to live legally and comfortably without a male “controller”, earning her own income and taking care of herself. She is “loose” and unless she is very careful to live, as Alice Sheldon put it, like a possum, she will be identified as in need of control and the pressure will begin. One of the expediences I have been driven to is ensuring that I always have a “male controller” to mention, who isn’t really my controller at all but is my cover! Humiliating as hell, really. I’m always very interested in following women I know of who try to get along without a “cover”. I know 2 sisters who saved for years and bought land in Texas, built their home and live in peace, though of course they aren’t popular in town. I also know of 3 lesbians who did the same thing in the California foothills. The whispering campaign started immediately, but they built their place, too, and live in peace for the moment. But of course these women are watched very carefully, and know it.

FCM - January 8, 2012

It’s interesting that the most so called liberal places are giant massively populated cities where there is no land available and its almost impossible to own land or to build. If you want to do that, and can manage it, you have to venture into redneck territory where you’re going to be subjected to harassment. More of the same bs. There’s nowhere to go. The fact that so many gay men and trans migrate to large cities is hilarious, and shows how safe they feel and how entitled they really are that they don’t have to own land or build to get privacy and to be left alone. The big librul cities hold no promise for radical feminists or female separatists who feel unsafe everywhere because we are unsafe everywhere.

FCM - January 8, 2012

You also have to be very male identified to live in men’s cities, I think. I’m starting to yearn for nature more and more, the further I get in my journey. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all.

3. thebewilderness - January 8, 2012

I had always thought that both Animal Farm and 1984 were fictional methods for elaborating on his language essay while drawing on his experiences as a journalist trying to publish and propaganda during the war. The “memory hole” was directly from Eileen’s experience working at the war department. Her poem was also the inspiration for 1984. The black shirts were from his own experience. The only thing futuristic about it was the title and the trappings.
He wrote about oppression and suppression because he saw it everywhere he went. A Clergyman’s Daughter is the only piece I recall where he wrote about women’s oppression and the suppression of ideas in the educational system.
According to his own words everything he wrote was always about totalitarianism. Because that end place is what he saw most everyone in a hurry to get to everywhere.

For me, personally, his essays provided context for the stories my grandfather told me of those years. They were of an age.
I guess it was also my introduction to parsing language in a very different way from what I was being taught in school. I read a bit above my age level, as they say, so it was perfect for a pissed off 12 year old.

4. cherryblossomlife - January 9, 2012

loved this post.
It’s interesting that the first time I ever came across the term “thought crime” was about 4 years ago when (in my innocence) I told a trans activist online that men could never be women. She (he?) said I’d just committed a crime, a “*thought* crime” and it would soon be illegal to say what I’d just said.
That shook me out of my stupor, I can tell you, and put me on the road to radical feminism quick sharp.

5. cherryblossomlife - January 9, 2012

And on the subject of policing yourself at all times, I know women here in Japan who wear pantyhose and dresses in their homes on their days off when they’re not expecting to meet anyone…

6. witchwind - January 9, 2012

Mindblowing post, again. It’s interesting to see again and again that whenever men talk about their oppression (or what they think is the worst of the worst) it doesn’t even scratch women’s reality. i do this mental comparison whenever we’re asked to feel empathy for men who suffer from their own stupid system.
I wouldn’t go and live too far off in the countryside for the reasons you mention above, plus I’d rather stay in touch with other women. But big towns are purely a male invention, it alienates us from nature, from autonomy and self-subsistence, makes us more dependent on being exploited in destructive, polluting companies for survival, it makes it easier for men to control every bit of the outside and the inside, etc. I hate it.

FCM - January 9, 2012

A mtf trans accused you of thoughtcrime cherry? LOL! Why is that not a surprise, at all. They are members of the totalitarian regime, its so obvious. Everything they say and do to women makes this clear. Same with all men, all the time.

And PIV is revolutionary. 🙂

FCM - January 9, 2012

Of course, in orwells world, women were the most vocal supporters of the totalitarian regime. I think women support social controls in general, bc it means social controls ON MEN. men complain about that one a LOT.

7. RedL - January 10, 2012

I remember reading 1984 for the first time a few years ago. I got to the part where protagonist man describes how much he wants to rape the woman and I knew I was going to have some serious issues with the book. It fell flat for me and I didn’t know how to articulate why I felt that way – this post says a lot for me in that respect. I liked Animal Farm though. I read Twisty Faster’s analysis of Lolita and I was so glad – I had been waiting for a radfem analysis of that because I just couldn’t find the words for why this oh-so-popular and apparently “subversive” book was skeevy as hell. I am so damn sick of fans of creepy anti-feminist and downright murderous fiction thinking I’m some kind of nutcase because their novel of choice is like, totally anti-whatever-it-is-actually-perpetuating.

Fuck male literary bullshit with it’s relentless anti-woman rhetoric. Clockwork Orange is pro-rape and a half.

FCM - January 10, 2012

yes, there is a lot of that in the book. dood considers literally murdering her bc he is so paranoid he thinks shes spying on him, yet she feels comfortable enough w him to be alone w him and they have the revolutionary PIV. even though he literally would just as soon have murdered her and he very nearly did.

heres a link to the HUB, scroll all the way to the bottom of the article for some scanned pages of jeffreys on lolita.


8. Lierre - January 12, 2012

_1984_ was not original–most of it bears “a striking resemblance” to Katharine Burdekin’s _Swastika Night_. Which is a feminist dystopian novel, critiquing masculinity as the foundation of fascism. Well worth the read. Of course, no one has ever heard of her…

FCM - January 12, 2012

Thanks for the link!

9. cherryblossomlife - January 13, 2012

I’m really getting into trying to learn the chronology of various literary works and political theorists. Because more often than not if you do your research, you find that whenever there was a great revolutionary male thinker, a woman had actually come up with the idea a few years earlier (and was ignored).
I wrote a post recently about the book The Betrayal Bond by Mr Carnes Ph.D, which has been lauded as a great achievement, but doing a bit of research I then found that all– *all* — of his ideas had been taken from Loving to Survive (written four years earlier) and he had cited *none* of them.

FCM - January 13, 2012

Yes, I think we should assume at all times that they are stealing women’s work, and make them prove otherwise if they aren’t. Immediately suspect would be married or partnered men, and we should immediately not only suspect but assume that he has stolen his wife or female partners work. Whether these men are stealing the work of women not personally known to them, but who are just way, way smarter than they are should be the next line of inquiry.

It’s telling, of course, that you don’t technically have to give credit to other “people” for their ideas. Since men rarely have any, and women have them all the time which men steal, obviously this was and is intentional.

10. witchwind - January 13, 2012

I doubt that would mean women told them exactly how to oppress them and create this atrocious women-hating necrophilic world though. Men do have their own ideas when they need it.

FCM - January 13, 2012

LOL ok fair enough. a “necrophilic index” could be used as evidence that the idea belonged to them afterall, and didnt originate with a woman. the more necrophilic the idea, the more likely it was to have originated with a man.

11. cherryblossomlife - January 14, 2012


12. FCM - February 19, 2012

ETA (in bold):

the bad guys also infiltrated, baited, lied, and utilized networks of spies to surveil the oppressed class under orwells unthinkable totalitarian regime thats never happened, thank god.

baiting is a big one. i shouldve added that in the day after i wrote it, when i realized how important that one is to infiltration, and surveliance. its fucking HUGE.

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