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Words On Words April 23, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, meta, politics, porn, prostitution, rape.
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this is a video and a radiolab podcast about words, and how language literally shapes and organizes our experience of the world.  the podcast is an hour long but its worth a listen, and it includes a few segments that are all very interesting.  dont mind the horrible bagpipe intermission, its not the end!  it keeps going!  the video i wasnt that impressed with, but it did get me in the mood to talk about words.  oh, and i havent read dale spenders “man-made language” yet, but i am sure its relevant to the discussion.

anyway, lets start with the video.  i didnt like it.  at best, i think its a nice collection of images…but these images arent connected, in any way, except by language.  which is actually very boring isnt it?  these images, when organized only by the words identifying them, do not convey ideas, or thoughts, in a coherent way.  actually, i think the video illustrates how arbitrary words really are.  they dont convey much information at all, until you put them in order, and in a way that makes sense to other people.  words dont even identify things very well, in the absence of context, but at the very least words should be expected to do that much shouldnt they?  to name things?  i mean really. 

a “fly” that flies around your house, and the zippered “fly” in your jeans have nothing in common, and they are not even identified well at all by their own names, which i find bizarre.  in context, where we add-in our preexisting knowledge about how the world works, and where flies are known to fly, the flying-flies seem properly named…but do flies fly in every language?  are oranges “orange” in any other language, besides english?  the pictures show way more than the words do, as far as identification goes.  (i guess thats the whole “worth a thousand words” bit ay?)

but apparently, as inadequate as they might be, words and language are absolutely critical to the way our brains interpret the world.  if you listen to the podcast, in the first 10 minutes or so, we hear about an experiment done on rats (and humans) that indicates that something happens to “islands of thought” that exist in your brain, when you develop language.  in humans, we have islands of thought such as “color” and “direction” that dont interact with each other at all, until we are about 6 years old.  before that, we cannot conceptualize the phrase “left of the blue wall.”  after that, we can.  and apparently, if you wake up one day having a stroke, having lost your language skills and therefore the ability to verbally conceptualize “its morning and the sun is shining” and instead just experience it without verbalizing it in your mind-chatter, you feel absolute, unmitigated joy.  interesting!

now, being that language is so important to everyones interpretation and experience of the world, and of ourselves, we could probably also talk about the effects on all of us, where misogynist men made up language, and where every single commonly used word in every language was created from a perspective of male-centrism, and misogynistic woman-hate.  couldnt we?  i mean…this cant be good can it?  unfortunately, stuff about brains and cognitive development is above my pay grade, and i dont even have anything coherent to say about it (maybe someone else does?) 

luckily, there are other things to say about words.  dworkin frequently wrote about them, and how important they are in many contexts.  regarding naming, she writes in her anthology “life and death” about the murder of nicole brown simpson:

certainly, calling wife-beating “domestic discord” is problematic.  but if naming anything, even flies, is meaningless without context, what kind of an uphill battle do women face in naming the abuse they suffer, at the hands of men?  the context of womens lives is violence, but womens context is not the context anyone cares about.  for all intents and purposes, we are all living in a male-centric context, where husbands dont kill you (because men only have wives, DUH!) and where women who are killed by their husbands are invisible (thats the whole point of hiding the body…isnt it fun to look at the world through mens eyes?  NOT!)  its the context that gives these things meaning.  and we are all living in a male-centric, pornified nightmare.  and doing so, as men.  ie.  none of this hurts.  that is our context.

now, dworkin also notes that its been her strategy as a writer to use words not to describe emotion, but to evoke it.  to use words that resonate with the subject matter she is writing about, and not just explain it:

and andrea dworkin was a skilled writer, for sure.  but she didnt make this up: it is, in fact, possible to use language in a way that it resonates with your subject matter.  so that the vibration of the word is the same as or similar to the vibration of whatever you are discussing.  to use words to evoke an emotion, an experience, and not just a two-dimensional image in the readers mind (or nothing at all).  it is possible to do this.

so.  being that this is the case, why doesnt the word “rape” evoke red and black suffocating death, for everyone?  why doesnt the word “sex” cause your stomach to turn inside out and evoke a sense of obligation, foreboding and terror, for everyone?  i mean the actual words?  why not?  if we can call an orange fruit “orange” why cant we call child sexual abuse what it really looks like?  if we can call a flying insect “fly” why cant we call PIV what it does?  men made up these words, and not only are they not evocative of anything (unless youve experienced them) the context in which they are spoken is the context of porn.  the POV kind, where we are all men.  in other words, its all extremely sexxxay, and doesnt hurt *us* at all, so who cares?

interestingly, one common side-effect of being violently sexually abused is that you lose your ability to speak.  to use words.  and its interesting, isnt it, that a narrative is required in these situations, if the harm is ever to be acknowledged and addressed?  something more…wordy?  wordish?  word-ly?  than say, “she spent the weekend at her fathers and shes never been the same.”  no, thats not even close to being good enough.  i have heard about this muteness-problem more than once, and dworkin has written about it too, for example, where she herself was terribly sexually abused after being arrested at an anti-war protest when she was 18:

men must know, mustnt they, that the forseeable outcome of sexual abuse is to render the victims mute.  and yet they require that we talk about it, using words that describe it (rather than evoke it) if we are ever going to satisfactorily “report it.”  to them.  and ultimately, even when we can speak, no matter what has happened to us, being that we are women, living in a male-centric world, where the male POV is the only POV, we have a credibility problem. 

so, being that the verbal deck is so stacked against women, and specifically against women speaking about the sexual abuse we suffer at the hands of men, will words ever be useful to us?  if so, how?

again, in “life and death” dworkin reports what she decided to do.  i read it three times.  from the essay “my life as a writer”:

overcoming muteness, using words that resonated with her subject matter, and that were stronger and more terrifying than whatever she was talking about.  words…and strategy.  word!

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! On Workplace Sexual Harassment April 20, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, news you can use, PIV, pop culture, rape, sorry!.
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okay i am feeling a lil bit cynical, so sue me!  the above video is a PBS special on “teenagers” (read: girls) being sexually harassed at work.  this girl got her first job at jamba juice, and within a few months she was run out of the place by a male supervisor twice her age, who aggressively and violently harassed her.  early on, she had a feeling that something was wrong…but she “didnt know enough about how things worked” to know for sure if it was wrong or not, so she let it go.  (note: this *is* how things work, in the world of work, when you are female.  sorry!  really, i am.)  later, when things got really really bad…she still didnt report it, because she wanted to keep the job.  eventually she did report it.  and in the end, even though this doods behavior clearly violated jamba juices corporate policy on sexual harassment and the assistant manager asked her to come back, and promised to fire said dood…dood kept his job.  it ended badly for her, and not for him.  in her words:  “he didnt go, i went.”

yep, that sounds about right!  welcome to the world of work baby girl!  it totally bites!

now…lets just get a few preliminaries out of the way.  first, make no mistake: workplace sexual harassment is all about men asserting male power as rapists and impregnators of women.  okay?  thats obvious.  when women dare venture out into the public sphere, men routinely and immediately threaten them with rape.  they exploit womens specific vulnerability to male bodies, to deliberately elicit a predictable terror response.  male workplace harassers are terrorists.  period.  this is obvious, where they call specific attention to our biological femaleness, using rape threats and allusions to unwanted PIV, when rape (and in fact all PIV) is known to kill us.  rape threats also serve to remind women, specifically, that we are not like men.  that all this bullshit about “equality” is just that: complete and utter bullshit.  that we are there on mens turf for many reasons perhaps, but our “equality” is not one of them.  and that we had better toe whatever line they decide to draw, or we might find ourselves raped impregnated, against our wills. 

take a deep breath, and accept that this is true about both men, and the workplace, if you havent already.  it will save you time.  seriously.

also preliminarily is this: most of what men do to women at work, terroristically, using rape threats, is not against the law.  see for yourself: its not technically (meaning: legally) sexual harassment, unless dood tells you you have to fuck him to keep your job, *or* his behavior is so extreme that it would tend to repulse a dirty old male attorney (yeah its a dubious standard to be sure):

catharine mackinnon has written extensively on workplace sexual harassment: in fact, she made it up.  before her, what women experienced at work, at the hands of sexually predatory men, was just “womens reality.”  workplace sexual harassment didnt even have a name, until she named it.  she wrote about what “reality” is for women, and sexual harassment is a HUGE part of that reality: studying federal workplaces (in the US) for example, she notes that sexual harassment occurs more often than it doesnt.  that is STUNNING, but not surprising.  not for any of us who have ever had a job, anywhere, ever. 

see, women cannot put down roots in any profession, in any environment, because we are constantly, constantly harassed and objectified.  by men.  at work.  it causes us to have less job satisfaction, and NO economic security, as we continuously seek out a better environment (there isnt one) and lose seniority and respect (and money) with every move.  men have no idea what its like to be on the receiving end of this, and yet mens success in the workplace is very much tied to this, to womens transience, low pay and lack of and loss of seniority, caused by being deliberately objectified and continuously sexually harassed and threatened, BY THEM.  and thats the way it fucking is.  we ARE being constantly harassed and threatened, with rape.  the data is there, if only anyone were willing to believe it.  they arent: instead, they prefer to believe gendered fantasies about women “prefering” to stay home and raise kids for example, where they are only fucking sexually harassed by ONE man, and not all men.  but i digress.

but, what i really want to say is this, and i say it to the young uns reading: professionalism, education, student loans etc will not take you out of the system.  all women are stuck within the concentric circles of sexualized oppression that dworkin described in right-wing women, and theres no getting out of it.  none.  its tempting to believe that theres an empowerful-ization attached to education and the career track etc, but theres really not.  because STEP ONE in living in a woman-centered reality has to be this: NEVER become dependant on a man, for any reason.  to be dependant on a man means to be subjected to a male-centered reality, central to which is dangerous PIV-centric sexuality and regarding women, all women, as whores.  they fucking demand it.  they make it so.  but in the workplace, men are everywhere: they are your bosses and colleagues, and you are dependant on them, if you get out here alone, saddled with debt, needing a job.  thats the part i apparently missed when i was planning all of this out.  at the time, i *thought* i was doing the smart thing, but the result is just a variation on the same theme.

i have said it before and i will keep saying it: i now believe that if me, my sister and our best childhood friend had teamed up early on and decided to have a go of it, of taking care of each other and committing to do so always, it wouldve been so much smarter.  my mother could have benefitted from this arrangement too.  the four of us essentially blew it, and with compound interest (and seniority) working like they do, it might be too late to properly cure it.  and thats IF i could get them all on board!  right now, my sister and our friend, arent.

my mom and i now are starting to see what we’ve done, and are exploring a better way for the two of us…but in the meantime we’ve wasted decades.  its so painful to realize, but its true.  professionalism, individualism, empowerfulization, WHATEVER, for women, is not the way out.  it never was.

Right-Wing Women (Part 3-D) March 26, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, health, liberal dickwads, politics, porn, prostitution, race.
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part 1 is here.  part 2 is here.  background in the way of dworkins own graphics (some in 3-D!) are here and here.  in fact, the 3-D graphics are what inspired this post, so i hope people will click over to scum-o-rama to review them, before reading further.  its kinda important.  and its dworkin afterall!  its worth it!  i’ll wait….

the above is just a very low-quality image to serve as a mental placeholder.  it will not replace actually viewing the real thing.

in RWW, dworkin states very plainly what she sees as “the condition of women” and the fact that she means to include *all* women, under patriarchy.  under patriarchy, pornography is what women are; the crimes against women, as women, by men are what women are for; and prostitution is what women do (in other words, everything women do is within the context of prostitution, because prostitution is the context in which women exist as women, under the P).  prostitution is the outer wall keeping women inside the sex-class.

and lets just assume that she is right, for purposes of this post.

now…dworkin blows up her graphic into 3-dimensions, and i think it helps to visualize it that way.  because it helps us envision this, too: imagine that the “lateral view” (the flat circle) is actually given depth so that it extends outward like a paper-towel roll (this is what happens when you turn a 2-dimensional “circle” into a 3-dimensional “cylinder”).  okay?  using dworkins graphic, the outside of the paper towel roll would be “prostitution,” the wall keeping women inside the sex-class; and inside the tube would be “the crimes against women” and inside that would be the “heart of pornography.”  (if you cut a slice out of the width of the tube, you would be left with the lateral view again, or the flat circle).  can you see it?

now…i am going to add a fourth dimension…lets call it “time.”  this is what you see when you look through the tube.  so…pick it up and look through it.  from the outside, it would look something like…this beautiful faux-antique kaleidoscope, from google!  on the inside, what would you see, as time passed, under the system dworkin described, of women living as women, as the captive sex-class, under patriarchy?  well…i think this is what you would see:

isnt it?  old women.  this is what happens to all women, around the world, as time passes.  but where women are only valued insofar as they can be exploited, sexually and reproductively, by men…where women ARE sex, and they exist within the context of prostitution, and there is no escape…the passage of time creates…well, see for yourself.  from RWW:

*if* you live long enough, this is whats going to happen to you, unless you can do something to stop it.  this is what we all have to look forward to, assuming that things continue the way they have been going for the last oh say several millenia.  and theres simply no reason to believe that this is going to change, in our lifetimes, if ever.  is there?

and the “if ever” is an interesting point, considering that radical feminists are, as women, coming from a base of powerlessness.  right wing-women choose to align themselves with powerful men, and not feminists, because right-wing women, when they look at feminists, see women.  and they know that all women, living in dworkins horrifying (and accurate) kaleidoscope, are barreling towards the end of their lives, and theres nothing there except the worst suffering and abuse anyone can imagine, and more.

are right-wing women wrong, if they think feminists will not succeed?  are they wrong for doubting it?  are they? 

and are they crazy for being seriously concerned, or pissed off that feminists are potentially ruining the deals the right-wing women have made, with men, so that they (the women) may best survive (as women) under patriarchy?  i dont think these women are crazy.  no, i dont think so, at all.  in fact…the old-age stuff has haunted my days and nights ever since i first read it, and it makes me *kind of* wish i could create my own small army (say 4 or 5 young professionals with unlimited earning potential?  just as an example) to help me out when i am old, and have become so much human garbage.  kind of.  i mean, i can see why someone might want to try it, just in case.  i think most people could see why this might sound like a good idea, if they just thought about it a lil bit.  or, like dworkin, if they thought about it a lot.

Right-Wing Women (Part 2) February 26, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, gender roles, health, liberal dickwads, PIV, politics, pop culture, self-identified feminist men.
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in right-wing women, dworkin excoriates american 60s counterculture, noting that what was being pushed as a “sexual revolution” was actually malestream PIV-centric sexuality gone wild.  which of course it was.  the liberal dickwads i mean sixties flower-boys and male political players too wanted constant access to PIV, and this agenda was pushed as an ideology favoring “sexual freedom” and vetting and overcoming “sexual repression.”  gee, where have we heard this before?

one obstacle observed to be getting in the way of this continual unfettered access to womens vaginas was…wait for it!…pregnancy.  contraceptives werent readily available in the US throughout the 60s, and abortion was illegal.  this apparently caused some (many) women to be repressed about having constant PIV with numerous partners.  thats right!  sometimes the women even said no.  and that, the lefty liberal men could not have.  so…said lefty liberal men took it upon themselves to lobby for “womens rights!!111!1!!” to abort unwanted pregnancies that were womens alone to bear, as the easily forseeable consequence (to women) of “free love” and PIV-centric sexuality generally.  arent liberal doods awesome?  i wish i could have 5 just like them.

now, regarding this alleged “sexual” revolution, the flower girls’ mothers apparently had something to say about it.  they were unable to give away the whole game, by actually speaking in honest terms about the horrors of het partnerships generally and the consequences (to women) of PIV…but the mothers of course werent ignorant of any of it.  it must have absolutely killed them to know that their daughters were ignorant, yet they were essentially forbidden by the social contract (and for the good of all of their survival too, as women in patriarchy) to tell them the truth of it.  when their own daughters were walking into the lions den of dangerous male sexuality and, being young and inexperienced with men and with life, they didnt even fucking know it:

i cannot even imagine what that must have been like.  for the mothers or the daughters of this alleged “sexual” revolution.  to have to prime your own daughters for PIV, and sell them on men and het partnerships generally…and to all the time know what just one man was capable of.  and to not be able to tell her even that much, even as she was taking on one man and 10 of his friends in a polyamorous relationship. you know, or whatever.

anyway, the good news appears to be that many of these flower girls eventually became feminists.  yes!  they did.  and once they became feminists, they began framing sexual and reproductive issues in terms of female reproductive freedom, rather than merely “abortion on demand.”  in other words…they wanted access to abortion and contraception, and they were also saying no to men, and to “sex on male terms.”  and guess what happened next?  the lefty liberal doods abandoned them, and decided they didnt care that much about abortion afterall.  and these same men have mostly “played dead” ever since, or at least they arent nearly as militant about the issue now as they were before, watching on the sidelines as abortion rights have been “regulated” nearly out of existence.  because legalized abortion didnt get the men what they wanted, which was the whole reason they had supported it in the first place: unfettered access to womens cunts on mens terms, without question, without resistance, and without thought.  thanks, lefty liberal men!  oooh, i think i want 10 just like them!

welp…you know who doesnt want 5 or 10 or 100 doods just like these?  right-wing women.  they see that one is enough to deal with: the sexual entitlement, the PIV-centrism, and the resultant pregnancies, childbirth and childrearing.  not to mention domestic violence, marital rape, addiction, infidelity, and on and on and on.  uh, one is enough, thanks!  can you really blame them?  many of them lived through the 60s too, and they werent stupid either.  they learned from what they saw, and it shaped an ideology, and motivated them to strike a deal regarding abortion, heterosex, PIV and childbearing:

i mean really.  is “free love” any better or worse than the deal right-wing women have struck, as a means to survive rape culture, and PIV-centric sex?  this is a serious question.  they are actually very much the same, arent they, as far as making deals with the devil goes?  which of course is dworkins point.  and its a good one.

the only thing i would add is that lefty-liberal doods and fun-fems dont see anything different in radical feminists casting off PIV and saying no to men and to “sex on mens terms,” and right-wing women only allowing themselves to be fucked by one man, instead of by the whole fucking world.  both are allegedly “sex-negative.”  right?  because the only thing doods care about is access to womens cunts.  our reasons for denying them access are completely and utterly irrelevant, and unacceptable no matter what they are.  which is why they think our reasons are the same.  because they dont hear what we are saying, because they dont care.

stay tuned for part 3.

Sexual Intelligence? February 19, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, feminisms, gender roles, PIV, politics.
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i am currently reading dworkin’s “right-wing women” and as usual, she cuts right to the chase.  front and center is the issue of intelligence, which is what right-wing women are most often said to be lacking, and it is this particular alleged “lack” for which right-wing women are most ridiculed and hated.  right?  damn.  dworkin really knew how to strip away the bullshit didnt she?  it just amazes me, every time.

regarding the issue of intelligence, and womens intelligence generally, dworkin dissects the politics of it.  specifically, that the male-defined concepts of “woman” and “intelligence” are contradictory, by design.  this is often the case of course.  when comparing the qualities of a “good woman” with those of a “good human” women always seem to come up short.  regarding intelligence:

if you are female, rather than male, you are less likely to display or indeed develop what is widely known as “intelligence”.  and the “better woman” you are, the more those effects are exaggerated.  because not only is it unladylike to display what you know even when you know it, most women across time and place have been unable to cultivate knowing, being sequestered as women are from the larger world, and relegated to the “female” parts of it.  so that, while some women may become educated, very few are ever really free to go to the ends of their thoughts.  or to possess what dworkin calls a “creative intelligence” or what mary daly invoked with her 5th cause extrapolation–to jump off the cliff, and fall how you fall, and land where you land, and to be surprised and amazed at what you find there:

even if you are somehow able to exercise a degree of creative intelligence, you arent a good woman, or even a real woman, at all.  which is especially evident if you arent currently being regularly fucked by a man, without charging him for it.

now, i think we can all grasp the concept of “intelligence” as well as the politics of it.  this isnt exactly news: men have always defined “positive qualities” (including intelligence) to benefit themselves, based on characterisitcs that they know believe themselves to have, and that are within their ability to develop. 

but women also are not expected to have any sexual intelligence, and dworkin postulates that there is, in fact, such a thing.  and surely she is right: if “sexuality” is anywhere near as important as its made out to be, then by definition, there are things there that are worth knowing.  arent there?  but women arent allowed to explore that either.  just like every other area of knowledge, womens knowledge of sexuality is limited to their personal experience of it, being relegated as they are to a tiny portion of it, to the female-part of it, as objects used, for it.  and disallowed to explore further.  disallowed any real understanding of it, or forced to disown and deny what they do understand about it:

see?  none of us are supposed to address sexuality, that way.  we are supposed to do it, but not theorize about it.  to do it, is to be liberated about it.  to theorize about it is to be a dried up old hag of a sexless prude.  well which one is it?  are there things there worth knowing, or not?  is sex important, or isnt it?

welp…not surprisingly, it looks like it is, in fact, important.  so much so that embracing and cultivating actual sexual knowing might just be the source of womens liberation, from men.  both a revolution of thought, and a revolution of action:

but most women arent going there.  either they cannot, being unable to nurture and cultivate real sexual knowing; or they must disavow what they know, because the knowledge is too revolutionary.  this is what it means, to be female, under patriarchy.  this is the shared experience of women as a sexual class, around the world.  even as the fun-fems deny there is any such thing as “woman,” intelligence is a political issue, and women are denied it.  and sexual intelligence is most obviously and painfully beyond our reach, as members of the sex-class, being forced to endure PIV-centric sexuality, as defined by men. 

of course, even as women make profound concessions with both our intellectual integrity and our actual knowing to survive, the ability to survive as a woman under patriarchy does not measure very high on the intelligence-scale.  the one made by men, to serve themselves.  nope!  that particular skill-set just doesnt register, at all. 

and with that, dworkin puts the caricature of the stupid right-wing woman to bed.  intelligence is a non-issue.  because by any meaningful scale, all women are fucking stupid.  you know, or none of us are.

but what she also does here is call attention to “sexual intelligence” in a way that i am hoping might actually get through to someone who needs to hear it.  i mean really.  what feminist doesnt get that knowledge, and the making of it and the way its distributed, is largely political?