Joseph Stiglitz makes a lot of sense in this editorial about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in our country. Really good stuff. Thanks, Echidne of the Snakes, for directing my attention to it!
The Mis-representation of Women in the Media, Or, Insidious Violence Against Human Beings Gendered Feminine is the subject of today’s rant, and it is prompted by Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary, Miss Representation.
We’ve seen many of these images before, of course, but not while thinking about them as Newsome allows us to. She skillfully juxaposes the pornographic male gaze with a more honest look at actual women and girls. Seeing these images out of context, away from the narratives that lull us to sleep, or encourage us to buy products, or vote the way particular corporate interests direct us to think about ourselves as women or men, allows us to understand how they damage us.
Distorted and insulting portraits of women as sex objects for men to use, deride, revile, and torment with abandon express the fantasies of adolescent porn addicts. Sut Jhally makes a similar point in his compelling Dreamsworlds 3: Sex and Power in Music Video. These phantasms of the misogynist mind do real harm because they seep into the collective unconscious and register there as accurate, acceptable, even laudable. That is why we see eleven year-olds vamping up in sexy outfits and heavy makeup and housewives taking up pole-dancing, or imagining that such activities are appropriate and authentic means of self-expression, even artistry, and that dressing and behaving like slaves will garner them genuine love, affection, companionship.
These perverted images do not directly rape women, but they do a symbolic violence that is as devastating and long-lasting as rape, and this symbolic violence, this grotesque representation of women as sex-starved sluts desperate for male attention, or as “bitches” or “dykes” when they refuse to defer to men and stand up for themselves, leads to actual, physical violence. This symbolic violence encourages men to rape and to brutalize women, and then trivializes these horrific crimes.
Media symbols of degraded femininity do real violence not only because they broadcast a particularly narrow and misogynist message, but also because they reinforce the underlying patriarchal structure of our society. They reiterate the male/female dichotomies that organize our culture and guide the way that we learn to understand ourselves narrowly as masculine or feminine, rational or irrational, subject or object, light or dark, good or bad.
As my favorite Spinster Aunt at I Blame the Patriarchy notes, femininity is not inherent or natural, but rather a way of being that is acquired, developed, within a patriarchal and heterosexist culture:
That’s right. Femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness. It is not an hereditary, hormone-based fascination for fashion, submissiveness, mani-peddies, baby-soft skin, or catfighting. It is not a fun-loving lifestyle choice. Femininity is a rigid system of behaviors imposed on us by the Global Accords Governing the Fair Use of Women as a means to control, subjugate, and marginalize us, entirely at our expense, for the benefit of the male-controlled megatheocorporatocracy.
Some people believe that
the practice of femininity is but one facet of an exciting smorgasbord…of lifestyle choices available to today’s busy autonomous gal-on-the-go. They feel that “choosing” feminine conduct is an act of feminist rebellion, on the grounds that the choicing is entirely the chooser’s own personal idea. They aver that femininity can be an expression of a woman’s personal personality, and that it is “fun.” It is irrelevant, apparently, that femininity just happens to align precisely with the pornified desires, yucky fetishes, and vulgar business interests of the entire dudely culture of domination.
…It’s so much easier to go with the flow and comfy up with the familiar old gender stereotypes than it is to come to grips with the fact that our woman-hating world order enforces femininity with a rigorous system of hollow, joyless rewards and uncompromising, murderous punishments, and that the enforcement of feminine behavior is a global humanitarian crisis.
Twisty has it right. The enforcement of feminine behavior–feminine as defined by the media who pander to adolescent porn-addled male fantasies, which the media reinforces and sustains in order to perpetuate itself–is a global humanitarian crisis because women constitute more than 50 per cent of the global population and women across the world have been under siege for thousands of years, since patriarchy was invented.
Feel like watching another video? Check out this great ad by the Dove Self-Esteem fund:
Feel better now? No? The director is sending an message, but also shows us how the media assaults us in order to manipulate us! It blasts away at us every day all the time. Actual men assault actual women every day, all the time, too. Officially estimated, men rape women and girls every 15 seconds in this country, and 1 in 4 women has been or will be sexually violated in her lifetime. But when you consider the whole picture of Intimate Partner Violence, it is no overstatement to say that every single second of every single day multiple men demean, insult, harass, beat, rape, and assault women or girls they know.
I volunteer at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, which is one of the oldest and best-respected institutions of its kind. Please consider supporting them. They need your help very much.
Because of the economic crisis in this country, battering has increased at the very same time that funding for crisis shelters has dried up. The GOP’s war on women and disingenuous and foolish campaign to slash federal money for all agencies that offer support, medical assistance, and psychological care for women (Planned Parenthood, WIC and Head Start are all under attack) will make the situation worse. This is not to say that poor people commit domestic violence at higher rates than the rich. Men of every station, race, income level, and education batter and abuse women with impunity in this country. The media, which makes billions of dollars portraying women in disturbingly demeaned and perverted roles, encourages this criminal abuse.
Speak out. Represent yourself, in all your complex gender-bending beauty.
I’m reproducing major portions of Amanda Marcotte’s post because if you are a feminist, you need to read it:
HR3, misleadingly named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, is a perfect storm of everything that’s nasty about the modern, hyper-conservative Republican party. It’s dishonest, since women who have federal health insurance are already banned from using that money for abortion care. This bill is actually an attempt to shut down abortion coverage through all private insurance, including employer-provided insurance, which means that it’s beyond even the dreadful Stupak-Pitts amendment/executive order. Some “small government”. As Rachel Maddow documented, this bill is just the most egregious example of how the GOP basically hoodwinked the voters. They ran on “creating jobs”, which they clearly have no intention of doing, since they’re going to be too busy looking for ways to put the screws to everyone they hate, a long list that includes poor people, people who read a lot, gays, and basically all women, but especially the most vulnerable in our society.
Sadly, the mainstream media (outside of a handful of awesome fighters, like Rachel Maddow, Nicholas Kristof, and Bob Herbert) has gotten inured to relentless attacks on women from conservatives, and subsequently fail to properly understand that a bill like this is pure misogyny, with a giant side dose of class warfare. They’ve failed to cover the nefarious workings of Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey, who competes regularly in the heavy competition in Congress for the title Biggest Misogynist, and who has made a special pet project out of trying to shut down any foreign aid that would include contraception, and who has accused Secretary Clinton of being a friend to child rapists because she believes child rape victims should get medical care. But as you’ll see, Chris Smith is actually the worst enemy in Congress a minor victim of rape could have, starting with the fact that he seems to believe they’re lying sluts who need to be punished.
See, HR3 has—like the Hyde Amendment—a provision in it that carves out an exception for rape, incest, and the health/life of the mother. But because anti-choicers like Smith are such ruthless misogynists, they tend to believe the misogynist stereotype that all women, especially those who claim to be ill or victims of crimes, are lying whores until proven otherwise. Or just lying whores, regardless of the evidence they produce. And so, to make sure those lying whores don’t get their hands on those delicious, orgasm-inducing uterine scrapings, the bill has language in it that, in essence, assumes that 70% of rape victims weren’t really raped. The exception is only for “forcible rape”, which is vaguely defined, but in practice tends to mean that anything short of getting your ass beat down means you weren’t “really” raped. Even if you’re a 13-year-old who was impregnated by a 30-year-old. Also, if you happen to get pregnant by your abusive, rape-y father on your 18th birthday, you will get no funding to make sure you don’t give birth to your own brother. Consent is implied if you’re female under these guidelines, and consent to sex with your male relatives is implied the second you turn 18.
Don’t simply stare in speechless disgust. Get your fingers to work, and talk about this! Write to your representatives in the House. Tweet (Marcotte suggets that you tweet against it with the hashtag #dearjohn).