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More like a-DICK-tion. Get it?!

3 Oct

Two contradictory pieces on the subject of porn and sex addiction emerged recently, both of which — naturally — virtually ignore the role of gender in the rise of the various social and cultural phenomena people have chosen to lump under the rubric of “sex addiction,” as well as the variety of and wide variations between the behaviors that fall under that ill-conceived label. The first, a salacious Newsweek cover story that warns of a growing epidemic of “sex addiction” brought about by the internet’s facilitation of porn use and casual meet-ups, spawned the second, a Salon piece critical of the concept of sex addiction in which Tracy Clark-Flory interviews Liberal Dude author David Ley, whose new book The Myth of Sex Addiction is due out soon. A cursory reference in the Newsweek article to “greater stigma” for women who engage in risky sexual behavior notwithstanding, neither piece even skirts the obvious questions anyone who isn’t personally invested in the perpetuation of patriarchy should ask (I know there are at least seven people who aren’t personally invested in the perpetuation of patriarchy).

While both articles mention the fact that behaviors as different as compulsive porn use, emotionally and physically risky sexual behavior, and the serial pursuit of unhealthy romantic attachments — to which has been applied the unfortunate label “love addiction” — have been grouped under the umbrella term “sex addiction,” neither pays much attention to why that might be so, and neither has anything to say about the ways in which that ham-fisted grouping shapes the “treatment” that this motley assortment of “sex addicts” receives.

Given that gender is a foundational social organizing principle and that assumptions about gender color nearly every interaction a human being engages in, ignoring the role of gender (as well, of course, as class and race) in discussions of sex addiction (and pretty much anything else) places huge barricades in the way of understanding what the hell is even going on, much less what to do about it. Addiction – whether it be to bourbon, benzos, or getting busy in a Burger King bathroom – means very different things for men and for women. Gender roles come with prepackaged social expectations, and the processes by which women and men become addicted to various substances or behaviors and by which they come to consider themselves addicts differ, as do the gendered social consequences that attach to addictive behavior.

Let’s assume for a second that sex addiction — as defined as compulsively engaging in in-person sexual encounters — exists (which I will get to later). If we want to treat it, shouldn’t we at least try to determine its real causes? Those who believe in the existence of sex addiction identify an insatiable need for validation in the form of sexual attention as its root for both women and men, but socially inculcated gendered behavior results in that need manifesting in very different ways, with different consequences for both the addict and her or his partners. Women, when seeking affirmation or attention, tend to self-objectify and to seek out interactions with the kinds of men who value sexual availability over all other characteristics. You know, opportunistic assholes. It’s not difficult for a woman to find a dude willing to use her for sex, nor is it rare for a woman to run across a date rapist or a man who can’t wait to take out his misogyny on her body. Being a female sex addict in the era of porn saturation is thus physically and psychologically dangerous business for the addict herself. From the Newsweek article:

For Valerie, sex was a form of self-medication: to obliterate the anxiety, despair, and crippling fear of emotional intimacy that had haunted her since being abandoned as a child. “In order to soothe the loneliness and the fear of being unwanted, I was looking for love in all the wrong places,” she recalls.

Women — despite the fact that their stories often lead pieces about sex addiction (how odd) — rarely show up at therapists’ offices or Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings claiming to be sex addicts. The Newsweek piece attempts to explain away the paucity of female sex addicts:

If discussion of sex addiction can seem like an exclusive domain of men, that’s because, according to sex therapists, the overwhelming majority of self-identifying addicts—about 90 percent—are male. Women are more often categorized as “love addicts,” with a compulsive tendency to fall into dependent relationships and form unrealistic bonds with partners. That’s partly because women are more apt than men to be stigmatized by association with sex addiction, says Anna Valenti-Anderson, a sex-addiction therapist in Phoenix. “We live in a society where there’s still a lot more internalized shame for women and there’s a lot more for them to lose,” Valenti-Anderson says. “People will say, ‘She’s a bad mom’ for doing these sexual things. As opposed to, ‘She’s sick and has a disorder.’ But very slowly, women are starting to be more willing to come into treatment.”

Despite the plain differences between male and female “sex addicts,” the therapy community insists on equating the kind of behavior Valerie describes with male sex addicts’ exploitative sexual behaviors:

“The addiction will take you to a place where you’re walking the streets at night, so keyed up, thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll just see if there’s anybody out there,’” he says. “Like looking for prey, kind of…”

Addiction leads male sex addicts, it would appear, to obsessively seek female sex addicts. When they fail to materialize, most turn to prostitutes or to porn. While one could make the argument that renting women comes with the risks of sexually transmitted infections (though it’s usually male customers who insist on sex without condoms), there is a clear and gendered imbalance in the consequences for sex addiction. While male sex addicts might lose a romantic partner or two over their philandering, they don’t face the same level of social opprobrium women do for engaging similar behavior, nor do their risky sexual behaviors come with the threat of rape or murder as women’s do. In addition to avoiding the bulk of the consequences that their female counterparts confront, male sex addicts can be a detriment to many others beyond the romantic partners that they serially cheat on, because they often help create the demand in the porn and prostitution industries that allows for their continued existence and continued exploitation of women and children.

But let’s be serious. Is every character flaw going to become a disease that one can only escape from via rehab? If men are wandering around, glassy-eyed and thoughtless, in search of women they can joylessly fuck, is the problem really that these men are addicts, or is it simply that they’ve bought into the idea that life should be like Entourage and thus lost the plot? If there are women frantically seeking attention from soulless, predatory men who don’t value them for anything other than their breasts and orifices, are they diseased, or are they just manifesting the central lesson our warped social and cultural system has to teach women and girls: that they are valuable only to the extent that men find them sexually useful?

Note that every single person interviewed in the Newsweek article has a stake in the addiction recovery industry. The Salon interview — though it is guilty of get-with-it-ism as it presents porn addiction and sexual dishonesty as unproblematic save for their effect on the flowery sensibilities of puritanical weenies — at least takes note of the fact that those in the therapy industry have a personal financial stake in the mainstream acceptance of the addiction model.

I have an idea. Farting in public is rude and often costs people the respect of others, but there are people out there who just can’t help themselves and get a dopamine rush out of doing it. I’m setting up an in-patient farting-in-public recovery center in LA, complete with massage, fitness center, yoga classes, and personal nutritionists for each of our clients who will help them create meal plans that will minimize flatulence and hence help our patients avoid a key trigger for addictive behavior. We’ll take major insurance plans, of course.

That may seem absurd, but it looks like it’s where we’re headed. A pattern is emerging in late capitalism: leaders of a given industry will seek ways to create physical and emotional dependencies on their products among the public in order to ensure their own continued profits, those dependencies will eventually threaten the consumer’s emotional or physical wellbeing, and then a new branch of the therapeutic industry will materialize to make a profit off of helping consumers shake off their dependencies, thus replacing a dependency on the products of the sex, alcohol, drug, or processed food industries with a dependency on the recovery industry. As long as somebody’s making money, everything’s cool.

And the recovery scene is addictive. Where else but a twelve-step meeting can one narcissistically recount booze/sex/drug party stories in front of an audience that swoons over the most depraved details? And where else can one find a community of people who will repeatedly excuse any failure to abstain from damaging behavior as a disease that simply cannot be helped? Not only do twelve-step programs and therapists offer a convenient way out of trouble for those whose behavior has resulted in negative consequences, but they also provide excuses for continued poor behavior with the language of “illness” and “powerlessness.” That’s right: the addiction model tells us that the guy who jacks off to bestiality porn all day long and/or cheats on his wife with prostitutes a few times a week is powerless to control his own behavior. He’s sick, he needs help, he knows not what he does. The poor guy. What can his wife do to help him recover?

Sex is not heroin. Sex is not alcohol. The sex addiction model being put forth by the recovery industry is:

valley-girl science”… They will tell you, and [the Newsweek] article is a good example of it, that sex addiction is like an eating disorder, it’s like a heroin addiction. The reality is this is an incredibly weak form of argument, because it’s so subjective; and when they tell you that sex addiction is like an eating disorder, they don’t tell you all the things that are different about it. They live by anecdotes, because they don’t have good science.

Lumping porn use and compulsive promiscuity under one umbrella term doesn’t do us any analytical favors. Jacking off to porn all day long is not the same thing as compulsively engaging in casual sexual encounters, and they need to be approached as distinct phenomena. Further, treating sex addiction as if it were similar to alcoholism, etc. creates the assumption that the entirety of the problem is chemical or biological rather than behavioral. Yes, studies show that porn use can cause structural changes in the brain and can warp sexual responses to the point that the prospect of in-person sex with a real female human being fails to turn porn addicts on.  But no adult man (the topic of porn’s effects on children’s developing sexuality will have to wait until another day) wakes up one day unable to get a boner without porn out of the blue. It’s a process that occurs over time, and it’s a process that anyone with enough internet access to jack off thirty times a day has to be aware of, since it’s the hottest news story since the PS4 dropped. Even teenage boys are aware of that potentiality.

Sexual compulsions, even if they have progressed to such a point, are at base behavioral problems that can be corrected if there is any impetus to do so, even if correcting them isn’t a mega-fun fuckfest and requires that men exercise some self-control and empathy for the sake of others. Men possess free will. Let’s not get carried away with all this “addiction” business and turn them into hapless victims, thereby granting them impunity from the social consequences of their choices. Remember, they’re listening; Ariel Castro just attempted to use sex and porn addiction as an excuse for rape, kidnapping, and murder.

Does this guy sound like someone who deserves pity?

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The conflation of sex addiction with problems such as alcoholism reaches the realm of comic absurdity when it comes to treatment. AA has a marginal success rate. When it does succeed, it isn’t because the members “work the steps” and fervently adhere to Bill W.’s gospel, it’s because the AA scene (depending on the city in which one attends meetings) offers mid-range alcoholics the one tool that can help them avoid drinking: people to hang out with who don’t drink. Beyond that, it’s nebulous, fruity, quasi-religious self-help folderol that probably puts more people off than it helps. Since most twelve-step meetings for sex addicts call themselves Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous in the hopes of serving both men and women, they undercut the only useful aspect of AA/NA by creating a community that makes it even more difficult for people to abstain from whatever behavior brought them to the meetings in the first place. A room full of male “sex addicts” and female “love addicts” talking about sex is a recipe for unadulterated (hehe) failure, am I right?

David Ley argues in the Salon piece that part of the problem with the addiction model is that it leads people to measure sexual behavior against that of an idealized (and probably non-existent) monogamous, married, heterosexual couple. Anything that does not fit within those parameters is deemed pathological and “treatment” is recommended. That’s only part of the problem. Ley assumes an atomized individual subject without social relationships or responsibilities, and completely elides any discussion of the role of popular culture, male supremacy, or the sex industry in fomenting destructive behavior. The solution to the “sex addiction epidemic” is not to normalize sexual exploitation and sexual dishonesty in the name of smashing prudery, it’s to recognize what actually motivates compulsive sexual behavior and the anxiety that results from it. We have to decide what’s pathological based not on whether it offends Pat Robertson, but on whether it hurts anyone, and we have to deal with pathology by seeking its root. The solution to empty, hyperactive, and exploitative sexuality is political consciousness, not “treatment” or the fuck-first-don’t-ask-questions-later plan. Unfortunately, “treatment” enables men to continue to exercise their right to use and abuse women, while political consciousness comes with social, political, and emotional costs for them.

Why I Hate Men Part 3: There Seems to Be A Pattern Here

17 Sep

I’ve been away for awhile, and I’m a little surprised at what has been going on in my absence. People are still using porn? Seriously? Get with the program, dorks. And what’s up with all this pro-rape nonsense? Men are reacting to the proliferation of feminist discourse in popular culture by proving feminists right? Good job, idiots. Am I to understand that men’s failure to come to grips with reality and their verbally and physically violent reactions to women’s assertions of their own humanity mean that men are unfit for membership in civilized society? Surely we don’t want to go there.

As valuable as I find the recent spate of female-supremacist tracts making their way around my circle of political acquaintances (an example can be found here) in shifting the discursive framework away from the baseline assumption of male superiority, I’m not ready to release my grip on the hope that my dearly-held theory is correct: gender isn’t real, there’s no such thing as “female” or “male” behavior, social conditioning rather than biology dictates the structure of social hierarchies and ensures the perpetuation of male supremacy. But lately it’s REAL hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that there is just something wrong  with men.

You see, though I’ve been absent from the ol’ blogosphere, I haven’t managed to avoid learning of the more egregious instances of recent local and international male behavior.

In the space of the past week or so, a 40-year-old man in Yemen married an eight-year-old child against her will and then raped her to death on their “wedding night;” a man in India raped a four-year-old on a bus; as many as FIFTY men in Lahore, Pakistan raped a five-year-old girl and left her in the hospital for going on six days now; and a UN study emerged that claims that one in four men in the Asia-Pacific region admits to having raped a woman or child (and lord knows how many of them have done so but would not admit to it). Forty percent of those who admit having raped claim to have done so because they “wanted to punish the victim.” Half expressed no remorse. I could go on.

But lest we fall into the trap of exoticizing sexual abuse — i.e. allowing the men in our midst to deflect attention from their own behavior by invoking the caricatured image of the depraved “Oriental” savage who sexually enslaves his women as a foil to the purported relatively gentlemanly deportment of the Western male* — let us have a look at what men have been up to closer to home. A man in Raleigh, North Carolina raped a twelve-year-old girl the other day. A New Jersey man raped a ten-year-old girl several times over the course of the last few months, threatening to murder her family if she told anyone what he had done to her. A new report indicates that the number of women in the US Navy who have been raped by men in the US Navy has increased by 50 percent in the past year. At least ten boys cheered as one of their friends recently raped a woman in Wilmington, Delaware and injured another woman with a knife. I could go on.

In recent weeks, a teacher in Laredo was busted for spreading child pornography, an Air Force master sergeant in Maryland was arrested for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl and a six-month-old BABY in the making of child porn, a school photographer in Florida (Florida — of course) was charged with raping a fifteen-year-old “escort” and distributing child pornography, a Virginia elementary school art teacher was arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography. I could go on.

George Zimmerman, high on impunity (which he apparently still enjoys), recently threatened his wife and her father, claiming to have a weapon. Shellie Zimmerman, after the incident, stated through her lawyer that she would like to “end her marriage with a whimper and not a bang,” likely a reference to the fact that domestic homicide (read: the murder of women by men in their own homes) can be predicted based on the kinds of behavior Zimmerman has habitually exhibited. In Connecticut alone, at least six men have killed their wives or girlfriends since the beginning of this year, the most recent being Gregory Pawloski, a man who had spent ten years terrorizing his wife before he eventually shot her. A man in San Jose, California stabbed his female partner to death last weekend. A man in Granite Hills, Minnesota shot his girlfriend to death a few days before that. I could go on.

Speaking of guns, has anyone other than me nearly lost count of the mass murders that men have committed in recent memory? In case you were wondering, the average in the US has been one mass murder for every two weeks since 2006, and men have committed mass murders claiming the lives of four or more victims TWENTY TIMES since the beginning of this year. A man shot and killed at least thirteen people just yesterday morning, for fuck’s sake. I could go on.

I’m not digging very deep here. These are cases that made the news within the last few weeks. A few other things made the news recently. “Bestiality brothels” are all the rage these days in Germany (Germany — of course), where raping animals is now being described as a “lifestyle choice” by the men who frequent them. There is — I swear to god — an organization in Germany called ZETA that plans to protect men’s “right” to rape animals should the Bundesrepublik choose to outlaw doing so.  In related news, a man in Shropshire, Great Britain made a video of himself having sex with a horse and two dogs. The night before his court hearing on bestiality charges, he was looking for work online as a stablehand. An elderly man in Australia recently shoved a fork handle four inches into his urethra for “autoerotic” purposes. I could go on.

What in the hell is the matter with these people? I mean, really.

Clearly, we have a problem. MRAs and male supremacy apologists seem fond of the pseudo-sciences of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology as explanations for sociopathic male behavior. I’ll admit that it’s tempting to simply acquiesce and grant that they’re correct: men are simply constitutionally unsuited to civilized society.  Few men are prepared to eschew aggression in the face of challenges to their sense of entitlement. Few are capable of allowing anything to stand in the way of their sexual urges, no matter what the consequences (usually to others, naturally). Few seem willing to take anyone’s humanity other than their own into account. The number who are capable of recognizing — let alone remedying — the existence of male privilege and its daily social manifestations is downright infinitesimal. Could it be possible that men are just fucked?

Maybe I’m less of a misandrist than the average MRA, because I’m still not ready to give up on the possibility that men can behave like decent human beings. Men aren’t biologically destined to become rapists, they’re not hardwired to be destructive perverts, they don’t have to derive their lifeforce from the suffering of women, children, and other men. Men aren’t all ineluctably doomed to witlessly wander the Earth, oblivious to the effects of their behavior on others’ lives and on the planet. When they do so, it’s a choice. It’s a choice that appears predetermined, but it’s a choice.

The choice men face in their everyday lives is whether to participate in the cult of masculinity in the face of evidence that to do so is destructive. Each of the examples above of sociopathic male behavior began in a moment in which a man had to choose between sating his own (however warped) desires and behaving like a civilized member of society. In all but one case (ol’ fork-dick), the key personality trait these men seem to be missing is empathy. It’s quite likely that empathy inheres in all human beings and is beaten out of little boys (while society encourages women to exercise empathy to the ouster of consideration of their own needs). These men were probably all aware that to fulfill their own desires would cause negative consequences for the people they used, damaged, or killed in the process, but that awareness was not enough to limit their behavior because it was purely abstract, unattached to a feeling that could approach the intensity of the emotions or desires that catalyzed their actions. In other words, they lack a well-developed sense of empathy.

Abandoning ingrained behaviors and the social benefits that derive from them makes life difficult for men in the current milieu, but it’s probably a lot easier than confronting the fallout of the continued effects of masculinity on the world will be. The question remains, however, whether it will be possible — before it’s simply too late — to force men to not only realize that aggressive masculinity is the root of war, environmental degradation, and the destruction of women’s and children’s lives and bodies the world over, but to also take on the task of reclaiming a sense of empathy and exercising it.

(I should really change the name of the series to “Why I Hate Masculinity,” but MRAs really seem to like the current title.)

* See Philippa Levine, Gender and Empire.

The third (and probably last) trans post of my life

16 Jan

I’m going to restate my position on all of this as simply as I can:

  • Radical feminist theory is founded in part on a separation of sex and gender, with “sex” referring to that which identifies the the material body as female or male and “gender” referring to the social roles enforced on the sexed body. A male supremacist society constructs gender roles out of thin air and horseshit in order to enforce social behavior on women and men that turns women into negative foils for sets of purported male attributes that amount chiefly to the valorization of that which allows men to dominate women (physical strength, violence, “bravery,” lack of discernible emotion, etc.).
  • Gender roles feel constrictive to almost everyone to some degree, and especially to the women who sense that the expectation of “femininity” is actually an expectation that they sublimate all of their own desires and interests so that men may more freely express their desires and interests (most of which are detrimental to women’s existence). Feminism, in general, aims to eliminate gender roles as the social foundation upon which male supremacy is constructed. The ultimate goal is thus to overthrow male supremacy and create a social environment in which behaviors and feelings don’t come in pre-packaged sets and are completely divorced from body parts that they are only nonsensically attached to now.
  • That there are people who feel so uncomfortable with the difference between their sexed bodies and their socialized conception of themselves that they would choose to risk deformity, death, and disability is to be deplored. Women have been conditioned to harm their own bodies in service of a social gender role grounded in misogyny and male supremacy. Radical feminism seeks an end to this practice. Women seeking surgery in order that their bodies will appear like male bodies, or men who undergo surgery in order that their bodies will present as female bodies, face huge psychological and physical risks and social ostracization. Adamantine gender roles are the source of the demand for these medical procedures and the dangers that attend them. Radical feminism also seeks an end to this practice.
  • The existence of transgenderism appears to strengthen the already sturdy bond between gender roles and sexed bodies when an individual comes to believe that their body must — but does not — match their thoughts and feelings and seeks to alter their body to resolve that conflict. However, the existence of sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy alerts the public to the disturbing and destructive power of gender role expectations, which might result in a gradual reassessment of the way we think about gender. On balance, it is difficult to determine whether transgenderism does more to strengthen or to undermine gender roles, but to expect an individual human being to suffer for the entirety of their life in order to fight for a political goal they may not even share is not appropriate.
  • Banning reassignment surgery is also not an option. Engaging the state in enforcing what should be a cultural prerogative will only lead to harm when people seek incompetent help outside of a medical establishment that can barely be considered competent itself. The male-dominated and capitalistic medical industry seeks constantly to arrogate to itself greater and greater authority to dictate our understanding of our bodies to us, and to decide for us what constitutes an appropriate application of medical technology (hence the plastic surgery and pharmaceutical industries). An outside entity must limit the power of the scientific and medical establishment and urge the reassessment of how to approach the phenomenon of human health. That outside entity should not be the state, but rather a movement of people who have reached a political and social consensus on how to approach the human body and mind more effectively, humanely, and holistically. This movement should obviously operate in tandem with a general shift in thinking about sex and gender informed by radical feminist politics.
  • Gender roles have served as justification for the rape, murder, and silencing of women since men figured out how to enforce them. They have also been used as justification for extreme physical and psychological violence toward men who do not conform to male gender roles (homosexual men; men who dress, present, or live as women; etc.). Both cases are expressions of misogyny. Men absolutely loathe and fear trans people. Transmen are seen as intruders, but transwomen are seen as traitors. Men cannot understand why someone born male would choose to take on what they see as a subordinate position in society. It threatens their sense of order in a fundamental way.
  • There is a difference between men who were born male, live as men, and reap the benefits of male privilege every time they come into contact with another human being and people born male who, while they may have absorbed enough social conditioning to exhibit a male sense of entitlement, have also experienced oppression at the hands of men who are recognizable as men (i.e., as no threat to gender hierarchy). It is not the same  kind of oppression women face, but it is nonetheless oppression and can include forms of violence just as severe as those women face. And it comes from the exact same feature of the average male psyche: virulent misogyny. That means transwomen need to be approached differently than men, and that transmen need to be approached differently than men or transwomen (though it does not mean that radical feminists ought to not analyze and critique trans theory) if the discussion of transgenderism and trans politics is to have clarity.
  • Radical feminists, while they do at times seek to make use of state power to reach limited goals, generally do not see the state as a vehicle for the good of women. The state’s existence is inextricably bound up with its ability to use violence and coercion. The state can thus be used as a tool, but it usually lags quite far behind the public and requires strenuous prodding by social movements to do anything right. That means that radical feminist ideas need to be impressed into the minds of the largest number of people possible in order to create a social movement. In the event that enough people absorb what radical feminism has to say, we will either find ourselves in a future in which the state will no longer exist, or in which the state can be used as a tool to bring us closer to wholesale liberation (the former obviously being preferable). In either case, there is work to do, and a shitload of it. No one wants to spend time explaining to men why they should behave like human beings, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel because separatism is only a viable option for a very small number of women, of which I am not one. That means I have to spend my life repeating myself in the hopes that a few small improvements will be made in the lives of some women before I die and that men will stop killing, raping, and dehumanizing us a few centuries after I die. I’m cool with that because it’s right. The only thing left is to determine how best to convince other people that it’s right.
  • In the face of a constant barrage of misogyny, and in an environment in which women who speak out in defense of women are besieged from all sides, anger and the desire for some form of camaraderie with the few women who have seen through the bullshit is to be expected. I am nearly constantly furious and quite often have an extreme sense of isolation in my political views. Still, when that camaraderie takes place on public blogs and contains words that men use to subjugate transgendered people, it presents a problem for radical feminism if the aim is to inject radical feminist ideas into public consciousness. Anger is one thing, slurs are another. Slurs shut the reader’s mind off. What cannot be allowed is for the public face of radical feminist theory to appear reactionary, and right now it does. When trans activists bully radical feminists and attempt to force their way into women-only spaces, women should be angry and should speak up — and should express anger when they do speak up — but should do so responsibly and intelligently, so that the radical feminist perspective won’t be written off.  Analyzing competing gender theories is not as simple as telling people how stupid and offensive a Burger King ad is. It’s complex, touchy, and very difficult to sort out and should be approached carefully.

In which Nine Deuce uses the word “trans” a second time

12 Jan

The cognitive dissonance that plagues the thinking radical feminist when ruminating over trans people matters and needs to be confronted, discussed, and theorized about, but it needs to be done in such a way that some good might come of it. Radical feminism, at a bare minimum, is characterized by the rejection of essentialism, of the idea that reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics come packaged with sets of social behaviors termed “feminine” and “masculine.” Gender role performances are simply a load of bullshit posturing forced on us by a male supremacist society that requires symbols of difference, no matter how fictitious, in order to continue to operate unchallenged. When we argue that plastic surgery exists to aid those who seek to more closely adhere to a gender role concocted by the partnership between capitalism and patriarchy, it’s easy to assume that the same impulse is at work when someone claims to identify with one gender role or the other and pursues sex reassignment surgery. It’s a very simple logical progression; having parts of one’s body surgically removed or having foreign objects inserted into one’s body as a result of a warped obsession with gender conformity illustrates the deleterious effects of socially enforced gender roles on the human body and mind in the case of the “beauty” industry, so the same must hold true for sex reassignment surgery.

The thing is, none of the radical feminists I know are trans, nor am I. I have no way of knowing whether my battle with what society wants out of me as someone born with a vagina resembles in any way the conflicts that occur in the mind of someone with male genitalia who feels a desperate need to undergo reassignment surgery. I’m guessing, however, that it doesn’t, and I’m thus not going to tell trans people how their minds work, nor am I going to make the outrageous and dehumanizing claim that they must be mentally ill. (Let us please not forget the history of the use of psychiatric authority as a justification for the marginalization, institutionalization, sterilization, rape, and murder of women.)

An even more difficult aspect of this issue is the relationship of male privilege and what society teaches male children about women and what it means to be female. Some radical feminists are offended at what they have perceived as a caricature of womanhood, or a reduction of the experience of being female to whatever a misogynistic society tells us womanhood is about (e.g., boots, bitchiness, and boobs). If all transwomen all the time interpreted and expressed femininity by channeling Bugs Bunny’s take on womanhood and ran around exclaiming that all one needs to be a woman is a facsimile vagina, a sense of fashion, and the ability to gossip, that would be the end of it. But that isn’t the case, and reality requires that we approach this discussion a little more thoughtfully and adhere to our own professed ethics and logical proclivities.

Straw Transwoman

Transwomen, it is argued, cannot ever understand what it means to be female in a male supremacist world in the exact same sense that women who were born female do. That is almost certainly the case, but who cares? Is anyone even claiming that they can? It would appear to be the opposite, in the cases in which transwomen enter into discussions with female-at-birth women and urge that their unique concerns as transwomen be taken into consideration. That leads to another problem. Some trans-critical radical feminists argue that transwomen display that most unseemly of male characteristics, the sense of entitlement to absorb all available discursive space and the totality of the available focus. Seeing as women have so few opportunities to discuss our own issues without men’s obnoxious intrusions, and seeing as there seems to be no space men do not feel entitled to intrude upon, I see the point. The problem lies, however, in whether we want to lump transwomen in with men. I don’t feel comfortable doing so. For one thing, the fact that many transwomen did not adhere to male gender norms even as children likely drastically altered the experience of male gender conditioning, and probably also sharply decreased the ability to relate to other boys and men as allies in the preservation of male privilege. Men perpetuate male privilege by “having each others’ backs” and bro-ing down in their shared misogyny and homophobia/transphobia (being unthoughtful dudes, they can’t distinguish between one kind of person they call “faggots” and another). How many little boys do you know who wouldn’t shun a little boy who displayed characteristics they’ve been taught to disdain since birth? And how many little boys who are shunned by other boys feel invested in upholding a male privilege that they feel fundamentally excluded from? Maybe some transwomen lived as boys long enough to absorb the idea that they are entitled to talk over women and that their concerns come first, simply because parents and society treat children with penises in such a way that they come to expect that. Or maybe the individual transwomen some of the radical feminist community has problems with are just self-absorbed, abusive assholes. In either case, we aren’t dealing with men. We are dealing with transwomen, and it is important when discussing something as complicated as conflicting gender theories to be very specific and delineate exactly what it is we’re talking about.

The argument goes that the existence of trans people strengthens the gender binary, but no one save the few trans activists who have attempted to force their way into female-only spaces truly considers transwomen to be women. The general public who consider themselves intellectuals because they read Time have even begun to evince an awareness, due in part to news stories regarding trans children, that there is a fundamental flaw in the gender binary. It is likely that, in a world without a binary gender hierarchy, gender roles would cease to serve a purpose and people would cease to feel the need to resort to dangerous medical procedures in order to feel at ease in the world, but we aren’t there yet. Even if everyone agreed at the stroke of midnight tonight to cease seeking out hormone therapy and reassignment surgery, trans people exist, and they exist in a no-woman’s-land between between the two ill-fitting gender roles male supremacist society has devised. We have to find ways to reconcile their existence with our mental frameworks and the physical world. Solutions need to be found to the problems that arise when people who do not fit the gender binary come up against it when standing in front of a public bathroom door sign, for example. “Fuck you, stay out” is not a solution. (Lobbying for single-user bathrooms — which make sense for several reasons not limited to trans people’s needs — is.)

The internet is probably the single most valuable recruiting tool history has handed us for ending the oppression of women, children, people of color, and the poor. If the sites people come across when looking for information on radical feminism revolve chiefly around esoteric denunciations infused with snotty, juvenile insults, how can we expect anyone to get on board with the cause? There are venues for the elaboration of theory and there are venues aimed at drawing in outsiders, but the proprietors of both have the responsibility to make themselves clear and accessible — rather than repulsive — to their audiences. That is not a request that women “play nice.” It is a request that feminists use the forums they have at their disposal responsibly.

The task at hand is not to define feminism in such a way that only eight people (of whom I am not one) qualify, it’s to figure out a way to create a world in which no one is beaten, raped, murdered, dehumanized, worked to death, devalued, or shat upon by men as a means for reinforcing male power. That will not be accomplished by using the master’s tools to try to tear down his house, i.e., using dehumanizing language that makes us sound like MRAs against oppressed people, even if some of them act like assholes. Transwomen are not in a position of power, they are not privileged over women except when women choose to efface themselves to give transwomen the stage, even if an individual transwoman feels entitled to talk over everyone. Is the claim that feminist blog discussions are a zero-sum environment in which transwomen’s issues are to be considered only to the ouster of women’s concerns? That’s ridiculous. The internet is a big place, and there is room for everyone who isn’t a complete dick to discuss their perspectives. If a site silences radical feminists (for illegitimate reasons), stop going to the site. There are places that won’t.

Transwomen who call themselves feminists are feminists, if we use the baseline belief that women are human beings as a basic definition of feminism. That some transwomen’s conception of  feminism reflects their own experiences rather than those of radical feminists who were born female is to be expected. It’s time to move away from the Second Wave/Third Wave dichotomy and move past the fragmentation of the feminist movement of recent decades. We can find ways to work with feminists who have varying priorities without descending into a radically relativistic individualism that isolates us all from each other, but we’ll have to attempt to figure out how rather than spend our time coming up with clever ways to delegitimize other feminists. Picking someone else’s position apart is far easier than building one of one’s own, but it’s a fairly dead-end pursuit. If the argument truly is that trans people demand more intellectual and political space than is their fair share, why are radical feminists creating entire blogs about them? How much effort needs to be expended on deconstructing trans politics? Does doing so really build radical feminist theory? Or change individual women’s lives for the better?

Note 1: I realize I only discussed transwomen here, which I did because I am responding to discussions in which transwomen are the chief subject. I tend to agree with the view that women transitioning to become men evince internalized misogyny, but that isn’t for this post, nor is it that shocking of an idea, given that everyone in the world is a misogynist.

Note 2: I will be moderating the fuck out of comments.

To be continued…

Get ready to shit your pants. I’m going to use the word “trans.”

10 Jan

I have resisted commenting on this whole thing for a long time, but I guess I have to do it. Still, I am going to post my thoughts in snippets, since this requires thoughtfulness, subtlety, and some other shit.

I’ve been absent for quite lengthy periods over the course of the last year, which I suppose means I’m not entitled to an opinion on what goes on in the feminist blogosphere, but which is also due in large part to the state of the feminist blogosphere in the last year or so. I’ll readily admit that I’ve never been a voracious blog reader, having barely enough time to read the comments on my own and force a post out of myself every few months in between working, studying, drinking, etc., but I do check in from time to time to find out what’s going on and to seek out new blogs. There are a lot of new blogs. A lot of excellent new blogs. However, I’m a little bewildered by a trend that I noticed emerging over a year ago that seems to have taken over the radical feminist blogging world.

I’ll take a deep breath, prepare myself to be deleted from tens of blogrolls, and say it: why the fuck is everyone so obsessed with “the trans issue”? And why is it that otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate radical feminists turn into complete assholes when discussing it? Any attempt to approach this issue has at this juncture been rendered nearly pointless by the vitriol and cliquishness that characterize the current state of the discussion of the relationship of transwomen to feminism and to womanhood as a meta category, and that is unfortunate.

Sure, a few asshole transwomen are to blame in part for this state of affairs, but so are a few radical feminists. Since when do people who care about oppression use dehumanizing tactics such as demeaning and belittling people who are trying to fight against their own oppression and trivializing that oppression? Since when is using a snotty, crass word like “twanz” to refer to a member of a group of oppressed human beings considered acceptable behavior for a radical feminist? Referring to transwomen as “men who cut their dicks off,” “twanz,” “she-males,” and whatever other terms are de rigueur among those who call themselves trans-critical radical feminists isn’t clever, it’s gross and embarrassing, and makes all of us look like assholes. I’m aware that there are several trans activists online who use terms just as bad (if not worse) to attack radical feminists, but if trans-critical radical feminists want to claim to be the bigger woman, they need to act like it.

To be continued…

 

Coming Soon: Coca-Brola

15 Oct

The number of comments I’m required to delete that attempt to defend butthole bleaching tells me that I am not yet free to retire from blogging and bask in the glory of a post-male supremacist utopia, so I suppose I had better get back to it. It’s often hard to decide which squash to pluck from the cornucopia of examples of societal misogyny at my disposal, but I received a comment the other day from GraceMargaret regarding an ad campaign for Dr. Pepper Ten and was confronted not hours later with a dude brandishing a Dr. Pepper Ten, so this one fell into my lap, as it were.

Ad campaigns designed to sell products to men that had previously been marketed chiefly to women aren’t exactly novel at this point, but they seem to be getting more bizarre by the month. What were marketing departments thinking, targeting only women with admonitions to buy, buy, buy beauty and diet products? By associating diet drinks, diet pills, shower gel, and eye firming serums with womanity, the fuckability industries effectively precluded any chance they’d be able to sell any of their wares to people who’d rather die than be associated with women. The challenge overcoming the vagina stigma associated with these products poses to marketing, product development, and advertising departments has resulted in some fairly hilarious material. A recent trip to Target highlighted that for me when I wandered through the shower gel section and found shower pouffes in neon green, neon pink, cream, and aqua, then found the men’s shower gel section, where the pouffes were labeled “men’s shower buffs” and came in navy, maroon, black, and dark gray.  They were also four cents cheaper, which means Target had to — in addition to instructing the factory to create these additional “manly” colors — create a separate SKU for the “men’s shower buff” in order to differentiate it from the faggoty ol’ regular shower pouffe.

But that ain’t shit. Does anyone remember the Axe Detailer Shower Tool (thanks KendallMcK)?

Unilever created a men’s shower “tool” that looked exactly like a tire, then took the automotive theme even further by terming the item a “detailer” and putting out a commercial in which they refer to men’s balls and wiener as the “undercarriage.” Just ridiculous. Men will balk at no suggestion for how they might disassociate themselves with women, apparently, no matter how stupid it makes them look. Just look at the Slim Jim “Manbulance” campaign.

But we’re here to talk about soda. “We’ve been telling you that men drink Coke and women drink Diet Coke for decades, but forget that and start drinking it now, OK, bro?” is a pretty hard sell, but Coke figured, once they formulated a new zero-calorie Coke variant by mixing aspartame and Acesulfame K, that they could solve that problem by marketing the new formula to men as Coke Zero. The can is black and it purportedly tastes more like Coke. Add that to an ad campaign that appeals to the turgid male ego and sense of entitlement and you’ve got an officially non-gay diet soda:

The plan worked. Ask anyone who works in a restaurant who asks them for Coke Zero and opts to order regular Coke when the answer is no.

Though the Coke Zero marketing campaign indicated that it was a product designed for men — who, unlike women, deserve both zero calories and “real Coke taste” — women were never explicitly excluded from the right to quaff the new wonder beverage. Dr. Pepper, however, is letting women know that their new diet soda is for men only, and that women are welcome to fuck off and die before they’ll be invited to drink a DP10 with the boys. Dr. Pepper Ten has ten calories — from actual high fructose corn syrup — in addition to a machine-gun gray can, but the differences between Dr. Pepper Ten and Diet Dr. Pepper don’t end at minor formula adjustments and can design changes; the slogan for the new product is “Dr. Pepper Ten: It’s Not for Women.” Women can drink Diet Dr. Pepper, which “tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper” (than other drinks that weren’t Dr. Pepper or Diet Dr. Pepper before the advent of Dr. Pepper Ten, I’m assuming) or they can drink water or some other gay shit, but they are not welcome to DP10.

The ad mimics Predator, Sniper, Commando, Rambo, etc. and features a generic Action Asshole™ riding around in a Jeep, shooting a giant gun, and battling snakes and bad guys, all the while keeping his cool and nonchalantly informing the women in the audience that this is a movie for men, and Dr. Pepper Ten is soda for men. He then tosses an empty soda can from the vehicle — which triggers a net that catches the antagonists following his Jeep — and triumphantly points at the camera and declares, “catchphrase!” in an attempt to make idiots feel smart for realizing that action movie cliches are cliches in 2011, when everyone else figured it out sometime around 1993.

The question has been raised whether the TV spot is satirical, given the absurd tenor of the Coke Zero and Pepsi Max ads. I would be inclined to take that view if it weren’t for the fact that Dr. Pepper is trying to sell a product to half of all Americans, not fans of the good bits of  The Colbert Report and The Onion, or the fact that Dr. Pepper is planning a “mobile Man Cave” tour in the test market cities to promote DP10 (one of which I unfortunately live in), or the fact that this campaign looks exactly like every other example of dudevertising in recent memory (see the Burger King Seven-Incher, the Slim Jim Manbulance, every commercial ever aired on Spike or FX, etc.). Unclever, self-aware, faux snark deployed by people who don’t understand what they’re parodying or why it deserves derision does not satire make.

Men are going to start drinking Dr. Pepper Ten because men are stupid, but women, according to focus groups, are cool with the no-bitches-or-hoes marketing approach to the extent that they plan to drink the new product, incorrectly assuming that the new formula will come with slightly less cancer than Diet Dr. Pepper. That leads me to two depressing conclusions. First, so many women have absorbed the message that a woman who wears a size four or above is a fundamental failure as a human being that a multi-national corporation can safely assume that, even if they accompany it with a misogynistic marketing push that explicitly states that the product is not for women, women will buy any low-calorie product that appears on a shelf. Women will buy something that they think will help them avoid gaining weight even if it is being sold by an entity that expresses overt disdain for women, which means women have had their self-respect and dignity beaten out of them by the fuckability mandate. Second, men hate women and fear anything associated with womanliness to such an extreme extent that corporations can now sell products to men on the basis of nothing other than their not being for women. What men are buying here is not a diet soda, which was already available in the exact same flavor, but rather a diet soda with a “suck my dick” label. Societal misogyny and the absurdity of gender symbolism have infiltrated the diet soda market to the point that there are now formulas and can designs for men only. Think about that.

New Study Finds Nitrites Decrease Gayness

30 Aug

Watching cable is almost never a good idea, but watching G4 is especially ill-advised. In fact, Spike might be the only channel on television more likely than G4 to cause a feminist to angrily stomp around her own apartment in front of no one. So there I was, watching a little G4 the other day when I happened to catch a new Slim Jim ad. I haven’t seen a Slim Jim joint since they hired Macho Man Savage to cement what one assumes must have been their already large following in the wrestling fan community, and I had just learned of Savage’s demise (mainly because a lot of my Facebook friends are, unfortunately, the kinds of dorks who think it’s clever to publicly lament the death of a professional wrestler), so I was mildly interested in seeing whether they would be distributing a Macho Man Savage Memorial Stick for people to snap into. This is what I saw:

The ad opens with a heavy dude with a beard (which has somehow become the new ideal male form, according to men) sitting in the back of Slim Jim’s “manbulance” (that’s right) stocked with various meat sticks. He asks the two EMTs how he ended up in their care, and they inform him that he had “just a salad” for lunch, a fact that leaves him both befuddled and irate. The scene then cuts to Slim Jim’s new logo, a play on the caduceus, and an auditory and visual claim that Slim Jims are “made from stuff guys need.” Pretty well flabbergasted, I decided to go check out the Slim Jim YouTube offerings to see whether this ad was a stand-alone unit or part of a larger campaign aimed at winning the Worst Ad Campaign Concept of 2011 trophy. Here is the first ad I found:

Slim Jim ran this ad in advance of all the others to introduce the public to the idea that they would be rolling the manbulance out in the near future in an attempt to “save men from themselves,” the “selves” being indicated by a wedding set-up and the “saving” occurring when the manbulance crashes through the nuptial arch, thus rescuing a would-be groom from having to endure entering into the one social institution that most guarantees the continuation of his social, financial, and cultural supremacy. This introductory spot was followed up with several ads in which more fat and/or bearded medical authorities tacitly call men faggots for engaging in various activities that are tritely associated with femininity before throwing a meat stick at them. A few examples:

Note the kegerators in this uber-manly waiting room, attended not by a nurse, but a “murse.” Because gay chick shit begins with the letter N, whereas real men only begin words with M.

Alright, that’s enough.

You might be laboring under the delusion that Slim Jim consumption is at odds with a healthy lifestyle, but that’s because you’re a pussy. Women might be able to get by on various combinations of vegetables, protein, and grains, but guys need sodium nitrite and dog food grade meat, and Slim Jim is literally made of stuff guys need. Men have needs women just can’t understand. They need food, shelter, and companionship just like women do, but they have additional specialized requirements that derive from their unique evolutionary heritage. For example, because their ancestors traveled in packs to kill animals for food and to capture women to rape in order to further the species, men have an instinctive need to get together in groups to sexually harass women and to eat foods that allow them to spiritually connect with their forebears who feasted on meat straight off of the bone, foods such as buffalo wings. In prehistoric times, men also spent quite a bit of time playing tic-tac-toe with their companions in the dirt, which explains why modern men need to commune via online video games, poker nights, and fantasy football leagues. And, of course, we all know that, because male hormones have such a powerful influence on men’s behavior, men require regular doses of Coors Light and pornography to keep their innate desire to rape and kill everything they see in check.

But seriously. What exactly is Slim Jim trying to tell us about men, women, and what “guys need”? Women do yoga, ride scooters, eat salads, practice hygiene, and willingly display sentimentality, so men need to eat sticks made out of barely-USDA-approved beef, “mechanically separated chicken” (whatever the fuck that is), toxic chemicals, and “spices”? Or is it that men’s dream of redefining modern manhood as endless adolescence is threatened by the stubbornly enduring expectation that men will eventually move out of their parents’ houses, get jobs, and cut down their video game time? For which the only remedy is a stick made out of barely-USDA-approved beef, “mechanically separated chicken” (whatever the fuck that is), toxic chemicals, and “spices”?

The ad men (they must have been men) behind the Slim Jim manbulance campaign aren’t really breaking any new ground as much as they are simply taking notice of the ubiquitous — though somewhat inchoate — neo-masculine ideology cropping up everywhere one looks, from Man vs. Food to beard contests. In order to be a real man, one must be dirty, hairy, and stupid to the point of self-destructiveness. The poorer one’s decision making skills, the greater his masculinity, it seems.

Unhealthy is the new manly because women, in an attempt to adhere to the weight guidelines of the fuckability mandate, have become associated with just about all healthy decisions a human being can make (in addition, of course, to some of the most unhealthy), and no one wants to be associated with women. Hairiness is the new manly because women, in acquiescing to porn culture’s demands, are removing nearly every hair from their bodies that isn’t on the top of their heads. Irresponsible, lazy, and stupid are the new manly because women keep showing up in previously male-only corporate and academic environments, thus removing “breadwinner,” “scholar,” and “responsible adult” from the list of roles men can occupy while maintaining strict boundaries between the male and female social realms. Whatever women are doing, men have got to knock off in order to maintain gender difference, and as women begin to do just about everything, men are left with few roles other than hot dog eating champion and porn connoisseur. Men are literally going to kill themselves in order to uphold some form of difference on which to base male supremacist hierarchy, even if the difference becomes so bizarre and stupid as to threaten to logically — and possibly materially — subvert the hierarchy itself.

Male privilege is truly a sight to behold. Men can behave like gluttonous, lazy, petulant infants, wantonly using, abusing, and disregarding women who are demonstrably more competent and civilized than they are, and yet still retain control of all of the governments on Earth, own 99% of the world’s property, and require women to do two thirds of the work done in the world for a tenth of the total wages that work produces. No matter how ridiculous and barbaric men’s behavior becomes — even according to standards conceived of and enforced by men — they expect to continue to dominate the world and all of its social structures because they have been able to do since the dawn of time by simply changing the rules or resorting to violence when women breach the gender divide. No word yet on how they’ll continue to do so on a diet of Slim Jims and PBR, so maybe there’s hope.

Career College Ad Sums Up What’s Wrong with US in 60 Seconds

31 Oct

Being as wasting time seems to have become my latest hobby, I recently found myself watching an afternoon episode of Jerry Springer and its attendant ads. I realize that admitting that might set a process in motion that will culminate in some kind of cyber-intervention aimed at forcing me to stop watching American culture and society swirl down the toilet bowl, but I’ll take my chances. I’m willing to take this risk because watching that hour of television on the subject of “lesbian” love triangles and suffering through the audience comments (which I assure you is the hardest part of the show to endure) alerted me to the existence of OmniTech Institute. Some of you might be wondering why one medical billing/office management/CNA/”technology” school would stand out from the seventy or so advertising in the Atlanta market, and I’ll tell you: OmniTech just happens to have the (unintentionally) funniest ad I’ve seen in years, an ad I attempted to find on YouTube yesterday in order to share it with all of my pals. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ad is not yet on YouTube (though I’ll be sure to forward it on as soon as it becomes available), but I did find two others, and those two others proved far more valuable than the one I’d been searching for in the first place. Let’s have a look:

Ahem.

Why are there more ads for low-grade, for-profit schools for “technology” and “medical” jobs on during daytime television broadcasts than there are chat line ads after midnight on the same networks? Why are “technology” and “medicine” supposed to excite people who watch talk shows about people having sex with people they shouldn’t and the zany consequences that derive therefrom? Well, I suppose the people who produce and book ads for the CW have some idea what they’re doing. It doesn’t take a demographics expert to know that people who watch daytime network TV are unlikely to have steady “nine-to-five” (when are we going to admit that people work at least from eight to five and stop using that phrase?) jobs, that most of them are women at home who might rather not be, that they don’t have a shitload of money on hand or else they’d have cable and wouldn’t be watching the CW at all, and that most of these people have absorbed the idea that “education” is good, that one needs a “career,” and that “medicine” and “technology” are, like, total BFDs. They’re also aware that their audience is generally made up of people of color and that it’s a safe bet to market career education to that audience, because any dumbass knows that the intersection of a Venn diagram of non-whiteness and limited career opportunities is pretty big. Really, if you went for a three-circle Venn diagram with circles representing women, people of color, and people with limited job opportunities, it’d look a lot more like a circle drawn by a four-year-old than Mickey Mouse’s head. I used to watch the CW when it was the WB from time to time when I lived in LA, where the ethnoracial demographics are different than they are here in Atlanta, and it won’t shock anyone to hear that the same ads exist there, but feature Latina/os instead of black people.

I understand what’s going on in the minds of the people who produce the spots for career training schools and decide when and to whom to broadcast them. That’s the easy part. But why are there so many schools out there offering career education in the medical and “technology” fields? Why didn’t I see more ads for other types of businesses that take advantage of people in precarious socioeconomic positions? Why weren’t there more commercials for title loans, personal injury attorneys, or rent-to-own furniture joints? (Not that there aren’t plenty of those, but there are more career training school ads than all other ads put together.) It would seem like a good thing that it’s education rather than outright usury that’s being marketed to the CW’s demographic, were it not for a few things.

First, every single one of these schools is for-profit, and lord knows whether any of them are even accredited. Most of their website addresses are so bootleg as to remind me of the fly-by-night mortgage joints that swarmed like cockroaches onto the radio in the early 2000s (mybrownmackie2.com? Come on, now.), and some of them don’t even have websites. They’re all cagey about exactly how much they charge for their “bachelor’s degrees in three years” or their ten-month career training programs that purportedly lead to jazzy jobs in medical billing and IT, likely because the price is outrageous. I don’t care if it’s $100 a month. The price is outrageous because it’s absurd that someone is making a profit selling education that ought to be offered in every high school and community college in America for free. And let’s be serious here. Are the people graduating from these programs even getting jobs? I only know two people who have gone to schools of this sort, one who went to ITT Tech in order to jump start his career in the hot, hot, hot IT field, and another who went through an EMT course at Atlanta Tech. Right now, they’re selling mattresses and substitute teaching, respectively.

Twenty-four percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — which is why there are so many people with business degrees selling Playstation consoles at Best Buy and waiters who know what “endogamous” means — and that means there’s a serious problem with the way we’re approaching secondary education. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning tracking or making the argument that teachers or administrators ought to be able make decisions about students’ futures based on their own cracked and biased criteria, but students should be able to choose to earn an MCSE or other certifications, take business courses, or learn other practical career skills at school rather than being shoved toward “college” and not offered any other options, when at this point the vast majority of college students are only there to get drunk, major in pretending watching movies makes you an intellectual, and avoid getting kicked out of their parents’ house and off their parents’ balance sheet. Ideally, we’d prepare all students for entry-level jobs in high school and close three quarters of the four-year universities and colleges in this country, replacing them with federally funded community colleges designed to either offer useful, practical job training or the foundational courses one needs to transfer to one of the remaining four-year universities that offer degrees that actually give students the opportunity to expand their world views and do something other than become generic suits. Of course, it’d be awesome if primary and secondary education were federally funded and equalized so that students in one neighborhood aren’t sitting on the floor during class while kids three miles up the road are voting on whether to get custom embroidery on the frosh volleyball team’s new uniforms or spend the cash on a few more iMacs in the graphic design lab. It would also be awesome if we had the kinds of social safety nets we need to provide kids with the homes, health care, and food they need if they’re to have a fighting chance to succeed even in well-funded schools, but this ain’t France, so community colleges are my answer. They’re cheap, they’re accessible, and they create a path for non-traditional students and poor people (read: people who have a real motivation to learn rather than a desire to extend high school for a few more years) to four-year university degrees that would otherwise be out of reach.

In sum: dodgy for-profit career schools bad, career training in high schools or community colleges good. No one should have to buy a job.

On to issue number two: each of the ads makes a point of citing mainstream media stories in which “technology” and “medicine” are listed as the top (and, really, only) growth career fields. I won’t say much about technology (I mean, I wouldn’t be able to express myself to more than four people at once were it not for technology) other than that I often wonder just how much technology each of us has to have at our disposal before we realize it isn’t leading us toward some blissful utopia scored by our favorite MGMT tracks in which we do nothing other than order new fashion accessories telekinetically and communicate with people we never actually see in person by means of 140-character not-so-witty witticisms. The medical industry is another story. There’s a reason that there are jobs to be had in the medical industry — especially in the medical billing sector — and that reason is that the medical insurance industry continues to grow and swell and spread and suck up everyone and everything in its immoral, depraved path because Americans are too stupid to question the ethics of medical capitalism and get together in their own self interest to put the medical insurance industry out of commission. I’ll readily admit to getting bored and tuning out over the course of the ninety years or so it took the 111th Congress to figure out how to pretend to do something about the travesty our health care system has blossomed into, but I do know that no one ever discussed the only thing that would have done any good: shutting down the health insurance industry in toto and giving all Americans the right not to die because they aren’t rich enough to pay a hundred times what medical services should actually cost in order to enrich people with no interest in patients’ well-being. Obviously I’m not going to blame someone who needs a leg up out of poverty for going into medical billing because it pays $10 an hour instead of $7.25, but I’m also not going to pretend that there’s anything sustainable or ethical about that career field. Health care and insurance billing may be growth sectors, but that’s only because parasites tend to flourish — at least in the short run — when given unfettered access to the host’s internal organs.

Finally, there’s the presentation of both ads, which is so absurd and offensive that I almost suspect Martin Lawrence was involved.  First we have the commercial aimed at black men, in which the message is, “Get your MSCE at OmniTech, and the next thing you know mad career women will be jumping in yo’ convertible to give you summa dat ass!”  I mean, really. My friend Jackalope just finished a nine-month EMT course, and he isn’t reporting droves of women jumping into his car everywhere he goes, nor did the course result in his ownership of a convertible. (As a matter of fact, he has yet to even get a job in the purportedly booming medical field, despite graduating at the top of his class.) Then there’s the ad aimed at black women, in which we see a group of friends shopping and marveling at all the skirts they can afford. At one point a woman literally says, “I can afford to buy whatever I want!” I’m not black, but I highly doubt that when a black woman is considering career training shoes are at the forefront of her mind, and even though I’m neither black nor male, I have a hard time believing that black men choose to go to computer school with the only motivation being that it’ll result in poontang. Despite the fact that the people at OmniTech clearly don’t agree, I figure I can safely assume that these ads don’t reflect reality because I don’t think black women and black men are one-dimensional caricatures out of an episode of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

In addition to making plain OmniTech’s demeaning take on the black community, this pair of ads displays some extremely tiresome attitudes about gender. The most obvious example is their decision to advertise their IT program to men and their medical billing program to women. Medical billing, a traditionally pink collar field, boasts salaries that top out near $20 an hour, which OmniTech fails to mention when they feature an erstwhile OmniTech student purchasing her own home. Conversely, IT salaries are virtually limitless given that there are innumerable paths to advancement within the IT field. Then there are the gendered stereotypes with regard to the meaning of success.  The symbol of success for men, as usual, is sexual access to women, whereas for women it’s unlimited cosmetics and clothes. No surprise there — and not really all that noteworthy as ads go, though this one is considerably more ham-fisted in its presentation of that hackneyed idea than most — but if you put that message together with the other messages in these two ads, you’ll get a fairly clear distillation of just how cannibalistic and self-destructive the American economy/advanced capitalism really is: you have unscrupulous individuals using racist and sexist insults and promoting mindless adherence to destructive gender roles and sociopathic marketing directives as a means to sell overpriced career training that rarely leads to a more lucrative career. If it does lead to a more lucrative career, that career will be in an industry that is completely immoral and unsustainable because it exists solely to avoid actually providing what it sells, which is a product that ought to be a human right rather than a product in the first place. And that industry is most clearly negatively affecting the exact communities that these ads are targeted at. Really, it’s an epitomic instance of the promotion of short-sighted, self-destructive, selfish, individualist cosumerism: “Who cares whether this industry will hasten the deaths of both individual human beings that you probably know and the American economy as a whole? If you get on board, you can buy a car, a woman, or some shoes! Why ask why? Try Bud Dry!”

I like it when people talk about breast cancer without trying to make it “sexy.” On the kitchen counter.

7 Oct

I was bewildered yesterday when several women I know began posting updates about where they “like it.” As in, “I like it on the floor,” or “I like it on the coat rack.” Wait, I thought, is it possible that all of my female friends have lost their senses of decorum and dignity on the same day? Then I saw an update from a dude that said, “I like it with her own money in it.” I asked him what he was talking about and he told me he was making fun of “some chick thing.”

Exactly.

I was still bewildered and decided to figure it out by making use of my stellar Google skills, and it turns out that it’s an attempt to raise breast cancer awareness by means of a boring, annoying internet meme: women post Facebook updates about where they like “it” — “it” being their purse — which is supposed to pique men’s interest and get them to think about donating money to breast cancer research.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I see a few holes in this plan. First off, that train of thought skips an awful lot of stations. We’re banking on the general Facebooking public being far smarter and far less lazy than I am, and that seems like a bad bet to me (I am a highly motivated genius, after all). Second, every single one of the updates I saw on Facebook yesterday was followed with about ten lascivious comments from dudes who had neither made any effort to figure out on their own why so many women were all of a sudden posting suggestive updates on Facebook nor bothered to ask those women why they were doing so. Instead, they responded with shit like “Me too!” or “Can I come over?” You know, because they’re men, and men tend to be oversexed, clueless jags, especially when confronted with women who appear to be inviting sexual attention. I have yet to see a single discussion erupt in which breast cancer is mentioned at all. Way to raise awareness.

But let’s pretend for a second that it was working, that men all over the country were donating money they could otherwise spend on micro-brews and new Xbox controllers to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Why weren’t they doing so last week? Why isn’t the existence of breast cancer awareness month enough to get them to part with $5? Why isn’t the thought of protecting their mothers, sisters, wives, or friends from breast cancer motivation enough to get these guys in the donatin’ spirit? Why, ONCE AGAIN, do women have to flatter men’s ridiculously swollen egos with weak, nonsensical innuendo in order to cajole them into acting like human beings? Sorry, but I fail to see how breast cancer is sexy, or why we need to use sex to sell men on the idea that breast cancer matters.

Has anyone else noticed the direction that campaigns to raise money for breast cancer research are moving in? I’ve seen at least ten “Save the Tatas” bumper stickers this week, and every time I do I consider keying the car it’s affixed to. I mean, really. Are we seriously incapable of conceiving of breasts as anything but sex objects even when discussing a potentially fatal disease? And what does “Save the Tatas” even mean? I have one guess, and here’s my translation: “Men, if you love tits, donate money to breast cancer research so there will be less mastectomies and hence more tits around for you to ogle.” That’d be great and all, but what we need to save is women’s lives, not their tits.

Just to make sure, I’m going to apply the ol’ switcheroo here. Let’s say that the Red Cross decided they needed to step up their effort to encourage people to donate to relief efforts in Haiti and decided to sex the campaign up by asking us to donate money to Haitian women’s breasts or Haitian men’s penises, complete with photos of breasts and penises (or at least photos suggestive of breasts and penises). Yep, that’s completely insane. One more try: how about we raise awareness of the prevalence of prostate cancer with a “Save the Boners” sticker campaign? Or by asking men to post cryptic Facebook ads about where they like to leave their wallets, as in “I like it in the back pocket of my pants until the morning, when I like it in my other pants”? Also insane, if only because no one pays attention when men post seemingly sexual Facebook updates because they do it all fucking day anyway.

If men don’t give a shit about breast cancer, we can’t make them, even if we hold a topless awareness rally. First because they’re already aware that breast cancer exists (who isn’t?), and second because all they’ll see is a bunch of tits, not the human beings they’re attached to, which might be where the root of the problem lies anyway, know what I’m saying?

Fall 2010 Course Offerings in the Men’s Studies Department

25 Apr

Reader Elizabeth tipped me off last week to a podcast of some DaHarb named Lionel Tiger (no, seriously) who has had the blisteringly original idea that universities, if they’re going to offer Women’s Studies courses, ought to be required – in the name of equality – to offer Men’s Studies courses. As someone who has spent the last eight years on college campuses futzing around various humanities and social sciences departments, I would like to reassure Mr. Tiger that he needn’t worry about men’s curricular under-representation. Men’s Studies actually already exists. I don’t know what they call it at Rutgers where he teaches, but at the two universities I’ve attended, they call it Literature, History, Art History, Political Science, Economics, and Area Studies. Really, nearly every course taught in every humanities or social science department on Earth could be considered Men’s Studies were it not for the token textbook chapter here and there on “women’s history” or “women’s literature.” Or maybe Tiger is concerned when he looks at the course catalog and sees a section for African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, etc. but doesn’t see a White Men’s Studies, an omission that would imply that white men aren’t oppressed enough to warrant a department dedicated to the study of their suffering. I mean, just imagine.*

Let’s pretend for a minute that the majority of Women’s Studies departments haven’t already been rebranded and ideologically reworked as Gender Studies departments and think about what kinds of courses might fall under the rubric of Men’s Studies. Davetavius and I have designed for your perusal a hypothetical grouping of course offerings for the Fall 2010 semester for the Men’s Studies department at Alternate Universe State (I’m guessing that it might be possible that in some alternate universe there exists a shortage of college courses about men and their concerns, though I still doubt it).

Undergraduate Course Offerings

MNST 101 Introduction to Chicks – Required for all Men’s Studies majors. Introduces basic concepts in the study of chicks, how to get them to get naked, and what’s wrong with them. Concepts that will be covered include basic sexual coercion techniques, creative avoidance of privilege examination, and basic victim-blaming.

MNST 110 Strip Club Etiquette  — This course will give students a thorough grounding in the behavior expected at strip clubs. Topics will include avoiding contact with bouncers, how to discreetly inquire about the availability of intercourse or fellatio, how to maximize the amount of attention one can get per tip dollar, how to avoid ingesting pubic hairs at free strip club lunch buffets, the parameters of lap dances, advanced glitter removal laundry techniques, and basic alibi formation.

MNST 123 Intermediate Automobile Appreciation – Building on the fundamentals taught in MNST 122, this course will take students beyond a basic understanding and appreciation of horsepower and will prepare them to classify American vehicles by year and to detect and precisely identify common vehicle modifications. Prerequisite: MNST 122 Basic Automobile Appreciation or proof of ownership of a classic vehicle as defined by department guidelines. May be taken concurrently with MNST 124 Introduction to Drifting.

MNST 209 Intermediate NFL Theory – This course will build upon the basic knowledge of the NFL taught in MNST 109 to prepare students to call sports talk radio shows and discuss coaching strategies and to assemble a viable fantasy football team. Intended to prepare students for MNST 210 Applied NFL Theory: Fantasy Football. Prerequisite: MNST 109 Basic NFL Theory To Prevent Sounding Like A Faggot or permission of the coach.

MNST 212 Applied Fart Science – This course will allow students to put what they have learned in the course of our two-semester fart theory sequence into practice. Topics to be covered include public flatulence strategies, mind control techniques that will allow one to maintain a straight face while others attempt to detect the source of a fart, complex “pull my finger” sequences, the scientific principles of rectal methane combustion, and rhetorical strategies for smelt it/dealt it disputes. Prerequisite: MNST 211 Intermediate Fart Theory or department placement exam.

MNST 323 Directed Research in Mammarian Theory – Senior seminar intended for MNST majors. This course will allow students to move beyond basic breast appreciation and to formulate an individualized mammarian taxonomy in preparation for the senior thesis (required for all MNST majors, a 25,000-word essay on who has/had the world’s greatest tits). Students work with an advisor to identify three individual areas of interest (e.g., 80s boob comedies, silicon implants versus saline implants, tactile versus visual breast appreciation, etc.) and to examine relevant research data. Intended as preparation for MNST 324 Senior Thesis Seminar in Advanced Mammarian Studies. Prerequisite: at least four courses in the MNST 310-319 range of upper-division Mammarian Theory courses.

Graduate Course Offerings

MNST 412 Computer Science for Men: Advanced Pornography Perusal Techniques – This course will prepare students to develop complex Boolean search sequences for the efficient and precise acquisition of highly specific pornographic content. Final exam to consist of a timed search for a minimum of five free video clips matching at least 7 of 10 of the criteria outlined in a randomly chosen description of a 4Chan member’s preferred masturbatory fantasy. Intended for MA students as preparation for the MA thesis in the Erotic Arts sub-field. Prerequisite: MNST 380 Intermediate Pornography Perusal Techniques: Moving Beyond Basic Anal.

MNST 465 Directed Research in Microbrews – This course builds on the MNST 460-464 series of courses in microbrew appreciation to prepare MA students to write the MA thesis in the Fermented Beverages sub-field. Students work with an advisor to identify three breweries (either domestic, European, or a combination of the two) and to sample and analyze the products of each before writing a comparative thesis in the field. Students seeking entry into the PhD program with a focus in Fermented Beverages are encouraged to complete MNST 466 Applied Microbrew Theory: Home Brewing and/or MNST 467 Applied Microbrew Theory: Advanced Punning for Beer Naming in preparation for their doctoral research. Prerequisite: MNST 464 Advanced Microbrew Appreciation: Boulder vs. Belgium.

MNST 501 Advanced Men’s Rhetoric for PhD Students – This multidisciplinary course is intended to help doctoral students to prepare for their oral qualifying examinations by introducing them to advanced rhetorical strategies for the defense of male privilege and the male-supremacist status quo. Topics to be covered include creative interpretation and misrepresentation of rape and domestic violence statistics, the utilization of historical precedent as a rationalization for the continued subjugation of women and/or people of color, the deployment of basic evolutionary psychology/biology to excuse sociopathic behavior on the part of men, advanced applied false analogy theory for use in situations in which it is advantageous to compare the white male heterosexual experience to that of groups of people who have actually been oppressed, and advanced men’s ultramicro-economic theory, which will prepare students to appear to refute the claims of Marxist and anarchist feminists about men’s systemic misappropriation of women’s labor by producing anecdotal evidence that a woman once took advantage of a man for monetary gain. Having completed this course, students will have the opportunity to earn extra credit for participation in a debate with students from the university’s Women’s Studies department at which everyone will be required to give both sides’ arguments equal weight regardless of the quantity and quality of thought and knowledge that underlies each, as to do otherwise would unfairly disadvantage the Men’s Studies students. This event, like our department, will be funded with monies taken from the Women’s Studies budget.

Should you have a class title or description to suggest, please do so in comments. The department will surely expand.

* Since I know everyone really wants to know my opinion on the organization of university curricula: in short, ____ Studies departments only serve to create the illusion of commonalities that are at best crude and misleading and to further ghettoize the study of women, non-heterosexuals, and people of color. A wiser tack to take would be to quit judging all people against a white male heterosexual yardstick and require that the professors of regular ol’ history/literature/etc. courses quit pretending dead white men were the only people who ever did anything noteworthy.

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