sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

February 4, 2016

Everyday Feminism

Filed under: feminism, immigration, jihad, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:36 am

One August in the mid-80’s my mom took me and my sister to Yalta.  We usually vacationed elsewhere because this Crimean city, although unquestionably beautiful, was horribly overcrowded.  That year my sister was busy with university entrance exams all summer, so, after she passed, my mother decided to do something extravagant for her in the one week remaining before the beginning of the school year, and took us to Yalta.

Jurmala

No, this is not Yalta, this is Jurmala, a Latvian town on Baltic sea circa 1970.  The semi-naked human mass above is comparable to that of any other Soviet vacation paradise.  It’s hard to believe, but a jam-packed beach is somewhat of an object of Soviet nostalgia today.  Russia staged these types of human ant farm pictures in Yalta last summer by closing some of the beaches and crowding others

We rented out a half a room (well, a Soviet vacation) from a lady who lived five minutes away from the beach.  The lady that lived in the other half and was very talkative.  No problem, we thought, we are not planning on spending time in that room anyway.  We put on our swim suits and shorts and headed out.

Two blocks away from the beach we were approached by a young cop.

“Hello! Where are you from?” He asked politely.

We were taken aback.  This is not how Soviet authority figures typically approach citizens.  “Kharkov,” Replied my mother.

“So do you dress like that in Kharkov too?” He pointed to mine and my sister’s shorts. “This is way too short!” He all of a sudden became a Soviet authority figure, berating us for something that’s not any of his business in a first place.  He scolded us for a few minutes after which he said good buy and moved on to the next group of female vacationers.  A few months later we saw him on national TV admonishing some ingénues.

My mother was upset: No, we don’t wear this clothes in Kharkov, but Kharkov is not a resort town.  And here, two more blocks and we’ll be in our bikinis!

On a positive side, he didn’t throw acid on us, as our Iranian buddies would had done.  That young cop was pretty comical actually.  All his efforts didn’t make a dent in the beach-goers state of undress. But by then the Soviet Union was falling apart and 70 years of pent-up sartorial frustration was exploding in bright colors and mini skirts.  And designer labels on girls whose families, presumably, couldn’t afford any new clothes at all.

I don’t take my ability to dress the way I want for granted.  That’s why I view some of recent arrivals in my town with unease.  There’s a lot of heads carves and two women have only eyes open to the elements.  Their men dress more or less like normal Western men, but women and even elementary school girls are clearly marked as tribal-religious property.

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A classic: an Iranian woman before the revolution

The new arrivals’ dress code doesn’t simply signal their status; it has implications for me and my daughter.  As the European New Year’s Eve rape rampage confirmed, in the eyes of quite a few Muslim men Western women are one step above prostitutes.

I think it’s very important to show that we are not about to change our ways just because Muslim families settled in the nearby Section 8 (or whatever it’s called now) housing complex.  For instance, I always try to make eye contact with Muslim men and smile.  I wear skinny jeans and skirts that bare my knees.  If I’m ever in a situation where I can shake hands with a Muslim man, I’ll initiate it.

The other day I was walking towards the Target entrance when two women in head scarves and a male relative of theirs approached the entrance from the other side.  I made sure to get in 5 steps in front of them and, for myself, for my daughter and for every woman in Tehran, brushed my hand through my hair.

I don’t think I will personally ward off jihad, but on the other hand American women not as easy of a target as European women.  A 17-year-old Danish girl who fought of an assailant with pepper spray was recently told that she will be charged because pepper spray is illegal in Denmark.  This cannot possibly happen in the US, and the men entering the country must know it.

We can look at Israel as a model for assimilation.  The Jewish state has a pretty good record (well, all things considered) bringing their Muslims into the 21st century, and it’s known for beautiful modern women and Uzis.  I’d rather be Israel than Denmark.

Israeli

Another classic: A beach in Israel

January 15, 2016

David Bowie, Founding Father of Third Wave Feminism Dead at 69

Filed under: feminism, music, politics — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:27 am

Third wave, or sex-positive feminism, has two dads and one stepmom.  The stepmom is Camille Paglia, the writer who redefined feminism for the 1990’s.  Not ivory tower feminism, of course, and academics-establishment types will never give her the full credit.  Second wave feminism, as RS McCaine argued, albeit I can’t find the exact quote, was a reaction against the sexual revolution and the liberal men.  It made personal political and deemed all sex a rape. What was new about the third wave?  The idea that women derive power from sex and the aestheticism. Those ideas are Paglia’s.  It was Paglia who spoke to the masses, it was Paglia who made most sense.

Paglia was hugely influenced by David Bowie, something she talked about at length after his passing:

Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust period in the early 1970s had a staggering influence on me. I had been writing about androgyny in literature and art in my term papers in college and grad school, so Bowie’s daring experiments seemed like the living embodiment of everything I had been thinking about. It’s hard to believe now, but when I submitted the prospectus for Sexual Personae in 1971, it was the only dissertation about sex in the entire Yale Graduate School. I completed it in 1974, while I was teaching at my first job at Bennington College in Vermont. One of the supreme moments of my life as a student of culture occurred in October 1973, as I was watching NBC’s “Midnight Special” in my apartment in Bennington. It was a taping from London of “The 1980 Floor Show,” Bowie’s last appearance as Ziggy Stardust—a program oddly never broadcast in the U.K. Bowie looked absolutely ravishing! A bold, knowing, charismatic creature neither male nor female wearing a bewitching costume straight out of the Surrealist art shows of the Parisian 1930s: a seductive black fish-net body suit with attached glittery plaster mannequin’s hands (with black nail polish) lewdly functioning as a brassiere. I instantly realized that Bowie had absorbed the gender games of Andy Warhol’s early short films, above all “Harlot,” with its glamorous, sultry drag queen (Mario Montez). Hence I viewed Bowie, who became one of the foundational creators of performance art, as having taken the next major step past Warhol in art history. I never dreamed that someday I would see that brilliant fish-net costume inches away in a display case at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, where I was lucky enough to catch the V&A’s Bowie costume show two years ago. It was a sacred epiphany, like seeing a splinter from the True Cross.

The two Bowie albums that had the biggest impact on me were Aladdin Sane (1973) and Young Americans (1975).   Bowie’s haunting, hypnotic “Lady Grinning Soul,” with its rippling, rhapsodic piano work by Mike Garson, is a masterpiece of art-rock. My own highly controversial view of women in the expanded version of Sexual Personae(published by Yale Press in 1990) can really be seen as an epic extrapolation of “Lady Grinning Soul.” That song reaffirmed everything I had intuited about mythological woman from all kinds of sources—from classic Hollywood movies to the masterpieces of the Louvre! Then there’s “Fascination” (on Young Americans), which Bowie co-wrote with Luther Vandross and recorded in Philadelphia. As I wrote in my essay for the V&A, this gospel/funk anthem is Bowie’s artistic manifesto, the closest we may ever come to a glimpse of his creative process, both passionate and agonized. Yes, passion—emotion! Because that is what separates the great Bowie from all those sterile postmodernist appropriators, with their tittering irony. Bowie drew titanic power from his deep wells of emotion. Plus as a mime artist, he was a dancer, grounded in the body. He never stupidly based gender in language alone—like all those nerdy post-structuralist nudniks who infest academe. Who the hell needed Foucault for gender studies when we already had a genius like Bowie?

Bowie loved Paglia back, naming Sexual Personae one of his favorite books of all time.

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One of the many faces: Bowie as a Sphinx

Bowie’s aesthetic sensibility resonated throughout feminist circles. He is probably the single greatest influence on post-Punk in all of its forms, including feminist riot grrrls.  Riot grrrl bands came in full force in the early 90’s; they married the standard-issue feminist message to a space oddity of female sexuality.  In their genre, the stage show is the most important part of musicianship, and their personaes have to be reaffirmed in every performance, Bowie-style, with a collage of glitter, striptease, lesbianism and profanity of the most hard core punk variety.  Their shtick is that on one hand they are reclaiming girliness, on the other — they are tough, so tough. Ironically their oh-so-empowering storm of the male-dominated music industry took place post-AIDS when the rock-n-roll scene was sufficiently tamed by the disease.

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The grrrl singer of Bikini Kill is of a conventionally good-looking variety.  Something she works *with*, not *against*

Beyond riot grrrls, when young women urge each other to grow arm pit hair and dust it with glitter, they are trying to think like Bowie.  When they parade down the streets of our cities in nothing but bras and panties, allegedly protesting unwanted attention, they are channeling Bowie in a fishnet bodysuit. If by no means conventionally good-looking Bowie fashioned himself into a sex symbol through sheer will, then they too are beautiful.  You might think SlutWalks are a dorkfest, but the gals think they are in an 80’s music video.

In literature (well, autobiography) and cinema there are the likes of Elizabeth Wutzel and Lena Dunham who are also working within this particular tradition that Bowie sired.  They are the foul-mouthed glitter girls ready to spread their legs for anyone sufficiently well-versed in inner workings of their subculture: Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am!  And I bet they have this and a few other Bowie songs committed to heart.

It should be noted that grrrls’ own invention was to throw the images of strong and healthy pre-pubescent girls into the sexualized Bowiesque mix.  If Lena Dunham didn’t found it very easy to tell us how she molested her younger sister, it’s probably because she saw images of innocence juxtaposed against sexual deviancy all her life.  Not saying that grrrls approved of Dunham’s behavior.

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From a 90’s grrrl zine

This is all terribly ironic considering the circumstances of Bowie’s death, as noted by Brendan O’Neill:

[…]I want to pay tribute to another of Bowie’s feats, which strikes me as quite extraordinary: the fact that he kept his cancer private, or ‘secret’, as the press insists, for 18 months. This, more than anything, has blown me away today. In this era of too much information, when over-sharing is virtually mandatory, Bowie’s decision to suffer away from the limelight, among those closest to him, appears almost as a Herculean achievement.

As if beneath all his masks and extravagances the real David Bowie was a private person. To Bowie personal wasn’t political.  He lived his life as if it was a piece of art and kept away from politics.  As a person he remained an enigma.

The second father of third wave feminism was Bill Clinton whose affairs forced the most doctrinaire of feminists to concede that men and women have sexual appetites.  Otherwise mattress girls would have been running around college campuses twenty years ago.

So there it is: a dissident feminist, a closet heterosexual (as Bowie once referred to himself) and the most powerful man on Earth gave us the current reincarnation of women’s movement.  I leave you, my friends, with Suffragette City.  I have no idea what the song means, not sure Bowie himself knew, but it’s one of his best and it seems fitting for the occasion:

December 9, 2014

50 Shades of Lena

Filed under: feminism, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:30 am

I wasn’t quite following the campus rape stories that seemed to spring up out of nowhere, and Lena Dunham’s wholly made up date rape was not on my radar until a few days ago.  I’m yet to see an episode of Girls, and I didn’t read the Dunham’s book, but this jumped out at me:

After a month-long investigation that included more than a dozen interviews, a trip to the Oberlin campus, and hours spent poring through the Oberlin College archives, her description of the campus remains the only detail Breitbart News was able to verify in Dunham’s story of being raped by a campus Republican named Barry (here and later the bold is mine, — S).

Barry?  Which Barry?  Two years ago Dunham, as you recall, compared voting for Barack Obama to to loosing her virginity, so her overture to Mr. President is well-documented.  Scratch that.  It’s not your run-of-the-mill overture; she anticipates the rendevouz with a black power figure to be so awesome that all her previous exploits will no longer count.

Somewhere in Hollywood

Dunham’s on-screen character, I hear, once dated a black Republican, which the sitcom creator compared to dating a Nazi:

My personal position is that you should date anyone you want so long as they treat you respectfully and share your value system. So it might be hard for me to date someone who was against gay marriage and abortion rights — I don’t think I would be attracted to them — but I don’t have any personal problem with dating a Republican. I do think that Hannah has this reverse ignorance where she’s like,If they’re Republican, get them out of my airspace, and that was a fun thought to explore.

When most American women wouldn’t date a Nazi because Nazism is a murderous ideology, Dunham claims that she is not attracted to people who have different opinions.  Fair enough… except that she doth protest too much.  Mundane political opinions are hardly titillating, and the mastermind of Sex in The City knock off should sense that.

In Dunham’s world Republicans are a forbidden fruit, and no matter how much she’s secretly attracted to members of this group, she can only fantasize of a sexual encounter taking place under special circumstances.  A Republican’s ethnic minority status can potentially provide a counterbalance to his otherness — all blacks are good, all Republicans are evil.  Or else sex has to be forced. Or both.

I’m curious if there is more examples of Lena hatef***ing The Other out there.  She probably does have some peculiar fantasies of race and power.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for linking.

August 19, 2014

Existential Feminist

Filed under: feminism — Tags: — edge of the sandbox @ 9:39 am

Career women in New York City are submitting themselves to hormonal treatments:

Fashionable New York professional women gathered at a first-of-its-kind “egg-freezing party” this week — where they sipped champagne while learning how to scientifically put off motherhood until they decide that they’re fully ready.

Dubbed “Let’s Chill,” the event was sponsored by a company called EggBanxx, which is cutting the cost of egg freezing and marketing it to young go-getters who want to be ready for kids later in life.

“I don’t have a significant other . . . but I hope to one day and have kids,” said attendee, Donna Kanze, 35, of Manhattan, who has a career in the technology sector. She’s already signed up for egg freezing.

“I want to take my fertility into my own hands, rather than put pressure on the person I have my next relationship with,” she said.

“I don’t want to be in the position when I’m in my late 30s and panicking because I haven’t found the right man and I’d compromise and take anyone off the street!”

Does she want to be in a position of having a baby alone at 50?

One day Donna Kanze will die, and before then she’ll get old, and a decline in fertility is a part of aging.  With age her looks will fade, and so will her chances of finding an attractive partner.  Cutting edge medicine and top of the line beauty products can help her retain her looks and fertility longer, but they can’t make them last forever, and sooner rather than later these New York professional women will find themselves running against the same biological clock.  The time to panic is not 35, but 26.

I hear that single, professional, straight women outnumber men in NYC.  These women made a choice to build their careers before starting families, and they built their careers in the most exiting place in the world.  They are making a choice to continue to work and  live there even though they know that their chances of pairing up in the City are not so good.  If they hadn’t met anyone yet, what makes them think that they will in the next few years? If family is important to these women (as I suspect it is because they are shooting up hormones), they should try a different approach to finding love rather than buying up a little time to do more of the same.

Egg-freezing can temporarily relieve the angst, but it doesn’t eliminate the basic career versus family choice they are facing.

When EggBanxx’s marketing director Leahjane Lavin, 34, announced that she just underwent two cycles of egg freezing herself, the crowed whooped with approval.

“The pressure is off, and I feel so empowered,” she said of her feelings after she socked away her eggs for a later date. “I can now concentrate on my career and becoming who I want to be before having children!”

Refusing to face one’s own mortality does not a powerful woman make.

May 30, 2014

Sauce on The Tablecloth

Filed under: feminism, Soviet Union — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:50 pm

A lady who once wrote that “it has taken me 32 years to understand how to take care of myself” penned an essay calling for a national conversation on 3rd-wave-feminism-compliance of feminine hygiene products.  She proposed the thesis that the use of tampons alienates women from the natural power bestowed on them by menstruation.  (Question: why do menses stand for female power but childbearing is scoffed at?)  The revelation was all inspired by a rap video, titled “Tampons and Tylenol” (what else?) because to really understand where we are as a society, look no further than popular culture, especially black popular culture as it’s more authentic.  (Actually I kind of agree about pop culture being a mirror of society, but, gosh, it’s such a feminist cliche!)

The onset of menses is a huge event for girls, who talk about it quite a bit among themselves –so I’m not surprised that in our let-it-all-hang-out culture the topic finds its way into a song here or there or a sitcom features a joke about it.  More interesting is that the contemporary Western grown ups are so uninhibited about the whole monthly trouble thing.

In my early teens in the Soviet Union, which happened to be in the 1980’s, I had to deal with pretty heavy logistics.  Our only option was a special rubber “belt”, panties really, and inside of the “belt” we laid a runner of cotton which had to be removed and replaced once soaked.  On a heavy day, we’d carry around a spool of cotton.  Once the “monthly” was over, we cleaned and stored the device.  The “belt” was purchased at pharmacies, where, once there was no men around, we whispered the name into the ear of a woman behind the counter who then discreetly slid it into the shopper’s purse.

My “belt’s” edge rubbed against my hip, and by the time I left USSR at the age of 16, I developed a scar that did not heal until a few years later.  I suppose as far as the scars of socialism go, that one was rather superficial.

Once we crossed the border, I could choose from a variety of products, all more convenient and humane than the ones I had before.  But what if some peeping Tom was watching me shop?  To my astonishment, Western women dragged colorful plastic bags of tampons to the check out counters of supermarkets where they were often rang up by men, and the men seemed to pay little or no attention to what went down the conveyer belt.  Heck, no-one at the supermarket expressed any interest in what was rolled in the shopping cards in the plain view of the customers.  What, no sex maniacs of capitalism?

And Western women, have they no shame?  Or maybe that’s what civilization is like because, to quote Chekhov: “A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does.”

Somewhere on the way to motherhood periods ceased providing endless fodder for girl talk.  Then childbirth and nursing became preferred subjects of powder room conversations.  Mostly I’m happy that consumer society makes it easy for a woman to go on with her life, even when bleeding and in pain.  I don’t believe a feminist needs to take any position on feminine hygiene products other than to promote economic system that eases inconvenience and perhaps celebrate the society that does not make a big deal out of it.  Then again, I don’t believe that personal is political.

January 26, 2014

Is It OK To make Fun of Women Nearly 20 Years Younger Than Me?

Filed under: feminism, parenting — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:20 pm

It’s easy to go incognito with a name like Amy Glass.  When a feminist named Amy Glass wrote an anti-mom screed, my first thought was to check out her age.  It was practically impossible since there are so many Amy Glasses out there, so all I have to go by is that she sounds like a rather immature 23.

Ms. Glass confidently announced that she looks down on young wives and mothers:

You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.

I hear women talk about how “hard” it is to raise kids and manage a household all the time. I never hear men talk about this. It’s because women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments. Men don’t care to “manage a household.” They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are “important.”

And there I was, thinking that I’m doing the most important job in the world — raising the next generation of citizens.

It’s amazing how little respect people who make the world go round get these days.  Me, I’m just a lowly housewife — but Amy Glass, she blogs for Thought Catalog.  Now that’s a job for the ages!

Judging by the originality of her ideas, the young woman is destined to be a foot soldier of the pink sneaker brigade for years to come.

Feminist leaders want followers, and they found a faithful one in Ms. Glass; good for them.  But what’s in it for Ms. Glass herself? Perpetuating one’s genetic material and one’s values onto children is a kind of immortality.  Very few women (or men, but especially women since we are more ordinary) are capable of achieving immortality by other means.

Amy Glass’s profile photo.  Ripped jeans + laptop = free spirit + “big ideas”

On the plus side, by eschewing young motherhood Amy ensures that she has time to party.

I’m looking forward to reading about Glass injecting round after round of hormones 15-20 years from now.

UPDATE: Linked by Linda Szugyi over at Da Tech Guy — thank you!

September 10, 2013

Girlfriend…

Filed under: feminism, relationships, society — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:42 pm

…what were you thinking?  Consider the following scenario:

THE end of a marriage is always sad, but divorce can be particularly devastating for a woman who still wants children but whose fertility is on the decline. Her ex may have many years left to start a new family of his own, but by the time she meets a new partner, it may be too late.

[…]

Could egg freezing help her save the last of her fertility?

That’s the hope of a 38-year-old woman who is a client of Ronald G. Lieberman, a family law attorney in Haddonfield, N.J. Mr. Lieberman is asking his client’s soon-to-be-former husband of eight years to pay $20,000 to cover her egg-freezing procedure, medication costs and several years of egg storage. “When they got married, the expectation was they would start a family,” he told me. “Now she might not have the chance much longer.” [Via Instapundit].

No word on whether her ex hooked up with a younger woman and started a family of his own.

But seriously, this woman tied the knot at 30, the age when she should be keenly aware of her fertility, and didn’t get to start a family until her marriage fell apart nearly decade later.  She can ask for all egg alimony she wants, but what good does it do if she can’t conceive a child?

She might had been a die-hard DINK — until she wasn’t — but more likely her husband got her to postpone motherhood indefinitely, and with an assist from feminists: “Yes, honey, there is so much to do, your career, travel!  Not this year.”  A-ha.  What she didn’t take into account is that 38 might be the end of the line for her, but he still feels* virile at 40, and that even though he said his vows, he had problems committing, e.g. making babies.  In a late marriage like that after a year or two it’s decision time.

Being very clear from the get-go doesn’t hurt, of course.  The “deciding together is we want children” attitude is confusing because acillating sends a signal that he doesn’t need to worry about fatherhood in the near future and possibly not ever.

An important thing to realize is that the women who don’t warn us that most will not eventually regret not having children don’t have our backs.  Most women who are childless by choice might enjoy being carefree when we are chasing tots, but they will feel very different about their choices at the end.  So be skeptical of women telling us that children are optional; they have political agendas and like to exert power over our bodies.  The fact that they can’t stop talking of bodies and power should be a hint.

____

* And possibly not aware of neurological problems of children conceived to older dads.

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