sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

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.


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.


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.


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:

January 14, 2015

Yours Truly Finally Caught A Whopping Two Minutes of Girls And It Was Enough

Filed under: tv — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:58 pm

What I should really do is post about how the War on Terror is effectively over or about the exploits of Herr Yatsenyuk, but sometimes I feel like having a little fun… which, let me tell you, watching “Girls” was not.

When Monday night DSU was flipping through the channels, we saw the likeness of Lena Dunham, and I said:  “Ah! This is a valid blogging research exercise.”  So we left it on for about a scene and a half.

The first scene was set at a coffee shop where Lena and her boyfriend were confronted by two mean young women who made the couple feel bad about their relationship.  In the second scene, some other young women were having an expletive-laden conversation about their broken hearts.  Neither dialog was of a kind that takes place in real world, which, I suppose, is all right as long as the author has a reason to make them sound a certain way.  Unfortunately, the words uttered by the women were unfunny, overwrought and revealed nothing unique to the characters’ personality.  Thus DSU resolved that he would not tolerate any more of that acclaimed show in our living room.

The quality of the “Girls” segment was pretty much in line with what I already knew about Duhnam.  It all made sense: her description of her alleged campus rapist was just as tedious and void of any human traits as her flat screen creations.  Why are her characters so listless?  Here is the notorious passage where she compares dating a Republican to dating a Nazi:

We liked the idea of a Republican entering their universe. And Hannah doesn’t really have a clear sense of why you shouldn’t date a Republican; it’s kind of just like the same reason why you shouldn’t date a Nazi: You just shouldn’t. 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 [bold is mine].

Trouble is, Dunham doesn’t appear  to explore anything.  She doesn’t inhabit a character imagining what it would like to be him, how he feels, what kind of words he’d say.  I don’t expect the episode where the screen version of Lena bedded a Republican to be anything other than the predictable parable where the young woman comes to realize that “gee, I guess I don’t want to be around people who might expose me to different ideas.”

That Dunham doesn’t inhabit her characters, but merely records her feelings about individuals that she might had met, is expected from a doctrinaire narcissist.  And when she writes, she doesn’t seem to know when to stop because, I suspect, she believes her accolades when they tell her that she’s funny.

Am I too hard on the author?  After all, good writing and good comedy takes years to develop, and Dunham is still wet behind her ears.  Perhaps she needs to live a little, mingle with the common man, keep writing…  Go to a writing workshop.  Be told to shorten her stories by 1/3.

She’s certainly no Woody Allen, a true comedic genius who made films about New York City and relationships. There are questions about his character — just as there are about Lena’s — there is, however, no question that when he was at his best, he was funny, learned and insightful.

Nuh, I’m not too hard on Dunham — after all, she is the self-proclaimed voice of her generation, so the expectations are high. It’s hard to to believe that millennials can’t do better.

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.

January 26, 2014

A Long Overdue Fashion Post

Filed under: fashion, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:49 pm

Check out this fabulous post by Jonah Goldberg on the late term abortion prima-donna Wendy Davis:

Last June, when the mainstream media collectively swooned over Wendy Davis and her shoes, I was overcome with Fremdschämen. The only problem is that I didn’t know what Fremdschämen was back then.

But now I do! It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping! No, that’s not right. It’s my new favorite German word. What is amazing, to me at least, is that I am only just now learning of this word, despite having a soft spot (right below my elbow) for fun foreign words (“I myself am overcome with Backpfeifengesicht right now” — The Couch). Even more surprising is that we live in the Golden Age of Fremdschämen, so you’d think more people would be using it.

So what does it mean? It means feeling embarrassed for someone else. But more than that, it means feeling embarrassed for someone else because that someone else doesn’t realize he should be embarrassed.

It’s a good piece, I almost feel embarrassed to take it on this tangent, but somebody has to say it, and it might as well be me.  Yes, I am embarrassed for Mrs. Davis.

This pair matches Wendy Davis’s nose

What is it, 90’s revival?  Remember when feminists embarked on reclaiming pink, the most garish shades of it, and called it empowerment? Take back that afternoon in 2nd grade when the patriarchal oppressor accused you of having cooties!  Pink is the new black!

In reality, few grown up women (and by grown up I mean over the age of consent) can pull a pink look.  The color should be used cautiously, particularly when it comes to shoes.  Muted shades are preferable, and even then it’s advisable to throw another color in the mix.

Try these if  you must

Why do feminists think that Wendy has their back with her ugly sneakers?  I imagine she wore nice stilettos when she met husband #2 who paid her way through college and introduced her to political movers and shakers.

Running shoes, let alone pink running shoes, are a sartorial version of Lena Dunham, what you’d call female gaze — and it doesn’t matter how much they cost.  They are a girl-bonding attribute with a touch of sugar-coated kindergarten nostalgia.  Unintimidating, so we can pretend that girls like each other, and that it’s the boys who hate us.  Personally, I don’t believe any of that crap and wouldn’t be caught dead in pink sneakers.  Ladies, do yourself a favor, buy some nice heels.

January 29, 2013

Little Things That Are Making Me Miserable

Filed under: education, environmentalism, fashion, journalism, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:33 pm

Facebook.  I tried to FB a while ago and couldn’t stand the… er… level of discourse.  Maybe it’s the people I know, or else FB reduces everyone to the lowest common denominator.  I wasn’t jealous of anyone I friended, quite to the contrary.  Every time I looked at my damn wall, I saw people broadcasting to the Universe that they are going to CVS to buy toilet paper — or some such.  A few couples’ PDA made me wonder about the fragility of their relationships.

Trying to decide whether to take my daughter to a Goth production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella is making me miserable.  I’m not a big fan of sanitizing tales, but I’m just not sure a 5-year-old enjoy this particular version.  I suspect the production is geared to grown children.  It’s only natural that choreographers are catering to hipsters in a city where they outnumber kids.

Smokers don’t make me miserable.  The ill effects of second hand smoke are vastly overblown, and I really don’t mind when people next to me have a cigarette or two.  What I can’t stand are the power trippers out to get smokers.  The formerly libertarian state of Oregon might actually pass a bill that would make cigarettes prescription only drugs.  I feel like hugging every smoker in this country of ours because when the smokers are gone, who’s next?

While outlawing tobacco, Oregon, many observers agree, is likely to legalize cannabis in the near future.  Here, in Cali, those on the hip side spent the last couple of decades joking that pot is now more socially acceptable than tobacco.  I’m sure this must be the case in both Washington and Colorado where recreational (what other kind is there?) marijuana is now legal.  And what do you know, CO is introducing a bill to set a limit for driving stoned.  It turns out that:

There’s a lot of pressure on lawmakers after legalizing pot. As the number of users grows, there is growing concern the number of people driving under the influence will as well. In 2011, the most recent data available, 13 percent of deadly crashes in Colorado involved pot.

13%?  Wow!  I recall the totally scientifically justified reasoning for legalization I heard all through my youth, that drunks do stupid things, like getting getting behind the wheel wasted, but stoners are just too mellow to get their tushies off their couches and therefore don’t drive intoxicated.

No word on how many accidents are caused by motorists impaired by tobacco.

I’m proud of my home town on occasion.  Last week, the one hometown paper that can tolerate me reading its pages printed a front page story about the effort of some goofy homegrown group to get the hometown Big 5 to stop selling the dreaded “assault weapons”.  Ours being a former navy town, the paper’ve heard from a few locals, including one reader who pointed out that the paper got all gun specifications wrong.  The paper retorted:

No one on the Sun’s editorial staff owns or ever has owned a gun. Officials at Big 5 did not respond to calls to clarify details about their merchandise.

So, basically, because they don’t know a certain subject they don’t possibly need to research it.  Hicks.

Another individual wrote on the subject of the grocery bag ban:

Cloth and canvas bags are the “ugly ducklings” of (reusable) shopping bags (“Treat Reusable Bags Like Dirty Laundry,” Jan. 17). They don’t hold their shape, being floppy. I can imagine people just throwing them away when they get too dirty.

“We” will wash our own bags. Oh, but of course, what about the many who don’t? Our food could get indirectly contaminated from someone else’s dirty bag, could it not?

Good questions.  If we can’t trust our fellow citizens to put their used plastic bags in a waste basket, we certainly can’t trust them to wash their cloth bags.  Lets legislate.

The dashing good looks of Democratic women had long been the subject of discussion of the right-wing blogosphere.  I hope my discussion of the sublime get-ups of Michelle Obama can be considered a humble contribution to the genre.  Do take a look at a representative specimen at Viking the Kitten blog.  EBL has Lena Dunham and Legal Insurrection — Jennifer Granholm.  I find all of these ladies hilarious, but my readers might prefer to plaque their eyes out rather than click at the links above.

OK, not everybody is blessed with good looks. But lets not go out of the way to make ourselves ugly

In any event, here is some news to cheer them up: universities are cutting assistant professors’ hours to comply with Obamacare which said professors enthusiastically endorsed.  No doubt they thought they’d benefit from Obamacare.  Remember when Pelosi promised that once O’care is signed into law, everyone can, like, stop worrying and join a band.  The sub-professorship class might know about brown nosing, which, to be sure, is an important skill in academia.  However, they seem to poorly understand how political power works in this country — or the world — or how the economy works.  Do you trust them to educate your children?

October 29, 2012

Desperate College Girls

Filed under: politics, Russia — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:28 pm

A few days ago I noted the eery resemblance between Putin’s party “Lets Do It Together” ad and Obama for America girls’ “do it in the voting booth” tees.  And now, in a desperate attempt to court them ladyparts, O released an ad starring somebody by the name of Lena Dunham comparing voting for a 50-year-old man with big ears to losing your virginity, which by some strange coincidence happened to be a remake of another Putin ad.  Behold:

The 26-year-old Lena had a chance to pull the lever for O[h-oh-oh] in 08, during his virgin Presidential election because raving about the 2012 early voting is like bragging about attending a Woodstock anniversary concert.  However, 08 shouldn’t be her “first time” either unless she missed the chance to vote for the guy who wed a ketchup heiress, which is hard to imagine considering her hard left tendencies.  Lying about her “first time”… tisk-tisk-tisk.

On Legal Insurrection we find an Aussie “first time” commercial, and learned that Ronald Reagan once joked about voting Republican for the first time.  I’m sure we can find more obscure instances if we dig deep enough, but how many of them obsess about virgin voting for a specific man?  It was Putin’s campaign that got a good deal of attention in the English-speaking world just a few months ago, not some obscure Australian politician recording that looks like a public service announcement. Plus, Dunham chirps about the voting booth curtains, which sounds like something from “Lets Do It Together” electoral orgasm.

Putin voting booth girl

She’ll probably be more flexible after the election

Towards the end of his vacuous 2012 campaign jump-started by “Putin’s Army” of shirt-ripping alleged co-eds, the Russian strongman issued at least three virgin ads.  The most famous one had a virgin discuss her “first time” with a psychic before heading to the polling place.  In the other two we watch virgins consult a doctor and a shrink.

I couldn’t find the ad with psychoanalyst, but the reference to it is here.  And speaking of psychoanalysis, wasn’t O[h-oh-oh]’s mom’s maiden name Dunham?  Then we learn that whereas Obama virgin ad are cool and all, and, according to The Atlantic at least, only “old white men” can find a fault with it, Putin virgin ads were “creepy”.  Go figure.

Putin’s virgins were looking for a man who’d make them feel safe “like behind the brick wall”, but O[h-oh-oh]’s virgin is looking for a man who’d make her safe with regulations like The Lilly Ledbetter Act.  (Lilly Ledbetter, is that her real name?)  Also, Putin ‘s quaint virgin was convinced that the first time has to be “for love”, after which anything goes, presumably.  O[h-oh-oh]’s virgin wants “a great guy… who cares”.  She must be looking for an Earth-shattering experience… or not.

From Mitt Romney's high school yearbook

Etch-a-Sketch forever: Mitt Romney met his future wife in high school.  Don’t give up on love!

Even though Russian women outnumber their male compatriots by a greater percentage than anywhere else on Earth, Putin’s commercials are not geared towards women.  His ads were designed to project the image of masculine vigor and give Russian men something to identify with.  The Dwarf’s obsession with masculinity is a topic for a whole different story. The point I’m making here is that the women in his commercials are hot.

Obama, on the other hand, is targeting the single white female vote.  Dunham’s ad is described “sexy”, but it’s not sexy at all.  It is safe.  It stars a gal whose heterosexuality is not immediately obvious making innuendos about a non-threatening man twice her age.  She’s supposed to be the cool big sis — if parroting Putin is cool.  It might help the President to get out the desperate college girl vote, maybe, but he should have had this demographic bagged by now.

At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if O[h-oh-oh] would produce a Slutwalk Army, sort of like Putin’s Army, but Putin rented his girls from a modeling agency.  OFA will turn out moderately overweight chicks who spend their spare time filling out applications to grad schools.  And in grad schools they will, once again, find themselves outnumbering the men.

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