11 March 2013


Marek Najbrt's 2009 film Protektor has been criticized as "overly stylized" and obsessively concerned with "surface" concerns instead of "real" issues. But "surface" is exactly what is in question in a film about the experience of a movie star who was on her way to being the latest glamour queen of Czechoslovakia before the Nazis ended her hopes of a career. We are introduced to her as her stardom seems assured, and the film continuously plays upon the differences between image-based photographic media and the very different dynamics of radio/voice/text. Some of the most compelling sequences are Hana's reckless photographic protests against the labelling of her body/image as Jewish despite her own lack of identification with that heritage at the outset of the story. She performatively tests the line between Jewish and Aryan images and Jewish and Aryan spaces. Marking, labelling, reproducing and manipulating images are continuous threads throughout the film, even in the case of her costar whose false papers aren't convincing enough reproductions to allow him to escape. In the end, Hana's reproductions of herself as an Aryan-looking woman whose image was valued and desired before the Nazi occupation is also not able to stand against the power of the occupying regime and the Czech collaborators. However, the themes of image, surface, manipulation, and diguise are central to the film, and the stylization supports the film's examination of these issues.

Also: note that all of these reproductions and manipulations of images are of the image of a woman who was, it bears repreating, on her way to becoming a sex symbol and a sign of all that is desirable and lovable. The process through which her image changes from aspirational to undesirable is well worth examining and the film addresses it well.

I could say so much more! The film is absolutely incredible. I also find it fascinating that the NYTimes review sees the film as not depicting the Nazi oocupation and deportation of Jews "seriously" enough. Must every film about the Holocaust represent one, single experience? It is made clear to Hana that her misery in her experience of the Nazi occupation is not nearly as terrible as the experiences of many others, but nonetheless, a story such as hers is as interesting as other experiences of genocide. Sometimes I think people don't realize that not all violence and oppression is as clear cut as actually being imprisoned in Auschwitz. Given the wealth of films and documentation of the extreme horror of the Holocaust, the film's reference to Hana's comparative privilege reminds the viewer to watch the film in dialogue with everything else ze has encountered in literature, art, and history about the Holocaust.

03 March 2013

This Week in Aggressions and Microaggressions


The Fierce Chemist reported to me that an op ed in the campus paper of her New England SLAC argued that feminism has lead to the current imbalance in gender demographics in the STEM fields and other "harder" (ahem!) fields like economics. Because apparently in some primordial eden, women were equally (or over?) represented in these fields, but feminism has made women embrace a "victim mentality" that leads them to conclude that STEM and Econ are "for men" and not take part. The author, who identifies himself several times as a white, privileged, male student, equates feminism and other social justice movements to the conflicts between opposing sports teams, when he is not conflating all social justice movements as being essentially the same in their efforts to alienate white, privileged men like himself. He even claims that the greatest achievement of liberals on campus has been their success in alienating him from their movement, despite the fact that he's totally for progressive laws. The Fierce Chemist intends to write a rebuttal op ed. Go TFC!


I told my coworkers at the bakery that I would be meeting The Fierce Chemist's mother this weekend. As is their wont, my coworkers in general managed to not directly respond to the GAY content of my statement, spending 3-5 minutes talking about the restaurant that we were considering going to without ever referencing the fact that I would be eating with anyone but myself. Let alone that this represented a significant step in my (GAYGAYGAY) relationship with The Fierce Chemist. When they brought the topic up again, it was again solely in reference to the reviews of said restaurant. In a day when my coworkers refer to their wives and girlfriends upwards of 30 times and we hear and respond to all sorts of mundane details about their lives, my single statement about my relationship was so difficult for them to process and respond to appropriately that they simply avoided it all together. Sometimes when I bring up The Fierce Chemist in conversation, there is simply a thundering silence until someone changes the subject. As Lewis Carroll said, "a hush fell on the crowd, injuring six." I'm getting tired of it.

Hello World, 2.0!

It's been over two years since I last posted on this blog. A lot has changed -- I spend almost no time actively engaging with Internet Misogynists, which has upped my productivity and reduced my stress level, but which has also lead to a dearth of amusing anecdotes about the complete cluelessness of sexists, homophobes, and other uninformed folk. I have been accepted into a PhD program in film studies at Unnamed Midwestern University, and I can't wait to start course work in the fall. I want some outlet for my non-academic musings on cinema, feminism, the academy, and queer politics, and although I could begin a new blog -- something fresh and scrubbed free of the records of previous foolishness -- I've decided to attempt to revive this blog as a home for a variety of musings, both personal and political. In a way, it feels like starting a new blog would represent an attempt to deny or disavow the many hours I spent in Internet Feminism, hours that have deeply shaped my own identity as a feminist and my awareness of the continuing need for radical, active, and engaged feminism. I may not still believe everything I said in the past, but it is a history that has lead me to where I am today.

03 January 2011

Yes, Virginia, there are Marxist Feminists

On Hugo Schwyzer's always MRA-ridden blog, I've gotten involved in a discussion that has really gotten me thinking about the connections between my feminism and my marxism. Naturally, I know that women are commodified the better to be objectified, and I'm familiar with Woman as the general equivalent through which men conduct their relationships with each other. But I haven't recently thought very much about how much feminism and marxism are in dialogue.

(Also, the whole conversation is depressingly heterocentric, so I've added in [straight] and [queer] tags where necessary to fix that.)

It all started with this comment, by someone called A Mind Forever Voyaging:
I have to ask. What is really the problem? I have read quite a lot of feminist opinions on dating and the meat market, and it seems no matter how left-wing the author is there is one consistent theme that keeps reappearing when discussing dating. The meat market is and should be the randian utopia. If [straight] man fails to attract [straight] woman it is his own fault and he has only himself to blame. [Straight] Man gets exactly the [straight] female company he deserves.
I responded:
...in no way do feminists seek to make human relations a market economy. Feminism is entirely opposed to the commodification of human beings — female or male. Feminism problematizes the fact that what we have now is a vision of human relations that is predicated on exchange. That model leads to rape, manipulative “sugar babies,” miserable “beta-males,” and impoverishes human experience all around.
However, A Mind Forever Voyaging sees things differently, and basically repeated hir original post, reiterating the idea that if [straight and queer] women are allowed to choose their mates (an obviously feminist position) then the "unregulated meat market" is the only way for the feminist goal of free choice and enthusiastic consent to be achieved.

Of course, this is an illogical if/then formulation. I am perfectly capable of being against both the "unregulated meat market" (which is, of course, actually heavily regulated by patriarchy) and against the idea that women [queer and straight] owe [straight] men sex and relationships.

If I had my way, then instead of a "Randian system" in which [straight] men are rejected on the basis of their lack of wealth, lack of conventional attractiveness, and lack of status, [straight] men would be rejected based on their refusal to see women [queer and straight] as fully human, their entitled attitude towards [all] women's bodies, and their racism/sexism/classism/ableism/etc.

Rather than a system that is predicated on exchange, in which [straight] men who have the most "buying power" get the most [straight] girls (a capitalist system if there ever was one!), we would have a system in which the only [straight] men who were without their desired female companionship would be the misogynist assholes who refuse to let go of patriarchy and all that that system entails.

Let's move from a system that values people based on economies of exchange to a system in which people are valued based on their basic humanity, and their respect for the humanity of others!

Humans of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains.

11 July 2010

Women As Sex Class in Renaissance

I should really get to writing my paper (proposals are due soon) but in the meantime, as I contemplate the film I've decided to add to my resources for this piece, I want to mention that said film -- Renaissance -- while amazing for my piece on signs, meaning, narrative, and detective fiction, is ALSO an incredible demonstration of women's place as a sex class. It's just a normal sci-fi / neo-noir adventure flick, but look at the representation of women and also the way the film depicts a future world as being ridiculously sexist (all the bad elements of our own sexism are retained, no gains for women have been made in this futuristic world). Depressing but interesting to analyze.

21 June 2010

Gendered Experiences, Part 2

The erstwhile GoodMan from Thus Spake Zuska has dropped by and commented on my post Perceived Threats, Gendered Experiences. I started replying on that thread, but decided to make it a post when I realized how many topics (and links!) I was addressing.

TheGoodMan wrote:
I thought that the idea that he was not trying to scare you might comfort you a little. It didn't seem to me that you had considered that he might be innocent [Ed: of what? innocent of the actions I witnessed -- yelling and urinating? Um, no, he definitely did that; I know that empirically. See below for why it's the actions and not the intent that I care about.] (albeit stupid) and didn't purposefully offend you. I'm not saying you shouldn't be offended, I'm just hoping that ignorance is less offensive than maliciousness (to me it is, but perhaps not for you).

Looking at situations from another person's shoes doesn't seem like something you do very often. As your sexist teacher said, you have a very experiential view. [Ed: Golly! Thanks for bringing up that sore subject. Damn, I'd better stop experiencing the world as a woman so I can actually have an objective viewpoint like dudes do.] My goal was to better represent the shoes of the teenage boy who you saw taking a piss [Ed: let's use urinate, just 'cause], since you were condemning him as a pervert.
I'll take GoodMan at his word that he had good intentions. However, I wasn't looking for comfort, even the priceless and extremely valuable comfort of being dismissed. Nor was I looking for a lecture on how I should try harder to look at situations from someone else's point of view. Sweet Mother of God, every time I actually want a lecture on how I ought to be more sympathetic to the male point of view, no one will ever give me one!!! Then, of course, when it's not what I asked for, an angel comes along bearing gifts to surprise me. Humph, as internet feminists know, I've been trained from a very young age to always discredit my gut reactions and my experiences in favor of the "wisdom" of others' perspectives -- especially men's perspectives. More on this below -- along with references to Hanging Chads. Hurrah!

As I had indicated in my original post, I wondered if I had over-reacted and I was trying to unpack my response to the incident. As I wrote:
However, it's the fact that he yelled at me that made me freaked out. Was he angry? Was he just trying to justify his behavior? I had no way of knowing from his tone, and ... it seemed safest to assume the worst, and act in a way that wouldn't leave me alone outside with him.
Rather than my own inarticulate ramblings, I really should just have quoted Starling's incredible essay on Schrodinger's Rapist. The essay is addressed to men who are actually trying to establish a positive relationship with a woman, rather than men who are hassling women while urinating in public -- however, the overall message explains how I and many women think. How we have to think, given the rape culture we live in, and how that culture trains us to think. An excerpt:
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.... Now that you’re aware that there’s a problem, you are going to go out of your way to fix it, and to make the women with whom you interact feel as safe as possible.

To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable.
Yelling at a woman while urinating in public? Definitely doesn't indicate a 0% risk that the man is possibly violent. I didn't say or do anything to this young man; I didn't talk to him, approach him, and as soon as I realized what he was doing I looked away and started walking away. I was leaving him alone and he went out of his way to shout after me and verbally harass me. Not a good sign that he is someone I should trust and to whom I should give the benefit of the doubt. Remember, women have the right to set their own risk tolerance. If a man's intentions are good but his behavior sets off alarm bells, it is not the woman's responsibility to ignore the disquieting behavior. It is the man's responsibility to change his behavior if he finds that his behavior is eliciting a response different from the response he desires.

I'm glad that I did not give this young man the benefit of the doubt. For me, a man yelling at me without cause is going to make me uncomfortable. Perhaps TheGoodMan feels differently; perhaps he also has male privilege, which I don't have; perhaps he hasn't had years of being warned that men are Possibly Violent accompanied by anecdata of friends who have been violently and sexually assaulted by men -- and actual data on the terrible frequency of sexual assault. For me (and Joy, it seems) whether a man's penis is out in public is also an indicator of his lack of trustworthiness. This doesn't equate to calling the young man a pervert; it merely says that I am inclined to not trust men who yell at me and/or who unzip their pants in public. Man, it really sucks for guys, right? They have to choose between being able to yell at me while urinating in public or being a nodding acquaintance! I don't know how any male sleeps at night with the weight of that choice on his mind.

But really, it's very simple: if Person A's behavior sets off alarm bells for Person B, A can continue with said behavior as long as ze accepts that Person B is not going to be amused. Person B has no responsibility to modify hir reactions or to educate Person A about what aspect of zir behavior is objectionable. Person B can (and should) leave the situation for one in which ze feels safe. And as the Person B in this scenario, I don't appreciate being told by someone who was not present that I should put myself in Person A's shoes and not be so judgmental. GoodMan, why do you feel that it's necessary to ventriloquize what you assume that young man was thinking/doing to convince me to take a more charitable view? Why do you care? And if you meant to be comforting, as you say, you will not succeed by dismissing my experience and telling me that even though you weren't there you know that I am wrong. You know as little as I do about what was going on in that young man's head. And you don't have my empirical evidence that the young man was indeed yelling at me while urinating on the sidewalk. I have the right to say that that behavior is not behavior that is going to make me comfortable.

As far as the ability of man like TheGoodMan to offer his unique male insight to a benighted feminist, I have only this to say (thanks, Twisty, for the incredible post on Hanging Chads -- men who persistently and irritatingly comment ignorantly on feminist blogs):

These hanging chads, they really never get it. Because women generally, and radical Internet Feminists in particular, are to them some mystical, unfathomable alien species, they think we don’t understand them! It is hilarious, the predictability with which they all, without exception, every single time, enduringly and persistently, are compelled to lecture the ignorant Savage Death Islanders on the finer points of the superior dude civilization back on the mainland. Because if we just understood them, we would see how wrong we are to experience Chadly privilege as oppression....

What all chads fail to grasp is that, as members of an oppressed class, we have always considered it a matter of survival and our No. 1 priority to grok the fullness of the oppressor. In fact, we’ve been grokking the oppressor’s fullness since the cradle, mostly without even realizing it. It hasn’t been too difficult, since we were all raised in the smelly nutsack of Dude Nation, and continue to be engulfed by and to marinate in dudelionormative swampwater all day, every day. If there is ever some little dudecentric point here or there that eludes us, not to worry; dudelionormative socialization protocols are in place to take us back to school and whip us into shape.

The result?

There is nothing about men that Savage Death Islanders don’t know. Nothing. We know all about your dicks and your glands and what gets you off and how you were socialized and the terrible strain of male privilege. We get all your dude-jokes. We know all your antifeminist arguments. We know all your porn-is-necessary justifications. We know how you behave when you perceive that someone of a lower caste has challenged your authori-tay. No need to explain to us that we are doing feminism wrong, because we’ve already heard it from the 495,312 dudes who thought of it before you were born. We know that you are not conscious of your own privilege.
TheGoodMan is definitely a Hanging Chad, and his lack of awareness of his own privilege has become abundantly clear at Zuska's blog. I'm getting very tired of it, especially since I've filled up all my anti-feminist bingo cards.

Of course, that wasn't all. (It never is, with Hanging Chads!) TheGoodMan also honored me by echoing what my sexist professor told me when he dismissed my analysis of a film because I -- a woman -- conducted a feminist analysis -- gasp! Yeah, you guessed it, that particular gem from TheGoodMan didn't win him any cookies whatsoever. Especially because of the logical fail in which he calls my professor sexist while reiterating my professor's sexist statement. Or maybe it isn't an error in logic but a telling Freudian slip? Either way, it's as unoriginal as every other privileged argument that an oppressed class is just too familiar with their oppression to take an objective view of said oppression. Magically, the members of the oppressing class are somehow immune to any kind of proximity-based biased, and although they are as steeped in the situation as the oppressed class, the oppressors claim that they possess some delightful distance that gives them a Unique Unbiased Objective Perspective. As Twisty says, ah, the ennui!

Yes, I see the world from a particular experiential viewpoint. My experiences, my body, my gender, how I was socialized, and what I know of the world do indeed influence how I see the world. And guess what? The same applies to my professor and to TheGoodDude. They just have the privilege of an experiential viewpoint that they deem to be "normal" while they consider mine "biased" because the male is the default and they have always been surrounded by the comfortable "objectivity" of their impenetrable male privilege.

You know what's damn un-objective and irresponsible? Presuming to speak as the ultimate authority about an event at which one was not present. My post was anecdata; TheGoodMan's comment was neither anecdote nor data, but profitless speculation.

18 June 2010


With writing like this, who needs cinematography?

Watching "Doubt," it is seems that the script and the story were lifted rather than adapted from the play; the staging, language, story arc, etc. are theatrical and make little to no use of the abilities of the screen image to convey added meaning beyond that which is conveyed by language. (Example: Meryl Streep says something about the wind rising and getting stronger, or "winds of change" and then there is a shot of the wind blowing leaves around her shrouded figure. In the original play, I imagine that a similar line created the atmosphere; in the film, the words are irrelevant if such an image is also employed.)

However, in terms of feminist theory, the film/play is ripe with suggestive moments. The dialogue is fantastic, and many of the tete-a-tete scenes are gripping -- I was almost breathless in one scene between Meryl Streep's powerful and comparatively privileged and sheltered nun and a poor black woman trying desperately to keep herself and her son alive between an abusive husband/father and a hostile community. There is plenty of commentary on male privilege and class privilege in the film -- including several hilarious cuts from the priests wining and dining riotously to the nuns eating ascetically in silence. Philip Seymour Hoffman's abusive priest employs almost every silencing trick in the Patriarchy's book when he tries to get Streep's character to drop her investigation of his abuse of a young boy. The power structure of the church is dissected and displayed, with its dependence upon male privilege and the oppression of the weak particularly critiqued.

The film is a weak adaptation, and I suspect that the director's attachment to his own script was part of what made elements of the film particularly painfully stage-y. However, his writing is incredible in the dialogues between the lead characters (with the exception of Amy Adams, who seemed flat when acting beside Streep) and both emotionally and intellectually stimulating.