Tag Archives: sexism

A Stool at the Golden Phallic Table

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When I was thirteen I would steal words from my male classmates, hoping they would like me. A girl in eighth grade was raped and somehow we all knew about it. The boys said “She’s a hoe, you can’t get raped if you’re a hoe.” And I said, “She’s a hoe, you can’t get raped if you’re a hoe.” The boys said, “She’s fat. Who’d rape that? Don’t flatter yourself, honey.” So I said, “She’s fat. Who’d rape that? Don’t flatter yourself. Don’t flatter yourself. Don’t flatter yourself.”

Even now I meet women like thirteen-year old me: using words stolen from men to barter for their love. I never know how at twenty, at thirty, at forty, she hasn’t yet learned that saying these things, taking their side, does not protect you. Nothing you say will earn you an honorary seat at the golden phallic table. There is no room for you there. At the most you will get a stool at the corner of the room, which can be knocked out from under you at any time. The thing about patriarchy is that anyone can participate. But only men will benefit.

Boys like girls that like boys. If you “like” girls, that’s hot. But if you protect girls, you’re a dyke. Which is the same as a lesbian, but somehow not hot? These are not laws, yet we live by them. We are connected by a chain too heavy to be broken alone. Casting her under a bus, you go with her. Both bodies crushed.

Sometimes I still feel the old spell come over me:  it’s so easy to say the words, to avoid responsibility. To point a finger and get a pat on the head. Resist. The chain is pulling tight. Where she falls, you fall too.

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The First Time I Shaved My Legs

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The first time I shaved my legs, my mother cried.

Not because “her little girl was growing up” but because her little girl was entering a world that is cruel to little girls.

I did it in Florida, on family vacation. I was twelve. I’d been in the pool playing with some girls I didn’t know and they were laughing at me, at my legs. They didn’t say why, but somehow I knew. Girls are programmed with shame. We are only clean for so long and then must start doing the things that keep the dirt off: shaving our legs and underarms, stripping all the hair from our bodies, douching, lasering, scraping, bleaching. A little girl is only a little girl until she is not, and then the shame settles on her like a blanket. She wraps herself in it, sometimes forever.

My mother had tried to keep me safe. She let me do what I wanted. She said, “There is nothing that you have to do.” I believed her. I wanted to be like my brothers and pierce only one ear. I wanted my hair short like my brothers. She let me. I was a wild brown pony, barefoot in the yard and wearing Spiderman shirts. I had a pair of jeans with “Chic” stitched on the pocket. She took the thread out because I asked her to, because I thought it said “chick” and god knew I didn’t want to be one of those.

She was saving me from a world that hated girls, but somehow it leaked in: it was in my one earring, my short hair. Seven years old and already I knew which was the better sex to be. By the time the razor scraped my shin, the damage was done. Now comes the undoing.

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The same old shit

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I won’t actually ask the question, because it’s been asked, but I’ll remind you of it: “Is it possible to separate an artist from her/his work?”

Sure. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. But it’s not always possible. When an artist is so much in their work—whether the presence is conscious or unconscious—it becomes difficult to ignore. It’s distracting.

Five minutes ago I finished reading Stephen King’s The Stand. And, to quote a friend, the “religiosity” became “hokey.” But more distracting than that was the subtle racism.

The Satan-esque villain known as “the black man.” The black soldiers being enormous and muscle-bound and barely human. The complete absence of “good” black characters with the exception of the religious, cornbread-baking prophet woman. The ending, with Africans carrying spears and falling dumbly down at Flagg’s feet (the book took place in the ‘90s). And don’t get me started on the female characters.

What else can I say besides the fact that it’s tiresome? I realize it was written in the 70’s. And that’s always the excuse of people who defend this and other writing. “Well that was then; there weren’t black main characters back then,” as if it was the Stone Age. As if this means it is exempt from criticism.

It’s not. Stephen King wasn’t employing these metaphors for literary effect. It’s casual. Included by way of his own subconscious notions. If this were purely a thing of the past and a pattern not present in 90% of popular fiction and film, maybe it would be easier to lay the old dog to rest.

But that dog is barking, and it only makes it worse to read this puffed-up book from the 70’s and see how little has changed.

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Sometimes the only answer is misogyny

Two years ago, an eleven-year-old girl was gang-raped in Texas. The twenty—yes, twenty—men and boys who raped her ranged from middle-school-age to twenty-eight years old. Now, the lawyer for one of the rapists is likening the girl to a “spider” drawing “flies” into “her web.”

Oh?

You, if you are a sane, empathetic, reasonable human being, are probably wondering, “Wow, how could an adult look at the gang rape of an eleven-year-old girl and blame her for a horrible, violent encounter that will probably haunt her for the rest of her life?” You’re probably wondering how an eleven-year-old—just out of the fifth grade—could be held responsible for “seducing” twenty people into sexually assaulting her. You’re probably wondering if the lawyer ever had a daughter, or a sister, or even a mother. If you’re sane, you’re probably wondering why female victims of sexual assault are so often dissected, dehumanized and blamed for something that happens to 1 of every 6 women in the United States.

The answer is misogyny. Only a culture that harbors a deep-seated hatred for women and girls would look at this scenario and blame an eleven-year-old child for what happened to her, for what her society allowed to happen to her. The fact that some would look at this scenario and rather lay down the tired old mantel of “whore” than look honestly at what is happening to women in this country and in the world makes me tired.

Our culture hates women so much and is so uneasy about confronting the problem of rape that even eleven-year-old children are not exempt from being ostracized for the violence they have had to endure. Get me out of here. It might be time to start building my spaceship.

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And she doesn’t even get to tap that ass

I saw Skyfall this weekend. All in all, I found it entertaining, exciting, and better than Quantum of Solace. But, like any person with an awareness for the institutions of patriarchy and racism, I found it difficult to turn off my brain.

Naomie Harris is Skyfall’s quasi-Bond Girl. “Quasi” because people will argue that she plays Eve Moneypenny, neither villain nor sexpot. She is pretty and smart and black.

And she shaves James Bond’s face.

Aside from Daniel Craig’s whiteness, did no one else think of The Color Purple during this scene? I did. Maybe being a Cultural Studies major in college ruined me—analyze everything; deconstruct everything; be wearied by everything—but the idea that a young, beautiful, intelligent agent is reduced to performing such a menial task, a servant’s duty, for her white male counterpart makes me bristle.

Even worse? I don’t even think she got to tap that ass. When Bond sleeps with the sex slave of the villain later in the movie, we know they got it on. It was blatant, another exhibit in the Bond Museum of Sexploits. But Miss Moneypenny? She just shaves his face and then, they tell us, helps him get dressed.

I get it, shaving a guy’s face in the context of an already absurdly over-the-top action movie can be construed as sexy. I guess? But at least let her get some booty. Why should the damsel-in-distress-exotic-white-woman have all the fun? Bond is not the only character with a libido. His desire is fulfilled by the exotic white woman, while Moneypenny’s is left unsatisfied. I bet if Moneypenny had known she’d be playing the chambermaid when she walked in Bond’s hotel room, she’d say Mr. Bond can shave his face his damn self.

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