Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bimbo Eruptions

Left: African Daisy Mandala by Susan Warner

Good Lord, sports fans! It's getting ugly over there at Feministe. My favorite sex- worker-blogger, Renegade Evolution, a bee in the bonnet of old-school radical feminists, posed a series of sensible and interesting questions in a sensible and interesting post. As a woman unashamed of her breast implants, as well as her buff, beautiful bod, she asked:

I understand that with conventional beauty standards it is important to instill in women and girls that there is more to body comfort and beauty that what the media dictates, because truth is, women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and “styles” are beautiful and that wider realm of beauty and comfort should be encouraged to flourish and grow. No woman should feel ashamed of the way they look or what they wear, but I often feel as if perhaps this has spun slightly out of control in some aspects. When a woman who is naturally blonde or naturally thin is applogizing for it, it seems to me as if something his gone wrong here. It seems like an odd sort of backlash to what was supposed to be a mode of thought that would make women more comfortable in their own skins, no matter their shape, size, mode of dress, or alterations. One can read feminist lit of all types, from books to blogs, and see this odd backlash, feminist people calling women bimbos, porno barbies, sticks; women disdaining their own natural attributes that fall within the realms of conventional beauty, things such as being tall, or thin, or curvy or blonde…

And it makes me wonder whatever happened to women, all women, being happy with their bodies?

Or is this just one of those things I find myself pondering? And if so, what did I miss?

Shaggy-haired and thoroughly unfamiliar with mascara wands, I was one of the people who replied:
Well, I am harassed constantly, for 37 years now (since I turned 13) to “do something with myself”… I HAVE done something, and this is it, thanks. I am clean, well-scrubbed, not dirty or gross, but I am given the message virtually every day that I should “clean myself up”…if I did not work in an alternative business, I probably couldn’t obtain gainful employment.

All my life, I have been fussed at to wear makeup, cut my hair (or “do something” with it), wear traditional middle-class clothing, and so on. Women my age are expected to wear make-up, and I am constantly given advice I never asked for about that. Women my age are not supposed to have long, unstyled hair. We are supposed to have manicures, pedicures, wearing capri pants, etc. No thanks. MY FUCKING CHOICE. And yet, I am interrogated about MY CHOICES. I do not criticize others unless they start in on me, and then, yes, I will catalog for them all the chemicals they are absorbing into their skin. But only if they ask. (And no, that is not the only reason I don’t use it. I learned the names of the chemicals just to upset the interrogators.)

Until my choices are fully respected and I am LEFT ALONE by the busybodies (all women, interestingly enough), then I really don’t care about “feminist pressure” (where?) about make-up or shaving. Are you kidding? This is a joke, right? Feminists lost that battle; that ship sailed. The majority of women are all about make-up, hair-styling, dieting, botox, etc. So I am at a loss to figure out where this “feminist pressure” is supposedly coming from?

And these are rhetorical questions, not necessarily directed to Ren, with whom I have had this discussion before! :)

And for five minutes, at least, the discussion seemed to go pretty well. Magniloquence, for instance, made an interesting contribution:
What constitutes comfort? A well-made pair of heels feels good to me. I have a nice pair of 5 1/2 ” black stilettoes that are so comfortable I’ve worn them for a full day out at an amusement park (going on rides, wandering the hot asphalt, chasing my friends and everything) - they don’t hold me back, and they feel better on my feet than any pair of tennis shoes I’ve ever owned. (Or, for that matter, any pair of ’sensible flats’ that wasn’t flip-flops.) That has nothing to do with how they look and everything to do with how they’re made and how their shape interacts with my body. How do you know the woman in the baggy jeans and flats is really comfortable?

(For clarity: I’m not saying that all fancy/femme/dressy/complicated stuff is comfortable, and I do like wearing loose nondescript clothing periodically. My point is that comfort is every ounce in the skin of the wearer, not the eyes of the beholder. You can’t say ‘wearing comfortable clothes’ is better without admitting that people’s ideas of comfort differ widely, and that what is comfortable for you may be immensely awkward for me and vice versa. I like corsets; properly boned and laced, they feel great. That doesn’t mean that you have to.)

That’s the part that really bothers me. We conflate comfort and natural expression with rebellion, at this point. And in one sense, the philosophical, broader-movement sense, that’s right. The exhaust metaphor fits there. But the micro and the macro do not nearly so neatly coincide; you can’t go from the macro ‘this stuff hurts us overall’ to ‘you are a bad person’ or ‘you must be brainwashed’ or ‘you aren’t doing your part.’ You don’t know that.

And then, the whole thing blew up. Why? Well, why do you think? The amazing Ginmar, who is to radical feminism as Ernest Angley is to Christianity. One cringes upon their emergence from the fringes into polite debate/mass consciousness: please go away. Whimper. PLEASE?

Ha! Dream on, my little Dworkinites! Greatest hits from Ginmar, over on the thread in question:
That said, I know some pro-porn, sex pos, male kiss ass pseudo feminists who are all about the bitching at other feminists. I still don’t think it’s a feminist thing because simply speaking, kissing male ass and attacking other feminists is not feminists, and I’ve seen these women in action and they’re vicious. Whether they’re feminist—they sure protest enough—is not something I’d be willing to answer affirmatively. They’re feminist for themselves. That doesn’t make them feminist for others, and often they’re not.

I call ‘em like I see ‘em, Ren, and as you’re still saying that feminist criticism is mean and nasty and OMG unfair, you don’t have a leg to stand on. You want to do what you want to do, I don’t give a fuck. But I’m gong to talk about why I see a bunch of women doing it, and oh, by the way? Wanting to silence radfems from criticizing a practice you like to do cuz it makes you uncomfortable is your personal problem.

Well, when you bitch about feminists being OMG so mean to you maybe it’s better if you don’t associate with women who go around associating with trolls and gloating over others’ faux pas.

Kind of like this whole topic, actually.

Oh, and someone who has named themselves after a character on a LAW AND ORDER episode, Csquared, is also pretty interesting:
Again, I’m seeing this bizarre conflation of questioning with attacking. I do question Ren’s motivations; as someone literally employed by the patriarchy, she has a vested interest in maintaining a patriarchy-approved exterior, so her motivations totally come into question. Why should they be above reproach? Why should anyone’s?

I’m just mystified by posters here conflating attacking someone for their looks (i.e., “fatass!” “anorexic blonde!” which I don’t do) and questioning why they do the things they do (i.e., “I don’t think you would’ve gotten those implants if the patriarchal beauty standard was for a flat chest, so it’s pretty disingenuous to say you got them only for yourself” which, yes, I do).

Again, all I’m seeing from the anti-mean-feminist klatch is a demand for silence from feminists when it comes to personal grooming rituals. And… no. Not gonna do it. Sorry.

"Employed by the patriarchy"? If one believes that we are living in a patriarchy, then EVERYONE is employed by the patriarchy, unless of course they are UNEMPLOYED, in which case they are LIVING OFF the patriarchy.

Since LAW AND ORDER FAN is safely anonymous and does not disclose their occupation, one can't point at them and explain to them that THEY TOO, contribute to the patriarchy. (Which is, of course, why they are anonymous in the first place.)

Tangential issues are then brought up, including Ren's friends such as I AM CURIOUS BLUE, accused of harassing HEART. What this actually has to do with the subject at hand, is anyone's guess, but hey, this is war. And speaking of which, there is a thinly-veiled threat to out Ren, apparently a reprise of a Blogdonia-feud I missed some time ago.

The thread finally goes up in flames. Heavily-moderated, Ginmar accuses Ren of censorship in this serially-posted tirade:

Can’t you read? Oh, wait, Ren deleted my comment! And there’s a quote right there. Oh, wait, I’m a radfem, so let me guess—I’m making it up? Fuck you. I screencapped this asshole.

IACB you’re a porn-and prostitute-justifying man. If you talk to me any further, I’ll just pretend you don’t exist.

Let me guess, that one’s going to get deleted too. Oh, wait, do I get to use the “I was so upset” excuse? It seems to be awfully popular.

Oh, look, my comments go into moderation after their first appear! How strange.

And finally, disgusted, I said:

Ginmar, are you always an hysteric, or do you just play one on the internet?

Ginmar replied with an articulate "fuck you"... but you know, I remember Ginmar from the old days at Ms, and little has changed. She drove people away from feminism there, and she is busy doing the same thing here, too. Ernest Angley, Ginmar, what's the difference?

The thread is now locked after a record-587 posts, but threatens to open back up when Ren returns. Oh dear God, will it happen?

Stay tuned, sports fans!

ADDENDUM: Ren has just said on her blog that she is not re-opening the thread:

Lauren closed the comments on my Feministe post of ill omen. I sent her a note with a last statement, but nope, not bothering with trying to have the thread openned because its DONE. Anything of use or interest got bogged down in the bullshit, and is currently being misconstrued throughout bloglandia, but hey, what did I expect?

She says that honestly, she was not expecting such a reaction, and I believe her.

Can you say AMBUSH?