Monday, January 16, 2006

Postmodern theory is not the solution, but rather a symptom

Gender/queer/postmodern theory is not the solution to life's problems but rather a symptom. Postmodern theory gives rise to a form of self-absorption, a self-absorption best described as decadence. "Bloggers" who write incessantly and only about themselves are one form of postmodern decadence, and while that might sound strange coming from me, what do you know about me, really?

Radical-Cultural Feminism

Radical-Cultural feminist views are dramatically different from Radical-Libertarian feminists views. The Radical-Cultural feminists believe that women should encompass their femininity because it is better than masculinity. Mary Daly advocates finding the “wild female within”. This type of radical feminist sees sex and penetration as male dominated. They see a link between sex, female subordination, porn, rape and abuse. These must be eliminated, according to Cultural-Radical feminists. Yet another opposing view is that reproduction is the source of power for women. They believe that men are jealous of women, and that they try to control reproduction through means of technology.

The texts caused society, and not vice versa.


......."In her essay "Feminism, Criticism and Foucault’" feminist Biddy Martin explains,"His History of Sexuality states very clearly that discourses on sexuality, not sexual acts and their histories, are the essential place to grasp the working of power in modern society." Words and texts – not acts -- are the keys to how power works. Thus...the demand that feminist, lesbian and gay characters be included in children’s literature and schoolbooks. Thus...history is re-written to include the voices of women, even when those voices did not significantly contribute to events. Radical feminists want to correct the texts in order to re-define sexuality and gender.

In accepting "sex as a construct," radical feminists reject sexual essentialism – the notion that sex is a natural force that exists prior to society. Sexual essentialism claims that there is something natural or biological, rather than cultural, about deeply felt urges such as motherhood and heterosexuality. There is something biological about gender.

But according to Foucault’s analysis, biology is shifting sand. Even deeply felt sexual preferences, such as heterosexuality or homosexuality, are not matters of biology but of ideology. They are determined by the texts of society. Thus, the phenomenon within radical feminism about two decades ago: many lesbians urged heterosexual feminists to stop sleeping with the enemy, men. Heterosexuality was viewed as an indoctrinated political choice, not a biological one.

Sex as a social construct is good news to radical feminists. If sex has been constructed, then it can be deconstructed and put back together correctly. How? They must control the single most powerful of those texts – pornography – because this is how a woman’s body is defined. This is what radical feminist theorists mean when they say ‘pornography defines/objectifies women,’ or ‘pornography IS rape’, or that we live in a rape culture. It is why lesbian-activists are willing to promote legislation they know will harm lesbian bookstores.

With this new perspective, read a famous passage from Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will:

"Pornography, like rape, is a male invention, designed to dehumanize women, to reduce the female to an object of sexual access, not to free sensuality from moralistic or parental inhibition. The staple of porn will always be the naked body, breasts and genitals exposed, because as man devised it, her naked body is the female’s ‘shame’, her private parts the private property of man, while his are the ancient, holy, universal, patriarchal instrument of his power, his rule by force over her. Pornography is the undiluted essence of anti-female propaganda."

In other words, pornography is the text through which man expresses hatred of woman and socially constructs her oppression.

It took me a long time to understand that – in discussions with radical feminists – I was speaking gibberish to them. I would talk about choice and personal responsibility. By their analysis, however, I am socially constructed by male society that controls the texts and language. I can no more choose my sexuality than a concentration camp prisoner chooses the menu of her evening meal. It is no wonder that so little productive dialogue occurs between radical and individualist feminists; we are speaking different languages. Radical feminism speaks of class warfare over who will control the deconstruction and reconstruction of gender. Ifeminism speaks of a mutual respect between the sexes and of autonomy in which women celebrate their inherent biology.

June 29, 2000

Wendy McElroy is author of The Reasonable Woman. See more of her work at ........"

Sex-positive feminism

Sex-positive feminism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Sex-positive feminism, sometimes known as pro-sex feminism, sex-radical feminism, sexually liberal feminism, or individualist feminism, is a movement that was formed in the early 1980s. Some became involved in the sex-positive feminist movement in response to efforts by anti-pornography feminists, such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, to put pornography at the center of a feminist explanation of women's oppression (McElroy, 1995). Other, less academic sex-positive feminists became involved not in opposition to other feminists, but in direct response to what they saw as patriarchal control of sexuality. Authors who have advocated sex-positive feminism include Susie Bright, Betty Dodson, and Pat Califia.

Sex-positive feminism centers around the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women's freedom. As such, sex-positive feminists oppose legal or social efforts to control sexual activities between consenting adults, whether these efforts are initiated by the government, other feminists, opponents of feminism, or any other institution. They embrace sexual minority groups, endorsing the value of coalition-building with members of groups targeted by sex-negativity. Sex-positive feminism is connected with the sex-positive movement.

Gayle Rubin (Rubin, 1984) summarizes the conflict over sex within feminism:

...There have been two strains of feminist thought on the subject. One tendency has criticized the restrictions on women's sexual behavior and denounced the high costs imposed on women for being sexually active. This tradition of feminist sexual thought has called for a sexual liberation that would work for women as well as for men, The second tendency has considered sexual liberalization to be inherently a mere extension of male privilege. This tradition resonates with conservative, anti-sexual discourse.

The cause of sex-positive feminism brings together activists against censorship, queer activists, feminist scholars, sex radicals, producers of pornography and erotica, among others (though not all members of these groups are necessarily both feminists and sex-positive people). Sex-positive feminists reject the vilification of male sexuality that is often promoted by radical feminists, and instead embrace the entire range of human sexuality. They argue in favor of giving women the same sexual opportunities as men, rather than restricting male sexual expression in the form of pornography (Queen, 1996). Sex-positive feminists generally reject sexual essentialism, defined by (Rubin, 1984) as "the idea that sex is a natural force that exists prior to social life and shapes institutions". Rather, they see sexual orientation and gender as social constructs that are heavily influenced by society.

A Feminist Critique of the New Action Heroine and the Male Gaze

Girls Kick Ass: A Feminist Critique of the New Action Heroine and the Male Gaze
(idea) by Bitca (8.7 mon) (print) Fri Dec 03 2004 at 15:17:27

Girls kick ass. That's the message that's been quite firmly reinforced in recent years by Hollywood, and on the surface, it would seem to be a good one. It's the pseudo-feminist catch phrase of the 90s, pop empowerment that millions of girls of a generation latched onto and brandished with pride. Girl power. Girls Rule, Boys Drool.

But how much ass is a girl actually allowed to kick? That is, at what point does a powerful onscreen heroine (particularly within the action or science fiction genres) cease to be exciting or compelling and become actively threatening to the masculinity of the audience, who are likely (statistically speaking) to be male? What measures will be taken to reduce this perceived threat back to something more manageable?

When we are taught about the male gaze, it is someone like Elle Woods, protagonist of this semester's selection, Legally Blonde, that we are encouraged to think of. For a character to fit within the bonds of the male gaze as it is popularly thought of, she will be merely an instrument of objectification. Laura Mulvey, whose 1975 article "Visual and Other Pleasures" first invented the concept of the gaze, would argue that "various features of cinema viewing conditions facilitate for the viewer both the voyeuristic process of objectification of female characters and also the narcissistic process of identification with an `ideal ego' seen on the screen."

And it is hard to imagine a single character who would more epitomize that ideal ego than someone like Elle Woods. Even as a character within a so-called chick flick, whose audience was primarily female, she still manages to reinforce the images of the ideal women that we are meant to picture. Perky, vacuous, tan and well-endowed, and above all else Blonde, she overcomes all obstacles in her path with seemingly no more weapons than a blindingly bright smile, all while maintaining her inner equilibrium and stunning fashion sense. Any girl watching from the audience is presumably meant to come away from the film inspired by the thought that maybe, perhaps, one day, she will be able to marry the twin virtues of style and perseverance the way that Woods does. And perhaps these goals are to be appreciated. But what other messages does Blonde send? That it's okay to be smart, as long as you also stay true to yourself, no matter how frivolous that self might be? That serious court cases (such as a capital murder trial) can be won on the basis of no more than an impressive knowledge of hair care? That being serious and diligent is alright as long as you also know how to accessorize?

Even the images of the movie themselves, completely separate and apart from the text, serve to further a male agenda. Any mainstream heterosexual male viewer in the audience will probably be ill at ease amongst all these icons of feminine silliness and empowerment, so it is arranged that he will have plenty to look at, nothing that threatens his masculinity. All of the lingering, loving shots of Ms. Witherspoon's impressive assets, all the outrageous and embarrassing costumes and footwear that she's subjected to, are all tailored to the dual purposes of giving men something exciting to look at, and reinforcing the idea for women that this is what they must look like in order for men to find them exciting. It marginalizes even as it pretends to empower.

We live in a society that goes faster and faster every day. Everything must be reduced down to what can be consumed most quickly, with the least amount of fuss. The current movie-going audience (at least, the part of it which has the most disposable income and is most useful to advertisers and studios) has become accustomed to having their films tailored specifically to their attention span. A large number of films made in recent years conform to this structure, most notably the recent trend for movies made from video games and vice versa. A company that owns the rights to one of these properties makes their money twice: once when a theatre-goer forks over their money at the box office, and again when they do the same thing at their local Best Buy. This is what synergy is all about. "The way in which Hollywood blockbusters structure narrative action increasingly resembles that of video games," Belton (p 398) tells us, and that certainly does seem to be the truth. Gone are the days where character development was taken slowly, with quiet or subtle (or surprising) revelations, and when a plot actually needed some sort of coherent flow. Now, all you need to know about a character is telegraphed within the first few moments of meeting them, and a story is made up of a series of disjointed locations and action sequences. Neil Gaiman, a popular science fiction/fantasy author, refers to this style of storytelling as "plot coupons", where the protagonist is made through some contrivance to travel to multiple exotic locations to collect a number of somewhat arbitrary objects, and basically "collect a set and redeem them for the end of a story".

This sort of narrative method works well for a video game, particularly one of the role-playing variety, but should it also dictate how a story is told in other media?

There's a new breed of action heroine in the multiplex. She can be seen in any one of dozens of films released in the last 5 years. She is proficient with weapons, has sultry eyes, and is usually the love interest or rival to the hero of the piece. She displays an unusual propensity for dressing in leather. She is, thanks to the joys of trick photography, faster than lightning and can probably hold her own in a stirring fight, at least for a little while. She is no damsel in distress, we are meant to understand, does not need to be rescued, even if, in the final reel, she does. She is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, Warrior Princess, Daredevil's Elecktra, Catwoman, X-Men's Storm, Resident Evil's Alice. She is a box office draw, or at least parts of her anatomy are. She is woman, hear her roar.

It is this author's opinion that this new action heroine, so effectively epitomized by Angelina Jolie in her Tomb Raider movies, conforms just as much to the expectations levied by the male gaze as does Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods, if not more so. Perhaps it is because the majority of the audience for Tomb Raider is expected to be male. It's a fine line that film-makers have to walk, how to make their heroine powerful and effective (with the maximum of sex appeal) without alienating their target audience by having her be too powerful or too effective and therefore threatening. A pretty significant portion of their demographic is of a mindset that can be cowed and threatened by a dominating woman, so they must find some way to curtail both her sexuality and her non-sexual power. This is accomplished in the most basic way possible, by objectifying her. In both movies, Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life a scene is shown that depicts Ms. Croft absolutely nude, which doesn't even begin to cover the multitude of scenes in which she is dressed in relatively scanty clothing, clothing completely inappropriate to the situations in which she finds herself (rappelling down cliffs, raiding an ancient Cambodian temple, fending off sharks and other marauders in an underwater Grecian temple), clothes that none of the male explorers would possibly even consider subjecting themselves to. How, pray tell, are Daisy Duke short-shorts practical gear for an intrepid adventurer? Or an ultra-thin skin-tight wetsuit? Or even her impractically long, but oh-so cinematic river of hair, that we are shown more than once is easily grabbed by villains in fight scenes, to be used against her? Wouldn't it make more sense for Ms. Croft to cut her hair, tape down her boobs (which are majestic in the way that the worlds largest ball of twine is - aesthetically a feat of engineering, yet ultimately functionless), and wear clothes that cover her skin when she's going into a knife-fight?

But that wouldn't be attractive to the legions of slobbering fanboys. And for female audience members, she presents a standard to live up to, even one as impossible as the feat of trying to emulate someone like Angelina Jolie. A girl, watching this new action heroine, gets the message "It's okay to kick ass, honey, just so long as you take care to jiggle." The actresses playing these women are the cream of Hollywood, some of the most impossibly beautiful women in the world, with armies of personal trainers and stunt choreographers and costuming and makeup departments backing them. A girl can emulate these movie icons, but she can never (at least not in normal life) really come close to attaining anything like their image (or, to be fair, their adventures- unless it is revealed tomorrow that mutants, superpowers, and ancient curses walk among us).

Pro-Con Matrix


In any particular act of the consumer-producer, does consumption outweigh production, or vice versa?Is production a simple extension of consumption (one is in effect buying the right to produce something, as one buys the right to eat a Big Mac?) Or does production become a means of understanding, transforming, perhaps circumventing or re-directing, some segment of the cycle of consumption?

In some activities, and among some practioners, consumption far outweighs production. Websites designed for children often revolve around the lives of the branded toys, foods, and TV characters that animate the incredible edible landscape of the new childhood. Providing young consumers with the design tools needed to create branded placemats, bookmarks, and paper dolls incites a limited productive act in order to stimulate further identification with and consumption of the featured commodity. A highly scripted productive moment remains fully in the service of increased consumption.

At the other end of the matrix we find activities initiated by the purchase of a core set of tools, with production blossoming rapidly from a small investment and not necessarily leading to the immediate purchase of new tools. A simple design program such as PhotoShop, available in both simple and professional formats, can generate huge numbers of home-based products without requiring further investment in Adobe.

Somewhere in the middle of these extremes we find the digital camera, an affordable tool inhabiting a world of add-ons and services that puts in the hands of the consumer a host of aesthetic decisions that formerly belonged to the professional darkroom, and easily hooks into both conventional and electronic forms of publication and dissemination. Subjective factors loom large here: the consumer who takes her cartridge to a corporate kiosk in order to print out 3x5 prints is avoiding the productive capacities of the digital camera. Another consumer who uses the camera to populate a website or edit a newsletter is exploiting the productive end of the PRO-CON MATRIX. For many consumers, such productive work requires training and socialization; user-groups, with or without industry support, and hands-on workshops sponsored by community colleges aid tremendously in putting the means of production in the hands of the consumer.

The consumer-producer's location on the PRO-CON MATRIX also involves one's level of engagement (practical, cognitive, critical, and creative) with the tools, processes, and products at hand. Does creating one's own "brand" (for an idea, a child, a website, a class, or a team) change one's relation to branding more generally? How much of home design work is pre-programmed by templates and menus? How do these templates imagine in advance certain parameters for design, production, and distribution, and how, when, and why do consumer-producers override these pre-designs? To what extent can consumer-productions function as a kind of bourgeois samizdat ( the illegal mimeographed publications produced by dissidents under Communist rule), offering both alternatives to and commentaries on the main stream of consumer culture, either explicitly, as part of their content and project, or implicitly, through the bare fact of making and sharing objects at the edges of the mass-mediated landscape? Below are three subjective positions on the PRO-CON MATRIX.

Simply learning how to edit a movie or burn a piece of music changes the consumer's relation to commerical products by giving insight into the processes behind them. Before any reflective critical consciousness lies a phenomenology of production, resident in the sheer acquistion and exercise of practical knowledge, that generates new modes of acquistion and production.

In the contemporary U.S., citizenship has been largely reduced to the economic function of consumption, which in turn generates various identities founded on the dynamics of branding. The operation of politics itself now uses the same mechanisms of marketing that fuel the consumer economy. The productive capacities of the new consumer has the potential to restore at least minimal functions of classical citizenship. Key here is the institution of micro-publics, cells of civil society that empower communication, deliberation, and acts of judgment (whether consumerist, aesthetic, social, or directly political).

At the far end of PRO-CON MATRIX lies the post-consumer, the producer who has transformed or circumvented consumption as such. The post-consumer might act by innovating substantially the means of production, by changing the nature of intellectual property, or by producing free goods that replace consumption for its users. This consumer-producer, who has usually attained a high level of technical and artistic sophistication, may indeed make acts of production so central to her or his livelihood and professional identification that she has left behind the private and bourgeois function of the consumer almost completely.

exerpt from

Barbie Love

Barbie Anthropology

With the advancement of technology in society from primitive to industrial, power is less and less dependent on brawn, in particular the info-tech era of 20th century. Consequently, the frail sex has climbed the power ladder in society as a whole, especially in the pragmatistic American society, with movements such as feminism and “equality of sexes” laws. Sexual traits such as the nuturing tits and inseminating penis are made functionally unnecessary by technology. Pregnancy, the defining functionality of the female and the root of all sexual traits biological and social, is however still necessarily carried out by a female body. Impinging technologies such as nanotech and genetics may eliminate this final biological basis of the relations between the sexes with artificial womb. However, fucking by itself is still loved and performed routinely more frequently than ever by both sexes without the engenderment of procreation. It is likely that technology will be able to totally eliminate the human element of human reproduction in the next 50 years (e.g. artificial womb, societies of artificial germination, clone farm...), but it is not likely to change human's sexual values and behaviors that has been imbued in the genes of humanity for the past thousands of years. Women will continue to exhibit themselves to attract male with their breasts and legs, and men will grapple for power to win mates, despite the obviated biological imperative of self preservation and propergation.

One interesting observation is the pre-coitus ritual performed by human animals in dance clubs of modern society. It is also interesting to note that in advanced societies such as our internet era, the fecundity of sexual innuendos sticks to our eyes and ears from the media every minute of it. Such value system is instilled in the younglings beginning with Barbie or GI Joe. Even with these manisfestations, the human society on the whole do not readily accept their sexual behavior and thinkings and aggression. Pornography, prostitutes, power struggles are looked down despite the rampant, ubiquitous demand and supply. These suppressions may be the fruits of a power structure, where primitive behaviors and thoughts are controlled by the abstract artifact “morality” of elite in power.

A prisoner of your instincts?

So if we opt to be monogamous, why do we ultimately cheat? The answer is quite simple. People do not cheat because they're pigs, sows, bitches, or dogs. It all comes down to two basic drives: the physical sexual drive and the emotional need.

People usually cheat because there is a conflict between their physical and emotional desires. By accepting and understanding these shortcomings -- instead of ignoring them -- we can hopefully work harder to make sure that our partners are satisfied enough to resist any instinctual sexual urge.

The question you have to ask yourself is which drive is stronger, and which one has a bigger influence in your life. In general, each person is different, but it is generally the physical sexual drive that dominates a person's actions.

Why? Because this drive has been present in human behavior for millions of years. Whereas the emotional monogamous need has only been around for a few thousand years, obviously a few thousand years of emotional needs will not overcome millions of years of one's evolutionary sexual drive.

Throughout history, men have argued that it is in their biological nature to desire multiple partners. Over time, we have evolved towards taking a partner in order to help raise our children and enforce a set of moral codes that contradict our stronger physical needs.

Humans are not monogamous by nature and when we ultimately choose to be faithful without the right conditions in place , we are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

Once we can accept that 10,000 years of social monogamous behavior cannot supersede millions of years of physical evolution, only then can we learn to work around our weaknesses .

beaver-built dams

We exist as human beings on two levels: with bodies (physical instinct) -- the stronger of the two (according to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) -- and minds (emotional needs). In order to understand how physical instincts and emotional needs interrelate, we need to make a few comparisons.

Imagine that the sexual physical instinct of a person (both men and women) is the sheer brute force of natural flowing water (one of the hardest elements to contain), and the only thing that can control it is a super dam. The dam represents the human's decision to become monogamous. It will only work if the dam's foundation is built strong enough. If there are any cracks or weaknesses, the "water" will eventual break through the "dam."

In short, humans have set very difficult (but attainable) objectives for themselves by choosing to be monogamous. Therefore, in order to contain our sexual drives, we need to ensure that the emotional support toward our lifetime partner is strong enough to keep our primitive instinctual urges from surfacing.

Men & Women

Men and women: 90% use both care and justice values; however, 65% focus on one value more than the other, as follows:

Men: 93% have a justice focus; 7% have a care focus; 0% have justice absent; 38% have care absent (62% have some care).

Women: 62% have a care focus; 38% have a justice focus; 23% have justice absent; 8% have care absent (92% have some care).