Posts tagged "gender"

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(I call shenanigans, by the way. Your typical liberal would know how to properly handle a 45.)

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(I call shenanigans, by the way. Your typical liberal would know how to properly handle a 45.)

(Source: )

We are living in the middle of a massive global struggle over the rights and freedoms of women, a life-and-death matter for a billion women and girls, and secular middle-class Western feminism is proving irrelevant.

- Paul Sheehan, “Scarlet soles are a red rag to feminists’ ideology,” The Sydney Morning Herald, April 11, 2011


Really, Paul Sheehan? Western feminism is irrelevant?

Tell that to the women earning 83c in the dollar when compared to her male colleagues.

Tell that to the women who leave male-dominated industries due to the culture.

Tell that to the women who miss out on preselection, when just 20% of candidates elected in the last NSW election were women.

Tell that to the woman who is raped, then told it’s her fault for wearing revealing clothing, or drinking too much, or, god forbid, having a sex drive.

Oh wait, you just did.

The very fact you feel comfortable telling my peers and I that our feminism is irrelevant demonstrates quite conclusively that you don’t actually understand what you’re talking about and that you don’t grasp the extent of the problem of gender inequality in the modern world.

Can I just suggest that perhaps you take the time to watch this excellent video made by students at Sydney Boys’ High?

I suspect they’d have a thing or two to teach you.

While I have no desire to diminish any of the excellent points made above by Erin, in regards to the quoted portion above, feminism is almost irrelevant; it’s actually just a tool Sheehan is wielding in his ongoing struggle against immigrants and brown people. (You figure out the code after you read enough of his columns.)

Paul Sheehan is, let it be said, one of the worst people to be paid to write in Australia. His craft involves three aspects, and he is good at none of them. He is a poor thinker, a poor debater, and a poor writer. By that last one, I mean that he literally struggles to put readable sentences together. He and words have a decidedly uneasy relationship and he has never shown much facility in using them to express anything.

I want to make clear that I’m not making this criticism merely because I disagree with Sheehan. In a banal way, I sometimes do agree with him, in that we may coincidentally desire similar outcomes to occur in certain circumstances. That is, however, no greater an indication of him possessing sense than the famed occasional accuracy of a stopped clock. Sheehan is quite unlike other sometimes conservative Australian writers; Gerard Henderson — in spite of a self-indulgent and silly tic — usually makes an effort to put some thought into his arguments, while Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, and the like exist to say outrageous things which delight those who agree with them and infuriate those who don’t. All three succeed in that mission admirably. Sheehan, however, presents as an aspiring serious thinker who is too stupid to understand how extensively he is hobbled by his own vapidity.

I read Sheehan’s column today — I usually make it a rule to avoid his nonsense — and the above extract is in context almost a non-sequitur. His subject is actually something about shoes, but as is wont to occur in a Sheehan column, the substance of that something is unclear. He says that Christian Louboutin has proved that feminism doesn’t understand complexity, or something, and also there’s a bit about the sort-of-timely Australian Fashion Week, and now you see what I mean by Sheehan being incapable of putting together a coherent argument. Despite his conviction that “academic” “feminist” “ideology” is deeply flawed, he argues against nobody in particular and criticizes no specific ideas. The first person he names with whom he disagrees is Betty Friedan, whose Feminine Mystique, Sheehan points out immediately, was “written 50 years ago.” Was this his point: to say that he disagrees with a text published in the early ’60s? If so, what does that have to do with anything that has happened since?

I criticized David Brooks recently as having an inflated reputation, but I should make this distinction clear: Brooks is overrated and too well-respected by the left, but he succeeds at his job. Paul Sheehan, on the other hand, should never be paid to write.

Earlier this year, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates critiqued Kanye West's vomiting-up of insecurities on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in a piece called On White She-Devils. He suggested that the album was “casually racist” due to its employment of “white women as objects,” conveniently ignoring Kanye’s tendency to list objects, be they white or light-skinned girls, or a really nice watch, as signifiers of his lonely success. Not to mention Kanye’s depressive boast from “Power” that “in this white man’s world, we the ones chosen” which acknowledges both his rarefied status and the reality that he remains a victim of racism. Coates also called Dark Twisted Fantasy “slut-shaming,” while ignoring the song “Hell Of A Life,” an empathetic ode to porn stars. If writers like Coates, who are serious listeners of hip-hop, can’t properly parse the lyrics, there’s hardly any hope for a Louisiana jury.

Brandon Soderberg, ”Free Lil Boosie’s Lyrics! Rap On Trial, Again,” Spin, March 25, 2011

One thing I appreciate about TNC is that he knows rap and as a result, he often gets the codes and unspoken understandings that’s obvious to listeners of the genre, but that wider media are unable to detect. At the same time, his admitted distance from recent hip-hop seems to sometimes lead to him refusing to extend it the same allowances he permits the music he grew up with. (As a recent example, see in this post how Coates permits complexity in some foul shit from ‘96 Jay.)

For the record, I commented on the post Brandon refers to. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s definitely some sexism going on here (notice Kanye’s disturbingly frequent descriptions of choking women he’s arguing with) but it’s not straight-forward misogyny either. “Hell of a Life” isn’t slut-shaming; it empathizes with promiscuous women and defends — not objectifies — porn actresses. Look, too, at “Gorgeous,” where he empathizes with an American Apparel model being used by a photo shoot director. Kanye does have a thing about stressing the humanity of (beautiful) women who have to exploit their looks to survive, and though that’s problematic, there’s a positivity there as well. I guess as far as women not defined by their looks go, he lets Fergie give voice to them on “All of the Lights.”

He’s also long had this thing about white women/light-skinned black women/dark-skinned black women in his music as well, and his portrayals are contradictory. He uses white women as a status symbol, which I guess arises from the way black men have historically been disallowed from associating with them under threat of lynching, but he also has moments of valorizing black women as more real: “I couldn’t keep it at home, I thought I needed a Nia Long” (in “Touch the Sky”; note that in the video he has Pamela Anderson play the girlfriend from whom his mind is wandering). All of these are problematic, and “use” women, but it’s more complex than white/light=good, black/dark= bad. Think too “School Spirit”: “I’mma make sure these light-skinned niggas never ever never come back in style.” 

I guess much of this rests on how necessary your enjoyment of Kanye’s music relies on him being a sympathetic figure. Sometimes he is, but oftentimes he isn’t, and a lot of MBDTF features him being quite unsympathetic. This is a frequently ugly record, and part of that ugliness is his views, including his views on women. I mean, I don’t need to agree with what Stringer Bell does to like him as a character and enjoy watching him.

EDIT: I can’t see how the “Yeezy reupholstered my pussy” part is not a critique of Kanye. He talks throughout the song about how he can’t make it work with this woman, and then when he allows her to speak during the song, he just has her repeat a catchphrase in a tone of android flatness. This is your view of this woman, ‘Ye, and you wonder why you’re having trouble in relationships? That’s barely subtext, if it’s not actually text.

Despite my enthusiasm for this site, this just sounds miserable.

Despite my enthusiasm for this site, this just sounds miserable.

There’s a difference between Dark and Hard. Hard shit is real hard for women to like because it’s such a sausage fest. You speakin to dudes, really. but if you make it dark, that’s a different emotion, a different sensibility. You could add sensuality or sexiness.

Q-Tip (via sonraw)

I might be going to tie myself into knots talking about this.

I guess by “hard,” Tip means dudes-talking-to-dudes-about-dude shit. That sort of thing tends to have more male listeners because men are the intended audience. (This is one reason why I think Nicki Minaj is so important; dudes talking to dudes about dude shit is legitimate, but it’s a problem if that’s the only conversation there is and those are the only participants — or if the men involved think that’s the only conversation worth having.) I’m not really down with this continued insistence that to talk to women you need to “add sensuality or sexiness,” but the point is basically sound: guys, you can include women in your audience without engaging in the patronizing insincerity of the average thug love jam.

But at the same time, I don’t like making the leap from “there’s probably a reason women aren’t listening to these songs” to “women just don’t like that sort of music.” Because who am I to tell girls that “hard shit” isn’t for them? Maybe some of them like the sausage fest. Maybe they get something else out of it? I listen to a lot of “girly” music, and fuck anyone who wants to say that stuff isn’t for me, so maybe some folks would be as equally aggrieved that some music is demarcated as Man Stuff.

Thoughts, anyone?

(For context, this preceded the quoted portion:

Like when you listen to some thugged-out albums—for the majority of it—it’s real sausage music. You ain’t gonna really have a lot of chicks listening to that shit. So you can either do one of two things: You can make a song directly speaking to ladies or you can make it dark.


My theory is as follows: Princesses and queens show us the ultimate rewards for women in the traditional (old-old-old) patriarchal system. These are the women who obeyed the rules and got on top! These are the women who were judged on those patriarchal criteria of looks, charm and polite behavior, and they were not found wanting! Their reward is love, fame, celebrity and wealth. They won.

Echidne, “Theory: Why Women Care About Princesses,” Jezebel, April 29, 2011 (h/t Rachel Hills)

Also, Nick Duerden, The Guardian, April 23, 2011:

My daughter, I’m confident, is no budding royalist. She sees little difference between Cinderella, Snow White or Kate Middleton, 2D or 3D, and is drawn to them purely, I think, because they wear sparkly dresses. She likes sparkly dresses, and when she wears one she is a princess too.

And, Alyssa Rosenberg, The Atlantic, April 28, 2011:

The wedding offers a wistful chance to believe something we know isn’t really true: that a pretty wedding and a tiara are transformative guarantees of security and happiness

Here is a real live girl responding...

The group started shuffling off, but a young female fan took the stage and the crowd called for her to get naked, until she protested that she had a boyfriend, at which point the crowd chanted, “Slut! Slut! Slut!”

Kelefa Sanneh, “Where’s Earl?” The New Yorker, May 23, 2011

What is wrong with these people? Who the fuck does this?

I mean, OK, football fans do. Canadian police officersManaging Directors of the IMF (allegedly)… 

Sanneh’s article is great, by the way, and if you have access to a newsstand with a New Yorker on it, you should pick it up. Here’s a quote from another piece he wrote a while back, about a controversy with a few differences but a lot of similarities:

What if hip-hop’s lyrics shifted from tough talk and crude jokes to playful club exhortations — and it didn’t much matter? What if the controversial lyrics quieted down, but the problems didn’t? What if hip-hop didn’t matter that much, after all?

I’ve never really understood why I personally come down on one side or the other with respect to a particular gray-area activity. Not that my opinion matters at all, but despite strong economic arguments in favor of drug legalization, the idea has always made me a little queasy. Conversely, although logic tells me that abortion as practiced in the U.S. doesn’t seem like such a great idea (see the end of the abortion chapter in Freakonomics for our arguments on this one), something in my heart makes me sympathetic to legalized abortion.

It wasn’t until the U.S. government’s crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity?

Steven D. Levitt, “The ‘Daughter Test’ of Government Prohibitions (And Why I’m so Angry About the U.S. Internet Poker Crackdown),” Freakonomics, May 9, 2011

Levitt’s “Daughter Test” has got a bit of attention around the Internets. Ross Douthat explained, “The idea behind the daughter test, as I see it, is to clarify which vices seem so profoundly self-destructively that they merit sanction in law as well as culture … and which are merely regrettable life choices,” while Will Wilkinson demurred, saying, “If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to believe in god, vote, or major in economics, but I certainly wouldn’t want to pass laws against theism, electoral democracy, and the dismal science.” Kevin Drum didn’t appreciate Levitt’s logic, but thought he nonetheless “performs a valuable service here. Chattering class types tend to intellectualize morality, but the vast majority of people view it through a lens much closer to Levitt’s ‘would I mind if my daughter did it?’ heuristic.”

The Daughter Test certainly does make for poor logic, but it’s also a skeevy bit of terminology as well. Perhaps I don’t read the right blogs, but in none of this back-and-forth have I found anyone creeped out the way I am at male bloggers debating amongst themselves what’s proper for their (adult, sometimes imaginary) daughters to be doing. Yes, it’s an heuristic, but its power lies in its gendered nature; as Douthat says,”thinking ‘what if my daughter did this/were in this position?’ is a way to take an argument from the abstract to the viscerally real.” 

I shall give Levitt the benefit of the doubt; his bio says he has four children, and through some admittedly-stalky googling, I can ascertain that at least two of those are girls. He had a son who died at a young age. Perhaps he dubbed his rubric the “daughter test” because he doesn’t have boys. And calling it the Daughter Test allows it to also apply to abortion.

But other bloggers who imagine fantasy offspring are finding it all too easy to conjure up daughters. After all, recasting this as the “Son Test” dooms it as a narrative device as well as a political one. “Would I want my son doing a particular questionable activity?” can be all too easily answered with, “He’s a man who has to make his own decisions.” Fathers — and governments — should answer the same for their daughters, both real and metaphorical.

On Anthony Weiner.

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