“is this Tibet? Because I think I’m gonna yak.”

I sometimes find myself thinking of the opening quote in Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” when my brain turns to academic-y matters. You know, the one about how the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents, and that if we actually were able to synthesize all our knowledge our brains would just fucking cave in. Oh Howard, you so crazy!

Anyway, that quote comes to mind when I am confronted with something that, try as I might, I just cannot understand at all. One of these things is the popularity of I Blame the Patriarchy in the feminist internetz world.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think all feminists have to agree. As I’ve stated many a time before, I think intra-feminist disagreement is a wonderful, productive thing. But the “I know what’s best for YOU, little missy, so put that damned lipstick down and shut up” tone I see Jill taking pretty damn frequently on there is fucking obnoxious. I have disagreed with other feminist ladies in the past, sometimes in pretty harsh terms. But this shit is so..AARGH.

This, for example, where Jill rips into an admittedly poorly-written, late-to-the-game article about burlesque. I had my own issues with it, notably with performer Lily Verlaine’s assertion that she’s not a stripper, but an artist (something I’ve seen more than a few burlesque performers do, which I think is sadly indicative of class issues and general slut-phobia), and her statement that “…any woman being her own agent, being her own director, being her own stylist and her own voice is always feminist.” (But what about the content of her performances? What if she gets up onstage in blackface, or makes jokes about how gross she thinks trans women are? No matter how self-directed it is, I ain’t gonna call that shit feminist.) However: did you see what I did there? How I criticized Verlaine’s statements without calling her a stupid whore? This is something that Jill, evidently, is unable to do.

And, okay, “stupid whore” is NOT a direct quote. But what else am I supposed to take away from shit like this?:

People: “We didn’t think much of you, Miss Lily Verlaine, before you started dressing like a hooker. But now that you’ve demonstrated your willingness to conform by defining yourself in terms of male desire, we think you’re awesome. Can we buy you a Scotch?”

Miss Lily Verlaine: “Gosh, thanks! This beats the shit out of trying to be taken seriously!”

Jill goes on to tell Verlaine to “pull [herself] together” and says that “femininity is unenlightened, and also dumb.” I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: when people denigrate the conventional trappings of femininity like this, it sounds an awful lot like typical sexist pronouncements that if you’re a “girlie girl,” you must be a dumb bitch.

Actually, you know, I think I may be able to see the appeal here. Feminism like this allows its adherents to continue to be contemptuous of feminine ladies, to think that heels and lipstick make you an idiot and that if you take your clothes off in public you’re obviously stupid, deluded, or both. You don’t think your stripper job is so bad? Listen, kitten, we decide what’s bad for you around these parts. And don’t talk to us about those fancy third wave theorists, who had to go ahead and complicate things with their ideas about how femme gender performance isn’t just the province of morons! We’re just going to dismiss that as patriarchal apologetics, jargon-y hoo-ha, whatever. Beats the hell out of actually trying to engage with it, anyway.

(I don’t like to accuse people of not having read their opponent’s work. I’ve read Dworkin, Mackinnon, Daly, Jeffreys, etc., and still disagree with them pretty vehemently. [Reading Jeffreys was super fun. I actually had to take anger breaks!] But sometimes, with these folks and especially given their dismissive “oh ha ha, look at the dumb little girls who think they’re empowered” tone, I wonder.)

Grumpier than usual today. I blame this on the bottle of gas station chardonnay I consumed last night. I’m not actually hung over in the usual sense (no headache or bellyache) but whatever the shit is that they put in $4 wine has me feeling a little off, somehow.

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~ by Smellen on April 12, 2010.

4 Responses to ““is this Tibet? Because I think I’m gonna yak.””

  1. Agree more with the blamerz here, as one might predict.

    Is “dressing like a hooker” just “the conventional trappings of femininity”? It seems at very least like going the extra mile, performatively speaking. And it is galling when people playing that particular game, for the particular rewards it offers, express gloating satisfaction with the little personal boost in status and recognition (relative to other women) it affords them.

    • You’re right about the whole “wow, men treat me better when I dress femme!” revelation. I didn’t get the sense that Verlaine was gloating about it with regards to other women (she seemed to be more amused by it than anything), but I still thought “seriously? You’re shocked that when you carefully construct a hyper-feminine appearance, it appeals to dudes? C’mon.”

      I have to ask, though: who decides what “dressing like a hooker” is? The article only mentions that Verlaine wears dresses and heels, and uses nail polish and makeup. There are no photos of her to go on. To extrapolate from that that she’s dressing “like a hooker” (and I’m not even going to touch the implication that resembling a prostitute is horrifying) reflects more on how Jill views other women’s appearances, and her general contempt for women she thinks are “appeasing the oppressor” with their appearance (because a femme woman is never dressing to appeal to her own aesthetic preferences, or those of other women.) It all sounds like the shit I said when I was 13, when I assumed women who wore lots of makeup couldn’t possibly be intelligent. And I really have an issue when she says shit like this (from a post where she talks about the harmful effects of beauty practices):

      “• [Beauty] infantilizes women, transforming them from humans into morons who seek baby-soft skin.”

      Because engaging in feminine beauty ritual turns you into a childlike imbecile incapable of rational thought. Again: implying that “girly girls” are all stupid bitches who need to be properly educated is incredibly condescending and, really, pretty misogynist (femininity means you’re dumb!)

      “• It publicly communicates private information which may be used against a woman, including her caste, sexual availability, and degree of personal investment in patriarchal mores.”

      Um, I’m not sure if she was actually trying to be critical of this or not, but thinking that you can accurately gauge someone’s sexual availability or level of understanding of feminist politics from THEIR APPEARANCE is fucking high-school level, to say the least.

      “• It diverts women’s attention from stuff that actually matters, like global women’s oppression, to superficial, meaningless, neurotic rituals.”

      Oh, those femme ladies! Everyone knows they’re far too stupid to keep more than one issue at a time in their feeble little brains. Although, actually, I can keep both the knowledge of proper eyeliner application AND global women’s oppression in my head AT THE SAME TIME. I must have a SUPER-BRAIN.

  2. Just looked at I Blame the Patriarchy for the first time in ages. Geez, that is some smug writing.

    There is a whole post about how a pregnant women in high heels MUST BE A VICTIM, completely taking away any agency she may like to hold onto. So bloody patronising. eg. if i were pregnant and used to wear heels all the time, wearing heels might be one of those things that I do to feel less like my whole life wasn’t being turned upside down. Way to be cruel, not at all constructive and judgmental, bloggers.

    Never reading that blog again.

    • Yeah, that’s what get’s me about that blog. She harbors so much contempt for other women, based on such superficial things (choice of footwear, for instance). That’s feminist? Talking about ladies in heels and makeup as though they’re mindless “sexbot” automatons? No thank you.

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