Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Archive for March, 2016

Broadly meets Azealia Banks

Broadly is a Youtube channel, active since April 2015, which focuses on the experiences of women. In this interview, they chat to rapper Azealia Banks – the undisputed queen of controversy – about her complex relationship with her audience.

I find Azealia really interesting, if problematic. She endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and courts controversy every day on Twitter, but she’s also called out the lack of reparations to the Black community where slavery is concerned, asserting that her ancestors perished “in the name of modern capitalism”. She’s suggested that it ought to be used to improve “educational prospects” for Black Americans. She’s a human contradiction – someone who can combine brilliant ideas about social justice with other outlandish and admittedly offensive opinions.

I particularly appreciated what she said about white gay men, though. She makes a good point, although she didn’t explain it very well on Twitter – they are the untouchable group in the LGBTQ+ community, and they’re also the most widely represented in the media. I also get pretty pissed off by gay men who think they can call women “sluts”/”whores”/”bitches”, etc. I don’t deny that the persecution of gay men, historically speaking, is deeply rooted in ideas about masculinity and femininity, but the reclamation of those words is for women to do.

 

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The Myth of Female Shame

Being a woman often goes hand in hand with being ashamed.

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You know what kind of blog this is.

In an article called “The Feminine Mistake“, which I wrote about last year, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about her own experiences with (what she calls) the rituals of female shame. All the women in her life idolised her Auntie Chinwe. She was an excellent doctor, but her most admired attributes were not to do with her success or her intelligence. Her enviable qualities were that she was the perfect wife, she was dutiful and she was loyal. Her badge of honour was her refusal to cause a stir. She would endure jokes made at her expense, and she had transformed herself in order to fit her husband’s expectations. She was “an ocean of endless nice”.

There is an implicit message in society’s expectations of women. It is: “What you are is something to be ashamed of.” What you have started with – i.e. your own body, your own self, your own feelings – is imperfect and it needs to be rectified. It needs to be suppressed. You don’t get to be angry; you’re a “bitch”. You don’t get to be in control; you’re “bossy”. Present any semblance of rage or uncooperative behaviour, and you’re an embarrassment.

This is not a new idea. For the people of ancient Rome, it manifested as pudicitia, “modesty”. The opposite was impudicitia, “shamelessness”. It was almost entirely an expectation of a woman’s moral code. The only men who were tarred with the impudicitia brush were those who deviated from the masculine sexual norm, usually homosexual men who took the “submissive” role. This was because their sexual preferences feminised them, in the eyes of Roman society. (There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the treatment of women and gay men in the ancient world, but that’s a story for another day.) Lucretia was considered the epitome of pudicitia; she was beautiful but modest, assuming the traditional role of the loyal wife. According to Livy, it was her chastity that attracted Sextus Tarquinius to her, to the point that he raped her and she committed suicide to preserve her reputation. This was seen as ideal – a woman who cared so much about her honour that she would die to defend it. A common translation or interpretation of the word is “shamefaced(ness)”. It was morally right for a woman to avoid engaging in certain acts in order to prevent bringing shame upon herself.

A later Roman example is that of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi. The Gracchi were two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, who both became tribunes (political officials). She is particularly admired for how she speaks of her relatives. Her husband had passed away when she was still young, and she never remarried. Nine of her eleven children died in infancy, and Tiberius and Gaius were both murdered. Cornelia does not grieve in front of guests, instead telling them of her family’s great achievements. This emotional restraint is specifically referred to: “… she was most admirable because she did not grieve for her sons and talked to her audience without weeping…” Again, mourning among her guests would have been shameful.

But that was over 2000 years ago (Lucretia’s story is dated to circa 510BC and Cornelia’s to the second century BC). Why should you care if a Roman woman was shamed for improper behaviour?

Well… because we see it everyday. In newspapers, on social media, among our friends. We have fostered a culture in which a woman can be criticised for anything and everything, for the most ridiculous things. Women are shamed disproportionately to men. Consider Kim Kardashian, who gained notoriety for an… errrrmmm… interesting video she taped with her then-boyfriend Ray J. For the entirety of her career – despite proving herself to be a savvy businesswoman and engaging in charitable work – she’s been constantly reminded of this incident. She’s the butt (no pun intended) of every related joke imaginable. Is anybody having a go at Ray J for this? No. He’s still joking about it years later. He has literally stated publicly that he once “had to tell her” that her downstairs department smelled terrible. I shit you not.

A celebrity woman who leaves the house in anything less than the latest Vivienne Westwood evening gown is evidently stressed and struggling. She’s not, you know, an actual human being who has to do actual human things. In adverts for shaving products, the actress shaves an ALREADY BALD leg. That’s how taboo female body hair is. Hair, for fuck’s sake. You know, that thing we all have, all over our bodies???

We have created a world in which women – even ordinary women like me – are required to have a public face and a private one. Why do I have to pretend that I don’t urinate or defecate or menstruate? Why am I required to be this ethereal, angelic, pure creature with no bodily functions beyond those I can offer to men?

I’m calling stinking horseshit. I’m not ashamed of anything. If I want to walk to the toilet in college with my sanitary towel in my hand, unconcealed, then I bloody well will. If I want to complain to my friends that my boobs are aching, then I will. I am at liberty to do so.

Fucking destroy this idea that women ought to be ashamed. Destroy the concept that femininity comes with weakness and deceit and original sin attached.

Patsy - annoyed

She’s eating an apple BECAUSE SYMBOLISM

Infinite love, with zero fucks given,

Dolly xxx

“Owen Jones meets Mhairi Black”

Funky vid from my son Guardian journalist Owen Jones, in which he has a wee chat with the youngest MP, Mhairi Black. She was only 20 when she became an MP, so she’s the latest “Baby of the House“… and a total BAMF.

“Let them eat cake (and hate me)”

I watched Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) for the first time this month, and I thought it was excellent. Really, really beautiful film – go and watch it, now.

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It was, awesomely enough, a very feminist retelling of her story. I honestly got a real “girl power” vibe from it – not unusual for Sofia Coppola’s work – with its New Wave soundtrack and depictions of sisterly solidarity. The film particularly emphasises the relationships between mothers and daughters – between Marie and her mother and also between she and her own daughter, Maria-Therese. There’s a beautiful moment when Marie is playing with her daughter and she says: “A boy would be the son of France, but you, Maria-Therese, shall be mine.”

The majority of the soundtrack comprises of modern music, especially when she’s doing universal “teenage” things, like choosing clothes or dancing. Marie is a controversial figure, but the film took the time to humanise her, portraying her not as the infamously decadent Madame Déficit but as a teenage girl caught up in the turbulent political climate of the French court. It’s comparable to the demonisation of celebrity women today. Accusations of indulgence and luxurious living are rarely directed at men; it’s seen as a very feminine weakness.

The film shows the obsession of the French court with Marie’s every move, as she’s stripped of any agency and manipulated. There’s a really sad scene near the start when Marie first arrives in France. Princess Sophie (Shirley Henderson) remarks that Marie “looks like a child”. At this point in the film, Marie is a child – she married Louis XVI when she was just fourteen years old – but she isn’t treated with the kindness and support that a teenage girl deserves. This forced sexualisation is present throughout the film. The first thing the king, her father-in-law, asks her escort is what her “bosom” looks like and later on, it becomes clear that a childless marriage would be Marie’s fault. Her mother says to her in a letter: “Everything depends on the wife.” The French court consider her frigid, but even if she isn’t, her husband’s lack of attraction to her is perceived to be her fault. Marie is never treated in a way appropriate to her age – if she isn’t being objectified, she’s being infantilised and ignored. In one scene, other members of the nobility are talking about her over dinner… while she’s within earshot. They talk about her as though she isn’t there, saying she’s “delightful… like a little piece of cake…”. She’s very overtly something to be consumed, another cog in the well-oiled machine of the aristocracy.

Well, perhaps not well-oiled. It all went down the toilet between 1789 and 1799. To give you an indication of how passionately the lower classes of French society hated her, they nicknamed her “L’Autre-Chienne”. This is a play on words – the word “L’Autrichienne” means “the Austrian woman”, but “L’Autre-Chienne” means “the other bitch”.

All in all, Marie Antoinette is a fascinating – if somewhat embellished – insight into her life.

Quote #12

“An activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is usually not motivated by a need for power, or money, or fame, but in fact driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness – so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better.”

-Eve Ensler, American playwright and feminist, known for The Vagina Monologues

“The Witch”

I went to see The Witch yesterday with my stepdad and, holy hell, it was spectacular. Like, seriously, go and see it if you can. You won’t regret it. As a horror film, it worked brilliantly – I’m never going near a goat ever again! – but it worked even better as an exploration into the paranoid psyche of Puritans in the New World and as an allegory for burgeoning womanhood. Really powerful, really beautiful. But also f*cking scary.

La Brujería: Las Implicaciones Feministas

Este es una traducción (¡aproximadamente!) de un mensaje de blog anterior.

Después del estreno de la película nueva La Bruja, una película de terror del director Robert Eggers, más y más gente está notando los matices feministas. Podría argumentar que sea una historia de hacerse maduro en vez de una película de terror.

Aunque durante la historia muchas de las víctimas inocentes que fueron acusados de la brujería han sido hombres, en las imágenes de cultura popular la mayoría de las brujas son mujeres.
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(Lisa: Cuando una mujer es segura de sí misma y poderosa, ¿por qué la llaman una bruja?)

La evolución de la bruja en mitología está conectado íntimamente con las percepciones sociales de las mujeres. Depende del tipo de cultura también. En el norte de España, en el País Vasco, la palabra para la bruja es sorgina (plural: sorginak). Sorginak son las sirvientas de la diosa principal, Mari, y las descripciones en la lectura y en el folclore normalmente fueron positivas – hasta el Cristianismo llegué. La religión vasca – y la primera sociedad – fue matriarcal, así que falta las figuras femeninas que son engañosas y manipuladoras. Encontramos estas figuras en la mitología cristiana y judía (mira a aquí, aquí y aquí). Las mujeres en las primeras comunidades vascas podían controlar sus propias propiedades y heredar la fortuna de la familia. Tenían más poder que las mujeres de otros países europeos.

En la mitología griega, había dos figuras muy famosas que eran brujas. La primera se llamaba Medea, la esposa de Jasón (Jasón y los Argonautas). En la obra Medea de Euripides, Medea mata a sus hijos después Jasón se casa con una otra mujer. En los mitos, Medea generalmente es una sacerdotisa de la diosa Hécate – una diosa que estaba asociada con temas oscuros tales como la muerte, las fantasmas, la necromancia y – ¡qué sorpresa! – la brujería. La segunda se llamaba Circe, una diosa y bruja que figuraba en La Odisea de Homero, la historia de la vuelta a casa del héroe griego Odiseo. En la epopeya, Circe transforma en animales a sus enemigos y intenta a seducir a Odiseo, aunque – con el ayudamiento del dios Hermes – la resiste. Aquí, tenemos una otra bruja mítica que controla a los hombres usando la manipulación y la sexualidad. Los griegos antiguos pensaban que las mujeres inteligentes fueron peligrosas. Las brujas en los mitos de Antigua Grecia representaban los temores que los hombres griegos tenían sobre sus esposas. Si piensas que aparece ridículo, hay un ejemplo interesante en un discurso del juzgado, que Antiphon escribío en 420a.C. En el discurso, un hombre acusó a su madrastra de matar a su padre. Se la llama “Clitemnestra”, que fue una reina mitologíca que mató a su esposo Agamenón. Hoy en día, no podría decirlo en un juzgado, pero en la sociedad patriarcal de Atenas, fue totalmente aceptable.

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Clitemnestra de John Collier

Es posible que la bruja es casi emblemática del feminismo. Las brujas de la mitología eran en contraste con los sistemas sociales patriarcales, subvirtiendo el concepto de la mujer ideal. No es un secreto que mujeres poderosas asustaron a las sociedades del mundo antiguo (y moderno) y los hombres trataron a la sexualidad femenina como un arma. Tal vez la brujería es una manera para manejar este arma.

¡Gracias para leer! Por favor, “like” y comparte si te gusta el artículo.

Debo decir:

No intentaría a sugerir que las brujas realmente existían en estas culturas. Habían indudablemente sacerdotisas paganas, pero no hay nada evidencia para una religión de brujas. Hay la tradición de Stregheria (strega es la palabra italiana para “bruja”), que está basado en el libro Aradia, o el Evangelio de Las Brujas. Quisiera a creer que había un culto matriarcal de brujas con una mesías femenina, sin embargo es improbable que el libro sea más que una ficción. La gente que sufría durante las cazas de brujas no realizó la brujería en realidad, y pienso que es insultante llamar a esa gente “brujas”.

Tenemos poca evidencia que las tradiciones de la religión moderna neopagana de Wicca tienen alguna conección con las curanderas del pasado. No es una crítica de Wicca. De hecho, creo que Wicca es tal vez la religión más emancipadora del mundo (¡una opinión polemica, lo sé!). Puede aprender más sobre Wicca aquí (el texto es en inglés).