Thursday, March 12, 2009

Territorial Pissings

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler breaks down the dualistic sex structure by stating that "a culturally specific epistemic a priori establishes the naturalness of 'sex.'" She conceptualizes the body as a social construct--a cultural artifact on which the values of society (or the individual) are expressed.

Given all my thoughts on LeVande's talk, this is somewhat disconcerting.

I had the misfortune of having Beyonce's Single Ladies stuck in my head all day. And the thing is, I had no idea what the hell she was saying besides "If you like it, than you should have put a ring on it" (which incidentally sounds like "Iffyoulikethenyashuddaputtariingownit," just saying). I decided to Youtube the video last night after SAMS, a lip-syncing contest in which the song appeared not once, but three times (one by the dance team, and twice by fraternities--'cause it's funny when boys act like girls). And I was pretty much appalled:

'Cause if you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it
If you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it
Don't be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it

I got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips
Hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
Acting up, drink in my cup
I could care less what you think
I need no permission, did I mention
Don't pay him any attention
'Cause you had your turn
But now you gonna learn
What it really feels like to miss me

Hokay. So. The you being addressed here is both subject and male, while the it, the object, is female. And if the subject likes the object, then he should probably mark the object as his own lest another subject encroach upon his territory.

Among many things, what is particularly disturbing when considering this song through the lense of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble is the body as a cultural artifact. If the single ladies of this song are indeed cultural artifacts, what's that saying about our culture if cultural artifacts are meant to be owned? Does this once again connect to the fucking prehistoric association of men with culture and women with nature? Are women's bodies meant to be controlled and regulated by patriarchal social, political and governmental forces that have economic interests in keeping women in subjugated positions?!

Although it's hard for me to choose what's most alarming about this song, I'd have to say it'd be how Beyonce portrays this as empowering. She don't need no permission and could care less what you think...but you really, really have should have put a ring on it several times over because now it has the self-satisfaction of knowing that you're in psychological distress over the loss of patriarchal power over it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Losing My Faith in Humanity One Lap Dance at a Time

This blog began as a rant on why I hate Tila Tequila, but shifted after I joined the Facebook group "Boycott N.E.R.D." I actually hesitated joining at first, because I thought they were probably harmless, and there was no need to make a big feminist fuss about it. Well, upon further investigation, I discovered I was wrong:

You got somethin boys can't deny [here's a hint] / It's like apple pie / Cut ya open and you're just WIDE / You ain't tired / You are the cause of riots who could say no to you? / Wait till they get a load of you /A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you).

Where to begin. Well, for starters, boys can't deny that those of the feminine gender (I'm hesitant to say 'women' because that connotes personhood) have something they need--because all boys are straight and categorizing them as 'boys' indicates a kind of exploratory sexuality, connoting a variety of experience (and/or partners). Much like apple pie, females are delicious baked goods that are soley for the purpose of consumption (specifically MALE consumption in this instance). And don't forget the intersection of violence and sexuality! 'Cut ya open' implies a forceful opening that is more likely than not, as consentual sex (to my knowledge) does not involve sharp pointed objects (and no, a penis does not count as sharp). Wide has a disturbing connotation to women "wanting it"-- after all, if they're wide open (by sharp pointed intruments or otherwise), they're clearly asking you to sexually violate and degraded them. If she ain't tired, that must mean she's either fucking you like a porn star or she's struggling against you--and although these often get conflated, I think it's contextually safe to suggest it's the latter. Women being the cause of riots makes me think of the devastating effect wars have on women--their bodies are violated as a sign of triumphant victory. What could be better for conquering nations than to spread their victorious seed to the defeated peoples? Wait 'til they get a load of you--'they' being a collective of predatory males and you being a non-being. The final chorus of "hundred dollar bills" is especially disturbing in the video, because it shows women's faces being covered with, well, hundred dollar bills. I wonder what they had to do to get it?

The optimist in me was hoping that this would be the only song in which women were not considered to be people. That, however, was shattered upon discovering Lapdance:

Chicks nick-name me pilot / They get high off my dick / I take 'em to my home, they call it the cock pit / Time for take off, their panties they drop quick / Now that's first class fuckin, and that' some fly shit.

Chicks. As baby chickens made no appearance within the music video, this term was decidedly imposed upon those of the feminine gender. Honestly, I don't even need to do an analysis of this--the words speak for their mysogynist selves. What really disappointed me about this song, though, is when you first go through the lyrics, it sounds like it's politically charged:

It's this society / That makes a nigga wanna kill / I'm just straight ill Ridin' my motorcycle down the streets / While politicians is soundin' like strippers to me / They keep sayin' but I don't wanna hear it...

I wasn't really sure about the strippers part, but I figured it could be something along the lines of them selling themselves out for money. That made a lot of sense to me. However, upon viewing the first, say, ten seconds of the music video, I was sadly mistaken. I don't know that I've ever seen more booty/boob/crotch shots than I have in the first seventeen seconds of that video.

I'd like to end with two lyrics that I find to be particularly intriguing:

Oooh baby you want me? / Well you can get this lap dance here for free.

"Oh, wait, you're sexually attracted to my gyrations and booty shorts? Well, let me just tell you that because I have been socialized to devalue myself by patriarchal media, I will gyrate myself towards and onto you for no charge. See, normally it would cost you, because the only value I hold in society is tied to my sexuality, but because you're oppressed as a black man and because you are a societal rebel you can have this for free."

I am astounded that they are bringing this musical group to campus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Location, Location, Location

I find a lot of what we've been reading over the past couple weeks to be a bit overwhelming, as it is difficult for me to grapple with the isms and posts of different schools of feminist theory. So I think that when feminist authors give me their social location, it helps me conceptualize WHY they've invested themselves in a certain facet of feminist theory. I suppose it makes it a little more concrete (and interesting!) when they specifically relate their life to the theory they're arguing for, and it helps me to evaluate where my own thought and experience falls based on my social location. bell hooks' article does just this, and her explanation legitimizes her personal experience as a kind of feminist theory:

"Growing up in a black, working-class, father-dominated household, I experienced coercive adult male authority as more immediately threatening, as more likely to cause immediate pain, than racist oppression or class exploitation. It was equally clear that experiencing exploitation and oppression in the home made one feel all the more powerless when encounter dominating forces outside the home."

bell hooks is absolutely fucking cool. Not only is she investing the reader in her article by giving her social location, she's also deconstructing the patriarchal belief that theory is only legitimate within broader societal contexts. She is owning her own experience as feminist theory. So. Cool.

One (of the many) things I like best about feminism is that it helps me understand how power dynamics in my family have shaped the person I am today. My mother had me when she was nineteen, and my father was mid-thirtysomething. He was an alcoholic, and because of his gender, economic status, and age, he was a domineering force over my mother. I suppose I can't fault him overmuch on the way he was, as it is a long-standing male Stanko tradition to be domineering alcoholics who tend to emotionally damage the younger generations. This longstanding tradition was influenced by poverty, world wars, and ethnic oppressions that have influenced the power dynamics of my family for more generations than I can count.

So, rather than be pissed off at the way I am because of longstanding mental illness tradition of my family, feminist theory has allowed me to understand and come to terms with the person I'm becoming. It is a vehicle in which I have kind of reclaimed some elements of my past, let go of others, and it's something I hope to share with other feminists (and non-feminists, if they're willing to listen) in the hopes of changing the patterns of anger and abuse I see all too often in my family and in other families.