love is a two shot
Marxism holds that people’s ideas—such as their ideas about race—can change depending on objective historical conditions. From Bacon’s Rebellion to the CTU strike, there are examples of ordinary people who have defied the expected behavior based on their possession of property, social standing or place in existing hierarchies of power, and acted according to the principle of solidarity—that an injury to one must be confronted because it is an injury to all.
Privilege theory is predicated on an unchanging status—privilege—rather than a dynamic understanding of human consciousness or human history. Its pessimism follows from its premise. Privilege theory’s skepticism about social change flows from its investment in a conceptual category that is static and often, as we have seen from the evidence, ahistorical.
—Bill Mullen, “Is there a white skin privilege?”
[F]or those for whom vulnerability is too much of an ask, for whom even the acknowledgment of their own fear is itself too frightening, denial is experienced as a safer bet. Better to have some emotional locked-in syndrome – masked by charm or wit or pretend empathy – than face the terror of vulnerability. It shows the extent to which our popular culture has become so fearful that this feels very much like a description of what it is to be “cool”.
—Giles Fraser, “When we deny our own vulnerability, we cope by being cruel to others”
I’ve been seeing some fascinating discussions of consent in my social media circles lately. Here are two that I’d recommend reading for intersectional approaches to the politics of consent:
2. "Upgrading ‘consent’?" from The Society Pages.
From the latter:
In patriarchy, sexual assault is not a bug in a good system, but the quintessential feature of a bad one. It’s not that individual rapists don’t care about women’s consent; rape is just one expression of a culture that functions on the assumption that there’s a class of people, in this case women, who are and ought not be asked to consent.
Dissecting consent is fascinating and crucial, and I hope we can keep this conversation going within feminist circles (and eventually extend it to the broader culture as well).
Early 21st century: from “SELF” + “IE,” says the Oxford Dictionary Online, and since my generation still remembers Internet Explorer (I.E., see), I want to smile. Then I want to paint, whiten, and Willow-filter my smile on Instagram, except I can’t without making a statement: The selfie is self-exploration. It’s self-ex_ploit_ation. It is harmless, fun. It’s narcissism gone wild. No, it’s female narcissism, which didn’t you know is redundant, unless it’s “feminist narcissism” by which we mean self-love so please go fuck yourself. Or it is neither feminist nor female but rather the male gaze internalized and viral, in which case it is nothing but harm, and also is making us stupid. But what if it’s self-portraiture? Then who’s stupid? You, who cannot draw a simple line from the nose of Picasso to Miley’s tongue.
My problem with this last, ultimate defense of the selfie is the assumption it needs defending at all. We have been depicting cool animals since the #LOLMAMMOTHS of the Chauvet Caves, yet pseudo-historians are not lining up around Greenpoint to place the cats of Instagram in a lustrous tradition of art. Likewise, I have not read twenty-eight minor essays defending Thanksgiving dinner pics as new Dutch-masterly still lifes. The face alone has launched a thousand think pieces. So now the question is not one of basic selfie-justification, but rather, why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?
—Sarah Nicole Prickett, “Sein und Zit”
Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power” is Women’s Studies 101 material. And “power” here means white supremacist patriarchy. Rape isn’t just an act one person does to another–it’s about transpersonal institutions, like sexism and racism. Rape is a way of enforcing the privilege of some classes of people over and against other classes of people. Rape is not a bug in an otherwise well-functioning system; it’s a key feature of white supremacist patriarchy. Women get raped because patriarchy makes their consent (or lack of consent) irrelevant in the first place. Rape is about demonstrating this fact.
—Robin James, “Upgrading ‘consent’”
[T]he categories and identities assigned to bodies (which may or may not relate to those materialities)—categories such as sex, gender, sexuality, race, health—do not at all describe a body, but rather, they act to produce and organize and stratify that body. They act as categories to which bodies succeed—to vastly differing extents—in squeezing themselves into and emulating.
Street Hassle's centerpiece, now considered one of Reed's greatest accomplishments, taught me that getting just what I wanted from a song (uplift, for example, or sloppy catharsis) wasn't always the best thing. “Street Hassle” includes bluntly sexual lines that turned me on, but also made me feel the edge of my own prudery. It explores how one person dehumanizes another and, just a few minutes later, how losing one person can make a person feel real and whole for the first time. It's a song suite that doesn't sound at all like punk; it features strings, female back-up singers and Reed definitely crooning. There's also an uncredited spoken-word passage by the then-rising Springsteen that adds in some of that future superstar's trademark grandiosity, serving as a telling contrast to Reed's own cooler storytelling. The song's triptych of scenarios is very Velvets: A probable transvestite picks up a male hooker at a bar; a drug dealer worries about how to get rid of an overdose victim's body; and, in the last verse, a more anonymous lover laments his man's departure in naked, needful agony. A lot happens musically around these stories, but every violin stroke, guitar bend and percussive push intensifies the focus on Reed's core message: that opening up your being — to sex or drugs or just to feeling — is inevitable, dangerous and the main purpose of life.
—Ann Powers, “What Lou Reed Taught Me”
Even though many advocates of feminist politics ere angered by [Sheryl] Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement. The model Sandberg represents is all about how women can participate and “run the world.” But of course the kind of world we would be running is never defined. It sounds at times like benevolent patriarchal imperialism. This is the reason it seemed essential for feminist thinkers to respond critically, not just to Sandberg and her work, but to the conservative white male patriarchy that is using her to let the world know what kind of woman partner is acceptable among elites, both in the home and in the workplace.
—bell hooks, “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In”