The beauty-industrial complex

July 21, 2008

I’m a huge sports fan, especially college basketball, mens and womens. Long time season ticket-holder at a competitive eastern university. To me, if there was going to be a place in our society where someone is judge purely on their ability and not their appearance, it would be sports. Obviously that view just reflects on my naiveté of how all-pervasive the association of attractiveness and a woman’s value really is.

From ESPN:

When it comes to makeup, the most common product used is mascara. Most athletes wear the waterproof kind so it doesn’t come off when sweating. Some players use Maybelline or Mac, others use Loreal or Sephora. Each brand has its own perks, whether it makes eyelashes look longer, is cheaper or just a brand to which one has grown accustomed.

. . .

“Well actually if I could wear face makeup during games I would,” Earl admitted. “I just get nervous because it smears, so actually that’s why I go tanning. I think girls are cuter when they’re tan.”

Seriously? Mascara? When you’re playing a sport that is going to have sweat pouring down your face and into your eyes all game? Sigh.

Smelling good before the game is another thing girls take pleasure in.

“I do spray perfume on my jersey,” Earl said. “I just like to smell good because I like girls who smell good. I wear Paris Hilton right now, but I’m looking to change, looking to mix it up a little.”

I got nothing.


On Retroactive Rape

July 8, 2008

The implications of redefining rape are broad. It means that all sex has the potential to retroactively become rape. Obviously this is a scary thought for a lot of men. Some would argue that it is criminalizing all sex, though it isn’t. It is merely adding the potentiality for criminality to all sex.

In some ways this is similar to financial fraud (bear with me here, this works I promise). Fraud occurs when there is a knowledge deficit that allows one party to take advantage of another. When someone defrauds me, I do not think they have committed a crime at the time when the crime actually happens. It is only later, when the financial impropriety has been revealed that I actual realize that I was a victim of a crime. Having sex is a judgment made based upon a fairly complex metric of knowledge and assumption. If at a later date, some of that knowledge is proven to be false, it essentially invalidates the original decision. As male tactics go, the concept of convincing a woman that you’re interested in a relationship merely to sleep with her and then abandon her is fairly common. However dishonesty in the acquisition of sex never enters into the current definition of rape. And without that there is no moral hazard created to force honesty and trustworthiness in sexual dealings. Men can continue to use dishonesty as a way of acquiring sex from women.

If the playing field is changed, so that women can retroactively define such dishonest dealing as rape (which it is), without having to suffer through the rigmarole of the current ‘consent’ bullshit, then the entire male approach is forced to change. The often-practiced and admired art of treating women as objects to be manipulated into having sex with you (see “The Game”, et al) will end. Casual sex will not be eliminated, but it will end up being between two people who are fully invested in the idea of casual sex. More importantly the idea that consensual sex can ever happen without full disclosure (again, similar to financial regulations requiring quarter reports to allow investors to make informed decisions) can be put to bed (pun intended).

By denying women volition over defining what happens to their body, we are essentially denying them the ability to control what happens to their body.

On Rape

July 4, 2008

Twisty’s original post on rape said the following:

Well, what if lack of consent were the default? What if all prospective objects of dudely predation — by whom I mean all women — are a priori considered to have said “no”? What if women, in other words, were seen by the courts to abide in a persistent legal condition of keep-the-fuck-off-me?

Nine Deuce recently followed up with her own take on it, which kept the same basic premise but made the penalties more cruel and explicit:

Any defendant convicted of rape will be assumed to have proven he is incapable of responsibly exercising his sexuality in society. As such, the penalty for rape will be immediate and irreversible castration. If a weapon is used in the commission of the crime, or if the victim at any time during the crime feels that her/his life was in danger, the added penalty of life in prison without parole will attach.

While neither of them are wrong in essence, I do think that all the talk about consent (in Twisty’s case) as well as crime and punishment obscures the crucial central tenant of their arguments. Personally, I spent so much time caught up in the arguments over the legal part of Twisty’s proposal that I nearly missed the point. By the time Nine Deuce published her extension, I had figured it out, which made her post frustrating to me. The inevitable effect of mixing a theory of personal empowerment with legal codification is that people will argue to death the legal side of things and will miss the theory part completely. That behavior is rampant in the comment threads on both posts, mostly from men but also from women.

How we punish rapists is irrelevant (not in general, but to the point that Twisty was trying to make). Defining a rapist is the crux of the matter. I think that what Twisty and Nine were saying can be simply codified as:

A woman has been raped when sexual activity has occurred and she thinks she has been raped.

That’s it. That is all that needs to be said.

In which I describe who I am, what motivates me, and what this blog is about

July 3, 2008

I am in my twenties, white, male, upper middle-class. It is hard for me to say that I have sincerely wanted for anything in my life, either economically or emotionally. In many ways I am the least qualified to talk about discrimination and prejudice. Things that I have to say about pretty much any ‘-ism’ must be qualified with the disclaimer that I have no first hand experience with them, except as an observer. However these writings are not intended to be an apology for privileges that the accident of birth has bestowed upon me. For me to feel guilty about things which are profoundly outside of my control is a quirk of personality that I am glad has escaped me. I have a hard enough time feeling guilty about things which are inside my control.

My motivations for writing are simple. I think I have something of value to say and the Internet allows me to say it. But one thing that I am very aware of is that nothing I say, no matter how well observed and reasoned, carries any weight when compared with the actual experiences of those who suffer under the Patriarchy. I can lay no legitimate claim to speaking from a truly informed position. I am not here to tell anyone how to think, only to tell people how I think. One of simplest yet most important concepts (and one I’ll come back to a lot) is that the feeling of oppression is always a personal judgment. I have no right to tell a woman that she ought not to be offended by something, just like I have no right to tell a black man how he should feel about the slow death of Civil Rights movement.

I have always gone through life with at least the theoretical idea that women were as much human beings as men (it is often hard to maintain that view when dealing with a world dominated by Patriarchal tropes). That viewpoint I owe to a remarkable woman, my mother. I have on at least one regrettable occasion, my little sister recently reminded me, referred to my mother as ‘an ankle-biting feminist.’ I am not sure what that comment meant precisely, but I think it is fair to say that at least the latter part of the description is accurate. My mother is, and has been as long as I have known her, a highly articulate ‘blamer’ who understood (and continues to understand) the subservient roles forced on women far better than I will ever be able to. It is a sad commentary on me that it has taken me this long to realize that she is far more right than I have ever given her credit for and that it took outside influences to make me realize this.

I, essentially, had a ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment about feminism recently which has lead me to where I am now. It started innocently enough with a link from somewhere (I thought Jessa Crispin’s BookSlut blog but I can’t find the post there) to a review of “It’s A Jungle Out There” on the G Spot blog. That review happened to mention Twisty’s essential feminist reading list something I, as both an avid reader and someone deeply interested in gender studies, decided I needed to find. I never did find the book list, but I did find Twisty’s blog. From her blog I found a link to Hell on Hairy Legs, the feminist blog of a high school student in Australia who had linked to Nine Deuce’s blog series on pornography. It was from there that I found a link back to Twisty’s blog, to her seminal (and hotly discussed) post on rape. I read her post, all of the comments on it, and then all of the comments on the second post she put up to continue the discussion. It took the better part of two days to go through everything. I read, I thought, I got angry. I felt challenged and unfairly blamed. I got over that. Somewhere during all of this, a light bulb went off.

So all this is about me trying to figure out exactly what that light-bulb was telling me and maybe helping other people realize the same things I’ve realized. Women aren’t free, society isn’t equal, we’re all gonna die. Well, at least the first two. I’m still holding out hope on the living forever thing.