Thursday, December 24, 2009

WHM Supremacy Messes With Blanche DuBois (radical feminism does not)

This post has been revised on the 26th, 27th, and 29th of December, 2009 ECD.
Explaining that her ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Auriol, Mississippi, has been "lost" due to the "epic fornications" of her ancestors, Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley (Brando). Blanche says her supervisor gave her time off her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves. The truth was, she was fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old male student. This turns out not to be the only seduction she had engaged in — and these problems led Blanche to run away from Auriol. A brief marriage scarred by the suicide of her spouse, Allen Grey, has led Blanche to live in a world in which her fantasies and illusions are seamlessly mixed with her reality.

In contrast to both the self-effacing and deferent Stella and the pretentious refinement of Blanche - Stella's husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behaviour as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship is heavily based on powerful, even animalistic, sexual chemistry - something Blanche says she finds impossible to understand, despite long glances of admiration and lust towards him.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law's system of mutual dependence. Stella's concern for her sister's well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife.

Stanley's friend and Blanche's would-be suitor, Mitch (Malden), is trampled as Blanche and Stanley head for a collision course. Stanley discovers Blanche's past through a co-worker who travels to Auriol frequently. He confronts Blanche with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home (just as they were in Auriol), and partly out of a distaste for pretence in general. However, his attempts to "unmask" her are predictably cruel and violent.

Their final confrontation — a rape — results in Blanche's nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution. In the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor and nurse who lead her away: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers", reminding us of one of the flaws that has led her to this point — relying too heavily on the attentions of men to fulfill and rescue her. [source: here]
Compare that description to this one:
The greatest cinematic vision of lust, A Streetcar Named Desire turns on two different types of acting - traditional (Vivien Leigh) and Method (Marlon Brando) - and, more specifically, on their respective characterisation of bodily extremities as a mere extension of speech, as evinced in Blanche Dubois' continual, restless use of hands, fingers and hair to parse her increasingly baroque monologues, and of speech as a mere extension of bodily extremities, as evinced in Stanley Kowalski's unprecedented muscularity, whose all-encompassing presence includes his lips, reducing everything they offer to the Tarzan-like grunts appropriate to his plethora of ripped and half-ripped shirts. In this way, Kazan and Tennessee Williams manage to evoke the extraordinary bodily convulsion, or reconfiguration, that constitutes giving into "desire...brutal desire", as well as the magnitude of hysteria required to resist it, opening up a wealth of sexual material previously unavailable in mainstream cinema - particularly female nymphomania and (possibly) paedophilia (certainly predation) - as well as imbuing, and occasionally disguising, it with the decadent morbidity of the Southern family from which Blanche and sister Stella (Kim Hunter) spring, the American Romanticism that Blanche so liberally quotes and, above all, the queasy, dreamy ambience of the "Quarter"; a tympanum for her wandering mind, bending time round its desire: "...these long, rainy afternoons in New Orleans, when an hour isn't just an hour, but a little piece of eternity dropped in our hand." Posted on Monday, October 13, 2008 by Billy Stevenson | Comments Off
[image and text just above is from here]
In a perverse blending of the two, we arrive at this:

The greatest of all American tragedies -- the rape of beauty by force -- Kit Stolz (a privileged white heterosexual male blogger)

Racism is always just under the surface of any discussion about whiteness in Amerikkka. Blanche DuBois, as white as her first name indicates, is a theatrical figure who is constructed out of the realities of this country's alleged greatness and reflects the conundrum of being a white female in U.S. society: damned for passions which can find no appropriate outlet, because there are none made available. As her last name phonetically pronounced in English alludes, some of her passions have shown up in her willingness to "do boys".

In Amerikkka, Black men, all grown up, have been termed "boys" by whites. This is now considered, by any white person with an ounce of empathy, to be outrageously controlling and condescending. Patronising. Oppressive. And a term white men invented: "emasculating". To emasculate is to make more feminine, to remove "masculinity" or its markers and symbols. Castrating emasculates, as does becoming dead. So we are left understanding better why white men hanged Black men and removed their genitals. Black men's genitals were a symbol, to white men, of what white men's genitals could not be: desired by white women.

Symbols rule this land of science and rationality. And Black men's bodies have always represented, in the white imagination, something that white men must "tame" or destroy. The situation Black women face inside and outside the U.S. is no better and is undeniably worse, if one cares to not be in denial. As has been noted on radical feminist blogs, whites--women and men--cannot see Black women as anything other than Black men, politically speaking. What is done to Black women is what was once called "unspeakable" but even when spoken it becomes something else, pornography perhaps, never out of reach of men's misogyny and white's racism. To say white men do not respect Black women is beyond understatement. It is structural necessity if white manhood is to remain oppressively powerful. Black women can be and are disrespected by every other group of people positioned to do so as if nothing wrong was happening at all. And the rape and other systemic assaults against Black women--social and intimate, economic and ethnic, institutional and ideological, by men of all colors is not considered an atrocity unless physically or symbolically attached, in some way, to crimes against Black men or crimes against white women. Due to this, what happens to Black non-Indigenous women, and also to Indigenous women of any ethnicity, is not seen by the oppressors as inhumane in and of itself. If you are not a Black and/or Indigenous woman, can you imagine the level of invisibility, the disregard, and the denigration of your humanity this requires? This indicates that Blackness, Indigenous personhood, and womanness are simultaneously and intricately raced and gendered, stigmatised as dangerous to whiteness and manhood.

Many things are stigmatised as dangerous in the white imagination: everything, it seems, except whiteness itself. This is odd, because whiteness will kill itself faster than any other force known to white men. Manhood kills too and has a great gynocidal history of doing so--a history that against great resistance, is not finished. I hope women will survive it and live to know life without its violence and violations often called "just how life is". But when manhood is white, watch out, for it has a power formerly unknown, reaching to all regions of the Earth (even Antarctica), where non-human beings and people of every color may be destroyed for not being what the white man is: a special breed of evil born politically in culture not inherently in nature.

When one hears the term "white heterosexual manhood" one is supposed to register that there is no other kind. So the delusionally, paranoidally externalised "threats" (in the WHM imagination) from white women, from women of color, and from men of color of all sexualities, as well as by white gay men, are, allegedly, THERE! What? You can't see them? You aren't misperceiving reality hard enough. Keep at it. With practice, you too will see the danger of those who have never had the structural or institutional power to be dangerous to white heterosexual men's pathetic idea of "masculinity" or "humanity". And those two phenomena ought never been seen as synonymous for, if they are, all who are (and what is) deemed feminine will suffer for it. And if you refuse to see it because it is not there, WHM have ways of getting you to believe. WHM-made literature and cinema are two ways. It will be in the literature (and sometimes later, in cinema), that the descriptions of those of us who are not WHM are most likely to find truthful expression. There, our humanity finds eloquence and resonance, and our experiences become stories about the human condition, often coded so as to be acceptable to WHM sensibilities, such as they are. The number of times I've seen gay coding in what are presumed to be heterosexual stories told on film is high, and when I investigate my "was it just me, or..." wondering, I often find that a lesbian or gay author wrote the original screenplay or story from which the film was made.

U.S. white heterosexual manhood (you are supposed to ask: is there any other kind?) has never, ever been effectively threatened by any form Black or American Indian manhood, Black of American Indian womanhood, or white womanhood, or queerness of any gender or ethnicity, yet all have been and continue to be punished severely, relentlessly, perversely, by white men, who are known for a bit of projection. Have you seen what white heterosexual men do to themselves and others in their pornography? Do you see the stories they are obsessed with telling, over and over and over again, to try and make them be the only sexxxual narratives anyone will want to act out? Have you noticed how WHM use and abuse people to enact their worst pornographic fears, and their greatest literary accomplishments? The themes are all there. Just look, if you can look without buying into the lies.

WHM's projections-in-patriarchies incite violence to kill swiftly, often by mobs of white men who cannot tolerate the idea that they alone are not desired, deferred to, and worshiped. The white heterosexual woman who would choose a boy over a man must be destroyed, one way or another.

So too the white gay man. His sexual desire is seen as like hers, so he too should be destroyed. Of course trying to find the parameters of WHMs sexuality is difficult, given their propensity to fuck who they love, fuck who they hate, fuck non-human animals, and fuck non-living things--even ones that were once alive. Corpophilia is perhaps the most morbid side of WHM sexual desire, and explains a great deal about why those fairy tale princes kept falling for those sleeping beauties. The beauty of those women, to WHM, is that they are unconscious. As Andrea Dworkin famously noted in Woman Hating, when analysing the gender and sexual politics of children's fairy tales, "catatonia is the good woman's most winning quality". Beauty is a thing to men, not a person. WHM desire to fuck and possess things and the distinction between those two acts (fucking and possessing)  is not usually terribly clear. Unfortunately for men some of those things just happen to wake up. Sometimes we remember enough to report your f*cking features to the police. Sometimes we try and kill you ourselves, but our crimes against you are always so terribly, terribly criminal, whereas your crimes against us are things that just happen, like destructive gusts of wind. Oops, there goes another tree. It's all just as natural as that, in WHM supremacist law. (Men's rape of women isn't even a hate crime.)

What some forget is that we gay men have learned, like everyone else, to desire them--the fuckers of anything, and to desire to meet their needs. That their needs can never really be met is a memo that ought to get out more. When our compulsory desires for WHM are rooted in taking care of their needs--tending to our oppressor rather than ourselves, then under certain circumstances our connections with them threaten to reveal exactly how unheterosexual WHM are capable of being. Watch straight men take a few drinks and you'll also witness how they'll go at it with gay men in an intoxicated heartbeat, using alcohol as "the reason" it happened.

Heterosexual women sometimes seek connection to those men who are gay and young because, well, we don't kill as many women as adult heterosexual men do. Straight men seek us out for variety, expediency, or when the women in their lives have thrown them out onto their sorry sexist asses. Rough sex, which straight men typically seek, even if they have to pay for it in cash, in order to avoid the cost of affection and intimacy, may be sought in the alleys, cars, and roadhouses where gay men congregate. But, in case word gets out, the straight man will rant and rage against homosexuality from the pulpit of his everyday life.

Of the men who sexually abused me when I was a boy, all were straight men. This is not to say women cannot abuse children in every way. Or that gay men are somehow incapable of being abusive to children. In her memoir, Heartbreak,  Andrea Dworkin recalls her encounter with a notoriously predatory misopedic gay writer, Allen Ginsberg, known, in some circles at least, for seeking out sex with boys, including at the bar mitzvah of her godson. But the group that deserves the stigma of being predatory to children is neither women nor gay men.

Heterosexual men prey on children of any gender systematically, with privileges that protect them and allow them to do so with impunity. While he gets away with it, time and again, any woman who abuses her child sexually is immediately represented in WHM media as a monster of the worst sort, which, by implication, makes what straight men do less heinous. But surely it is men, generally, who wrote the textbook on how to do everything evil you can do to a child (or to an adult). Because the children are threatened to keep silent, we do. Who is out there to discuss the inconvenient truths of U.S. white male-dominated society? Can this be done without acknowledging the crimes this society is built on and structured to perpetuate?

Tennessee Williams knew a lot about U.S. WHM supremacist society because he was gay and because he was Southern. He was able to know so much about WHM not because he was one of them, but because he was not. WHM are extremely ignorant about themselves, in case you haven't noticed. Their own inner fantasies and external practices are projected onto the rest of us so automatically that they scarcely know what they do that is, in fact, harmful and theirs. If they register they are, to some degree, damaging the humanity of other people, they are quick to avoid talking about it, let alone taking responsibility for it. They construct whole discourses, defend legal arguments, promote "socio-biological" scientific studies, and profess academic diatribes on the "fundamental right to be free"... to casually and callously or aggressively and maliciously express themselves. Their speech can be racist, misogynist, or heterosexist, but if WHM express it, it is protected by secular and religious laws.

WHM act out this alleged right to be free to imprison and oppress others, here and elsewhere in the world. They protect their right to do evil. Blacks are enslaved, American Indians are slaughtered, women are raped, and homosexuals are perpetually damned and sometimes raped and beaten to death. There are few things I am more grateful for than the avoiding the practiced curse of being a WHM. I don't know how they live with themselves, as a group. Were it not compulsory to do so, no one else would live with them. And they know this. They know they are not collectively worthy of being cared about and cared for, which is why they have always had to created institutions and ideologies which make not caring about and for them a form of criminality, immorality, and insanity.

Those who speak without delicacy and compassion about WHM, those who address them without the degree of deference assumed to exist in the phrase "Yes, Massa", will be seen as some combination of the above stigmatising adjectives. But no one says "Yes, Massa" with genuine affection for the person they are addressing. No one. Whatever disrespect or disregard does come back at WHM, they deserve. Their supremacist doctrines dictate directing harm downward and inward, if you are an oppressed person; downward and outward if you are not. If and when that rage in the oppressed surfaces, and should it reach the shores of WHM's mental fortresses, let's hope those mental fortresses crumble. Out of this psychic bloody rubble, perhaps, their humanity can be born. Birth is always a bloody process, after all.

We are asked by a WHM fellow named Kit Stolz to contemplate the horror of the rape of beauty... with force. Is the beauty we are asked to consider that of West African slave women, I wonder? That of Native North American women? No. Because in the United Rapes of Amerikkka "beauty" is always heterosexual, female, and WHITE. And greatness is always white, heterosexual, and male. The butch woman of any race cannot, practically by definition, be beautiful to WHM. This is why we don't see any butch women in advertising or on television, in theatrical productions or in films. Because butch women do not please the sensibilities of WHM (or, for that matter, WGM).

WHM destroy in themselves virtually any capacity to see and know beauty that they do not control. To control it (not only the person) is to make it more beautiful. There is nothing alluring that is uncontrollable, except... can you guess? White heterosexual men. And so Stanley Kowalski--an "ethnic" man, a Polish working class man, as portrayed by Marlon Brando, is beautiful to many people, indescribably so. But so too is Blanche, because she is frail, fragile, perhaps feeble-minded like Tennessee Williams own beloved sister who was put away with schizophrenia for her whole life, and turned into a non-being by being given a prefrontal lobotomy. This is what WHM do. They commit atrocities. And this is what they will say they never do--except by accident, perhaps.

"Beauty", as WHM rigidly define it, is what is most in need of protection from becoming dirty. But WHMs hands have never been clean, from day one. So we have a problem, don't we?

We are asked to take what one WHM named Kit has to say about the world of suffering as what? Accurate? Truthful? How would that be? could that be, when WHM cannot see what they do and name it accordingly? What do WHM know about Truth? I know, this is not a "nice" thing to say. I'm not done.

There are deeper questions that ought to be asked. Why is it only among the population of women who are raped, that "beauty" can be found, through WHM's distorted and myopic eyes. And how, pray tell, can only her beauty be raped? Are we to conclude that a woman's only worth or being is her beauty, and that she is not really human in the way ugly-as-sin WHM are human? And, if a "beautiful" man is raped, is it only his beauty that is damaged? No. His manhood is seen to be damaged as well, and manhood = humanity in a way that womanhood never has, since WHM came into existence, that is. Why, when a man rapes a woman, does she become in any way less desirable to WHM? It is not because the rape reveals some dirt that she carried that has now been allowed to surface. No. It is because she becomes marked by his filth, odored by his stench.

WHM do not ever claim to desire other WHM. So the stigma of ugliness never resides in him. What he does cannot be ugly unless and until it makes contact with those who are not him--those onto whom he projects his filth and leaves his stench. Those people are seen to activate his ugliness. To WHM, their own deplorable actions only become ugly because of that contact with the others, those others things over there. WHM can wash it off and come out looking fine. Or, more perplexing still, he can remain dirty and still be desired. WHM can be "godly" or "beastly", "civil" or "savage", and always be portrayed as desirable, worthy of lust and worship both. What WHM won't allow themselves to know is that each of those word-pairings are synonyms, not antonyms. Don't say this out loud or you will be punished, I assure you.

This post concerns three related matters: how WHM behave that is destructive to women, how women and men protect WHM from knowing too much about the political meaning and force of that destruction, and how WHM who wish to remain ignorant about the world of women--of anyone, in fact, who is not a WHM, may do so, because WHM are never responsible for what they say and what they do that is never supposed to be spoken of. What WHM do, in various oppressive ways, is harmful to women as human beings who one day will be free from WHM.

These are among the challenges I bring to Kit Stolz at his blog for the one quote that you saw in bold earlier, attributed to him. This is not his only statement that reveals how white and heterosexually manly he is. You will see how he does and does not engage with the concerns and matters I bring to him as I refuse to call things what he wishes them to be called. I wish I could have also written directly to Billy Stevenson, whose paragraph about the film version of Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire needs challenging. But, alas, comments are not being taken at this time.

First, here is Kit's whole post, unedited, but with significant commentary by me in brackets and in bold, as I make my way through it.

Feminism Messes with Blanche DuBois

On Double X, Slate's relentlessly smart site for women's issues, Margaret Wheeler Johnson alleges that feminism has screwed with Blanche DuBois. [Actually she doesn't. Click on "Double X" above if you want to see what she actually says. Only a man who knows little to nothing about feminism could come to this simplistic and misogynistic conclusion, which is, ultimately, patriarchally self-serving.]

Forget about the irony of the alleged perpetrator for a second, and think of the victim. [Do not think about the perpetrator at all. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, or under the sheet. Be distracted by that booming voice, the false bravado. And, for a moment, consider of how often men misuse the term "alleged" to protect one another from ever been understood as rapists.]
Is there a greater crime possible against a character in American theater?

The greatest of all American tragedies -- the rape of beauty by force -- has been sullied, if such an allegation is true, and if such a double negative is possible. [What is sullied in rape--the unalleged kind, the kind that really happens that men routinely commit against women--is men's humanity, not women's beauty, confined as that latter concept is by what white heterosexual men misconceive it to be.]
Wheeler complains: [For Kit, no woman--feminist or not--does anything else but complain.] [Note: the brackets that appear in the two paragraph passage below are in the original and were not placed there by me.]
Stanley’s attack is the second rape attempted on Blanche in a single evening, following the unwanted advance of her recently disillusioned suitor, Mitch. [Tennessee] Williams’s stage directions specify that she “sinks to her knees,” allowing Stanley to carry her “inert figure” to the bed. Her reaction inevitably raises the question of why she doesn’t fight back. Has she just come to believe that she deserves it, or does she actually deserve it?
The BAM production elides this feminist’s dilemma by calling into question whether this is rape at all. In [Liv] Ullmann’s version, both Blanche and Stanley are drunk off their rockers by the time Stanley pushes Blanche onto the bed, giving the scene, at worst, the ambiguity of date rape. “It is clear this is something [Blanche] may want,” Ullmann said at a recent Q&A at BAM. The director’s main goal seems to be to rescue Blanche from total passivity. Of course, this creates the problem that if she wasn’t raped, she later lied to her sister and said she was. But in Ullmann’s version, at least Blanche remains in control.
[Fundamentally, and interestingly in this context, Kit's complaint about feminism as a movement seems to be that it doesn't know when to stop. Kit uses the tool of inept excerpting to his male supremacist advantage, which is to say, he uses it to create untruths, to make "allegations" about what women say that they do not, when seen in context, actually say; he may get quotes right, but his method of removing them from their source is insideously misogynistic, as are his descriptions of women's actions, which drip repeatedly, like an annoying faucet, with sexism.]

It's true that men far too often use force in sex, [this is about as disingenuous a statement as Kit makes; when men use force in sex, it is rape; not all rape requires force, but all forced sex is rape] for instance, [how much do you want to bet there's a "but" coming up? I'll put down twenty bucks. Wait. I've only got a five. I'll put down the five.] but [there it is!] then feminist Andrea Dworkin famously complained [yes, she too can only complain; clearly Kit cannot imagine women's speech as anything else] about the nature of sex itself, [well, no; that's not what she was talking about at all, actually] arguing that (according toWikipedia):
"Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women." [this is the sort of statement men love to take out of context, to not comprehend, to not contemplate, because to do this, earnestly, sincerely, with intelligence and grace, is, apparently, too much to ask of men when they read about radical feminist books without ever reading the book to find out what it says. White educated men allegedly read entire books, yes? Or do they really only ever scan text online now, somehow always happening upon pics of raped women on the Internet? Your guess is as good as mine, from what Kit states here.]
In 2009, has feminism -- or a dramatic attempt at an expression of such -- gone too far again? [This is spurious. First, Kit does not demonstrate any capacity to discern what is and is not feminism. Second, feminism has never gone far enough. Not even close. Let alone "again".]

Regardless of the answer to that question [and not owning the patriarchal self-interest involved in stating it]
, the good news, everyone fortunate enough to have seen the production agrees, is Cate Blanchett. [The bad and unfortunate news is that Kit can't really see women's lives in male supremacy as such. Because in Kit's world, there is normality, and then there is extremism: men using force is not extreme, it is sex; sex is normal; women writing words is extreme--and complaint--as, apparently, is feminism time and time again. (Pathetically and sadly, Kip cannot conceive of the woman's mind capable of discerning truth about men.) How curious this all is, when misogynist's behavior, however normalised and naturalised by men, is generally extreme, by measured against any international human rights standards.]

In the words of the great [and non-complaining] John Lahr, in a recent New Yorker: Blanche is the Everest of modern American drama, a peak of psychological complexity and emotional range, [well, only if we're willing to believe only Western white people write plays] which many stars have attempted and few have conquered. Of the performances I’ve seen in recent years, Jessica Lange’s lacked theatrical amperage, Natasha Richardson’s was too buff ["too" "buff": in the WHM imagination, one need only say "buff"; the "too" is generally unnecessary because no woman should be buff; that is a term reserved for men; it implies butchness after all], and Rachel Weisz’s, in this year’s overpraised Donmar Warehouse production in London, was too callow. [Oh, how men love to criticise women; why they can even earn a living doing so! When women criticise men, in writing, they don't earn enough to pay for housing and food. Andrea Dworkin wrote around a dozen books, each one excellent, and she never earned as much as "the great" John Lahr.] The challenge for the actress taking on Blanche [he wrote, with an assumption to make such statements that, should a woman ever make one such as this about men, will be seen as complaining. Indeed, John Lahr seems incapable of doing much else than complain about women who have portrayed Blanche DuBois to date, save for the exception to his rules, Cate.] lies in fathoming her spiritual exhaustion, her paradoxical combination of backbone and collapse. [How is this paradoxical? What oppressed person doesn't have to negotiate the spaces between having backbone and experiencing collapse?] Blanche has worn herself out, [because, Lorde knows, men have had no role in her exhaustion whatsoever] bearing her burden of guilt and grief, [yes, because Blanche is portrayed as  human, unlike, say, Stanley, who is incapable of feeling the burden of either--if guilt and grief are meant to imply one unflinchingly sees the harm one has done to others as such] and facing down the world with a masquerade of Southern gaiety and grace. [The deeply humiliated soul finds ways to appear undefeated; this is practically a requirement for getting up each day and entering a world where one encounters other beings outside oneself.]. She is looking—as Williams himself was when he wrote the play—for “a cleft in the rock of the world that I could hide in.” [And be buried in, to be sure.]

Blanchett, with her alert mind, her informed heart, [my goodness, is he going to describe her as WHM are described, without making reference to her body at all???] and her lithe [read: female], patrician [read: white] silhouette [I guess that answer to that question would be no. Heterosexist and misogynist men, of all sexual orientations, cannot resist talking about women's bodies--great white men, such as Hemingway, have minds; great white women, such as Dworkin, have bodies, always, that are disgustingly and disparaging attacked in words or in other actions designed to debase and dislocate her from the elite realm of "great white men". It is the job of the misogynist to always be assessing, scrutinising, and giving public feedback about women's bodies and women's attitudes about men, however brilliant they may be. White men do this anywhere they can, like pissing, ejaculating, or spitting: in literary magazines, pornography, or from cars on the street as women walk by], gets it right from the first beat.
[Kit ends his post with those words of "the great" white man John Lahr, who, is case you missed it, isn't a complainer.]

What is striking to me, and frankly quite alarming, is the audacity and the ignorance of his claim as to what is most horrible in the world ("the rape of beauty"). It takes a certain kind of butch bravado to make this declaration while simultaneously dismissing one author who, in fact, demonstrates how ignorant he is on the subjects--of beauty and of rape. And please note the white men he cites as "great" explicitly or implicitly. And how dismissive he is of Dworkin's work.

His interest, it appears, is in understanding the meaning of perhaps the most famous female character ever created by U.S. white gay playwright Tennessee Williams, Blanche DuBois, the white woman who does boys, in A Streetcar Named Desire, to whom Andrea Dworkin devotes a whole chapter in her book Intercourse. An intellectual powerhouse like Dworkin; a whole chapter in a major book. You'd think, maybe, an educated man interested in understanding Blanche might wish to read what such a brilliant mind has to say on the subject. Except, well, she's one of those: a radical feminist. So, really, never mind her mind. If anything ought to be said about her, by misogynists, it surely will be about her appearance, her body, her attitude towards men; what WHM especially will never address is even the possibility of truthfulness of her statements. Dworkin wrote prolifically; one presumes that such a great mind might, if even only by chance, occasionally stumble upon some truths about men, here and there.

Blanche DuBois's humanity, the level and meaning of agency and will in her actions, is interrogated to a minor degree by Kit Stolz, but only in order to come to a very male supremacist conclusion. Please whitemaleskygod, let this be true, again and again and again that maybe, just maybe, this rape--even though it is only theatrical--the rape--yes, the rape--never really happened at all. Because you know how heterosexually active women go on about rape as if, well, as if it were a reality!! So maybe she wanted it, right? And if SHE wanted it, maybe ALL women do, even women NOT created by men's imaginations! In which case, according to the male supremacist mind, there really is no such thing as rape at all! Yippee! Now straight men can go out and rape!!! have "consensual sex" (wink wink) with drunk, dissociated, and despised women.

Heterosexual women and gay men are among those two populations of people who are known for sleeping with men willingly, and Williams was known for actually understanding and writing about white women as human beings, a rare thing for a white male playwright to do. He could write about rape as a reality, about white heterosexual men's force as imposing and destructive. How curious: when rape and brutality are discussed by WHM, such phenomena either don't exist, or are called glorious, heroic, worthy of attaching even more medals to the lapel of the already decorated soldier or civilian.

The point, it seems, to Kit, is that we must not ever truly contemplate rape and its relationship to heterosexual sex. Thou must not. Heterosexual men routinely commit these acts in ways which which often blur and oblite their meanings while obliterating the physical and psychic boundaries of a woman who is a person, and even then it is not contemplated beyond directing how it happens, to which woman on which day or during which portion of the night. Shall he use alcohol or drugs to accomplish his task? Shall he take her out to dinner first? Should he get her to his place, or perhaps just pull over the car? Never has a gender (men) been so ignorant about something we define ourselves by doing so much.

This whole matter of sex and rape. How troubling it is to take seriously that it happens in ways that make both terms indistinct, not by accident, metaphysically, or mysteriously. Not without cause and consequence. Neither sex nor rape ever "just happens", much as men love to use this line as their full explanation. We can note how men deny their own agency when best it suits them. Things men do "just happen" but things that negatively impact white men never ever occur that way, and the alleged perpetrators of perceived crimes against WHM must always be severely punished, often for years. Just ask any innocent Afghan or Iraqi citizen. Just ask any battered wife or incested girl with a father figure looming in her bedroom at night.

White men commit incest and rape and other acts of sexual degradation and gross disregard for girls' and women's humanity without regard for consequences, because there usually are none. A sixteen year-old teen kills her rapist/pimp and she's sentenced to live out the rest of her years in prison. A man molests a one year-old girl and gets a year in prison. (True that.) He spends as much time in prison as the baby has been alive. The teen girl gets to spend as much time in prison as it will take her pimp and her procurers to rape hundreds of other women. You get the bias, right? The way society works? Whose interests are being served?

It works this way in VERY large part because men allow each other to maintain our illusions and delusions, our beliefs about what we do, even when we know what we've done. When we do figure it out, and feel what any human being ought to feel--guilt, for example, or grief--we are told "Oh no, please! Please don't suffer so with such burdens of conscience!" If you doubt this, you will see. There is a glaring example of it below and it is not from any work of fiction.

No one is allowed to contemplate, explore, and name things as they are experienced if they aren't experienced that way generally by white heterosexual men--who are, after all, THE definition of what it means to be human. (Not.)

So when someone dares to do this kind of analysing, renaming, questioning and answering--and Andrea Dworkin dared to do this and refused to make it nice or pretty so as to appeal to the misogynist reader's tastes in truth-telling--such writers are rejected as "extremists". This is a law of patriarchy. Look away from the extremity of what men do to women all the damn time. Did you read what Dworkin said about men?!?! (Well, to be honest, beyond the excerpted scraps that are pathetically chewed up and tossed around in whiteboys' teeth on the web, the answer to that is usually "no".)

All that is extreme about rapism including men's patriarchal protections of each other's right to have potentially rapist access to women and girls must not be discussed. It is just not polite.

The tacit conceit is that women understanding men politically is always going to extremes, taking things much, much too far. By "understanding" I mean women understanding men as social and institutionally enforced and protected beings, as agents of structurally oppressive behavior as men; women understanding that their depression or disillusionment, despair or anger, or seemingly inexplicable (to him) fury is legitimate. One way that legitimacy and validation can be made real is by reading on a page that what you feel makes sense, is rational, is appropriate: no, you are not crazy for being enraged at him, because he's been systematically mistreating you, after all; sometimes he uses you, betrays you, all the while lying through his teeth, treating you like a something--not human exactly, not dignified--that he wishes to keep around when he feels like having sex, or when he needs someone to take out his aggression on, or to hold him when he's in pain.

Once validated, what you believe to be true is now something you can know--there, it is written down, it is not my imagination: the men in my life are sexist. It is their sexism, not nature, nor any god, that impolitely requests that you be seen as less than them and "for" them. Any WHM's sexism means you have to negotiate the space around him so as not to piss him off and that when YOU are pissed off he calls you [fill in the misogynist liturgical tirade].

This means you cannot be yourself and be with him too, because what he is needs you to be who you are not.

Reflecting now on my own past dealings with men, if I needed him I must sacrifice myself; I must betray myself. To love him is to allow him or me to kill me. To want tenderness and get aggression means that I'd either better learn to accept aggression as affection, or leave the man out in the cold.

But then he'd be cold. And his feelings are just so important: all of them, every little one. And mine: mine are not as real as his, or so he leads me to believe. I want him, I think. But do I want all of him? What do I have to give up in order to be with him, who gives up nothing? The price, it turned out, was always too high. I gave more than I ever got, and sometimes when I didn't give, men took without consideration.

Men, generally and usually, do not want those they have sex with to find this out, but writers like Dworkin will give space, time, thought, consideration, and analysis to those questions that no one who wants to keep an abusive man around should ask. Because it's better to not understand what motivates men to do political harm if they do not wish to change, right? Wrong. It is always better to know. But it is better for men if we--heterosexually active women and gay men--just accept those men more, acquiesce and give in here, bend and forgive there. If we want passion and passion comes with violence, do we want violence? I say "No, we want passion". But gay men and heterosexual women are told to take what we can get, because, you know, a good man is hard to find. What rarely gets asked is this: what if the good men aren't good enough?

We are told to not understand men as political beings who manipulate and use force because they want control of you in ways no one should be controlled.  Domination is only sexy when the harsh naked reality of it as destructive to your being is pushed out of your mind. But damn it, domination, stubbornly, is the destruction to another person's will and worth. That's why I could ever believe that I need this man as if my life depended on it. The truth I was unwilling to see was that my life depends on not needing any man. Blanche needed passion and sought out males who could not harm her the way grown men can. This is an abusive choice to make. Is understandable as such. It is not excusable, however. But don't worry: she will be punished. Women always are, for what they do and for what they don't do.

Women are told to be emotionally understanding of men and their delicate psychology, to not understand that men are actually incredibly empowered beings who use whatever means they can to obtain what they want, whether they want it for five minutes or a lifetime. "Care about men's feelings, not your own." That's what women are told by society. Take good care of him. If you do, he'll treat you better. If he's abusive you haven't taken good enough care of him. Wrong: if you take care of yourself, you'll treat you better.

I knew that to be with men I'd be required to put away my feelings, my intellect, and any ability to integrate or interrogate the situation I was in. I had learned this from an early age: don't demand anything resembling humanity from men. And one more thing: men get angry if you don't kiss their asses and tell them how sweet they smell.

If men get angry when you don't kiss their asses, do you kiss their ass to be safe, or leave them to be free? These are social and political questions that are best answered sooner than later. They are not psychological ones requiring you to question yourself over and over again.

Dworkin committed a serious offense in patriarchy: as a political philosopher and activist writer she refused to not know; to not ask the toughest questions about men's constructed being and what men do to keep the artifice alive; and to describe, philosophically and graphically, what men's actions do to women as a class.

For Kit, it appears, it's better to just not look in that direction, to not read, and to not know. To not know. To not know. Because what would happen if he DID know?

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Julian said...
@It's true that men far too often use force in sex, for instance, but then feminist Andrea Dworkin famously complained about the nature of sex itself, arguing that (according to Wikipedia):
"Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women."

Kit, please fact-check before you post stuff, and please don't make one of the most common mistakes ppl on and off the Internet make: taking snippets--sometimes accurate, sometimes not--out of context to reinforce an idea that never was stated by the person you are quoting. Wikipedia is NOT a reliable resource, particularly on matters relating to radical feminism, in case you didn't know that. And to just cut over to them as if they were reliable, well, that's really sloppy work on your part.

You can fact-check here @, for variations on the theme you are misrepresenting above: (There's info there both about what Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin DIDN'T say that is so often attributed to each of them.)

Andrea wrote about intercourse analysing (not "complaining" about) a particular social condition, inside a particular political context. She didn't ever say "what sex is" as if "sex is natural". She wasn't a biological determinist, which is rather obvious from all of her work, but if you want specific proof, see this: (Funny how men never quote her from THAT speech, eh?)

Kit, I've seen white men work very, very hard to make sure they're not misunderstanding any nuance of what Western male radical philosophers from Plato to Foucault have written. Sometimes they even stay up all night doing so.

How interesting that white men so easily take virtually no time at all when assessing the meaning of radical feminist philosophers' writings. It's sad to see you do that here. Because clearly you care about the world you live in.

I call that sloppiness sexist. Is that what you want to promote here? Sexist and sloppy intellectualising?

What Andrea Dworkin is saying [to me] is that for women who engage in sex with men, far too often (as you note)--when those men take male supremacy, male domination, and misogyny to be natural, inevitable, AND sexual, heterosexual intercourse becomes a pure, sterile, formal expression of those men's contempt for women. See? That's what understanding statements in context allows for: comprehension of meaning. So basically you two are in agreement [in some regard], but your action to jump on a bandwagon and cast her as some sort of "way out there" political writer is spurious. Are not women allowed to write of their experiences of sex, without being condemned as ridiculous when doing so? Clearly men have that privilege, yes? I mean white male pornographers speak for you all the time--telling men that all sex is rape, and what do you say back to them? Have you critiqued them here? (I haven't checked, I'll be honest.)

Have you read any entire book of Dworkin's? Because if not--or even if you have, why do you think it's okay to misrepresent someone's ideas? How does passing off such a misrepresentation make anything you say appear more truthful or compelling? Is misrepresenting writers and philosophers something you do intentionally? Or is it only with radical feminists, whose work you don't care to take time to understand? And, finally, would you say that Foucault "complained" about how power functions in society? If not, why do you use that term for what Dworkin writes about power? I look forward to your answers.

Reply 12/24/2009 at 10:18 AM

Julian said...
An example of what is stated above:
Richard Holloway: And there are priests there, and he asked them to kiss him. I mean, that broke my heart. Begged them...and one wouldn't because he was worried, but one did, one came over and I suppose must have felt the wrench of pity that I think is the one thing that keeps us from absolute monstrousness. It's an astonishing story. It was made much by Michel Foucault and his big book on punishment because he was showing what humans have been capable of doing. There's a WH Auden poem that talks about the concupiscence of desire. There is something about power and cruelty that gives us a kind of a sexual thrill as well. And I think quite a lot of that was going on there. And of course crowds bought tickets to see it, as they would if we brought back public executions today. [...]

I'll cite the source in a moment. But first, we can note how there is an assumption that when white men write things and become known for doing so, we assume that there must be some kernel of Truth to it, right? I mean people STUDY Foucault and Auden's writings, don't they? They take time to understand the nuances and possible meanings. They are reflective, not defensive as they do this. They want to learn, to grow, to understand more about humanity, not less.

And yet, when it comes to someone like Andrea Dworkin, whose book Intercourse is brilliant, all kinds of people will be quick to dismiss a whole career of writings, because of one misunderstood quote. How tragic for humanity is that?

There's the context, in the full interview [with Richard Holloway], where [once the interview is accessed, we can not that prior to] the passage I've noted just above, we can watch as a white heterosexual man actually "gets it" but then is immediately steered away from staying with what he gets, because, well, we wouldn't want white men to suffer now would we? I mean him getting it might mean what? Days of contemplation, introspection, understanding what one has selfishly done in one's life and why? We can't have that! So he is steered away, because, really, the feelings of white men are always more important than anything that happens to women systematically that is oppressively harmful, and causes human suffering--in women.

Reply 12/24/2009 at 10:50 AM

Kit Stolz said...
Well, the quote from Dworkin I used came from a book review in The New York Times:
Is it taken out of context? Well, obviously some may think so, but I know plenty of women (including my daughters) who consider themselves feminists, or third-wave feminists, and have read Dworkin, and consider her beyond the pale. As your cite shows, she does argue against biological determinism, but insists that all too often sexual intercourse is given a political interpretation. I would say she too is guilty of this over-determinism as well. For instance (from the NYTimes review):

''Physically, the woman in intercourse is a space inhabited, a literal territory occupied literally: occupied even if there has been no resistance, no force; even if the occupied person said yes please, yes hurry, yes more,'' she asserts.

Reply 12/24/2009 at 12:55 PM

Julian said...
Intercourse occurs in a context of a power relation that is pervasive and incontrovertible. The context in which the act takes place, whatever the meaning of the act in and of itself, is one in which men have social, economic, political, and physical power over women. Some men do not have all those kinds of power over all women; but all men have some kinds of power over all women; and most men have controlling power over what they call their women--the women they fuck. The power is predetermined by gender, by being male.

Intercourse as an act often expresses the power men have over women. Without being what the society recognizes as rape, it is what the society-- when pushed to admit it--recognizes as dominance.

Intercourse often expresses hostility or anger as well as dominance.

Intercourse is frequently performed compulsively; and intercourse frequently requires as a precondition for male performance the objectification of the female partner. She has to look a certain way, be a certain type--even conform to preordained behaviors and scripts--for the man to want to have intercourse and also for the man to be able to have intercourse. The woman cannot exist before or during the act as a fully realized, existentially alive individual. -- Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse, Chapter 7.

These are philosophical statements, right? Not sociological ones. They are ideas meant to be contemplated, not measured against your own sexual history for signs of "accuracy".

How can one wee bit of anything not be taken out of context, particularly in a book as complex as Intercourse? How sexist, really, to assume that one book, with so much scholarship, so many points made, so much analysis and great writing, gets reduced to one reductive remark. Really. Seriously. Don't you get how sexist that is? Even if you don't agree with the remark? (Especially then.) If I pulled one bit of Freud, would you consider that someone you don't need to consider at all? How about Marx, or Darwin? Or your favorite writers?

I mean the swiftness with which people are capable of dispensing with the need to read what an important writer has said, because she's female and speaks deep truths about female experience in a socially male supremacist context... well, it's as stunning as it is discouraging.

Most men I know, have learned a lot from the book, from her, about being more humane when with women, about letting go of those sharp edges of masculinist socialisation that tend to cut women most deeply. But men, of course, are not made to read what radical feminist women say.

But we all must read Shakespeare and know white men's history of warring, right--from the white man's point of view, of course. Because it's not "The Vietnam War" to Vietnamese people. It's "The American War". Because U.S. Americans came and committed atrocity after atrocity. So it was never their war on us, it was always ours on them.

It is assumed, of course, that Shakespeare or [you pick the white male writer who we are all forced to read when young if schooled in the West] speaks to "the human condition"? But what about Vietnamese women did Shakespeare know. What of any Indigenous woman's life and struggles. He speaks to a cultural experience in its time, some themes of which extend beyond that time. So it is with most great writers, but only white men's writings are taken as especially and essentially truth-bountiful, yes?

I mean, you could read the book, then determine its value, yes? Or, even, read her many books? Or at least a dozen speeches and essays, which are available online?

Do you really use daughters to filter out what you take in? Might you, possibly, see something in Dworkin's work that they do not? And that doesn't make them "not feminist" but it would make you unusually profeminist to actually reach beyond your daughters' perspectives to find out what a radical feminist writer is saying, unfiltered, unshaped by what you've heard already that allows you to write her off as extreme, or whatever.

One point, Kit, is that intercourse is never not political. You may wish for it to be. You may wish, as many do, for global warming to not be political either, but when power is involved--human agency and will to effect change, that means politics lives there. So in what circumstances does intercourse not involve at least one person's will, agency, and action? You write "it's given a political interpretation". You realise how many global warming deniers use precisely that term, yes? Because it really is intellectually and emotionally easier to pretend that horrific things "just happen".

What if she, not you, knows what is and is not political about sex, because, for one thing, she has experienced it in a variety of contexts that you have not? While being battered, when poor on the streets, when raped, and when not raped so she knows the difference? Might such a person have more insight that those of us who go through life able to actually believe intercourse is, somehow, not political? Have you read "Sexual Politics" by Kate Millett? I'll guess no. Because if you had--and the book is now forty years old--you'd know that all social exchange is political. You'd know that from reading Foucault, actually. You don't even need women's writings to know that.

You will always find good reason to reject looking deeper into what someone has to say with whom you assume you disagree. And, being a white guy with some degree of class privilege, it is unlikely anyone can hold you to account to make you reading anything you don't want to. (If only American Indian children had the option only to learn their own languages, eh? And not be forced into boarding schools to become good Christians, white-like, if possible. If only all my heterosexual female friends had the option to not have what men learn from pornographers applied to the sex those men wish to have with those women. If only.)

Kit, what I'm watching here is a form of intellectual and emotional laziness that is bound up with race and gender privileges. You get to not investigate this and many other topics. And we all will gravitate to those subjects which most interest us, in part because they don't challenge us to look at ourselves more closely than we are comfortable doing, or at our fathers, brothers, and sons, and all those male friends who are doing exactly what with women? Do you ask, not out of prurient interest, but to find out if guys are making sure they only approach really drunk women so their "chances of scoring" are higher? Do you want your daughters hanging out with the most sexist men you have known who you never called out as such?

If you had a son, would you tell him never to have sex with a woman if she's drunk? Do you know how to attend compassionately to those who have been raped multiple times?

You know, yes, that Indigenous North American women are far more likely to experience rape than any other group of women in this region? And that most of their rapists are white men, right? And that climate issues will disproportionately impact and destroy Indigenous people?

And so you might understand that when you write things like "The greatest of all American tragedies -- the rape of beauty by force -- has been sullied, if such an allegation is true, and if such a double negative is possible" that you are speaking with extraordinary privilege to not know very much about what tragedy is. Because for you, of course, it is beauty harmed. But for me and the woman I know, it is human beings being harmed, in atrocious ways, while men are more concerned about having access to women, to being able to see women exploited and exposed, to being horrified when "beauty" is injured, because men appreciate beauty, right? Beauty belongs to men because men see it and men define it, and with many industries, men control it too. I'd argue "the rape of beauty by force" is nothing at all compared to an actual child or woman being raped by force, regardless of whether or not the one year old girl, five year old boy, or eighteen year old woman is "beautiful".

And Indigenous women likely prefer not being raped at all by any men, including the men that stole her homeland. I'd argue, and you are free to disagree, that there are more important things than beauty (as men define it) being raped. If you want a glimpse into the world you and I don't live and will never live, not for one day, read this. But be prepared to know more than will make you comfortable. And don't worry: it's not written by Andrea Dworkin.
And after you read it, I'll ask you this: is the most horrible thing in the world "The greatest of all American tragedies -- the rape of beauty by force"?

Reply Edit Delete The time to edit this comment has expired. 12/24/2009 at 03:23 PM

Kit Stolz said in reply to Julian...

"Beauty belongs to men because men see it and men define it, and with
many industries, men control it too. I'd argue "the rape of beauty by
force" is nothing at all compared to an actual child or woman being
raped by force, regardless of whether or not the one year old girl,
five year old boy, or eighteen year o ld woman is "beautiful"."
I don't think "beauty belongs to men" to men because every woman I know values beauty and the beauty of the world. It's not either/or.

But I must say, that's the longest simple post anyone has ever put up on this site, myself included. Impressive.

Reply 12/24/2009 at 03:42 PM

Post script. I will not respond further to Kit. This goes nowhere fast.

Did Kit even read what Mary Brave Bird wrote, linked to just above? You wouldn't know it. But if you've read it, how do you respond as if you haven't? How is that humanly possible?

Do you notice how white heterosexual men get to decide what they take in and what they ignore. They take in girls and women; they take without giving shelter; as a group and individually they take women into various forms of unsafety and insecurity. They ignore women's protests to not be taken in this way.

Referring to a passage above:
Fundamentally, and curiously in this context, "the complaint about feminism as a movement seems to be that it doesn't know when to stop."



Thank you Julian for dissecting how white heterosexual male continue to define what is and is not 'truth.' I'm once again reminded of how white heterosexual men have defined the world as one wherein they are at its centre and everyone else but especially women exist solely to reflect men as twice their size. But even this is not quite true since women of colour and indigenous women are not even accorded the right of being seen as 'possibly human.' Instead they, like the natural world exist solely to serve WHM.

Andrea Dworkin and also Catherine McKinnon are commonly demonised because they like so many other radical feminists dare to speak the truth concerning WHM's social and economic power over women as a group and this is why such truths must always be dismissed as irrelevant, hysterical or complaining.

Rape is never rape because WHM's sexuality is defined as 'natural and hence unchanging' and that is why it is claimed Stanley could not possibly have raped Blanche DuBois. Plus of course it is WHM's perogative to engage in penetrative sexual activity with women as and when they desire, since female sexuality does not exist in its own right but is solely for the sexual satisfaction of WHM. Penetrative heterosex can not be separated out from sexual politics - at least not until such time as women's sexuality is accorded the same autonomy and rights as WHM's sexuality. But challenging WHM's pseudo right of penetrative sex as and when they demand is seen as heresy - not the right of all women to decide for themselves what, if any sexual acts they freely wish to engage in without male coercion, pressure, threats, insults or punishment. This is why penetrative heterosex is viewed as sacrosant and hence cannot be challenged because it is all about WHM's pseudo sexual entitlement and access to women's and girls' bodies.

Julian Real said...

Thank you, Jennifer!

Yes, enough already with WHM's pseudo-entitlements!!