The final man frontier

For your man cave

Nothing same manly like neon!

The Man Cave has become a buzzword in the last few years, and it’s about time we start the conversation about it. The whole idea of a man cave is it acts as a final frontier for men to conquer in the home. Think back to the recent past, the early 1950s, or last week, where the world was divided into two spheres: the home, woman’s sphere, and man’s sphere, the rest of the world.mans world

Man caves serve to give men a place of their own in the space that deemed feminine. Just in case your wife makes you wash dishes or vacuum, make sure you have some man space to retreat to, like your beer can walled shed or loose car parts garage.been chandelier

Even though we say the home is women’s sphere, men still control it. Women are the overseers, ensuring that everything is “just right” for their husbands. A man’s home, after all, is his castle. He is the man of the house.

 

man cave beer fridgeliquor sinkSports, beer,liquor, hunting, cars, gambling – what else do you need?man gave kingdom

Bacon, maybe. I guess because it’s not manly for your heart to work past the age of 40.

bacon

Men have always owned the home, all man caves do is narrow the space that women can occupy. The man cave is yet another [something] attempt for people to say that men are “losing their edge,” or are being emasculated by women.

Let’s also mention how over-the-top some of them are. A recent Slate article included a photo series by Jasper White, where he took photos of elaborate man caves in Australia, where it is common to have a great deal more land than in the US. More land, more man.

The first page of results when searching “man cave” is full of sites marketing all their man cave products. The consumerism, as well as sexism, is rampant.

Now we’re left with a space that was call women’s, and is now, like the rest of the world, owned by men. It’s a reaction to a false threat that men are losing their power. Where are women’s spaces to get a break from their spouses and children? They aren’t allowed and men still are.

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Dress codes, slut-shaming, and the male gaze

A friend sent me Ms. Magazine’s article on dress codes and their influence on girls, and ultimately our culture’s respect for women’s bodies. “What Do Dress Codes Say starts an important conversation we need to be having about policing girls’ and women’s bodies.Female Dresscode

The author writes about various middle schools and high schools that keep popping up in the news with stories of new additions to their dress codes for girls. The argument for most of the restrictions is that girls’ bodies are distracting to the boys. The problems with this argument are manifold; we are teaching girls to live their lives based on the male gaze, that they are objects. We are also teaching girls that the way they dress determines their character, and any deviation leaves them vulnerable to slut-shaming.

Not the role model I'd pick...

When we tell young girls that their clothes are distracting the boys, we are telling them that their thoughts and emotions come second to their male peers. When schools tell girls that their clothes are causing problems for boys, they learn that boys’ behavior is more important than they are. By telling girls their clothing is more representative of their selves than their actions and thoughts, we are telling them that they, as people, are lesser.

We accept these rules because they fit neatly into the system of patriarchy, specifically that which allows boys and men to reject responsibility for their actions.

-TW – discussion of sexual violence – When we tell twelve-year-old boys that getting distracted by girls’ clothes is an acceptable excuse for doing poorly in school or harassing students, we are laying the groundwork for telling men that it isn’t their fault if they sexually assault a woman depending on how she’s dressed. It perpetuates the “boys will be boys” argument that allows boys and men to get away with violence.  slutshame–End TW –

Beyond the external harm, the argument tells boys and men that they are stupid and unable to control themselves or act rationally when women are in their presence. I don’t know why we can’t see this idea as incredibly insulting to men’s intelligence; We are consistently telling boys that nothing is their fault because they couldn’t possibly know better. I think it’s time we start talking about accountability.

We need to teach girls that decisions about their bodies are theirs to make so that they can grow up feeling empowered instead of objectified.  We need to teach boys that a person’s outfit does not excuse their behavior in any context. Girls need to grow up learning that their clothes do not necessarily mean something sexual, and if that is their intention, they should not feel shamed for it, nor should it dictate others’ actions. We are suppressing women’s sexuality, and creating tight confines around men’s, so that they are uncontrolled monsters.

Middle school girls should not worry about being harassed or causing someone else’s academics to suffer based on whether or not their dress has straps. The whole idea is absurd, and we need to stop recreating these situations where we constantly police women’s bodies.

Not All Visibility is Created Equal

Advisory: discussion of pornography

Eisner’s book, Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution, talks a lot about bisexual invisibility as one of the ways to maintain the power structure. She also writes about the ways that female bisexuality, specifically, is used within mainstream pornography and ultimately the general media to devalue any deviation from the single standard of masculinity.

“Instead of erasing female bisexuality per say…media representations – and society in general – neutralize the “sting” that it carries by appropriating it into the heterosexual cis male gaze. From being a potential threat, female bisexuality is converted and rewritten into something else, something that’s both palatable and convenient to patriarchy and the hetero cis male gaze, and which caters to its needs.”

I know that is a lot to read but basically the idea is that we take something that could threaten the power structure and use it to instead reinforce these ideas. Eisner uses mainstream pornography as a typifying example, but I’ll make sure to be less graphic here.  The gist of it is that “lesbian” is a sub-category under “straight’ since these videos are for a straight male audience. The scenes, moreover, involve women “preparing” one another for the man to enter the scene and thus, the real sex to occur.

 The other way female bisexuality is made to be less threatening is with the phrase, “everyone is bisexual.” Of course there is a spectrum of sexuality and in many ways this may help to break down the binary, but more so it devalues bisexuality as part of one’s identity.  Freud used bisexuality (and clitoral orgasms) as a means of trivializing women and women’s pleasure. If everyone is bisexual, then it is easy to use the immaturity argument and wait for someone to “grow out of it,” or “make a decision,” instead of accepting it as a real identity.  This argument is a way that bisexuality is devalued while making it visible only insofar as it’s used to promote straight men.Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 10.42.50 AM

Eisner argues that bisexually threatens the fabric of the traditional male power role, because the existence of bisexuality makes it more difficult (for men, mostly) to “prove” one’s straightness.  Additionally, male bisexuality is pushed to the margins and made invisible because of the assumption that if someone has sex, or thinks about having sex with a man, they are no longer attracted to women. It is for men as well as women that our identities are so often decided by our relation to a penis. This presumption means that bisexual men are really gay, and bisexual women are really straight. Eisner describes these presumptions: “…Everyone is really into men – a phallocentric notion testifying to this stereotype’s basic reliance on sexism.”bisexual men

We need to break down these assumptions and stereotypes in order to move towards true visibility.  As I talked about in my last post, bisexual people are viewed as unreliable and traitorous, and therefore cannot fit into the mainstream without being marginalized and/or fetishized. We need to rethink the way we understand and normalize sexuality.

Bisexuality and the GGGG Movement

I finished reading Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution this week. The book by Shiri Eisner discusses the ways in which bisexuality is co-opted by patriarchy in order to maintain the status quo. It’s a fantastic read and I recommend it to anyone who wants an academic look at how biphobia and exclusion of most queer people allows power structures to maintain gender and race hierarchies within society.

Eiser’s book is excellent, but it can be very dense and requires a lot of focus to really get all of the points she makes. I read it with a pen and my margins are full of illegible scribbles. Since I want these ideas to be accessible, I’m going to do a couple of posts just to touch on things that stood out to me.

Eisner coined the term, the GGGG movement (The Gay Gay Gay Gay) movement to exemplify the singularity of issues within the mainstream LGBTQ movement (marriage).  The image we get from media is a white, middle-to-upper-class gay man as the voice of all queer equality. He is probably married (or engaged where marriage not legal) to another white middle-to-upper-class gay man and they have adopted a child, they have a lot of money. The image of the LGBTQ movement is Neil Patrick Harris. Ultimately, it’s about assimilation. It’s why my girlfriend’s grandmother ultimately “accepted” that she is gay, because “gay couples make more money.”Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 2.28.45 PM

Instead of working to deconstruct the systems that value some people over others, the GGGG movement, Eisner argues, only gives the system more fuel by assimilating into the narrow-minded lifestyle.

Marriage for the queer movement is racist and classist in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important issue. By being barred from marriage and other similar institutions, queer people are barred from entering into institutions that society deems necessary for adulthood. By banning gay marriage, we are infantilizing queer people.

The GGGG movement is much easier for the mainstream media to digest, and thus it remains the image for the LGBTQ movement. Eisner explains, “The promiscuous and traitorous image of bisexuals is likely to cause difficulties for the campaign (for same-sex marriage).”  Since bisexuals are seen as immature or unable to make up our minds, we are viewed as untrustworthy and therefore not a good image to assimilate into heteronormative marriage culture.

Isn’t it Ironic?

I’m going to follow a new show and provide commentary about the episodes. I’m going to deconstruct the issues of race, class, and gender as I see them. The new show I’ve picked is Trophy Wife, which has the tagline, “The third time’s the charm.” This post will is a bit long since I need to introduce the characters so bear with me.

Third time's the charm

Third time’s the charm

The premise of the show is Kate (Malin Akerman), a “reformed party girl,” meets Pete (Bradley Whitford), a –you guessed it – highly successful lawyer, while dancing at a bar where she literally falls into his lap.Kate

Trophy wife petePete has two ex-wives, both of whom are portrayed as less likable than Kate, who is, I suppose,  “the charm.” Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) is Pete’s first wife, with whom he had two children, Warren and Hillary, twin 15-year-olds. Diane is a surgeon as well as an Olympic medal-winning athlete, and her success must preclude her from being likable, as with all successful women portrayed on tv. She is a cold character who does not appear to like Kate all that much; I suppose we’re to interpret this as jealousy, since Kate has the real prize.

Pete’s second wife is much less scary and threatening, as she is portrayed as a flake and a hippie. Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and Pete have one son together, Bert, who they adopted. Jackie does not seem to have a profession, and her day is overloaded when she discovers a new food co-op, something that is more important that taking care of her child. Her character is there to make Kate seem more earnest and adult-like, though I think it’s a toss-up. Jackie is yet another character that is used to dismiss care about one’s health and spirituality outside of mainstream religion. She is a joke to be laughed at, not a real person.trohpy wife jackietrohpy wife diane 2013-09-30 at 10.55.57 AM

Suggesting that Kate is somehow reformed, one might expect that she had personal issues to deal with, but the show’s use of the word “reformed” is a stand in for “married,” or let’s say “kept.”

Trophy Wife shows us that being single and dancing at a bar is cause for concern, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Using the word reform might mean that she has a problem with alcohol abuse. If this is the case, the show does not seem to concern as Kate downs an entire water bottle of vodka to protect her stepdaughter, Hillary, from getting in trouble with her mother. Kate then must get a ride home with Diane, where we see Kate, drunk, in the back seat of her husband’s ex-wife’s car, looking as much like a teenager as the actual teenagers in the car. This scene reinforces the cold, adult role that Diane plays, in extreme contrast to Kate’s fun and likable one. When Kate’s drunkenness is discovered, Hillary’s mother, Diane, understands Kate’s actions and the family considers what she did to have been a noble effort. The only way Kate can be a mother figure is to drink?

None of the show’s characters are very well developed, and it’s just another show where the only thing the man brings to the table is money and stability, and the woman only brings looks.

The show’s producers are calling the title ironic, but I guess I’m still waiting for the punch line.

Using Racism to Protect a Racist

With my social networks abuzz with the Zimmerman verdict, I find myself sitting here so taken aback by the injustices in this country right now. We are taught to be live we are living in a post-racist world, but I wish people would open their eyes. And what makes it even worse is that the defense used racism to protect Zimmerman. zimmerman

I saw a comment on Facebook that was supporting the not guilty verdict. It read: “That’s what happens when you attack an armed security guard. Dumb kid.” The way the news is twisted around so that people can believe these horrific racist thoughts without feeling guilty… Nobody wants to feel bad, so they allow themselves to believe things that are not true. As most of you I’m sure know, George Zimmerman was no security guard; rather, he was an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer who felt threatened when he saw a black kid in a hoodie. Who feels safe now?

Some people are saying things like, “we can never know what really happened,” and I’m sure they want to believe that. Let’s look, instead, at the hard evidence – the recording of the 911 call where police told Zimmerman to stay in the car. If Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy, was attacking Zimmerman, how would Zimmerman have even had the chance to stay in his car. And don’t forget what I believe to be clear racial slurs Zimmerman muttered under his breath as he gunned down a teenager.  If Trayvon was running away, in what world is chasing him down self defense?

I can’t of course speak to the acts that night or in the jury box, but how can anyone truly believe this was a fair outcome? How can you look at Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, and tell her that her son was gunned down because he “looked suspicious?”sybrina fulton

Think Progress wrote that part of the defense’s case was that if Zimmerman were black, this wouldn’t be a crime, which is exactly why I think we need to take a real, hard look at racism in this country. We are taught that black men are so violent that it should just be expected that they would attack anyone and everyone. If this were a case where two black men attacked each other, it would not have gotten the national attention it has. I find that so sad. It’s a travesty that a racist defendant was able to use racist logic to get acquitted from these charges.