YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 10, 2015

The case for feminism

Ad from Avant Garde "blowout sale" January 2015

Ad from Avant Garde “blowout sale” January 2015

I have written numerous blogs tracking the second wave of feminism (1960s-1970s and on).  See for example https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/. This blog is part of a two-part series: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.

Many of my prior blogs lament the automatic alignment of second wave feminists with their New Left male “oppressors,” abandoning the situations of women who were not either pro-choice, in the civil rights movement, or against the war in Viet Nam, especially as much of the Left and even those older ex-leftists who became neoconservatives remained at best ambivalent about gender issues. Perhaps these differences between liberal and conservative women are too deep to bridge, since many conservative women deny that they are subservient to males. Some liberal males feel differently, but don’t necessarily act on it.

For instance, cultural historian David Brion Davis once gave a series of lectures at an Ivy League university on race, later published, that stated that the subject of women was as grave a matter as subjection by race, but he saved that remark for his last chapter, and has, to my knowledge, never developed it, not have his students who now dominate the profession at Yale and other prestigious venues.

When I reviewed David Horowitz’s recent book Radicals (https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/), criticizing it for excessive moderation and for putting quotation marks around the word “feminist.” I send the piece to him, for David is my friend, and he welcomed the dialogue, but DH clearly doesn’t see feminism as a political priority, while I do, very vehemently.

Why do I care? For one thing I have five granddaughters and two daughters, who are coping with, or will cope with the same choices that I have done all my life: they will have to choose between stereotypes: Madonna, nymphet, femme fatale, happy mother, party girl, dominatrix, bluestocking, etc. My female descendants are all intelligent and creative, but most might not have the support network commensurate with their brains and talents. Nor are they likely to depart from the “normal” subservient posture in relationship to men, which may combine all these attributes as the illustration I have posted above:  Women as child, yet menacing in black, with short skirt inviting movement of the male hand up her thighs. (This was an ad for a sale from the boutique Avant Garde.) This teen ager is sexually provocative, yet wholesome looking with that pony tail. She will nab an upper-class mate. But will she be emancipated from the tyranny of stiletto heels for very long?

I was told by a nurse who did my blood work that there was a rule at the UCLA famed medical school and home for excellent doctors who tend to all classes of persons, that the female administrators must comply with a dress code that demands “heels”—not flat shoes, or nurse’s shoes, even though any orthopedist will warn women that high heels will inevitably lead to back, knee, and ankle problems as they age. Women must please male authority in the workplace or be fired.

Then there is the issue of androgyny, and the continued preference for hyper-masculine males and “girly” females. This combination of good father and apron-wearing mother, both God-fearing, will lift minority children out of poverty—a common viewpoint among conservatives. The same faction will go to the mat to prevent reproductive rights for women, and will oppose all but heterosexual love and marriage. Behind the opposition to gay marriage, I sense that there is a fear of effeminacy and subjection to the influence of mother, now embodied in the so-called “nanny state.”

I will not belabor the rise of “the moral mother,” or the diminution of paternal authority in the household after the Industrial Revolution, culminating in the welfare state as a bulwark against socialism, for I have written at length about the progressive movement on this website.

But I have no doubt that hierarchies, such as the domination of most women by males, “breed deceit, terror and catharsis” as I stated in passing here: https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/. Men will never know what their female mates are really thinking, as long as the extreme difference in sex roles persists, no more than did the slaveholder know what his slaves really had on their minds, nor does the employer know what his employees are really thinking about his conduct and their jobs.

Perhaps Nietzsche, and not Marx had the correct solution to the organization of advanced societies. But I would hate to think that the battle of the sexes, though insoluble owing to biological differences, cannot be more flexible in what men and women (or homosexual couples) expect from each other.

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September 12, 2014

Ray Rice and domestic abuse of women

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:11 pm
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Misogyny-Dog-ILL-SHOW-YOU-CHILD-SUPThe news has been dominated this week by conflicting opinions on NFL star Ray Rice’s knockout punch to his then fiancée Janay Palmer. This blog is about the shallow coverage of a widespread and subtle problem: the generalized abuse of women, married or single. [For a related illustrated blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/25/the-ultimate-s-m-humiliation/.%5D

On Fox News Channel, only Dagen McDowell has appropriately addressed the issue of why abused women don’t leave their marriages or violent lovers. Look for the financial considerations, she cried, almost in an unplanned and exasperated outburst on Hannity. There is more to this story than even the Fox Business personality imagined.

Before I launch into the blog, let me clarify my own position: I take the battle of the sexes for granted. Generally, men are stronger than women, and their much vaunted “protection” is offered only as long as the “girls” don’t cross the line into some version of egalitarianism grounded in rationalism. That line is constantly moving (especially with the revitalization of one version of feminism (see https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/), but some features of misogyny and sexism remain invisible to mass media, which generally cater to men (in sports coverage), but must pull in women viewers as well.

Take the terror of aging for one example. We stigmatize pedophiles, while promoting the beauty ideal in  very young girls (or boys!), with perfect skin and little body fat, for breasts and bellies remind men of their mothers, from whom separation has never been achieved, or is at best, ambivalent. The mother-son dyad is probably the key to misogyny and few will talk about “attachment theory” for John Bowlby and his followers in psychiatry don’t sit well with feminists on the lam from the boredom of early child-rearing (see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/).

Take the mandatory wearing of high heels for another. The Foxy ladies on Fox News Channel are not only heavily made up and “lookers” but invariably wear high heels, which orthopedists agree lead to ankle, feet, knee and back problems later in life. But what does the young hip woman care? She is competing with other women for the favors of powerful men with jobs and/or prospects, and will humiliate her body to cater to male fetishism that finds high heels sexy, signifying the inability to run away from [male] predators. And yet many Western women look down on Chinese foot binding from another era as hopelessly stupid and retrograde. Nothing so undesirable as the little old ladies from Pasadena wearing white sneakers.

When I first came to Los Angeles in 1959, I discovered that the wives of my husband’s local friends were able to talk ONLY about children, nursery schools, home decor, and vacations. I am not exaggerating. Those subjects encompassed their worlds, and the fact that I joined the men in discussing public affairs was awesome, but also a big freaky (did I even know what I was talking about? No, but I had a strong mother).

Has feminism changed all that? Do conservative advocates for two parent households emphasize the need for educated, outspoken, book-reading wives, or are they silent on matters of enormous import? (A reminder here that religion has long been the province of females in the home, as Ann Douglas complained long ago in The Feminization of American Culture. She was contradicted by “domestic feminists” who claimed that the rise of the “moral mother” since industrialism removed the paterfamilias from the home, thus empowered women to make the whole world home-like, i.e. to support the welfare state.) No one in academe will argue against the claim that paternal authority has been weakened over the last few centuries. Perhaps conservative initiatives to reinstate the two parent family aims to correct this imbalance. But will pater help with the labor of housekeeping, cooking, and child-rearing? Not so fast: the vagueness of this call to papa-led families is silent on this crucial subject.

misogyny2jpg

Finally, many couples make a trade-off: men will meekly acquiesce to many female demands in the home, but she had better not depart from stereotyped female roles, including the supplying of sex on demand.

Is it any wonder that most women, even those in the Western world, are obsessed with plastic surgery, hair, make-up, and the exact amount of muscle “toning” to please the ever-dominant male? The silence on this subject of female powerlessness is deafening. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/27/power-in-gay-andor-heterosexual-attachments/.)

celebs_with_plastic_surgery_640_28

April 26, 2014

The State of the Blog/Irreconcilable Conflicts

Deviant Art

Deviant Art

In the month of April, the Yankee Doodle Society website saw an unexpected drop in visitors. The numbers are still good, especially given the amount of competition in the blogosphere. To date (since the summer of 2009 when the Obama administration introduced much drama into the political culture) there have been 366,029 views, a number that always astounds my family and acquaintances.

But given the cultural emergency we find ourselves in, I am disappointed and dissatisfied, especially since I have shortened the blogs to reach an audience that is distracted and possibly frantic regarding the future of our ostensible representative republic, a condition I have represented as proto-fascist. The rest of this blog speculates about the many causes for the April drop. I cannot know, on my own, why I get between 150-250 views/day, compared to the prior record of between 250-350/day. What follows amounts to a meditation regarding the state of our political culture and my own persona as a kind of Nanki-Poo (“A wandering minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches….” For a recent rendition see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN6S8g1QrqU.)

First, like the masked Nanki-Poo, I am a misfit, a representation of the “uncanny” or “unheimlich.” Most of us crave for some stable group affiliation. My insistence on irreconcilable conflicts, both internal and external, contradicts the “moderate” tone of much public discourse. Such blogs as “The Illusion of National Unity” may make some of us squirm (https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/), especially as we are taught to respond to identification with “the American people.” True, there are the rulers and the ruled, but the entire discourse of the organic conservatives (i.e., social democrats and various Burkean rightists) offends my sense of reality. As a materialist sharply opposed to mystical bonds, I see disunity within myself, within most families, and certainly within the various ideologies of modern politics: who can readily distinguish between communists and social democrats, or between “ultra-conservatives” and “compassionate conservatives”? Are the dreaded “neocons” easily classified, or do they vacillate? (I am one of them, or so some believe.) I would rather see myself as a striving scholar, living with only provisional judgments and very curious about those archives that remain outrageously sealed to the public.

More than “unity” (a rarely achieved perfect meeting of minds), I value the creative imagination that sees through the “harmony” imposed by the State and by other institutions pushing groupiness (my word) as the route to “social stability” and “cohesion.”

Second, my most popular blogs seem to appeal to those using the internet to vent their intense dislike of POTUS. How many are given to paranoid conspiracy theories, I cannot tell.

Third, when I post my blogs on academic websites, I find that my numbers diminish as readers get to know me. The research or opinions I post often contradict the current line that keeps academics in line and predictable to their employers. One would think that academic readers would value an open mind and be willing to revise their past judgments, but apparently not.

Fourth, I am an unreconstructed feminist; I see the battle of the sexes as interminable and permanent. Men and women are put together differently, which is fine with me, and so are gays. But I cannot go along with conservative nostrums that imagine father-led families as the solution to poverty and crime. Nor do I gasp that American culture has been “feminized” as do the masculinists. The more both genders move toward androgyny, the better. Girls will stand up for themselves and accept leadership roles, while more “sensitive” men might become less patient with subordination to abusive superiors in the various hierarchies that help them defend the nation and/or earn a living.

wanderingminstrel

Fifth, I am quite certain that the culture wars are not only a waste of time, but defy the cultural pluralism for which we supposedly strive. We should be putting more focus on the schools, on the regressive direction of teachers unions, and asking more of our schools, especially in the teaching of critical thought, contrasting theories of economic growth, science, and competing narratives for how we got to the current state of fragmentation and polarization—not only between political parties and “races,” but between rural/small town inhabitants and the large cities.

Sixth, and perhaps most important, I live with ambiguity regarding such basic contradictions as objectivity vs. radical subjectivism, or free will versus determinism. Part of growing sadder and wiser is this ability to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Most people seem to want unchanging rules and hence relief from doubt, including self-doubt.

Some may see this blog as a tiresome kvetch; perhaps it is. But I am grateful for those thoughtful and courageous readers who have stuck with me. Some are on Facebook, but others come from parts unknown. There seem to be fewer and fewer sadomasochists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis than was the case when I started the blog—surely a cause for celebration.

Picasso seated Pierrot, 1918

Picasso seated Pierrot, 1918

September 15, 2013

Authenticity and the “bottled-up”

Free thought by Berkozturk

Free thought by Berkozturk

As visitors to this website are aware, I am a scholar devoted to the propagation of “free thought,” whether those thoughts are directed to the search for truth, or to the unleashed imagination, as transmitted by artists and the creative self that is too often buried by “politeness” and other rules by the dominant culture (I am only criticizing excessive politeness; see https://clarespark.com/2015/03/28/the-neglected-virtues-self-discipline-and-politeness/). I call such “authority” illegitimate and to be avoided at all costs. But to assume such a confrontational posture courts financial disaster unless one is protected by an independent income. That is how censorship and self-censorship work. For purposes of this blog, I will focus on the bottled up woman, for I lived that way until recently, perhaps because I am no longer on the sex/marriage market. (I could have added anti-Semitism to the blog, for there is a strong link between misogyny and anti-Semitism: many “assimilated” Jews are as bottled up as my gender. I made the connection between anti-Semitism and misogyny through reading Symbolist poets, such as James Thomson (“B.V.”) Because this entire subject seems to be off limits to cultural historians, I have of necessity relied upon my own experience as a primary source in this suggestive essay.

In the very first essay I wrote after exposure to Pacifica radio and the civil rights movement, I wrote that “’authenticity’ consists of the right to tell the truth without being abandoned.” My friend, the late political scientist Michael Rogin, found that statement to be “breathtaking.” In retrospect, a New Leftist such as Rogin was, should not have reacted with such amazement, as if he had never thought of such a thing himself. In my naïveté, I thought that the Left had a monopoly on free thought, while everyone else lived in the shadow of self-censorship and hatred of “free spirits.”

(Recently I learned that for those who continue to believe that “race” is the primary way to sort people and their interests out, “authenticity” connotes being true to one’s racial identity. Such a ruse erases class or gender interest from the mind, which of course is the whole point.)

Which brings me to being “bottled up,” a source of harmful stress that can cause fatal diseases.  Yet most of us live with masks, for fear of offending employers, friends, mates, relatives, and our own children. Such is the price we pay for “civilization” such as it is.

What prompted this particular blog was a dispute that broke out on my Facebook page that was apparently about the pro-life versus the pro-choice position, but was, in my view, yet another round in the battle of the sexes. One of my daughters wrote a day or so ago that the two most upsetting words in the language are “God” and “Mother.” All experienced, educated parents are aware that the mother-child bond is the most powerful bond in nature, and that separation from the mother is often mismanaged, with dreadful consequences throughout life. For my insistence in defending the pro-choice position (even with reservations regarding late term abortion/infanticide), I was labeled “a militant atheist”–a term that is often applied to “the Jews.”

Also on Facebook yesterday, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency came up on a friend’s thread. One comment stated that she was too “old and ugly” to get the nomination. A woman on the thread noted that women have “a short half-life”. This did not go over well, but I thought that she was correct. Others jumped on her because she failed to be bottled up in order to please men or other colonized women.

It will not come as a surprise to the thoughtful reader that subjugated populations, including women and many “assimilated” Jews, MUST BE BOTTLED UP. That is what precisely what subjugation consists of. Don’t expect us to tell the truth, for we will be abandoned, and every conscious woman or boundary-crossing Jew knows this.

Barbara Kruger painting

Barbara Kruger painting

On Yom Kippur eve, I wrote a blog criticizing Ben Urwand’s new book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. The subject of Hollywood movies, anti-Nazi or not, as collaborating with bogus versions of the real world of oppressive relationships, was not his subject matter. I left the Left (of which Urwand is a part)  because those I thought were my friends and allies thought schematically and did not value attachment to the search for truth above ideology; this loyalty to career and status  above mental health killed a few of them. (On my blog on Urwand, see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/.)

This website promotes a marketplace of ideas, because that is the only route I know to emancipation from illegitimate authority. [This blog dedicated to my daughters Jenny and Rachel, and to Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/12/call-me-isabel-a-reflection-on-lying/.]

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