YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 26, 2017

The Sex Scandals: where do we go from here?

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Biggest Sex Scandals (radaronline.com)

Where we are now: women still emerging with horror stories about male sexual harassment in the media and politics; so far the debate has to do with male perversity and female victimhood. The melodrama continues with predictable finger pointing and sensational firings or demands for (political) resignations. (On melodrama’s categories see https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal.)

What is missing? 1. The nature of sexuality, both female and male; 2. competition among women for the favors of potential husbands, a competition inflamed by all elements of popular culture, but especially mass media.

Have feminist movements helped or hindered the cause of female independence? What would a more constructive feminism look like?

Conservative women point to such 19th century classics such as Little Women (1868) and similar tracts supporting “domestic feminism” (the notion that women gain power by embracing the comparatively matriarchal domestic sphere or other agencies of uplift). Some radical or liberal feminists find power in invading what were once were male clubs, including the imitation of what is taken to be male aggressive and promiscuous sexuality.

No commentators, to my knowledge, point to built-in “pedophilia”—the glorification of “innocence”—- usually ascribed to early childhood (as if youngsters were not sensual beings). Add this consideration to the partly changing life expectancy, and you get mass amnesia: we may forget that biology fits both male and female to reproductive capacity after puberty (see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/.)

Is it any wonder that many adult males are attracted to [nymphets]? Is it any wonder that women try to prolong youthfulness/sexual attractiveness well into middle-, even old, age?

JFK and Marilyn (alternet.com)

How should we “take responsibility” for our actions when we are the playthings of our biological inheritance?https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/

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Sex scandals: where do we go from here?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:58 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Biggest Sex Scandals (radaronline.com)

Where we are now: women still emerging with horror stories about male sexual harassment in the media and politics; so far the debate has to do with male perversity and female victimhood. The melodrama continues with predictable finger pointing and sensational firings or demands for (political) resignations.

What is missing? 1. The nature of sexuality, both female and male; 2. competition among women for the favors of potential husbands, a competition inflamed by all elements of popular culture, but especially mass media.

Have feminist movements helped or hindered the cause of female independence? What would a more constructive feminism look like?

Conservative women point to such 19th century classics such as Little Women (1868) and similar tracts supporting “domestic feminism” (the notion that women gain power by embracing the comparatively matriarchal domestic sphere or other agencies of uplift). Some radical or liberal feminists find power in invading what were once were male clubs, including the imitation of what is taken to be male aggressive and promiscuous sexuality.

No commentators, to my knowledge, point to built-in “pedophilia”—the glorification of “innocence”—- usually ascribed to early childhood (as if youngsters were not sensual beings). Add this consideration to the partly changing life expectancy, and you get mass amnesia: we may forget that biology fits both male and female to reproductive capacity after puberty.

Is it any wonder that many adult males are attracted to [nymphets]? Is it any wonder that women try to prolong youthfulness/sexual attractiveness well into middle-, even old, age?

JFK and Marilyn (alternet.com)

How should we “take responsibility” for our actions when we are the playthings of our biological inheritance?

rainagain blog

November 18, 2017

Is Little Women still relevant?

Louisa May Alcott stamp 1940

Madelon Bedell’s populist-progressive scholarly “Introduction” to Alcott’s now classic Little Women (1868) evades the mixed messages that modern women receive for an explanation of Alcott that will not please 1. lesbians (who are convinced that the obviously autobiographical character of “Jo” and her attachment to “Marmee” as proof that Alcott was one of them) or to 2. Freudians (who would see Little Women as minimizing the attachment to Father, especially in her choice of a much older intellectual husband, but also her choosing to educate poor boys, not girls at the conclusion of the book). [On mixed messages delivered to women, see https://clarespark.com/2017/10/27/moral-chaos-of-womanhood-the-harvey-weinstein-scandal-and-lolita/.%5D We are asked to surmount the contradiction between virgins and whores all why we knock ourselves out to “realize our potential” –but as what?)

Bedell does however throw bones to anti-capitalism, the fashionable feminist theory of “domestic feminism” (i.e., women get power and status in the revitalized domestic sphere), unconscious motivation AND to behaviorism. It is as if Bedell wants to please everybody—a typical female tic that I recognize within myself.

L’il Friends of Kelly

But perhaps the greatest lapse in this College Edition is Alcott’s obvious connection to sentimental reformism of the American antebellum period, which Bedell ignores in her Jazz Age-style dismissal of the moralism of Alcott’s life and art, an attachment to melodrama that persists today as political figures portray themselves in the archetypes of Christianity* (Alcott mentions in passing, the large nose of a Rothschild, while emphasizing “Amy’s” turned up nose. See https://clarespark.com/2015/06/15/hillary-clinton-and-second-wave-feminism-looking-backwards/, https://clarespark.com/2015/11/07/the-change-of-heart-explanation/, and https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/.)

What would an unconfused feminist write today? Is such an outcome even possible, given the overriding value placed on family/state cohesion and stability?

*Ann Douglas denounced Protestant reformism in her widely reviewed The Feminization of American Culture (1977), but she let Catholicism off the hook. Now I view her as being an apologist for a Christian consensus (in the spirit of Rerum Novarum, 1891) and a rehabilitator of the happy family that, as a feminist, she should not have done. See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.

Madelon Bedell, biographer of Alcott family

October 22, 2013

“Masters of Sex” and 70s feminism

masters-of-sex_[Update: December 10, 2013. This has turned out to be the most feminist show I have ever seen on television. Far deeper as it developed than anticipated when I first wrote this blog. Lizzy Caplan singing “You Don’t Know Me” in episode 11 said it all, for all women.]

This blog is not about porn, but about the la-dee-da attitude shown by some feminists not only with respect to the rigors of child-rearing, but without prior understanding of the emotional components and complications of human sexuality. I remember reading John Bowlby’s pioneering work on attachment theory and separation anxiety (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bowlby). I don’t remember which of his many books I read, but I remember thinking that the feminists of my acquaintance would probably hate his theories, as he emphasized the crucial role of mothering in early childhood, with lifelong dire effects if not properly managed (some of his theorizing was probably autobiographical, but what about Winnicott and Mahler?).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masters_of_Sex

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/206704520/pioneering-masters-of-sex-brought-science-to-the-bedroom

I. I will take a partly dim look at the new Showtime series Masters of Sex, created by a woman, Michelle Ashford. I have watched the first four episodes and see this effort as another docudrama that represents a hidden history of science and sex. The hint in the NPR summary is wildly mistaken that (the ubiquitous) Freud was displaced by a more accurate measurement of, to use the character Dr. William Master’s words, “What happens to the body during sex?” During my dissertation research, I was surprised to discover that the two of the three ogres of the 19th century, Marx and Freud (not Darwin), were not equally loathed and feared. The bourgeois Freud was far more controversial as progressives went about reconstructing the humanities curriculum. (Here is my index on Freud blogs: https://clarespark.com/2013/03/16/blogs-on-freud-and-anti-freudians/.)

Briefly, Freud saw repressed sexuality as the source of hysteria and other psychosomatic ailments, and leaned heavily on the Oedipus complex, but few had the money and time to indulge in the “talking cure.” And who wanted to recognize ambivalence within families, or lifelong troubled attachments to the parent of the opposite sex? Freud’s colleague Carl Jung was a different story: he saw Freud’s Id as a source of creativity (as opposed of everyday unhappiness), and many a Jungian analyst used Jung’s dubious theory of archetypes to treat their clients. In the battle of the titans: Jung versus Freud, the younger man penetrated school curricula and the practice of social psychology. (For my copious blogs on Jung and his followers see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/.)

II. Michelle Ashford is the creator of the series. A brief internet search does not link her with the second wave of feminism, but the major demands of 1970s feminism—to celebrate liberated sexuality, to eliminate back-alley abortions, to establish day care centers in workplaces, to de-stigmatize homosexuality, to bring fathers further into the day-to-day burdens of child-rearing, to recognize prostitutes as “sex workers” and not pariahs, to rewrite history to emphasize the roles and condition of women (often in Women’s Studies departments), to break through the “glass ceiling,” to identify “science” with masculinity and the illicit penetration of Mother Earth—have at least partly been accomplished. (For an example of “feminist science” see the work of Donna Haraway and Carolyn Merchant. For a rehabilitation of domestic feminism see Kathryn Kish Sklar’s book on Catherine Beecher.)

Though network television does not show breasts and buttocks, female actors playing professionals often show their cleavage in the dead of winter. But on pay for cable networks like HBO and Showtime, sex acts are routinely demonstrated, though not with male frontal nudity or the details available in porn shops. The achievement of Masters of Sex, though it seems to be a defense of the liberated woman, is the separation of romance and sexuality. I.e., women are entitled to be as promiscuous and detached in their sex lives as men are imagined to be. As the series proceeds, I hope that more nuance is brought into the subject.

Ashford’s heroine, “Virginia Johnson” as played by Lizzy Caplan, is represented as “ahead of her time.” She is the mother of two, both in the series and in Johnson’s real life. That is, like many women today, she believes that she  can “have it all.”

I wish that it were that simple. Perhaps robots will be devoid of the feelings that we have yet to master. But such fantasies do get eyeballs to the television set, and the actors (Michael Sheen is outstanding) are fine.

[Added 10-23-13: Upon thinking it over and considering what crappy jobs many men hold, a woman is lucky to be a wife and mother if she has a good man to support her. When babies are tiny, it is undoubtedly strenuous, but there is no greater intellectual, physical, and emotional challenge than holding a marriage together and raising functioning children who go on to successful relationships in every sphere of life. I include self-direction and independent thought as desirable in offspring. I don’t think that this judgment disqualifies me as an advocate for women’s rights.] [Added 10-29-13: Episode five was well done, since it showed the mother of Masters in complete denial as to her son’s mental problems. She socialized him to be a stoic, and “Virginia Johnson” touches him with words, understanding that nobody could be so strong as to be detached from the loss of a child (and other distorted relationships), and Michael Sheen does a persuasive job in acting out a man cracking up with hitherto repressed grief. Everyone should watch this episode, for the series is about much more than acceptable porn for the middle class.]

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/.

The real Masters and Johnson

The real Masters and Johnson

June 14, 2013

“Father, dear father, come home with me now”

TennightsinbarroomThere will be many tributes to fathers in the next few days. This one will deal 1. with my own father, and 2. with the efforts by social psychologists of the 1940s to rehabilitate the image of the Good Father in order to advance their moderate conservative agendas.

First, my own father, Charles Spark, M.D. My father the doctor was born in NYC, and was the child of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. During the 1930s he was a research fellow in endocrinology at Montefiore Hospital, and before that he had published a pioneering research paper while still in college. Immediately after Hitler was appointed Chancellor, he wrote and directed an antifascist play at his workplace. After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to join the medical corps even though he was over-age (he may have been drafted, and lied to me). Henceforth, we followed him around the country as he ran pathology laboratories at army bases in Texas, Missouri, and California. His precocity, versatility, and willingness to sacrifice himself for his country was impressed upon me from early childhood. I prayed every night that he would not be killed, even though he never saw combat. That is how children think.

He was shipped off to Guadalcanal where he had a violent allergic reaction to the environment, and was shipped home, claiming later that he almost died. For reasons that escape me, he gave up medical research for general practice and we moved into a veteran’s housing project in Elmhurst, NYC. We had never lived high, so the cramped material surroundings were not deeply shocking. All that mattered was that our family was reunified and my father practiced medicine for enlisted men and their families next door.

So my father assumed the proportions of a family hero. He was not only a high achiever in his field, I was expected to live up to his accomplishments, and later in life when I asked him why he gave up medical research, he wrote to me that I was to be his “greatest contribution to medicine.” What I could not know as a child was that neither he nor my mother had any parenting skills. They were nothing like the elites of Europe, who, early on prepared their offspring to take a leading part in world affairs, to travel broadly, and to imbibe high culture and languages, preferably from tutors.

Call it benign neglect. Both parents assumed that I would be an outstanding student and would find a suitable mate (though he frequently warned me about the duplicity of men, binding me to him in the process: he almost didn’t attend my wedding in 1959). So it was their examples as intelligent individuals with high expectations for me that set me up for the future. I learned nothing from my family about sexuality, the other emotions, and neither of them had an interest in Freud or his followers. But neither indoctrinated me in any religion or ideology, though my mother often mentioned her pride in her rabbinic ancestors (see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/12/i-remember-mama-betty-spark/.) I had the impression that they must be liberals of some kind. Sadly, they are both deceased, and I cannot interrogate them on these interesting questions.

It was not until I was at Pacifica and made the acquaintance of numerous New Leftists that I began to look into masculine versus feminine roles. From political scientist Carl Boggs I learned that paternal authority had been eroded for centuries. From feminists, I learned that there was a furious debate over the status of women: hard left women tended to believe that women had greater status when their labor was visible (e.g. Mary Kelley), while another faction (social democratic, e.g. Kathryn Kish Sklar) argued that domestic feminism leading to the welfare state marked the advance of all women. It was noted that by all that under industrialization, the father was no longer the paterfamilias who distributed resources in the household: father was now out of the house and the role of religious training fell more and more on mothers. (Ann Douglas wrote a best seller, still highly regarded, but controversial: The Feminization of American Culture. Douglas preferred the terrifying Calvinist God, not the feminized Jesus of the 19th century.) Hence the widespread nervousness among conservatives about “the [encroaching] nanny state.” 1970s feminism was the last straw (see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/) .

During my dissertation research, I discovered that social psychologists at Harvard University were frantically attempting to rehabilitate the good father, merging the figures of Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, in order, they said, to raise “civilian morale.” Feminization, it was believed, would lead to Marxism, not to the conservative reform that such as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, Talcott Parsons, and their Harvard colleagues preferred as moderate men. Indeed, Talcott Parsons published an article in an anthology edited by Isacque Graeber and Steuart Henderson Britt, Jews in a Gentile World (Macmillan, 1942) that limned the bad father: the Jewish God was nailed as brutal, militaristic, and domineering. Whereas Murray and Allport in their notebooks on civilian morale praised the Leader/ Father/God as loving and committed to democracy, the very embodiment of Eros. (On this topic see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, also the postwar planning intended to continue this “moderate” agenda: https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/ .)

So on this Father’s Day, 2013, we find ourselves in a quandary. Do we want Father to be the stern disciplinarian, the masculinist role model for boys who will divert libido from too-compassionate, radicalizing mothers to [moderately] Democratic fathers (as these social psychologists suggested)? Can women raise children without a husband? Conservatives and liberals are still slugging it out on this question.

As for my own father the doctor, I remain deeply attached to him, notwithstanding his many flaws. Both he and my late mother believed in me, in some ways stimulated me, and in other ways left me alone. Perhaps by default, they encouraged me to be curious and to admire and emulate the most daring thinkers in Western civilization.

Charles and Betty Spark mid-1930s

Charles and Betty Spark mid-1930s

October 20, 2009

News From The Social Justice* Front

Image (65)1. The latest Radcliffe Quarterly (Summer 2009) lauds Harvard grad Susan Faludi (illustrated); she is a progressive with strong working-class sympathies, anti-imperialist credentials, and a prolific, prize-winning author on feminist issues. Faludi applies the mother-daughter template to the current disaffection between 1970s style feminism and the younger women who spurn the older generation. Thus we meet a writer who one would think would use class analysis as a tool but instead fastens on generational conflict as explanation for today’s confusion on the woman question. Oddly, she is reportedly irritated by those 19th century feminists who laid the foundations of the welfare state (they were building on Locke’s concept of “the moral mother,” and then  “domestic feminists,” proponents of “sphere ideology,” dreamed that the whole world would become “homelike”). Many of these progenitors of statism, in their time, were active in related purity reform movements, including abolition (a cause not mentioned in the Radcliffe Quarterly). It should be mentioned here that the “domestic feminist” line has been aggressively challenged by [anticapitalist] socialist feminists, some of who (e.g. Mary Ryan) think that when women’s labor was more visible, they had higher esteem. And yet Faludi writes for The Nation, a bastion of progressivism that arguably was the logical outcome of nineteenth century domestic feminism.

2. Catholic activist and nun Karen Armstrong writes in favor of God in the journal Foreign Policy, protesting that only religion can curb “human nature” and bring peace to a war-torn world, made worse by atheism and foreign hostility to moderate, “balanced” groups that are provoked into fundamentalism (for an example she mentions the Muslim Brotherhood as part of her general advocacy of social justice movements).

3. Verso (the book publishing offspring of New Left Review) is publishing the first English translation of Shlomo Sand’s sensational book claiming that there is no such thing as “the Jewish people,” hence no Jewish claim to the soil of Palestine. I read Anita Shapira’s review essay in the Journal of Israeli History (March 2009),  and was sorry to see a defense of cultural nationalism; curiously she does not review the ongoing communist-New Left lines that Zionism is racism, hence inimical to socialism and the unity of the international working class (communist line), or that Zionism is a typically evil expression of the colonizing, land-grabbing West (the New Left line): both these spawned Shlomo Sand. Shapira’s essay was informative on such matters as the bogus Khazar origin of Jewry (a theme of Sand’s book), but she has not uttered the last word on the meteoric rise of Shlomo Sand, who has wandered off his specialty, French history, into the history of a fake “Jewish people,” to the applause of every antisemite who can read.

   Pace Professor Shapira, Israel does not exist today solely because of Zionism (the messianic, redemptive mission of the Jews to restore their ancient homeland) which had limited support outside of the unassimilated and impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe), but, probably more importantly, because of Cold War competition between the West and the Soviet Union (see my blog https://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and-obamas-view-of-israeli-history/), the willingness of Israelis and other Jews who joined them to take large casualties in the 1948 war, and possibly because numerous countries who voted for the partition of British Mandated Palestine in 1947 saw the Jewish state as a way to get rid of their troublemaking Jews (something I gleaned from the papers of Ralph Bunche, who was the recipient of confidences offered by UNSCOP diplomats). These factors could have been the thrust of Shapira’s article were she not primarily engaged in a Zionist defense of Israel’s legitimacy.

     When Bunche commented on the impossible task that awaited him as United Nations representative to UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine), or when he functioned as Acting Mediator after the assassination of Bernadotte, he framed the conflict partly imitating the claims of blood-and-soil Zionists: that the Jews had an ancient attachment to the land of their origin. Bunche, however, ahistorically made the Palestinian Arabs similar in their argument (ignoring the multiple peoples who had taken position of the contested land over the centuries, not to speak of recent Arab immigration attracted to better-paid labor as Jews modernized their limited spaces ).** With his incorrect framing, he could see no way out of the insoluble conflict that he had been asked to resolve, and which persists today in much of the media. Not so Karen Armstrong, who looks to the reconciliation of tradition and modernity in Islamic theology as exemplified by the early Muslim Brotherhood: Armstrong does not worry about sharia law as promoted by the Brotherhood. As for Susan Faludi, she seems to me to be more left-wing than feminist in her rejection of proto-progressive nineteeenth-century feminists. Perhaps Obama’s rejection of the Daniel Boone male stereotype that she favored in an op-ed piece in the NYT, June 15, 2008, gives us a clue as to her core beliefs. As I have written here before, 1970s feminists were accepted to the degree that they could be absorbed into “anti-imperialist” New Left politics–a politics that supported the United Nations and Rooseveltian “internationalism.”

*By “social justice” I refer to redistributive justice, the opposite of [bourgeois] commutative justice that favors equality of opportunity, not levelling. Proponents of “social justice” span from moderates and social democrats to Marxist-Leninists, but also could include “anti-imperialist” cultural nationalists and irredentists. 

**Arabs were consistently against not only a Jewish state, but any increase in the Jewish population whatsoever. They viewed the Shoah as caused by Europeans, and insisted that the countries that had abused their Jewish populations take them back, as if that was a possibility for the thousands who had fled the Soviet bloc. The anti-Zionists of the Left have ever urged the Jews to “disperse” and relinquish their religion in favor of a universalist, socialist identity.

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