Stigmatizing Girls Under the Guise of Caring for Them

Can somebody please explain to me why we need a program ” trying to get girls to think differently about their bodies through multimedia presentations around the country” and “a campaign that encourages girls to make their dreams come true while maintaining a healthy lifestyle”? Why not a program and a campaign that promote these goals among people, irrespective of their gender?

The very existence of such a campaign signals that this is and should be a women’s problem. How is this not detrimental to women?

The founders also know that girls look to television, advertisements and the pages of fashion magazines to figure out what beautiful looks like, so they’re joining the industry itself to try and make a difference instead of trying to get girls to stop what they’ve been doing for decades.

And where exactly do boys find their ideas of beauty? Aren’t those same TV shows and ads filled with ripped, perfectly muscular men with no chest hair and unattainably perfect figures?

Can we just stop singling out women as people who need to be protected from the bad, horrible media at all costs? A thousand TV shows and glossy magazines do not do the kind of damage to women that is inflicted by this relentless insistence that we are perennial victims who need some guy to come and save us by teaching us how to relate to our own bodies.

Saying Hello As a Form of Harassment

We, the women, are victimized by everything. Which is why it is very easy to write an article about yet another instance in our daily lives that makes of us perennial, distressed, abused, coerced, miserable, powerless victims. Anything at all that happens is, by default, evidence of your subjection. (Why anybody in their right mind would want to think of themselves in this way is a subject for another discussion, of course.)

I know all this, but I’m still floored every time when I encounter yet another article on how women are abused by the universe. Reader Julie has alerted me to a post that discusses how being greeted can be abusive, offensive, harassing, and wrong:

So hello leaves me unsure, constantly second-guessing myself, not wanting to be all “uppity” but not wanting to leave myself open to uncomfortable situations. When I hear a vulgar comment on the street, I know how to react (or, rather, not react). When I hear hello, I feel caught. For as much as hello is a greeting, hello can also draw the lines clearly. Hello can mean: I am a man, you are a woman, and I am saying hello to acknowledge not your humanness but your womannessHello can mean: I feel I have a relationship with you, even though we’re total strangers, and the entire extent of that relationship is that I am in a role in which I am allowed to try to start a conversation and your choices are limited to appearing to ignore me or to play along with this conversation you made no indication of wishing to start. Hello assumes a familiarity; hello asks for acquiescence.

I have to ask at this point: is it possible for a man to breathe in a way that does not make a woman feel harassed? Observe also how the post’s author neatly inscribes herself into the very patriarchal stereotype of women as delicate flowers who cannot go through the simplest tasks without suffering an emotional collapse:

I’m tired of—literally, I am emotionally exhausted by—feeling as though I need to parcel out attention to people merely because they’ve asked. And because it’s not people but men who make up the vast majority of the askers—and women their answerers—it becomes a feminist issue.

If a woman is “emotionally exhausted” from saying “hi” to people on the street, what will happen to her if she has to lead a country, manage a huge corporation, conduct a triple bypass, fly an airplane? The poor little lady will surely just fall apart completely. Let’s just keep these weak, poor creatures locked up in the kitchen lest the emotionally exhausting business of having a life strains their puny little energies too much.

People have suggested that I react to things differently because of my autism. That might just be true. So I’d like to ask my neurotypical readers: do you also analyze every casual greeting at such length and see what you can read into it? I usually have so many things to think about that anybody’s “hello” barely even registers. If this is not the same for most other people, I’d love to know that.

Also, I want to draw everybody’s attention that all these posts about how a woman is victimized every second of the day come from completely different, unrelated blogs. So please don’t tell me that it’s just one freaky website that produces this garbage. It isn’t. This is what North American feminism has turned into. What’s tragic is that actual victims of harassment – which is a really nasty crime that hurts countless people – have their very true suffering trivialized by being put in the same category with folks who are victimized by a “hello.”

Does Israel Have a Right to Exist?, Part I

Sometimes, readers leave the kind of comments that deserve a wider readership than they might receive if they are left hiding in a long and popular thread. Reader V. (who is my friend but does not visit the blog out of a sense of obligation 🙂 ) left the following impressive comment:

I learned long ago that it is pointless to argue about Israel with the patriots of Israel… But today I have a weird inspiration, so here it goes (apologies to all native Americans for possible lack of cultural sensitivity):

2050. The great Iroquois thinker Kevin Wolfson develops the ideology of Hochelagism (Montrealers will understand) which involves all the Iroquois assembling on the lands currently known as the Island of Montreal, around the ancient holy places of Mount Royal, and founding their national/religious state. The idea takes hold, and eventually the Iroquois state is founded. All unable to prove their Iroquois origin are at best relegated to second-class citizen status (thoroughly questioned and searched every time they fly in and out of Magua International), or become stateless, or are expelled without the right to return (one cannot really run an Iroquois national state with so many non-Iroquois in it, can one?). Everybody daring to oppose Iroquois hegemony is persecuted, those trying to oppose it with force are labeled terrorists (which they are, but on the other hand “our” terrorists are always celebrated “freedom fighters”, while “their” freedom fighters are always “terrorists” for “us”) and hunted down mercilessly. Their houses are bulldozed, meaning their families are persecuted as well… Or occasionally they get blown up together with their terrorist/freedom fighter father/husband/brother by an Iroquois army helicopter… Regretful mistakes, of course…

Did Iroquois suffer throughout their history? Yes, they did, in ways which many believe constitute genocide. Do they have any less right for their national state than other nations? Of course they have the same right. Can they make justified historic claims involving the Island of Montreal? Of course they can. Does it make Hochelagism a good idea? Free of easily foreseeable conflicts? Any less painful for those on a receiving end of it? Is it reasonable to expect no opposition to Hochelagism? Is opposing Hochelagism morally equivalent to justifying genocide of Iroquois?

But of course, The Great Asian Democratic Empire is interested in a thorn in the Anglo-Saxon (less likely – French) ass. So it supports the Iroquois state with several billion yuables a year… As long as the Iroquois agree to be their lightning rod in the Western Hemisphere…

God knows, I didn’t want to start a conversation about Israel. People keep suggesting that I’d do anything for popularity, but that’s not true. This is a subject I am only going to broach because I have been insistently asked by readers to do so. I have a lot to say on the subject but nobody is going to like what  have to say. I warn everybody from the start that the position of “Israelis walk on water, Palestinians are barbaric animals” is just as alien to me as “Palestinians are saints, Israelis are genocidal maniacs.”

I understand that this is a sensitive topic, so I warn everybody in advance: if you are traumatized by any position that differs from the two I just described, you’d be better off simply not reading this series of posts.

I believe that V.’s comment is a great way to begin a dialogue. All I ask is that people avoid calling each other Nazis. If there is a way to annoy me, that’s it. Unless you know for a fact that somebody walks around with a swastika, they are not a Nazi, OK?

63,834 Words

And I am done. I just finished my work on this version of the manuscript. Now, I just have to go over it to see if everything is in order and recheck a couple of sources. And then, I will send it to my heroic reviewer who will give me the final verdict as to whether it makes sense to try to publish it as a book.

This was a lot of work, people. I had to excise an entire chapter in the middle and write a completely different one. This is not a collection of short stories but a coherent whole (at least, it’s supposed to be that). Which means that the entire concept of the book had to be rethought. I’m happy that I finished it on time and didn’t mess up the reviewer’s schedule. I’m also happy that for the next week I will not have to sleep, eat and walk around with the word Bildungsroman on my mind.

Yesterday, I felt exhausted and was complaining to N., “And what if the reviewer says that the manuscript is just a pile of steaming shit? How will I feel then? It will mean that I wasted my entire summer. I achieved nothing over the summer except submitting two articles for publication, submitting a talk to the philosophy conference, advancing my literary translation significantly, and working on this manuscript. I’m useless!”

Then we both paused and burst out laughing.

I think I did good, my friends.

On Academic Service

Here is an excerpt from a brilliant post by GMP about how to handle service requirements during your journey towards tenure:

Sometimes junior faculty feel that they owe it to someone to put in excessive amounts of service. The reasons for this are different: for instance, women are sometimes pushed into extra committee roles because committees need gender diversity or it is perceived that all women like service because they are stereotypically nurturing and caring. If you are a female, and even if you love service and happen to be nurturing, I recommend you fight tooth and nail to not perform any more service than your male counterparts. This will not only free up your time, but will also establish that you are not a pushover, which is important for your future standing in the department. . . In general, while on tenure track at a university, it is a good idea to be a little selfish. Your goal it to get tenure, and that means the primary focus is on developing your research program and the secondary one on honing your teaching skills. Regarding service on tenure track, find out the minimal requirements for an assistant professor in your department. Stay close to that minimum for the duration of tenure track, even if you burn with desire to serve more. Instead, devote more time to professional service that brings visibility to your work, and enhances your research program and funding prospects.

I agree with this post completely. I know from personal experience that it’s very hard to keep silent when the Chair asks during a departmental meeting, “Are there any volunteers for this committee?” You are new, you want to be liked, that’s normal. However, being momentarily liked for volunteering for yet another service obligation will not help you when you come up for tenure and there are no publications under your belt.

During my last review, I was told that I should seek out a committee at the university level. For me, it only makes sense to serve on a committee if it is going to benefit me in some way and if it doesn’t require a big time commitment on a regular basis. I applied to a committee that analyzes research grant proposals and distributes money. I had applied for this very grant in the past and was rejected because my proposal was crappy. Serving on this committee will allow me to see what the requirements are for writing a good grant and, hopefully, apply for it successfully in the future.  It was hard to get elected to it because, understandably, the committee is very popular. But I did get on it, which makes me very happy.

Of course, the fact that I hate service and am not even remotely nurturing or caring helps me to be smart about choosing what kind of service suits me.

Have You Noticed How. . .

. . . popular culture in the US celebrates strong women a lot more eagerly than the US feminism does?

The former gives us Buffy, Olivia Benson, Temperance Brennan, etc. The latter informs me that I’m raped whenever I have sex and coerced every time I have a conversation with a guy.

These pseudo-feminists keep blaming the pop culture for the female subjection, though. Funny, that.

How Buffy Changed My Life

I told this story before on the old version of the blog but now I have many new readers and I like telling it, so I’ll tell it again. Besides, a fellow blogger wrote about Buffy without the veneration due to this fantastic show, which is something I feel I need to address. (Being facetious here.)

When I was 22, I moved to Canada. Three months later I had to leave my husband because of the utter piggishness of his behavior. I was left in a strange country, with no job, no education, no money, and no friends. Worst of all, I was left without an identity of my own. I had been with this guy since I was 16 and had learned to see myself in terms of “we”, not “I.”

Once, I turned on the television and saw this episode of Buffy where Buffy and Angel, who had turned bad at this point, were fighting.

In that scene, Angel knocks the sword out of Buffy’s hands. She bows her head and closes her eyes as she stands against the wall.

“So what do you have left?” Angel asks. “Now that you are without your friends and without your weapons, what do you have?”

[I was 22, so I was weeping so hard I was practically bawling at this point.]

Then, Angel charges at Buffy with a sword. She catches it between her palms, opens her eyes, and says, “Me.”

And then she gives him the thrashing of his life.

This “I have me” was a true revelation. I realized that I could always find new friends, make more money, create a new life in a new country. Because I had me.

Which is why when you criticize Buffy in my presence, you do it at your own peril. 🙂