Some men are reacting to the “women in tech” movement by complaining that a “feminist cabal” is trying to subjugate men.
No one has ever accused Ross Douthat of excessive astuteness. “Donald Trump isn’t going to be the Republican nominee,” he wrote in January 2016. Dude is paid to prognosticate politics. Even so, Douthat probably pulls down six figures at The New York Times, which doesn’t grant me the courtesy of a rejection letter. So people pay attention to him.
Hugh Hefner’s death didn’t move me. Penthouse was my print media stimulus of choice. I only read Playboy after the magazine’s late delightful cartoons director Michelle Urry commissioned some samples during her campaign to update the magazine’s hoary cartoon section with edgier, more political work. (Alas, those weird Marxist sex cartoons are lost to history.)
The worst cartoon editors are former aspiring cartoonists. Hef was one of those; he killed my stuff for being too edgy and political.
But Hefner sure managed to rile up Douthat.
“Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with Quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself,” Douthat wrote upon the Playboy founder’s passing.
As if syphilis hadn’t existed pre-Hef.
Or porn, for that matter.
Banging out an all-out assault so shrill it would come off as over-the-top if it concerned Charles Manson, Douthat even blames Hefner for the sins of the political class: “Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.”
Get real: I never met a liberal who considered Hefner a leader, much less the captain, of liberalism. And where exactly are these devout family-values crusading conservatives? Sending other people’s kids off to kill Middle Easterners for fun and profit, or pimping trickle-down economic BS to benefit their rich patrons?
I align myself neither with liberals nor conservatives nor Hefner. Honestly, though: the vituperative nature of so many Hefner postmortems have done more to validate Hefner’s claim that his critics were prudes and anti-sex identity feminists than everything he ever said or did.
There is more than a little ageism in these “The Loin in Winter” depictions of a porn entrepreneur who lived too long, couldn’t figure out the Internet and counted out his final years like a male Norma Desmond in the fading grandeur of a decaying Playboy Mansion, in denial that the culture had moved past him. Douthat opined: “Early Hef had a pipe and suit and a highbrow reference for every occasion; he even claimed to have a philosophy, that final refuge of the scoundrel. But late Hef was a lecherous, low-brow Peter Pan, playing at perpetual boyhood — ice cream for breakfast, pajamas all day — while bodyguards shooed male celebrities away from his paid harem and the skull grinned beneath his papery skin.”
A disgusting depiction — one that reflects upon its author more than its target.
Hef’s passing prompted a few genuinely positive assessments of the man and his product, like this from the refreshing Camille Paglia: “Pornography is not a distortion. It is not a sexist twisting of the facts of life but a kind of peephole into the roiling, primitive animal energies that are at the heart of sexual attraction and desire…It must be remembered that Hefner was a gifted editor who knew how to produce a magazine that had great visual style and that was a riveting combination of pictorial with print design. Everything about Playboy as a visual object, whether you liked the magazine or not, was lively and often ravishing.”
But most post-Hefs were like Peggy Drexler in CNN: “The terms of [Hefner’s] rebellion undeniably depended on putting women in a second-class role. It was the women, after all, whose sexuality was on display on the covers and in the centerfolds of his magazine, not to mention hanging on his shoulder, practically until the day he died.”
True enough. But not really fair.
Porn is weird.
Porn commodifies women, reducing them to flat 2-D imagery crafted to titillate. If you feel dirty after you use to it to masturbate, it’s because you feel at least a little guilty about the high probability that the women in those photos and videos almost certainly wouldn’t expose themselves if they didn’t really need the money. Yet Drexler misses that visuals are key to sexual attraction, and that includes the way hetero women assess men based on their physical appearance. We are all commodified by this culture of consumption and relationships based at least in part on mutual opportunism and exploitation.
Really-existing feminists rarely frame their critiques of pornography where it belongs, within the construct of a slave-labor capitalism in which construction workers and yoga teachers and professional athletes and UPS workers and cartoonists wear down their bodies for cash — or starve.
Largely divided between anti-Hefner obits and anti-Hefner obits that give the marketing genius his editorial due, what shines through is a deep discomfort with sex in mainstream American media. What is wrong with a 91-year-old man, even if he looks 91 and resorts to Viagra, viewing himself as a sexual being? Or a 101-year-old woman?
May we all be so alive until we are just dead.
Why does Douthat assume we should share his revulsion when he describes Hef as “a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies”? The aesthetics may not be yours, but the choices were his — which is as it should be. (On the other hand, criticism of Hefner seems legitimate when it attacks the man as manipulative of women in his orbit.)
As Paglia says, “Second-wave feminism went off the rails when it was totally unable to deal with erotic imagery, which has been a central feature of the entire history of Western art ever since Greek nudes.”
Relax. It’s just sex.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Hillary Clinton seems poised to become the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major American political party. It’s supposed to be a major symbolic moment, at least in terms of identity politics. But it feels hollow, largely because of something most commentators hesitate to say in public: if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton, she wouldn’t be where she is now. Why can’t a nation of 319 million people find a woman president who didn’t marry her way into the job? Because the system still won’t allow it.
Originally published at Skewed News:
If women ruled the world, we’ve been told for years, it would be a more peaceful planet.
Now that there’s a real possibility of a first woman president, it is no longer impossible to imagine ladies in charge. Thanks to a new Pentagon rule change, however, there is now less danger of a women-led Earth disintegrating into a devastating peace.
In a powerful statement in favor of gender equality, military officials in charge of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, who are conducting massive drone assassination programs in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, engaged in the bombing campaign against Syria, and who are providing most of the weapons and munitions used in the world’s wars have announced that women soldiers will be permitted to join the carnage as full-fledged combat partners to their male counterparts.
You’ve come a long way, G.I. baby.
Under new Pentagon policy, women soldiers and sailors will no longer have to stand by and watch as their male colleagues drop bombs on Muslim villages and wedding parties. They will be able to join in the fun. Similarly, when male soldiers and sailors rob, rape and go on killing sprees, female combat troops won’t have to cool their high heels at some boring forward operating base, expected to bake cookies. When there’s slaughtering to be done, lady soldiers will be invited to join in.
Some logistical questions remain unanswered. When raping local children in nations under U.S. occupation, will female soldiers be issued with rape tools, or will they have to improvise with “hillbilly” sodomizers? On the other hand, women soldiers — who are believed to have greater appreciation for art than men — may prove helpful in the looting of museums and marketing of archeological artifacts.
“It was a powerfully symbolic and sound policy move. While there will be logistical challenges as the Pentagon continues to break down barriers for women, doing so will make the military stronger and will narrow America’s gender equality gap,” editorialized The New York Times, which has endorsed most of the United States’ decisions to start the aforementioned military conflicts.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “They’ll be able to serve as Army rangers and green berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps infantry.”
Secretary Carter said the world’s most violent and aggressive military forces will be able to become even more violent and aggressive now that 50% of the population is pitching in. “Our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer.”
This is a period of greater openness for the U.S. armed forces, which are responsible for provoking most of the world to hate America. In July, the Pentagon decided to allow trans people to serve as soldiers. In August, a 28-year-old army sergeant became the first openly trans soldier. A symbol of trans pride, he has been on more than 400 combat missions in the illegal, undeclared wars against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both wars are viewed by most Americans as mistakes.
Political and military leaders of all genders agree that when it comes to invading and occupying and oppressing, greater gender participation means greater efficiency, particularly in an era when so few people agree with U.S. foreign policy in general or particular invasions. “I think it’s fair to say that women are a little more collaborative in their approach overall, and a little less driven to conflict as opposed to driven to working out problems,” said Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security. Whether you’re shooting a laser-guided missile at a hospital in Afghanistan or shoving things up prisoners’ asses in a U.S. military gulag, it’s important for everybody to be on the same page about, say, what things and how far up.
At Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq, for example, women and men played a joint role in the interrogation, torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners. This led to a higher level of depravity than might not have been possible had the job been left exclusively to those blessed with male privilege.
“If they’re qualified to do those positions, they should be able to anything that a man can do in the military,” said a female soldier with 10 years experience in the military. She noted that bombing, shooting, torturing and sending people to concentration camps can be a bonding experience for the entire family. “My husband is security forces as well, so my children see both of us going to work as cops and my son, he’s almost four, thinks it’s awesome.”
Most of the mainstream Republican Party presidential candidates advocate extreme positions on immigration, including mass deportations. They deny the reality of climate change science and evolution. They think torture is fine, oppose gay marriage, and remain silent about the murder of abortionists. Amid this shift to the right, some “moderate” Republicans say they’re still a legitimate voice within the party. But does it matter?
If you doubt that the politics of identity have triumphed over the debate over ideas, read today’s New York Times story about how “Carly Fiorina Both Repels and Enthralls Liberal Feminists.”
Identity politics is the marketing of and resulting support of candidates based upon their historically underprivileged status. Never mind what I believe or claim I’ll do if I win. Vote for me, gay males, because I am one of you! Vote for me, black women, because it’s time for a black woman!
Also: vote for me, black men, because I’m black (and also a woman).
Or: vote for me, white liberals, because I’ll heal the rifts of sexism and/or racism.
Barack Obama is the patron saint of modern identity politics. Though not black in a typical American sense, which indicates slave ancestry, Obama swept to victory twice, and enjoyed remarkable deference from the media, because he was black enough to serve as a symbol of racial reconciliation. Identity politics is how he convinced most Democrats to vote for him and do so enthusiastically — this despite a conservative voting record and politics that would have been at home in any of several Republican administrations. Obama’s ideas — expanding NSA surveillance of American civilians, drone assassinations of thousands of innocent people, reducing Libya and Syria to failed states — are anathema to those who voted for him, but he was (sort of) black, so they did anyway.
This campaign season, it’s the women’s turn.
Hillary Clinton’s conservative politics and ideas and performance are overlooked by the vast majority of her liberal supporters because she’s a woman, and there needs to be a woman president, and if she falls short of victory, who is the next woman capable of pulling it off?
As the Times notes, feminists — most of whom are, by definition, politically liberal or progressive — are confused by the disconnect between Carly Fiorina’s projection of strong, competent womanness, and her retrograde right-wing politics. “Can you love a campaign but hate a candidate’s politics?” the paper quotes self-described feminist writer Robin Marty, writing for Consmopolitan‘s website. I dunno, Robin — can you be a feminist and still write for a rag that makes millions by reselling the same tired list of cheap orgasm tricks? Can I admire Adolf Hitler’s design sense while mourning the fact that no one managed to assassinate him?
In the crucible of the 1970s, identity politics had its place. Where would feminism have been without the identifier of Ms. Magazine? Trans people, the latest to step out of the shadows of historical marginalization and oppression, have gotten where they are today via an identity politics that, first things first, made it OK to be proud of who and what you are.
But that was then and this is now. Now identity politics is all identity, no politics, all image, no substance.
Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel’s quotes illustrate the bankruptcy of identity politics. “Carly Fiorina is an ice-cold shade queen debate princess and I’m in love with and terrified of her,” she tweeted. Would a resident of Waziristan write: “Barack Obama is an ice-cold drone killer and I’m in love with his suits but not so much into being droned?” No. He would not. Because a resident of Waziristan is connected to his class interests. Because he is scared of, and disgusted by, Obama’s drones, he cannot appreciate the way the president cuts a fine figure in a suit.
It’s of course ridiculous when you think about it, but it really does come down to aesthetics for Ryan: Fiorina, she says, is “contrary to the conservative female narrative, the way she looks, the way she presents herself, the no-nonsense businesswoman thing.” For this generation of image feminists, Fiorina is seductive because cuts a fine figure in a high-end corporate outfit and refuses to absorb Donald Trump’s cheap shots at her looks. Too bad she wants to tell pregnant teenagers tough beans, they have to have the baby — and that she brazenly lied about a purported Planned Parenthood “harvest the brain” video.
Marty compares “liberal” feminist interest in Fiorina to eating at McDonald’s: “You know, inherently, it’s not something you should be eating. But when there’s nothing else around, it’s what you go and take.”
That’s so wrong in so many ways.
In the 2016 presidential race, there is another woman running. I think Hillary’s politics are repugnant. There is no way I’d vote for her. But if you roll lesser-evil style, she’s obviously better from a progressive viewpoint than Carly — like going to Wendy’s instead of Mickey D’s.
But lesser evilism, that bastard cousin of identity politics, is the first express stop on the road to ideological ruin. Bernie Sanders — old and white and male — is 50 times the feminist that Hillary Clinton will ever be. I know because I’ve read his platform, which would do a lot more than Hillary, and a zillion times more than Carly Fiorina, to help women.
And that’s leaving out the world where feminism should inhabit: the perfect ideal of total gender equality. We’re not going to get to equality under this variety of capitalism, or any other kind of capitalism. How can an identity politics that distracts real live feminists with the likes of a corporate monster like Carly Fiorina start to destroy and replace the entire system?
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) over abortion (“offensive,” “outrageous” and “troubling,” she said) reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to wonder aloud for some time:
Why doesn’t the Democratic Party call for a federal law legalizing abortion?
Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. Given the 5-4 balance of the Supreme Court barely in favor of that 1973 decision, however, federal abortion rights could vanish following the next vacancy on the high bench, especially if it happens under a Republican president. (Abortion would remain legal in liberal states.)
Four decades of legal limbo is enough.
If Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats really believe in a woman’s right to control her own body — for the record, I think they do — they should jointly endorse a bill legalizing abortion throughout the land.
It is true, of course, that full-throated support for reproductive freedom carries political risks.
With only 50% in support of abortion rights and 35% against, Democrats would risk losing some of the conservatives we used to call Reagan Democrats, or just swing voters, especially Catholics. Incredibly, you’re more likely to poke someone who likes gay marriage than abortion when you shake a stick.
Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing. Following decades of marginalization and watching their political views overlooked in favor of Clintonite “Third Way” centrists, the left is disgruntled, voting and giving donations in smaller numbers. One thing that still motivates these liberals to turn out for Democrats is the prospect of a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a threat many social-issue liberal Democrats find appalling.
If Congress legalizes abortion, this motivation goes away — and leaves a party that went along with the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, passed welfare reform, and enthusiastically pushed through a spate of free trade agreements viewed by economic populists as corporate giveaways that kill American jobs.
This is almost certainly why Hillary Clinton talks a good game on abortion — and that’s where it ends. She just doesn’t care enough to take a chance.
Despite the downsides, Clinton, Sanders and the party ought to press for a federal bill. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama played to the polls, the latter endorsing gay marriage, saying his views had “evolved” only after surveys told him it was safe. Voters are starving for leadership, for politicians who point the way forward, telling us where we should go before we form a national consensus.
Certainly, such a move would solidify support for the party among women by signaling that it is willing to take risks. The bill could go down to defeat. But legislative defeat could become a moral victory, as in Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful sex discrimination lawsuit.
It would also put Congressional Republicans on the spot, forcing them to go on the record as voting against abortion rights — which most American women support. This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. Is the SCOTUS threat really so powerful that it justifies the real possibility that tens of millions of women and girls in conservative Southern states will lose abortion as an option? Aren’t strategists worried that, at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise, and ask the same question I’m posing here: why don’t Dems even try for a federal abortion-rights bill?
If nothing else, it would be nice to see an end to the 42-year-old ritual of protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, attended by pro-choice and pro-life factions yelling insults at each other.
It’s time for American political culture to get real and grow up about abortion. It’s silly and weird and unproductive for a major nation to remain so paralyzed so long over such a major issue. Women deserve to be able rely upon more than a flimsy court decision.
There ought to be a law — and Democrats should lead the charge.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Identity politics, a writer friend reminds me, is where liberalism goes to die.
The oceans are boiling, freelance journalists’ heads are getting lopped off, and there’s not the slightest sign of resistance to income inequality so out of control it would worry Cornelius Vanderbilt. Yet the Internet’s politically-correct “social justice warriors” are dedicating their formidable energies into attacking pissant trivialities.
Anyone who doubts that online slacktivists have their heads so far up their collective asses that they can’t see daylight need only read up on the controversy over Undercover Colors, which is a nail polish that allows women (or men, but they’re not the target audience) to discreetly discover whether their drink has been spiked by one of several common “date rape” drugs.
(My advice to women: if you’re at a party or with a guy so sketchy that you think you may have been slipped a mickey, don’t bother with the fancy polish. Just scoot. You don’t want to be there anyway.)
Better safe than sorry, right?
“Anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point,” writes Jessica Valenti, a once-influential feminist blogger whose hammer-to-the-skull-obvious post-motherhood columns for The Guardian add to the case for automatically censoring any piece of writing by a parent about their children. “We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it.”
Valenti is serious about this: “So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape. ‘Undercover Colors’ polish and products like it only offer the veneer of equality and safety. And that’s simply not good enough.”
Which is true. And stupid.
Like: wearing shoes isn’t an effective strategy to stop assholes from breaking glass bottles on streets. Since assholes do leave shards of glass all over the place, however, walking barefoot isn’t smart.
Installing a car alarm or using an anti-theft device like The Club is an example of “individual avoidance.” One wishes that it were possible to leave one’s automobile unattended free of fear that someone might steal it. But reality dictates that, if you park in a high-crime neighborhood, you take measures to deter thieves. True, it’s a “so long as it isn’t me” strategy. But what else can you do? We’re not likely to see an effective strategy to eliminate car theft any sooner than “an effective strategy to end rape,” a crime endemic in every culture throughout history.
How removed from the real world are writers like Tara Culp-Resser of Think Progress, who also criticized the entrepreneurs who invented the anti-date-rape polish? “It would likely be more effective to focus on larger efforts to tackle the cultural assumptions at the root of the campus sexual assault crisis,” she wrote. “Like the idea that it’s okay to take advantage of people when they’re drunk.”
To my horror, I have known men who bragged about having raped inebriated women. (Since their accounts were devoid of details, it would have been pointless to report them to the police.) They didn’t violate women because of “cultural assumptions.” They did it for the same reason that CEO pigs issue themselves huge raises the same day they fire thousands of employees: because they can.
This reminds me of the complaint against liberals who claim to support public education, yet send their kids to private school. If your local public schools are decrepit or dangerous, it’s unconscionable to subject your children to them if you can afford not to. Obviously, we should fight to ban private schools, and for that matter the capitalist system that separates American kids into pre-poor and pre-rich educational systems — but until the revolution is achieved, it’s every man and woman for himself and herself.
Feminist propaganda can’t stop rape. No marches, no poster campaign, no hashtag bullshit. Men will stop raping women when they no longer can.
Neither I, nor the social justice types, know how to achieve that better society. Until someone comes up with that Big Idea, anything women can do to protect themselves — self-defense classes, carrying pepper spray, even a nail polish — is just common sense.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Hillary Clinton supporters are resurrecting an argument made by Obamabots to progressives: Despite her support for right-wing policies like NAFTA and voting for war against Iraq, liberals should vote for her because she might get to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court that might determine whether abortion remains legal. I’m pro-choice, but I’m nauseated by the thought that the right to an abortion necessitates voting for someone like Hillary Clinton, who has the blood of millions of innocent people on her hands.