10 March 2011

Like Irony, but without the Irony

No means yes and yes means anal, apparently. I'll sheepishly admit to finding it vaguely funny - I'm a sucker for well-crafted dark humour, and this is a wickedly pithy way to say "I am an impressively abhorrent and misogynistic excuse for a human being". Mark Kimmel's analysis:
This chant assumes that anal sex is not pleasurable for women; that if she says yes to intercourse, you have to go further to an activity that you experience as degrading to her, dominating to her, not pleasurable to her. This second chant is a necessary corollary to the first.

Thanks to feminism, women have claimed the ability to say both “no” and “yes.” Not only have women come to believe that “No Means No,” that they have a right to not be assaulted and raped, but also that they have a right to say “yes” to their own desires, their own sexual agency. Feminism enabled women to find their own sexual voice.

Sometimes, as in the case of the now-famous Karen Owen at Duke, they can be as explicitly raunchy as men, and evaluate men’s bodies in exactly the way that men evaluate women’s bodies. (I agree with Ariel Levy that women imitating men’s drinking and sexual predation is a rather impoverished style of liberation.)

This is confusing to many men, who see sex not as mutual pleasuring, but about the “girl hunt,” a chase, a conquest. She says no, he breaks down her resistance. Sex is a zero-sum game. He wins if she puts out; she loses.

That women can like sex, and especially like good sex, and are capable of evaluating their partners changes the landscape. If women say “yes,” where’s the conquest, where’s the chase, where’s the pleasure? And where’s the feeling that your victory is her defeat? What if she is doing the scoring, not you?

Thus the “Yes Means Anal” part of the chant. Sex has become unsafe for men–women are agentic and evaluate our performances. So if “No Means Yes” attempts to make what is safe for women unsafe, then “Yes Means Anal” makes what is experienced as unsafe for men again safe–back in that comfort zone of conquest and victory. Back to something that is assumed could not possibly be pleasurable for her. It makes the unsafe safe–for men.
What Kimmel doesn't really emphasise is that this chant was intended as a joke, and this important. The fact that it is a joke doesn't make it harmless and devoid of meaning. If anything, it adds a couple of layers of meaning. Kimmel's is a brilliant analysis because it shows that even ironically offensive jokes still mean something. Just because you phrase it as a joke doesn't necessarily mean it's not also your real opinion.

07 March 2011

Probably Not Equals

Equals. I didn't really like it. Ok, so I approve of the broad message of "is there bollocks sexual equality these days, does anybody actually believe that?". But there is nothing in this world annoys me quite as much as a point I agree with made badly, and this was a shambles, for the following reasons.
  1. It opens with M telling Bond "we're equals, aren't we, 007?". You're not. You're his boss. If my boss opened a conversation with "we're equals, aren't we" I'd hold out my hand for the P45.
  2. There's something slightly ludicrous about a man being lectured about the pay gap by someone who probably earns more than him, or being told about his increased professional chances by someone who, although not strictly in "political office" or a "company director", is probably one of the most powerful people in the country.
  3. The majority of women do not terrify men. Judy Dench has made a living out of the most terrifying voice in British drama. Not really representative.
  4. An point about women being judged for perceived promiscuity is slightly undermined if you follow it up with a sly dig at 007's promiscuity.
  5. It's a bit callous telling a man he has "hardly any chance of falling victim to sexual assault" when he's been stripped, hogtied and genitally tortured with strong implications of homoeroticism and feminisation.
  6. There's slight distinction between considering what it might be like to be one and dressing up as one.
  7. He doesn't even dress up as a very good one. He looks like Daniel Craig in a wig and a dress. Not even the kind of slutty designer cocktail dress a lady 007 would obviously wear.

This might seem a bit silly, but they all undermine M's statistics.
  1. It's pantomime. Parody is not empathy and there's precious little dressing up as women goes on in sympathy. There's a reason they call it travesty.
  2. It's fairly obvious why they've picked Daniel Craig/James Bond for this. He's a Man's Man who plays a Man's Man in such a Manfully Manful way that what Manly Man could ever fail to Man Man his Man-ness? MAN. Feminism is telling me to be her friend because it's the manly thing to do. Straight-faced.
  3. And what if I am a bit manly already? What if I wear Doc Martens, drink beer, do press-ups, eat inedibly spicy food and refuse to understand jack shit about fashion or make-ups? If this video is to believed, any kind of solidarity with women involves me putting on a dress - giving up my innocuous masculine signifiers in favour of an equally arbitrary feminine one and, frankly, looking a fucking tit for it. At the same time as it tells me "it's MANLY to be a MAN-feminist", it's also telling me I can't be a Real Man and a feminist really.
  4. (Edit for clarity) Yeah, this short film is actually appealing to heteronormative gender binaries, while simultaneously telling sympathetic men that they can't really be proper feminists without buying into the binaries and dressing up a bit.
  5. This is not a short film in favour of equality. While it might make points in favour of sexual equality, it's still the uncomfortable sight of someone being belittled by their boss. This is not the voice of the women who do two thirds of the work for a tenth of the pay. This is the voice of a rich, western woman with a cut-glass accent and at least 7 licensed killers under her control. While the voiceover rightly condemns one form of inequality, one almost universally frowned upon in Britain, the use of well-known characters exploits the much more acceptable power structure of employer and employee, while simultaneously denying that any kind of inequality exists. One form of dominance being used against another. This is middle-class, liberal, white-woman's feminism at it's most embarrassing.

The statistics being read out should speak for themselves. I don't need to be fobbed off with a drunk misogynistic, neo-imperialist film-character to shed my embarrassment at agreeing with wimmin's rights. Men who do need Daniel Craig to be feminists probably won't be particularly good at it.