11/5/12

I’m so fucking tired

I am so fucking tired of people (mostly men) talking about banning abortion “except in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother” as if that were the compassionate stance. As if forcing women to carry through with pregnancies that they don’t want or can’t afford or are not ready for, for whatever reason, were a perfectly reasonable and ethical position to hold. As if the only way a woman could “deserve” to be a more worthy life than a clump of cells growing inside her were if she’s already been violated. As if there were some index of suffering against which such violations can be measured: If she wasn’t beaten up but good, then it wasn’t really rape. If she knew her rapist, then it doesn’t really count. If she wasn’t a virgin, then what’s the harm? And if she can’t prove that the pregnancy was a result of violence or could end in death, then violence will most certainly be visited on her, because god forbid she should enjoy having sex and not pay a price for it.

I’m pissed off that this veneer of reasonableness in the rhetoric of violence against women is the controlling discourse on abortion, that politicians can stand there and proudly spout their beliefs about the sanctity of life with no repercussions, and that even pro-choice groups treat the “rape, incest, and death” exception as an acceptable ideological difference. I find it bizarre that Nicholas Kristof  “respect[s] politicians like Paul Ryan who are consistently anti-abortion, even in cases of rape or incest” because such consistency, according to him, bespeaks a “heartfelt” position that could cost them votes, and therefore is “courageous” (no I’m not making that up!). If Ryan or Romney has a “heartfelt” belief that women who get pregnant but do not want a child must nonetheless be forced to continue the pregnancy and deliver, because anything else is murder, I guess they are free to hold that belief. But when they plan for the state to be in the business of forced pregnancy and delivery for the vast majority of women faced with an unintended pregnancy, then they need to be called out loud and often for the dangerous extremists that they are. Courageous? How about pathologically misogynist?

10/18/12

Marks of Experience

Really interesting series of photos over at the Slate photo blog by Claire Felicie portraying Dutch Marines before, during, and after a tour in Afghanistan. Studying these faces, I tried to articulate for myself the differences among the before, during, and after (but especially the before and after). There’s a certain placidity in the before faces, even in the first one with the furrowed brow, a certain relaxed slackness around the mouth, even in those with pursed or slightly smiling lips, that disappears in the subsequent shots. Editing? Lighting? The framing and titling? I’m sure these all play a role in our perceptions — we’re primed to look for differences, to share in the photographer’s witnessing of changes wrought by war. However inaccessible the internal changes may be, though, the physical changes seem unmistakable.

The photos invite our scrutiny, demand it, even. But the faces, at once open and closed, only give us so much. In the midst of my looking, poring over the gazes, the wrinkles on the foreheads and around the eyes, the set of the jaws, the turns of the mouth, I started feeling a bit unsettled by my own interest in confirming the marks of war on them. I started to worry that perhaps these images, despite what Felicie may have wanted to do, end up romanticizing the experience of combat in the way Chris Hedges argues in War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, assuring us that the necessary human sacrifices have been made so that we can keep believing in nobility and goodness.

10/4/12

*sigh*; on the other hand: gay marriage!


Warning: DOMDocument::loadXML(): Space required after the Public Identifier in Entity, line: 1 in /nfs/c01/h07/mnt/13720/domains/printculture.com/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-amazon-associate/APaPi/AmazonProduct/Result.php on line 149

Warning: DOMDocument::loadXML(): SystemLiteral " or ' expected in Entity, line: 1 in /nfs/c01/h07/mnt/13720/domains/printculture.com/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-amazon-associate/APaPi/AmazonProduct/Result.php on line 149

Warning: DOMDocument::loadXML(): SYSTEM or PUBLIC, the URI is missing in Entity, line: 1 in /nfs/c01/h07/mnt/13720/domains/printculture.com/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-amazon-associate/APaPi/AmazonProduct/Result.php on line 149

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /nfs/c01/h07/mnt/13720/domains/printculture.com/html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-amazon-associate/APaPi/AmazonProduct/Result.php on line 160

I’m reading bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress (Routledge, 1994) for work, and the following passage stood out to me:

It is apparent that one of the primary reasons we have not experienced a revolution of values is that a culture of domination necessarily promotes addiction to lying and denial. That lying takes the presumably innocent form of may white people (and even some black folks) suggesting that racism does not exist anymore, and that conditions of social equality are solidly in place that would enable any black person who works hard to achieve economic self-sufficiency . . . Lying takes the form of mass media creating the myth that feminist movement has completely transformed society, so much so that the politics of patriarchal power have been inverted and that men, particularly white men, just like emasculated black men, have become the victims of dominating women. . . . Add to this the widely held assumptions that blacks, other minorities, and white women are taking jobs from white men, and that people are poor and unemployed because they want to be, and it becomes most evident that part of our contemporary crisis is created by a lack of meaningful access to the truth. That is to say, individuals are not just presented untruths, but are told them in a manner that enables most effective communication. When this collective cultural consumption of and attachment to misinformation is coupled with the layers of lying individuals do in their personal lives, our capacity to face reality is severely diminished as is our will to intervene and change unjust circumstances. (28-29)

The cultural touchstone that hooks mentions in this passage — the Clarence Thomas hearings — seems painfully quaint in the post-Bush II era of lying-on-steroids (SuperPAC, the new comic book hero!). Almost 20 years later, and the alternate universe of lies seems to be where more than half the country wants to live.

10/2/12

Watch this if you can find it.

I will never see this show, because I’m not in the habit of going to the theatre (and don’t live in New York), but I was glad to read that a Broadway adaptation of the documentary film, “Hands on a Hard Body” is about to open. Maybe the film will find a new audience and be available for streaming somewhere (it’s currently not available for rental on Netflix or Amazon).

Short plot summary: a car dealership in Texas runs an endurance contest in which contestants must keep a hand on a brand new fully loaded pickup truck. The last person standing wins the truck.

I remember watching the film when it showed briefly in a theater in L.A. back in 1997. The audience laughed  derisively (“look at those hicks!”) when the interview subjects waxed philosophical about the meaning of the contest in their heavy Texas drawls. But the film itself never demeans its subjects. My sense was that the filmmakers went into the project with a certain ironic distance but then got pulled into the human dramas playing out in this manufactured microcosm. A real gem.