Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Wounded Young Hero of Literature, Arts, Politics And Especially Journalism


This post has no mothers, but it has multiple fathers, the wounded young men of arts and literature who rebelled against the society from their garrets, hungry and full of erotic lust and rage, the wounded young actors who portrayed "rebels without a cause,"  the wounded young political writers who were allowed to rage and rant against unfairness and inequality, but who were also allowed to wear proudly those mystical scars which womanhood had cut into their hearts and brains, thus turning them into misogynists.

I call these men wounded young heroes, though they were not always young when they gained the label or wounded in the way most of us would define the term.  Being "wounded," being "imperfect," is what makes them into truth-speaking heroes.

Philip Roth proffered us his misogyny like an orchid reeking of dying flesh and he was applauded for it.  Picasso painted women as the deepest nightmares of his soul and he was applauded for it.   Norman Mailer, John Updike, Milan Kundera, and many other famous mainstream male writers celebrate their fear, loathing and just plain misunderstanding of women in their literary works, and though they have been criticized for it, they still wear the laurel leaf wreaths of public approval and fame.

Now flip that over.  Assume that it is the hatred or fear of men or the analysis of those feelings which largely fuel the art or writing of some talented woman.  What will her reputation be?  Into what box will history place her art?

Women cannot be mainstream artists or writers if they knit their hatred of men into their art or writing.  But it takes much, much more for a man's work to be discounted in history than just loathing towards half the humanity.  He can still be mainstream, he can still be adulated, his work can still be widely taught.

He can Break The Rules.  He can be a rebel while supporting an ancient and traditional part of human history with his misogyny.  He can rebel against the capitalists and oppressors and be a protector of the weak, except when he rails at women, the weakest in many societies.

He can show us the scar some woman has inflicted on him (or so he believes), praise that scar, generalize that scar to all womanhood, use that scar to sell sexual humiliation of women as the rightful outcome in a rebel's world (Henry Miller), and we, the audience, take him seriously, accept his young-hero status, his truth-speaking status.  We, the audience,  honor the great Tolstoy's writings*, even though he assigned women to only their biological roles and frequently employed the Madonna/Whore dichotomy.  We, the audience, don't slam the door in his face. 

And we shouldn't slam that door.  But that door would be slammed against any woman who did the reversal.  Even the term "wounded young heroine" elicits utterly different images in our minds, and women cannot be wounded young heroes.  Not really.

This is the hi-falutin prologue to a post  which is about more mundane writing and about more mundane concerns.  Still, my central concern is to ask if we switched the gender of the main protagonist in these stories, would the stories still read the same, would the consequences of the stories be the same, would we even have reversal stories of this type published anywhere.

I have selected examples which are not all so clear-cut as those I mention above, but they flow from that same archetype:  The truth-telling young rebel whose misogyny scar doesn't invalidate the hero's ascent but validates it.

Jacques Hyzagi

Hyzagi wrote in his piece, titled Elle on Earth, that he has dated models and knows designers; I suggested perhaps those personal connections helped him land the Kawakubo interview. He laughed.
“I got to Rei by fucking a supermodel. I got to Assange by fucking a spy at MI6. I got to Ricky Gervais by fucking Stephen Merchant [Gervais’s long-time comedy collaborator],” he announced, raising his eyebrows. “The bottom line is don’t ask McDonald’s for the secret sauce”.
Unpleasant things tend to happen to female journalists who admit to fucking people in the chase for an interview.  Will those same unpleasant things happen to Hyzagi?  Is he now labeled as a whore and a slut and clearly not deserving of any reputation for his work?

Questions, questions, so many questions.  I will follow Hyzagi's career with some interest from now on.  Answers will bubble up from that ocean of mess and daring.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Yiannopoulos is the Open Misogyny editor for that famous right-wing website, Breitbart.com.  Well, that is what I call him, because his hatred of women is very much in the open and very much of the extreme kindMy therapist just funded a week on Capri from what I had to pay her to fix the rips in my soul our little Milo has given me.

The wounded-young-hero aspect of Yiannapoulos is that he is a gay man in the sea of right-wing hatred.  The raft he uses not to drown there is his hatred of women and his beliefs in the biological inferiority of all women, presumably including his own mother.  Unless his was a virgin birth from the loins of Zeus, of course.

A recent article has accused him of not being just this one innocent guy speaking truth to power, but a whole workshop of little eager misogynist elves, some working for no money, and many coming for the 4Chan site where woman-flesh is served at every meal of the brothers.

So what, you might mutter.  Probably every productive journalist has a Santa's workshop of helpers in the background.

But I very much doubt a female journalist would get away with that announcement without getting smeared, and I can't even imagine how a female journalist preaching misandry would ever get away with it, smears or not!

My point here is that we the public,  forgive them, those wounded young heroes, for the kind of hatred we do not forgive in our wounded young heroines.

Mark Ames

Google that name with "misogyny," and you will be taken to the kind of website where you must wear your hazmat suit or at least waders.  But your reward is a "thoughtful" think piece by Ames on his own kind of misogyny!

It is superior to other kinds of misogyny, because it is based on the fear of women and therefore the justness of trying to stomp women, in general, into rivulets of blood and smashed organs.  Ames also justifies his hatred of women by including bits about misogyny by women who also (ta da!) hate women.  So it's not Ames who is at fault here, but the perfidy of women:

If you paid hard for your misogyny, then you want to make the others pay too. You HAVE to make them pay, to transfer at least some of your pain back to the source. I've been doing that for years now, getting payback. It's calmed my demons down to the point that I can live with it. I'm not even into the "S" of the "&M," at least not like before.

Man used to equalize his fear of women by using a knout, a mule switch, or just bare fists. But you can't really do that anymore. Even when you do get violent, it has to be stylized. No matter how edgy and debauched you are, there's no way that even the wildest S&M experience you ever had wasn't, on some level, consensual. These are bad times for misogynists.

Mark Ames now writes for Pando.com, but he once ran a two-wounded-young-truth-telling-heroes newspaper, The Exile,  in Russia with Matt Taibbi.  Their book published in 2000,  The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia
 chronicles the events during the life of the newspaper.

And some book it is.  From one review:

The product of Ames and Taibbi's union is rude, cruel, pornographic, self-aggrandizing, infantile, and breathtakingly misogynist...


And Ames's treatment of Russian teenage girls is documented with frightening glee. In the book he recounts one evening with an expat investment banker pal and what he thought were three 16-year-old girls:
"When I went back into the TV room, Andy pulled me aside with a worried grin on his face. 'Dude do you realize...do you know how old that Natasha is?' he said.
"'No! No, she's fif-teen. Fif-teen.' Right then my pervometer needle hit the red. I had to have her, even if she was homely."
After they do it, she tells him she has a three-month-old baby.
"It was hard to imagine that Natasha had squatted out a baby," Ames writes. "Her cunt was as tight as a cat's ass....I'd slept with mothers before--they're a lot wider. Sex with them is like probing a straw in a mildew-lined German beer mug."
Later he learns that she's lying--she has no baby, but rather is four months pregnant. After she has an abortion, he writes about her in the Exile, suggesting that she be sterilized and awarded "one of those cheap trophy cups with the inscription 'World's Greatest Mom.'"
And so on and so on.  The linked review gives an excuse for all this blatant misogyny: Ames and Taibbi rationalize it by arguing that even the most apparently feminist man would surely swap his egalitarian world to a meat market where men rule and all that matters about women is how slutty they are:

Ames and Taibbi rationalize their flaming sexism with the argument that part of the whole expatriate experience is to have one's moral compass come loose. American men have internalized a sexual script that prescribes equality and respect, but "out in Russia," Ames writes, "you gain a little perspective, which can be dangerous. Deep down, even the most emasculated, wire-rimmed glasses, cigar-smoking and martini-drinking American guy fantasizes about living in a world full of...well, I'll let you guess: a) self-reliant, androgynous women who are also your friends, b) young, beautiful sluts." 

The moral compass of Ames and Taibbi didn't have to come loose when they wrote about Russian corruption or the misuse of power.  It just had to dangle there for anything having to do with women:

He spoke about his sex life in Moscow. “Russian women, especially on the first date, expect you to rape them,” said Mr. Ames. “They’ll go back home with you and say, ‘No, no, no,’ and if you’re an American, you’ve been trained to respect the ‘No,’ because you’re afraid of sexual harassment or date rape, and so you fail over and over. But it took me a while to learn you really have to force Russian girls, and that’s what they want, it’s like a mock rape. And then you come back here and you’re really freaked out–because you don’t know if that actually exists deep in all women’s psyches, that that’s what they all want. All relations between guys and girls is basically violent, I think. It’s all war.”

I had to begin from this intense misogyny end of the matter, because I am a woman and therefore in Ames' view one of those who must pay for his pain, a member of the enemy camp, the hand that held the knife which wounded him so, leaving that pustulating scar he lances in his hate writings, over and over again.  Never mind that I have never met him.  But then neither have several other billions of women who are also deemed responsible for his pain. 

Someone once wrote that inflamed self-pity is the most frightening and evil of all emotions.  If strong enough, it justifies revenge against the whole world, it justifies revenge against the innocents as long as they smell of the blood of the one who caused the hurt.  It can be used to create a Hitlerian world or an ISIS world, built upon that inflamed scar.

But all that is straying onto a side-street where monsters and ghouls lurk.  Let us return to the avenue of inquiry I began in this post and ask what the consequences of the above revelations have cost Ames, and to some extent, Taibbi.**

Taibbi certainly hasn't suffered.  He is a famous writer, a journalist who is seen as speaking truth to power.  Ames still writes, too.    What his inner truth about misogyny might be today is veiled from my eyes.  But I suspect that wounded young heroes are allowed to flaunt their wounds as long as they also fight capitalism or corruption or some other similar evil cause.

Wounded young heroines?  I  cannot imagine any woman having a thriving journalism career after publishing a reversal book, one like The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, but with reversed stories of rape of men, sex with young boys or "jokes" where male secretaries where asked when they would start giving the cunnilingus, even during the bosses period, that their continued employment obviously depended on***.

Such imaginary female journalists would be called sluts.  "Wounded young sluts" doesn't sound anywhere as inspiring as wounded young heroes of the literary and art worlds, but at least we, the critics, would not be so silent about what they might have done.


*  Yes, yes, I know that our images of Tolstoy look like the images of god as a bearded old man.  But he was a young rebel once and later became an old coot happily wrapped in his shawl of prejudice while sitting by the fire of his genius.  Great writer, though.

**  After a lot of reading it's not clear to me how much misogyny Taibbi expressed in his writings.  Some, for sure, but considerably less than Ames, who seems to float inside the womb of his woman-hatred.  But note that if two women worked a newspaper together and one did that hatred-floating, the other would surely be tarred by the same brush as an enabler, a creator of the hate culture and so on.

**  From Wikipedia:
In 2000, Ames and Matt Taibi published The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia, which chronicled their journalism exploits, as well as Ames's expatriate lifestyle and his relationships with young Russian women and the staffers at the eXile:
We have been pretty rough on our girls. We’d ask our Russian staff to flash their asses or breasts for us. We’d tell them that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they’d have to perform unprotected anal sex with us. Nearly every day, we asked our female staff if they approved of anal sex. That was a fixation of ours. [...] It was all part of the fun. [7]