Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Gender Politics! Grumble, grumble.

I watched a video interview of Leonard Cohen's opinions the other night. I searched it out on purpose, because there are hints in his lyrics that not all is OK with Leonard and Women. Women must be spelled with a capital W, because we are a mythical beast for Leonard, one he can adore or despise, put up on a pedestal and turn into something that only exists in the context of his love. (I still like many of his songs and want to stress that he's most likely a lot less objectifying than many famous male singers of the 1970s era.)

In the middle of the long interview Cohen talks about the difficulty of writing lyrics in a time which is all about gender politics and other kinds of politics and some extreme form of political correctness. He skates glibly around whatever he actually intends to say, as any good marketer would, but I suspect that he does not care for feminism.

All this set me thinking why other times would not have been about gender politics. Is it gender politics ONLY when women fight back, so to say? Read the Bible and you find gender politics, read the Koran and you find the same. Read old law books and you find them again. They have always been practiced, of course, and part of the rules of those politics traditionally has been NOT TO NOTICE THEM.

That's pretty important, I think. It's still true that the usual way to move across gender-based rules in a society is not to really question them, not to really notice them. That may be why the noticer and the questioner get bashed. Then it's those people who are seen as practicing gender politics.
My apologies for not noting down when the relevant bit comes on the video. I want to stress again that I like Cohen's art and I'm not singling him out in any particular way, just using the interview to point out how we frame matters in the culture.