Sunday, June 05, 2011

If You Invite People To See You As An Object They Will Be Happy To Treat You As An Object [Anthony McCarthy]

Have you ever wondered why you never see female impersonators dressed in sensible shoes and regular clothes? Probably not. Female impersonation isn't really a question of imitating women as real people who are the possessors of rights, they are impersonating depersonalized, unempowered roles. I think just about everyone gets what female impersonation is really about.

It happens that I had a disagreement last week that impinges on the idea of "slut walks". "Boob quake" was an off-hand idea of a college student in response to a stupid thing said by an Iranian cleric, that earthquakes are caused by women dressing "immodestly". I didn't research it enough to see how the cleric explained the horrible earthquakes that The Islamic Republic, with its morality thugs and dress codes, suffered. But that's not my subject, here.

"Boob quake", topless walks and "slut walks" don't strike me as being very useful as political demonstrations. At best they carry a heavy burden of double meaning, one which is inescapably tied with objectification and the utilitarian potential of women as objects. While sexual self-determination is an essential part of both women's' and gay men's liberation that self-determination has to be ALWAYS understood and expressed in the context that all people have a status higher than material objects, that no one is available for use, that sex which reverts to the politics of users using people as objects are unacceptable, it is the exact opposite of liberation, it is the perpetuation of patriarchal privilege. I don't think that any of these forms of demonstration can escape the use of them by the champions of patriarchy of both genders and of any gender preference*.

In the argument I got into I referenced a "topless walk" in Portland, Maine last year. Here is what happened.

The women, preceded and followed by several hundred boisterous and mostly male onlookers, many of them carrying cameras, stayed on the sidewalk because they hadn't obtained a demonstration permit to walk in the street. About a thousand people gathered as the march passed through Monument Square, a mix of demonstrators, supporters, onlookers and those just out enjoying a warm and sunny early-spring day...
... Ty McDowell, who organized the march, said she was "enraged" by the turnout of men attracted to the demonstration. The purpose, she said, was for society to have the same reaction to a woman walking around topless as it does to men without shirts on.

Does anyone who bothers thinking about it really expect that won't be the outcome of this kind of thing? As I said in the argument, I am in favor of laws being unisex and that I favor men being required to wear shirts in public. Both due to aesthetic reasons and because it is impossible for women to go shirtless without it becoming more than a personal choice.

Gay men will never lead free lives until they both achieve legal equality AND THEY REFUSE TO FOLLOW THE NORMS OF PATRIARCHY. While I get the intended meaning behind "slut walks" and the other forms of demonstration, that's not the meaning they will have in the present political climate. I doubt there is anything to be gained by women identifying themselves with a form of stigmatization that covers both women who practice real sexual self-determination and women who are victimized by their inability to practice real self-determination.

* Pornography, by far the largest media and literary presence which gay men are allowed, is, in the majority of cases, an expression of patriarchal power over a subjected man. It is a demonstration that patriarchy is just a subset of economic and physical dominance over people, over all women and over a subset of men who can be used. Allowing that dominance in different variations isn't liberation it's just extending oppression masquerading as liberation.