Friday, January 30, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
...msnowe thinks there's so much wrong with This.
Back in college, the poster boy for the young republicans club came out with an editorial piece in the college newspaper. In it, he argued that if we allowed same sex couples to marry and receive benefits because their love for each other was as legit as a straight couple's, then what about the case of a man he knew, who fell deeply in love with his goat? Why could that man-goat couple not be afforded the same martial privileges, he argued? This article was accompanied by a rather crude cartoon, and to this day, msnowe wonders if the college newspaper editors gave this story space for the sheer fact of it's hate-talk and the impending debate. Obviously, considering it was a liberal college, there was an uproar, followed by marches, gay-rights t-shirts worn on coordinated days and pro-gay gatherings, etc. The outcry was large, and although it didn't change the view of those few people who were ignorant enough to write such stories, it caused the campus community to be more aware and mindful and proactive. In a sense, the story was good because it backfired on the GOP blowhard and got more people angry and less people agreeing or complacent with the viewpoints of the piece.
So what does this have to do with msnowe's opinion of the Female Desire piece in the New York Times last week? Well, the outcry against the story above exemplifies what should happen when a group is subjected to such absolutely asinine, ignorant comparisons and conjecture. Instead, the NYT's piece has been one of the most widely read stories of the week, and people seem to be gobbling it up without analyzing what the journalist is saying about "female" desire. Let's first understand this: regardless of whether or not the science is unfounded or completely correct, the presentation of this piece is in poor taste at best, and ignorant and sexist at its worst. There's no excuse for the way that the writer of this piece, Daniel Bergner, ignorantly uses latent sexism to describe his findings. [msnowe would like to note that just because a man wrote this piece, that doesn't mean it couldn't be done perfectly well by one.] But Bergner, consciously or not, enforces the "elusive, undefinable" notion of a "female desire" that allows both men and women to become misinformed, puzzled, and mystified by something that is just as raw and attainable as the "male" kind. It may not be comparing female sex with sex with goats--but there are a few paragraphs devoted to monkeys and rapists.
Msnowe wants to deal with multiple topics, but let's look at Bergner's story in its essentials first.
As a scientific piece, the scientists themselves are important, but in general it should be the research that takes center stage, especially as the article is targeted to try and define "Female Desire" (or so it falsely advertises).
Here are some snippets that mSnowe found particularly disturbing, that Bergner wrote to describe some of the
"While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively."
"A compact 51-year-old woman in a shirtdress, Meana explained the gender imbalance onstage in a way that complemented Chivers’s thinking."
"One morning in the fall, Chivers hunched over her laptop in her sparsely decorated office."
Let's see, shall we? Bergner has gone to describe the physical attributes and dress of the *lady* scientists, descriptions he decidedly left off when writing about the male sexologists. Somehow, their dress is connected with this study? Or is he just trying to picture them naked? What does this have to do with the task at hand? Perhaps someone should tell him that, OMG, women can totally excel in math and the sciences, and should be treated as equals?
The later part of the article focuses on the varied results of the multiple studies, some of the highlights being:
1. Women are aroused by rape/ravishing situations
2. Women are narcissistically desirous
3. Women are also aroused by all the clips presented on a screen, no matter what their apparent sexual orientation (of monkeys, hetero- and homosexual sex, etc.) as opposed to men, who are only aroused by the sex they prefer (straight guys get aroused watching lesbian sex and hetero sex; gay men are aroused when watching homosexual sex). This leads to the conclusion that women do not have a desirous gaze, the way a "male gaze" occurs (see Sontag photo criticism: the male gaze)
Okay, so this is a lot, but let's tackle it. First, an important distinction is made in the very beginning of the piece, and then summarily thrown out the journalistic window: "female" desire and female arousal have the capability to be diametrically separate from each other--they are not the same thing. But Bergner seems to forget this, and uses research solely on arousal for at least 3/4 of the piece to try and discover "female" desire. And it's really annoying that the NYTs had a piece two years ago that already made clear how shoddy the connection between the desire and arousal was, and made definite inroads into the idea that perhaps, maybe just perhaps, there was overlap between the sexes in terms of defining desire--that it was a concept that should not necessarily be broken out by sex. This is all part of the mysterious human psyche--not a choice between lavatories at the mall.
Meana, one of the scientists in this current piece even proclaims: “the variability within genders may be greater than the differences between genders.”
And the whole "women are narcissistic" argument? According to one scientist, female desire is essentially a "wanting to be desired"--a self-fulfillment from an external source, or something. To be fair to Bergner, the scientist introduces the term "narcissistic." But msnowe finds that term jarring, especially when applied only to her sex. Of course we want to be wanted--and that would probably be a universal assumption, unless, perhaps, you're a date rapist (or maybe not even). Does the woman always have to see herself as "the object?" Have we suddenly gone back to the Middle Ages, and the notions of courtly love?
And don't get msnowe started about this line of Bergner's:
"Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?"
One can only assume "Freud's question" has something to do with penis envy. Well, by all accounts, the studies prove it false. Also, how typical is it for some to throw up their hands in defeat when trying to solve an issue that is a) different from the determinations of the past (i.e. they FINALLY start studying female sex drive) or b) it might be more intricate of a topic than they'd like to delve into. I mean, it wouldn't be the first time a male started to try to find out the mysteries of woman's pleasure, and then just settled on discovering (or reaching the climax of) their own instead(or first, shall we say). Msnowe can tell you from experience--although she'd love the societal power that unfairly comes with that southern piece of outer equipment all you guys have, she really doesn't envy it physically.
Part two: Should desire be seen as gendered? And the "male" gaze--is that all there is? (to come...)
Monday, January 26, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
A person observes a wake and funeral. They can only hear what's going on--no sight. Also, they are dead. Pretty run-of-the-mill idea, wanting to be present for your funeral and hearing what people have to say. However, in msnowe's story, the dead listener would not realize it's their funeral, at least not at first. The overheard observations and stories and shared experiences relayed about the dead person would be so divergent from what the deceased thought of herself/himself that it would be an extreme blow to realize that in point of fact--your life was completely different from what you intended, and what you thought it was. In other words, not only is mortality beyond our control, but practically everything in life is like a small representation of death's beautiful dominion--we are, essentially everything we think we are, while at the same time completely nothing--a blank slate others need to write upon. We are nothing until we are defined by everything around us. It's the same argument as our concept of the world--we have one view of what it is like to live right now, in America or wherever else, but that view dies with each of us, and so there are some collective things agreed upon, but none of it exists outside our conceptions. The world without us would assuredly be here, but it would not have a name. And it surely wouldn't care anyways.
Perhaps msnowe and others would have a better go of it if they just accepted a little more death in their lives.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
As a femiladyist, it is expected of you to roll with the punches, and come back with a cleverly placed and effective right hook. And msnowe is often depressed by those poor saps who refuse to understand the constant, insane dialectic, but more often forgets that sometimes she tries to be a fix'd mark upon it, too.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
People in the city treat sidewalks like hallways, or enclosed spaces--there is a vanishing sense of being in public.
And this is easy to understand, perhaps. As the concrete buildings block out the natural light, and the crowds of people make you feel anonymous, there is no sense of guarded privacy, and the businesses and amenities don't make it feel like you could possibly be outside, unless some strongly adverse weather condition is constantly reminding you (i.e. pounding rain or howling winds).
Perhaps that is why, sometimes when msnowe shuts the door on the inside of her apartment after her trek home at night, she might feel glad to be out of the cold, but she doesn't feel like she's really come in from the outside. . .
Friday, January 09, 2009
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Olympics, by and large, really aren't that great. They're more a showcase of brute country strength (OMG medal count!) than they are of individual talent (Phelps aside, of course). Americans (and to some extent international folks) recognize pro athletes from the US teams more than they ever will Olympic athletes. And that makes sense--pros play hundred of games, and have major endorsements, and live lavish lifestyles we're obsessed with chronicling. But the Olympics offer a chance for relative unknowns to show off their abilities (hopefully gained naturally, and not by juicing), and gain a little renown while promoting sport and competition. Also, they can propel a sport's popularity (Think: American women's soccer right after the US Women's world cup final; though we won't mention how women's pro soccer is now defunct in the US).
But to get back on track--the Olympic committee, in their ignorance disguised as wisdom, scratched baseball and softball from the sports roster for the next summer games. Whatever you think about this decision, right or wrong--it is more of a blow to women's softball than it will ever be to baseball--and the idea that if you cut one sport you have to cut the other, well that's just plain sexist.
Why? --Baseball will not suffer. The dream of making the big leagues will still be there. But with softball? There are no big leagues. There was only the shot at special tournaments, and the Olympics. Not many people may know of Dot Richardson, or Lisa Fernandez, but if you played little league softball 10 years ago, these were your idols (especially Richardson, who's a kick-ass player and orthopedic surgeon--how many Yankees or Dodgers do you know with a doctorate?). They earned their status by winning the Olympics, and yes msnowe did consider trying to have the nickname of "Dot" catch on, to no avail.
This is why it pains msnowe to hear about the "parity" of cutting both sports from the Olmypics. At least kick-ass Dot is still fighting the good fight.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Monday, January 05, 2009
In comparison--back in the day, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't at least have a vague idea of what Byron looked like, or Wordsworth, or Blake. Yes, these were major literary figures, but m.snowe also knows that practically no one could pick out our current poet laureate out of a line-up. Or even if the common folk living at the time of these figures didn't recognize them, at the very least, their poems were part of the canon--the popular ideology of the day. Literature used to be a bigger part of everyone's lives--now its cordoned off into niches and groups of artists themselves, and scant appreciators. Or literature is converted into movies, adapted for TV shows, or otherwise ground up into some fine powder and sprinkled on top of our pop-culture ice cream, so no one notices they're being spoon-fed. Some current fiction writers have even claimed that writing has suffered because the audience is all fiction writers, therefore making all fiction about fiction, and using stylistic and other devices to impress the obsessively learned, instead of writing to please a larger general audience (which is essentially what the writers of 2 centuries ago were doing--Dickens was a tabloid serial writer, a literary soap opera writer of sorts--not that that should diminish his stature now).
The sad part is, despite the shift in our culture to mass adoration of movie stars and reality TV, many writers still seek to gain that renown which has not truly existed much past the 1960s, in terms of the culture (in the US) being saturated with poetry or fiction. (m.snowe realizes her views are tainted by her love of older literature, but, oh well). It makes her sad to see so many strive, so many who are talented, knowing that there isn't enough room for most of them, especially in today's economy. But m.snowe also thinks that writers, unless doing it for a living, need to focus less on celebrity and exposure. She says this, all the while acknowledging writers need more credit than they get. But on second thought, perhaps its better that writers aren't as celebrated as Byron--making love to that many ladies (and lords) just isn't advisable nowadays, and would be down-right hard to live up to.