Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cutting the Best Deal You Can

There's always so much to think about, especially when it means avoiding cleaning those things that sit under the burners on the stove. I've been thinking about Liz Phair, all y'all, and cooters*. The Professor and I had lunch down at Murphy's Loft and I had their delicious chicken salad wrap. (Now that I've said I like it, they will probably discontinue it, as they did with their other chicken wrap with the rice which I loved so much.) And we were talking about third-wave feminism--the feminism that loves to fuck--and its failings. And I was telling the Professor about this awesome article I read about Phair over at PopMatters, which links Phair's career ups and downs to the ups and downs of third wave feminism. The most important part** of the article comes in the last paragraph where Berg says
Is Liz Phair a female chauvinist pig? When Levy writes about young women being female chauvinist pigs, she's not necessarily pointing the finger at them for pro-sex-industry feminism gone awry. She is simply not taking their word that stripping is beneficial for women just because it's marketed as being feminist. When Phair sings in the new song "Table For One" that "I want to bring down all those people who drank with me / Watching happily my humiliation," I hear the women interviewed in Levy's book question the binge fucking that hasn't made them happy but don't know who to blame for feeling degraded. I hear myself at the strip clubs I used to visit, joining with men in humiliating other women on sexual display, happy to not be the target of such judgments for a short while. I believe that Phair, like many women, cut the best deal with patriarchy a talented, attractive woman can make, and she shouldn't be cast off as a sexed-up sellout any more than other women forced to navigate the choppy, pornified currents of our time.
There are two separate, but closely related important points in this paragraph. One is that going to strip clubs and watching pornography is always a loaded proposition for feminists. Yes, on the one hand, we are sexual beings and have a right to express our sexualities freely. But on the other hand, wow, is this complex. Think of the feminist women watching strippers, because we've decided now that stripping is empowering for women. I'll admit up front that I don't think being a whore is bad. I think trading yourself for material goods is fucked up and an indication that you might need therapy, but I don't think there's anything morally wrong with it as a life strategy. I think it becomes a problem only if that's one of two modes of being available to you--which, unfortunately, is still very much the case in many ways. And, since the Madonna/whore paradigm is still in place, going to watch strippers is superficially subversive. You aren't a "good" girl, because good girls don't hang at strip clubs. But you aren't a "bad" girl because the bad girls are up there on the stage. But it's not like you're showing solidarity with those women, if what Berg says is true (and, obviously, I suspect it is), that part of the thrill of going to the strip club is to join "with men in humiliating other women on sexual display, happy to not be the target of such judgments for a short while." I suspect that one might rightly critique third-wave feminists for not doing enough to realize the ways in which their brand of sex-positivity still trades on what men have designated as fulfilling sexual behavior. In other words, both the dancer and the female observer have cut the best deals they can with the patriarchy. And cutting deals with the patriarchy is some shallow kind of feminism. Our favorite old man is all the time offering me sage and paternalistic advice about how to land a man, the gist of which seems to be that one should play coy and not directly state one's feelings or desires. Frankly, this continually baffles me, as I wonder just how one is supposed to get what she wants if she doesn't articulate it. I'm left with two guesses. One is that maybe one is not supposed to actually desire anything, but to prop herself up like some blank beautiful canvas onto which someone might project all his desires, so that it's really just a matter of men searching around for the canvas most likely to yield the most aesthetic object as a result of his attentions. The other seems to me to be worse, that one should view getting men into relationships as trapping them and so one should pretend to be something she isn't long enough to fool a man into choosing her, and then, once she's hooked him, she can spring her real self on him. Both alternatives seem to me to hinge on the idea that no man would actually like the real me. Now, obviously, Sarcastro is my friend and he likes me well enough and he knows the real me, so I don't think that's actually what he's saying. But it reminds me of the problems of third-wave feminism, this idea that there's this game that men and women play with each other (let's call the game Patriarchy) and that most people aren't even aware that they're playing it, which--it seems third-wave feminists are saying--is fine because, as the failings of second-wave feminism have shown us, there's no real way to escape from the game and it's useless to try. Instead, the only really powerful thing we can do as feminists is to be aware that we are playing the game and to play our parts knowingly. Maybe it just goes to show that I'm some kind of old-fogey feminist, but I find that to be a pretty shitty conclusion to come to. *Kleinheider, I can sense you rolling your eyes, even now. In celebration of once again talking about cooters, I will tell you that my favorite euphemism for one's cooter is "jelly roll." Old fashioned and yet so oral-sex-friendly that it never loses its ability to delight. ** I'll just warn you up-front that Berg doesn't get "Johnny Feelgood," which, as far as I can tell, means she's not quite self-aware enough for her own good.

39 Comments:

Blogger Steve Pick said...

Aunt B,

As always, you set my mind to racing. So much to think about.

First, I think there is a misconception on the idea that women going to strip clubs are there to exploit the strippers the same way that men do. Because, a good percentage of women patrons in strip clubs wind up at least with their shirts off on the sides of the stage, or sometimes on the stage with the dancer. It's a complicated mix of being the customer and the item on display.

I think the whole issue of professional sexuality - from porn to strip clubs on up to prostitution - needs to be seen as something that constantly shifts shapes. Objects become subjects and back again all the time.

Now, admittedly, the paradigm is one defined by men, and not just good-hearted men, either. Frankly, there is an awful lot of nose-holding one has to do to enjoy any of the environment created around an exchange of fake desire for money.

Which, I guess, brings me to the idea of faking who one is in order to land a man (or a woman, because don't think it doesn't work in all directions.) We're all conditioned to seek some perfect ideal mate, and there is no such thing. So, everything we do during courtship, from holding in farts to acting interested in shoe shopping, is part of an elaborate ritual of playacting. We try to convince the other that we are an ideal, when in reality we're a human being.

Astonishingly, however, this method of courtship generally works about as well as any other. Which is to say, it leads to long periods of stability in relationships before something comes along to end it; in a significant number of cases, that something winds up being death.

Bringing it all back to Liz Phair, I was never a big fan in the first place. I couldn't get past her limited vocal range, though I appreciated the honesty of her lyrics. I don't see any problem with her decision to change her style, though I don't like the new stuff any more than the old.

11/07/2005 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Follow the Tao of Steve:

Empty your mind of desire.
Be Excellent (at something).
Withdraw.

We pursue that which retreats from us. The best part of any coupling is the flirtation that leads to pursuit. The thrill of the chase, if you will.

All I'm saying is that using the Ralph Malph method of coming right out and saying "Do you want to fuck" to every guy that you may fancy, may get you laid, but does that make you a feminist or just obnoxious?

Both of your views about either the blank canvas or the misleading a suitor are not the only options.

When I'm not pressed for time, I'll elaborate.

11/07/2005 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

Damn you, Sarcastro. You beat me to the pedantic punch. Nothing has proven a more reliable kiss O' death for me in relations with the fairer sex than being open and honest, and I'm not talking in the crude manner that Sarcastro has stated. Face it girls, you like a little mystery, and we ALL only chase the ones that one away. It's amazing the species is overpopulating with a F-ed up playbook like this.

11/07/2005 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Peggasus said...

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but mostly what I got from that article was Phair bemoaning (and denying) being part of the problem that she, in fact, helped create under the guise of 'empowerment.'

I kind of got the same feeling recently while reading the cover story on Christine Hefner in the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine. She, while supporting and being active in many women's causes, sees nor feels any confliction between that and being in the business she is in, CEO of the Playboy publishing empire. I forced myself to read it: details about how Playboy is getting into harder-core porn on many cable channels, and how she just sees it all as good business acumen. Forget the fact that her father is leaving his 70% stake in the company to his 2 teenage sons (by some other marriage, I suppose) and none of it all all to her. And she seems fine with it.

It all just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

11/07/2005 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Steve, I'd tell you that you're wise and insightful, but I hear that such straightforward appreciation is unseemly.

But, I think you've got a good strand of something here about things shifting shape. I'm reminded of Howard Stern's TV show where some stripper from Scores or some porn star will come in and, as you watch, it's clear that she's more comfortable talking to Stern while she's naked.

There's something important going on there that's not as simple as who's watching whom, but also how the person being viewed manipulates the situation. And I think that part of what's going on with women at strip clubs is a curiosity and desire to learn that kind of control.

For better or worse, though, we can't just interact in the strip clubs.

Sarcastro, I'm willing to trust you with a lot of things--counting my money, shooting my hobos, etc.--but I'm not trusting you with my spiritual well-being. Empty my mind of desire. Woo, what a boring interior life that leads to!

Anyway, what fun is feminism, what fun is anything, if not steeped in obnoxiousness? Is there really some other way of interacting besides teasing and provoking and challenging others? Other than long meandering intense conversations and inflamed passions? And, if so, is it enjoyable?

Because, I have to say, I doubt it.

Maybe you prefer to surround yourself with non-outrageous people (which I find hard to believe), but why should I conform to your guidelines for how a woman should behave? What's in it for me?

Since I think it's well-established that I'd gain nothing by following your advice--at least nothing that would make me happy--why bother to elaborate or continue to insist upon it?

Just enjoy me for who I am. I'm not demanding all your little coked up supermodels act like me. I'm just asking for enough room in the world for me to be myself.

Exador, I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for you or not.

Peg, argh. You are so right in a way I hadn't even thought about!

11/07/2005 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Wise up, B. I'm not saying "empty your mind of desire" ALL THE TIME!
Just when you are approaching the opposite sex.

Once again to quote Tao of Steve:
"Just a short seminar on the elimination of desire, okay? If you're out with this girl and even THINKING about getting laid, you're finished, cuz women can smell an agenda like shit on a shoe."

If your feminism is worth the paper it is printed on, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. A woman who comes up out of the blue and blurts out her sexual intentions right off the bat is thought of as
a)the drunk chick
b)Sharon Stone
c)recent head trauma victim
or
d)is working an angle like Annette Bening in "The Grifters"

11/07/2005 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

But, is this Zen/Buddhist/Toa thing a strategy to get laid or is this about really emptying your mind (body) of desires? If it's the former, then it's just a mask and shouldn't really work. If it's the latter, then you have no desire and no reason to still be in a bar (or wherever the sex you desire is). That seems like a real false dilemma, unlike the one B originally outlined, the one she is trying to break free from.

11/07/2005 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Sarcastro, what the fuck? Are you seriously going to leave all my important questions unanswered?

You leave me at an utter loss for words.

11/07/2005 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Prof,
Yep, just a strategy for getting laid. And it works like a charm. Whereas the "hey, do ya wanna fuck?" approach works, what, one time out of fifty?

B,
What were the important questions, again?

11/07/2005 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

First, that's "Tao"
Second, B informed me that I must make public my e-mail to her. Here goes:

I've been thinking about the whole "we want what we think we cannot have" thing, and I am wondering if it is all about self-loathing. Do these guys not trust that someone who says "I want you" really means it? So, do they need there to
first be evidence of lack of want and then a change of heart (through their chasing and chariming efforts ...) to prove that they are wanted? If so, that's truly fucked up. I don't think we consciously want to be mistreated, but I wonder if we do not see good treatment as something
we deserve. And people say women only want bad boys who will hurt us. WTF? maybe that's all we can get because the "good guys" don't believe us when we talk.

11/07/2005 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

Okay, I didn't mean that it shouldn't work, because I believe you that it does. What I mean is that you are not really emptying your mind (body) of desire. You are manipulating and misleading. That's NOT what the Tao says to do.

And, I have to say that the honest way does work - by me and to me, it has worked. But maybe those are the people who are honest with themselves about their desires the whole time.

11/07/2005 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Prof,
I didn't want to get into a spelling correction match with a member of academia.

But isn't it that same academia that is causing you girls to over think this deal? The old sayings we are brought up believing like "Nothing worth having is free" or "You get what you pay for" or "There is no free lunch" etc. are drilled in our heads. So, for someone to come out of the shadows and offer up a car, a watch or their "virtue" causes most people to say "Ok, what is the catch?" Not that you aren't being sincere, honest and upfront, but we boys are used to having to put in a little effort.

There doesn't have to be evidence of lack of want, many attractions are instant and mutual. But unless you are the epitome of physical beauty, usually there is some level of charm, flirtation and guessing of intentions at work.

People don't say that you only want bad boys, but when you say "Ok, who wants to take the skin boat to Tuna Town", who do you think is going to sign on as the crew? The guy who needs the job more than the guy who wants the job will push his way to the front of the line. This is where being a discriminating employer, who looks for the quality crew member, not the first in line comes into play. Here endeth the tortured metaphor.

11/07/2005 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

S., I'm suspicious that you have some deal worked out with the Butcher where you will do whatever it takes to reclaim your position at the top of my shit list whenever he does something to move into the number one spot.

Here's why this argument has reached a kind of absurdist equilibrium of beauty.

1. Your position rests on the belief that my first goal should be to get with someone. My position rests on the belief that one should be honest about what she wants. It may be that those two positions are incompatible--someone who believes that a girl's first goal is to get with someone is obviously going to be disconcerted by a girl whose first goal is to be honest--but it doesn't matter because we don't need to have compatible goals because we aren't trying to reach the same end. You want to get with cute little girls. I want to be happy. Those things don't have anything to do with each other.

2. And I'm going to just admit upfront that this is an absurd objection to this line of argument, but we're talking absurdities, and so there you are--but it pisses me off that you conflate a rhetorical strategy I adopt online with who I actually am as a person as it suits your needs--especially when you know me in both realms. And I can't tell if you're doing it intentionally as a goal or if it's just a happy accident because it pisses me off and I don't have any defense against it.

11/07/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

Yes, BUT, let's go back to the original post and recall that all those old sayings, while deeply ingrained and habituated, are actually based on some ideas about men and women (especially in terms of sexualities) that are untrue and damaging to all of us. Why don't we all work together to change those bad habits? It will at least mean more sex for most of us. And, once we set out to resolve some problems that arise in 3rd wave feminism, it should also mean better sex. Who does want that?

Oh and thanks for not making fun of my typing.

Over think? What's that?

11/07/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Put them scissors down Shelby!

I figure there are worse shit lists to be atop of.

You keep thinking I'm advocating dishonesty. I'm not saying to hold out until the third date, give an alias or not tell someone when you want to hop in the sack with them. But you are saying that your goal is happiness. But then you muddy the waters with Liz Phair, strippers and porn queens. As if that is the ideal fantasy woman that you are competing with. Well, if you can't play on the same uneven field, you can use certain techniques, which as a medical professional, I am trained in to judge body language as susceptability to your seduction. Oh, wait I'm confusing posts again. Dammit!

11/07/2005 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

I think what Sarcastro (and myself) is trying to say is simply that we are trained to follow the law of Supply and Demand, i.e., if something is offered up as free, we (men and women) have a wierd inclination to think that it is not valuable.
Wish I wasn't at work, so I could explain this in more detail.

11/07/2005 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

But I live in the world, where there are strippers and Liz Phair and porn queens. How can my waters not be muddied by them?

See, Exador, I think you have a legitimate point--that folks aren't trained to accept something that seems too easy--but so what? Why is that my problem?

I mean, to get back to Sarcastro's point, about competition. Come the fuck on. There is no competition. It doesn't matter if I sat down every day from here until mid-May and studied "Sarcastro's Game Plan for Too Honest Girls," choosing to play the game in my case always means choosing to lose.

This actually brings us back to one of the points of the post, which is that third-wave feminism--this idea that, as long as we're aware that we're playing the game, it's fine to play it--is bullshit, because only the cute girls--the strippers and the porn stars--can win.

Which, in the end, is what makes me furious at Sarcastro, because he keeps insisting that, if only I'd modify my behavior just a little, I could find a man and be happy. Well, one, no man is going to fix my problems. I come from a long line of unhappy people who have yet to find someone other than themselves to make them happy and I doubt that I will be any different and, two, bullshit. If I play the game, I lose, because there's always going to be someone skinnier, prettier, and more compliant than me.

How can you not see that my best option is to not play, to try something else, even if it fails wildly? At least I don't know that it's going to fail and there's a chance that it might work. As opposed to what you guys are advocating, which just is never going to work for me, ever.

11/07/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

Aunt B,

I think you don't give men enough of a benefit of the doubt. Perhaps men are generally more shallow than women, but you make it seem like an all or nothing world. Women do the same thing that men do, we just do it a little more. Men and women go by appearance first (tie in to the stripper metaphor) but then we both tip the scales one way or the other, as we know the person better. This is because we see more of the PERSON and less of the appearance.
And intelligent men KNOW this. I know what strippers look like on stage. I also know what they look like without all the blacklights, makeup, and booze (for me). I know what it's like trying to have a conversation with them. (I'm generalizing, if there are any strippers that read this.) That doesn't mean I don't have fun at strip clubs. I do, but I know it's a show.

But, hey. What I know. I SUCK at talking to women.

11/07/2005 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

How can you not see that my best option is to not play, to try something else, even if it fails wildly? At least I don't know that it's going to fail and there's a chance that it might work. As opposed to what you guys are advocating, which just is never going to work for me, ever.

Well, it isn't going to work with that attitude, young lady.

11/07/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

All right. Fine. I eagerly await the arrival of my copy of "Sarcastro's Guide for Girls."

11/07/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

All proceeds from the Guide go to Sarcastro's Home for Wayward Girls.

11/07/2005 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

Aunt B,

Are you trying to flatter me into revealing my secret identity? I didn't know we have met.

11/07/2005 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All proceeds from the Guide go to Sarcastro's Home for Wayward Girls.
This may not be the right time to zoom in with a flippant remark, but it must be done. Isn't Sarcastro's Home for Wayward Girls also known by it's shorter name, "Sarcastro's Home"?

As for emptying your mind of desire, I think that's about having nothing to lose. If you know you're okay win or lose, it's a lot easier to make things happen.

11/07/2005 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Correct on both counts, Anon. Success with the opposite (or same) sex is predicated many times on confidence. People with low levels of self-confidence tend not to make eye contact and wind up with desperation stamped on their foreheads. By not caring (emptying ones mind of desire) if you get laid, prevents that nervous roadblock from keeping you from being witty and charming when wooing the object of your intentions.

And if being more relaxed and confident is somehow 'dishonest', you have bigger problems than not getting laid.

11/08/2005 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Whatever. I, too, could drink beer by the fistful and be plenty relaxed. Be sure to include that little strategy in your "Guide."

11/08/2005 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

So now we are making this personal?
I happen to be very thirsty.

11/08/2005 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Now? Now?! NOW?!?!?!?

Oh, I see, it only counts as personal when it hits a little too close to where you live.

Questioning my feminism and implying that I'm an obnoxious loser who can only get laid by accident is fair play.

If I were a Christian, you'd be off the Christmas card list, buddy.

11/08/2005 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Yeah, but the obnoxious loser who gets laid by accident bit was weeks ago. Whatever happened to letting bygones be bygones?

I would question your feminism if I could figure out what it was. I start to nod off whenever the word patriarchy is deployed. Also, what is third-wave feminism? When will the people who come up with such concepts realize that women are individuals and that their academic exercises tend to treat women as a monolithic entity. One woman's empowerment is another woman's prison.

11/08/2005 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Do ya read me? There's no such thing as letting bygones be bygones. It's all 'let it fester till you've almost forgotten about it and then drag it back out into the light of day to see how bad it stinks.'

Plus, please, do go on about how I'm the one who reduces all women to one monolithic entity, when you're the one who's spent this whole discussion arguing that I'd be happier if I only acted like all the girls you know.

Because that shit is cracking me up.

11/08/2005 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Exador said...

Yeah, who knew feminism came in waves? Anyway, where are all these 3rd wave gals that are so ready to behave like men and have random, anonymous sex? I guess I always get cock-blocked by the first or 2nd wavers that are still in that "Oppressor!!!!" mode like Donald Sutherland at the end of Body Snatchers.

11/08/2005 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

You mean, I think you'd be happier if you acted like the people who are happy? No, go ahead, wallow in your misery.

I hope your grudge keeps you warm at night.

11/08/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarcasto and Aunt B should just go ahead and fuck and get it over with.

All this sexual tension is making me sqirm...

11/08/2005 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'let it fester till you've almost forgotten about it and then drag it back out into the light of day to see how bad it stinks.'
A commonly employed relationship tactic. The anonymous poster above me may be right about you two. It's all so Ross and Rachel.

Incidently, the anon post above about emptying your mind of desire was me. I just forgot to sign it.

W

11/08/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

When will the people who come up with such concepts realize that women are individuals and that their academic exercises tend to treat women as a monolithic entity. One woman's empowerment is another woman's prison.

I would tend to wholeheartedly agree with this. But that's just me.

11/08/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Kate and Petruccio... a girl can see that as a compliment of sorts. But Ross and Rachel? Blegh.

11/08/2005 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

I was thinking more along the lines of Archie and Edith.

11/08/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I can't help but be reminded of Bubba Skinner... oh, Bubba Skinner...

11/08/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

If you dated him, would you be "Bubba Skinner's Box"?

The password is (!) suxjb

11/08/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

That is funny on so many levels I'm in awe of you yet again. Twice in one week. Surely there must be some atmospheric explanation.

11/08/2005 03:42:00 PM  

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