Thursday, February 16, 2006

Karin Agness is So Cute I Could Just Eat Her Up (after stewing her in my cauldron!!!!)

Before we get started, let's just review why we here at Tiny Cat Pants love libertarians. In order of importance: 1. They give us rides home when we need them and let us see their large construction equipment. 2. They call us up and pretend not to notice that we're crying and say things like "You need to stand up for yourself, B. Don't let those fuckers patronize you." in such a way that we feel like maybe we can kick a little ass. 3. They send us photos titled "Naked Under the Afghan" which still makes us laugh so hard we about can't stand it. 4. Though they seem to be atheist, they give awesome Christmas presents, including ping pong balls and The Triplets of Belleville. 5. They're on the side of right in the whole pitbull debate. 6. They are fun to fight with, because they have well-thought-out, though obviously usually wrong, positions. 7. They often buy us beer. 8. They threaten to beat people up for us and they mean it. Etc. And today, one of them sent me a link to this darling little article by Karin Agness over at Really, all you need to know about Agness for this to be funny, even without my commentary, is that she's the president of the Network of Enlightened Women (leading me to not be able to refrain from saying that everything old is NeW again) at the University of Virginia, where ladies can go to hear talks on such ground-breaking and controversial subjects as "Sex, Lies and the Vagina Monologues" ("explaining how the Vagina Monologues has hijacked a romantic holiday with a poorly written play that is vehemently anti-male and degrading to women") and "Taking Sex Differences Seriously" ("Examining the real biological disparities between men and women, he explains how contemporary society's denial of sex differences has shaped the sexual revolution, fatherless families, and flawed social policy"). This is so close to shooting fish in a barrel that I almost suspect a libertarian plot to pull me out of my doldrums by showing me that each generation will bring forth new fools who need my attention. Just to switch topics here for a second, the Professor and I went to hear this awesome speaker whose name now utterly escapes me, who was talking about how the media constructed our ideas about feminism back in the 70s. It was amazing, and she (the speaker, not the Professor) brought up this really crucial point about how there was a real difference between the liberal feminists, who started NOW, and believed in ending blatant discrimination against women and the radical feminists who weren't interested in having the media spotlight and who didn't give a shit about what outsiders thought of them, but were interested in raising women's consciousness about what it means to be a woman and how to work towards freeing themselves from oppressive gender roles--the ones who protested the Miss America pageant. I bring this up because I think what we see with Agness is so fascinating in this historical light. These "NeW" women are clearly for some forms of equality--Agness goes to college, she writes in a public forum, she's president of an organization--so they've clearly adopted and internalized some feminist goals as being appropriate goals for them to have. But they're the goals of the liberal feminists of the 2nd wave. And then it becomes clear that her problems with The Vagina Monologues are, in part, that Ensler's goals are for the piece are more clearly aligned with the goals of the radical feminists of the 2nd wave. Ensler in The Vagina Monologues isn't concerned with social justice for women; she's concerned with consciousness raising through art. Fascinating. I can't decide if it's good news that these conservative women who are anti-feminist assume, though, that the goals of liberal feminists of the 2nd wave are just well-established matters of fact or if it's sad that they aren't aware of the debt they owe to these women they now deride as having ruined society. Anyway, onto Agness's piece. Let us look at the interesting nuances of the first paragraph:
While most people were celebrating or searching for love on Valentine's Day, groups of women throughout the country decided to forego this lovely holiday to talk about their vaginas.
First, it's obvious that Agness missed the Yahoo story about how most single people actually aren't looking for love, but second, look how she unhooks "love" from vaginas. This is so fascinating, since it's a commonly-held belief that one of the appropriate ways for a woman to show a man how much she loves him is to take him up inside her vagina. Flowers and candy are tools of seduction. That's the underlying theme of Valentine's day. Shoot, how many of you have October birthdays. Hmm. I wonder why that is? Anyway, my point is that, as long as Valentine's Day is linked with romance and love, it will be linked with sex and as long as sex is still something girls have, it's linked with vaginas. But Agness has to neuter the holiday, take the fucking out of it, in order to claim it as something "pure" that the dirty,vulgar feminists ruin with all their pussy talk. Then she goes on to do just what we talked about, making a bunch of statements about how the "good feminists" used to be. And then, again, she does something interesting. She makes these claims about the accusations feminists made against men and then says "Now feminists have reversed the scenario, and women are exploiting themselves." But that's not a reversal of the scenario at all. A reversal would be for women to exploit men. It would be interesting if she'd made this claim, because then it'd back up her earlier claim that feminists hate men. But, as it stands, she never actually talks about men or shows how she knows that feminists hate them. But then, as I was reading, I got to the point where Agness talks about what's going on in the play itself and suddenly I felt very bad for her. It's right where she says
The woman in this monologue has clearly reduced herself to a body part. This is way worse than the supposed objectifying that feminists claimed men did in the 1970s. Can you imagine if a man then or today would say to a woman, "Your clitoris is you?" No, only a leftist woman can get away with saying this.
Do you see it? Maybe not. So, let me spell it out for you. The woman in the monologue is not real. She is a character, voiced by a lot of different actors every year. It's not always going to be a "leftist woman" who speaks those lines. But even if it was, these characters don't carry the same weight as a real person. Here, look at this, when she's complaining about another piece in the Monologues.
The 24-year-old asks her to spend the night, feeds her vodka, slides into lingerie and then teaches the young girl how to play with herself. If this is not abuse, I don't know what is. Still, this is not condemned in the play.
See that--"this is not condemned in the play." Holy shit! Y'all, clearly, she doesn't understand art. Clearly, she thinks art is just propaganda--that it has a clear message that you are supposed to learn to adhere to. She thinks that, if something is not obviously condemned in the play then the play must be endorsing it. The Butcher and I have this fight about what "art" is all the time. He wants some clear high-faluting definition. I say that art can be anything intentionally made by someone that causes you to pause to reconsider. And I think Ensler in this piece does that. You do pause to reconsider what is violent and what is not, what is appropriate and what is not. You pause to reconsider what you would have felt like under those circumstances. That's the luxury art gives you--time and space for consideration. It doesn't matter if we think that character's experience was moral or immoral or good or bad, because she's just a character. Portraying her story is not an argument for behaving that way. It's just a chance to consider what that story means to you. Bless her heart, that Agness, who doesn't know what art is for. I don't know that I've ever thought this before, but clearly she needs more help than feminism can give her. --------- --I can't think where to add it, but Mephistophocles's post fits in here somehow. --Also, check out W.'s happy willingness to link cooters and Valentine's Day. --I alluded to man-hating lesbian feminist witch covens with my cauldron reference in the title, but then forgot to work it in. Here's a little art to bring it all full circle. For good fun, read it out loud. I swear it's as close as you're going to get to having Shakespeare's tongue in your mouth. ACT IV SCENE I A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. First Witch Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. Second Witch Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined. Third Witch Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time. First Witch Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights has thirty-one Swelter'd venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i' the charmed pot. ALL Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. Second Witch Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. ALL Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Third Witch Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches' mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark, Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew Silver'd in the moon's eclipse, Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips, Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver'd by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron.


Blogger Exador said...

Does this mean you are out of your doldrums?

I love it when you get your feminist moxie all fired up.

2/16/2006 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I am feeling better. Not great, but not utterly downtrodden. I guess it does me good when you rile me up. Thanks.

2/16/2006 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger W said...

look how she unhooks "love" from vaginas
I'd say you're getting a little imaginative there B. Perhaps she's unhooking love from vaginas, but that's only in the particular context of the Vagina Monologues. I haven't seen it, are any of the monologues about love? I suspect there's a lot more too it than love, and the vagina's use in expressing it.

2/16/2006 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger W said...

Oh yeah, and my birthday is in October. I hadn't considered that when I posted about Valentine's Day.

2/16/2006 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

W., how can you doubt my best point?!

You say "Perhaps she's unhooking love from vaginas, but that's only in the particular context of the Vagina Monologues."

To which I say--Yes, that's exactly my point.

Look at what she's saying--"While most people were celebrating or searching for love on Valentine's Day, groups of women throughout the country decided to forego this lovely holiday to talk about their vaginas."

Look at all the assumptions she casually asks you as a reader to make--that most (read "normal") people spend Valentine's Day a certain way (celebrating or searching for love) as if there's only one proper and agreed-upon way to spend the holiday, that there are these few women (read "deviants" who aren't like us) who forego the holiday to sit around and talk about vaginas.

If the holiday is about love and sex--which I think we all agree it is--why is talking about women's sex organs "foregoing" the holiday?

I'm not reading too much into this. She's clearly saying "if you're sitting around talking about women's sex organs, you are not properly celebrating a holiday devoted to love and sex."

If it's a holiday, in part, devoted to sex, how can one see a discussion of women's sex organs as anything other than one appropriate way to celebrate the holiday?

Only someone who's trying to make the point that feminists' behavior is improper and deviant and that "good" people should not participate in it by watching this play.

I mean, you almost get it. Yes, she's unhooking love from vaginas, in the context of the play, but then you move to ask questions about the play. Why? She's the one questioning the validity of the play. If love and lust and sex and vaginas aren't all appropriatea discussions for Valentine's Day, she's got to prove it. It's not up to the play to justify itself in the face of her world-view. It's up to her to prove her world-view has a valid framework for providing useful critique.

I think it's obvious that it doesn't.

2/17/2006 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Plimco said...

I played the third witch in college. We brought all sorts of twigs and branches and dirt into the black box space. It was so fucking intense to perform these incantations and cover ourselves in mud in front of an audience. The ritual of it all. So powerful.

2/17/2006 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger W said...

On reflection, you're probably right. That was surely her intent. I'm probably just reading into it what it would mean if I said it.

Clarify for me. What exactly is the Vagina Monologues about?

2/17/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Plimco, you have all the fun roles.

W., it's a series of semi-fictionalized monologues about how women feel about their vaginas. I don't know if that clears things up or makes it more confusing.

2/17/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen the same large construction equipmentI have seen? Iagree totally with #2. Whoever said that is a genious!

2/17/2006 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Anonymous, did you see that cool jackhammer? If so, then yes.

2/18/2006 07:59:00 PM  

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