Stranger Things: More normal than you’d think.

I’ve been trying to write some kind of review on Stranger Things for a while now, but every time I sit down to do it, I find I just don’t have the energy.

So here goes. Really gonna try this time. Definitely gonna contain plot spoilers. This is probably best read after you’ve seen all eight episodes.

There’s about a million reviews on Stranger Things out there, the vast majority of them are full of positive hype, much of which the show deserves. If you like a nostalgic retro-feel 1980s homage, this is your jam. It’s Super 8 meets Stand by Me meets ET meets The Goonies, complete with an awesome soundtrack, solid casting, and an engaging (albeit not terribly original) plot. And it’s creepy. I’ve been craving a creepy show, and it’s been hard to find one that isn’t one rung down from torture porn (Hemlock Grove, what a crushing disappointment).


Stranger Things has some major shortcomings that made it cringingly hard to watch at times. As happens with most things I watch/read, at one point I said aloud, “If they kill Barb, I’m gonna stop watching this.” Obviously I didn’t. :P But that I found myself saying that at all points to ST‘s first major weakness: predictability.

ST is at its heart a reverential throwback, playing on all manner of (especially Spielberg-esque) 1980s movie tropes, which as The Atlantic‘s Lenika Cruz points out, is both good and bad. The nostalgic ambience makes for an immersive environment, on the one hand. But on the other, the temptation to fall back on, er, other historically relevant tropes certainly makes the show less relatable for some of us.

I wasn’t upset that they killed Barb because I believe characters should never be expendable. Rather because from the moment she appeared on screen, she is immediately recognizable as precisely the kind of character deemed expendable in 80s cinema, as well as the present: nerdy, not conventionally attractive, peripheral, marginal. All things that I (and many other people who don’t generally see themselves represented in media) can connect with. And all things that, in combination with being feminine, female-bodied, and/or a woman, can be lethal for a character. The giveaway for me was the short hair. “This girl’s a goner,” I thought. Man, I hate being right.

It isn’t merely that characters like Barb are pathetic tagalongs, tripping up the much more glamorous adventures of their more conventionally attractive (in all its senses) counterparts– in this case, Nancy. And it isn’t that they rarely-if-ever are the hero protagonists. It’s that they have to die. In Barb’s case, a gruesome on-screen death. “Unnecessary” doesn’t begin to describe it. The creators, the Duffer Brothers, felt the need to dismember Barb and then later show us her rotting body to reinforce this violence.

“But but but,” I can hear the refutations of the DnD ST fandom begin, “the four heroes of the story are nerdy, not conventionally attractive, marginalized characters. They’re always getting beat up by bullies, their only ally at school is the science teacher.” That’s wonderful. I’m glad the nerds/misfits/outcasts get to be heroes for once (except that this is arguably another 80s trope– à la Goonies, Weird Science, Bill & Ted). But all those heroes have something in common: they’re (cis)boys. Barb can’t be a hero, or even a hero tagalong, and in fact it’s okay to disembowel her– ’cause she’s a girl. It’s pretty straightforward misogyny, really.

“But but but,” another refutation may start, “what do you call Eleven, if not a hero? And she’s a girl.” Sadly, the most interesting character in the story becomes a martyr for the boy-heroes, but not before they play out their heteronormative fantasies playing dress-up doll with her. Cruz’s review is a very solid description of ST‘s failures when it comes to El’s plotline, so I won’t reiterate them here.

I suppose some might try to raise Nancy as a girl-hero, but whatever character growth she accomplishes is certainly dampened by her choice to stick with her abusive boyfriend. To be fair, her alternate love interest is also her stalker at one point, so…

At the end of the day, it’s the Duffer Brothers who mold the girl/feminine/female-bodied characters on the show and choose their fate. The Duffer Brothers play out their fantasies (and the fantasies of countless [especially nerd] boys) in ST, through boy and girl characters alike– oh, and it is really that binary. Friendships, adventures, romances, and heroism all revolve around the boy characters.

I had other issues with ST, including the treatment of madness, single motherhood, and the show’s overwhelming whiteness. It’s not perfect, but Stranger Things is entertaining, and a wonderful fantasy, especially if you’re a cishet boy. Who knows, maybe Season Two will have something for the rest of us.

Reblog: Dangerously Provocative

Feminist Philosophers

Jessica Wolfendale (co-editor of Fashion: Philosophy for Everyone)  is currently completing an article on sexual modesty. Her most recent article, “Provocative Dress and Sexual Responsibility,” is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law. and now she’s just published a piece on being “dangerously provocative” here.

The provocatively dressed woman is dangerous. She is disruptive; a distraction and a temptation. She can lead good men to thoughts of infidelity; she can distract men and boys from the important tasks of work and education. The dangers posed by the provocatively dressed woman mean that she must be monitored and controlled. Girls must be forbidden from wearing provocative clothing to school, so that they don’t distract boys.[2] As a principal of a Canadian High School wrote in a letter to parents: “Girls wearing short skirts should think about how they sit and what is revealed when…

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Who Writes the Rules

Who decides what the rules are when it comes to gender and sex?

The short answer is, the People at the Top. You may not be surprised to discovered that, in patriarchal cultures (which describes most cultures), this is men. We can be more specific, however: bottom-to-top position in this hierarchy is determined by many things, and the closer one gets to the top, the richer, more educated, and lighter-skinned these men get. Upon discovering that the People at the Top are predominantly wealthy, white, Western males, understanding gendered rules and expectations becomes a lot easier. Patriarchal hierarchies of dominance vary from place to place (and even time to time), but the patterns of wealth, education, skin colour, ability, age, sexual orientation, and so on are fairly consistent.

As many people have discussed, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of race and other categories, the People at the Top do not actively and consciously determine and define gendered rules, necessarily; rather, it is largely through their mere existence as Normal and Best (or Default, as some say– I like that) that definitions of other persons are shaped relative to them. Male equals normal, female equals abnormal or deviant; male equals default, female equals Other.

That’s the short answer, but it’s not whole answer. The more accurate, complete, and much longer answer is: everybody. We all decide what gendered rules and expectations will be, by following them. And perhaps even more importantly, by punishing those who deviate. It comes so naturally to us it seems biologically innate to call the boy in your eighth grade class who was caught wearing toe nail polish a fag. Hatred and fear of deviance, however, is not innate; it is learned. We are taught early and often that deviation is bad, most appreciably by being punished, ourselves. Normal/good little boys do not play with dolls; they pretend to shoot each other. Normal/good little girls do not pretend to shoot each other; they sweetly and passively care for their dolls. Full-grown men do not cry. Full-grown women do not have double mastectomies. Et cetera. This is reinforced to us all our lives. We witness what happens to those who deviate, and we learn to participate in their persecution, be it in the comments section of Youtube or NPR, or on sports teams, or in ballet class, or in our classrooms, or within our own families (this is often referred to as gender policing). If you are not doing the persecuting, chances are you might be persecuted– so which side would you want to be on? This is the question faced by every single person who lives within the confines of patriarchal culture.

The next time you hear someone tell a young man “boys don’t cry” (or “you throw like a girl”, or whatever), call to mind the question: Who decides what the rules are when it comes to gender and sex? You do. Either through your inaction or by validating that young man’s feelings, you are helping to decide what the rules are.

In order to contemplate the rules and think about how you’d like them defined, they first have to be recognizable. For most people, gender rules are normative and it would never occur to them to question them. Those who do are said to be “challenging Nature” and pushing “unnatural ideas”. Challenging our conceptions of “natural” is a good place to start.

The End of Men (…or not.)

A friend got me Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men a couple of months ago (thanks, E!); here (at last) is a review.

Rosin’s book has a rather pejorative title, no? But don’t fear, penis-bearers, she doesn’t intend it in as antagonistic a manner as it sounds. Rather, this book could serve as a warning for those stuck in antediluvian concepts of gender, family, and work. The most pitiful “characters” in TEoM are those guys who have lost– wives, jobs, hope for the furture– because they refused to adapt to a new and different kind of gendered environment.

Rosin suggests that there is a shift taking place in American society, one that finally puts ‘feminine’ concepts in a positive light, particularly in the workplace. It would behoove men, she says, to adopt more traditionally (and stereotypically)-feminine traits and qualities in order to move ahead in the workplace, as their traditionally-masculine traits and qualities are no longer so beneficial– and, indeed, may be hindering them.

She points to this shift as the reason for Women’s Rise, which presumably means more money-making and keeping capacity, and associated benefits: more power in family decision-making, higher status in the sociocultural realm. I enjoyed her in-depth analysis and interviews of women in managerial positions, as well as her observations of women on other up-and-coming career paths, like the pharmacy business.

The most important and provoking lesson that I took from this book, though, is that this may be the End of Men, but it is certainly not the End of Patriarchy: I was struck by how patriarchal the “successful” women featured in this book truly were. Their competitiveness, desire to achieve status and status-lending commodities, aggression and even violence– yes, women of the past were “kept down” by the Patriachy, but our liberation from It does not signal the demise of It. No, we have only obtained more power to participate in the system in a different way… And participate we do.

Nor does the End of Men free women from the oppression of Patriarchy, as the “career women” feature in Rosin’s book still very much adhere to culturally-dictated norms of sexuality and gender.

Nevertheless, TEoM provides hope, too– for women, and for men. It’s a fast read and inspires fun discussion; read it!

Hester Prynne

In American Lit during 10th grade we read the timeless, dreaded classic The Scarlett Letter. Perhaps the bane of the anti-lit student’s existence, I quite enjoyed this novel, you know, for its level of meaning and motif of struggling with sexuality, among other things.

My teacher, “Cruel” Juel, was a big fan of symbolism. From her I learned how Hester Prynne’s hair is symbolic of feminine sexuality: long and lush, Hester wears her hair down despite the disapproval of her Puritan neighbors. Maybe I took it the wrong way, but I read Cruel Juel’s interpretation as the longer a woman’s hair, the more sexual she is. Later I thought maybe she meant, the longer her hair, the more expressive of her sexuality she is. Perhaps it should be the longer the hair the more sexualized a woman is. I don’t know. But I’ve head plenty of people make the connection between hair and sexuality. And it was really awkward for me, in that class, having the shortest hair of any girl in the 10th grade (and the whole school, really). Does that mean I’m not a sexual being? I wondered.

A good recent example from pop culture is Katy Perry’s “Part of Me”. In the video she breaks up with her neglectful, apparently deceitful boyfriend, cuts her hair, and joins the Marines. The hair cutting is presented as a crucial element of her cutting ties with the past/a bad relationship/etc.

Someone I used to know once made a “mistake” with her friend– maybe it was a mistake because it didn’t turn out like she thought it would. I didn’t know about it as I hadn’t seen her during a long summer break. When I did see her again, I was stunned to see that she had cut all her hair off! She used to have hair to the middle of her back, at least, and she now had a pixie cut. It looked fantastic on her, too– not just physically, but psychic-ly as well, like something better had been released by losing part of her physical being.

Rather than losing part of her sexuality, she had inadvertently discovered a deeper part of her sexuality. And through her, so did I. She probably didn’t understand the affect it had on me.

Interestingly, it turns out that Cruel Juel was right in my case, that there is a connection between sexuality and hair. I think my hair is symbolic of my sexuality in a way– not because of its length, but because of my autonomy over it, my choice to take on full decision-making for it as I was “coming of age”, and because I don’t let other affect my self-perception of my own image– and thus my sexuality.

Musings on Patriarchy

Most (all?) societies on this planet could be described as patriarchal and they many of the same elements in common, but it is likely that Patriarchy also manifests itself in unique ways from culture to culture. From my measly quotidian experience of two years in Cambodian, here are some things I’ve noticed can be said to constitute it as a patriarchally dominated culture, including ways that differentiate it from other patriarchal cultures. This is a brief, general list, just things that are rolling around in the ol’ noggin.


It is apparent the world over that labor is almost always sexed. This means that some work is “women’s work” and some “men’s work”. This is often true of Cambodia, too, but another interesting, seemingly benign effect of the patriarchy on labor demographics has to do with age. In spite of all the “respect your elders” rhetoric one hears around the Kingdom, there is an awful lot of ageism going on. This means that, once you reach a certain age, you might find it very difficult to attain certain types of jobs– or even any job at all. People may expect you to retire. They may treat you like you’re slow-witted or fragile. It’s meant well, I’m sure, and of course some people really do slow down in their old age. But it’s quite mythological that old people are sought out for their wisdom and this and that; at some point, many old people here simply become spectators to the lives of the young. With the emphasis on families (especially having many children, in some instances), it’s not so surprising that the elderly are even expected to live vicariously through their children and grandchildren– even when they’re lively, even when they still have their own ambitions.

Ageism is frequently an intrinsic part of Patriarchy; only the young, fit, and virile may be successful, competitive. This is in part from where our drive to remain “forever young” is derived. To show one’s age is to show weakness, or even worse, uselessness and dependency. Yes, the words of your [male] elders may be respected, but probably not heeded. In a world of endless competition, one cannot afford to be cautious. The old may learn from life’s lessons and try to impart them to their successors, but it’s the young who “seize the day”. To this end, countless cosmetics, health foods, surgeries, and so forth have been created as a kind of fountain of youth, that we may put off “showing our age” for as long as humanly possible. Wrinkles and grey hair are repulsive and pathetic, not a sign of a life long lived.


Although both men and women in Cambodia have limited options in sexuality, women definitely get the short end of this stick. For while it is noted and even tolerated that men may be straight/cisgender or queer, women are “only” straight. I often find it odd that, for as homophobic mainstream Cambodian culture can be, female-to-male (FTM) transgender folk and gay guys get talked about with a certain frequency, whilst the subject of gay women is mysteriously absent. It’s sort of like the old Syrian proverb, “There are no gays here.” Well, no gay women anyway.

I’m told (by foreigners) that gay men in Cambodia are “acceptable” on some level, that Buddhism approaches them as souls who were put in the “wrong” body, and thus we should respect them, or at least feel sorry for them. However, I have encountered rampant homophobia, bordering on violence (or at least threats of violence), concerning gay men. It is the polite thing to do to pretend it doesn’t exist, and people start to get angry if they can’t do just that. Of course, there are plenty of people who simply don’t care one way or another, are willing to live and let live, as it were. LGBTQ allies, however, are few and far between Cambodia has a very quiet (mainly male, largely foreign) LGBTQ scene. I imagine that as this community grows more vocal and (hopefully) more accepted in the future, they will also gain more allies.

Also, women never have sex before marriage here. Unless they are broken.


Cambodian families, like families anywhere, vary greatly. It would be unfair to say that all Cambodian men are heads of households or that all Cambodian women experience some sort of DV or discrimination by another family member. The statistics do point out some alarming commonalities, however, which can often be correlated with education levels. For instance, in families where women have low levels of literacy, those women are more likely to remain marginalized within their families and their communities (limited in resources, decision-making power, opportunities, etc.), and also to disadvantage their female children.

In general, there is a majority of male-headed households. There are many female-headed households, however, arising from many factors: during Khmer Rouge, many people lost their spouses, families broke up… Polygamy, though subtle and not prevalent, is still practiced in Cambodia, and often the man is only listed as HOH in one of his two families, thus skewing perception of actual HOHs. “Can women marry more than one man?” I have asked this, and been laughed at, whereas polygamy seems more normalized (dependent on the location). It’s technically illegal…but hell, a lot of things are “technically illegal” here.


In the city, school appears to be more egalitarian, at least on the surface. Nearly equal numbers of male and female children receive k-12 education, but the number of women enrolled in university is less than men in almost all fields, and is significantly less with each successive level. Thus, most people graduating from undergraduate are men (though female students are slowly gaining), and almost no women obtain Masters degrees, PhDs, etc.

In the countryside, though, girls remain noticeably disadvantaged. Large numbers of boys and girls seem to drop out in grades 4 and 9, but fewer girls ever begin school, and more girls than boys tend to drop out, so by the end, fewer girls are graduating from high school– in fact, many girls never complete even a single year of high school. There are lots of reasons why girls drop out of school. Some reasons of people I know personally are: a family member falls ill; getting married and starting a family; staying home to help with chores or business. Another reason that really gets me is that girls are often pulled from school (especially higher education) to fund their brothers’ schooling. Even if it’s a younger brother, male education often takes priority over female education. I don’t often hear that people believe women are not as intelligent as men, but that men can find jobs more easily, are able to travel more widely, and generally have more freedoms that would be enhanced by an education, versus women. Who should stay home. Yeah.

Those were just some things on my mind… Things I tend to ponder often. How does patriarchy manifest itself in your life?

Patriarchy: How Everyone Suffers

I’m fond of using the word Patriarchy (especially capitalized). Lots of people are. It’s a catchy, encompassing term. The problem is, Normal People tend to associate it (and thus its most ardent users, feminists) with crackpot conspiracy theory.

Can we take a minute and dissect this concept?

A few definitions of Patriarchy I have stumbled across recently are:

from Wikipedia: “Patriarchy is a social system in which the males, especially fathers, have central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and property. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage. The female equivalent is matriarchy.”

from blogger ballgame: “Patriarchy is a system of rigid rules and expectations around gender that unjustly overvalues certain qualities and undervalues others. Typically, dominant males are overvalued, and the average woman’s macropolitical agency is significantly constrained. (Patriarchal societies also frequently devalue the average man’s emotional value and possibly his micropolitical agency, though I don’t know whether this is necessarily a hallmark of patriarchy like devaluing the average woman’s political agency is).”

from Kamla Bhasin: “[The concept of Patriarchy] is a tool to help us understand our realities.” She continues, “The word patriarchy literally means the rule of the father or the the ‘patriarch’, and originally it was used to describe a specific type of ‘male-dominated family’– the large household of the patriarch which included women, junior men, children, slaves and domestic servants all under the rule of this dominant male. Now it is used more generally to refer to male domination, to the power relationships by which men dominate women, and to characterise a system whereby women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. In South Asia, for example, it is called pitrasatta in Hindi, pidarshahi in Urdu and pitratonto in Bangla.” She also adds that Patriarchy assumes different forms in different times, places, and cultures.

(Also, interesting essay here.) 

Parts and conceptual sums of these definitions, among others, have shaped my [working] concept of Patriarchy. I guess I don’t have a simple definition, but this is generally what I mean when I say it…:

Patriarchy is both a system and a way of thinking which holds certain values that benefit some peoples and individuals and necessarily discriminates against others. Although these values and their manifestations vary by culture, location, and time, a general pattern can be identified: value for competition; value for strength, power/authority, and domination; value for role conformity; value for hierarchical structure; value for masculinity. Patriarchy also devalues femininity, weakness, subordination, and deviation. The forms these values take are necessarily shaped and expressed by culture, by which ‘masculinity’, ‘femininity’, gender roles/norms/expectations are defined, and the specific values of a culture in terms of race, age, sexual orientation, etc. Hierarchy within Patriarchy is multifaceted; multiple hierarchies may exist which are interconnected or interdependent and function around concepts not only of gender but also race, age, sexual orientation, and so on.

Thus can it be that “progressive” America (in which women can vote, run for office, work outside the home, have sex with other women, and so on) is a Patriarchal society and “backwards” Afghanistan is a Patriarchal society, as well.

The BBC just had an article on Men’s Rights activists. The reason why I am so irritated by this movement is not because I want to subjugate men, don’t believe in their rights, etc. Obviously not (see my definition of feminism). What is so utterly bothersome is that these proponents are either a) complete ignorant of their victim-agent status within Patriarchy (and sometimes Patriarchy, itself), or b) want to have their cake and eat it too. That is, they want all the benefits and privileges of their Western White Wealthy Phallocentric Patriarchy without any of the consequences. Well, I’m sorry people, but if you subscribe to hierarchy (and even if you don’t), you had better know there are drawbacks for those who are not at the top.

Some of those consequences/drawbacks are nicely illustrated by the article. I will go through some of them. Please note the irony of blaming feminism for these “ills upon men” (nevermind their Patriarchal origin).

As described in the article, David Benatar’s new book addresses the various ills of men which include: being conscripted into the army, being victims of violence, losing custody of their children, and taking their own lives.

1. Conscription into the army. Last time I checked, there was a lot of hesitation (confusion?), even disgust, about women joining the army in “the West”. Yes, they can do so in a lot of countries. Yes, publicly they are praised as patriotic for their service. But American women are still not allowed into combat. Hatred of women by the military apparatus, itself, manifests as [tolerated] violence against their own. And the Ideal Soldier will never, ever be recreated as feminine or female in the eyes of the Patriarchy. Fighting for one’s country is a classic Patriarchal value in America and much of Europe, not to mention elsewhere. Blood-letting is considered masculine and unfeminine, and unfeminine women are often portrayed as “butch” and repulsive. But ultimately, allowing for the conscription of women into the army would not reduce Patriarchy, at all: the very purpose of the war machine as a tool of domination is both a manifestation of and means of perpetuating Patriarchy, regardless of whether the fighting puppets have penises or not. (Personally, I don’t think anyone should be conscripted into the army. But I’m radical like that.)

2. Victims of Violence. It’s true that men are more likely to experience and die of violent crime than women (excepting rape).  It’s also true that men are more likely to commit violent crime than women. This probably has little to do with the inherent nature of men or women as more or less violence-prone, and more to do with our socialization within a Patriarchal society. Patriarchy often dictates that men are naturally (and should be) assertive, aggressive, even forceful if that is necessary to get what one wants. Women, on the other hand, should not be aggressive, or are “naturally” more nurturing, passive, and empathetic. Men who display these attributes are labeled emasculated, effeminate, even gay (oh god, not that!) the world over, from the States to Cambodia. Women who are assertive, aggressive, or forceful are abnormal, unnatural– “bitches”, reallly. All this masculine-identified aggression is partly responsible for violence in all forms. This is not to say that women aren’t violent– of course they are, but statistically they are far less likely to be physically violent– perhaps because the Patriarchy has many recourses to put them back in their subordinated place. The other aspect of this is risk-taking; both as perpetrators and victims, men are encouraged to do more risk-taking than women. The leading cause of death for young men is accidents, and more men die of accidents than women, generally. Women are encouraged to adopt “safer” lifestyles than men. They are child-bearers and raisers, after all.

3. Losing custody of the kids. Alas, the Woman as Nurturer motif has finally come back to bite men in the ass. Patriarchy, of course, doesn’t only discriminate against women in its sometimes ironic functioning. Discrimination has long worked in apparent favor of women in this regard: women are Mothers and innate Nurturers; men are (or should be) distant, emotionally-detached Providers. You can’t rightly expect a Provider to properly raise babies, now, can you? But also, the realm of babies and children is a necessarily feminine one, for babies and children are weak, just as women are. This is why women and children need the Protector/Provider male, and why single motherhood equates to child abuse.

4. Suicide. Higher rates of suicide among men can be partly explained by the methods men employ as differentiated from women. Suicidal men statistically resort to more violent means than women, which results in higher rates of success. Although women attempt suicide more often (and have higher rates of self-harm), men actually succeed in killing themselves more often. It has been suggested that men are not only encouraged to seek out more violent means to commit suicide, but also are able to attain those means more easily (such as acquiring and using a gun). Mental illness is a major (if not the major) factor leading to suicide, and men are less likely than women to seek help over mental health issues. This tendency is also founded in normative masculinity: “real men” don’t show weakness, don’t cry, and don’t talk about their feelings. [Interesting side note: the suicide rate is actually higher for women than men in China. Between that and female infanticide, the future sure looks grim for Chinese women.]

Other points mentioned:

5. 90% of prison inmates are male. This ties in with much of the above. Value of male aggression and even violent competition are at the root of this issue, but it should also be pointed out that the majority of prison inmates are people of colour. The systems within the System are not simply based on gender, but privilege or disadvantage is based on a myriad of other factors, as well– including ethnicity and social class. Many styles of Patriarchy love White Wealthy Westerners, hence one reason why you don’t see a whole lot of them in prison. And class is of course derived from our status within the system of capitalism. Let me tell you, Patriarchy loves Capitalism. (Hehe.) They are old friends, although Patriarchy is a lot older. Capitalism has a lot going on that Patriarchy adores: cutthroat competition, domination, winners and losers, and so on. But as a way of life, Capitalism sets up a situation which almost ensures that some groups of people are going to be underrepresented in the upper classes and overrepresented as the bottomfeeders or criminals; Patriarchy helps shape how those groups are defined (as by colour, religion, etc.). As a fortune cookie once told me, “Society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.” It should have added, “And Patriarchy unfairly molds certain groups of people into the criminal role.” If you’re about to say, “Crime is an individual’s choice,” say no more Dickensian nonsense; crime as an individual choice complete removes both the crime and the individual from the context of culture and thus makes it into a moral dilemma-scenario in a philosophy book. In other words, completely detached from reality.

6. Men are invisible victims. An American web designer in Ohio is setting up a domestic violence shelter for men. I think this is an absolutely pro idea. A lot of people, though, are probably going to laugh their heads off at this. Why? Because MEN HIT WOMEN NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, DUH LOL. Well, that is certainly what Patriarchy wants us to believe. And, more often than not, that is the reality; most perpetrators of violence are men, most survivors and victims women and children. But not all. And an increasing number of women are becoming perpetrators (which, by the way, women have long perpetrated violence against children, no surprise there) as the physical and psychological moorings of Patriarchy continue to shift. Women are Patriarchs, too, after all. Anyhow, this shelter: it directly points to how Patriarchy does not simply function on gender, but is multidimensional. Hence why white middle class American men should think again about their fervent support of Patriarchy, for when they becomes its victims, who is left to turn to? Suddenly the marginalizers have become the marginalized. Men are supposed to be the aggressors, not the victims. Am I being redundant? Is a pattern emerging here?

7. Men’s body image. Pressure and negativity surrounding male body image has grown steadily from an almost-neutral standpoint in the industrial era of “the West”, to a nigh-obsession today. Women have experienced this since…well, who knows when, and that’s not to say male beauty standards have not also been prioritized for a long time. But for modern men, I can see why these changes should come as a shock; they’re not the fair sex, after all– women should be the ones worrying about their appearance, dammit! A man can and should be able to fuck anyone he wants regardless of how he looks, and to be loved by anyone without them caring about his appearance. My, how the times have changed. Vanity and beauty are suddenly no longer so, well, feminine. Does this mean we are now going to admit to the subjectivity of beauty and toss out antiquated “ideals” and norms that control people’s lifestyles and cognitions? Somehow I doubt it…

There are a lot of other points mentioned in the article that should be addressed within a conceptual framework that accounts for Patriarchy. Maybe I’ll get to them later, but I don’t want to bore you… The point is, Patriarchy is shit. It’s not just bad for women. It’s bad for men. It’s bad for black people. It’s bad for Cambodians. It’s bad for Canadians. It’s bad for the elderly. It’s bad for kids. It’s really really bad for young, black, poor single moms, and it’s the least bad for White Wealthy Western males. This is not just about sex. This is not just about colour or class. And no, Men’s Rights Activists, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

They’re Not Commodity, Either

As promised, the “male counterpart”, so to speak, to the last post on commodification. Hah.

I should clarify up front that I believe the fetishization, hypersexualization, and sexual commodification of any person is wrong, regardless of their gender, age, race, location, etc. My ideal world would be one in which we choose to learn about and relate to other people, celebrating diversity while exploring commonalities– which means, sexual objectification has got to go. I know, you love your shirtless firefighter calendars and your semi-pornographic “news” websites, but that shit got to go. (Non-sexual idolatry, admittedly, is still one of my major weaknesses, but putting someone on a pedestal of aesthetic appreciation, amazement, and/or worship is still rather othering, isn’t it? What are people’s thoughts on this?)

The fact of the matter is that every group of people gets objectified. Sometimes it’s racist. Sometimes it’s pedophilic. And sometimes it happens to men. In fact, it probably happens to men more than we acknowledge it does.

Men are not immune to being portrayed as fetishized accessories. It may stand out to us as unusual, however, when we see them posed in ways that reduce their dominance or emasculate them. Male sexual objectification typically idealizes the male body as strong, powerful, visceral, whereas the female body is merely a prop or confection. Male bodies can be admired and envied, and are consumed by males and females alike, whereas female sexual objectification is chiefly for male consumption and female bodies are desired for consumptive (and thus disposable) purposes. Also, it is not so much male sexuality that is being commandeered as it is the male body. It is more common for female sexuality to be appropriated for consumption and sale in conjunction with the appropriation of their bodies and body parts.

Cisgender, straight males may even be offended by the overly effeminate or emasculated portrayal of their gender; it is socially abnormal, even unacceptable. The female body, however, is perceived socially as much more aesthetically pliable, and can be feature in situations which play up either hyperfeminine or masculine traits– so long as the woman is still visually sexually consumable. It’s also common to see the blatant pricing of female sexual entities, but this form of commodification would still be perceived as offensive by cisgender straight males.

It remains, however, that “real” men do the consuming, and aren’t consumed. If you are consumable, you are something less than a man– maybe you don’t even deserve that penis, which is why society semantically castrate you by calling you emasculated. Emasculated men are consumed, real men consume.

One could rephrase Rich Zubaty’s extremely effed-up quote, “Our job is not to get along with the Goddess. Our job is to fuck the Goddess.” as “It’s not our job to accept mutual consumption with the Goddess. Our job is to consume the Goddess.”

So, at the end of the day, everyone is commodified and everyone suffers. As commodification is an unsurprising side effect of Patriarchy, we should really say, everyone suffers under Patriarchy. But some people definitely suffer more than others. Maybe that calls for a post about the particularly horrid depiction of the black female entity.

Everyone Wants a Piece of This

While the mulling over the concept of modeling is its own juggernaut that I don’t feel I know enough about to take on in this venue, I did want to take a look at an article that I’ve noticed circulating online lately.

It’s subject is Andrej Pejic, a Serbian model from Australia who happens to be transgender. Evidently his transgendered look has seized the fascination of the fashion world, which has become all the rage as he models both men’s and women’s fashion and model agencies have experienced an influx of transgendered hopefuls.

His success has been chalked up to the novelty of his “guys look like girls” look. Or as stylist Kyle Anderson puts it, “He’s just this beautiful thing that everyone wants a piece of.”

Which is where the novelty suddenly ends. Usually the objectification and commodification of a human body is not put so bluntly, but that basically sums the culture of the fashion world and all who freely partake of it: “beautiful things” available for mass consumption by a voyeuristic audience. And this is normal and acceptable, and people willingly subject themselves to it.

Yet Pejic’s uniqueness (which probably won’t last long if the “transgendered look” becomes all the rage– androgyny has long been cherished as beautiful in “high fashion”), as a fashion model, as a human being, is subjected to the same processes which turn all models into generic, harmless, accessible, and consumable “beauty fodder”. hook’s “pornographic gaze” (in this case both male and female) can partake of Pejic in the same way they partake of all other reduced, even formless, personalities in fashion.

Perhaps the only novelty here is the increasing normality of the hypersexualization of males (from what I could glean, Pejic self-identifies as male), including the cooption of male sexuality– though it is, in fairness, often portrayed as feminine/female and hetero- sexuality.

Even a glance at Pejic’s portfolio reveals to us that while this is the hypersexualization of male entities, it is not masculine hypersexualization. Rather it is the hypersexualization of feminine sexuality as portrayed by a male entity. Nothing new there, either.

According to the article, Pejic’s status and beauty have likewise been appropriated by the LGBT community, under the premise of celebrating the diversification and increasing tolerance of difference within the realm of fashion. I see this as misguided: must we settle for the exploitative commodification of our gendered (whatever that may be) selves to gain “acceptance” or tolerance?