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.

Beautiful [and Nauseating] Creatures

‘Tis true that good movies are hard to come by in Cambodian cinemas, but that doesn’t stop me from going most every Sunday. Now that I can (mostly) afford it, I will shell out to see films I would never have considered back home. I’d have probably preferred a sharp stick in the eye to Beautiful Creatures, for example. But these are desperate times I live in.

Having read an interview with the authors of the B.C. series some time ago, I was looking forward to seeing if their ambitions with an anti-Bella female protagonist would translate in the films. Well, shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. I haven’t read the books, so maybe I’m giving the authors too much credit as it is, but the movie’s version of the protagonist Lena wasn’t exactly light years ahead of Twilight’s Bella.

It was sort of refreshing to see the female protagonist fanning her lover after he had swooned, and to see him in awe of her magical powers. (Sort of interesting, too, was that this witch story was set in a very Christian town in the South.) The pluses basically end there. The film (and books, presumably) focus on the boy’s perspective, which is all well and good except that Lena remains bland and personality-less. And for whatever reason, female witches, though not male ones, can’t control whether or not their “true nature” is ultimately good or evil. Unlike boy witches, their fate is predetermined and revealed on their 16th birthday when they become “a woman”. This is a form of ageism that I particularly despise, but I guess they can’t be blamed for using it, how else would this story have worked?

A much bigger hitch, though, was that this movie is a carbon copy of almost all the “romantic” movies I’ve seen in the past couple years. Yes, I’m desperate, I’ll see just about anything in the Kingdom because I love the Big Screen experience, but if I have to watch one more moody, melodramatic, I’m-pushing-you-away-but-don’t-leave-me-I-can’t-live-without-you teenage love story I am going to punch out the nearest theater steward.

On the same note, I can no longer stand overly long make-out scenes, with which B.C. was rife. Sex scenes are always a bore, but I actually prefer them to make-out scenes now because they take up fewer minutes of my movie-viewing time.

I get it: these movies are made for teenagers. But cartoons like Toy Story and Up were supposedly made for children, and people of all ages can enjoy them. Is it impossible for Hollywood to make a movie about teenagers that isn’t just for teenagers? I am quite sure there are plenty of teenagers who are bored by that crap, too.

Are movies like this still being made because there is genuine demand for them, or are they made to perpetuate certain cliches upon which so many high-grossing films are made and about which books and movies are quickly and easily produced? Are we really interested in buying this crap, or is the movie (and book) industry just that good at convincing us we are?

(On a more personal note: is the fact that these movies make me nauseous a sign that I am maturing into a real, live adult? Maybe that’s a bit optimistic…)

Everybody’s Doing It: KONY 2012

Yesterday I watched “Kony 2012”, the short film which has “gone viral” (to quote BBC and NPR, which frankly they’ve taken all the joy out of that expression with their overuse of it) on the web this past week. Created by the same filmmakers (headed by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell) who produced the hour-long original “Invisible Children” film and started the awareness-raising campaign of the same name, the video has been seen several million times and has almost quadrupled the number of followers they have on [insert disparaging adjective here] facebook. Almost immediately after watching it, I turned on the radio to hear BBC discussing their opinions of “Kony 2012”.

The title of the film is meant to remind you of a candidate in a political campaign (Bush 2004, Obama 2008), but Joseph Kony isn’t running for any kind of office (well, not in the near-future anyway, but who knows?); actually, Kony is rather obscure despite (what he would call) his accomplishments. The folks from Invisible Children chose the name because they want him to become one of the most famous people in the world this year– or more accurately, the most notorious. He is one of the Ugandan warlords who abducts children, rapes them, tortures them, forces them to kill their own parents, and ultimately turns them into child soldiers and sex slaves. “Kony 2012” is the campaign to make Kony and his crimes against humanity so well-known that world powers will have no choice but to act and get this guy charged and on trial at the International Criminal Court. According to Jason Russell, who is also the film’s narrator, all this has to happen this year, because…er, for reasons unbeknownst to us. Their “deadline” is never actually explained to viewers. (Maybe because the possibility exists that Obama won’t be president, and there’s not a chance in hell that a Republican president will give a #%$ about atrocities in Africa?)

Since yesterday afternoon, I have been thinking quite a lot about this…short-film-meets-documentary-meets-visual-personal-essay. My initial reaction upon watching it was very similar to how I felt after watching the original “Invisible Children” film in college: deep sadness, empathy, anger. Which is how the filmmakers want you to feel after viewing either film. The difference between the two films is that “IC” was more of an educational, awareness-raising piece, whereas “Kony 2012” has an actual, spelled-out political agenda. And what they appear to be banking on is that you will either forget the nidus which produced these films, or you will already be on their side so it doesn’t matter if you know, anyway. If that sounds enigmatic, let me explain…:

When I first saw the original “Invisible Children”, I was sitting in a church. I had been invited by a number of acquaintances from a student group on campus, Spartan Christian Fellowship. No one had told me what the movie was about (before I watched it I was actually under the impression it was a fictional story), and most of the few dozen people who came also seemed oblivious to its content. So I was quite surprised when it turned out to be a homemade documentary about the plight of child soldiers in Uganda (and also a fund-raising program).

I recall that during and after the film, we (the “Christian fellowship”) were deeply touched; many of us cried. At that time I was also a professed and somewhat outspoken Christian, though I had little in common with the ultraconservatives who attended this particular group. What we did agree on, however, was that it was our Christian duty to bring God’s love and justice to the people in Uganda– love for the child soldiers and justice for their torturers. Then we sang some songs, had a group prayer session, and went home.

As the next few weeks passed, I was struck by how suddenly everyone seemed to have Invisible Children apparel, bracelets, DVDs, stickers, and so forth. Even now, I see IC’s scheme to bring to light the suffering of a voiceless, marginalized group of people as a positive: people who had never heard of child soldiers (or of Uganda, for that matter) were suddenly deeply, almost personally invested in helping them. The commercialized, commodified treatment of the plight of child soldiers did nag at me, however. I didn’t buy any shirts nor did I choose to donate money to the IC.

This is not the most widely circulated critique of the video. The BBC’s main complaint about “Kony 2012” is that it is reductionist, oversimplifying what is in reality an extremely complex conflict. Their point is well-taken: “Kony 2012” makes understanding the “main bullet points” of the Kony dilemma so simple that even a five year old can understand them. Literally. Gavin, the film director’s (I’m guessing five year old?) son, is given a very boiled-down, easy-to-understand lecture on who Kony is and what he does, wherein their family friend Jacob (one of the children featured in the original “IC”) is positioned as the “good guy” and Kony is positioned as the “bad guy”. It is the film’s way of presenting and explaining this Ugandan conflict.

Is this an insult to the average adult’s intelligence? I think most people would probably say so, but then again most people who are watching this film aren’t, in fact, adults. This film has mostly “gone viral” with young adults, teens, pre-teens… The facebook generation, that is. What the film sets out to do is not to give people an in-depth (or even broad) understanding of Ugandan politics of conflict; indeed, we hardly even learn anything about Kony, whom the film is supposedly about. IC was also one of the organizations criticized by Foreign Affairs for “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.” The purpose of the film, in my opinion, is to create some hype and appeal to people’s emotions in order to further the agenda of the IC.

Before I get into what I believe that agenda might include, let’s look into this “emotional appeal” aspect of “Kony 2012”. There is a scene in the film that is actually taken from the first “IC” film, in which creator Jason Russell is talking with the young Jacob. Jacob has just described how he would rather die than continue his present existence, which Russell seems astounded to hear. Jacob explains that it would be better to meet his brother in heaven than to live in constant fear of being abducted and killed– a reality that hits too close to home for Jacob, whose older brother was violently murdered when he tried to run away from LRA soldiers. Jacob breaks down and cries; it becomes clear that perhaps he does not truly wish to die– he just wants a respite from the terror and agony he feels every day. Watch this part of the film and tell me you don’t get choked up, and I’ll call you a heartless bastard. Like I said, this film does an aces job at striking an emotional nerve.

This is where the film takes a pivotal turn. Russell, perhaps in a desperate bid to ease his own helplessness, tells Jacob, “I promise you we are going to stop them.” He repeats this promise over and over, asking Jacob, “Do you hear me?” Jacob nods and says yes, but seems entirely unconvinced. Actually, he looks even more hopeless than before he shared the story of his brother.

The crisis counselor and the feminist in me at this point exchanged knowing glances. “Well he certainly botched that, didn’t he?” they said with a sad shake of the head. Let me see if I can get them to explain exactly what they thought was botched… Crisis counselor: “Well, he probably thought he was making Jacob feel better by trying to ‘fix the problem’. Unfortunately, Jacob reacts to this by stopping crying and receding– we see him almost physically withdraw, into himself, away from all those feelings he just put out there. It was a huge, brave risk Jacob took, sharing those deep, vulnerable parts of himself, but he didn’t receive any empathy, support, or validation. Instead, Russell tries to make Jacob ‘feel better’– in reality he’s probably just trying to make himself feel better, suppressing his own strong emotions– by promising to solve the problem. This is problematic in multiple ways. First off, there is simply no way to fix ‘the problem’ of Jacob’s brother’s death. It is an unsolvable situation. Secondly, it’s both unempathetic and counterproductive to try to ‘solve’ another person’s problems; we only disempower them to help themselves, and even possibly create a situation in which they keep coming back to us to fix their problems. Lastly, possibly most importantly, we should never presume to know how to fix another’s problems…Whose to say that we won’t exacerbate the situation? It’s awfully arrogant to take such a presumptuous position as ‘problem solver’.” Okay, let’s have the feminist weigh in on this: “Agreed, it is not only presumptuous, but also masculist. Assuming the role of ‘problem solver’, even– especially!– in the face of an unsolvable issue, is a classic patriarchal reaction. Talking about emotions, even revealing emotions, is counterproductive to the masculist: what good does talking about feelings do if it doesn’t fix the problem? Moreover, sharing feelings earnestly is a ‘symptom’ of the feminine: weak, pathetic, deplorable. Contrast this with the stereotypical associations with the masculine: strong, assertive, corrective. ‘Boys don’t cry’, after all, but women cry and complain, and what good does that do them? Russell’s declaration that ‘we are going to stop them’ is also neocolonialist; the white Westerner needs to intervene in the chaos of Africa in order to set things straight. His racist moral high ground figures the ‘we’ he refers to not as himself and Jacob, but as himself and others like him. He is not talking with Jacob, but at him.”

Those two can sometimes get a little reductionist, themselves, not to mention they have a bit of a superiority complex, but their points are well-taken in examining the underlying sociocultural (subconscious?) motives at work.

I want to consider these points as we expand our investigation to include not just the IC films but the organization of IC, itself. IC posts its finances on its website for all to see, so we know how the money is used, but where does it come from? Purportedly a large number of IC’s donations (not to mention moral support) come from their Christian following. Considering the context in which I was first exposed to IC, I am not surprised. But what are the ramifications of this?

Between now and May, there will be IC film screenings at over 150 Christian churches all over America (average of about 3 screenings a day). That’s a lot of support coming from a single sector, which doesn’t include screenings at Christian-affiliated schools, colleges, or other institutions. Clearly there is a bit of hype about IC among Christian Americans. Even if it is not IC’s explicit directive to portray their organization or their mission as Christian, the Christians are doing it for them. At the events I attended during college, it was made clear that we had a divine imperative to “save” these folks (mainly the Ugandan children) because of our God-given duties as Christians and Americans. For it is not for Americans alone to enjoy the glory of Jesus, but we cannot rest until “every ear has heard”. (But quite frankly, my impression of the people participating in these events/film screenings/etc. was mostly that it was just “a cool thing to do”.)

In that vein, I take issue with how IC’s media-oriented strategy seems to focus on and portray only two groups of people: victimized, powerless Ugandans and salvation-carrying, white, largely Christian Americans. (And I’m not the only one whose irritated by this portrayal.) It appears as a retelling of the old classic, the Great White West moves in to save the neoprimitive savages. IC’s activist campaigns and photographs of the movement (which can be seen on their websites) are full of young, fist-pumping white folks, often wearing IC apparel. There is even a section where these folks are called “The Rescue”; perhaps they romantically believe they really are just “helping”, but any time you get together a bunch of people and put them in uniform, you should really question whether or not the participants truly understand the various levels of ideology at work. Another interesting feature of the website are the photographs and descriptions of all their staff. IC staff is strikingly gender-balance, and is also equally proportionate in the number of Americans and Ugandans, though the Americans are almost entirely white. For some reason the Board of IC is listed last: it is comprised entirely of white male Americans.

“But Lee, what are you saying, that white Americans can’t or shouldn’t help Africans?” I’m so glad you asked. Why, not at all, but to unquestioningly and uncritically accept the fantasy of the GWW “saving” black Africa is to ignore deeper, perhaps not-so-entirely altruistic motives subjacent to the movement we see on the surface. I would never say helping another person is bad, in and of itself, regardless of either person’s position in the Universe (e.g. as racialized, genderfied, etc. entities). However, would you accept the help of a person who not only desires to “help” you, but also to fulfill what they perceive as a mandate of their god? Would you accept the help of a person who is primarily helping you because they see you, consciously or unconsciously, as inferior? Would you accept the help of a person who does not see themselves as helping you, an individual, but as helping “correct” a system– a system which perhaps is the culture you live in? These aren’t questions with simple answers, and that’s entirely the point. To reiterate the BBC, “It’s a bit more complicated than the IC films make it out to be.” And simply put, I do not believe this is so simple as some white travelers to Africa trying to make themselves feel better about what they’ve seen there.

I’ll shut up now, but p.s. IC is calling on your (American) government to deploy forces to aid Uganda’s army in capturing Kony, and they’ve already been partly successful. But the Ugandan army has been called out by human rights groups as being guilty of war crimes, themselves, including the mass rapes of women and murders of refugees, not to mention the Ugandan government has also violated the human rights of their people.

p.s.s. For other people’s critical perspectives on IC, check out Visible Children, who links to some other resources of information.

“The ‘Process-Oriented’ Virgin”: a letter

Dear Mz Blank:

I am what you would call a “process-oriented virgin”, though I, myself, would reject that label. I was so angry reading through your essay “The Process-Oriented Virgin” as included in Yes Means Yes that I could barely finish it before reacting to it.

I’m not surprised that you (or anyone else) is or was at some point shocked at the notion that virginity is subjective and that “sexually active” human beings can decide for themselves at what point they are no longer “virginal”. I grew up in a very Christian town that still buys into the “scientific” definition of virginity as “loss of the hymen” (obviously men don’t have a hymen, therefore men need not bother with the concept of virginity). But I did not expect such a small-minded view of the subject from a fellow feminist. Then again, I have long refrained from calling myself “feminist” because so many people who label themselves as such are in fact objectifying, racist, classist, ableist, stereotyping, gender/heteronormative and hypersexualizing persons that I felt I had nothing in common with this so-called feminist movement. Compared with the content caliber of the others essays in Yes Means Yes, I’m a little disappointed that your 18th century perspective was included.

Here is why.

First is your label of the “process-oriented” virgin: it is inherently pejorative. Your diction makes it obvious that you find the notion of choice (“process orientation”) self-serving and revisionist– which you actually go on to admit to in your essay, even so far as to call it “arrogant”. Forgive us for desiring autonomy and agency over and within our sexual selves. Supposedly you’ve repented of your ignorance, but your choice of words shows that your are still ingrained in the Patriarchy. It would detract from the importance, credibility and necessity of recognizing virginity as subjective and that reclaiming one’s own sexuality begins with a reflective analysis of previous sexual activity (most people don’t reclaim their sexuality before they start having sex/engaging in sexual activity, unfortunately, which is why your so-called “process” is so necessarily healing and empowering). Moreover you put process-oriented in quotations: highlighting irony, or “using scare quotes advisedly”? Either way you are (consciously or unconsciously) denying credibility to the concept. You might have invented a cutesy, armchair, ironical name for it, but the concept is real.

You also refer to “the virgin” as “herself”: maybe you didn’t even catch that during your revision and editing process. This is so blatantly Patriarchal that I’m surprised you haven’t put out an apology note retracting this ugly use of gendered pronouns. Similarly: “Way to raise the bar, ladies.”?? Rather than congratulating a few women on doing something they have already taken for granted, perhaps you should recognize that you are late to jump on the bandwagon? Because you have, for most of your professional career, “unwittingly [?] bought into the patriarchal conceit…[which is] at least broadly congruent with the traditional (misogynist, patriarchal) definitions I had been studying and writing about for so long” [emphasis mine].  You blame “culturally-ingrained notions” for your ignorance. I’m here to tell you that that’s not good enough; accountability within the feminist community is key to the eradication of Patriarchy. Moreover, you are assuming that male-identified persons (and genderqueer persons, for that matter) are not participating in the same self-exploratory historical revision. That is profoundly “unfeminist” in my book.

To jab a flag into the Land of the Process-Oriented Virgin as the “potentially feminist act” you believe it to be is unwelcome and unwarranted. You would need permission from each individual that your “study” and “analysis” exploits to call their personal choices “feminist”; they might be completely offended by this label. Some of them would be offended because their (perhaps not yet or ever-to-be self-identified) feminist standards make yours look Victorian. It’s not your right to label someone else’s personal revolutions and realizations as Feminist or not. It’s theirs, if they choose to do so or not. You also assume that their sex history revision is “fundamentally derived from feminist sex-reform philosophy”, rather than the other way around. You put the cart before the horse, in other words. Which is why you say these persons were doing so “intuitively” seems nonsensical; are you saying they have an inherent sense of feminist philosophy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that their “intuition” and revolution about their own definitions and standards has informed feminism?

And finally, as to your ideas on why YOUR “‘process-oriented’ virginity” is not “the ultimate answer to the problem” of virginity: there may or may not be a “thing” called virginity, but that is for an individual to decide. Virginity and nonvirginity may be two states between which a person transitions back and forth. Perhaps some individuals never experience virginity or nonvirginity. And perhaps still others see it not as a two-point spectrum, but as a radial continuum, across, through, around, and within which we can navigate and exist. Your “emotional and interpersonal train wrecks” that supposedly derive from “substantial sexual experience” coupled with a “claim [of] virginity” (hysteria, what what?) seem to imply that women aren’t or perhaps more accurately should not be engaging in sex in which they are not emotionally invested. What about having sex with a mutually consenting partner which is not about emotional connection, but is just about feeling good? Well, that would just be manly and unfeminineunnatural, really. Further, you assume that people attribute some kind of qualitative moral status (“good”, “bad”) to virginity, versus the view that many persons merely think of it as a “thing” that is neither good nor bad, desirable or undesirable, right or wrong– but nevertheless important. And the idea that a person with complete self-direction and autonomous control of their sexuality (including the “virginity”, “nonvirginity”, or “avirginity” aspect(s) of it) would be any more likely than a “normal” person to have a “medical [or] infectious-disease mishap” is utterly misguided. Such a person would be far more likely, given the thought and analysis with which they’ve approach the subject of virginity, specifically, and sexuality, generally, to take seriously or place value on knowing a sexual partner’s history. They would also be much less likely to lie about their own “status”, being that they would find value in sharing their “revisionist history” in all its detail. These factors would greatly reduce the risk of a “mishap” resulting in an STI.

Your initial impression of “‘p-o’ virginity” was that it was self-serving revisionism. But that is also your last impression, according to the essay: if you really understood both the concept and the persons thinking critically about said concept, you wouldn’t have included this paragraph in your essay. I will reiterate what I said above: sexual transparency is more likely be of great value to a person questioning the concept of virginity in the aforementioned ways than to a “normal” person whose default assumption, if they are female, is to claim virginity for fear of stigma, or if male, to claim nonvirginity for the same reason. Either way these claims are lies and disguise the real nature of a person’s sexuality and sexual history. You also assume that the “process-oriented approach to virginity is…profoundly unconscious”. In fact, it is not unconscious/intuitive so much as that you are just trivializing the experience and intimate metamorphoses through which the persons you are analyzing are going. That is, you are objectifying them. And since you readily admit that your evidence is anecdotal, why not try listening to your “subjects” as real, live, decision-making persons, rather than bupkins who are so ignorant in the ways of your feminism that they couldn’t possibly have come up with this idea on their own, through their own experiences. There may be greater self-sought intellectual, psychic, academic, and emotional transformation and theorization happening than for which you give credit. I would claim this as a valid description of my own process of reconstructing and redefining body, sexuality, virginity, consent, among other concepts which are all intimately connected. And I didn’t require a degree in women’s studies to do it. For all your talk of “‘p-o’ virginity” as “arrogant”, you don’t seem to notice that as a reflection of yourself.

I will agree with you on one crucial point, however: “It would be a massive step in very much the right direction…if it became a cultural constant that “losing your virginity” was a subjective, not an objective, transition.” And that massive step starts with individuals, like you and me. I would tell you the title of the book I’m going to write about subjective virginity, but I wouldn’t want you to steal it.

So sorry if this email was a little hostile, but I do feel so much better now. Please consider it directed only partially at you, and more at the overarching Patriarchal hegemony which guides much of how most of the world thinks. Maybe we’re all getting swept along in it, but now that you know there’s an “it” which you’re “in”, you have the responsibility to pull yourself and others out.


After some more reflection, I think I figured out another, more deeply-rooted reason why Blank’s essay rubbed me the wrong way: it is intrinsically academically paternalistic. That is, her diction, tone, and anecdotes are strongly reminiscent of the Othering language used by historians, anthropologies, sociologists, psychologists, and others in academe to observe, analyze, describe, and summarize their “subjects”: take Malinowski and his islanders (or should I say savages?) as an example. In other words, Blank is the kid with the magnifying glass and we (or her subjects) are the ants… We couldn’t possibly comprehend the magnifying glass, let alone her bizarrely patriarchal feminism.