by Rochus Wolff, flickr
Seeking respite from the Assange material last week, I opened an article in ABC’s The Drum irresistibly titled “Who says female corpses aren’t sexy?” written by Melinda Tankard Reist.
The article turned out to be the author’s objections to a 30 second video clip teaser of rapper Kanye West’s latest song. The author describes the video clip as “gendered violence”, and claims it is fetishizing “female pain, female passivity, female suffering and female silence.”
Expect to hear boys singing along to it soon. This is the message they are imbibing:
Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.
That was quite a lot to glean from a 30 second video clip, I thought admiringly.
But then it turned peculiar. I read: Then there’s these lines: “I put the p-ssy in the sarcophagus” (which, in case you’re wondering, is a flesh eating coffin) …”
What? I shouted, though I was alone except for the dog. A flesh-eating coffin? How can that be?
And anyway, what about all those pharaohs buried in sarcophagi who when disinterred still had their flesh?
Dried, maybe, but certainly not eaten.
I then made my next mistake. I got onto the Comments. I used a pen name I’m not stupid enough to let these people know who I am. Quite quickly I became an embattled defender fighting off a full frontal feminist attack. (They said they were feminists but they aren’t like any feminists I know and love).
You’re pro male, they told me. Why aren’t you pro woman?
I’m actually pro human I replied. And there’s no such thing as flesh eating coffins, I added. You aren’t doing your credibility any good adding in rubbish stuff like that for effect, I told them.
You need to read Susan Faludi, they said.
I’d rather have needles in my eyes than RE-read Susan Faludi, I replied.
She writes about people like you, they said, she says you pro male collaborators in the gender wars are Uncle Toms.
Really, I replied. A few years back radical feminists used to say a “pro male” woman had a pr**k in her head. That was far more picturesque, I said. Dali-esque, in fact.
But the moderator didn’t publish that. They seem to have inconsistent moderating rules at The Drum. I can’t work them out. They let someone make nasty remarks about my “corrupted” children, and a few people got told they were sleazy pornographers who should crawl under stones and all that was published.
You people aren’t a feminist’s bootlace, I finally told the pro Melindas. Where are your manners?
(I refer to them as the pro Melindas because their posts included:
Melinda could be said to be awakening others to the suffering of women, and many have pilloried Melinda for her point of view, and Go Melinda! Many of us love and applaud you!)
Then someone posted the following:
What you need to know about this author:
1. She believes in god
2. She believes in flesh eating coffins
3. She’s up close with the Australian Christian Lobby.
Well. It was on then. Not a stone was left unturned. Derrida, Barthes, Picasso, Christians, lions, ethics, necrophilia, disclosure of religious affiliations, domestic violence, grandmothers, sex of all kinds, censorship, children, science, and the un dead; Madonna, archaic patriarchal religion, PhDs, Finns dancing, Finns singing, accusations of racism about Finns doing stuff; 70’s music, Tropic Thunder, Russian politics before the end of the cold war, corpses and raw meat. Oh, there was no stopping us. For four days and four nights we kept at it, we barely ate or slept. The ABC should award us with something.
The increasingly hostile exchanges between a pro Melinda poster and someone called Amazonia ended thus:
Pro Melinda Person: Those in favour of the video under discussion are getting fanatic. Now I’ll turn my thoughts to the homeless in our society and their extra plight with extreme temperatures about to begin.
Amazonia: I hope somebody warns them you’re coming.
The day before I succumbed to all that madness I had to go to the dentist. Uneasy in the waiting room, I picked up the October Cosmopolitan magazine as a distraction from what might be going to happen to me. I found that Cosmo are conducting a competition for the year’s most influential woman. The contestants were displayed in a three-page photo shoot. They were all young. Almost all of them wore killer stilettos, some with slave girl ankle bands. Most skirts were high on the thighs. The women wore masks, as if they were going to a masquerade ball or something much darker, and I think some of them were armed.
I studied these pages for a long time. It seemed to me that in order to be considered as eligible for this competition you first had to satisfy another set of criteria that has no obvious link to your ability to be influential and mentor young women.
I continued to think this through as the dentist apparently drilled into my brain. God moves in mysterious ways, and blessed distraction comes from the most unexpected places.
Now, I have nothing against killer heels, except when you watch someone trying to walk in them they inevitably lack grace, tilted as they are at an unmanageable degree from the earth. From behind, it’s not a good look. Wear them, darling, by all means. Just don’t try to walk in them. Maybe one of those nice men will carry you.
And I really am the last person on earth to tell anybody what she should or shouldn’t wear for any reason other than the aesthetic, and mostly not even then unless I know them very well.
But I do deeply object to the demand that before she can be considered to be influential, a woman must fit a certain physical profile.
This is the message sent to women who read Cosmopolitan. You can be as influential as you like. You can be an outstanding mentor to younger women. But if you don’t have the look, forget it. Whatever skills you’re offering, we aren’t buying.
I thought this was a pretty good example of mainstream objectification and denigration of women.
So, because I can be thick sometimes and not see what’s coming at me, I brought it up in the comments about the flesh eating coffin and the video clip.
Who are you to tell a woman what she can or can’t wear? The hostile forces howled back at me.
I suppose you want everybody to go round in a burka? They spat.
Stunned at how quickly I had become cast in the role of the clothes police, ousting the pro Melindas to whom it seemed quite naturally to belong, I didn’t reply for a few hours. I ate dinner, took the dog out, watched TV and thought that I really didn’t have to bother with these people any more. This last was encouraged by my household, which by now was heartily sick of me lurching obsessively from Assange to Melinda, and just wanted me to focus on buying their Christmas presents.
At bedtime, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I sat down and I wrote:
Well, I wasn’t saying what women should wear. I was just pointing out an example of sexism in a very popular women’s magazine. I thought it would be of interest to you as your goal is to eradicate sexism and the objectification of women. (Eradicate was their word, not mine. I objected to it on the grounds that it sounds like pest control).
You really need to stop lecturing people, replied one of the pro Melindas, and who wants to be in Cosmopolitan anyway?
What? I yelled at the dog, seeing as nobody else would talk to me about it.
Aren’t they supposed to be campaigning against sexism in the media?
Then I wrote: Well, if you’re going to be like that, who wants to be in a cruddy rap video, anyway either? Huh? And BTW does being pro male just mean you don’t want to kill them?
It’s been quite a year. Many of us are very tired.
P.S. It’s not over yet! Now a male poster has hit back: Just look at all the magazines in the supermarket talking about orgasms, he typed. Whose orgasms? Well, come on, whose orgasms? Women’s, he crowed triumphantly. Not men’s, oh no not men’s! All women’s!
This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, December 23 2010