Michael H Goldhaber on Sat, 21 Oct 2006 14:57:27 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> Recent Gender Things on Nettyme digest [3x]

  Dear nettimers,

I think the following column , which appeared yesterday in nowhere  
more radical than the New York Times, illustrates why Kali Tal's  
response to Alan Sondheim  deserved to be taken seriously, rather  
than responded to with the scorn it seems to have met, from Alan and  
some others. The column underlines that we do not live in a society  
where feminism has come close to triumphing.


Why Aren't We Shocked?

By Bob Herbert
Published: October 16, 2006 (NYT)
"Who needs a brain when you have these?"-- message on an Abercrombie &  
Fitch T-shirt for young women

In the recent shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania  
and a large public high school in Colorado, the killers went out of  
their way to separate the girls from the boys, and then deliberately  
attacked only the girls.

Ten girls were shot and five killed at the Amish school. One girl was  
killed and a number of others were molested in the Colorado attack.

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little  
was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a  
gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of  
race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the  
white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have  
first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to  
eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls  
for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for  
what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have  
become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny  
that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories  
about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples  
of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling  
aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing  
happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so  
pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability  
to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown  
no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show  
their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier  
shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a  
competitor. The text asks, "When was the last time you got screwed?"

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman's face with the  
lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn  

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on  
women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most  
sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated  
by that violence. We've been watching the sexualized image of the  
murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead.  
Her mother is dead. And we're still watching the video of this poor  
child prancing in lipstick and high heels.

What have we learned since then? That there's big money to be made  
from thongs, spandex tops and sexy makeovers for little girls. In a  
misogynistic culture, it's never too early to drill into the minds of  
girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability  
to please men sexually.

A girl or woman is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so  
in the U.S. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is  
far beyond the ability of any agency to count. We're all implicated  
in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and  
girls is linked at its core to the wider society's casual willingness  
to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as  
sexual vessels -- objects -- and never, ever as the equals of men.

"Once you dehumanize somebody, everything is possible," said Taina  
Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women's advocacy group Equality  

That was never clearer than in some of the extreme forms of  
pornography that have spread like nuclear waste across mainstream  
America. Forget the embarrassed, inhibited raincoat crowd of the old  
days. Now Mr. Solid Citizen can come home, log on to this $7 billion  
mega-industry and get his kicks watching real women being beaten and  
sexually assaulted on Web sites with names like "Ravished Bride" and  
"Rough Sex -- Where Whores Get Owned."

Then, of course, there's gangsta rap, and the video games where the  
players themselves get to maul and molest women, the rise of pimp  
culture (the Academy Award-winning song this year was "It's Hard Out  
Here for a Pimp"), and on and on.

You're deluded if you think this is all about fun and games. It's all  
part of a devastating continuum of misogyny that at its farthest  
extreme touches down in places like the one-room Amish schoolhouse in  
normally quiet Nickel Mines, Pa.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net