Msnowe's Blog

Fem-egesis of the Text

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on May 10, 2011

M.Snowe doesn’t know where to go! Typical lady, can’t follow directions.

Lately, M.Snowe has grown tired and felt particularly uninspired when just writing down or ranting about injustices, especially with regard to women and minorities. It’s nice to think that it might clarify and foment the writer’s own ideology, but does it really do anything else? The femiladies of the past all hooted and hollered and it got them places–mostly because those places were so obviously within what they were entitled to as members of the human race. (“Oh, you want to vote? Oh, you want to play sports?! Yeah, I guess it would be unconstitutional to bar you from that.”) But today, the issues *appear* more nuanced. Of course, M.Snowe would argue that some of the very same issues are at play (unfair wages, old boys clubs, fetishization of the female form, ageism, etc., and so on). What some view as nuanced (should we fund abortion or Planned Parenthood?) M.Snowe views as a pretty straight-forward attack on the freedom of women, freedom that is being challenged in the home, in the workplace, and in the doctor’s office. Only beginning in 2014 will it be illegal for all women to be defined as having a “pre-existing condition” under medical insurance. If we’re still living in the past, 2014 is certainly far away.

But, as M.Snowe suggests, the opposition to women’s rights has added artificial nuances to what should be incredibly straightforward debates. It’s the political equivalent of the G spot debate: “OMG, does a woman have one? Where is it? Should I be able to make her come somehow? Maybe she should get on top? Should we introduce toys? Wait, I might have to do that? Oh forget it, she can just find it herself later, if it even exists.” If a man can be funded to have the ability to spill his old funky seed all over the place (Hello HMO funding/taxes going towards Viagra!), a woman should be able to have the funding to reject that nasty spunk and the mistake it would be to carry its fertilizing result to term. This is just the abortion/health care debate, but you could expand it to practically anything else having to do with women–women writers, women in sports, etc.

But see, how much of that did you agree with? Because of the anti-women’s rights folks, some people will come up with weird, intricate arguments to counteract my claims. Reverse discrimination! Studies that show something neurological that hasn’t actually been proven! Okay. So we need to volley back.

People like Tina Fey are leading the parry to that thrust. Exhibit one. Essentially, what Fey (and the writers at SNL) are doing is: Taking it back to a primitive level,  calling out basic and classically sexist ideas, and making everyone incapable of arguing with the blatant sexism while simultaneously indulging in it.

In a sense, Fey is breaking down the nuances by reverting back to the initial issues that no one can possibly be allowed to argue or excuse anymore (“Oh, don’t mind Norman, he just gets off on objectifying women, haha!”). No one can discount a woman’s writing because of her appearance–any reviewer or fellow writer who did that in all seriousness would be out of a job and a reputation. But, a more nuanced discrimination is afoot. Any quick glance at the book review sections in the NYRB or the NYTimes or the New Yorker (or other cities’ literary pursuits, mired as they may be) will tell you something is creating a disparity between men and women. While most people doubt that it is how “pretty” a female writer is, there is something fundamental and prejudiced about the lack of female voices.

But here’s the big question: When we point to primitive unfairness and injustice, and they are funny and ridiculous and universally laughed at, does it lead to enlightenment? Or are we just laughing at our condition?

M.Snowe has some friends, almost entirely male, who take shots at her ardent feminist bent (and M.Snowe sometimes participates, because it’s funny). The jokes range from “get back into the kitchen,” to “your brain is a third the size of mine, it’s science.” These are funny because neither the teller nor the receiver believes in any of the jokes. They are funny because they are inconceivable and wildly in error. But they are also, to some extent, part of the prevailing mood–at least in the abstract.

M.Snowe enjoys these jokes–and being a Funny Woman is important, if nothing more than proving Mr. Hitchens wrong. But M.Snowe can’t seem to escape the notion that as much as these jokes reinforce the stereotypes to the point of counteracting them–do they really convince anyone to change? M.Snowe enjoys  jokes of this ilk because she understands the struggles still to be had, and looks to them for relief and inspiration. But, at the same time, will people who somehow still encourage these stereotypes just enjoy the jokes on the surface, and look no further? If this kind of joke, or style of irony doesn’t work to change people’s views, what will?

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