Bryan Singer, you’re my hero.

16Sep08

Talking point, courtesy of tonight’s new House.  Don’t worry, it’s not spoilery.

Is feminism about being able to have everything, or about being able to try for anything?  Is deliberately becoming someone’s subordinate and being happy with that role in life a valid feminist position?

I don’t really know yet.  I’ll get back to you.  But talk to me.



7 Responses to “Bryan Singer, you’re my hero.”

  1. Yehhh, this is something I worry about a lot as someone who’s planning to eventually be a stay-at-home mom. When I talk to people about it they always say “Oh, the whole point of feminism is being able to *choose*, if you *want* to stay at home and you *choose* to then it’s fine” but I don’t know if they really believe it and I definitely don’t know if *I* really believe it. But I mean, it is kind of ridiculous to think that the only possible feminist goal is being a CEO or whatever. Feminism is a state of mind, you know?

  2. The main problem with any “choice” argument is you can always get into endless “what constitutes a free choice” arguments – at one extreme, “anything a woman says she chooses = choice” and at the other, “women can’t actually choose anything Defined By Me as “patriarchal” because then they’ve just been brainwashed by patriarchy”.

    My biggest concern with the “have everything” idea is that it’s so often just a shield for “have a career, women, but don’t even THINK that your male partners will start doing 50% of the promotion-sacrificing, child-rearing, and house-cleaning”.

  3. Quinn: Good point there. I’ve got to admit that wanting to be certain things, or enjoying the heck out of certain things, feels un-feminist even if you try to convince yourself that you’re reclaiming it. The reason it’s a problem is because we’re all still stuck in a real societal bind and with real conflicts, instead of the theoretical.

    And this gets into your comment, QoT, because we get into the issue of people who say the master’s tools cannot bring down the master’s house (a la Audre Lorde), and that subscribing to anything that’s part of the patriarchal order cannot be a fighting act, cannot be feminist.

    But truth is, we all do, even the disenfranchised. It’s too entrenched–as Suzette Haden Elgin brings up, our very language can be seen as part of that power structure and limiting. So imho, we end up being part of the issue even as we rage against it, and I see working from the inside as being potentially more productive than trying to trash everything. You start bringing down parts of the house entirely, you bring it all on your head. You rebuild the house one foundation point at a time, you get more success.

    Which is not to say that we can’t do radical things, more that we need to not be limited to only the radical. Of course, that says something about me being a sellout and will probably get me in trouble.

  4. Not a sellout at all, Bene, if you ask me. I think that this is the result of understanding power in the Foucauldian sense, complicating the idea that power is simply oppressive. This means that resistance is possible, and negotiations with power can happen, like you say, but that a ‘pure space’ ‘outside’ power simply doesn’t exist. What I find interesting about the free choice argument is that it tries to pretend there’s some essence of the individual which is naturally given and naturally free, and implicitly outside of any culturally given power structure, so any choices the individual makes are politically *fine*. For me, that’s just really weird, esp. given that individuals keep making the same decisions as everyone else for the most part: to look ‘pretty’, to terminate disabled foetuses, to live middle-class lives. Whatever. Of course, Foucault says that it’s that story about individuality that is itself where power has its greatest hold. But that’s massively threatening to people who wanna hang onto the political purity of the themselves, and their desires.

    But to come back to House. I found that whole debate kinda bizarre, really. The idea that feminists can only be feminists from the top, and never as ‘flunkies’ weirded me out. Feminism is mostly too sophisticated, I think, to leave unassessed the gender dynamic that identifies those who have ‘real power’ coz they operate at the ‘top’ and those who allegedly don’t because they don’t. That seems to leave in place the patriarchal assessment of whose job really matters, which feminism, having pointed out, for example, that the traditional male worker could only be the kind of worker he was because he had a wife at home to take care of him and his household, really wouldn’t seem to buy into.

    There are lots of things I really like about House. But there do seem to be moments where the writers needed to do more research; the intersex episode is another example, imo.

  5. WP: I really, really like Thirteen, and I totally could see her POV there. But I think it was indeed overly simplified in the process of trying to ask a question (which was why I tried to rework it into feminist discussion), and in the process of trying to say ‘wait, the way this feminist leader is treating her assistant is wrong and problematic’. They sorta missed the boat, really.

    Probably because they should stick to what they know, e.g. completely heartbreaking scenes between the secret lovers House and Wilson. IAWYC regarding the ep about the intersexed person, though it was dealt with somewhat less judgmentally than I’d seen before on American TV, at least. Like Joss–tying this all together!–it’s a matter of actions within the existing network television system.

    I adore Foucault, though, mostly because I struggle quite a bit (as noted above) with the personal and the political and liking things that I ‘shouldn’t’. I find struggling against your own likes and dislikes to be highly counterproductive, as long as you make sure to recognize the problems therein.

  6. Hey, what’s not to love about Thirteen?🙂 No, seriously! I could see her POV, too, but I was kinda… well, it felt a tad out of character, tbh, although that might just be me having a rare moment of actual disagreement with her😉 The other thing that kinda irritated me was the idea that *because* she’s a feminist leader, she has a responsibility that *no one else* has to treat her subordinates in a particular way. I mean, she wasn’t particularly nice, that’s a given, but they seemed to be suggesting that it problematised the sincerity of her feminist politics, and I was just left thinking ‘yeah, yet again feminists can only be feminists if they are *all good and virtuous all the way down*.’ And that, I think, is part of the interesting thing about depiction of feminism: they seem to seek to undermine it because some particular aspect of a given character doesn’t adhere to feminist principles. It’s a very puritannical take on having a politics, because it suggests that absolutely everything you do needs to be an idealised version of the feminist subject. In other words, ‘normal’ non-feminist subjectivity can be as riven with flaws as it like and that’s neutrals; but when a feminist is, you know, an actual person with complexities and ‘flaws’ etc, it says something about their politics. Grr.

    Liking things one ‘shouldn’t’ is intriguing, I think, and it leads back to this puritannical version of politics again: making guilt and innocence the personal dimension of proper politics. Ugh. I think there’s something problematic about a form of feminism that requires self-denial. Women are already too good at that. And to pretend that critical readings of stuff is the same as uncritical? Simplistic, methinks, particularly when, for me, anyway, enjoyment doesn’t just attach to being uncritical, but massively to my critical engagement as well. So I can observe the heteronormativity that informs Sookie and Bill gettin’ it on, and enjoy that, but enjoy the bits that trouble it too. And the two are intertwined, I think.

    And also, I wonder what enjoyment ‘should’ attach to then: what would a purely feminist text look like, given that, as you point out, we can’t escape power, coz it’s largely bound up with meaning? Any purely feminist text is only ever going to be imagined in terms of where we are now. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, but it also doesn’t mean it’s innocent ‘of power’, if that makes sense.. there’s no pure space imaginable, only those we want to call pure, and we need to ask why.

    And besides, why do we want pure? Why don’t we want complex? To me, a show is feminist not because it shows women as we dream they might be, free and liberated and dancing around naked in the forest (not that I am against forest-dancing), but because it shows women negotiating with ideals of femininity, with sex, with patriarchy, with having to make choices, with desire and needs and wants and the way the world wants to treat them. To me, the imagining of a utopia doesn’t actually give us pure space, it just tells us what rules we wish would go away right now.

    To be really clear, none of this is directed at you🙂 I tend to think we share a fair bit of this. I am ranting and railing against dimensions of political engagements with pop culture which can’t allow enjoyment to coexist with disagreement. And ahem, your blog just… acted as an outlet? Sorry, I should just post my own blogpost next time🙂

  7. Hey, no worries, mate. [g] Anytime you like, we here at Team Bene enjoy this sort of thing.

    Besides, pure space is boring.


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