The Silence of Our Friends

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frustrated

I think everyone here has some knowledge of internalized racism. Racism and white supremacy is so pervasive in our culture that it isn't surprising when people of color believe the lies and begin to think of white people as superior or more authoritative than themselves or other people of color. Many other POC before me have noted that "white" isn't a skin color, it's a state of mind that even brown skinned people can have.

The problem I am having is possibly internalized sexism. In much the same way as internalized racism, I think us women can buy into the anti-women ideas swirling around us every day and it manifests itself when you hear a woman blaming another for the violence inflicted on her by a man, or slut shaming coming from women, etc. I think that I may be doing something like this. I'm really not sure but am damned frustrated and have a feeling that it might be the reason I am completely flumoxxed and why this one woman and I are talking past each other. Because this is a private conversation, and I am not sure if she even wants to be a part of it anymore, I won't reveal who she is and will just give a synopsis of what I think is going on and what was said. Unfortunately this is only my point of view and I may mischaracterize what she is saying because I am only telling you what I believe she means and not what she knows she means. So bear with me, hopefully she will be willing to step in and set things straight if I am misreading her. Or at least tell me privately so that I can update the post.

Anyway the disagreement is over this post at Daisy's Dead Air about Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth. I happen to agree with Daisy that the probability is that Elizabeth is a trophy wife, and have seen the pattern often enough with celebrities and politicians so that I don't ignore it and automatically assume, gosh, must be true love! Nope, it's too incredible that these wealthy and/or powerful men just happen to fall in love with teh hawt young babes and never young but average, or their own age, or older. And why is it teh hawt babes never hook up with old nobodies?

I'm just so sick and tired of our "wink nod" culture, I've raised this point several times and really need to sit down and write a post about that. Be that as it may, I think sometimes the obvious, Occam's razor and all that, is just the obvious. As one who mostly thinks of herself as a feminist, yeah I got huge problems with what passes for feminism nowadays, but that's for another day, but on with it...as a feminist, do we have to ignore the obvious to give other women the benefit of the doubt? To give them the best, least judgemental, motives for the things they do *wink nod*? And especially within the cultural context, because I don't have a problem with women who date/marry men they don't love but who give them something else they find important, but our culture certainly does, [sarcasm]damned golddiggers![/sarcasm] In fact, I think that all our chosen relationships are based on the idea that you are getting something from the other person, and they get something from you in return. Hopefully it's also true in the family you are born into, and that one of those things is love, but I know enough disfunctional families to know it isn't always true.

So there are two things going on in my mind. The first is, whatever floats your boat. If the young beauty wants money, fame or reflected glory, presige, social or political rank, hey that's up to her; and if the older dude wants his eye candy, fine. As long as they are both ok with it and happy, who am I to say any different? The second is, you don't get to a long term relationship or marriage without at least a minimum of compatibility, trust, and at least liking each other. But this is about the initial attraction, because I do think people filter out who they date based on certain characteristics they are looking for. And while on an individual level, whatever, if someone decides that something is right for them, it's no one else's place to tell them it's not; but I agree with Daisy that it is an indictment for our cultural and societal values when the priority in a list of attractions in general is youth and beauty for women, and wealth and power for men.

The point that the other woman makes is that you can't know what goes on between two people in a relationship, it is unfair to point fingers at specific people, although it is somewhat ok to notice a trend. But I think it's impossible to notice a trend without having many specific couples in mind, otherwise how is it a trend if it is some amorphous idea out there in the ether? Would it really be better if we had a hypothetical couple with over 30 years in age difference between them, but the dude is a national political figure, running for president, seems like a nice guy, has some great ideas and a good mind, looks like an old leprechaun, and the woman looks like a model, probably a very nice person and is liberal minded. So yeah, compatible politically. Now the question for you, do you think the model who is compatible politically with the old leprechaun would still be with him if he was a Wal-Mart greeter? The answer is, of course she would! As soon as she laid eyes on him she heard the strings section swelling and felt all swoony and once she knew he had the same political views it was all over, no way his prominence in national politics had anything to do with it. *wink nod*

Christ on a bicycle. Marla Maples fell in love with the hair. Anna Nicole Smith had a thing for skinny bald dudes. Monica Lewinsky likes cigar games, it doesn't matter if the guy is president, he could be a clerk in the mailroom and she'd still want to mess up that blue dress.

And you just know if these women were the same age, maybe even older than the men, and average, maybe a little homely, it wouldn't have mattered one bit to the men. It's their minds, and spirits, and gumption that lured the men in!

Ok now I'm getting facial tics from all that winking and my head wants to fall off from all that nodding. Enough with the frustrated anger and sarcasm.

Part of the issue is that it is unfair to use these examples as an example of a wider trend, not just of politicians and celebrities. It's unfair because many of us have been involved in May/December romances and it does not fit this pattern. Yes, but sometimes it does, there wouldn't be the cliche of the man running off from his family with the young beautiful secretary if it wasn't so common. Now maybe I'm not feeling the indictment when Daisy talks about this because although I did date a man 14 years older than me, but both of us drove junkers and had shit jobs, we met because we had mutual friends, we mostly hung out with those mutual friends who didn't bat an eyelash at the two of us dating. He was also at least as attractive in the conventional sense as I was. He was also single, I didn't "steal" him from his wife or older girlfriend. There was so many differences from the cliche that I never felt defensive or felt like anyone was judging us. Maybe if he was wealthy and had a nice car, and he was homely and looked especially old next to me, we would have gotten those stares, and I would have felt like I had to justify our relationship. So yeah, I get that, the unfairness of being stereotyped because this damned shit is so common! But that is the problem for me, that is where I am stuck. I am being told that I should play stupid and not notice how common it is, because there is that 5 or 10% who don't fit the stereotype, or assume that young beautiful women who wind up with politicians and celebrities are doing it for the truest of true love, and those old guys are loving their models for their minds, and I can't!

40 comment(s):

Well, lemme ask this: okay, let's say that -is- a real thing, it -is- a trend, Elizabeth is only with Dennis because he's powerful.

Okay. Now what? I mean...how does that affect you, or any of us? Honest question.

By Blogger belledame222, at 11/29/2007 2:42 PM  

She's with him because he's a Presidential candidate. He's with her because she'll help him win. It's obvious but it doesn't bother me much. She really does make him look better! Oh well.

By Blogger donna darko, at 11/29/2007 3:47 PM  

Donna, if you know how to do a pingback, wouldya teach me? :P I'd like to put a link to this on the original thread.

Belle, how does that affect us? Older women being considered something that you dump when you get ahead? You don't think that has any negative influence on the self-esteem of older women?

The feminist aspect is, that it's something we need to organize around, take men to task for, and (unfortunately) prepare for ourselves.

I'll never vote for what Tom Wolfe called a "wife shucker." I guess I'm just petty that way.

By Blogger Daisy, at 11/29/2007 3:54 PM  

belldame222 asked:

Okay. Now what? I mean...how does that affect you, or any of us? Honest question.

And daisy answered:

Belle, how does that affect us? Older women being considered something that you dump when you get ahead? You don't think that has any negative influence on the self-esteem of older women?

Well .... If the pattern is men and younger women --- no, not for the older women who are lesbians.

"Any of us" IMO includes some of us who are lesbians.

I respect if/when/how hetero and bi women say it affects them, but a blanket statement makes lesbians invisible.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/29/2007 4:03 PM  

According to what I could find on Google, Kucinich and his second wife divoced 20 years ago, and if it's worth noting that you didn't "steal" your "December," it's worth noting that neither did Ms. Kucinich.

According to Ms. Kucinich's Wikipedia page and bio on Mr. Kucinich's website, her interests and activities prior to meeting him leave it highly plausible that she may have more than a fetish for short, older, weasely-looking guys going on as a basis for compatibility.

There's no question that there are women who marry men because they are powerful; nor that there are men who consider fungible "trophy wives" an entitlement of the power they possess. I think we can acknowledge that without having to try to parse out whether any given "May-December" relationship is an example of those dynamics in play, or to what extent.

I think it's also problematic to label a given woman as "trophy wives," in that it invalidates everything about them except their appearance and youth.

By Anonymous Daniel Holzman-Tweed, at 11/29/2007 4:14 PM  

"a blanket statement makes lesbians invisible"

I don't think this was the intent or the necessary result. A friend of mine who is in the film industry and is a lesbian told me she felt invisible, professionally, because she is 52 and women in that profession are expected to be ornamental even as non-love-interests. While this phenomenon affects lesbians less, I don't think Daisy was attempting to exclude anyone and I think there are indeed lesbians who'd say that woman=ornament does affect them. eg female newcasters fired before their male age-equivalents. Some may be lesbians.

By Blogger Octogalore, at 11/29/2007 4:29 PM  

According to what I could find on Google, Kucinich and his second wife divoced 20 years ago, and if it's worth noting that you didn't "steal" your "December," it's worth noting that neither did Ms. Kucinich.

If you read my original post, you know that isn't true for the other wife-shucking candidates. There are several. I was discussing the entire PATTERN. Are you going to deny there is a PATTERN????

"Trophy wife" is a term many women are proud of, you realize? A popular diet commercial promises that your husband will call you his "trophy wife" when you lose weight. Not everyone thinks it is a bad thing to be, if this diet commercial successfully made it past the marketing demographic test groups.

I honestly can't believe we are having this conversation. This has depressed me greatly, if WOMEN are denying this basic truth of modern life. Or saying it's really okay. Or something. What exactly ARE you all saying? That we are bad for talking about a phenomenon that even has a name? Isn't that what feminism does, tries to analyze women's place in mass culture?

Or as I suspect, is it just that older women's feelings don't count?
Is this not like racism, in that the people under discussion decide what is racist, and white people don't? Why can't older women say what is ageist?

(((sigh)))

By Blogger Daisy, at 11/29/2007 5:06 PM  

"Well, lemme ask this: okay, let's say that -is- a real thing, it -is- a trend, Elizabeth is only with Dennis because he's powerful.

Okay. Now what? I mean...how does that affect you, or any of us?"

I'll take a whack at this. We don't know enough about Eliz or Dennis to blame either of them, and even if it were a power/looks exchange with some similar politics thrown in, there's nothing really wrong with an honest exchange.

But how does the phenomenon of these kinds of power/looks combos, some of which are of course based on genuine love, being slanted heavily towards male power/female youth and looks affect women? To be fair and address Michelle's point, please read the below as focusing on het women but not ruling out that there are lesbians whom this could affect.

The more men feel "entitled" to arm candy and women are acculturated to feel that marrying "up" is a commonly done and legit choice (again, NOT criticizing individuals), the more women are boxed into a certain pattern. One in which our main power is between the ages of 18 and 30, maybe 35-40 with careful maintenance and/or plastic surgery. After that, if we haven't become a professional power player or if we are not part of a more unconventional milieu, we will be "sent upstairs" as Daisy said in another thread.

There were women in my B-school who put in their yearbooks their goal to "Marry a Millionaire, or the President." That exact phrase was used by a woman who smoked the entire class, men and women, in stochastic programming. She didn't get this bright idea solely from some kind of biological source -- it's part of societal teaching that many women absorb.

So, in my humble view, it affects us because it creates a situation where women in later life are disadvantaged.

By Blogger Octogalore, at 11/29/2007 5:14 PM  

Belle, I think the other side of the coin is the one that bothers me more, Dennis is only with Elizabeth because she is young and beautiful. None of us escape aging, we might be able to hold off with cosmetic surgery and slathering on the skin creams and lotions and tons of make-up, but to have that nice youthful beauty? At 40 it's fading and there won't be no one saying I'm teh hawt babe at 60, I guarantee that. This would not be a problem to me if there wasn't such a high premium on beauty, because I would still be valued for other traits and characteristics, like making people laugh or having an interesting conversation.

Donna D, that sums it up. There may be more to it, there may be love and respect, but I think the initial attraction is basically what you said.

Daisy, I don't know how to do pings or trackbacks.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 7:10 PM  

Michelle the premium on youth and beauty doesn't affect lesbian relationships? I would think there are women out there who would dump their lover for a younger woman. My tv, movies, magazines, billboards, everything screams "Beauty and youth is everything!" While I understand lesbians not being interested in what men think, I would think that having these messages coming from everywhere would still affect you.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 7:16 PM  

"I was discussing the entire PATTERN."

You said, "I happen to agree with Daisy that the probability is that Elizabeth is a trophy wife..." That's not discussion of the entire pattern, that's discussion of Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich. You also discussed the pattern, but you did take it into the personal realm of the Kuciniches.

"Are you going to deny there is a PATTERN????"

Which part of...

"There's no question that there are women who marry men because they are powerful; nor that there are men who consider fungible 'trophy wives' an entitlement of the power they possess." (Emphasis added)

...makes you think it remotely possible that I would deny there is a pattern? My point is that Kucinich doesn't fit the pattern, and does not belong in the same sentence as men who do fit the pattern like Reagan or Gingrich unless it is to highlight the contrast between "wife shucking men" and "men who've had several failed marriages." Given that you made a point of asserting that Ms. Kucinich's is a "trophy wife", I think that's an important thing to be clear on.

"Trophy wife" is a term many women are proud of, you realize?

It's news to me. In my unscientific poll of my wife, I discovered the term to be one guaranteed to cure hypotension, for exactly the reasons I described.

this diet commercial successfully made it past the marketing demographic test groups.

"This is not your grandfather's Oldsmobile" also made it past the marketing demographic test groups. It's not a guarantee that the message will be a hit with the general populace.xfwr

By Anonymous Daniel Holzman-Tweed, at 11/29/2007 7:27 PM  

Dennis is only with Elizabeth because she is young and beautiful.

That's an awful big claim. It doesn't only say that Dennis is with Elizabeth because she's young, or that she's beautiful; it says he's not with her because they have interests in common; it says he's not with her because he enjoys her company, and so on. Your basis for that is... what?

By Anonymous Daniel Holzman-Tweed, at 11/29/2007 7:32 PM  

Daniel, you're right anything that does not fit a pattern is worth noting. It's still funny how that soul mate thing works and weeds old the old ladies, I think.

I think it's also problematic to label a given woman as "trophy wives," in that it invalidates everything about them except their appearance and youth.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I think it is problematic that women are valued only for their appearance and beauty and that is where the phrase "trophy wives" comes in.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 7:46 PM  

Daniel I think that you and some of us may have different definitions of trophy wives, the first wife can be the trophy wife you know? It doesn't mean someone who stole a man, it means someone who is there to be pretty standing beside her husband. Katie Holmes didn't steal Tom Cruise from anyone, she could easily be considered a trophy wife anyway too.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 7:59 PM  

Daisy, there is a trophy wife of a sort in POC communities too. I am really leary of bringing this up because whats good for the gander is sauce for the goose in my case. There are alot of pissed off WOC who see MOC dating and marrying white women, I've especially seen some pretty heated exchanges about this about black men, but I've also heard both men and women take shit for it on my reservation, including me. And what I said about the gander, that would be me, I'm married to a white dude, blonde hair blue eyed Swedish-German-French American. Now, I've never been exclusive, and have dated several different races and nationalities and physical types etc. I think that is where people start to wonder is the exclusivity unless you live in an all or mostly white neighborhood, and that is the only women you meet, then why won't you even take a non-white woman out on a date and at least give her a chance? So yeah, some internalized racism going on there.

So I have no problem with you calling it ageism, thats what it is.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 8:09 PM  

Octogalore,

The more men feel "entitled" to arm candy and women are acculturated to feel that marrying "up" is a commonly done and legit choice (again, NOT criticizing individuals), the more women are boxed into a certain pattern. One in which our main power is between the ages of 18 and 30, maybe 35-40 with careful maintenance and/or plastic surgery. After that, if we haven't become a professional power player or if we are not part of a more unconventional milieu, we will be "sent upstairs" as Daisy said in another thread.

Yes, yup, uh-huh, oh yeah! The same with everything else you said!

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 8:13 PM  

Donna,

This post and discussion centers on a discussion about heterosexual relationships. It centers those relationships.

I'm sorry, I really don't have the energy for this discussion as it has unfolded. I don't have energy right now to pick apart what is heterosexism in all this (and some of it really is that IMO) and what is a place to open into something for non-heterosexist discussion.

And I don't want to be in a position where I am ignoring heterosexism while at the same time openly considering how lesbian relationships might "be like" the hetero ones in this pattern.

We have all sorts of stuff in our relationships that could be understood as "how is it like hetero relationships" (eg abuse) but using hetero relationships as the orienting model usually distorts the meaning of what is actually going on.

I did have an actual substantive comment in response to your original questions, about objectification of women and its dynamics but -- no. It would be disrectful to myself to act like this a discussion in which I feel positioned as real.

While I would be glad if other lesbians do or can feel real in this, while I would be glad if other lesbians are part of this discussion (are there other lesbians here? just like women of color speaking on racism, we all have different perspectives so I only speak for myself) -- I myself am not going to be part of it.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/29/2007 8:38 PM  

I certainly respect that, Michelle, and don't want to push you into a conversation where you aren't comfortable. I do agree this is mostly in context of heterosexual relationships, but some of what I was talking about in private is simply the messages all around us that beauty and youth is everything. It really doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is when that message is clear to all women, but yeah, about lesbian relationships, I know nothing and have no clue how this affects or does not affect you or any other lesbian woman in your relationships.

Which by the way, Belle has the serious clear-eyed gaze you should have spotted from a mile away. If you don't know what I am refering to check out Cuz I feel like a bitch at super babymama.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 9:52 PM  

Donna,

Sigh. I can't believe this, I can't. I am going to say more, this is bothering me. Do you know that feeling of disbelief like "am I really having this discussion here in this context"?

Maybe I'm just hallucinating.

In case I'm not:

It really doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is when that message is clear to all women, but yeah, about lesbian relationships, I know nothing and have no clue how this affects or does not affect you or any other lesbian woman in your relationships.

How could it not matter? I mean, different women are affected in different ways by this system. Using hetero relationships as a centerpoint sets up a way to understand it that basically locates lesbian experiences with this "message" about gender, beauty and youth as relevant to the extent that our experiences look like those of hetero-relationship-oriented women.

If you start with a hetero-centered approach but then do the implicit sort of "but really sexual orientation doesn't matter because we're all women and all affected by this" it can implicitly devalue attention to the differences in how we are affected and how different elements of the larger systems intersect in actual lived experience of those who are not at the center of the model.

I am in some disbelief that I am having to say any of this here. I mean, I am saying to myself as I write, "clearly I don't understand what is going on at all, clearly so, because what I think is going on wouldn't happen on a blog like this -- like never ever would happen."

I must be hallucinating, I really seriously must be.

And, I have no idea what you are saying about belle with that kactus link BTW.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/29/2007 11:04 PM  

"clearly I don't understand what is going on at all, clearly so, because what I think is going on wouldn't happen on a blog like this -- like never ever would happen."

Well yeah I do like to think I'm perfect but no I'm not and I have been tripped up by my own privilege at times. I do see that here. I pulled the FFF on you and "included" you in the discussion. I am really sorry, Michelle. That is the problem with privilege, it is so hard to see when you have it. I'll do my damnedest so it won't happen again, but hope you won't mind taking me to task again if I do fuck up. Again I apologize.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/29/2007 11:25 PM  

You're not suffering from internalized sexism, you're just suffering from common sense. The pattern is so pervasive that it boggles my mind to see people blinking and going "what pattern?".

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 11/30/2007 12:05 AM  

It would not surprise me if several definitions of "trophy wives" are in play. My understanding of a "trophy wife" is that being young is part of the trophy, and so of course the first wife can be a trophy wife... for a while. I've no doubt Donald Trump found Ivanna Trump "trophy" material when they married (when she age 28), but not when they divorced (when she was 43 and he was having an affair with Marla Maples, who was 29). Ditto Marla, until they divorced when she was 36. With that understanding of what it is to be a trophy wife, part of my wife's objection to being called one is not that it says she's very beautiful -- she is -- but that it implies that she has a shelf life. It also erases everything about her other than youth, attractiveness, and sexual availability. I think there'd definately have to be another definition in play for someone not to hear being called a trophy wife as reductive and at least a bit threatening.

It's still not clear to me that I'm understood in this exchange: I agree with you that the whole model of "trophy wives" is rooted in a sexist, racist, and classist distribution of power. I disagree with you that the Kuciniches are an example of the model of "trophy wives" in action.

By Anonymous Daniel Holzman-Tweed, at 11/30/2007 2:13 AM  

To be fair the trend of enjo kosai in politics is more about the fact that most politicians are gayer than ten motherfuckers (who happen to be gay), hence the trend is not really towards sugar daddyism so much as it is towards politically correct beards.

If they actually have more than the obligatory baby making sex then it'd actually be unusual.

Dennis is only with Elizabeth because she is young and beautiful.

Actually she's only with him because he's got cash. It is enjo kosai (or beards) and hence is a thing involving two people with agency lying to the press a lot.

The fact that kucinich played up to the idea that the penii of old men are strange vampiric things which suck the youth out of younger women so as to prolong their own worthless existences (a cliche I doubt is true, despite it being so commonly thrown around) is troubling though.

By Anonymous R. Mildred, at 11/30/2007 4:48 AM  

I should also point out that the framing of it as "he's only with her because..." is generally problematic, because it's not like he plucked her off the streets and forced her to be his wife against her will...

It doesn't make it less skeevy if we assume she does have agency, but it would be nice if we could talk about a man fuckign a younger woman without also turning the younger woman into a realdoll in the process. Purrrease?

By Anonymous r. mildred, at 11/30/2007 4:57 AM  

Well yeah I do like to think I'm perfect but no I'm not and I have been tripped up by my own privilege at times. I do see that here. I pulled the FFF on you and "included" you in the discussion. I am really sorry, Michelle. That is the problem with privilege, it is so hard to see when you have it. I'll do my damnedest so it won't happen again, but hope you won't mind taking me to task again if I do fuck up. Again I apologize.

Donna, thank you for this.

(I was ... well, okay I'll admit it, a little afraid to come back here to see what, if any, response there was to what I wrote.)

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/30/2007 2:57 PM  

Yeah - wow. I came to this discussion a little late, but I'm really glad to see Michelle getting that apology. I was reading the comments, and especially Octogalore's first response to Michelle made my mouth drop open. It's that "well, my black friend says" non-argument recast, as far as I can tell.

If it's none of my business, then it's none of my business. Just saying.

By Blogger Katie, at 11/30/2007 5:02 PM  

I would have to say that I agree with a bunch of different points here.

My experience is that, when I'm with women, I don't feel *personally* affected by all the women-are-only-worth-what-they-look-like bullshit with men. I just don't give a fuck.

However - I was in the closet until I was 30, and even though I still didn't give much of a fuck, in terms of investment of men I was dating, it also affected me just to have that knowledge about young and beautiful being best. And I didn't *just* get that message from fucking or dating or being oriented towards men. I got it from family - simultaneously as I got some great messages about myself - and when I first came out and was single for a while, I felt it with gay women, too.

Which is not to say - by a long fucking shot - that "the womenz are bad too so let's not talk about anything!" It's that this issue of valuing beauty in women is something I felt *before I even fucking HAD sexual desires*, when I was little, and from basically every direction I can think of.

That is, I think, a separate issue than the trophy wife discussion, well not separate but a strand of it, and I get how the trophy wife stuff is centering hetero-ness.

It's also true that I feel the most myself and the most not-beauty-paranoid when I'm with a woman. I mean, I feel beautiful. I don't *worry* about being less beautiful than I was ten years ago.

By Anonymous Joan Kelly, at 11/30/2007 7:52 PM  

I was reading the comments, and especially Octogalore's first response to Michelle made my mouth drop open. It's that "well, my black friend says" non-argument recast, as far as I can tell.

Yeah, Katie, that's what I saw too. That whole comment -- its content and energy -- got me right in the gut, but I didn't even have the energy to name it. I felt pretty strongly that calling that one out directly would be likely to get more heterosexist defensive argument back in return so I stayed silent about it in particular. With Donna, though, I felt I should say something because ... well, her response shows why IMO.

BTW, Donna, speaking of your response, I think I understand better now what you wrote about intent in Bitter Laughter. It really matters to get a response like yours. It really matters when someone takes responsibility in a clear, direct and real way. Mistakes are mistakes, we all make them, but you got it and responded with thoughtfulness and clear energy and I am grateful for it.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/30/2007 7:59 PM  

And -- on the actual issue of experiences with objectification and beauty, here's something that I've been remembering and thinking about from this whole discussion:

When I was in early puberty, I was always looking at other women's bodies. Closely. It was this thing with me. I didn't know why I was doing it, then.

There was no such thing as "lesbians" in my worldview at that time -- no call for me to be looking at women's bodies like that.

I couldn't explain it any other way, so I decided I was doing it to compare and criticize other women's looks. And I morphed the looking into that, this sort of critical assessing thing of the women's beauty and "flaws" using dominant cultural standards. It was deeply disconnected -- disconnected from my own sexuality and it disconnected me from the women I was looking at.

They became objects I was comparing with myself-as-object (my own body) because that is how I could explain it to myself, I mean why else would a young woman be looking at other women like that.

Of course now many many (and um, many) years later, I know why I was looking. I am sexually attracted to women. I was in early puberty and my looking was actually a sort of sexual looking.

Now I look at other women the way I really wanted to, but couldn't then. And as it turns out, for me the range of who is beautiful is really really ... not what the culture says. The whole basis for beauty is different in my actual eyes and feeling of things. I'm sure I still have some of that dominant culture shit in my perspective about other women too, but now the primary is how I see and feel it, not what the dominant culture says about it.

And in getting clear the space from which I look at other women, learning what I feel and see as beauty in other women -- I think I've also come to see where I might have some of that too. I'm still critical of my body, which has threads back to that time in early puberty. But at the same time, I see now that it's a woman's body too, and I can somewhat/sometimes look at myself how I look at other women and see beauty by my own eyes, where in the past I really could not.

But you know, if I had never come out, if I had never realized why I look at other women, I feel like I would still be in that disconnect -- explaining it to myself just as I did when I was young, assessing other women as objects, and myself as one too. And at the core, feeling that it was all of us in competition with each other and hostile to each other because of it.

Disclaimer: This is one piece of one lesbian's experience and not indicative of the Whole Bunch Of Us (tm) :) And no I am not saying everything would work out if only hetero women joined Teh Team.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/30/2007 8:31 PM  

Kucinich was alone for twenty years. He doesn't look like the type who has ANY women approaching him. It's less his marrying a young, beautiful woman than Elizabeth who apparently has a thing for old, odd-looking men. It's a pattern but Kucinich is not the type to fall into any pattern.

By Blogger donna darko, at 11/30/2007 9:27 PM  

Michelle, I'm just sorry you had to spell it out for me before I got it. I've complained enough about the white feminists having to put up with the same crap from liberal men, so why don't they get it when they do the same thing to WOC? But here I go doing it to you and not seeing it!

I thought I was just inviting you to join in the discussion but no, I was asking you to forget who you are. I was thinking, yep, that goes over like inviting your muslim friend to go Christmas caroling with ya. "C'mon join in the fun!"

When a discussion is already centered it can possibly be recentered with at least some difficulty. More often than not, it's just better to acknowledge that it is centered on only one group of people, and remember that someone is being left out instead of making universal statements. It is really what I thought Jessica should have done with FFF, just say it's for the white girls, like Jessica, don't pretend it's for all young women.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/01/2007 2:00 PM  

I guess by "now what," I meant: What do you propose to do about this? Because if in this case it's "I won't vote for Kucinich," well, like I've said, that one's not something I'm prepared to go to the mat over 'cause i never liked him much.

If, you know, it's about validating feelings: well, again, sure. We live in a culture that's both sexist and ageist; and yeah, it hurts when you're treated like flotsam.

Just, viz it being a trend: beyond acknowledging it, I'm not sure what one is supposed to -do- with it, specifically, at least as pertains male-female relationships. I mean I don't really know what to say about that. Elsewhere, you were talking about workplace discrimination and overall being treated like an invisible/second-class person, and yeah, definitely that's something that--we could talk strategy, maybe.

I guess I just don't know what to say when it seems like, in order to support someone in her feelings of hurt and anger I need to join with her in judgment of Other Peoples' Relationships, when I don't, particularly.

By Blogger belledame222, at 12/02/2007 7:47 PM  

and yeah, what Michelle said in several places. thank you!

I mean, yeah, there are many kinds of erasure. There's erasure within the greater society, and that does happen to older women, women who don't fit conventional beauty norms, absolutely, even on a daily, go-out-in-the-street way.

But when you frame it in terms of -relationships-, specifically traditional male female ones, well, you know, just: don't be -surprised- when some of us don't relate, want to share other experiences, and maybe take umbridge at feeling, like, subsumed into a universalizing template. Because, again, yeah, I feel like: my own experience is of being in lots of groups of straight women talking in this sort of Men are from Mars Women are from Venus sort of way, and me nodding along but thinking, I must be from the moon, really. anyway i -feel- like I'm from the moon.

btw, Michelle, I've been trying to find a way to get in touch with you: can you drop me an email? bel4@earthlink.net.

By Blogger belledame222, at 12/02/2007 7:52 PM  

catching up. yeah, Donna, you know--I appreciate that.

I'm hearing you, Daisy, say you feel like also you feel erased in the discussion among younger feminists. And I mean--yeah, I think ageism is really important, and I definitely don't mean to dismiss that. As I said above: there are some experiences that aging lesbians and aging straight women probably are more likely to find in common than relating to the dynamics of hetero relationships.

That is separate from my own personal indifference to the Kuciniches, per se, I think, or--clearly mileage also varies about a number of things. But I do think that's an important discussion to have: the invisibility of older people and particularly of older women.

By Blogger belledame222, at 12/02/2007 8:37 PM  


I couldn't explain it any other way, so I decided I was doing it to compare and criticize other women's looks. And I morphed the looking into that, this sort of critical assessing thing of the women's beauty and "flaws" using dominant cultural standards. It was deeply disconnected -- disconnected from my own sexuality and it disconnected me from the women I was looking at.

They became objects I was comparing with myself-as-object (my own body) because that is how I could explain it to myself, I mean why else would a young woman be looking at other women like that.


*nod nod head falls off*

or, well, in my case I -knew- why, I just didn't want to accept it. and I had lots of encouragement in trying to reframe it for myself as, "Oh, you aren't really -attracted- to her; you want to -be- her." (because of course these are mutually exclusive possibilities!)

so, yeah, a headfuck on several levels. Yeah, I got the same generalized lookist stuff as many other women, I'm sure: certainly the weight business, not wanting to be called out as ugly or whatnot. And sure, I wanted to look "good"--but, well...mostly I just wanted to be "normal," I think. as an adolescent, anyway. Not stand out. I wasn't worried about me as an object so much as I was terrified and/or despairing that my own "gaze" (if I knew of such terms) would be found out.

So, for a long while, I tried not to look at anybody. Women especially.

By Blogger belledame222, at 12/02/2007 8:42 PM  

oh, and I liked makeup and femmey accoutrements from early on. Cinderella, sure, why not? But the prince was always this sort of dimly outlined last accessory that I was least interested in, if at all.

By Blogger belledame222, at 12/02/2007 8:44 PM  

"I was reading the comments, and especially Octogalore's first response to Michelle made my mouth drop open. It's that "well, my black friend says" non-argument recast, as far as I can tell."

Katie, fair enough and I apologize if this made anyone feel artificially boxed in to an idea that didn't fit. The fact remains, though, that this particular woman isn't alone in feeling this way, and that it's unfair to her and those like her to claim the discussion isn't relevant to them.

Additionally, I'm not sure why it's wrong to have a discussion which is conditioned by -- this is more relevant to hetero couples, although it may be relevant to gay couples as well, but probably much less so. If the author is hetero, then she's writing from her experience while not dismissing that of others. Now, maybe I and others could've done better semantically on this by acknowledging the limits of the perspective. But a personal post, about ones own experience, kind of has to center around that experience, IMO.

That doesn't sanction the FFF methodology or if the larger scheme of Donna's or whoever's writings ignored other perspectives (which I don't think is true in Donna's case). FFF's a different case because it did purport to be for young feminists, period. So the gratuitous-only mention of WOC grates.

Here, however, I read this more like "here's an irritating phenomenon about dudes and relationships with them" rather than "this is a universal truth about all relationships and I don't recognize non-hetero relationships."

And along the lines of what Belle said about the common issues involving ageism affecting both gay and straight women -- my example about my friend wasn't to say "she thinks hetero relationships are relevant!" It was to say "she thinks the idea of being cast aside once a certain age is relevant." The fact that more was read into this really disturbs me.

I appreciate being called out for the semantics, but not for the substantive points.

By Blogger Octogalore, at 12/16/2007 3:45 PM  

"But when you frame it in terms of -relationships-, specifically traditional male female ones, well, you know, just: don't be -surprised- when some of us don't relate, want to share other experiences, and maybe take umbridge at feeling, like, subsumed into a universalizing template."

I hear you, Belle, and I apologize as well to you about saying anything that made you feel subsumed.

I wonder why it isn't possible to say what you did above, eg: "Hey, I'm not really relating to this, what's being said about relationships isn't relevant to my experience, and I hope nobody's trying to sweep me and others into some pattern that isn't universal. Here's where I think the idea has more relevance for me."

Instead of "wow, this really bothers me, how can you be doing this, heterosexist person." I think the people having the conversation are on the right side wrt inclusion, and "That whole comment -- its content and energy -- got me right in the gut" is, IMO, unfair. There's more than one way to make a point, and calling someone out as putting out "bad energy" isn't it. Saying what bothers you about something, fine. Imputing intention where you don't have any idea about that, not fine.

By Blogger Octogalore, at 12/16/2007 3:57 PM  

Thank goodness someone is discussing the invisibility of sexism and the lack of discussion on what Kucinich's ridiculous match should mean to women. How revolting has it been to read nothing but male reaction, whether it was to deem Elizabeth "hot" or not (there are some who are not at all taken by her looks).
If you read up on these two, you will find that Elizabeth has a Princess Diana fetish, so it is not at all surprising that she'd instantly match herself up with an older, unattractive public figure...and wear a tiara at her whirlwind wedding. Look at one of the pictures on the Kucinich website...there's Elizabeth pulling down the sleeve of her dress off her shoulder in a come-hump-me pose, while vegan-diet-bragging Dennis leers into the lens. They definitely are a match. Mediawhores, both. And as far as ideology, the Kucinich camp actually thought it was a good idea to link to Elizabeth's keynote address at the Raw Spirit conference, alongside two "Breatharian" gurus...frauds who rope the gullible into thinking one can free oneself from the need to eat and simple live on sunshine and air. Look it up. They are definitely soul mates, as Elizabeth then backs up her husband's bizarre endorsement of Ron Paul, an anti-choice, gun and conspiracy nut who is the White Power choice for 2008. She called Paul a "great truth teller" like her hubby. Whether they are using each other or true believers themselves, they are both charlatans who exploit a cult-like following for their own aggrandizement.

By Anonymous Zee, at 12/20/2007 6:50 PM  

If you want to see how Elizabeth Kucinich truly feels about her sex, if you want to see the type of woman that Elizabeth Kucinich considers her "best friend", have a look at this:

http://chirpstory.com/li/2442

Elizabeth Kucinich's best friend Mariana Tosca is a litiguous censorious bastard, an animal rights extremist and a cult groupie, who has been reported to the police for attempted blackmail, for intimidating and trying to extort money from a blogger in Europe who had the nerve to expose a deceptive advertisement Kucinich's best friend was responsible for. That's the type of woman Elizabeth Kucinich is happy to associate herself with. These power-hungry women will not hesitate for a moment to throw their fellow women under the bus to advance their careers.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/09/2011 11:04 AM  

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