Toward the Paradigm: Stopping Down

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This is probably what Tumblr is for, and lo, I have a Tumblr. But regardless the structure of this post, the link and response, it’s very much pertinent to the continuing development of The Battle Beyond Planet X, as hinted at in Ep. 77 – Mythology of Evil and the 2016 Thesis.

The title of the article we’ll be looking at today is a bit of a feint, with a strong tone that suggests something more confrontational than what follows. But it certainly captures the frustration, and goes a bit like this: “I’m a server, not your sex toy: Some advice to the next dude who wants to comment on my looks,” by Amelia Bonow.

ImAServer

To the title of this post, I thought about ‘Hyper-Subjectivity,’ or ‘Close POV,’ because essentially what I really appreciate about this article is how personal it is. But I think in saying that, so firstly, it just feels strange. So I opted for the filmmaker metaphor, where stopping down refers to closing the camera’s iris, if the image is too bright. Letting less light in… So maybe it’s an inverse metaphor.

If you listened to that episode of the podcast, I’ve been doing some mental wrestling with criticism/blogging that regards social progress, and this article not only represents possibly the paradigm I’m looking for, but as a result is highly educational in itself. A major component of that is how self-exploratory it is, like the part of your (my) diary where I review things and try to rationalize, wrangle a narrative out of all the preceding madness. When you can’t afford a therapist, or don’t value your sadness enough to seriously consider one, you might find yourself writing, telling and retelling your life story, like a time traveler on a crazy 12 Monkeys mission to understand what went wrong back then, or face oblivion — and it’s true. Can’t repeat those mistakes.

The culminating line for me is “Men have fucked with my identity since I was a child…” which comes as conclusion to what is the most self-exploratory in the piece. She talks about how she wanted every guy she knew to have sex with her, because that’s how she came to define self-value. She wanted simply to be wanted and respected, and society (though she doesn’t outright use the word) dictated that this was her only outlet.

Fuck! That blew my mind. It’s visceral, real shit.

And I think it reached me so powerfully because it appealed to something very private and intimate to my own experience, which again, is that retrospective understanding of the development of the mind, based on social circumstances. In terms of really putting oneself out there, being as truthful as possible, this is as exposed as any writer can be.

As such, she doesn’t cover her own ass. One thing I can spot, because I do it a lot, is criticizing oneself when perhaps the criticism wasn’t so needed in context. It made me pause when I read that she felt, though briefly, that possibly she hung around so many queer people because they weren’t sexually threatening. That’s a complex, dark thought. This is a highly personal account, published for a wide audience. At the same time, what’s so great here is how she makes these concessions to a multi-gender audience, where she occasionally has a refrain to acknowledge or anticipate the male audience’s mental state. Without being condescending, she remarks on how paradoxical all of this seems, how men can feel trapped by women’s agency:

“But as we’ve become increasingly vocal about how things actually make us feel, the whole scene has become rightfully terrifying for the people trying to bag us. Dudes who are trying to respect and maybe fuck us are now in a double bind in which these two agendas seem very difficult but necessary to merge.”

‘Without being condescending,’ huh? It’s true — this is not high level shit. An author shouldn’t usually worry about the volatile feelings of a precious male audience, but she’s speaking to them, to those who most need an article like this. Whether or not it reached them, that’s for later, I suppose. But we do suspect that this audience is highly sensitive, and will flake on a piece about women’s issues the moment the good name of men is tarnished. She can transition then right into the gut punch, saying that if it’s paradoxical for you, boy, now imagine what it’s like on the opposite end: “How am I supposed to reconcile wanting men to be attracted to me with not wanting to be objectified?”

You can’t blame somebody for sexual assault because they were dressed sexily, and then not notice how every multimedia depiction of a woman between the ages of 13 and 35 are dressed that way.

But I do know that. So what does this article teach me? There’s the premise of the article, which is ‘don’t automatically conflate a remark about a woman’s visual beauty with a compliment,’ and that’s something I need to keep in mind. Not that I’ve ever told a strange woman she was beautiful as a greeting, but it’s certainly my first thought.

To the issues of the Call of Duty episode, and the actual object, maybe, of the ‘2016 Thesis,’ Amelia Bonow here discusses how women’s bodies become commodity, and in such a casual way – with reactive thoughts and passing feelings, no matter how private, sexism is manifest in the minds of men. To look at a woman and think, ‘naw,’ that’s pretty fucking inhuman. But all straight guys do that. Sexuality defines us, not because of our virility, but because we live in a society where rape is okay, always an option.

And so I should say that the severance of myself from the potential label of ‘feminist,’ comes from not only the sexist language and thought process of episodes about the Strong Female Character, but also the process of becoming more sensitive to real people. Processes of betterment tend to start out flawed, in need of betterment. There is better way for me to talk about this stuff, and I have to find it, pretty soon. A way that’ll make the actual discussion freer, and not so couched in nervousness, which alternates with self-satisfied abandon. I seem to be envisioning some kind of ultimate project, to further the idea and its promotion, but that comes after the refinement of the idea.

Not so keen on being another one of those men who fucks with the identity of women, but the foundation I’m working from has it that there’s something incomplete about women in America (and worldwide)*. They aren’t where they need to be on the social ladder, and I believe that the historical conditioning required to keep women in place has created something. Conversely, the conditioning is both informed by and informs men – they are creations just the same, but of a different, much more severe stripe.

See, this is a premier example of the sexism endemic to whenever I open my mouth about gender equality. I can imagine some of the women I know reading that and raising an eyebrow. Most people don’t see themselves as incomplete, I understand.

While initially that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll proceed along this trak just fine, knowing I’m only one of so many with theories, and that some feminist critic will come along someday soon with the endgame solutions, and erase me altogether, finally. Mercifully.

This article’s given me a few things to think about, because when women become ‘women,’ an abstract on the chessboard of social progress, it’s important to have people like Amelia Bonow, who demonstrate – in a blog-sized article – that lives are universes of experience, and they demand respect.

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“Receiving sexual attention from a stranger just affirms that everyone is clocking us every moment and deciding how much we matter based on whether or not they like what they see.”

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