What if those bruises are just “decorations”? Thoughts on Breaking Dawn’s Morning-After Scene featuring a bruised (and feathered!) Bella Swan

With the wide release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 looming, what scene are you most anxious to see?

If the stars and attendees at Comic-Con are any indication, most people name the wedding or the birth scene. Not me. I am most anxious to see the morning after scene. And, I do mean ANXIOUS, not EXCITED, as I have trepidation regarding how this scene will be handled. Though Bella admittedly WANTS sex with Edward, does she also want the bruises that result?

There has been much debate regarding if the morning after scene represents sexual violence, violent consensual sex, hidden messages about women being “punished” for sexual desire and so on. As a recap, here are some details from the book:

Before Edward and Bella do the deed, when they are standing in the moonlit ocean, he says “if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.” This quote lends credence to those who argue we cannot place blame on Edward, as do other quotes where Bella notes she does not remember ever feeling pain.

As in the above parody, Edward is let of the hook for causing so many “decorations” on her body.  While Bella seems to relish her newly “decorated” body, he feels remorse, saying to the waking Bella the next morning: “How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth—don’t downplay it.”

Bella assesses her body, noting “stiffness, and a lot of soreness” and “the odd sensation my bones all had become unhinged at the joints,” but also notes her happiness on “this most perfect of mornings.” Here, we could read this as understandable post-sex session soreness and equally understandable post-multiple-orgasm euphoria.

The problem is though, Bella is not just sore, she is covered in black and purple bruises – bruises which cause Edward to say “Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this” and “Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I’m not a monster.”

To this, Bella “followed his instructions unthinkingly” (as she does all too damn often in the books!) and at first only focuses on “the fluffy white snow” that clings to her skin and hair. It is only at Edward’s insistence she looks at her arm that she has “large purplish bruises” that “blossom across the pale skin.”

Here, Edward is again presented as the kind, caring guy, and she as the oblivious, feather-covered sap. Sure, she is blissed out in post-coital mode, but must she speak of her bruises in flowery terms (“blossom”)?!? This description problematically suggests, as does the later use of the term “decorated,” that Bella’s body is beautifully and lovingly MARKED by Edward, harkening to the age-old notion of woman as man’s property to mark on as he pleases – the one that the institution of marriage they just entered into is historically based on.

As Bella looks at the bruises that “trail” up to her shoulder and across her ribs, Edward places “his hand against the bruises on my arm…matching his long fingers to the patterns.” So, indeed, he has quite literally marked her with his handprints, turning her body into a decorated object of “violet blotches.” However, Edward is not held up as the baddie here and Bella is presented as the happiest she has ever been.

Edward does not share her euphoria though, insisting “I’m… so sorry, Bella…I knew better than this. I should not have–…I am more sorry than I can tell you.” So, flipping the traditionally gendered script, he has morning after regrets, she does not.

But might we read her euphoria as more indication that she does not take sex seriously enough – that she is a “bad girl” who wants it too much and is punished for her desires? Or, are we supposed to read her as a sexually liberated, kinky vixen who likes her sex rough? While both readings are tenable, given the strong pro-abstinence messages of the saga, the religious underpinnings of the text, and the “sex is dangerous” message that permeates the books, the first reading is more apt.

Further, Bella is not really presented as sexually confident or in the know – she has to ASK if Edward enjoyed it, and says incredulously to his insistence that he most certainly did,  “Really? The best ever?” That she asks this “in a small voice” only furthers the notion that she is sexually naïve, small, and silent – or, in other words, a “good girl” gone bad – a bruised apple, so to speak.

Perhaps no other scene in the saga so crosses the lines between sex as bad, sex as enjoyable, Bella as good girl or Bella as slut. Yet, the representation of Edward and his acts are not complicated – while Bella’s sexual desires are left open to reader interpretation (we can read her as punished for her desires or read her night of headboard busting as a sexual triumph), Edward is framed as full of remorse and dutifully goes off to cook her enough eggs for two (hint hint).

After his departure, she stares in the mirror (as depicted in the above parody), thinking about how she will hide the bruises: “There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones, and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest of me was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruises that would be the hardest to hide—my arms and my shoulders. They weren’t so bad. My skin marked up easily….Of course, these were just developing. I’d look even worse tomorrow. That would not make things any easier.”

Recall that Bella is concerned with hiding the bruises not for others (they are on a deserted island!) but for Edward’s sake. So, she puts on a white cotton dress “that concealed the worst of the violet blotches” and trots off to the kitchen for her scalding hot eggs.

The chapter closes with her asking “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here, are you?” to which Edward answers “I will not make love to you until you’ve been changed. I will never hurt you again.”

Once again, Bella’s wants are refuted and Edward calls the shots. But, Bella’s insistence there is nothing to worry about regarding her bruised body, the bitten pillows, or the busted headboard can be read as a failure to recognize the dangers of sex with an uber-strong vampire – or, to put  it another way, for her, the danger sex poses for females like Bella but NOT males like Edward.

A sex positive message? A pro-consensual violent sex is sexy message? I don’t buy it. More like punishing silly, oblivious Bella for wanting it too much… And her punishment is only just beginning given that her pregnancy is hardly a “blessed event” but one filled with pain, broken bones, and the promise that “the creatures” like the one in her womb “use their own teeth to escape the womb.”

And how will the film present the birth? Will Bella scream in “a blood-curdling shriek of agony: and then vomit “a fountain of blood”? Will we hear the “crunching and snapping as the newborn monster” tear through her “from the inside out “ and the “shattering crack” as her spine is broken?

No doubt, we will see the gooey scenes of her loving her “little nudger” and her going ga-ga over the newborn Renesmee. But, I do wonder if the more horrific details of Bella’s pregnancy and delivery will be included, and, if so, if there will be any indication that this is her “punishment” for her sexual transgressions. I doubt it – instead, in keeping with the traditional happy ending message the saga ultimately upholds, pregnancy and motherhood will be framed as her reward…

What if we waged “war” on child sex trafficking?

I am not a fan of the whole “war on drugs” ideology. I don’t much like the idea of waging war generally. And the DARE campaigns and Red Ribbon Week’s seem pretty useless in lots of ways — as well as full of misinformation. My daughter learned, for example, that aspirin and caffeine are DRUGS in 1st grade. Seeing me pour my morning coffee the next day she wailed, “Mommy, don’t drink that, you’ll die.”

Though not a fan of turning problems into wars, I agree with Dan Rather’s suggestion here that it’s ludicrous we have a “war on drugs” but no concomitant “war on child sex trafficking.”

This issue needs to go mainstream, and I hope the hour long coverage pulls a wide audience and sparks not a war,  but a movement to end what is in practice child abuse, sexual assault, and rape on a MASSIVE scale.

Read Rather’s full piece here.

What if you wanna read about military rape culture?

Well, check out my new article in the Spring issue of Ms. magazine on newsstands now. So excited to be included in a mag I have read for over 20 years!

What if elementary schools resisted pornification? Or, why not to wear heels to school when you are eight…


Picking my daughter up from school today, I saw what looked like a 3rd or 4th grader trying to navigate her walk home in high heel black fuck me pumps. Her dad trotted obliviously behind her. With parents so blissfully unaware of the hyper-sexualizing of their daughters, can we really be shocked when sexualized violence is so rife in our communities?

Turn a child into a sex object (or anyone into an object) and you make it easier for her/him to be treated as a THING. If such fashion “choices” occurred in the context of a just, non patriarchal world, that would be one thing. But, given our pornified culture which constructs violence as sexy AND younger and younger girls as sexy AND females as “booty” to be “tapped,” such a shoe choice seems very poor judgement.  Get that girl some friggin’ tennies. Sheesh.

Sadly, this pornified footwear is not a unique occurrence. At the talent show a few weeks back, two 5th grade girls gyrated stripper-style to a hip-hop song with “do me” type lyrics. Um, did the talent show crew really think this was acceptable “talent”? How sad that shaking your ass to degrading lyrics is considered a-ok for a K-5 event.

This pornified vibe is also evident in the comments I hear as I wait for my daughter after-school (“that teacher is hot” said by a boy who was perhaps 10), in t-shirt logos (“Boy candy”), and in the sexed-up walk of some of the girls who seem to have learned that our culture views their most important “talent” as the ability to attract male attention. I shudder to think what my daughter’s 5th grade graduation will be like – if my son’s was any indication, likely there will be many unfortunate fashion choices and too much flashing of the class privilege (a teacher shared with me that last year one boy was picked up in a Hummer limo and took a handful of friends off to a day of 5th grade style debauchery at Boomer’s).

How many kids are aware of how wrong this all is or have parents that help them navigate the crazily violent, consumerist, and hyper-sexualized worlds of elementary and middle schools? I wish all of them did. More to the point, I wish elementary could be a place of learning, fun, and friendship, rather than a place to “shake that thang” and flaunt your assets – be they bodily or monetary.

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 10:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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What if New Year’s Eve programming didn’t put our sexist, look-obsessed culture into such sharp relief?

As I flipped through various New Year’s Eve shows while I sucked down bubbly, I noticed a common thread – male performers had virtually no skin showing, females had a lot. From Rihanna, who HAD to be freezing in that stomach bearing outfit in the freezing NY weather, to Shania Twain, whose torn t-shirt revealed a skinny-minny stomach, to Fergie’s oddly shiny legs, the female skin was out in full force.

In contrast, Daughtry was covered up in a head to toe black outfit with a white scarf covering every bit-o-chest-n-neck.  Flo-rider didn’t have a scarf, but he too was in a black outfit that covered all but his hands and head.

Flash to Carmen Electra, in a cleavage popping skin tight white dress, whose bubbly-brainlessness made me want to gag. Even poor Allison Iraheta, whom I love, had on a poofy-ultra short red-prom dress number and a crazy long red hair that kept blowing into her mouth as she tried to sing. I am sure this was the work of some “image management” person who is busy trying to make her look more white, more skinny, more sexy, less Latina, less subversive, less smart… And poor, ditzy Carmen couldn’t even pronounce her name. Sorry, Miss Electra, but I think you may need to spend less time on that body and more time exercising your brain.

As per usual, for the men, it was about their music, their art – their bodies were the background, hidden by non-skin bearing clothing. For the women, the skin, the appearance, were foreground. Hence, the fact our culture continues to suffer from a sexism that objectives and sexualizes women was out in spades. Made me choke on my champagne.

Don’t get me wrong — I find female bodies beautiful and I don’t think they need to be hidden or shamed. But, I find male bodies beautiful too. Couldn’t there be some equal opportunity showing of both male and female skin? (Not of the objectifying variety, but of the celebratory, body-loving, aren’t we lucky to live in these great prison-houses of flesh variety.)

Then, there was all the glorifying of hetero monogamy and that golden grail/prison – marriage. How many damn proposals do they have to show? And do I need to see all those hetero couples lip-locking for so damn long? Where was the non-hetero love? Sorry, LGBTQ peeps, your kisses are not New Year’s Eve television worthy!

Ageism abounded too with cameras focused on the young and perky, with presenters with nary a wrinkle in sight, with musicians straining too look like they are still 20 even when they are NOT – Shania, I am talking to you…

Here’s hoping the second decade of 2010 can keep us moving along the progressive track where more women, more people of color, more different ages and body types can be celebrated for their contributions that are not only of the good body/perfect legs variety…

What if PETA joined forces with AFEW (Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women)?

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has an ugly habit of sexualizing women in its campaigns (as in their latest ad below). Thus, I am suggesting they need to take on the message of a group just formed by my dog and cats– AFEW, or Animals For the Ethical Treatment of Women.

Here are my cats, suffering from headaches after viewing the new Christian Serratos image:

cats

MeOWWW, my head hurts now.

As female felines who love fur, they nevertheless were insulted by the suggestion that sexualizing women is ok (Madeline, the one on the right, named after Roald Dahl’s feisty feminist character) was further appalled that the picture was an obvious attempt to advertise for the New Moon release, while Matilda (on the left) felt the woman pictured could really use a sandwich…

As for my dog Eloise, this is what she looked like before seeing the latest PETA ad:

ellie

Happy go lucky!

This is her after, sad and pensive and wondering why a group that claims to care about all animals does not care about female human animals…

CIMG1784

So sad...

Capitalizing on female nudity is a norm for PETA, as regularly and brilliantly noted by Renee of Womanist Musings. As she writes of PETA, “exploiting women is their stock and trade.”

Posting a number of their ads, including ones of women in cages and wrapped in saran and labeled as meat, Renee asks:

What more evidence could possibly be needed of PETA’S willingness to exploit women to send their message about animal cruelty. It says that they believe that the only purpose women have in this movement is to supply the tits and ass.  These images are demeaning and reductive.

The ethical treatment of animals is a very important cause, but so is the ethical treatment of women. Commodifying and sexualizing women’s bodies (even when said women are “willing” participants) is not something I can support. I love animals – human, dog, canine, feline, etc – but I don’t agree that the end justifies the means in PETA’s case. They need to find better ways to spread their message – ways that do not rely on the unethical exploitation of women.

What if being turned into a product is the new form of female empowerment?

According to Megan Fox, or “one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities,” as she is described by the June 19 2009 issue of Entertainment Weekly, being commodified is empowering, not degrading.

As Fox states in an interview with Chris Nashawaty in this issue, “I think all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. That what our purpose is in the business. You’re merchandised, you’re a product. You’re sold and it’s based on sex. But that’s okay. I think women should be empowered by that, not degraded.”

Yeah, because being turned into a product is SOOO empowering. What more could a woman ask for than being merchandised based on sex appeal. How uber-empowering!

And all women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols? That is their purpose? Really? So Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Tandy serve no purpose beyond  being commodified into sexualized eye candy? Huh, I didn’t get that message from Sophie’s Choice.

In another part of the interview, Fox discuss that she felt being sexualized at age 15 was “awesome,” adding “I wasn’t a feminist yet.” This indicates she is a feminist now. Pardon me for asking, but what part of wholeheartedly cheering female objectification is feminist? Guess I missed that in the handbook.

What if you refuse to be seduced by violence?

(With great homage to the brilliant bell hooks*, I offer these thoughts. They come from a brief speech I gave this week at my campus at an event aimed at eradicating violence.)

The rape, sexual assault, and interpersonal violence that plagues our culture  are by-products of our patriarchal, militarized, and commodified world. Yet, such violence could not continue if we did not allow it

We like to act as if violence happens out there, beyond our control, yet violence is a part of most of our lives. For some of us, it happens regularly in our homes; for all of us, it happens in our neighborhoods, our schools, our cities, our nation, and our world. And, while US culture is good at convincing us we are powerless to change this, we are not – in fact, a key hope for change lies within our daily acts of resistance to violence

One place to begin the process of eradicating violence is within our own desires.

If as heterosexual women desire violent, aggressive men, we are perpetuating violence.

If as men, we are turned on by power, control, and domination, we are perpetuating violence.

If we as parents allow our children to achieve addictive adrenaline rushes by playing grand theft auto and other such games that glorify murder and rape, we are perpetuating violence.

If we as citizens accept war as an answer to world problems, we are perpetuating violence

One place we can begin to change our own immersion in violence and our attraction to it is in our response to popular culture – we can begin by examining how intertwined violence and sexuality are in contemporary society.

We, as citizens of the united states, our turned on by violence – yet, this need not be the case.

Currently, an entire army of 10 to 14 to yes even 40-year-olds are immersed in the Twilight book series, a series that romanticizes violent masculinity and presents sexual assault as proof of love. Vampire and werewolf legends are of course dripping with thinly veiled references to rape, violent sexuality, and sexually motivated murder – they are also predicated on a championing of violent masculinity. Yet, the messages about sexuality and violence these rabidly popular books contain are far from unique – the Hostel film series and other such pornified horror films repeatedly make violence seem sexy while simultaneously presenting violent sex as an extreme turn on.

When youth our encouraged to desire werewolves who sexually assault them (via books like Twilight) and teens are encouraged by Eminem to think homicidal misogyny is cool —and those of us who watch television are so inundated with violent sexuality that we become immune to it, we should not be shocked that our culture is one of extreme violence

We, as largely apathetic bystanders to this violence, must realize that we are actually not bystanders but accomplices- for if we, like bell hooks suggests, fail to refuse to be seduced by violence, we our culpable for all the violence that occurs in our culture.

A first step that we all can take is this – we can vow to be seduced by violence no more.

Whether that means refusing to enjoy films that glorify sexual violence or choosing  not to play video games where you get extra points for committing gang rape, whether that means refusing to stand idly by while the ROTC plans to set up camp on your campus or whether that means intervening when you witness violence, whether it means refusing to listen to songs that construct women as rape targets, hoes, and tricks,  or whether it means reshaping your own desires so you are no longer attracted to violent people, ALL of us can play a role in this – and I encourage all of you, from this day forward, to actively refuse to be seduced by violence.

*hooks, bell. “Seduced by Violence No More,” in Transforming Rape Culture, edited by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993).

Published in: on April 9, 2009 at 9:49 am  Comments (18)  

What if women and men got equal skin coverage?

The Academy Awards this past Sunday reminded me of the rabidly unequal skin coverage our culture consists of. As per usual, female shoulders, necklines, arms, and sometimes legs were bare, while men were all tuxedo-ed up. The tiny snippet I saw of the red carpet nauseated me. Some man was tearing women to shreds, noting this ones dress looked like a napkin and that one didn’t know how to stand or pose properly. Assessing them like pieces of meat, he and other red carpet mouthpieces enacted a type of sexism our cultures loves so well – the objectifying male gaze.

This gaze was particularly apparent in various high profile magazine covers from late 2008 that showed excessive skin. However, this skin exposure was not equally distributed between female and male bodies. In fact, the only type of skin that was heavily exposed in mainstream mags was of the “hot hetero white woman” variety.

For fully nude but ever so “artfully” covered bodies, take Jennifer Aniston on the cover of GQ:

Or, Kate Winslet on the cover of Vanity Fair:

For more partially clothed with mega skin exposure of the “hot woman” paradigm, here is Tina Fey on the cover of Vanity Fair:

Where are the naked or skin exposed men? Well, unless you look at health or body building or non-hetero directed magazines, you won’t find any. Once in awhile a you will see  “hot six pack” exposure. Or, you might see a lot of David Beckham skin (however it might be next to lots of Victoria’s).  Further, such male skin exposure is usually framed around an athleticized narrative – the body is “hot” because it is in such good shape and has such nice muscles. The body is strong and powerful.

Female skin exposure, on the other hand, does not require strong, healthy bodies. While some females exposed thus certainly are strong and athletic, the poses tend to sexualize the female body, rather than present the female as powerful or muscular. Often there is a come hither look or pose, a failure to look the viewer in the eye, and/or a suggestion that the pose is taken for (a) male(s) pleasure.

None of this analysis is new – Jean Kilbourne has, for years, done excellent work critiquing the unequal exposure of the female body, particularly in ads. Laura Mulvey’s work on the “male gaze” is also key here (see a post on this concept here).

However, the EXCESSIVE normalization of EXCESSIVE amounts of female skin is still a problem, despite all of the theory and activism that calls for a stop to such unequal exposure due to its very harmful effects on the human psyche — both female and male.

By setting up female body as the “to be looked at” body, and the male body as “the looker,” an unequal dynamic is put in place – a dynamic that promotes feelings of dominance and superiority in the looker. Moreover, this dynamic perpetuates heterenoromativiy, framed as it is as if males desire females and vice versa. Of course, there is much possibility for non-hetero or queer pleasure in media images with skin exposure, yet, when this pleasure is put under erasure or not explicity prounounced, is it really working to subvert normative concepts of gender/desire? Is such exposure “closeted”? And, if so, how could skin exposure be made less heteronormative, less sexist, and less patriarchal?

One option would be less skin exposure all around – and, I do think we need to question our current cultural propensity to sexualize EVERYTHING. I don’t think we should inundate our children with the message that “hot bodies” are a way to sell everything… Nor should we give them the message that exposing their own skin will lead to success, praise, or monetary gain. Yet, we do. Kids learn from Miley Cyrus (see Vanity Fair images below) or Vanessa Hutchins (see images below) that nude or nearly nude pics will get you all sorts of attention. Girls learn that showing their belly button or wearing their pants as low on the hips as possible will get positive reactions. Boys learn that muscular arms and chiseled abs are swoon worthy. Where are the messages about that most important body part – the brain?!?

So, while I will admit that the viewing of exposed skin can be pleasureful, I think we as a culture need to be more judicious about such exposure. We need less of it, and, when it is there, it needs to be EQUAL exposure – one six pack for every cleavage shot, one chiseled chest for every long leg – and, at least one body of color, one fat body, one short body, one disabled body, one old body, one non-cisgender body, and so on for every “ideal” body…

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm  Comments (33)  

What if you’re “secretly” sexist, racist, and homophobic?

Sorry for the interruption in the “What if you could buy social justice?” series, but I have had this PostSecret post percolating in my head for awhile. After viewing this week’s “secrets,” I couldn’t wait any longer to brew my discontent into words. (All quotes are taken from the book Blogging Heroes by Michael A. Banks and exact pages numbers are footnoted below.)

PostSecret was born as a community art project in 2004. Frank Warren handed out blank postcards addressed to himself around D.C. and asked random strangers to anonymously post their secrets to him, decorating their cards however they wished.  This initial project was displayed in a DC art gallery for four weeks, but, as Warren kept receiving hundreds of postcards, the website PostSecret was born. In addition to garnering worldwide acclaim, Warren’s concept has spawned 4 real world books.[i]

An “online exhibit” of sorts, PostSecret “hangs” 20 new pieces of postcard art each Sunday, most of which function as “confessional secrets,” or, in other words, revelations people keep secret in the ‘real world.’ While there are many funny, heart-wrenching, erotic, and sentimental secrets, there are also a number of secrets that reveal the sexism, racism, homophobia, and anti-feminism of not only the sender, but the wider culture. While individual postcards might seem to be just that – individual – the fact that Warren admittedly tries to tap into zeitgeists, and the fact that the interactive PostSecret community comments on the secrets in droves, indicates that many of the cards represent cultural, rather than merely individual, ‘secrets.’

Warren, noting that “I really feel as though these new modes of communication, and these new kinds of conversations, can uncover hidden elements of our common humanity,” nods to this cultural narrative function of the secrets.[ii] Worryingly, but not surprisingly, many of the “hidden elements” reveal that our “common humanity” is rife with sexism, racism, and homophobia, not to mention ableism, ageism, anti-feminism and many, many other world views that not-so-secretly act as if only certain bodies matter.

Yet, while Warren argues that, “When I put secrets on the blog, they are living secrets. When you visit the blog and read a secret, you know that somebody is carrying that burden or dealing with that issue in real time,” I think many of the postcards don’t deal with carrying burdens so much as unloading them.[iii] The notion of “carrying a burden” indicates one has some sense of remorse, or some intention to try and change. However, I would argue many of the “secrets” function as confessionals that “erase” or “forgive” the burden once it is confessed.

Taking this analogy further, how fitting that the posts renew each Sunday and offer a weekly clearinghouse of confessions, allowing the site to function as a quasi-Sunday confessional where “sins” can be forgiven. Just at the priest will assign so many Hail Mary’s as penance so that one’s slate can be wiped clean of sin, so to does the cite allow “sinners” the be absolved each Sunday. The penance (that functions more like a reward) is online recognition of their “sin.”

Further, many postcards don’t indicate “dealing” with issues so much as offloading them so they don’t have to be dealt with. Using an “airing dirty laundry” schema, the site allows “secrets” to be purged, making it “ok” to be racist, unfaithful, uncaring, mean, or whatever, as long as one has “dealt” with it via crafty postcard confessional.

While I find the site and the concept fascinating, many recent postcards have led me to question some of the wider messages that the site is sending. In particular, a number of recent postcards indicate that it’s NO SECRET we live in  a society mired in sexism and racism – and, problematically, that this ‘secret’ is part of out “common humanity.”

This postcard, from 12/13/2008,  promotes the idea that females can “makes up for” supposed “abnormal sexual acts” via scrubbing their roomies dishes (and also by being “hot”). In so doing, I would say it doesn’t so much “offload burdens” as perpetuate the idea that only certain sexual behaviors are normal.

In addition to perpetuating sexist stereotypes and objectifying the female body, many post-cards trade in racism. One from this week’s selection links racism to losing one’s virginity, suggesting that virginity is to big a prize to squander away on ‘racial others’:

A similar postcard from last week’s selection, frames women as racialized commodities to “choose” from:

Many postcards deal with the control of the female body, especially via secrets about nude pictures. The following postcard, “Pussy Galore,” reads “I have naked images of my ex-girlfriend and am getting more tempted to make them public.”

Other postcards deal with rape and sexual assault, sometimes in though-provoking, critical ways. Others, though, subtly send homophobic messages of the “No Entry” variety.

Here, the choice of image and the copy “No Entry” does not so much serve to condemn rape as to condemn certain types of sexual activity as abnormal. As anal sex is coded as gay and wrong, the postcard thus purports to be about rape but nevertheless sends a homophobic message. That the message is not overt in effect makes it all the worse – the viewer is encouraged to condemn rape but NOT encouraged to question the homophobic message of the card itself.

I am certainly not the only one who has noticed that the “common humanity” PostSecret often reflects (and, in doing so, condones) involved a humanity defined by sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. A while back Angry Asian Man alerted readers to this postcard:

Similarly, as this postcard flagged at Racialicious, indicates, it’s ok to “resent black people”:

Or, from another card flagged at Racialicious, we see that one can be a loving racist parent:

And, we wouldn’t want to leave out the anti-feminist messages. With this card, flagged at Feministing, all the MRA’s and feminist haters out there had their dreams fulfilled:

Warren, referring to the thousands of postcards he receives, notes “some are funny, some are haunting, and some are inspirational.”[iv] He does not, I notice, say, “some are sexist, some are hateful, and some are downright horrifically racist.”

Moreover, as he reveals, the postcards to not come out of a vacuum but build upon one another each week, touching into a sort of cultural groupthink…

As Warren reveals, “The secrets I post every Sunday influence the secrets that I receive the next week. For example, if I posted all pornographic secrets, that’s what I’d be getting.” [v] With this quote Warren indicates his publication choices influence what he will have to choose from to publish in the next week in a sort of revolving door fashion. I am wondering what some of these recent choices indicate about what he would like to be getting… Do these postcards not scream “Send me more sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-feminist secrets!”? I think it is no secret that they do.

(The buying social justice series will continue in a day or two…)


[i] Banks, Michael A. Blogging Heroes. Wiley Publishing, Indianapolis, 2008. 63-4

[ii]I 66-7

[iii] 67

[iv] 67

[v] 70

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