Fruit of thy womb

This article on the BBC made me think back to Joss Whedon’s question (I’ve quote it on this blog before): ” What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence — is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.” (emphasis mine)

Perhaps your experiences have been different than mine, but I’ve met waaaay too many people who fetishize the risk and suffering often associated with child-bearing. And this goes back to Whedon’s question as well – perhaps what’s really wrong with women, historically at least, is just how scary the reproductive process can be. It’s so scary, in fact, that the human race has learned to disassociate from it – by framing women as inferior and/or by focusing disproportionately on how pain experienced by women in childbirth is so beautiful that it should not in any way be tampered with (I’m not knocking natural childbirth here – but guarding against infection, for example, is a good thing, this we can all agree on).

Considering that giving birth has become relatively safe in developed countries not so long ago, and that it continues to be unsafe for many women on the African continent, in South Asia, and elsewhere – perhaps we have yet to un-learn the discomfort we feel on the subject. Whedon talks about popular culture – and it’s a fact, while torture-porn such as “Hostel” rakes in millions, a live birth would send people running from the theater (I remember the screams of horror, pure horror, at the end of “Doctor T & the Women,” for example). And it’s no wonder that women are labeled as “morally unfinished” – this almost works as a defense mechanism against their scary, scary nature.

I could get all philosophical on you now and talk about how, perhaps, our unconscious ambivalence about existence in general leads most world societies to be hostile toward women – because women are the ones who bear children. I could, but I’m not going to. Maybe because this would be too much of an excuse for all the terror and injustice in the history of this miserable little world.

15 thoughts on “Fruit of thy womb

  1. Not sure how I’ve lived this long in the world without thinking of misogyny as a defence mechanism against nature – namely, its tendency* to destroy the females of the species in the very process of perpetuating it – but I’m definitely doing so now, and it’s giving me chills.

    Thanks (as always) for blogging, even so.

  2. Natalia Antonova said: “(Objectification: another tangential rant avoided).”

    Feminists’ dislike of being objectified by men (as men’s way of controlling women) is entirely legitimate. But the host of this forum, under the tag “Visual Aids,” includes both an entry on Giorgione’s ‘Venere Dormiente’ (formerly this forum’s banner), with comments on how male posters to this forum could respond to that painting, and then removes Giorgione’s work and substitutes her own self-portrait as the banner for this forum, without modifying her comments under the entry for the ‘Venere Dormiente.’ This host of this forum has also shown herself very tolerant of posts by male readers who comment on how well they respond to her self-portrait (e.g., “Can we see you in a pretty dress?” by a poster named Durendal earlier in 2007 or late in 2006. It should be noted that Natalia did not comply).

    I don’t find the banner(s), the host’s remarks about responses to the “Venere Dormiente,” or host’s tolerance of male posters who respond to her current banner, either offensive or hypocritical. But the host’s entirely legitimate objection to being objectified, combined with her apparent tolerance, not to say encouragement, of actually being objectified by male posters on this forum, sends a very, very confusing message. It will be helpful if the host could clear up this confusion.

    I would also like to note that I failed to respond to a final question put by the host to one of my own comments back on October 4 or October 2. I was not disregarding the host’s question or trying to be inconsiderate. But I cannot provide a useful response until I have time to look some things up, and since I have to stay at work, it might be a while before I have that time. But if I ever do have time, I will try to provide a response that I hope will be helpful, even if it is no longer of interest to anyone. It can be stacked in the archives.

  3. Corrections to my post dated October 19 at 1:46 a.m.:

    Second paragraph, eighth line, written “THIS host of this forum …”, should read “THE host of this forum …”.

    Third paragraph, second line, written “or HOST’s tolerance …”, should read “or THE host’s tolerance …”.

    I should have proofread this, or WordPress should have a “Preview” function.

  4. One further addendum to October 19 post timed 1:46 a.m.:

    In responding to your statement about women being objectified, I am not in any way making light of the rest of your post which states that men find something “wrong” with women. I read the link you provided to the BBC article which notes that the most ominous maternal death rates occur in countries which are currently in a state of civil war and where state protection has collapsed, for all practical purposes. Men’s supposed philosophical or ideological denigration of women (‘women are morally incomplete’) is simply a pretext to control women so that men can control reproduction. Men’s practical control over reproduction, where that control exists, arises from the fact that, until very, very recently, men had greater powers of physical coercion than women, and even now, wherever violence is uncontrolled, women will be targeted for male coercion. Any ideological or religious justification for that coercion is almost consciously disingenuous. Men don’t in fact, find women “morally incomplete.” But it is an historical fact that some men can cope with the fact that women are different from men, only by physically coercing and controlling women. Some men cannot tolerate women’s autonomy. That is what lies behind the ideological denigration of women.

  5. One final addendum to my October 19 post timed 1:46 a.m. and then I’ll try to let it go. I’ll probably regret what I’m about to post, but I’ll post it anyway just to make my point clear.

    My comments about “the host of this forum” are not just a failed attempt at humor. My comments are an attempt to direct my criticism away from you personally and toward your role as host of this forum. I don’t think that you personally are a hypocrite or have warped values, i.e., I don’t think that you are a “bad person,” as you put it in your comments on the “Venere Dormiente.” But I am critical of the way you have constructed this forum, because, in tolerating (i.e., not deleting) the comments of male posters who, in their language, are coming close to using your self-portrait as internet porn, you have left it unclear exactly what this forum is for. Some people might think that, in posting the comments of men who are clearly not trying to make a serious contribution to the discussion here, you’re actually looking for some kind of validation from those men. I’m not sure whether you’re looking for validation from them or not. But again, the combination of your self-portrait, your comments on the “Venere Dormiente,” and your tolerance of men’s unserious comments directed toward you personally, leaves it very unclear what this forum is about. To repeat myself (one more time), your self-portrait, your own commentary on Giorgione’s work, and your tolerance of unserious commentary about yourself, are not offensive in themselves or even in combination. But they might leave readers of this forum uncertain how to respond to your legitimate complaints about women being objectified, since the construction of this forum provides a venue for men to objectify the very person making the complaints, and you yourself have constructed that venue and seem tolerant of that objectification. It’s very, very confusing. That’s all I wanted to say.

    — because I don’t think you personally are a hypocrite or have warped values —

  6. “To repeat myself… your self-portrait, your own commentary on Giorgione’s work, and your tolerance of unserious commentary about yourself, are not offensive in themselves or even in combination.”

    “This [sic] host of this forum has also shown herself very tolerant of posts by male readers who comment on how well they respond to her self-portrait…”

    “I don’t think that you personally are a hypocrite or have warped values…”

    “I don’t think that you are a ‘bad person…'”

    “Some people might think…you’re actually looking for some kind of validation from those men.”

    “…your tolerance of men’s unserious comments directed toward you personally…”

    “…you yourself have constructed that venue and seem tolerant of that objectification…”

    Are you serious? This has to be one of the most passive aggressive series of responses I’ve ever come across: “I’m bringing all of this up to say… uhm… you know, I don’t mind so much but other dudes might get a hard on and, you know, no judgments or shit, but obviously you could be facilitating their masturbatory habits because, you know, some dudes can’t control themselves when they see a set of eyes in a header image. So, you know, I’m sure if anyone goes blind it won’t be your fault.” WTF?

    “…without modifying her comments under the entry for the ‘Venere Dormiente.”

    There are no rules on continuity in blogging, a rule a blogger sets today is not going to be the rule they have three months from now. And it certainly doesn’t mean a blogger has to go back through three months of posts and comments to edit every thing to the new standard. There’s no hypocrisy whatsoever, and there’s not even a conflict between the two posts. Blogs are fluid, James, not static. You’d probably know that if you had a personal blog – ooooo, passive aggressive.

    Sorry if I’m butting in Natalia…

  7. Gabriel said: “This has to be one of the most passive aggressive series of responses I’ve come across.”

    That’s probably true. Looking back on my previous two substantive comments on this thread, they do look passive aggressive. But my point still stands, and that is, that it’s not clear what this forum is actually about. The picture of Natalia that I’m talking about is actually her “Self-Portrait” under the tag “Visual Aids” — I shouldn’t have used the term “banner,” that was my stupid mistake — and it’s a really nice self-portrait. And if Natalia enjoys having guys post on this forum to declare how well they respond to her self-portrait, then that’s terrific. But, at least in her posts that I’ve read since August of this year, Natalia has consistently stated that she dislikes being objectified by men. That makes sense, because objectifying people is a step toward controlling them. But again, at least since August 2007, guys have repeatedly posted on this forum stating how much they like her self-portrait and sometimes implying that they have a personal interest in her. If Natalia thinks that’s fun to post, then that’s outstanding. But when guys respond to Natalia’s self-portrait rather than to her ideas, then they’re objectifying her, and Natalia has consistently stated that she doesn’t like being objectified. The inconsistency is not outrageous, but, at least for me, it’s confusing.

    This brings me to Gabriel’s second point, which is:
    “There are no rules in continuity in blogging … There’s no hypocrisy whatsoever, and there’s not even a conflict between the two posts.”

    That’s true — if the blog in question is nothing more than the blogger’s daily stream of consciousness or mood-of-the-moment, then there are no rules of continuity, no hypocrisy, and no conflict. If that’s what Natalia intends to present on this forum, then I’m fine with it. But at least so far as I can tell from Natalia’s posts since August 2007, Natalia is repeatedly making certain points that she wants readers to accept at face value as her considered point of view, not just her mood-of-the-hour, and she wants readers to think about the point of view that she’s presenting. A point of view is not a contract and it’s not the U.S. Constitution, so it doesn’t have to be formally amended. But if her point of view is repeatedly presented in a setting that seems inconsistent with that point of view, then it’s hard to gauge just how seriously she wants us to take the point that she’s making. To put it another way, if this forum is primarily a social-networking site, like MySpace or Facebook, and Natalia is blogging here to get online emotional support for her life issues, then that’s fine — but in that setting, any debate of ideas that isn’t simply an echo chamber for her point of view might be misunderstood as personal hostility, and it’s hard to debate ideas with a blogger who is mostly looking for emotional support. There’s nothing wrong with blogging as self-therapy, and self-therapy doesn’t have to be intellectually consistent. But if forum readers are expected to post primarily to provide emotional support for the blogger’s life issues, then no one learns much except how to support the blogger. If that’s what Natalia intends here, then this forum is not confusing at all, and I’m all for it.

    I should add that at all times Natalia is totally within her rights to construct this forum any way she wants, and she owes it to no one, particularly not to myself, to follow any rules of continuity or consistency. I just want to make sure that I understand what the intention of this forum is.

  8. Lol. Gabriel, you crack me up. Some dudes might get a hard-on indeed! Where’s Zawahiri when you need him? 😉

    Per teh “objectification” (which Whedon said, not Natalia Antonova, but hey, what does it matter now?) – I do it plenty myself on this blog. Ever see any of posts tagged “Harem”?

    The way I objectify men is an extension of what I do and do not tolerate where me myself and I are concerned.

  9. Okay, wait, so Natalia shouldn’t post photos because she might get objectfied? Oh hell, women, never leave your houses….nor should she allow comments from men that basically amount to “wow, you’re hot”? Errr, okay. Nevermind she appears not to moderate. Her blog, she is under no obligation to run it as anyone else sees fit.

    On topic: The morally incomplete thing goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, I’m afraid. Men have been using women as both the moral gatekeepers and the moral scapegoats for years, hell, thats why some people will still call a perfectly moral gal who gets raped (something that is in no way her fault) a slut and insist she brought it on herself. As for birthing, women’s health and welfare has always taken a back seat to that of men and children, why would this be any different? As for the “beautiful pain” of childbirth…I suspect some men see it that way because they’ll never have to experience it and have No Clue about it.

  10. Totally Off Topic: I’m pretty sure Zawahiri blogs over at LiveJournal.

    Just so I can tell how consistent he is with his criticism I’m kind of hoping James, at his leisure, will supply me with… oh, lets say five examples of blogs meeting his criteria as non-hypocritical and totally intellectually consistent. Hopefully one of them will be his own.

    As for childbirth, it isn’t just safer in ‘advanced’ countries but since the use of caesarean’s is on the rise, more likely than not, that pain will be felt by neither sex outside of poor nations sooner rather than later.

  11. Fascinating article, CWA has a Bob Jones University connection: Concerned Women of America founder Beverly LaHaye, is the wife of the famous Tim LaHaye, co-author of those billions of LEFT BEHIND novels/series/movies, also a Bob Jones alumnus.

    However, there may have been a conflict between Tim and Bob Jones III, but neither have disclosed the details. LaHaye does not mention that he attended BJU on his website or publicly, and BJ3 likewise keeps his counsel. This was likely due to a difference in theology concerning some of the specific plot-twists in the LEFT BEHIND novels (i.e. Pope John Paul II was Raptured, and you know BJ3 would never ever go for that!) and may not be any ‘personal’ hostility. In any event, I don’t know the details, it’s one of those Secrets of the Compound, like so much of what they do.

    Natalia, my last post is about BJ3 supporting Romney for prez. I was gonna write about that for yooooo … I am half-assed working on it! 😛

  12. Honestly, I think it’s a waste of time to attack James for his comments. Long-winded and confusing as they are, he asked, what I think, is a valid question. That many people jump on the defense does no one any good. Granted, the 50 disclaimers he sets up are ridiculous. Say what you want to say, James. Natalia doesn’t bite…at least not on the internet 😉

  13. Before this goes any further, I should step in and apologize for my series of posts on October 19. I cannot think why I would post anything so stupid as those posts except that I had been up continuously since 8:00 a.m. the previous morning and continued, unable to sleep, straight through to 7:00 a.m. on October 19. That is the only reason why, I think, that it was not obvious to me how stupid my posts were. I very much appreciate that Gabriel stepped in immediately and pointed out that my initial post was passive-aggressive (I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed it) and kept up her objections to my post until she signed off on the 19th. Because I wasn’t clearheaded, I wasn’t able to immediately process Gabriel’s objections, but by the 21st, after I had had some sleep, and then, I think on the 22nd, read Natalia’s post about beautiful women and the enthusiastic response to that post, did I revisit my October 19 posts and see how stupid they are. I must have been reading Natalia’s posts as they though they were mini- political essays or notes for a legal brief. But that’s not what Natalia’s posts are. They’re expressions of Natalia’s personality and as such they can be as inconsistent or hypocritical as she needs them to be at the moment. Natalia’s personal blog, like every personal blog, is constructed to meet her own personal needs, not the needs of her readers. If I want to read a political blog and criticize it for inconsistency or hypocrisy, then I should find an explicitly political blog and criticize that, or else create my blog and respond to other people’s criticism. It could be that I get nettled when Natalia asserts her own sexuality on her own terms rather than terms that I might find tolerable. But that’s my problem, not Natalia’s. If Natalia wants to object to “objectification” in her own, idiosyncratic way (i.e., she objects to being objectified by men, but she allows herself to objectify men), then that’s her privilege, because it’s everybody’s privilege, both men and women. Natalia isn’t writing a party platform on this blog (at least, I don’t think she is); she’s simply expressing her own outlook as an individual. I appreciate that all critics have been civil in their objections, despite the stupidity of my posts, and I also appreciate that Belledame could make a joke out of my posts (which probably wasn’t meant to be encouraging) and Anna was even civil enough to suggest that my question might be valid. My question might or might not have been valid, but my objections were not valid, because Natalia’s blog is not a political blog. From now on, I’ll try to stay more aware of my own state of fatigue or alertness before I post anything that requires sustained thought. Finally, I know that my posts are longwinded. If I ever get enough experience in posting, I might be able to condense my posts to a decent brevity. I appreciate people’s patience and civility regarding my October 19 posts. That speaks well for this blog.

  14. (i.e., she objects to being objectified by men

    I’m going to repeat myself, since I don’t think you saw what I was getting at:

    “The way I objectify men is an extension of what I do and do not tolerate where me myself and I are concerned.”

    I don’t believe that’s inconsistent with my feminist (and humanist) politics at all – because, as I’ve written before, feminism is not a monolith. There is furthermore a whole lot of room for nuance and complexity in the way we go about presenting ourselves to the world. When I put up a picture of myself – I do it knowing that this picture will be hosted on a blog that’s read by a decent number of people, just as, for example, David Tennant stars in a show knowing very well that pictures of him will then be splattered across the bedrooms of many a teenage girl and boy. Obviously, David Tennant is a whole lot more exposed, (not to mention a whole lot more gorgeous) – but the underlying issues are similar: if you put yourself out there, people are going to respond. Hell, if you walk out of your front door, people are going to respond. And no, there is nothing wrong with that. We’re human beings. It’s the way we’re wired. What I do object to is entitled assholery – especially when directed toward my ethnicity (“mmmm, you’re from Ukraine, I bet you want me right now, since I’m from [insert country that’s not a former USSR country] and could *insert conspirational smile* bless you with a foreign passport if you’re a really good girl.” Similarly, I’m sure David Tennant would object to behaviours that cross the line from interested fan to obsessive stalker – and the law would be on his side. And we wouldn’t call him a hypocrite, because, even though the chances of him getting stalked are probably higher now that he’s uber-famous, there is still a standard of decency by which we operate.

    Oh, and I do bite. But, as Anna pointed out – in the privacy of my home.

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