The humiliation of “real Russian women” – and why conservatives get off on it

The humiliation of “real Russian women” – and why conservatives get off on it

“A woman owes it to everyone to be beautiful!” “You’re not a real woman if you don’t look feminine enough!” “Some guy’s dick didn’t get hard when you walked by? Kill yourself, you ugly piece of shit.” “Too many guys’ dicks got hard when you walked by? Kill yourself, you sad whore.”

As some people get more woke/progressive every day, those who oppose them grow more vicious, angry, and reactionary. This process is particularly evident in Russia, where everyone from lawmakers to celebrities is screaming about women’s “traditional role” and how anyone who doesn’t fit this role should be run out of town.

When it comes to Russian domestic policy, Putin and his people are concerned about demographics. Some of those concerns are legitimate, others downright sinister. On a very basic, cynical level – they need women to produce cannon fodder. They’re also worried about Russia’s future territorial integrity.

What’s interesting is how this all works on the personal level. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Russia went through mind-boggling violence and deprivation in the 20th century, and hasn’t dealt with it. The trauma goes deep and is a part of daily life.

Compulsory femininity is one way in which the trauma is expressed. If you read Russian, for example, you’ll love this recent sex column at pro-Kremlin Life News, which talks about how fat people are basically not human, and how a woman’s primary duty is to be hot and ready to get fucked at any moment.

The author, a former reality show contestant, says things like, “My man is hard for me all the time, everywhere” (um, poor guy?) and “It’s better if you don’t say anything to your man – just love him and give him blowjobs” (But what if you are in the woods? And there’s a bear? Do you take the cock out of your mouth long enough to shout “Behind you!”??? So many questions). As for fat people, she won’t even consent to swim in the same pool with them – because ew, gross.

Many Russian commenters have already pointed out the painfully obvious – this celebrity is not exactly famous for her happy personal life. Her hatred of other women is the result of her issues with herself – a profound sadness dressed up as bravado, only the dress doesn’t quite fit (and will be stripped away with time).

You would think that this would be obvious: If you feel the need to shame or hurt someone, chances are, you are projecting. People who are able to connect with others in meaningful ways don’t go out of their way to humiliate others.

In light of this, the blueprint for the “traditional Russian woman” is the following: She is not supposed to be happy. Because she cannot belong to herself. She only exists when she is admired/desired by others. And she must fulfill everyone’s expectations all at once. 

“The traditional Russian woman” must please everyone: Men who like big asses and tiny bubble butts. Men who like dramatic make-up and plunging necklines and men who like torn jeans and a hint of lipgloss. Men who like a woman in heels and men who think a woman in heels looks “like she’s trying too hard.” Men who like a hairless pussy and men who say, “This makes me feel like a pedophile.” Men who say that “real women have curves” and men who go wild for a “coltish-looking Lolita-type.”

This woman runs around pleasing everyone and exhausting herself. If she’s “lucky,” she will net a husband who supports her, a.k.a. a “real man.” Then she’ll still turn fifty, her “real man” will be sleeping with sex-workers and 20-year-old assistants at work – because that’s part of his masculine nature, as plenty of Russian “traditionalists” will tell you – and their mutual friends will say, “Guess she should’ve thought about it before becoming old and useless.”

Continue reading “The humiliation of “real Russian women” – and why conservatives get off on it”

Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist”

Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist”

This post of on combining art and motherhood made the rounds this past winter. There were a lot of responses, public and private. Two of the more recent responses made me feel like revisiting the issue:

1. The Divided Heart is a more honest exploration of what it’s like to be a mother and an artist. I’m sorry, but I think you are over-compensating and it shows. For decades, women have been quite open about how combining great art and motherhood is almost always an impossibility. One blog post on the matter from someone who sold one play is not going to convince society.

2. All due respect, Natalie [sic], but people like you lure promising artists towards breeding, and the results are almost always disastrous. I wonder if you’ll change your mind when your kid is on the therapist’s couch, discussing the ways in which mum neglected him so she could make her Art, and he almost certainly will be.

So to address all that:

Who the hell are you to argue that women can be both mothers and great artists? You’re nobody! But it’s not about me.

The idea that you can’t reconcile being a mother with being great artist is, today, a peculiarly Western concept. In many other parts of the world, women just get on with it.

One of Russia’s greatest poets, Anna Akhmatova, was a mother. Nobody goes around wringing their hands on her behalf. One of Russia’s greatest painters, Zinaida Serebriakova, was a mother – and, once again, people really didn’t make a big deal out of it. Continue reading “Why don’t you treat men this way? The false dichotomy of “mother vs. artist””

I am not your monkey: on motherhood, art, and presumptuous bullshit

I am not your monkey: on motherhood, art, and presumptuous bullshit

The other day it happened again.

I was talking to a friend about the eternal issue of having kids/not having kids, when the friend said something like,

“I guess I just care too much about art and changing society for the better. Who has time for that when they have a child?”

**beat**

“I mean, I guess you do, Natalia. Well, sort of, right? I assume you’d be able to do so much more with your life if you weren’t a mother.”

**beat**

“I mean, there’s no harm in admitting it. Right? You don’t have to admit it publicly. You can admit it to me. Yes?”
Continue reading “I am not your monkey: on motherhood, art, and presumptuous bullshit”

Young women, stay away from Hugo Schwyzer

Older women too.

Middle-aged women, this is about you as well.

Men of all ages. Children. Other intelligent life-forms out there.

Everyone, just stay away from Hugo Schwyzer, OK?

Took me long enough to see what a dangerous, unhinged man he is, but I’ve finally seen it.

I sincerely apologize to those of you who have been saying it for years – many of your comments I had missed, others I just chalked up to a two-sided conflict of sorts. You know, people fighting on the Internet, the usual stuff. I never bothered to look closer. I have never imagined that he had been purposefully targeting his critics online, WOC bloggers in particular. Of course, having lived abroad for years now, I’ve had many other things on my mind instead of the feminist blogosphere – but it is also my old stomping ground, and honestly, the fact that we, all of us, let him run there unchecked means that we failed.

I sincerely regret linking Schwyzer approvingly in the past and being chummy with him on Facebook. I had bought into the notion that now that he had his beautiful wife and children in his life, the man HAD to have changed. Who would honestly screw a thing like that up? Stupid of me, I know.

I know a thing or two about what happens when scary men are allowed to run unchecked, which is why I’m saying it now:

People, stay away.

I have an “Idiots on Parade” category for posts on this blog. The idiot, in this instance, is me.

Sick of this Dworkin crap

People who are fans of Andrea Dworkin’s writing insist that she was too ahead of her time for men or women to really get her. I agree in part. Dworkin was, by all evidence, a woman of superior intelligence whose work changed a lot of people’s lives – whether leading to some form of political awakening or else.

One of my own favourite quotes from Dworkin goes like this:

“My fiction is not autobiography. I am not an exhibitionist. I do not show myself. I am not asking for forgiveness. I do not want to confess.”

I don’t necessarily relate to the first part (and as a sidenote, I think the distaste Dworkin had for showing herself had a lot to do with her blanket hatred of pornography), but I’ve always found the combination of statements here to be very powerful.

What I really don’t like is when people decide to swoop down on me or friends of mine, and quote fervently quote Dworkin at us, usually with the implication that we have yet to be introduced to the body of her work.

Here’s the thing – I am familiar with her work and her ideas. Sadly, I view a lot of those ideas in particular as self-defeating and counter-productive, or else downright eerie. And I don’t mean “eerie” as in “OMIGOD, they were just too revolutionary to handle.” I mean “eerie” as in “damn creepy, like if one of my fundamentalist relatives taught a college-level course in sexual ethics and replaced ‘hell’ with ‘sex’ in her lectures.” Too many pseudo-Dworkins in my life already, most of them leading destructive lives, for me not to draw some obvious parallels.

Dworkin’s obsession with “fucking” and “women getting fucked”, for example, has a distinct Old Testament flavour to it (and tends to ignore gay men, bi men and dudes who don’t identify as either but still like to get down for some penetrative action with other dudes). Penetrative sex can come with a lot of negativity and trauma attached, but merely viewing it from that angle is pretty limiting – and this is exactly what many Dworkinites do. As Susie Bright put it in her famous obituary of Dworkin:

“I loved that she dared attack the very notion of intercourse. It was the pie aimed right in the crotch of Mr. Big Stuff. It was an impossible theory, but it wasn’t absurd. There is something about literally being fucked that colors your world, pretty or ugly, and it was about time someone said so.”

Hell yeah. It’s also an experience that men and women share, whether literally or by being able to relate to one another. With few exceptions (Thomas Beatie, anyone?), men cannot get pregnant – and pregnancy remains a life-changing and potentially life-threatening event for women. Many men, on the other hand, risk social ostracism and even violent death if it is revealed that they enjoy being penetrated. There’s lots to talk about here. It is beyond doubt that mainstream attitudes toward penetrative sexual intercourse must change across the board – but reactionary statements about the so-called horror of the practice set the whole process back.

The reason why I bring up Dworkin right now has to do with people who insist on trolling this website while utilizing – and sometimes even plain hijacking – her writing. On this site, I now outright ban people who talk to me as if I’ve never experienced violence, sexual violence in particular. I don’t owe them any explanations, nor do I have to justify myself to them. However, I do wish to address this particular instance of trolling, because it so neatly exemplifies many of the disconnecting factors within Western feminism, to me:

[Persons starts out yelling at me about “embracing the fun-fem label”]

It makes me sad, at 18 years of age and on a full financial ride to a good school (better than the male-dominated campus of Duke), that Im ahead of people like you.

So apparently this young woman will never have to deal with the hell of student debt? Well, mazel tov on that latter bit, for sure, but here’s a tip for later: lecturing someone while simultaneously waving around your privilege and/or assumed privilege? Probably not going to get them to listen. It’s a familiar standard of behaviour, though. “Listen to me, because I’m better than you.” Honey, nobody who is confident in her ideas actually acts like this.

You say youre pregnant with a ‘patriarchal oppressor.’ Do you know what words like that mean? Are you going to take responsibility when your son is old enough to be violent toward women? Do you know what bringng [sic] more men into the world means?

The funny thing about bringing people into this world – you don’t know how they’re going to turn out. I’m sure that Jack the Ripper’s mother had no crystal ball handy. But you do the best you can, because that’s the only way to ever get anywhere, once you’ve made the choice to have a child.

Another funny thing about bringing people into this world – you have no idea what the world has in store for them. Will they be drafted into some stupid war? Claimed by some preventable disease? You don’t know any of these things. You just swallow your fears and keep on going.

Something tells me that the cub will kick some ass in this world – and his father and I will do our best to steer him to kick the right kind of ass. What we will not do is apologize for having a boy. I will never question my future kid’s self-worth in that particular manner, and won’t let anyone question his self-worth in that manner. Navigating male privilege as a parent is one thing – debating the ethics of having boys is straight out of dear Adolf’s eugenics handbooks. And “I am not asking for forgiveness. I do not want to confess.” Shaming mothers is a popular pastime, even in feminist communities, but screw that.

I doubt you got pregnant via arrtificial insemination; therefore, you have a lot to think about with regard to sex and fucking and women getting fucked. Your life very obviously evolves around the phallus, around the man, right now, and this is exactly how men want it (why else did you get married?). Andre Dworkin was very eloquent when writing on this subject, you should read her before running your mouth on radical feminism. [A bunch of links to creepy websites were creepy people discuss other people’s personal lives creepily]

Didn’t get pregnant via artificial insemination? Why, this might mean that she’s not a virgin… Anyone who’s not a virgin in the traditional sense of the world naturally dedicates her life to “the phallus.” I’m not sure what that means in practice, but it sure sounds entertaining.

See, this is kind of a twisting of Dworkin already, because while the lady did have some weird opinions, she correctly recognized that belittling and punishing women for engaging in sexual intercourse was something that people who view women as lower life-forms truly excel at. Otherwise, the most common insult used against a woman wouldn’t be… yeah, exactly.

If you think radical feminists insult you, just think about the fact that the men insult you too, only much worse.

Oh, so it’s OK for a woman to belittle another woman for engaging in sexual intercourse, because, um… No, sorry, that got old years ago.

Maybe through insult some women can be urged into a greater awakening.

Oh, I get it! So when my dad tells me he wants to lose weight and wants me to support him, I should turn around and call him a “fat fucking slob.” For his sake. I’m so glad I’ve got 18-year-old feminist scholars who recently discovered the word “phallus” to teach me the finer points of consciousness raising, political organizing, improving one’s lot, etc. I could apply my newly acquired skills anywhere, and totally win, you guys.

Beucause [sic] there is nothing worse than a woman who claims the feminism mantle but does nothing toward a real revolution.

Here’s a list of things I consider to be really revolutionary: Listening to sex-workers and former sex-workers of all stripes, working towards making the lives of sex-workers and former sex-workers safer, challenging transphobia, organizing around issues like healthcare, childcare, the rights of women serving in the armed forces, (the list goes on and it’s damn long), continuing to bust myths around sexual violence (re: the idiotic response to the assault on Lara Logan, for example), resisting attempts to police women’s appearance, helping raise a generation that will not internalize most myths on sexual violence (yeah, this is where parental responsibility would come in, I’d say), make sure said generation actually has a planet that’s not totally destroyed to live on, etc.

Let me be honest – I’m a writer and a journalist, not an activist. What Joan Didion once referred to as the “irreducible ambiguities” of fiction is the main context I operate within. Yet as a writer and journalist and person who often has a public platform, I do what I can when it comes to political issues I consider important. I want to do more, and will keep on doing more. While you’re busy discussing “the revolution” in the commenting sections of various blogs, other people are out there doing shit. Sometimes, I even get to be one of them.

It’s easy to take Dworkin’s name in vain. Or show up on other people’s blogs to dissect their personal lives, because, as Clarice Starling might say, pointing that high-powered (or not even that high-powered) perception at yourself can be frightening. But all of that is only tangential to feminism. Feminism, to me, is mostly about being practical. It’s about stuff I can do and want to do and Dworkin, God bless her, had very little insight into actual desire.