Monday, March 30, 2009

Dammit, Lance Part 2: Twisty Liberates Babies From Their Cribs!

Good ol' Lance found me a ripe one: Twisty Faster slightly further off the deep end than normal. (Maybe she's kidding, kind of? I can never tell.)

Lots of the ideas put forth by Shulamith Firestone in The Dialectic of Sex intrigue the fuck out of spinster aunts, but none intrigues the fuck out of them like this one: that in a post-patriarchal society, culture (inclusive, I am happy to say, of art) will become irrelevant and extrinsic and die a long-overdue death, whereupon humans, freed from the prison of domination, will transmogrify into giant intellects pretty much throbbing with contentment.
So what you're saying is that a post-patriarchal society will not feature humans. Or intelligent sociable organisms of any kind. Maybe blue-green algae? They don't have sexes and they don't do much dominating. Don't do much else, of course, but such is the price of equality.

(Fuck, I just looked up blue-green algae and it has role differentiation within its colonies that might be considered "domination." The patriarchy is everywhere!)

No culture, no domination. Well, if there's no culture, how the hell will we know things? Culture brings deleterious beliefs with it, yes, but that's a side effect of culture bringing all beliefs. Learning biases and inaccuracies from each other is better than learning nothing from each other and starving to death trying to reinvent agriculture.

As for no domination, that works great in groups up to about twenty. (Well, in some book I read. In reality most groups of two end up with a clear leader.) After that you run into the problem that people's cultural-preconception-free self-assigned roles won't match up with the group's needs, and once again you can't even produce food, much less airplanes and insulin.

What about the children?
These are legitimate concerns for persons whose experience is confined to the intellectual suffocation demanded by life in a primitive, violent dystopia. Which is just about everybody.
Certainly we couldn’t, at this point in human evolution, just start turning the kids loose in the world. It is unthinkable that they should not spend their idyllic first years in thrall to one or two adults who will educate (socialize) them according to the adults’ personal “values,” meaning, of course, the DNA necessary to replicate patriarchy. This indoctrination period is known as “raising” children, and differs from raising tomatoes chiefly in that tomatoes are given quite a bit more freedom to be themselves.

Oh what the fuck.

I can't even argue about this without looking stupid. It's like explaining why houses have roofs. Do I actually have to spell out that firstly kids can't feed and shelter themselves, and secondly if you don't "indoctrinate" them they won't know anything? Also, if your house didn't have a roof birds would poop on your bed.

Raising children is thought to be both a moral obligation and a deeply fulfilling endeavor. When people, especially women, reproduce and fail to take sufficient interest in the deeply fulfilling endeavor of hammering patriarchal ideology into their kids, they are described by people who do do this (i.e. “good” parents) as “bad” parents.
Hey, if your beliefs lead you to not have kids, awesome, have fun, you're doing the gene pool a favor. But once you've had the kids you've got a goddamn responsibility. No one's calling you a bad parent if you don't give girls little pink aprons and boys little blue police cars; if people are saying that then you're failing at something much more fundamental.

Say, for example, that because of changes engendered by the feminist revolution, kids wouldn’t need to be raised at all. They could flit about the countryside according to whim, just like anybody else. Why not? They wouldn’t be kidnaped or raped or sold into sex slavery because, remember? dominance and submission is a thing of the past.
I was not aware that you could culture-change away all violence in the world. Can you do ingrown hairs, too?

The kids would choose the people they wish to hang out with, which people may or may not include their biological parents.
Sometimes that would be no one, if biological parents are equally "free" not to care for their kids. Or sometimes that would be the people with the most candy and toys to offer. Four-year-olds are not noted as great judges of parenting competency and good faith. (Or perhaps it's just my cultural perception of four-year-olds that makes me think that! I imagine that a post-revolutionary preschooler would not only be a master of human relations and nuclear physics, they would be six feet tall.)

The parents would be relieved of their neurotic, self-absorbed obsession with their own offspring, the kids would be free from enslavement as low-status sub-beings in a nuclear family to which they belong only as an accident of birth.
Still not over that time you had to mow the lawn even though you didn't wanna, huh?

Firestone asserts that after the feminist/proletarian revolt, humans, unfettered by class and culture and power differentials, will be free to “realize the conceivable in the actual.” We’d become giant pulsating globs of happiness.
Thus would art take a powder! Hallelujah! At least, art as we know it — that ponderous, self-absorbed, interpretation, or anti-interpretation (whatever!), of reality, with an audience manipulated by a creator — would cease to be.

I'm not sure what hating on art has to do with anything. But at this point in this post I can't remember what anything has to do with anything and I'm no longer sure if I'm awake or dreaming or in the grip of a fevered Robitussin vision.

Imagine: oppression of children, gone! Imagine: war, gone! Imagine: art, gone! All made irrelevant by human evolution into pulsating, contented geniuses. Gone is the power differential between parent and offspring, homeland and enemy, audience and creator. Blamm! Revolution fixes everything.
I think the only "revolution" that could fix this would be bigger than women just abandoning men. Bigger than women fighting men. Bigger than everybody fighting everybody. It would be the dissolution of human beings into bodiless entities of pure philosophy, stripped of all needs and emotions and associations.

...So, uh, let me know how that works out for you!

(I'll hack on the comments tomorrow; even a lot of Twisty's commenters admitted to not making head or tail of this one. But plenty of them added their own crazypants to the mix. Or better yet, said "Well, I don't understand this but I'm sure Twisty is just too smart and advanced for me," which is an attitude I never seem to get out of my commenters.)


  1. "Throbbing, pulsating with contentment." Oh dear, I bet Twisty would be right in guessing what's on my disgusting patriarchal mind now.

    That's right: brains in jars.

    I have no idea how she expects anyone to become intellectual giants without being able to pass on accumulated knowledge through culture. As if babies are born perfect geniuses and learning anything only makes them dumber. Baffling.

  2. Anonymous - Babies aren't born without domination either. My experience with kids is that their natural state is "I should have everything I want," and they have to be taught fairness and altruism.

  3. Ah, yes. The noble savage fantasy. The "natural" state is pure and good, and any alteration is bad. Well, fuck, botulism and gangrene and cyanide are all natural. Most children are immature savages who have to learn how to play nicely with one another. Otherwise, we're living in a great big, anarchic Lord of the Dance. I'll pass.

  4. William The Coroner - Noble savage fantasies are funniest when they're on the computer.

  5. I'm going to skip over everything else because it's making my head hurt and I can't say anything other than "....", "...?", or "...!?", and just stick to wondering just what the fuck Twisty has against art. Did art rape her once or something? Had a bad experience with paint?

  6. That or Twisty picked up on her parent's hatred of paint. "God damn it, this stuff's non-toxic! Now it doesn't matter HOW MUCH she eats it!"

    ... maybe that was a bit over the line?

  7. Someone needs to go read Lord of the Flies.

    The 'kids are pure and innocent and perfect until we destroy them with culture' thing drives me up a wall. Kids are just as violent and selfish as adults; the only reason they don't do as much damage is because they don't have large muscles or (generally) access to weapons. A full-grown man with the behavioral tendencies and self-control of a two-year-old would be terrifying.

  8. Apropos of almost nothing, did you happen to read the New Yorker article on March 2nd about the radical lesbians "The Van Dykes"?

    I think Twisty would have HATED the article. (which was written, by a lesbian, in a fairly light-hearted but positive tone) In the next weeks' issue of the New Yorker, there was a letter to the editor from an angry women in North Carolina (?)about that article, declaring that there is nothing funny about radical lesbianism. Go figure...

  9. Uh, yeah-- Shulamith Firestone is kinda nutty. Have you read the Dialectic of Sex, though? There were some interesting points in there, a lot of which made much more sense than this particular crap (which comes at the end of the book... when she seems to have gone really off the deep-end.) The stuff on what a bunch of hooey the idea of "penis envy" is, is pretty darn good though.

  10. @William the Conqueror: Lord of the Dance or Lord of the Flies? 'Cause I have to say, anarchic Lord of the Dance sounds pretty awesome. *dances away*

    Also I can't even fathom this woman. Her crazy kills my mind.

    And WTF is with the pulsating? If I'm going to be a bodiless consciousness or whatever, I don't want to look like some kind of horrible experiment in a jar. *disturbed*

  11. Well, I don't understand all this snark but I'm sure Holly is just too smart and advanced for me.

  12. Lawrence - It'll only let me read the abstract. :( But the whole concept of "political lesbianism" drives me nuts. It seems like such an insult to ordinary, actually-attracted-to-women lesbians.

    Hypatia - I haven't read it, I'm allergic to books with "dialectic" in the title. However, in honor of intellectual thoroughness (and the possibility of getting a good post out of it), I'll search it out at the library next weekend.

    Lance - Good boy.

  13. "I'll search it out at the library next weekend."

    It's a good idea. I liked the book. A lot! Although, yeah, some of it seems whacky as owl-shit today (you have to hold your nose when you wade through the bits about race because they're... barkingly racist by todays standards.) But if you factor for the fact that that everyone else in 1968 was spouting a lot of the same offensive, boinkingly Marxist, Issac Asimov-ist sort of stuff then... it gets pretty interesting.

    For what it's worth, unlike Twisty, Firestone reserves her ire for what would now be called constructed gender (the kind of construction that says you can't be an ambulance driver, a firearm aficionado, or enjoy sex because you're a girl) than about anatomical sex or, for that matter plain old sex.

    It being 41 years since Dialectic was published it's not likely to turn you into a radical separatist. But it *is* likely to make you even more irked with Cosmopolitan magazine.

    Oh yeah, and one last thing? If you read it in good faith instead of just looking for 60's-era howlers you'll be able to engage Twisty on a whole 'nother level because you'll have a better idea of what her rules are.

    Good luck.


  14. Figleaf - I'll try. I know I have a serious weakness for the cheap shot, but somewhere deep down I do understand that arguing (or agreeing! it's possible! theoretically!) with the base idea of something is a lot worthier than picking out sentences that sound silly.

    Really I just think that men and women are more alike than Cosmo or Twisty gives us credit for. (Also, I'm kind of a pragmatist, and I have very little interest in things that can't be achieved in physical reality as we know it.) I would love to see a world where power differentials aren't arbitrarily associated with things (like sex or race) unrelated to ability, but doing away with power altogether is impossible and downright meaningless.

  15. @Heather It was an in joke, that you won't completely understand until you've seen the episode of Corner Gas where Oscar becomes the school bus driver. But I think it's pretty funny anyway, 'cos I like techno-goth-punk Celts in black leather.

    And yes, the whole concept of "political lesbianism" is...odd. There was a lot of it in college, which, considering my college, was a lot of spoilt rich kids pouting that life wasn't what they wanted. "I'm only going to sleep with X because Y is evil" is bigoted and silly no matter what you put in for the variables. And, yes, it does seem disrespectful of people who are doing it for reasons of love and attraction. Kind of "I'm more alternative than thou."

  16. Say, for example, that because of changes engendered by the feminist revolution, kids wouldn’t need to be raised at all. They could flit about the countryside according to whim, just like anybody else. Why not? They wouldn’t be kidnaped or raped or sold into sex slavery because, remember? dominance and submission is a thing of the past.

    Ok, I haven't finished reading yet, and I haven't read the comments, but I just had to take a moment here.

    I bet Ms. Twisty (if she has a car) has one of those stupid "Wolves Belong" bumper stickers on it. Because she doesn't live anywhere near where any actual, real live wolves are. Because if she did, she'd see the problem inherent in letting little kids freely roam the countryside without any sort of adult supervision. (I'm giving her credit for being able to add two and two together and get something even close to four, here.)

    Unless part of her child rearing strategy is to make sure every child over the age of three becomes a crack rifle shot, and gets to carry. But I have my doubts.

  17. This may be the single fucking craziest thing I've ever read.

    Only someone who has never had to wipe shit off a baby's ass could possibly come up with such twaddle.

  18. Most of the actual attracted-to-women lesbians I know consider political lesbians to be appropriators and colonisers. At best.

    Meanwhile, pregnant chick eyerolls at Twisty. Well, at least it's some variety in things to eyeroll about.

  19. what's her obsession with pulsating? I wanna pulsate too!

  20. In fairness to two year olds everywhere, kids are selfish little heathens because they have no concept of the other as themselves. They just figured out object permanence as in, when I hide the ball behind my back it doesn't cease to exist. Something as abstract as a social contract among humans is still a few years off. Adults on the other hand, understand what it is like to be hurt (emotionally or physically) and get the concept that hurting others isn't really good because you don't want THEM to hurt YOU. And not just in a "we agree not to kill each other" way, but in an understanding, compassionate, it sucks to get hurt so I'm not gonna hurt others, kinda way.

    Not sure exactly what this adds, I guess my point is that we DO add context and meaning to our child's expectations as they grow up, and some of that requires prerequisite understanding and maturity. Neither the "children are pure creatures" nor the "children are selfish heathens" explanations really do justice for me.


  21. If ending art is a result of ending war and oppression...

    I think I'd be ok with war and oppression, then. If we're being honest, here.

  22. Although delivered in her usual batshit crazy manner this was quite a bit better than the usual batshit craziness. Unlike women, children really are near universally oppressed.

  23. "Imagine: art, gone!"

    That sounds rather nightmarish.

    (Of course, I don't really think this. It's just the patriarchy!)

  24. .. WHY? Why would art be gone? Because it's bad? WTF?