rebecca l. eisenberg on Tue, 17 Jun 1997 12:56:08 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Translation: The vagina is the boss on internet

At 12:00 PM +0200 6/17/97, Peter Tomaz Dobrila wrote:
>Hi there!
>> I just wanted to note briefly, that there is hardly any statement that I
>> find more insidious and offensive, when not outright simplistic and
>At the end I wrote i.e. - in example. So I didn't mean just that, there
>is others personal shit as well. But you can't blame it on the whole world

In the United States, the accepted meaning of i.e. is "that is."  This is
very different from "for example," which is signified by "e.g.".

Regardless, the point stands that feminism is not about revenge against bad
men.  It is about a social movement that promotes equality of the sexes,
and that actively fights against sexist stereotyping.  Period.  If I read
correctly, you yourself insisted that you were "not a feminist" (a
conclusion that could have been inferred from context had it not been
stated explicitly).  Given that, how can you justify trying to define my
social movement?    It is offensive.

Who is blaming sexism on "the thole world populations <sic>"?  What I
stated clearly, and what I repeat again, is that feminism is about
promoting equality of the sexes, and striving to acheive a world where
opportunity is not restricted on the basis of sex and/or gender.   The fact
that the majority of the people who live in this world take part in a
sexist culture of some sort does not change the goals of the movement,
which are to enact change and promote equality.

>> Feminists are reponding to *institutional* sexism, and fighting against
>> sexism constitutes neither the airing of dirty laundry nor the promotion of
>> sexism itself.   Many people are feminist before they even have any
>> "partners" to be "angry" about -- for example, my first feminist awakening
>> involved the way that *teachers* treated me in math and science classes in
>> my pre-teen years.  There's no bitterness over boyfriends there; rather, it
>> is justified anger at a world that assigns females a presumption of
>> incompetence while assigning males, at the same time, a presumption of
>> competence.   The goal is to break down barriers and promote equality, and
>> I think that you badly misrepresent feminism as it is known to the great
>> majority of people, both male and female, who identify as feminist, by
>> insisting otherwise.
>Alright. You don't like *teachers*. I don't like some of them either. You
>can identify as you like. Feminist is O.K. I'm Marsian, two heads and
>wings, little green creature. But on the other hand I'm Peter Tomaz
>Dobrila and nothing else. Please to meet you Rebecca. Give those teachers
>names. Some car drivers are even worse. So what to do?

That is patently absurd.  Feminism is not a fight against "teachers."  Many
teachers were *not* that way.  Feminism is a battle to break down sexist
stereotyping, and what I gave an example of was the stereotype that insists
that women are not competent in math and science, and that succeeds, to
this day, to keep unjustly  many highly qualified women out of lucrative
and challenging occupations.  To the extent that individuals are hired
and/or promoted based on their sex rather than based on the quality of
their work (and to deny that this happens is to look blindly upon the
world) helps no one because it promotes an inefficient marketplace and
inhibits the full range of human and technological progress.

You are Peter, but you are also male, and you have benefitted from being a
male, in some way or other in your life, whether you admit that or not.
Perhaps you have benefitted only from the fact that you need not actively
fear rape as you walk down a city street at night; or perhaps you have
benefitted from that fact because you have a much better real opportunity
to become an elected member of the government (at least if you were a US
citizen) than your female colleagues.  But you have benefitted.
Personally, I strive for a world where gender, the social contruct, does
not exist at all, and in which we can all be viewed as individuals first,
and male or female (or hermaphrodite) as one of our many other individual
traits.  But we are not there yet, Peter, and denying the existence of
institutionalized sexism brings us no closer to that final goal.

>> That said, I did actually have an objection to the circulated "Vagina"
>> post.  In my opinion, as well as my best understanding of the nature of
>> biology and human sexuality, the female body part that is most analagous to
>> the penis is the *clitoris* rather than the vagina.  It is a fairly common
>> complaint among feminist scholars (and has been for a while, in particular
>> in reaction to Freud's terrifyingly absurd assumptions about female
>> sexuality) that a focus on the vagina, rather than on the clitoris or the
>> vulva in general, looks at female sexuality from the point of view of a
>> penis in search of a hole.  This is not to insist that the vagina is
>> irrelevant to sexuality for all women, but rather, it is to make the
>> argument that, if you are going to reclaim space for women, and then
>> identify women with the sexual organ where their sexual response is
>> generally considered to be located, the clear choice would have been
>> clitoris rather than vagina.
>Great! Sigmund Freud was a wanker. But debate about penis, vagina and
>clito is unfamiliar to me. Don't we have more in our bodies? Toes, liver,
>heart, brain, arms, legs, feet, head, kindeys, eyes, ears, smell,
>voice, touch, etc. Isn't it all involved in our whole behaviour, work,
>sex, etc.?

There are many errogenous zones in the human body, both male and female,
and NOTHING I wrote suggested otherwise.  But a focus on the vagina is
clearly phallocentric, and a decision not to even mention the clitoris --
which, I repeat, is where female sexuality is said to be "centered" in a
way analogous to the male centering of sexuality on the penis -- is not
trivial.    No act of sexism is trivial, and I must repeat that I find
hardly any action more pernicious than the denial that sexism exists.
Sexism exists.    The fact that you, personally, have perhaps never felt
the direct harms of sexism only provides evidence of the fact that sexism
divides the world by gender, and assigns the burdens and benefits
inequally.  The fact that many women (most of them much younger than I am)
and perhaps most men may disagree with this perspective does not mean that
sexism does not exist.

I believe that your intentions are genuine.  So if you want truly to create
the egalitarian world that you would like to think exists today, do
something about it.  Join the movement.  Read the literature.  Talk about
it.  Get involved.  Don't just sit there.



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