BETWEEN MORAL PRETENSE & LURID SPECTACLE: A VERY CONTRARY MARY

“And she took this leap while displaying the full measure of female unpredictablity, while the world watched, astounded, dismayed and outraged. This Mary was quite contrary, and her reputation over time, unsurprisingly, has suffered from this complexity. Surely we women have a gene — in addition to those saucy, but ill-mannered, hormones — for theatrics, so frequently do they puncture our inner lives and decorate our outer ones in operatic robes. But occasionally high drama is the most efficient way to break through the status quo, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s radical mission called for extreme measures” ( Toni Bentley )

"-one of the cons of referring to the human race as "man" is that is makes woman the "other." therefore, it unconsciously communicates men as superior, and not representative of humankind. it is worth noting that in her writing, mary is at least as hard on women as she is on men. to her, sexism was a systematic, structural, societal problem, which was fostered partly through education. in her day especially, education trained women NOT to be virtuous, rational or manly (this makes them occasionally turn out immoral)."

Her “Vindication of the Rights of Women” was no prose masterpiece, but its angry polemics  and honest, sometime hot air inflated missives against the blatant misogynist and puerile meanderings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke found an audience. Of Burke, she accused the erstwhile champion of liberty of selectivity and essentially the liberty to continue to squash women. ” You are the champion of property…Man preys on man,… and you mourn for the idle tapestry that decorated a gothic pile and the dronish bell that summoned the fat priest to prayer.”

"back then and definitely still today, women end up tyrannizing each other through their cunningness (and caddiness). mary was a proponent NOT of monarchy, but of MERITocracy (you achieve your goals and ideals through your talents, not through your gender, which you can't help)."

In 1792, she published her Vindication on the Rights of Woman, an important work which, advocating equality of the sexes, and the main doctrines of the later women’s movement, made her both famous and infamous in her own time. She ridiculed prevailing notions about women as helpless, charming adornments in the household. Society had bred “gentle domestic brutes.” “Educated in slavish dependence and enervated by luxury and sloth,” women were too often nauseatingly sentimental and foolish. A confined existence also produced the sheer frustration that transformed these angels of the household into tyrants over child and servant. Education held the key to achieving a sense of self-respect and anew self-image that would enable women to put their capacities to good use. The notion of equal rights and control over one’s body was regarded as an appalling nuisance, and was one thing the English and French male intelligentsia could agree on.

"Much of Kruger’s graphic work consists of black-and-white photographs with overlaid captions set in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique. The phrases included in her work are usually declarative, and make common use of such pronouns as “you,” “I,” “we,” and “they.” The juxtaposition of Kruger’s imagery with text containing criticism of sexism and misogyny and the circulation of power within cultures is a recurring motif in the work."

Rousseau, who had a somewhat bizarre sexual history as a youth,  resulting in some acute repression and timidity, had decreed that women were tools for pleasure, and creatures too base for moral or political or educational privilege.

“If female animals do not have the same sense of shame, what do we make of that? Are their desires as boundless as those of women, which are curbed by shame? The desires of animals are the result of need; and when the need is satisfied the desire ceases; they no longer pretend to repulse the male, they do so in earnest. . . . They take on no more passengers after the ship is loaded. Even when they are free their seasons of receptivity are short and soon over; instinct pushes them on and instinct stops them. What would supplement this negative instinct in women when you have taken away their modesty? When the time comes that women are no longer concerned with men’s well-being, men will no longer be good for anything at all.” ( Rousseau, Emile )

IN 1915 Virginia Woolf predicted it would take women another six generations to come into their own. We should be approaching the finish line if Woolf’s math was as good as her English. A little over a century before her, another Englishwoman, Mary Wollstonecraft, declared in her revolutionary book of 1792, ”The Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” that not only had the time come to begin the long slog to selfdom, freedom, empowerment — or whatever current feminist term serves — but that she would be the first of what she called, using the language of taxonomy, ”a new genus.”

Found this in Neil Leach’s The Anaesthetics of Architecture. Good ol’ fashioned feminist graffiti.

However, Wollstonecraft did have desires and after the buzz of her success had died down, she looked around her apartment and realized she had reached a point in her life without ever having had a love affair. She had spent her childhood as an adult in the home of a drunken and abusive father and her life seemed now, to be passing swiftly; she panicked a bit. She was rebuffed by the Swiss painter Henry Fuseli, and she left for Paris. Partly to escape the

me and also because she wanted to observe what the fuss was about the French Revolution.

On her arrival the lofty ideals seemed to be only window dressing for the fetid odor that came from the stockroom.For a woman who always carried a cloud of Gothic gloom over her, she could not have been entirely disappointed since the attraction/repulsion dynamic was so visceral, perhaps even beyond her level of tolerance.   One of her first recollections was seeing Louis XVI “sitting in a hackney coach… going to meet death.” Back in her room, she wrote to Joseph Johnson of seeing “eyes glare through a glass door opposite my chair and bloody hands shook at me… I am going to bed and for the first time in my life, I cannot put out the candle.”

Tell me... What do you think....Should I convert? ...NAH....fuck em!...

As the weeks went on, Edmund Burke’s implacable critic began to lose her faith in this much vaunted brave new world. “The aristocracy of birth is leveled to the ground, only to make room for that of riches,” she wrote. By february France and England were at war, and British subjects classified as enemy aliens.

Though many Englishmen were arrested, Mary and a large English colony stayed on. One day in spring, some friends presented her to an attractive American, newly arrived in Paris. Gilbert Imlay. About four years her senior, Imlay, a former officer in the Continental Army, was an explorer and adventurer. He came to france seeking to finance a scheme for seizing Spanish lands in the Mississippi valley. This “natural and unaffected creature,” as mary was later to describe him, was probably the social lion of the moment, for he was also the author of a best-selling novel called “The Emigrants”, a far fetched account of life and love in the American wilderness.

" Gloria Steinem brings a new bent to the story without ever being relentless about it. And although it may be an accepted thought now nearly 20 years after Steinem’s work was published, looking at Marilyn Monroe from a feminist perspective was something unheard of at the time. Prior to Steinem, the popular thought was that most women held a sort of resentment towards Monroe, considered her more of a joke than an actress, let alone a trailblazer in woman’s fight for equality."

Imlay and Mary soon became lovers. They were a seemingly perfect pair. Imlay must have been tickled with his famous catch, and, dear, liberated girl that she was, Mary did not insist upon marriage. Rather the contrary. But fearing that she was in danger as an Englishwoman, he registered her at the American embassy as his wife.

Blood was literally running in the Paris streets now, so Mary settled down by herself in a cottage at Neuilly. Imlay spent his days in town, working out various plans. The Mississippi expedition, not surprisingly, came to naught, and he decided to install himself in France  and try his hand at the import-export business, part of his imports being gunpowder and other war materials  run from Scandinavia  through the English blockade. By now it was summer, and Mary, who spent the days writing, would often stroll up the road to meet him, carrying a basket of freshly-gathered grapes.

"Many people believe that all the arts revolved around male artists but in actuality there were many renown artists throughout history, Even some that inspired political change, such as Marie-Guillemine Benoist. She was a Parisienne born to a civil servant and taught by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun. This painter was a true feminist and portrayed her beliefs through her work. One of her paintings ¨L’Innocence entre la vertu et le vice¨ shows her mythological abilities but in it she portrayes vice as a man, and traditionally it had always been represented by a woman. Another very famous painting of hers was “Portrait d’une Negresse” which became a symbol of women’s rights and black peoples freedom. This painting was done just six years after slavery had been abolished in France and was acquired by Louis the XVIII."

A note she wrote Imlay that summer shows exactly what her feelings for him were:” You can scarcely imagine with what pleasure I anticipate the day when we are to begin almost to live together; and you would smile to hear how many plans of employment I have in my head, now that I am confident that my heart has found peace. …” Soon, she was pregnant. She and Imlay moved into Paris. He promised to take her to America, where they would settle down on a farm and raise six children. But business called Imlay to Le Havre, and his stay lengthened ominously into weeks.

"Welfare Queen. Baby Mama. Red Neck Woman. Soccer Mom. Having It All. This workshop will engage you in a process of “Narrative Power Analysis” to surface and analyze the stories and stereotypes about gender that we confront in our lives and work, and the sexist assumptions that often underpin them. The intersecting narratives of gender, race, and class create a complex mine-field of messages in the dominant culture that all of our work must struggle to re-frame and transform. The session will use images, media, theater techniques, and small group work to envision feminist interventions in the contemporary media environment…"

It is not east to gauge what kind of a man Imlay really was, and what he actually thought of his adoring mistress. After the conquest of his trophy, he took a miserably long time to leave his mistress alone. His novel, though appearing unreadable, does show he shared with Mary some of her feminist views. The farm promise was bogus, but he did not totally abandon her; bringing her to Le Havre and living with her through the pregnancy until six months after the child was born. The baby was named fanny after her old friend. Mary loved her instantly and her joy in this chid illuminates almost every letter she wrote henceforth.

"The rabble-rousing anti-porn performance appears to demonstrate the triumph of the disciplinary educator over pornography's perversity. Emotionally moved audiences obviously find something gratifying in this victory in rhetoric. By refusing to debate, democratic dialogue is suppressed in favor of moral indignation. Whereas Dines issues radical-critical theory warnings about popular culture's seductiveness, Bright revels in seduction's consumerist pleasures. In performance mode as "Susie Sexpert," Bright wants to be the "bad" girl to the "good" women of anti-porn feminism. Like porn stars-turned-performance artists, Bright uses her body to deconstruct the theater of pornography, its sexual stylings and fantasy constructions."

Fanny’s father was the chief recipient of these letters, and to Mary”s despair, they hardly ever lived together again. A year went by; Imlay was now in London and Mary in france. She offered to break it off, but oddly, he could not let go. In the last bitter phase of their involvement, after she had joined him in London at his behest, he even sent her, as “Mrs. Imlay”, on a complicated business errand to the Scandinavian countries. Returning to London, Mary discovered that he was living with another woman. By now half crazy with humiliation, Mary chose a dark night and three herself in the Thames. She was nearly dead when two rivermen pulled her from the water.

"As Eric Schaefer explains in his dissertation, the "classical" exploitation film typically began with a "square up": "a prefatory statement about the social or moral ill the film was attempting to combat". Purporting to provide a somber educational perspective, the "square up" served as a moralistic pretense for showing the lurid spectacle which the film promised its audience. Schaefer points out that roadshow advertising ("exploitation" as it was then called) played up such pictures' edifying and titillating aspects. For films dealing with sexual matters, audiences were even segregated by gender, an exhibition strategy that could be seen to support a conservative take on sexual relations (even if it was only meant to safeguard the box office). Pornographic/ educational media presentations also use the "square up" tactic, especially those that promote an anti-porn argument. Indeed, anti-porn presentations perpetuate an inherently conservative, segregationist model of gender relations by setting up a female victim against a male victimizer. Because this strategy is used by porn opponents on the far right and the radical left, it deserves further scrutiny. In asking people to identify with the quintessential victim — the young girl — such educational presentations talk down to their audiences in order to scare them into the correct reading."

Viktor Frankl argues that the “will to meaning” is the essential human drive. it follows that the frustration of the will to meaning results in “existential vacuum”. since nature abhors vacuums, the place meaning abdicates gets quickly filled with angst and neurosis. to discover and actualize meaning in life is the most difficult task, fraught with dangers and risks. most of us fail at it at every turn. thus the parabole that r. nachman of bratzlav (xvii century) taught: “life is a very narrow bridge and the most fundamental lesson is never to be afraid at all”. ( Hune- Martin Buber Ecological Society )

…According to Dines’ publicity,

According to Bright, "All Girl Action" represents "sort of a triumphal tour." Audiences respond with pleasure to shared lesbian-bisexual readings. Bright argues that people have learned more about sex from porn than other sources, and that lesbians in particular have learned about sex with women from pornographic conventions. According to Ehrenreich, Hess, and Jacobs, the mass marketplace is "impersonal," "democratic," and "nonjudgmental": "As a setting for learning about sex, the marketplace offers some clear advantages over friends, medical experts, or even more liberated manuals."

“By carefully analyzing and dissecting the images, Dines helps to promote image literacy by making the viewers aware of the ways in which the media manipulates and seduces it audience.”

How she uses her chosen medium — the slide show — is key to this method of “dissection” analysis. Indeed, the anti-porn slide show formally constructs the objectifying dismemberment which it claims pornography does: it gives a serial display of anonymous female body parts cut out of any meaningful context. In an essay written in 1981, Paula Webster describes a feminist anti-porn slide show that included:

“About 30 images of predominantly heterosexual couples engaged in intercourse…There were shots of individual women, bound and gagged, pictures of female dominatrixes, assorted album covers, posters, clothing advertisements, as well as a handful of very jarring images of self-mutilation and the now-infamous Hustler photos of women arranged as food on a platter or put through a meat grinder.”

That description from 1981 could easily apply to Dines’ current slide show.

This strategy of reconstructing pornography as images without specific histories suggests that porn is a static cultural form. To support the objectification theory of violent imagery and its detrimental effects on women, anti-porn feminists have to mount evidence that popular culture is dangerous and even resistant to change. Indeed, Dines exhorted the MIT audience to “stop analyzing” pornography and start building an “old-fashioned organization” to fight it.

Following Dines’ presentation, MIT professor Henry Jenkins noted a contradiction: she criticized “textual analysis” yet used it to read meaning from the slides. Dines said her method of textual analysis — in contrast to what she identified as polysemic postmodern approaches — was accurate for understanding “overall context” as well as how texts are constructed……

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