Monday, October 29, 2007


(People by Mollicles4)

Since my days of fever with the flu last week, I've had a series of dreams in which all of the principal "characters", including me, have the following:

*A main identity by which they are generally known
*A secret identity by which they know themselves, which may or may not coincide with the above
*A public identity known by one or more other people, which may or may not coincide with the above AND which may be perceived differently by the individuals who know them
*A "twin" identity they same with someone else who is "identical" to them based on one of the above identities but which may not be obvious to anyone else

The first time I woke up from one of these saga, I thought WTF?!! Makes my head swirl. Talk about costumes.

First, some updates via little gator. We had wondered about the conflicting information concerning Captain Laurences Oates' departure from the tent of the Scott Antarctic Expedition's trek home, i.e., if he left willingly and "under cover" in order to allow his companions to go on without him, why did he take his sleeping bag with him? One account indicated his bag was found some distance away from the tent by the rescue party which arrived too late to save any of the expedition.

(Photo from Christies Images Unlimited 2007)

However, little gator found a news piece about how a sleeping bag case belonging to Captain Lawrence Oates during his ill-fated South Pole expedition went on sale this week at Christie's auction house. This article stated:
"The sleeping bags were earlier presented by schools to each member of the team, led by Captain Robert Scott, and all the bags were named. Oates' was named Trafalgar and presented by Trafalgar House School, Winchester.

"His bags were dumped eventually by the surviving members two or three days day after he had walked out of the tent. They were later found by a search party.

"The bag case is being sold by a private collector. Oates' sleeping bag is now at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge. "

A follow-up news brief stated "The case did not meet the reserve and was withdrawn from sale at Christie's. It had been expected to fetch up to £40,000 at the sale. "

To complete the answer of this question, little gator forwarded an online Project Gutenberg excerpt from the book South with Scott by Baron Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans Mountevans.

Now, on to Broad Cast. There was recently a long, at times maudlin thread on another blog I read concerning the public announcement by a formerly gay-bashing Republican elected official in California who decided to acknowledge that gays and Lesbians were human beings, after all, because his daughter was a Lesbian. This man wept on camera, which was apparently regarded by most folks as profound evidence of his change of heart.

My take on it was somewhat different than the general reaction. In the first place, I tend to associate with people who allow themselves to cry and it's not a media-worthy event. I like seeing people cry, but it doesn't tend to bring up own unshed tears because, frankly, I try to shed my tears as I go along. Secondly, while I absolutely acknowledge that knowing someone personally in a group targeted for oppression can (and often is) a catalyst for change of heart, I don't find that especially commendable as a mechanism for change. I am much more impressed with folks who can comprehend the humanity of others without requiring personal, family-based examples. It's a developmental stage of maturity, being able to grasp the value and rights of others on a symbolic and general level -- admittedly, a stage of maturity not generally demonstrated out there in the public eye. Still, I can dream.

And, thirdly, I don't have unresolved Daddy issues. My buttons cluster around Mama.

More importantly, however, a lot of the to-do was rooted in the conditioning which sees male tears as somehow more exceptional and "moving". One commenter, Liza Cowan, tried to point out the sexism implicit in this, but few seemed to comprehend it.

Part of the claptrap assigned to masculinity in our white patriarchal middle-class-aspiring culture is that they be "unemotional", which in specific means that "real" males are allowed to exhibit only anger or anger-tinged vehemence as emotions. Femininity is accorded the remaining human range of motion -- sadness, tenderness, fear, etc. -- but NOT anger, and this emotionality is labeled "weak". It's a brutal, completely non-biologically-based slicing of human expression into two ridiculous spheres that begins at birth (or before birth, if the gender of the baby is known in advance) with nonstop, heavy-handed conditioning -- a conditioning which eventually remaps the brains and likely other physical structures of the individuals so manipulated.

To briefly address all you biological determinists out there who are going to want to jump in with some tiny study which claims to prove a chemical basis for gender roles: (1) No study to date has been conducted on individuals who were raised without gender roles, so there is no control group, kids; (2) If there is ONE culture in the world or in time who have demonstrated a conflicting definition of gender roles (and there is, if you can step outside your own ethnocentrism far enough to look), then either those "other" people are not "quite human" or your argument falls apart; and (3) the influence of culture and enforced behavior on structure of the human brain is where the real discoveries are being made, not in the Watson-esque, Right-wing funded labs looking for validation of the blue/pink divide.

The story of humanity is the story of culture creating alternatives to DNA and instinct.

Back to crying: On top of the gender crap, it's also generally true in white, Northern-European-descended cultures that crying per se is frowned on. This appears to predate the assignation of weeping as a "girl thang" -- I mean, yes, we females got dealt all the lesser-status behavior, but it was already "uncool" to our whitebread ancestors to cry. Our mainstream culture is annoyingly stupid about how to behave if someone starts crying. We tend to immediately insert our own ego and act as if we are supposed to "do" something, and with that inevitably comes judgment.

So, turns out, it's complicated. (I'd apologize to those of you who want to view the world in butch/femme terms for once again pointing out that reality is complicated, but I know you haven't read this far, anyhow.) A recent article,The crying game: males vs. female tears, following up on the crap Ellen Degeneres is getting for public weeping, states "Some who study this most basic expression of feeling will tell you that in this day and age, it can be easier for a crying man to be taken seriously than a crying woman."

"In a recently published study at Penn State, researchers sought to explore differing perceptions of crying in men and women, presenting their 284 subjects with a series of hypothetical vignettes.

"What they found is that reactions depended on the type of crying, and who was doing it. A moist eye was viewed much more positively than open crying, and males got the most positive responses.

"Women are not making it up when they say they're damned if they do, damned if they don't," said Stephanie Shields, the psychology professor who conducted the study. "If you don't express any emotion, you're seen as not human, like Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek,'" she said. "But too much crying, or the wrong kind, and you're labeled as overemotional, out of control, and possibly irrational."

So, to that recently published Popular Mechanics woman-hating list of "25 Things Every MAN Should Know", in addition to dumping the sexist language, I'd add a 26th: How to be around someone who's crying. It's easy. Look kind. Listen. Don't interrupt, trying to silence them, try to "fix" it unless they ask you to help, or dive inside your own feelings. Hand them a tissue when they're done, thank them for sharing, and notice how much better they feel afterwards.

And, since I've raised the issue of the damage done by sexist language, and in partial follow-up to my earlier post about Evolution's Secret Weapon: Grandmas, I want to recommend the recent post of Reclusive Leftist Researchers discover that early Homo sapiens were all male. (It's sarcasm, campers.)

After dissecting yet another male-centered anthropological study, she states "The great reassessment happening in anthropology is the realization that the complex of behaviors that seem to mark the emergence of highly intelligent Homo are those activities that have always been associated with women: plant gathering and processing, communal resource acquisition and provisioning — including shellfishing.

"More and more, when anthropologists think about intelligent hominids making the transition to modern humans, they’re thinking about women — women figuring out how to dig up tubers and prepare them so they’re edible, how to smash hard seeds and grind them into a mush the baby can eat, how to roast shellfish and turtles so the meat is easy to get to. How to get along with each other, talking things over, sharing tasks. How to work out the provisioning so new Mom can nurse the baby while Grandmother and Aunts pitch in with the tuber-digging and babysitting. How to exploit the environment and harness the power of group effort in a way our simian cousins never do.

"Women’s work, people. Women’s work."

In its biggest definition, something we're going to need more than anything else to solve the planetary crises we're currently facing.

(Archie beats off three guys)

A post by Josiah over at Maoist Orange Cake raised questions of when is male protectiveness sexist and when is it not. A great thing to ponder, and one that I asked myself yesterday when writing a comment about Halloween costuming -- I believe that if anybody adopts masculinity without parody or overt contradiction of its lies (including women, especially including Lesbians), we're just reinforcing the conditioning. What people take away from public encounters is overwhelmingly anything they can to validate the values they were raised with and which they have not successfully sorted through/cleaned up. Subtle doesn't work.

(Women at work -- Nu gong ping)

Drag is a one-trick pony that's done nothing, in 2000+ years, to change the ferocity of enforced gender divisions in attire. The loosening up of clothing for women in the 1970s, begun by "unisex" fashions and kicked into high gear by feminists and Lesbians, occurred not from women who tried to dress "like men" but by women who pointedly said "I'm dressing like a woman, this is how women dress" as they rejected the boxes. The fact that those boxes are now being reconstructed of brick and have infiltrated the so-called queer movement is just an indicator of how successful we were. All backlashes come to an end; this one's about to sputter out.

Likewise, with behavior, it does no good to embrace/sexualize/deconstruct masculinity if any part of your behavior acts like it's not the toxic joke that it is. But sister-alive, there is some good work going on out there. And some of it is being done by straight white men, g*d bless 'em. Here's Robert Jensen again, writing with great personal honesty about The Quagmire of Masculinity.

And, concerning another box for women (we must be skinny), Queen Latifah this week "says the definition of beauty is changing. 'Beauty is not just a white girl. It's so many different flavors and shades,' the 37-year-old rapper-actress tells People magazine in its latest issue. 'It's good for regular girls because the meter (for beauty) has been a slim white girl.'"

(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)

Proceeding on thematically, there's a new children's book out called Why Mommy Is A Democrat. You could order it through your local women's bookstore as holiday gifts. Sample pages follow.

(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)

(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)

Lastly, I KNOW you've seen this elsewhere, but still, I have to link to this Science Daily article which offers another duh moment: "Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported."

(Hat tip to Feministing for a lot of the news clips making me think this week.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for catching and reporting on the study about crying.

shadocat said...

I couldn't believe all the fuss that was made over Ellen D. crying. But then I've never been able to run off and cry secretly in the bathroom; maybe if I did, I'd be a supervisor by now.

I made a comment about the sexy/slutty costumes on my own little blog---hope you aren't disgusted by me after you read it.

little gator said...

Is this a straight line? And I'm supposed to say, "oh no shado, I've always been disgusted by you."

shadocat said...

gator---how could it be a "straight line" coming from MOI?