Just appearing sporadically ...

  • Nov. 8th, 2011 at 1:15 AM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
... to link pretty good posts:

Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse.

I am often frustrated by people who are otherwise invested in understanding and opposing systems of oppression, but who nonetheless exclude dating and desirability from analysis or self-critique. This is especially frustrating when they are privileged by those very systems. This lack of analysis by those who have access and who are prioritized as desirable by their communities effectively silences the experiences of those whose trans status (or having a disability, or not meeting cultural beauty standards, or any of the markers of undesirability imposed by external systems) limits or completely denies access. In many queer, sex positive, polyamorous activist communities I have experienced those with access treating their privilege as the status quo, something which is never discussed, is neutral from criticism, and to which all are assumed to have access. This is done with an often startling ignorance of those who do not.

Understandably, who we are attracted to is a very sensitive topic for most of us. We want to believe our desires are our own, unshaped by the media, patriarchy, racism, ableism, transmisogyny, or other oppressive systems. This is even more challenging when one’s identity is based in ideas of activism, social justice and equality; We don’t want to feel like we’re upholding oppressive standards, or engaging in systems which sometimes violently desexualize marginalized identities.

Apr. 18th, 2010

  • 2:42 PM
la_vie_noire: (leyendo)
Via [personal profile] the_future_modernes, this fascinating article by Fatema Mernissi:

Size six: The Western women's harem

‘In this entire store, there is no skirt for me?’ I said. ‘You are joking.’ I was very suspicious and thought that the saleslady just might be too tired to help me. At least I could understand that. But the lady added a condescending judgment, which sounded to me like an Imam’s fatwa. It left no room for discussion: ‘You are too big!’ she said.

‘I am too big compared to what?’ I asked, looking at her intently, because I realised that I was facing a critical cultural gap here.

‘Compared to a size six,’ came the saleslady’s reply.

Her voice had a clear-cut edge to it that is typical of those who enforce religious laws. ‘Size four and six are the norm,’ she went on, encouraged by my bewildered look. ‘Deviant sizes, such as the one you need, can be bought in special stores.’

[...] ‘I come from a country where there is no size for women’s clothes,’ I told her. ‘I buy my own material and the neighbourhood seamstress makes me the silk or leather skirt I want. Neither the seamstress nor I know exactly what size my new skirt is. No one cares about my size in Morocco as long as I pay taxes on time. Actually, I don’t know what my size is, to tell you the truth.’

The saleswomen laughed merrily and said that I should advertise my country as a paradise for stressed working women. ‘You mean you don’t watch your weight?’ she inquired, with more than a tinge of disbelief in her voice. Then, after a brief moment of silence, she added in a lower register, as if talking to herself: ‘Many women working in highly paid fashion-related jobs could lose their positions if they didn’t keep a strict diet.’

Her words sounded so simple, but the threat they implied was so cruel. I realised for the first time that maybe ‘size six’ was a more violent restriction imposed on women than the Muslim veil. Quickly I said goodbye so as not to make any more demands on the saleslady’s time or involve her in any more unwelcome, confidential exchanges about age-discriminating salary cuts. A surveillance camera was probably watching us both.

Yes, I thought as I wandered off, I have finally found the answer to my harem enigma. Unlike the Muslim man, who uses space to establish male domination by excluding women from the public arena, the Western man manipulates time and light. He declares that in order to be beautiful, a woman must look 14 years old. If she dares to look 50 or, worse, 60, she is beyond the pale. By putting the spotlight on the female child and framing her as the ideal of beauty, he condemns the mature woman to invisibility. In fact, the modern Western man enforces one of Immanuel Kant’s 19th-century theories: To be beautiful, women have to appear childish and brainless. When a women looks mature and self-assertive, or allows her hips to expand, she is condemned as ugly. Thus, the walls of the European harem separate youthful beauty from ugly maturity.

Western attitudes, I thought, are even more dangerous and cunning than the Muslim ones because the weapon used against women is time. Time is less visible and more fluid than space. The Western man uses images and spotlights to freeze female beauty within an idealised childhood, and forces women to perceive aging – the normal unfolding of the years – as a shameful devaluation. ‘Here I am, transformed into a dinosaur,’ I caught myself saying aloud as I went up and down the rows of skirts in the store, hoping – to no avail – to prove the saleslady wrong.


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