Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Who Is Virginia Woolf Afraid Of?

A common theme of feminism since I was in college is that men are afraid of women’s sexuality. This is abundantly clear in more oppressive societies – what else could burqhas and female genital mutilation mean? But it is fair to level the accusation against the men of more egalitarian societies as well. That the depth and pervasiveness of this is often exaggerated doesn’t refute the central point that it is there. This is perhaps best observed by reading (or watching, if you must) the popular culture of a few decades ago. Sexist comments leap out that would not be accepted in polite company now – yet we denied then that sexism was all that big a problem. By extension, our denial now may be in error. We have already proven that we do not see ourselves as clearly as we think.

With that in mind, where do these frequent complaints by progressives about Sarah Palin’s sexuality originate? What drives that? Sarah Bernhart's gang-rape threat, HuffPo's Michael Seitzman’s bizarre fantasy of sex with Sarah Palin, Cintra Wilson's disturbing screed in Salon - and I thought I had weird fantasies...

I don’t write those off just because they are extreme. 1. They are in respectable venues – HuffPo, Salon. Bernhart's act gets reviewed in the NYTimes. If someone said similar things about Pelosi, Hillary – would they get reviewed as edgy or outrageous in the newspapers? 2. They are humor, often a rich source of uncovering a culture's darker side. 3. Milder versions of exactly the same thing are common.

I imagine you can find things equally vile about prominent progressive women in the comments sections of some right-wing blogs. I haven’t seen them myself, but it’s likely they’re there. But that’s just it – anonymous blog comments are the fringe of the right. You can’t know if the person means it or is assuming a persona. This horror-movie stuff is just part of the menu on the left, however.

These are pretty dark corners of the psyche that are getting uncovered. These aren’t just disagreeing with Palin’s positions. There’s some pretty sick stuff going on here.

Applying the standard of the first paragraph, what is it about her sexuality they are afraid of, that they would be prompted to violent thoughts? What is Virginia Woolf afraid of? Having given birth to five children seems an automatic nomination. Is it the reproductivity part of Sarah Palin’s sexuality that unhinges them? This is a group that has 0.3 children lifetime per woman, after all. I would nominate the huntress aspect of Palin, but the woman warrior has been a trope of lesbian and feminist art for at least two decades. And as for the sex itself being a problem, a quick google of "feminist sexuality" should dispel that. I won't link to half that stuff.

They don’t just disapprove of her sexuality or prefer to make other choices, there is a primitive fear emerging here. Those who doubt that should reread my first paragraph and ask themselves if they are quite sure of their own hearts in this.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a super-smart psychologist or anything, but my guess would be that these folks are angry about Palin's sexual blamelessness. She uses sex for its intended purpose (making babies, keeping a marriage happy), rather than for cheap thrills, and it drives them nuts. I'm sure she's not perfect, but she is the image of a chaste woman. They want to see her sexuality dragged through the same meaningless slime-pits they've put their own sexuality through in the name of "feminism", but sick fantasy is all they have to throw at her and the traditional lifestyle she represents. She makes them feel dirty because, frankly, they are.

John J. Coupal said...

insignificon seems to have nailed The Left's approach to Sarah.

There's more hostile fire directed by The Left at her than at McClain, because The Left knows that Palin is more of a threat to their electoral success than is McClain.

Micha Elyi said...

"A common theme of feminism since I was in college is that men are afraid of women’s sexuality."

Ignored by feminists is that feminist women are also afraid of women's sexuality, thus the drive by feminists to denigrate it by confining it to the purpose of "cheap thrills" as Insignificon noted.

Anonymous said...

Palin appeals to those who believe that tradition is the expression of innate "common sense" values. If, on the other hand, you believe that traditions are forms of ritualized behaviors that are constructed by specific time periods and cultures as an expression of changing values, Palin is less appealing. Palin seems to validate the notion that "real women" can do it all without complaining. She calls herself a feminist, but she also seems to think that obstacles to women's rights in the form of institutionalized sexism no longer exist on any significant level. For those who believe that gender "isn't an issue anymore," Palin seems a living example of the archetypal ideal woman our society has been constructing for centuries and is therefore perceived by the keepers of the status quo as comforting. She is only threatening to those who believe there is still inequality and want to change that.

Anonymous said...

Another point is that feminists have often been this revolting when they attack a man.

Laughing at prison rapes, screaming for his death in pain, slandering his honesty, despising his intelligence, instincts and body for being inferior to the attacker's.

This has been the routine practice of feminism for decades and has led to thousands of suicides among its victims. The only surprise here is to see it turned so publicly against a decent, popular woman.