Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nice readings!

This week I had a ton of fun with the readings. The Mulvey piece deals with “looking itself” as a source of pleasure (p. 344), and I can’t help but feeling like voyeuristic practices are almost as popular as sex. Isn’t almost all propaganda based on catering to our scopophilia? I especially enjoyed the discussion of the split between man and women when it comes to looking: “active/male and passive/female” (p. 346). The fact that this still goes on is irrefutable, but what happens when women use it to control men? If we agree that women in film have been traditionally displayed two ways: “as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium” (p. 347), then we need to look at what impact this has had outside the auditorium and the screen. Today, both for men and women, being wanted, looked at, desired and admired as an erotic object is the base for almost all products (i.e. clothing, perfumes, hair products, fitness equipment, etc.). Is this perpetuating what we said above or is it a source of power for the object?
I think a discussion/deconstruction of a few Tinto Brass movies would’ve helped this piece… or my point, at least when it comes to the result of “fetishistic scopophilia” (p. 348). In any case, I believe, or want to believe, that we have moved at least a tad away from an era in which women and their lack of a penis imply “a threat of castration and hence unpleasure” (p. 348) into a time in which erotic objects, both male and female, can begin to use their objectification in a way that also objectifies the active/male looker. Oh man, I can already tell Monday is going to be a fun day.
The Dyer piece was also written in a way that can only bring forward discussion. In here we read that “there is no way of making sense of people, or of constructing characters, that is somehow given, natural or correct” (p. 354). OK, prepare your stones: I disagree… to a point. I do agree on the fact that stereotypes are wrong and shouldn’t be used when describing someone but, just like hegemony or ideology, we need something to put in its place if we want to eliminate them… so what can we use instead?
Let us take stereotyping through iconography, leaving homosexuals out of it to pick on someone else. It is wrong for me to think that all sorority girls are the same, terribly, terribly wrong. Nonetheless, I have come across so many plastic-short-wearing, blonde-pony-tailed, greek-shirt-bearing, “like”-“like”-“like”-talking, constantly-texting, in-class-facebooking intellectually-challenged girls that I have started to become comfortable with the stereotype; I don’t have to wait until they open their mouths for me to have an idea of what they are. Is this wrong? Hell yeah. Should we stop doing it? Hell Yeah. What are we going to stick in there to take its place? Just like theories, how else are we going to explain what we see most of the time? What will give us some predictive power? Another iconographic example: I’m Latino. I’m so Latino that people change sidewalks when I go get my milk at Walgreens. It could bother me; they’re stereotyping. Now picture this; you’re walking alone at night and you see a Latino (which in Texas means a Mexican) with a tattooed tear and cholo shirt. You’re an intellectual, you’ve read about stereotypes and how wrong they are… are you going to stay on the same sidewalk? Do you feel completely safe because you know that shady characters are created via Cultivation? If you have to answer out loud, how honest will you be? Let me go the whole way (I’m borrowing a little from comedian Dov Davidoff here) put a knife in his hand… you can assume he’s just a chef, but will you?
“Fucking is the Other” (p. 367). I had to start out quoting that gem by Hooks. The piece was good and his strong writing carries his point across. The idea that by sleeping with the other we enter the world of experience (p. 368) is interesting, but I think the author missed a spot: by fucking the Other we conquer them. The word he uses becomes very important: we don’t have relationships with the Other, we don’t make love to the Other, we don’t share our soul through bodily contact with the Other, we don’t caress the mysteries out of their skin… we fuck them, that is, we do something to them that implies we have more power, we conquer them, they’re ours to hunt, use, enjoy and later dispose of: we colonize them.
Maybe the author goes a tad too far with the “primitivism” (p. 369) and what we really want is to keep the sense that the Other is inferior and easily conquerable. The discussion of the Tweeds catalogue (p. 374) sort of proves the point: sure, we can mingle, but you’re all still inferior and on a second plane.
On the rap issue, I can only say the, having done my thesis on the subject (reggaeton - Puerto Rican rap), the discourse is way too deep for such a short space as this.
The Gilroy piece was the first one I have felt was out of place in the book. I think it should’ve been read earlier or on the British Cultural Studies section we read a few weeks ago. In any case, isn’t identity becoming more important because homogeneous practices and globalization are making identities disappear? Aren’t ghettos proof that the ideas carried on the books discussed on page 392 are still applicable?
The Mohanty piece gave me a new perspective. I had always thought of feminist scholars as liberators, intellectual warriors, protesters and denouncers of inequalities and strong-willed agents of change that constantly kick the ass of patriarchy, capitalism and the status quo. Then I read this: “Because women are thus constituted as a coherent, sexual difference becomes coterminous with female subordination, and power is automatically defined in binary terms: people who have it (read: men), and people who don’t have it (read: women). Men exploit, women are exploited. Such simplistic formulations are historically reductive; they are also ineffectual in designing strategies to combat oppressions. All they do is reinforce binary divisions between men and women.” (p. 407). This point is again made throughout the whole piece. It gave me, for the first time in my life, the idea of a young, white, highly educated, powerful feminist scholar that, by how she works with the rest of the poor, uneducated, third world women, somehow becomes an intellectual hegemonic power. In other words, a simplistic approach to feminist studies, one that groups women and makes powerful statements without saying any attention to political and cultural specificities, is nothing more than a scholar white supremacy. What’s the impact of this on the women studied? How many feminist scholars criticize feminist scholars?
Last but not least, the Yunjyuan and Xiaoming piece could easily be understood as this: women, we own you. When we need you to kick ass, put the nice clothing in the closet and get to work, the country depends on you, but when things get back to normal, make sure you get your femininity back from the closet and get back to looking pretty as soon as possible. Is that what this crisis is going to bring?

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