Blog: Mixed Nuts
'Slut'. I hate that word. I really really hate that word. Even as used in The Ethical Slut. It just sets my teeth on edge.
But I totally support the SlutWalk. To recap, a stupid cop in Toronto, during a talk on rape prevention, suggested that if women didn't want to get raped, they shouldn't dress like sluts. (I won't unpack the idiocy of that statement here because many feminist blogs have done so quite adequately already.)
In response, women in Toronto and now all over the world have staged SlutWalks in protest of the victim blaming inherent in the cop's statement, and in solidarity with the women who are so often on the receiving end of this kind of crap.
And I think it's great. Not because it is a 'reclamation'*of the term as has so often been said, but because it taps into the Riot Grrrl credo of the 90s that I loved so very much. Riot Grrrls were all about rubbing your face in patriarchal assumptions about women. You get treated like property? Write the word 'Property' on your belly and make people confront what they think of you. It was aggressive and raw and made people very very uncomfortable because of the way they would see their internalized assumptions about women externalized on women's bodies, often in grotesque and disturbing ways. In short, it rocked.
There's been much talk among the participants to 'slut it up' for the walk. Lots of discussion of what 'provocative' stuff they'll wear and how it's such a celebration of women's sexuality. I see the politics of it a little differently. I don't think there is any particular need to dress any differently than you normally would, because somewhere out there is someone who thinks it's ok to call you a slut regardless of how covered or uncovered you are. So rather than yet again reinforcing the stereotypical image of a slut as someone who dresses and acts in a particular way, I would like to see people take that horrible little word and slap it across every woman of every age in every kind of dress and say, Riot Grrrl style: THIS is what you think of us for simply having been born female.
Because that's the point. If you get sexually assaulted, NOTHING you were wearing or were doing is going to be good enough. There will always be some moron going on about how you shouldn't have gone there or done that or worn such-and-such or had a sexual or professional or intellectual history. The bottom line is that we live in a global society that believes femaleness is a fault and that if something happens to you, well then that's just what you're going to get if you insist on existing while female.
So yes, I'm going to the Melbourne SlutWalk and I'd encourage anyone of any gender and any orientation who can attend to do so. Because this isn't about one kind of woman or one kind of world view or even women as a group. Victim blaming and a culture that allows and even expects it are toxic for all of us, whoever we are and wherever we are. It is important then that, when handed the opportunity on a silver platter, we lend our voices to the protest against it.
*Because I am a nerd: 'slut' has been a pejorative used to shame women from the 11-12th century (Middle English, basically). Its secondary and less often used meaning of female dog only appears in the late 19th century. Think about that for a second. 'Bitch' meant female canid before it was used as an insult for women (Old English, and 14th century, respectively). 'Queer' meant strange or weird before it was used to insult gay people. These words were neutral once and can literally have that neutrality 'reclaimed'. 'Slut', on the other hand, entered the world (or at least the OED) fully formed as an insulting term for a woman. I'm all for rendering it useless and refusing to let it be used to shame women, but I don't think it's a candidate for reclamation as such because there's nothing to reclaim.
A Facebook friend shared a video last week titled "Slap on face of Jamat islami fanatic Fareed Paracha." I've never heard of him, but I do know of the JI - anybody with a passing interest in Pakistan would have heard of the religious fundamentalist party - so I took a look.
The video is from a panel-discussion type of show called "Frontline" which airs on Pakistan's Express News Channel. I don't know what the discussion prior to this clip was about for sure, but the first woman they refer to is Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist extradited to and convicted in the US of attempting to kill US army personnel who were interrogating her in Afghanistan. The second woman referred to is Asiya Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman sentenced to death under the Blasphemy Law. She has appealed the verdict and has been receiving some amount of support from politicians, but it seems if you support her and - implicitly or explicitly - criticize the Blasphemy Law, there is a strong likelihood that fanatics will kill you. Salman Taseer, former Governor of the Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minister for Minorities, found that out the hard way.
So as Pakistan rushes headlong into a future bleaker than its past, seeing someone really lay into one of the (many, many) architects of that collapse elicits a certain amount of glee. The first speaker is lawyer and activist Asma Jehangir, who is well known for speaking out against fundamentalism and the oppression of women and minorities in Pakistan. Her comments, while accurate, are reiterations of things she has said - and no doubt will have to say - hundreds of times before.
The second speaker was a complete surprise however. As I watched the video, I realized that the very familiar-looking commenter from the audience is Zarina Saeed, one of the most inspirational teachers I've ever studied with. How's that for a bonus?
Most of the discussion is in Urdu, so I've added a translation after the video.
None of this means anything, of course. The country - at least the idealized one I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with all my life - is pretty much gone. Displays like this can make us feel good for a moment or two, but the "crossroads" that everyone seems to think Pakistan is at, as Ahsan Butt suggests, are actually fast disappearing in the distance.
The best sentence I have read all week:
Postmodern criticism that finds the meaning “outside” of the text is especially vulnerable to this type of goof, and when you fuse the two in Lacan, you get unfettered bollocks.
That's from a blog post called Psychoanalytic Literary Theory: Where Freud Ended Up, by Bob Blaskiewicz at Skeptical Humanities.
The post itself is a wonderful takedown of one of my pet peeves. I find Freud interesting and important as a historical figure and as one of the people responsible for the development of psychology--even if he was wrong about the specifics--but I am often frustrated by the uncritical use of psychoanalytic theory as if it were some sort of universal truth handed down by the ancients and not something that has been largely discredited by newer research. You can imagine, then, just how happy I was to read this post and this sentence in particular.
I've been curious about what exactly 'organic' means in Australia. I started off thinking it was pretty much the same bullshit as it is in the US, as Brian Dunning points out here and here, but given I have very little information on Australian farming practices or corporations' involvement with organic produce (and very little time to look these things up) I'm reserving my judgment. I don't buy organic though - not the produce and certainly not the rhetoric - but I have vague plans of conducting some research into the subject as and when I can before I write it off completely. At the moment, this consists of little more than taking a claim and comparing it to what I can observe personally and/or find out from a reliable source. Information, comments, suggestions are all welcome.
Today, for instance, Rebecca Blood linked to an article titled The 7 Foods Experts Won't Eat. Ignoring for a minute that this article quotes 'nutritionists' among other 'experts' and is therefore suspect, the potato example raised a few questions for me.
4. Nonorganic Potatoes
The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board
The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."
The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.
I don't buy 'organic' potatoes. I buy the 'conventional' ones you get at Woolworth's, and I've left mine lying around long enough for them to start sprouting on several different occasions over at least 3 years of living here.
So are potatoes sold/grown in Australia are not treated with the same cocktail of pesticides and fungicides or is Mr Moyer simply wrong about their effects?
Australia may have different environment from the US, but it stands to reason that the same crops grown in both places would require the same conditions and be vulnerable to the same infestations, and would therefore require the same treatments. But I don't know that for sure. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for proponents of organic produce to overemphasize the use (and implied harmful effects) of 'chemicals' in conventional farming and gloss over their use in organic farming, but that doesn't mean that everything they say is automatically unsound.
I also wonder what measures against fungus and insects the potato-growers mentioned above use to protect the potatoes they grow 'without all the chemicals', given that 'organic' pesticides are also 'chemicals' - just sourced from plant or animal matter as opposed to manufactured in a big scary lab.
Like I said, I haven't got any answers at the moment, but if I find any, I shall post them here.