angels in america, part two: perestroika - tony kushner
When things are this bad for women, I feel wary of expressing an opinion, let alone writing one down. It feels exploitative, politicising the political, an impoliteness that every good feminist ought to avoid. It is unladylike, unfeminine, to ‘weaponise’ the worst things that are done to women and girls as though they are actually about women and girls. Global femicide is a trump card you’re not actually meant to whip out; mentioning incels and the Taliban in a feminist context isn’t playing fair. Go talk about unpaid labour or gropes on the knee. The other things, the big things, are all about other things, anyway. It’s very complex. You need to read more stuff about colonialism, theology, the dark web and the alt-right before you can say anything at all.
But this is the thing that gets to me. I have this theory about what drives the misogyny of incels and the Taliban and a million other movements that seek to destroy (but never fully kill off) half the human race. They’re all, like, connected. Here is my big idea: they just hate women. That’s it.
I know. It sounds tautologous. There ought to be something else underpinning the misogyny bit of their thinking, right? Well, no. I don’t think there is and to be honest, I’m sick of women not being considered important enough for hatred of us to centre us. It’s as though we’re too lowly even to be the subjects of our own oppression. Misogyny is constantly positioned as though it’s an expression of something else, a mere shadow projection of some deeper, more significant hatred that targets the real people, the men.
What connects slaughtered baby girls in India and mass shootings of Canadian students and some elderly man who smashes a hammer into the skull of his wife of 50 years because she didn’t get the tea ready on time on a Tuesday in Brighton? Let’s pretend it’s a mystery. Probably some complex geo-political socio-economic something-or-other vaguely linked to some website you’ll feel stupid for never having heard of, plus an ongoing, deeply felt Weltschmerz which, no offence, ladies, isn’t really to do with you anyhow. Masculinity in crisis? It’s a guy thing. You wouldn’t understand.
I’m sorry. I don’t think it is this at all and I don’t think these men deserve the time we put into over-complicating their motives. Pretending it’s oh-so-complex feels like gaslighting. I think plenty of men simply hate women because of what we are to them. Because of our presence, not some absence we happen to represent. Because we matter, not because we are collateral damage in some other battle that matters more.
In a recent article for the Radical Notion Marina Strinkovsky puts it perfectly. Women are bodies that matter, and women show men that we are not special, not mind, not immortal, not magic:
“Women […] remain inconvenient in our continued existence. This is not an ironic statement: the essence of patriarchal rage is the resentment against both the indispensability and ineradicability of women.”
Misogyny is rage at women. It is not misdirected fury. We are not a substitute target, inanimate bags of straw for angry men who just need someone, some thing, on which to take ‘it’ all out because of ‘the political situation’ (because politics doesn’t include women, not really).
Earlier today I read a piece by a woman in Kabul, describing the approach of the Taliban and the response of men, ordinary men, not Taliban members, around her:
We all wanted to get home, but we couldn’t use public transport. The drivers would not let us in their cars because they did not want to take responsibility for transporting a woman. It was even worse for the women from the dormitory, who are from outside Kabul and were scared and confused about where they should go.
Meanwhile, the men standing around were making fun of girls and women, laughing at our terror. “Go and put on your chadari [burqa],” one called out. “It is your last days of being out on the streets,” said another. “I will marry four of you in one day,” said a third.
It’s the tone that gets to me. Pure bantz. Total lads. It is so, so close, so, so familiar, to the crap women everywhere hear every day of their lives and are told not to take seriously, because hey, they don’t mean it. Apart from when they do and those are the instances you’re not supposed to politicise (too soon. Always, too soon).
I have started to think – in a world of ironic sexism, hardcore pornography, complex academic theories that you, throwback feminist, wouldn’t grasp – that it is safe to assume they mean it all the time. It’s not a joke, or art, or sex. If it sounds at all like they hate you, it’s because they do.
I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, far more so than any long, wandering thread that identifies the roots of today’s misogyny in one room in Silicon Valley, and probably ends up blaming the guy in that room’s mum, plus some girl who dumped him when he was 16, and maybe some underlying mental health issues that led him to create the renowned PUA forum that would lead to … Yes, I know all that’s more plausible than the idea that today’s misogyny is just a continuation of the same old misogyny. But I believe it’s the latter.
I think women are important and valuable enough for misogyny to be about what we are, not just some twisty, highly contingent, intermittent expression of something that can only ever relate to what men are (on the basis that women aren’t anything much). All the other stuff is real, but it is not random, unlucky or accidental when women are the target of hate. Nor is it greedy to make misogyny about women, too. I think those at the sharp end should be allowed this. What else do they have left?
I don’t know if it’s possible to do this without it being terrible quality, but could you crop and gif that scene in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover where there’s a commotion going on and Mitchel notices the woman at the table, grabs her by the neck, and starts touching her and kissing her face? It’s so dreamy!
bitches be like “these are my comfort characters!” and it’s a group of murderers
I'm all for analysing how tragedy is meaningful and important and so on but I do think people really underrate the "wanna see something fucked up?" instinct as a reason for engaging with fiction.
ND things i’m really hoping other people can relate to
feel free to add on!!
fun fact: not being able to remember information about people, no matter how much you are shamed for it, does not make you a bad person. you weren't just "not paying attention", you forgot because forgetting is a natural process and sometimes your brain dumps the wrong things out. forgetting does NOT make you a bad person!! especially if you have disorders that give you memory loss!! also, chronic fatigue really does fuck up your memory, and people who say "oh you must not care because you forgot" have no idea what you're going through!! it's an asshole thing to say and you are NOT at fault for not remembering.
In childhood: monsters watching. In youth: others watching. In maturity: God watching, I’m watching, God is watching through me. Even he can’t see what I am because I play too much. I play to stay safe, I play to adapt, I play to explore, I play because I can’t stop. I collect characters and play. None are true because I have control.
Self-consciousness has doomed us. We can’t stop performing, even when we’re alone. We’re performing for ourselves, or for God, be it the Father or the fly or the digital eye.