"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

In 1968, Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” At the beginning of “A Short History of Weird Girls,” Chris tells Dick, “I don’t care how you see me.” Looking into the camera, and the audience, she continues, “I don’t care if you want me. It’s enough that I want you.” It’s one of the million potential readings of the 21 minutes of television: a turn from being desired (the assumed goal of any female character, assumed because no one bothered to ask her) to desiring. Chris’ desire makes a man into a sexual object and humiliates and unmoors him along the way. The desires of her female peers threaten even more chaos: new artists, new curators, new voices, new art. The episode’s closing note, “Your time is running out,” speaks directly to men’s fears of being replaced, dethroned, and disregarded. It’s a conversation that bounces back and forth between the world that Jill Soloway created and the one that they inhabit; Soloway and their non-cis collaborators are, in fact, gunning for the funding and acclaim that was previously the almost-exclusive purview of cis white men. And as we’ve seen in the past few months, telling the truth about women’s lives, splitting the world open, has consequences—we’re not talking about a peaceful transfer of power. As Lindy West insisted, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.”

No wonder Soloway has described "I Love Dick" as “a tool of the matriarchal revolution.” But, as Soloway illustrates so deftly, this patriarchy-toppling female gaze is not a blunt, man-hating instrument. The female protagonists approach their cis male specimen with a combination of derision, anger, admiration and desire. They are the rebuttal to every two-dimensional portrayal of women by men. Like Moira Donegan, the creator of the “Shitty Media Men” list noted in her recent self-outing, “This is another toll that sexual harassment can take on women: It can make you spend hours dissecting the psychology of the kind of men who do not think about your interiority much at all.” Again, it’s an idea that "I Love Dick" was already wrestling with—the cumulative days and months that we have all spent in careful consideration of men who rarely look back at us.

But Donegan continued: “There is something that’s changed: Suddenly, men have to think about women, our inner lives and experiences of their own behavior, quite a bit. That may be one step in the right direction.” Speaking on the fear that has finally pushed cis men to consider the humanity of their female friends and colleagues, Molly Fischer wrote for The Cut, “I wondered if the fear men now felt was borne of an alarming recognition: that women whom they may or may not have seen as equals could nonetheless prove a threat.” Which brings us right back to the closing argument of “A Short History of Weird Girls”: “Your time is running out.”

In other words:  it's "our" time to be in charge.

What about a revolution where the first of all is last and servant of all?  What would that look like?

In "I Love Dick," women and their unleashed interiorities wreak havoc on Marfa. Men like Dick, who previously populated the desert with phallic statues and ruled over everyone in it, are suddenly left impotent. It’s a feminist fantasy of a powerful man finally having to reckon with the messy desires (not to mention the vision and intelligence) of the women around him. Soloway seems to acknowledge that they’re essentially creating feminist propaganda. “I know it more than ever with Transparent and Dick, is that I’m a writing a reality,” they told the HuffPost. “I’m writing a reality that I want to live in. And men have been doing that to us since forever, and then you start to kind of wake up to it, you know? And you realize even something that might be an earnest, creative submission to the canon by another white, heterosexual cis male really is also propaganda.”

Not like that, to be sure.  I thought this was supposed to be revolutionary.


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