Grumping Around

Some of the links I follow on Facebook offer revelations, insights, and actual news. A lot of what I read, though (and I really need to quit) either confirms what I already know, feeds my prejudices, or turns out to have–yet again–lured my too-often-gullible self into reading yet another bit of fluff of one sort or another. No matter what links I follow, though, there is some actual cultural content on the page in the form of the other links that are offered up down the right side of the page (the primo area, I gather), in between paragraphs (most irritating) and the bottom (less desirable real estate than the right column, I suspect). It’s important in the same sense that popular culture is generally important to pay some attention to (though, heaven knows, I know plenty of darling, highly aware intellectuals who manage perfectly engaged lives while not being sure who Taylor Swift is) because it’s the cultural equivalent of the pulse-oxygen meter they generally make you wear on your finger in the hospital–it’s where large chunks of zeitgeist manifest, and it’s not a bad thing to have a handle on the zeitgeist.

I suspect I don’t have to make this argument for most of you. But there is still a strong thread (at least in Western Culture, which is the one I know about) of distrust of the popular and of the true intelligence/intellectualism of those who pay attention to any of it, including genre literature. But that’s another argument for another day and a different blog.

This blog is about the huge, drooling, fangy chunk of The Zeitgeist I ran into in the right hand column of at article about a documentary a woman is making about the descent of her happy, largely apolitical Democrat father into an angry, hate-filled, terrified Tea Party wingnut as a result of a change in his commute that left him listening to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlesinger. This blog is not about that documentary. It’s about the right column, which featured the following “articles” or photo sequences (which rather often sub for actual text these days):

26 Drunk Girls and Their Epic Fails (translation: inadvertent flashing)

12 Hottest Cosplay Girls Ever (no translation needed unless you’ve been under a high-culture rock)

These 60 Perfectly Painted Models Will Blow Your Mind Away (might be some truth in that assertion…)

As They’ve Gotten Older, These Stars Have Become More  and More Unattractive (featured Now and Then photos of Bardot)

These 10 Women Will Shock You (featured what looked like an engagement photo of a couple–the woman is fat and has an unusually large ass and is daring to wear a red halter dress, the guy looks pretty happy about the red dress)

53 Celebrity Bikini Fails That Will Have You Doing a Double Take (no explanation necessary here)

So we have drunk women (who, presumably did not consent to the photos) exposing themselves, conventionally pretty women dressed in interestingly configured bits of lycra and glitter, naked models who (for one reason or another) let other people do highly skilled trompe l’oiel paintings on their bodies, mostly-female (I confess I didn’t check) stars who’ve had the gall to age more or less naturally, 10 unusually fat women who probably didn’t consent to their photos being circulated, and 53 women who were caught by paparazzi in bathing suit failures. Notice a pattern here?

But noooooooooooooo, the bodies of women aren’t still being treated as fodder. Nor are they being judged solely by extremely narrow standards of “beauty.” Nor are they being treated as objects of derision, obsession, consumption, and brutalization. We don’t need feminism anymore. Nope. Because there’s no correlation between the constant barrage of public brutalization of women’s bodies (sometimes by women–can we talk about the cover of Madonna’s new album? Though, as I write that, it occurs to me that it operates on several levels, some of which could be construed as a kind of feminism. But then, she’s always played fast and loose with those lines, daughter of Paglia that she is.) and the newly revived spate of anti-female legislation being pushed by religio-political extremists in this country and violent anti-female activity by religio-political extremists in other parts of the world. Nope, none.

Just like racism and misogynism have nothing to do with each other. And what children see everywhere around them has no influence on them. And listening to Rush Limbaugh for several hours a day won’t make a perfectly sane person go around the bend.

I realize that good websites (and by “good” I include a pretty broad range, because I’m not always sure about the endless iterations of HuffPo) need to monetize somehow or other (though, given that so many of them do not pay most of their content producers, I’m not entirely sure what the point of monetization is beyond putting lots more money into the hands of the already rich… But the internet, bless its freewheeling, free-for-all, 1st-amendment-hugging, scary-assed heart is certainly doing at least as much harm as good. The balance, in some weird way, may tip toward the good insofar as it does keep the creepy chunks of the zeitgeist out there for us to see and be aware of. But I’m not sure about that.

What I am sure of is that fat women’s bodies, famous women’s bodies, older women’s bodies, drunk women’s bodies are all bodies worthy of respect and protection. The only women in that list who obviously consented to the distribution of photos of their bodies were the models and the Cosplay chicas, and I’m assuming that they signed away all distribution rights, which may be wrong. And they’re the only women whose bodies were not off the generally unrealistic chart of conventional beauty, as well as being the only ones who were not being offered up as failures of one sort or another. Which means that the definition, implicit, of female success is limited, at least in the context of the right-hand column of internet content, to being svelte and mostly naked.

Oh, yeah, there was also a piece about how the latest of the Duggar children to get married has been photographed actually kissing her fiance. It is so past time for anyone to pay attention to those people. They “blanket-train” their babies (which I will not define here beyond saying that in my universe it constitutes abuse of several kinds) and send any kid who dares to mope a bit during adolescence off to brainwashing camps. They’re just the smiley version of Westboro Baptist. Could we pleasepleaseplease stop paying attention to them?

But, again, it was an article about what a woman was choosing to do with her body.

Meanwhile, Paris (yeah, I know Charlie Hebdo prints a lot of not very funny, bully-ish stuff, but that’s not the point), and the Saudis are planning to whip a blogger who has dared to suggest the regime might be a teeny bit backward. Not immediately about women, in either case. But most definitely about bodies. And, in the long run, given the connection between extremist Islam and the abuse of women (yes, Wahabi is extremist), maybe it is about women on some level, too.

This was going to be short. And focused. It’s hard to stay focused on one bit of darkness these days.

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