Tuesday, September 9, 2008

spin or spinning?

We had a very good staff meeting today that included an exercise where we developed a continuum. . . "least harmful to women" to "most harmful to women." Our facilitator asked us about a specific action (like getting a woman drunk to "loosen her up") and we had to discuss where to put it on the spectrum.

Okay, getting a woman drunk so it is easier to rape her goes right under "most harmful." That "most harmful" category got pretty full, actually.
But there were some things that we had a lot more discussion about.
  • Referring to your partner as "my bitch"
  • Reading maxim magazine
  • Telling blond jokes
Lots of these depend on the context. Is it a group of women's studies students reading maxim to deconstruct ideas about gender? Well. . . it could be. . .

So it was actually a good meeting with lots of good discussion. Then the final action discussed was "Talking to a group of your friends about your sex life, in detail, and what your partner did."
I sunk down in my chair.

The discussion started with images of men bragging and sharing ideas to coerce a woman in to doing something she didn't want to do. "Yeah? Well I got my bitch to give me a. . ." and I do understand that image and it does creep me out. But this was the image in my head:

Picture the ff and a handful of sisterfriends in a coffee shop. "Guess what we did?! And it was awesome! And I never would have ever, ever thought dangling off a hammock suspended over a fire pit while eating a persimmon would be erotic but it really was!!" (or insert what you will--in the sentence I mean)

And then the amigas would reply with their adventures in hammock suspension, what worked or didn't, whether they were scared the hammock would rip out the drywall, what music was playing, figs or persimmons or pomegranates. . . And there would be much laughing as we revisited adventures driving along an interstate and accidentally throwing the car into neutral. Or maybe someone has a story about getting it on in a wooded grove until they were interrupted by some Britteny spaniels and a mortified dog owner. I know you all have your own hammock stories. . .
So what makes that different than a group of guys bragging or being creepy?

Well, my intent is not to humiliate my partner. And the impact is different. . . My sisters would never take the information I share and use it against Scully or against other women or against their own partners. Scully is not endangered by anything that I share. She will not be exposed to other people coming up to her and expecting that she engage in hammock suspension acts with them.

But there's this boundary violation piece that is not as easy to dismiss.

In truth this info sharing is sometimes imperfect. Scully is often embarrassed at the idea that the sisters really do know intimate details about our lives. And she is sometimes uncomfortable and will punctuate discussions and/or tra-la-las with an edict that "this is not to be discussed at sistercoffee!" And she has shared that it sometimes feels like our intimate lives and even (or especially) our arguments are all acted out on a stage filled by an audience of my sisters. And she has asked for a bit more privacy from sistercoffee or from sisterfriend emails or from the blog. . . Especially with October coming, if you know what I mean.
So it all really leaves me with this sense that I am tangled up on that continuum in some problematic ways. I'm not convinced, actually, that Maxim is much different than other media I take in. I like to think I have an "informed lens" for how I view media from the Democratic National Convention to fruit compote recipes (or "porn" as some call it) but, truthfully everyone thinks they can see the spin. They just don't feel themselves spinning, right?

But there is no self-flagellation in this post. Just some reflection and a thanks for being able to engage in a thoughtful conversation.

October will be here soon. I'd hate to mess that up.

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