Gender-upending multimedia outfit BARBARISM is steppin’ out, turnin’ heads!


We have an exhibition at Fleisher Arts Memorial Dec 6-Jan 31 (reception is Dec 6; come one, come all!).

We’ve been doing some presentations at The Plastic Club, Womynsfest, Permanent Wave Philly at Eris Temple Arts ; we’ve been published on Certain Circuits and The Qouch : The Queer Psychoanalysis Society. We’ve been collaborating with Never Forget Radio.

We made some Vines.

We’ve also belatedly entered the Internet age! We now have these cool new Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook apparatuses.

Follow, tweet, tumble upon us!  (we long to be tumbled)


Sarah + Rebecca



or: radical acceptance and/within awareness of entrenched inequalities!

It seems only a very bad intersectional third-wave feminist would begin a meditation/analysis/voyeuristic voyage into the self only thinly covered over by the pretext-guise of the new Miley Cyrus video without railing about racism, but the very first lens through which I viewed this video was one of shameful self-identification and screen memories of being 20.

I realize this is a luxurious position. But I imagine lots of people look at situations from various places of privilege depending on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, education, etc., so let’s rope in these plebeians, who are also ourselves.

I don’t think Miley Cyrus is a bad person. I don’t know how much involvement she had in the making of the video, the song, her image, the world in which she lives. She could just be a pawn, or she could actively be operating against the interests, safety and health of innumerable individuals. I would like to ask her, but I cannot.

Her new video is pretty unremarkable but it provides the sight of a pretty young woman having fun with friends, a nice enough beat and that ho-hum eroticized enveloping of everything that reminds me very much of how I felt when I was 20. I appreciate being reminded of that feeling, when I first felt like I had a little bit of freedom and could indulge stupidly and dreamily in the idea and actuality of the sex/power daze.

I fantasize that Miley Cyrus, being free of her father’s direct influence, is finally taking her own imperfect steps to adulthood! not as a good little credit to her family/father, etc. but as her own wild ‘n crazy adolescent! This could be nothing but my own projective fantasy, but I find it hard to believe that all people don’t extrapolate universally from their own personal experiences. “Calling something objective is a subjective statement” said someone at a psychoanalytic conference of my ma’s once.

Perhaps I should provide some philosophical foregrounding to my argument: I consider myself a realist. I contain multitudes–often contradictory–and I am probably more pollyannaish than I acknowledge. So here I come! With acknowledgments. I don’t believe in the existence of an absolute truth. I don’t think anyone looks at anything outside the prism of their own experiences. You can’t divorce the book from its author. If it’s not an autobiography, it’s an allegory. We are all influenced by ourselves, our dreams, fantasies, sources of shame and humiliation, etc. And that’s the way I see it. I’m a psychoanalytically-inclined feminist and I am nothing if not conflicted and into it.

Miley Cyrus’ video is kinda boring (but we’re all kinda boring) and it also includes a lot of problematic elements, as we feminists say. Let’s condemn the problems and educate the practitioners, not scapegoat the people caught up in the action, especially when they’re 20, female and we have no personal reason to begrudge them.

There’s a long tradition of white artists, especially musical artists, brazenly stealing from their black counterparts who are less high-profile and have less cultural reach or capital such that the co-opted work of these white artists is sold as the white artists’ original work because, by virtue of being white, white artists can reach more people. Many people will never see the contributions of the original artists. Classic canonical examples of white usurpers are Elvis and the Beach Boys. This is a legacy in which Cyrus is clearly falling into.

But modern-day white artists who co-opt black music like Justin Timberlake or Eminem don’t get slandered and chastised the way young female ones do. It is telling that Lena Dunham or Twenties flappers or any young female person of child-bearing age who brazenly flaunts the social order by not operating as a selflessly and impossibly virginal childbearer for the patriarchy are blamed where male artists are not. I don’t want to merely blame girls for failing to be perfect or profiting off something that is not natively theirs, nor do I want to merely blame Justin Timberlake nor Eminem! I want to talk with them.

In this new Miley Cyrus video, we see her as she is: a very wealthy, white and famous artist appropriating the artistry of primarily young, black, poor women. Miley is privileged on account of race, class. She is underprivileged on account of gender.

The video contains many elements that make one wonder. “She thinks she’s so cool” and “it’s so derivative.” I can see how these sentiments might prove annoying, but they seem unsatisfying as reprimands because

A) of course she thinks she’s cool! she’s 20! or:

B) of course she doesn’t think she’s cool! that’s why she’s reaction formation symbolically singing it from the rooftops!

C) Why shouldn’t one think one cool? if one doesn’t, who will? I like to think she’s responding to accusation of non-coolness and reclaiming space, away from her family or Disney, not just operating out of nowhere.

Why should she claim her self-worth histrionically by ‘thinking she’s cool’? Worth should be claimed without reducing anyone else’s worth. Worth does not depend on the enforced worthlessness of others.

I want to talk about sex as rebellion. What is there to be sad that hasn’t been said before? She’s asserting her self via her sexuality. Great! Now, of course, it could be said that her sexuality is being expressed in a very traditional-for-2013 way, but that’s just the thing. ‘Sexuality’ and ‘tradition’ are always in flux. This video might have been totally unorthodox  and un-feminine and utterly rebellious in 1913. It might seem totally derivative and unoriginal and dependent on the patriarchy for approval now, according to some, but it depends. For my taste, it’s pretty tame and traditional in that she seems to be more (externally) sexy (conservative!) than (internally) sexual (feminist!), but these ideas are so slippery, overlapping and dependent on reference points that are constantly changing.

Is this video derivative? Sure. Off the top of my head, it reminds me of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” all the fake death in Santigold “L.E.S. Artistes” and, of course, Lady Gaga. But what is the larger point? If something has been done before, why is that upsetting, or disgusting? And do we behave as virulently when a male artist does the same?

I am reminded of Erikson’s developmental stages (as supplemented by Newman & Newman). At 20, Miley Cyrus is currently in the  Later Adolescence stage, wherein her psychosocial crisis is one of Individual Identity v. Identity Confusion. Of course, she’s experimenting with roles, reevaluating herself, playing around with the tools she has available (before realizing she has new tools, or discarding obsolete ones, those not native to her, etc, etc.) to achieve (at some future or n’er reachable point) autonomy.

In other words: She’s 20! Give the kid a break! Which doesn’t mean: Let us all be brainless doormats. People can be allowed freedom to discover! and grow! while also receiving new information about relativity, social context and (really, I’m discovering this is difficult to grasp for a lot of people which doesn’t mean we should give up but rather that we reevaluate how we educate–and not berate–people) racism, sexism, privilege, power and all those kyriarchal intersecting oppressions and how WE TOO can make the world a better place by challenging conventions, not operating according to harmful plans we did not create and which do not serve us.

My feminism contains the crafting of empathy, not just the combating of oppression, which is to say: I find it impossible to fight oppression without empathy. I find it impossible to be fully in support of anything without also having reservations, and healthy skepticism. My feminism is not fanatical or dogmatic. My feminism reneges on itself. I think that makes it better! Or at least more authentic, and less likely to be tempted toward the other side. If one-strike feminism, as I understand feminism that doesn’t take into account contradictions and demands perfect adherence to doctrine, is all brain, it is extreme, and then it is more likely to be bought over by the other diametric extreme. I mean, haven’t we all known someone like the Miley of this video? Or been some part of that Miley? Isn’t the actual Miley Cyrus asking herself the same question, perhaps inspiring the creation of this video, this celebration of sex, self and fun that is inadvertently appropriative, racially insensitive and just seemingly unaware?

I feel very protective of and constantly curious as to the feeling expressed by this video: the appearance of show-off sexiness and freedom and impudence, the classic late adolescent announcement of worth and having a worthy, cool body and worthy, cool friends (black friends! EXOTIC friends, hence I too am exotic, and worthy). This video says “I’m doing all this stuff and I’m still ok! Perhaps the patriarchal Christian culture/family I grew up in told me girls and sex were inherently bad/dirty and yet I still feel good and I’m still here! Sex and me are both OK! So let’s celebrate by dancing in the pool, touching on our bodies!” et al. This is an important feeling. The desire for worth and the celebration of worth as one grows into an adult. What I perceive as being the issue here is the cruel necessitation of Others that reduces people to signifiers of unbridgeable difference and exoticism as an appendage to oneself and fully for oneself, not allowing other people to be people and not Others with their own desires for worth and celebration on their own terms and not as pawns.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is both a) everything is relative, we all want to be worthy individuals and b) there is a hierarchical and corrupt system of power at work that privileges some people at the direct expense of other equally worthy people with the same goal. I don’t believe there had to be a winner and a loser. We can all coexist. But my (totally realizable) fantasy of giving equal credence to all who desire worth MUST take into account the corrupt existence of power differentials. We all want freedom! But we have very different and unfair opportunities to achieve it, based on sex, race, class, etc.

Thus, it’s vital to talk more about race but not at the expense of gender. I want Miley Cyrus to explore and express her sexuality, in however trite or uncreative or awesome or uniquely felt way! And I also want the wide unacknowledged swathe of primarily black, working-class girls to have the same luxury and not be punchlines or punching bags, etc.

In a patriarchy, all women who express their sexuality (and all men who fail to live up to the impossibly anti-human standards of masculinity) are stigmatized with labels like slut and whore and etc. They hurt! no matter how artificial and meaningless the labels, and despite the knowledge that nothing is inherently anything since everything is dependent on context and sexuality is great or awful depending on circumstance and that name-calling reveals more about the name-caller and the culture that created the cruel names than it does about any human behaving like a human. Because these labels hurt, they fulfill the function for which they were intended: they shame women into inaction and/or irresponsibility. To rebel against the slander is to acknowledge that the social purpose of the stigma is to silence women into subservience so that patriarchy is maintained.

In a white supremacy, all non-white people are stigmatized with racist labels and socially/institutionally/psychologically internalized mandates of animalism that is manifested is sex and violence. The social function of these stereotypes is the maintenance of white power. As per pseudospeciation, the dominant white group slanders the non-dominant group into submission by deeming them inferior and inhuman, hence neutralizing the threat of the powerless and absolving the powerful of guilt. Of course, the slander and labels are totally artificial but their impact isn’t. Stereotypes are particularly pernicious because their lies are reified/realized when all other options but sex and violence are closed to non-whites on account of the stereotypes that were originally fabricated to dehumanize them.

Sexism and racism are different phenomena but oppressions fundamentally resemble each other because they all operate on the same principle: Shaming and stigmatizing the Other into silence so they do not hold power.

I want to create space for all people to go through their embarrassing comings-of-age and not be condemned by feminists, or common misogynists/racists, anyone scapegoating and dehumanizing anyone else and denying them human worth in order to feel worthy themselves and maintain bodily and/or political power over another human being. Education over castigation!

In the spirit of ‘blame the system, not the victim,’ I think it better we not begrudge Miley but challenge society not to operate hierarchically and projectively, blaming everyone but themselves.

Instead of relying on outdated ideas and easy bigotry, we should talk about cultural awareness, respect for those who are non-white, non-male and celebrate sexuality and vulnerability, allow for embarrassment and uncreative but evocative music videos ‘cause we all learn in our own time and if it works, it works. Humility, humanity and inclusion can make us happier and less liable to hurt other people for our own problems.

And finally, I personally don’t mind that Miley twerks but I do wish that more women, men and everyone valued sexuality and bodies and dancing and reading and hanging out and that humanness wasn’t cause for censure and slander, that black women in particular were afforded respect and admiration. If a white lady wants to do a dance that is born of a non-white experience that is specifically undervalued and cruelly stigmatized by a misogynistic, racist society, I think we all need to understand the social-historical context. My social justiceness wants people with privilege to use it for good! And actively work for people less privileged at the forefront. And my psychoanalytic projective identificationness (what’s going on here is I’m making up words) wants to let people make their own mistakes and be guided, with respect and warmth. I think these two desires dovetail!

If we’re just condemning Miley, we’re falling for the bait-and-switch. Since we’re not  condemning Justin Timberlake and innumerable other racial accessorizing male artists, we’re not adequately challenging the intersections and contradictions of both racism and sexism. I can’t get behind blaming the practitioner without adequate attention paid to that culture that created her.

We’re all part of that culture and have inherited corrupt ideologies about human worth that blame sex, women, people of color and a plethora of others for the problems of the repressed white male-coded authority which surely was itself victimized by other traumas and prejudices. (no one wins in the kyriarchy, not even the winners.)

So let’s break this cycle! We’re all locked into a system that tells us to blame other people (Miley! black folk! et al.) instead of confronting our own fears of being “derivative” adolescents afraid we’re uncool. We’re on a conveyor belt, recycling the same old drivel and hurting other people because we’re so afraid of ourselves. We’re sexual! We’re violent! We may not make the best music videos but we learn to be better by kindness, not castigations! And now we have the tools to change. A revolutionary move (that doesn’t work in a vacuum, but it’s a good start): Being nice (foremost to ourselves and hence Miley Cyrus).

Addendum: Love these thoughts from Lachrista Greco of Guerrilla Feminism!

And this is my favorite analysis of all.

In this audio-visually erratic video, one BRIENNE and one REBECCA fight, love and become better on account of the intermingling of love and its seeming opposite. Witness the multifarious emotionality. 

Of note: Overdetermined effects, polysemous fighting, eros everywhere.

This is so fascinating. Stereotypes, rather than reflecting reality, create reality.

“The perceived sexuality of Filipina women in Lebanon is double sided: on the one hand, the Filipina live-in maid is seen as an asexual binit (girl) who must be protected in order to guard the family honor; on the other hand, she is seen as a threatening sharmuta (whore). The binit can become a sharmuta at any moment and bring chaos to the home if the madame’s control over the live-in Filipina maid is lessened and the latter gets corrupted by the outside world. For this reason, many Lebanese madames are reluctant to let Filipina maids outside of the home alone. In many cases, a domestic worker’s sexual desires are assumed to be unnatural and inappropriate. The negative stereotype associated with Filipina women’s sexuality are spread through warnings and stories told by recruitment agencies, and rumors. Filipina women, compared to their Ethiopian and Sri Lankan counterparts, are seen as fairer, sexually more attractive, and promiscuous. These images of Filipina women legislate employers’ tight control of their bodies and persons. For Filipina women, their assumed sexual promiscuity and attractiveness sometimes give them opportunities for exploring and experimenting with their own sexuality. For those who are allowed  a day-off outside the house or who freelance illegally, some might start dressing and acting in a sexually assertive manner. They might go clubbing, have much younger boyfriends, or have multiple sexual partners. Among Filipina women, there is both acceptance and ambivalence toward their sexual conduct Some resent them for perpetuating the bad reputation that Filipina women have acquired in Lebanon. Ironically, then, while negative sexual stereotypes might legitimate control over Filipina women in Lebanon, these same stereotypes might also permit these women to exercise more choice in how they express their sexuality.”

What a universally transferable tragedy! Not to diminish the unique circumstances of specific people in a specific place, but by golly, the constant Otherizing, scapegoating and sensationalizing of people into GODS! and DEVILS! (virgins and whores)(vomit, so much vomit I expel at the diametric stereotypes that prove their vacuity!) If one is posited as being both GOOD (binit) and BAD (sharmuta), the only logical conclusion is that one is NEITHER; or rather: BOTH, or rather: a full human person who isn’t one stereotyped fantasy/slander or the other. When will the people of the world stop blaming other people for failing to fulfill their OWN fantasies of perfection of ruin, etc.? What if we were only responsible for ourselves?

Man o man…

Fear creates stereotypes, not the other way around e.g. “I fear that I am sexual so NO! It’s OTHER PEOPLE who are sexual, not me! THESE PEOPLE, this group, women, gays, what have you are inherently, “naturally,” biologically sexual (as if that’s a bad thing) whereas I am PURE OF HEART and GOOD OF SPIRIT/SOUL/whatever. I am normal. Others are perverse.” Stereotypes, in turn, create “reality” (i.e. reality, as the internalization of prejudices comes to seem fixed and immutable, “the way it is.”). Fear of the Self (in the Other) is the fuel that propels these stereotypes: Oppressing the other with fantasies that result from divesting yourself of responsibility.

What’s that stuff Butler says about this? We learn to be the people we’re told we are? Before we have a chance to be ourselves, who we could have been or could still be, we become caricatures that people make of us e.g. sexy or stupid, irresponsible or gloriously innocent (bleccchhhh) Filipina maids who must be sacrificed as examples of sexual depravity or celebrated as signs of independent womanhood or static object lessons in my WordPress diatribe against hypocrisy (sorry)(The Enemy is Us!).

If only dudes were taught that it was a cool thing (it is! how could it not be?) to be responsible for one’s own feelings and desires and to actively work against patriarchal hypocrisy that superficially benefits men but ultimately tramples all peoples’ ability to be decent and ethical!, if only men weren’t blindly posited as dangerous but infallible and women weren’t posited as impossibles opposites of clean or dirty, if all women weren’t responsible for whatever should befall them and all men weren’t taught that cruelty, impunity, rape & pillage were the ways of “Manhood,” then maybe we could all come into our sexual owns without being so traumatized and humiliated by this cruel, weird world.

Oh yeah, I also think all this pressure on women to be everything would be severely and wonderfully reduced if Masculinity weren’t defined as rigidly reactionary, powerful but impotent in that men are put forth as sexually desirous subjects requiring objects to fulfill them. Rather, if men were associated with bodies and sex in the way women have always been encouraged, required and then punished for being!, I think we’d all be more in touch with our own external “sexiness”/internal sexuality and wouldn’t have to mandate that OTHER people act out what we feel we are not permitted to feel and do what we are not allowed to do, etc. Which is to say: “Gender-bending” which is to say: Everyone being everyone. Because: come on. Who wants to always be the master man or female slave? It’s much more fun/realistic to be both.

Here’s a Facebook meme of my sorrow:

Here’s why YOU should accept my scientific assertions as IMMUTABLE context-devoid, out-of-history, objectivity-aspirational FACT!

Rebecca Katherine Hirsch, M.Everything, is a medical entertainer. Her interests are legion. She received her Mark of Good Faith from her Mom (1985) and Dad (date unknown) in Boston, MA. She is also the director of “Psychodynamics of Gender Mythology: an exegesis and a plea” (Minnesota, New York; 1990-2012). She is known worldwide for her 20-plus years of being alive and her -12 years of being dead. Her views have been expressed in hearsay, high school yearbook, online essays and chatter amongst trusted friends. She is a “kinky” self-editorialist and has been mocking what she loves and hates, because she loves and hates (instead of consciously or unconsciously projecting her loving hatred onto unsuspecting scapegoats) for nigh on 27 years. OK, fine, sometimes! she scapegoats. It is but a human failing; the most we can ask for is awareness and humility, yes? It doesn’t seem like such a hard idea for people to take (just a little, proportional) responsibility for themselves and yet wars, genocides, culturally-created belief systems based on ephemeral material conditions creating “natural” psychological beliefs that yet create material conditions that fluctuate with time, money, temperature, etc. (and the cycle stupidly continues on and on, without awareness of our own limitations which cause us to diminish the talents and worth of others which limits ourselves) blame women! blame “minorities!” blame all people and collections of people who aren’t ourselves BUT ONLY BARELY; we blame, taunt and kill people for what we fear in ourselves! Why must we keep on fucking shit up? She holds advanced degrees in many things, like: righteous outrage, all-encompassing ethical-intellectual exploration, hyperbole, patent, trademark & copyright matters. She feels strongly and has experienced stuff. Her work may be found RIGHT HERE. You’re reading it, fool!

THE END! forever! and eva! AMEN, brother-sisters



Earthlings traumatized the shit out of me–as was its intention. I have heard Earthlings referred to as ‘The Vegan-Maker’ and it’s true. I have never desired animal flesh so little. Congratulations, Earthlings. You are the most swiftly effective piece of propaganda with which I have ever been inculcated. And I’m thankful. Now if only I could get those swirling phantasmagoric nightmare images of euthanized kitties and ripped-open foxes out of my head…

The innumerably gruesome and presumably quotidian depictions of factory farms, puppy mills, animal shelters and inside-out cut-up fox carcasses freaked me out so much I wanted to write about it, and draw some parallels with gender, as well as discuss how we as a species scapegoat designated Others. Let’s go!

Here’s my makeshift bullet points to be touched upon in who knows what order:

  • Parallels: idealism as objectification
  • Displacement and evaded (wish-fulfillment) responsibility
  • Flexibility and inconstancy of “human nature”
  • The Enemy is Us

Torn out of its skin, a bloody carcass with boggled eyes is still alive and dazedly squirms. Unwanted cats are mercifully euthanized in their caretakers’ arms while less lucky household pets are gassed in a tightly packed shed. And then there’s the oceans of bloody dolphins who died trying to rescue each other alongside the children who are our symbolic surrogates strolling by, socialized to the normalization of suffering; it’s “human nature” to kill, it’s a “dog eat dog” world, women are for making babies, homosexuals are godless monster-demons….

Yeah. I read somewhere that we live in one of the few epochs in human history that hasn’t had close acquaintance with mass death. I find this movie so valuable because it brings us closer to what seems like an honest place in terms of the acknowledgement of death and acknowledgment of our own… death-dealing, our own complicity. After watching this movie, I have to consider my decision to sanction the slaughter of animals by eating meat since eating meat is a choice and no more “natural” than any other choice whose long history is mistaken for biology or “nature.” Having this choice is a HEAVY AND UNPLEASANT BURDEN which is why, if we know we have this kind of responsibility, we generally avoid it but the good part about having this choice is that with the freedom of information comes the opportunity for ethicality. Whatever one’s decision (and veganism is not The Answer, it’s just one answer of many) at least one now knows one’s choice is a choice based on facts and actuality, not shrouded mystery and euphemisms about “where meat comes from” and how animals are treated.

So! This movie depicts the constant violence that occurs out of consciousness, hidden behind anodyne food advertisements that depersonalize animals into food and not the tied up and tortured baby cows who suffer so we can eat veal. CRAP! I can’t believe I’m becoming that self-righteous person pontificating about the maltreatment of animals! I never thought it would happen to me! But here I am (the enemy is us)(and them)(and us)…

This is the most violent movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of Holocaust documentaries. And yet I think it so ethically necessary to watch this movie because it doesn’t condescend or stylize or minimize the intense unrelenting mass murder that is occurring when creatures that are smaller and weaker than us are needlessly and wrongly killed just so we can be kept ignorant enough to eat them without compunctions…

So I’m gonna try this vegan thing. Though I am no purist. I don’t expect people to radically change their lives as weirdly instantaneously as I seem to (possibly) be, but whatever choices people make about their food and by association, their involvement in the wold of ethics! and compromise! we should AT LEAST all be made aware of where our food comes from. I’ve been told plenty of factoids about ‘inhumane factory farm conditions’ but the actual visuals, gore and whinnying, screeching sounds, faces and bodies of pain are very… reifying.

So gender!

Yeah, here’s my ungainly segue: In this movie, it is relayed that many male pet owners decline to neuter and spay their pets because it is “emasculating.” What fascinating, eerie and obvious parallels between the disinclination toward neutering one’s pets and the prohibition of birth control and abortion rights. In the human world, many men have historically limited women’s access to birth control and felt threatened (one might even say “emasculated”) by women’s ability to produce life.

MASCULINITY, O masculinity! (and by association: FEMININITY, O femininity!) Gender is such a tragically stupid-making enforced charade that seeps into our bones and makes us feel “threatened” by everything that calls into question the fakeness of the fakery! No one is all strong and stoic (i.e. “masculine)! No one is all nurturing and weak (i.e. “feminine”) Enough already! This totally artificial concept ruins lives and the lives of the poor animals (in this instance) caught up in the net of threatened and vulnerable half-people denied full access to all things strong, weak, stoic and nurturing!

So let’s say these pet owners like the IDEA that their pets/women can produce life. What a fun hypothetical idea, right? But how do we value life? Is life always a “gift?” Is it super special and magical if you don’t have adequate food, shelter, love and physical/psychological sustenance?

No. No, it is not. Without appropriate resources/conditions, life can be hell. You do not have the right to ENFORCE HELL on anyone and call it the magical gift of life.

My Gender Studies teacher once inquired of her adulatory class, what would it mean if we lived in a world where abortion was unnecessary? It’s the fantasy of a world where all children are wanted, the fantasy of a world where we are always loving and good. Where we are the heroes of our own stories.

Romanticism is a funny thing. These fantasies (people/animals are good) lead to restrictions (long live the constant procreation of people/animals!) set on enforcing the fantasy which lead to unwanted children and animals who–in the case of animals–get euthanized in shelters (if they’re lucky) and mass gassed and clubbed behind sheds and captured on secret cameras (… as seen in Earthlings) if they’re not.

In the case of humans, generally WOMEN get blamed for interfering with the fantasy. If men have big-hearted fantasies of a one-note loving universe, women fuck it up by being faulted and real, people who aren’t ready to have children or who have no money to support children or no access to birth control or they were raped or they don’t want to be parents or don’t want to be parents now or THERE ARE AS MANY REASONS AS THERE ARE PEOPLE, LET PEOPLE LIVE THEIR OWN LIVES, etc, etc.

Anti-choice dudes (and their sexism-internalizing minions), if you want to be LOVING, be loving. If you want to do over your bad childhood by creating a new childhood for a new child who will theoretically be happier than you were, then raise that child. DO NOT SADDLE YOUR FANTASIES ONTO REAL HUMAN BEINGS. But it’s complicated. Because this FEELING (scapegoating and responsibility-divesting) is universal. The issue isn’t to deny this universal desire to burden someone else with the work you want done but don’t want to do. The issue is to be aware of it! Be aware of your guilt! Be aware WE ARE ALL THE ENEMY. I mention men here because there are more male examples of violent impositions and scapegoating of less-powerful parties but this is only because men are assigned more power. If women had that power and equal amounts of ignorance, women would be that bad too. We are all equally culpable, some of us just have more opportunities to be obviously evil than others. But we all have it in us. And we all have the ability to DO BETTER.

So in sum: Idealism can be dangerously inhumane. The IDEAL of love ends up creating evil. By believing or wishing that we live in a magical land of love without responsibility (or that one’s faultlessly potent “masculinity” has the power to create that world, no work necessary), owners refuse to spay and neuter their pets. This creates incredibly hard lives for the creatures the owners think they are “saving” and begs the question: how do we value life? Is life “precious” if you don’t have enough to eat? Is it precious if you’re taken to a pound, tortured and ripped open while still alive? If life a “gift” if your parents are unable and unprepared to care for you? Life cannot be embarked ON A WISH that it be great and loving and full of rainbows without doing the WORK to make it so. Just because you love animals doesn’t mean you have the right to smother, suffocate and kill them with your “love.” Just because you wish your parents loved you and unconsciously wish to right the wrongs of your forebears by forcing women to bear and love the child you wish you’d been doesn’t mean you have the right to force separate autonomous creatures to live out your irresponsible fantasy for you. You want to live in a loving world? Be the change you want to see!! Volunteer, join a thing but don’t shove your idealism onto the real lives of people who are not you, who do not exist to fulfill your dreams. You are not involved. It is not your place. Your presence makes things worse.

Any IDEAL creates a kind of danger. Women are idealized as deities and then denigrated as demons! Any IDEAL is an extreme. We are NONE OF US all good or all bad. The OBJECTIFICATION of idealism disallows people/animals to be seen and treated as people/animals but like reflected fantasies of those viewing them. We are autonomous. We do not know each other. We do not even know ourselves (the unconscious!). But that’s OK! The lack of clear answers necessitates conversation and self-inquiry! The fairy-tale ideal of all-conquering love excuses responsibility and work. Love is not based on worship, assumptions or self-denial.

I am reminded of the anxiety of powerlessness (which afflicts me daily!) that can trigger a flight from responsibility and a cruel, totally normal conscious or unconscious desire to foist responsibility onto other parties. It happens! We’re cruel and unusual! THAT’S OK. If we are aware of our ability to be imperfect, we can change! If we believe ourselves faultless, we’re fucked. Without the ability/awareness to do something, the hard work is foisted onto designated Others. Others are scapegoats: non-men, non-whites, non-gender-conforming, non-heterosexual… or animals.

So, there are men who feel emasculated by neutering their animals; there are men who feel emasculated if “their” women exert control over their fertility/lives, etc. This fear of “emasculation” is an interesting one, as if “masculinity” (which doesn’t exist, which can be discarded, adorned, performed, deeply felt, etc.) can be LOST. If you fear losing your maleness, you probably fear women since women are the opposite of men in this bipolar Manichaean view of the world. If maleness is strong but easily vulnerable to attack and femaleness is weak, pathetic but can cause men to lose their maleness, then maleness is noble and blustery emptiness and femaleness is pathetic realness. What a horrible view of the world, this “battle of the sexes” idea that pathetic women are out to get vulnerable men! No wonder someone who subscribes to this idea wants to believe in a fantasy of love with conquest, a perfect love. This dog/cat/woman will create new life and it will be loved. I will be loved. There will be love. It will be better…

If you want to be loving, be loving. Don’t fuck with anyone else. Women must control their own fertility in the same way we all control our own food intake by not being force-fed. The fantasy of loving life without actualizing it or doing the work required is evil. It creates needless hardship and death.

Next Topic:

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” A good quote by Tolstoy. Obviously, there are infinite parallels between humans and animals. If you treat one group awfully, that doesn’t just switch off when you interact with another group. It’s all connected. I don’t call that ‘karma’; if something happens to me, it influences me and that influences my life and the people in it. Fact.

Anyone can commit good or evil acts, we are all malleable, all potentially guilty. I’ve many times disregarded the impact of suffering in the haze of “It’s human nature” and/or “this is how the world works” static defeatism that pretends to inevitability. We are constantly changing our ideas of the normal. There is no “normal,” only ‘socially acceptable.’ It is said in this film: If we all had to kill our own meat, we’d all be vegetarians; likewise, if we were all women–who said this?–abortion would be a sacrament which doesn’t mean there Would Be No Love, it just means children would be brought into the world when they were wanted and their parents were prepared. It is CRUEL to bring children or animals into the world without resources; a gift becomes a punishment if forced.

Also of interest:

About animals used for entertainment, the movie says: “We are intrigued by exotic things.” But of course. Except no one is exotic to themselves; exoticism requires a fetishistic spectator and lack of relativity.

From Teju Cole’s Open City: “Which Western publisher wants a Moroccan or Indian writer who isn’t into oriental fantasy; or who doesn’t satisfy the longing for fantasy?”  Fetishizing the Other assumes the Other exists to provide a foil for you, the Normal, you who are the Everyperson unlike the “exotic” Other (a mystical goddess-woman, an unknowable outlander from ANOTHER CULTURE OMG!). This reminds me of the concept of “witnessing” in my ma’s psychoanalytic stuff. “Witnessing” is the humble, responsible understanding that while you cannot ever know what another person feels because you’re not them, you can still be kind and you can empathize. Otherizing, in social justice-speak is a kind of opposite of this: the self-centered assumption that other people are unknowable and hence not really people in their own right; they merely exist to highlight you. The Other is a dumb animal that doesn’t matter or someone or something that satisfies the longing for fantasy without responsibility. For as long as we objectify Others in the unconscious hope that they will somehow complete or complement or provide contrast to us we will forever be engaging in SPLITTING ourselves, thinking in all-or-nothing terms, not seeing the basic connectedness between all beings (while also being aware that we cannot know/read another).

Penultimate thought:

Joaquin Phoenix’s calm/bombastic voiceover pleads for the welfare of animals in saying: “These are benign and innocent beings and they deserve better.” I am in disagreement with this assessment. We shouldn’t value things because they’re benign or “innocent.” We should value people and animals BECAUSE THEY’RE BAD, because we’re all bad, because good and bad are interchangeable and we’re complicated. If we don’t value ourselves we can’t possibly expect to value others. We must allow for the bad, accept the bad and by not denying or sanitizing the bad… ONLY THEN do we have the tools–the honest awareness of our culpability–to be good. Goodness is WORK, it isn’t any more natural than badness and it isn’t the sole province of ‘young girls’ or whatever. You like the idea of being untouched and innocent of experience? Great. Be an idiot but don’t force idiocy onto women. You want all creatures to be loved? Great. Love your children/animals–but in order to do so, get to know your own darned self. Think “love” is important? Don’t kill animals.

And the final thought…

Lotta talk about LOVE in this diatribe here I’m writing. I don’t usually roll this way: Throwing around the word “love” makes me sick but then again I just watched multitudinous animals die gruesome deaths so I’m coming around to seeing the potential of the word love to denote actual kindness as opposed to facetious bribes and hurtful insincerity! And I finally see the merit behind that old chestnut “love your enemy.” Why? Because THE ENEMY IS US. If we don’t love/put up with/get to know ourselves a little, we fuck up other people–and animals. Hurt people hurt people (see:  awesome Greenberg movie review).

We are complicated and contradictory. We are complicit. We are villains. When we accept this, I think, then we’re finally getting brave enough to start working on being good.

Eh, voila:

More from Barbarism coming soon.

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