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Grrl counter-power, I love Doris Day

Flashback Friday, a column on feminist notions...

To be fair - it's difficult to think of a non-self-defining feminist woman as anything but a tool of the patriarchy. I have to concentrate on the fact that even though a woman would not call herself a feminist, she would never endorse footbinding (to name a radical example) and it doesn't necessarily mean she is a doormat either. In fact, some of my favorite women scorn my feminism and hate it when they are judged solely on their marital status or gender.

Ironically if you look at films made during the so-called liberal 60s and 70s you will see that movies align the woman's role less to what is happening politically in the big wide world and more to what is happening in pornography. The rise of the snuff movie mirrored the rise of violence towards women in the movies, serial killer paradise. Pornography always centers on the woman - probably in an attempt to hide the size of the penis. From my perspective, I am less uncomfortable looking at vintage porn than Emanuelle. In vintage porn it seems like the woman is having a ball - Bohemianism is fun. By contrast, Emanuelle is the story of a woman demeaned by being forced into sex under circumstances she isn't comfortable with. She is even coerced into sex by women (although I must admit that the only seemingly consensual sex in the film is with another woman). Nowadays, porn has removed the woman from the equation altogether - one could compare her to a side of warm ham with a hole in, oh whatever, take it from the fridge and call it cold meat. The women I see in contemporary porn look like they are under the influence of cocaine or Rohipnol. What amazes me is that the men don't think there is something wrong with themselves - they are sticking their dick into a barely live woman, a hop skip and a jump away from necrophilia. And we aren't talking about happening upon a corpse in a ditch, we're talking about taking advantage of half-death and about actively administering half-death, about getting off on fucking puking, passed-out drunken cheerleaders. What does that do to a man's picture of himself? And if he is so demeaned, will he go for redemption or will he go the other way?

I saw an oh-so-brilliant play (Atalanta by Janine Lewis) where the actor who played the king could not bring himself to pee on the actress on the other side of the court, although the play screamed for it and he was pissing in every other corner, on every other 'thing'. There's still a cognisance that that's a step too far, but for how long? I believe that he should have, in the play.

All media can hold an element of truth. I believe that porn is a media - reflective of fantasies, and that fantasies are allowed, and actors are allowed to pretend to give us our fantasies, and that those fantasies reflect the world out there. Action in the real world is where I draw the line. And Dan Savage put it so well. That when you ask your partner to enact your fantasy - it's an enactment - it's safe to do it with a partner, and you can get a sense of your fantasy, safely. He was talking about a woman's rape fantasy. He suggested she find a man with a rape fantasy and form a relationship with him. For Dan it is always about finding someone who complements your fantasies.

I love Doris Day. Doris Day is a symbol of when women had power - granted it is the power granted by men. I love her poise and her sense of self. Pick any film of hers and you will see that she is what is happening in the film, the men are the supporting role. She makes the moves. She represents the non-whining version of feminism, and what she chooses is family. There are feminists who say that choosing family is dangerous, and there are feminists that say choosing family is subversive. I think Day chose. Her films seem to be answers to feminist charges. I think she was too clever to be so ignorantly stubborn. Her films are discussions of the issues alive at the time, lively discussions. And I think her conclusions work for me. And I don't think her conclusions were repression breeds repression. I think her conclusions were decency breeds decency. And when you respect each other, you can do all the 'wilde dinge', safely.

Cinnamon Gurl sparked this off. Thanks. Each week the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments.


Anonymous said…
I admire Doris Day for what she achieved and the inspiration she was for many women. Unfortunately if you look at her history as woman and wife, she was far removed from who and what she seemed to be in front of the camera. Remember she was just acting out a role... usually written by a man! In her private married life, she was sadly just another victim of society rules and structures. Her first marriage was at the tender age of 17 and her third husband was a fraudster who had squandered all her money and left her bankrupt.
What I am getting at is that even though activism for women rights is very important, one must realise that this is not something that can be forcefeeded to social order. It must be something that is part of natural social growth within each culture territory. Huge progress has been made in diverse cultures and believe groups but it also brought a harmful side effect to the playing field: respect or rather the lack there of. As women continue to compete with men on equal ground, the more we observe a loss of respect from men towards women. So where does this end? Eventually, by law, we will all have equal rights all over the world and then we start the stuggle over again; this time for mutual respect. And this is how society resolve and evolve. Neverending, always a couse. Revolutions always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions.
Tanya Pretorius said…
Hi EvaZa I like the way you extrapolate into the future. And after mutual respect we will be looking for mutual something else and something else and something else. I agree, flux is the natural state.

And I agree, that in some 'progressive' (and I use this heirarchical term under advisement) cultures, the forcefeed approach is no longer necessary on the whole. I have met many men self-aware enough to be part of this group, women too. However, and I hate the word 'but', there are still some societies where the natural state is in reverse in terms of women. And has been getting progessively worse, also in part because of a reaction to the profligate feminism-enhanced women they see on TV or wherever. What would you suggest for those societies in terms of force-feeding? What actvism is appropriate?

And I absolutely LOVE your take on the word revolution, and the idea that sometimes you would be head up, gasping for air, and sometimes you would be upside down, terrified of drowning. And resolution will change us, once we stop bickering about which resolution, and whose resolution, and every other thing we can bicker about.

Thanks for your post, appreciated. Come back sometime.
Anonymous said…
Hello Fetsi
In reaction to your remark that women are progressively moving down on the scale of equality in some societies:
I think as a starting point we can quite confidently presume that 99% of those societies can be sited in the "third world" category. And exactly there is where the BIG challenge presents itself. The terms "Third World" and "Third World Women" are by no means stable categories. Rather, these terms are a locus of contention not only between First World feminisms and Third World women, but also between Third World women themselves within the complex field of postcolonial studies. Again we have to realise that when "Third World Women" are mentioned, the immediate frame of reference reminds us that again 99% of them are black or coloured. They have to rise to the challenge to actively fight against racism AND suppression. That places them in a category that cannot be managed and controled by the same system of that of First World countries.
Initiatives (not pressure) from first world society is however a good thing. Plant the seed and I guarantee that eventually within their own framework and time they will successfully achieve the same results as those of the rest of the world. We cannot enforce a time budget on social development as a worldwide standard because not eveybody is on the same standard. We can however teach, inform, guide and assist them in their transformation but without forcefully pushing our opinions down their throats. The world must first teach society to have an open mind. But the trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. Let each society determine its own structures to adress social issues. Our role should just be to assist them in making informed decisions.

Subjectively this is the solution. Objectively this is just another opinion but as Mark Twain said: "Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else"
Hope you'll have a great weekend.
Tanya Pretorius said…
Hi EvaZa. You'll find elsewhere in my Flashback Fridays that I say, "I will fight in the streets for your choice even though I don't agree with it, as long as it is an informed choice.' I love what you say about initiatives (not pressure)... I say if anyone is reaching out their hand and you can give them something that they can use to think about this stuff, then do. But respect them enough that if they want to think other thoughts, support them. One of my big contentions is that women don't get supported in what they think and what they do. And they don't get supported by their fellow women. That freaks me out. I always try to take the positive angle, and it makes me mad if others are negative or try to drag women down over little (and big) things.

I live in South Africa, so I see every day that Third World is an unstable term. I teach and one of my students, fitting brilliantly into the 'first world' has another foot that she does rain dances for her sangoma father in the 'third world'. And she does both brilliantly. Why not!

When I asked you how active one's activism should get, I was referring to a woman who was sentenced to a stoning. But there are many other examples. Sometimes I wish there was a fast track.
Tanya Pretorius said…
EvaZa, that wasn't very clear - I meant that I would fight in the streets for my student, that she can have all the worlds she wants, and I would be positive about it. But I don't want her to be hurt. When women get hurt, physically or otherwise, that's when I want to do something active, something... grrr.
Anonymous said…
Oh I absolutely understand!Sometimes I just want to march in there like a one man army and f..k up a few bastards. More often then not I experience an intense helplessness where I just feel that words and deeds just dont reach into the souls and minds of certain mentallities. The kind that hurt, rape and degrade women, children AND any other weaker form of life. It is then when I want to shout that the world should stop speaking and start acting. I suppose that is then where active activism comes into the picture. Unfortunately reality does not allow us to get to each and every abuser individually (very unfortunate; I can easily imagine my moment of sadistic pleasure if I can lay my hands on one!)
I suppose this is what makes the whole ussue so complex; when to step back to support and guide from a distance or when when to put on the armor and FIGHT for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Tanya Pretorius said…
Hi EvaZa, I guess we should keep our swords (in my case a labrys), in our pockets until we have sorted this one out.

I am curious about your friends. I wonder if you experience what I do - that I am completely alone in my enthusiasm to support and protect other women.

When I mention the word feminism (and I used to, OFTEN, I have now, like Pavlov's dogs, been warned off) everyone rolls their eyes. They don't want to be associated with someone who is a feminist - I just ignore it - my feathers are on the outside and anyone who knows me two minutes knows who I am. They can choose whether to put up with me or not, I can't change to fit in with their picture of the world, I need to change to fit into my picture of the world. I am happy with how they are, what they want to do (even the friend who was raped/sodomised by her husband, who stays with him no matter what - I am not giving up my friendship with her over it, I support her in her decision), I don't criticise them, but they know I think differently. They stick around, they remain friends with me, but the condition is that I keep the feminism locked up as best possibile ( I am not hugely obedient, but I do think twice ). I guess there are many people doing this about many things.

I just wondered how your world looks?
Anonymous said…
love the reference to my show (ATALANTA - by Janine Lewis)!! i am glad you got it down in writing... had been thinking to explore this when i pick up the rehearsals for Grahmstown run of the show...
I DID!! and i kept it in! the obnoxious Left brain 'King of his heap' character wonders over to her side, once the dividing net has been wrapped around the two main characters uniting them, and he pees on Lanta - and then continues to mark his territory by peeing on other things. it worked brilliantly. it was actually a poignant moment in the show, as Lanta stands crushed, kneading her stomach in a realisation that she is still not conceived a child, and he in a drunken swagger marks her as his, oblivious to her emotions. sigh. check out images of the show at NAF at

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