Reflecting on 2016: Some Men Died // Kill Yr Idols

 (clearly this cherub is all broken up about men dying in 2016. being a man-hating, wicked and revoltingly evil feminist, i tend to think we have bigger problems)

I’ve been trying to motivate myself to write a reflection on 2016 since before the year met its end, but every time I came close to clearing out a recess of my mind for contemplating the year’s ordeals, I was overwhelmed by creepy-crawling asphyxiating fatigue, a paralyzing awareness of the seeming futility of my own existence that until now I have been woefully unable to alchemize from blank stares, the urge to spend an hour hitting my head against the desk, into a coherent piece of commentary. I’ll admit it: in 2016, I did a solidly awful job of attending to The Arts. I’m sorry. The imminent cataclysm promised by the rise to power of the living caricature of a white supremacist misogynist sex predator robber baron fascist had me mildly distracted. What I can recall about 2016 is that the year’s passage brought with it the demise of several iconic male artists, their deaths sparking massive collective paroxysms of performative Internet grief and dizzying outpourings of panegyric, laurel after laurel pinned to the righteous skulls of the departed.

Men died, everyone was heartbroken; I was vexed.

January 10, 2016 — R.I.P. David Bowie
April 21, 2016 — R.I.P. Prince
November 7, 2016 — R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

Each man: a legend. A hero, a beacon, et cetera. A man dies and, absolved of everything, he is made a god. We lift him up to the pantheon. And so it is, one more man installed in that crowded white room composed of clouds and gilt, Olympus, our Hall of Idols. Praise be to him. And him, and him, and him, and him….

I declined to take part in the public funerals of these men, as I do not participate in the public mourning of any Great Men, since, as should be entirely obvious at this point, I am skeptical of the concept of “Great Men” altogether. The reason for my skepticism is that I presume, however Great they may have been at whatever it was they applied themselves to as Men, there’s a 99% chance that they proceeded through their lives in blithe and faithful adherence to the imperatives of patriarchy. They may have treated women like (or represented women as) toys, celebrated phallocentric sexuality, generally behaved in accordance with the principles of male supremacist, masculinist ideology, or they may simply have failed to challenge their own power as male humans within a male-dominated social universe. In any case, as I wrote about David Bowie last January, these men were Men. I do not see how it could possibly be prudent for me, as a feminist and as a woman, to devote my time//energies to the commendation of already highly regarded men who most likely would have viewed me as a dollop of irrelevant fleshiness most properly suited to prancing around in a music video or, best case scenario, starring as muse, my task the inspiration of masterful feats of dreamy poeticism (note to muses: nudity is consistently inspiring).

Disinclined to deify ever more men I have bones to pick with the dead.  Continue reading “Reflecting on 2016: Some Men Died // Kill Yr Idols”

David Hamilton, Ambassador of Artisanal Child Pornography, Dead

photographer david hamilton
“His sensitive eye noticed how, when spring became summer, the innocence and awakening self-awareness of the young girls were reflected in the flowers and the trees, the doves and the flocks of sheep. It was a world through which he wandered, as if unseen, in pursuit of dreams…”  // from the introduction to DREAMS OF YOUNG GIRLS, Hamilton, 1971 //

The British photographer David Hamilton, whose long career treated art appreciators and men everywhere to over twenty books bursting with soft-focus images of naked pubescent girls, died last week at age 83. It’s possible that he took his own life, as there are reports that when found in his Paris home by a neighbor, Hamilton had a plastic bag drawn over his head, a bottle of pills nearby. Perhaps, struck by a sudden, winter-of-the-soul realization of his role in normalizing – and providing fodder to fuel – the sexual objectification of girl-children by adult men, or of his own creative bankruptcy, Hamilton could no longer bear to live with himself. Or maybe he pulled the plastic bag over his head because four women had recently come forward with accounts of how Hamilton raped them when they modeled for him as children, and he could not bear the smear of being outed as a sexual predator. Since men’s consciences seem only rarely to suffer for either their crimes against females or for burdening the world with bad art, I’m going to say the latter is a safer bet.

Shortly before his death Hamilton denied the allegations against him, claiming he had done “nothing improper” and “nothing at all,” and threatened to sue one of the women, Flavie Flament, for defamation. In October, Flament published a semi-autobiographical novel in which she describes being raped by a famous photographer. Following the novel’s release, when she began to hear from other women whose experiences with said photographer mirrored her own, she publicly identified Hamilton as the “man who raped [her] when [she] was 13, the man who raped many young girls.” Since his death, Flament has charged the dead artist with cowardice for suiciding and depriving his victims the closure of ever seeing him convicted.

She is right that it was cowardly for Hamilton to abdicate responsibility by excusing himself from earthly existence. I wonder, however, if this act of cowardice is not such a sorry outcome. Are we to regret that he died? Frankly I am not up to the task of mourning his death. If he ought to have lived in order to be condemned, well, the majority of rapists escape conviction and in any case, under the French statue of limitations, the charges against Hamilton were too old to be tried. He never would have been convicted. And while I sympathize with the women’s desire to see their rapist treated as a criminal, I also question whether or not the established route of trial and penalty always, or ever, achieves real justice. With his suicide, Hamilton sentenced himself to death, a choice that rings of confession. Would an innocent man kill himself over false accusations? And what was he so afraid of, if not being known for what he was: a man who raped young girls? Hamilton’s suicide intimates his guilt, and although he is not here now to face the consequences, we can hope that the new posthumous stench of culpability will taint his artistic legacy.

Continue reading “David Hamilton, Ambassador of Artisanal Child Pornography, Dead”

Sophia Wallace on Liberation Without Objectification

“Sophia Wallace Counters the Cliches and Stigma of Radical Feminist Art”  [ Artsy, May 2016 ]

From Sophia Wallace’s “Over and Over and Over” installation. 2016.

Sophia Wallace is a NYC-based artist whose project Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws opposes the erasure of the clitoris central to the patriarchal campaign of hostility against female sexuality and female bodies. I’ve been aware of her work for awhile now, I was never particularly drawn to it, for aesthetic reasons, as well as a general skepticism around so-called “sex positive” feminist art, which seems so often to simply reinforce male-authored culture’s posit that women = sex. Yes, there’s a taboo on female sexuality – there are few cultures where the sexually mature female has not been constructed as a monster and potential deathtrap – but at the same time there’s also an incessant, staunch insistence that the female embodies sexuality, that we must be sexual or are otherwise superfluous, our bodies are sex, sex is the nature of our existence, our purpose + consummation. Sex encompasses all that we are and can be. Wary of validating this fiction, I’ve veered definitively toward the non-sexy.

In her interview with Artsy, however, Wallace shows that her sex positivity is more considered than the standard “Here I am Reclaiming My Demonized Female Sexuality with a Picture of My Boobs, Fuck You, Bet You Didn’t Want to See My Boobs”-type fare. (To women doing this: He wants to see your boobs. He always has.) She questions the usefulness of the current tendencies in “feminist” art, namely self-exposure and self-objectification:

Is it really a surprise that the majority of the hailed ‘feminist art’ of our moment still fits its primary requirement to offer young white sexy objects of heterosexual desire? … As long as it fulfills this demand, the art market can stomach some ‘feminist art,’ but that has nothing to do with feminism, which is an actual political movement that is still life or death.

Rather than muddle around with courting and repelling and taunting and etc. The (Male) Gaze via display of the female-body-as-object, with her art Wallace seeks to open space for the creation of new meanings that would unbind the female body from the mutilations performed by the male supremacist mind, mutilations which are both figurative and literal, as in the cross-cultural practice of female genital mutilation. She mentions colonization: “Female bodies are still in the process of colonization.” Part of the colonization process is learning to conceptualize our bodies on men’s terms. Our knowledge of our bodies has been shaped by men’s understanding of them as sexual and reproductive objects, thus the clitoris has been erased—it is unnecessary for male ejaculation, and no heir can grow within it, hence, it is useless. Men have also shunned the clitoris as a stunted penis, indicative of either women’s natural inferiority to men or women’s phallic potential (i.e., potential potency, since the penis was a power symbol). The clitoris came to be viewed as a sign of deficiency, as a female-specific threat to male phallic supremacy, and, in the most practical sense, as an irrelevancy. Its erasure evidences men’s power over the definition of the female body: we are what they will have us be. (Plastic dolls with assorted holes and breasts that feed?) But our bodies are real, and we can re-learn their realness; knowing and experiencing them, not as symbolic objects but as the flesh-and-blood substance of our beings, is fundamental to offering any meaningful challenge to the systematic usurpation of our bodies + lives.

I don’t believe in the “Divine Feminine” and I don’t harbor any fantasies that the aftershocks of mass clitoral pleasure are going to topple patriarchy. It is in the district of these illusions that the sex positive train usually parks itself. Wallace goes further, toward a restoration of the fragmented, chopped-and-screwed, then polished to hi-gloss female body to a state of wholeness. She neither sexualizes the clitoris in her work, nor does she make it cute, like some plush toy; what she says is that it exists. Subtext? Women’s bodies exist, we are real: we are not men’s dream. We will no longer live as if we are. It’s a revolutionary statement, one that no “Fuck You, Check Out My Boobs” photo can match.

Valerie Solanas on “Great Art”


solanas great art 1solanas great art 2

Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto is probably not the thing to read if you’re looking for a practical analysis of and/or constructive approaches to restoring to tolerability the patriarchal hell zone into which global human society long ago entered and has been wallowing about in ever since, more or less miserably. Solanas’s central thesis that women are innately, biologically superior to men, who are pitiful brainless low-life “brutes” and therefore must be expunged from Earth if the human species is to evolve elegantly + thrive, is not one I’m willing to endorse. Women are not inherently superior; no one is inherently superior to anyone else; the problem is not that the wrong people are in power but the power structures themselves, which elevate some beings (white, male, humans: subjects) to an ascendant status over disenfranchised and subordinated others (not white, female, animals: substance). Reverse the order and you’ve still got oppression: it would be no less virulent. And as disinterested as I am in having to say so, neither hating nor killing men is going to advance the situation of women.

While I cringe at roughly 87% of what Solanas writes in SCUM Manifesto, the remaining 13% is viciously good. The pages above, on man-made art and the figure of the Male Artist (The Artiste), fall into the vicious 13%, for sure. Like Solanas, I’m underwhelmed by the self-absorbed, self-righteous “obscurity, evasiveness, incomprehensibility, indirectness, ambiguity and boredom” that characterizes the bulk of what reputable channels vomit at us as Great Art, which, today as ever, is mostly produced by men, and by women reared on the works of men & desperate to reproduce its star attributes and enter the ranks of the Masters. The Male Artist is a tiresome egoistic asshole we very rarely have reason to venerate. Cultivating “cultural refinement” and “sophisticated tastes” is kind of like purposely concussing oneself upon patriarchy’s marble countertop. Instead, think for yourself, permitting no intrusions upon your perceptions by the pompous tastemakers whose tastes tend towards elitism, solipsism, nihilism, and all those other conventional values and ideologies – the bland cruelties of male power – trussed up in the fancy-dress of erudite dawdling and deliberate opacity.

Solanas concludes: what’s “Great” is typically shit, and “Great” for a reason: because it is in the service of those in power. We are instructed to venerate what has been designed to harm us. Reverence for the oppressor is the terminal symptom of a colonized consciousness: refuse it!

Tell Me What I’m Looking At: “Seconds in Ecstasy”

This June my mother and I went to Sweden and while we were there we visited several art museums, as is standard whenever we go anywhere together. Ostensibly, we both enjoy seeing art. Moreover, my mother loves gift shops. Among the art museums on our itinerary was the Gothenburg Museum of Art, a gorgeous museum, maze-like and old, with baroque gilt frames, high ceilings, rooms of melancholy Swedish landscapes – grey snow, “the long grey dusk” – and then there was this:


A 20′-tall floor-to-ceiling stripper pole ornamented with one inverted nymphic giantess in panties and camisole, thigh-high stockings, and platform heels, slowly, permanently rotating. Medium: styrofoam, plaster, fiberglass, the object status of female humans. Pink light. I thought I was looking at yet another example of the sexualized female body exhibited for display to an androcentric masculinist target audience for whom the only laudable thing for a woman to make or to be is a sexualized object, on display, for the male viewer. Yet again, the point was that I was looking at a woman. She was skinny, white, fashionably lacking in clothing, so I’m recognizing her as “ATTRACTIVE.” Here I am, looking at an attractive woman, and she is art; the pleasure is in looking at her. I am supposed to derive some satisfaction from looking at a giant white stripper eternally circling her pole. Certainly the men in the sculpture gallery with me were satisfied with the object they were viewing. They saw a woman the way they wanted and expected to see a woman: as a sexualized object. And they were smiling and chuckling to themselves. I hated them. And I hated the piece, entitled “Seconds in Ecstasy,” the product of the Swedish sculptor Casja von Zeipel.  All she makes are these skinny white foam women and more rarely men, sometimes a stiletto boot off on its own. My mother and I saw another sculpture of hers outside a department store: white woman, high heels, leather jacket, underwear, holding up the store like Atlas holding up the globe, sort of the embodiment of the seas of young women destined to enter the store to buy high heels and underwear seeking to become beautiful to the eye of whoever until the death of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Continue reading “Tell Me What I’m Looking At: “Seconds in Ecstasy””

Police Violence: Cool, So Long As It’s Queer, Sexy


Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.12.03 AM

Police violence has been getting a lot of press recently, what with the tendency of police officers in our charming U.S. of A. to be white men equipped with fragile egos guarded by bony husks of socialized hypermasculinity who use state power and munitions to maintain white male supremacy, particularly by killing black men and women, but also through rape and generalized bullying, all in the name of “serving” and “protecting” the American public. I have heard, for example, that police officers’ well-funded racist and sexist violence is not that great. That it may be something we, as a culture, are morally obligated to repudiate and correct. Police violence being “BAD” is a concept oft-enough cited that it has, wonder of wonders, begun to gain some purchase in the collective consciousness.

What one hears less about these days is just how “SEXY” police violence can be.

Luckily for all those absent-minded social justice types who may have been on the brink of forgetting the undeniable, timeless allure of a cop wielding his immense and ropily veined penis like a baton – or taser, perhaps? – in preparation to discipline some naughty, naughty prisoners, Paris Review has come to the rescue with a delectable reminder.

The article “Doing Hard Time” (hard, you know? like the penis of a sexually aroused male? got it? good) is a bite-sized panegyric to the cop-themed output of the artist known as Tom of Finland, as compiled in The Little Book of Tom of Finland: Cops & Robbers, an anthology promising lucky readers “nearly two hundred pages of…police-on-felon fucking.”

Consensual police-on-felon fucking, of course. Which is entirely different from the non-consensual police-on-felon fucking that has, sadly enough, imperiled the Sexiness Rating of police-on-felon fucking of late. Continue reading “Police Violence: Cool, So Long As It’s Queer, Sexy”

pop patriarchy stands by its man

Average men get away with rape. Ordinary, garden-variety males bypass penalty for beating their wives and girlfriends, too, and for sexually abusing their children. It is men’s prerogative to harm the women and children in their orbit, because in the patriarchal family women and children are men’s property, at the mercy of men’s whims. Though the law in the United States no longer defines women as men’s chattels, the underlying ideology lingers: as lord & master of the castle available to every male no matter his class – “the home” – a man may rule over the lives of his subjects. He beats his wife; he fondles his daughter: to be careless of the bodies and beings of his underlings is testament to the absoluteness of his authority over them. It’s a pleasure and a privilege: to hurt women, to hurt children. Lowly as they are relative to He Who Is Their Master he need not condescend to consider the feelings or the fates of these subordinates at all.

When an average woman comes forward publicly to announce that a man has raped her, or beaten her or that he molested her when she was small, she is disbelieved and discredited and dismissed, and she is scorned, for it is Woman’s lot to suck it up and to take her lumps in private; she has done wrong to denounce a man. People will say she made up her bogus rape story to make the man look bad or because she wanted money or attention from the man or she imagined the whole thing because she is mentally warped or if something did happen between her and the man, something sordid, it was because she was asking for it, she wanted it, she provoked him—the fault is hers. The man is stainless; it is the victimized woman who bears the taint. In popular parlance this is called “victim blaming” and it is a primary reason most women who suffer male violence do not attempt to incriminate their abusers, their reticence spawning a hushed grove within which men’s abusiveness toward women is permitted to thrive. When a man hurts a woman he trusts she will be too afraid too ashamed to tell so even the vaguest threat of stricture is void.

If unremarkable men are sheltered from repercussion when they hurt women and children by the basic protections afforded them by patriarchal culture, what happens when a remarkable man does violence to a woman or girl? It would be reasonable enough to suppose or to hope at least that the notoriety of the remarkable man might make it more difficult for him to dodge comeuppance—after all, the court of public opinion staffs a sizable jury. But more people learning that a man may have harmed a woman or a child does not equate to more people believing that he did, or caring that he did. The more widely known and well-liked a man is, the more people that know he may have hurt a woman, the less apt he is to ever face consequences. The advantage of being a man compounded with the advantage of public admiration renders him untouchable. By contrast, the victim – whoever she is – is at a serious disadvantage: she is a woman, she is less than he is. His inferior. Should she also be famous, all that her fame guarantees is that she already has plenty of people who hate her, as well-known women never fail to attract rancor (every woman in public is abhorred).

The doggedness with which patriarchal pop culture stands by its man has been on powerful display this year in the cases of three high-profile male artists who waited patiently smirking as accusations of rape, child molestation, and battery slid from the teflon of their status: Michael Gira of Swans, director Woody Allen, and actor Johnny Depp. Continue reading “pop patriarchy stands by its man”

Portraits of Prostitution (The Swank & The Spurious)

Intellectual, artistic men do many things I would greatly prefer them not to do. One of these is deeming themselves “filmmakers” and making harassingly self-important movies with which they propose to capture the deepest-buried bleakest yet dazzling, gem-like truths of the human experience. Another diversion of the intellectual artistic male elite is buying access to women’s and girls’ (and less often boys’, even less often poorer men’s) bodies for use as masturbation equipment. It is not a pursuit unique to artistic men: the upper crust shares with less cultivated members of the master class a steadfast fascination with prostitution. Obviously men’s commodification of women into consumable goods is a passion more malignant than their production of pompous movies, since while one can ignore the movies – sorry, I mean: films – if one is disturbed by men’s domination, exploitation, cooption and comprehensive hijacking of female bodies and female lives, the devaluation of women into fuck-dolls for male amusement demands attention. Yet it is difficult to disentangle men’s cultural production (e.g. “filmmaking”) from men’s upkeep of the cultural institutions of male dominance (e.g. purchasing women). Because people make art about what interests them and as agents of patriarchy men are extremely interested in the reduction of women into sex-things to own & use, male filmmakers have gifted society with heaps of films about prostitution. The concept, I believe, is that the intrepid minds behind these films plunge fearlessly into the sordid morass, transgressing taboo to unearth the deepest truths of prostitution, or prostituted womanhood, or human sexuality. Actually, the lone “deep truth” revealed by these male-authored portrayals of prostitution is the profundity of self-serving delusion that permeates men’s view of prostitution, prostituted women, women generally, and sexuality itself.

Prostitution as it exists in male fantasy bears scarce resemblance to prostitution as it functions in the lived experience of prostituted women. Men’s films realize in flesh then light, color, sound male fantasy, not female reality. Why would we ever expect them to show us the truth?

It is a sacred misconception among MFA types that the more intellectual and formally experimental and outwardly radical an artist is, the more trustworthy he is as an authority on the nature of earth-lived existence. This strain of moviegoers would likely recognize the unreliability of Pretty Woman as a representation of prostitution—so commercial, so cliché, so sentimental! But what if it had been directed by Derek Jarman? Or Pasolini? Wouldn’t it then be bound to contain within some elusive interior vesicle a kernel of raw truth? The filmmaker is such an original, after all. We can assume he has an enlightened and progressive perspective on prostitution. Except, putrid as it may be, the male radical party line “enlightened and progressive perspective” is that there’s nothing wrong with buying women as sex objects, that in fact it’s enriching for both buyer and bought, and promotes a freer society, which suggests to me that fancy highbrow men’s fancy highbrow films are unlikely to prove a region of the arts populated by accurate fact-based depictions of the sex trade. However, I could be mistaken; maybe the great auteurs of modern cinema have not been egoistic chauvinist assholes spoonfeeding misogynist mythologies to upscale audiences. To find out, I subjected myself to a selection of the finer prostitution-themed films to ever flicker visions of whoredom across patriarchy’s arthouse screens, virtuosic offerings served up by some of cinema’s most venerated darling boys. Continue reading “Portraits of Prostitution (The Swank & The Spurious)”

R. Kelly’s “Freaky” Predation & the Neo-Minstrelsy of Black Male Sexuality

img-r-kelly-1_102908815680Photo by Terry Richardson, for Interview Magazine, 2011

After David Bowie died and in the midst of mass eulogizing stories began to resurface of the dead star’s predatory tryst with a teenage “baby groupie,” the immediate rush to silence these stories made it clear the cognitive dissonance caused by the competing narratives of David Bowie as hero and David Bowie as statutory rapist was unbearable. Because it was impossible to carry these two ideas simultaneously within the cramped chamber of the collective skull – of David Bowie the otherworldly luminary and of David Bowie the all-too earthly, child-fucking entitled male – one had to be evicted, and few fans were willing to betray their idol. They raced after ways to make it a non-issue that David Bowie as an adult man with every conceivable privilege had seduced and fucked a child: it was the ‘70s; the girl-child was expressing her agency when she had sex with David Bowie; all rock stars have sex with children, so what?  Thus the predator was pardoned. Reflecting on the unwillingness to reckon with the dueling realities of “great artist” and “child rapist” in David Bowie’s case, another popular male musician came to mind for me, a man whose record of exploiting girl-children for sex is more recent than David Bowie’s, and more well-known, yet which fails to produce the same pang of dissonance in the cultural consciousness; a musician whose history of sexual predation does not detract from his public image but by contrast has been incorporated into it with ease.

I thought of R. Kelly.

The difference between how David Bowie and R. Kelly have been treated in the popular culture is striking. In David Bowie’s case, the public overwhelmingly felt the need to shield their sacred artist from the “predator” label in order that reverence for him be preserved. R. Kelly, however, has not been protected from the label by a devoted defensive public: it has become his emblem, a principal feature of his mythology in popular culture.

Q: Why is it hard to believe David Bowie was predator, but exceedingly easy to believe that R. Kelly is?

Q: Why in the case of David Bowie is child rape unmentionable, when in R. Kelly’s it’s a punchline?

David Bowie was a white man. R. Kelly is a black man. The popular culture within which both of these men exist as icons is white-dominated, suffused with the values and visions of white supremacy. And so we arrive at the inceptive beginnings of our answer to both questions: classic, enduring racism.

Continue reading “R. Kelly’s “Freaky” Predation & the Neo-Minstrelsy of Black Male Sexuality”

Sensitive Man Finds Solace in Oppressive Gender, Race Dynamics


To summarize a recent article in the New York Times: the life of a white man is a difficult one, especially if he’s an “artist, very successful.” This great composer suffered through three whole marriages to women who failed to cater sufficiently to his needs. Now, at last, he’s found someone who will – by her own CHOICE!! CHOICE!! CHOICE!!, of course. It speaks to his enduring kindness and compassionate grace that “the terms they negotiated at the start of their relationship do not prevent her from pursuing her own professional and personal life.”