The basic demands of identity politics assumed an atmosphere of plenty. In the seventies and eighties, that plenty had existed and women and non-whites were able to battle over how the collective pie would be divided: would white men learn to share, or would they keep hogging it? In the representational politics of the New Economy nineties, however, women as well as men, and whites as well as people of color, were now fighting their battles over a single, shrinking piece of pie – and consistently failing to ask what was happening to the rest of it. For us, as students, to address the problems at the roots of “classism” we would have to face up to core issues of wealth distribution – and unlike sexism, racism or homophobia, that was not what we used to call “an awareness problem.
So class fell off the agenda, along with all serious economic – let alone corporate – analysis…
As we look back it seems like willful blindness. The abandonment of the radical economic foundations of the women’s and civil rights movements by the conflation of causes that came to be called political correctness successfully trained a generation of activists in the politics of image, not action. And if the space invaders marched into our schools and our communities unchallenged, it was at least partly because the political models in vogue at the time of the invasion left many of us ill-equipped to deal with issues that were more about ownership than representation. We were busy analyzing the pictures being projected on the wall to notice that the wall itself had been sold."
"Vanity, trying to arouse a good opinion of oneself, and even to try to believe in it, seems, to the noble man, such bad taste, so self-disrespectful, so grotesquely unreasonable, that he would like to consider vanity a rarity. He will say, “I may be mistaken about my value, but nevertheless demand that I be valued as I value myself”, but this is not vanity. The man of noble character must learn that in all social strata in any way dependent, the ordinary man has only ever valued himself as his master dictates (it is the peculiar right of masters to create values). It may be looked upon as an extraordinary atavism that the ordinary man is always waiting for an opinion about himself and then instinctively submitting to it; not only to a “good” opinion, but also to a bad and unjust one (think of all the self-depreciations which the believing Christian learns from his Church). It is “the slave” in the vain man’s blood- and how much of the “slave” is still left in woman- which seeks to seduce to good opinions of itself; it is the slave, too, who immediately afterwards falls prostrate himself before these opinions, as though he had not called them forth. Vanity is an atavism."
"Two-hundred years of American technology had unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11-year-olds that could see that potential."
"Children took the ruins of the 20th century and made art out of it."
"Skaters by their very nature are urban guerrillas: they make everyday use of the useless artifacts of the technological burden, and employ the handiwork of government/corporate structure in a thousand ways that the original architects could never dream of."
The content [in Marie Calloway’s what purpose did i serve in your life]… presents a worldview that is much more politically radical than the prevailing neoliberal feminist orthodoxy, even if you choose to view it as “culturally” more conservative.
That orthodoxy, as I see it, is this: that everything from lipstick to breast implants to hardcore BDSM falls under the umbrella of “a woman’s personal choice,” and that’s where the conversation ends. Any discussion of those choices within a systemic framework is seen as rude, condescending, or worse, borne of one’s own issues. If a woman is unable to separate out her “personal” reasons for wanting to do something from her “societal” reasons, it follows that she must be dumb.
Here’s the thing, though: Marie Calloway isn’t dumb. She’s smart. And yet, like many young women, she’s often found herself making choices that seem at odds with her beliefs or whatever concept of her “true self” she possesses. Anyone who’s ever felt this way should be supportive of Marie’s project, if not the precise way in which she carries it out. I’m even going to hazard a guess that this is a key difference between those who love Marie’s writing (or at least are willing to make generous statements about it) and those who think it’s narcissistic, crappy, boring, unworthy, etc. If you’ve never felt this way, it’s much easier to tune out those who have.
And I can see why someone who wants to live within the status quo without going crazy might have a stake in tuning them out. To acknowledge that a person can be simultaneously enlightened and oppressed, that even a strong person can be coerced by outside forces, is to acknowledge that what we see before us is not, in fact, the best of all possible worlds. It’s not even fucking close. That scares the shit out of people…
In pieces like “In Which I Meet An OkCupid Dom,” Marie’s book very explicitly bashes away at the question, “Where is the line between a woman choosing to pursue sexual autonomy, and caving to a misogynistic society that encourages the sexual degradation of women?” It also “wonders” (as I will admit this curious kitten is fond of doing) if all sex under capitalist patriarchy — sex for money, reproduction, and love — is “work” (see also: the writings of Silvia Federici), making the bedroom necessarily a site of exploitation (and more encouragingly, a potential site of struggle). The experiences in this book seem carefully catalogued to point to “yes.”… Any pleasure that made it into the book rode in on the back of that degradation…
[How] about the moment when her character shruggingly pretends to herself that she’s okay with sex work as a means to feel pretty and buy MAC makeup in the same story where a john reduces her to tears? I believe this is called “dark humor with a point.” (Like I said before, “false consciousness” is hardly a damning accusation for a leftist to make; we don’t view it as a personal weakness, but a natural result of living under capitalist patriarchy.) Or the collage where she pastes the sentence “i felt a connection to him, i wanted to be around him” over an email from a man detailing his graphic misogynistic fantasies. (I am not personally making a judgment about BDSM here, but it’s clear Marie thinks “the bedroom” is not some sacred realm immune from patriarchal society.)…
Western feminism’s primary obstacle right now, as I see it, is to establish a new paradigm for looking at thorny issues like BDSM and sex work that goes beyond the myopic, neoliberal, “If it feels good, do it” attitude of mindless sex positivism, but without falling into the condescending sex-worker-savior complex of second-wave feminism. Marie’s book doesn’t provide any concrete solutions to that dilemma, but it shows a sincere desire to get to them, which is more than you can say for most things written outside of radical feminist academia.