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Mar 11, 2013

Women in media? Destroy the Joint misses the point

Does the Destroy the Joint movement actually miss the point? In a fiery blog post that had social media abuzz over the weekend, feminist provocateur Helen Razer says the small-target strategy isn't working.

Destroy the Joint

Anyone who knows me even a little makes sure to avoid the topic of gender in my company. My ideas about gender come more from Judith Butler than they do from, say, Growing Pains. An express route to my trousers is to talk about the seams that join Freud to Marx. My relationship with feminism is long, ardent and difficult.

Feminism. It keeps me awake at night. Yeah, I got problems. But not so many, I’d venture, as an Australian feminism that produces twaddle like this. For International Women’s Day, here is a piece that considers the special qualities women might bring as leaders of professional media.


Are women better media leaders?

Rebekah Brooks is the answer. Marissa Mayer is the answer. Gina Rinehart is the answer. Fucking NO is the answer.

That professed feminists can think that women have “special” qualities that they might bring to enterprise is fucking beyond me. Women are not nicer. Women are not a civilising influence. Women are just as capable of avarice and stupidity as anyone.

This “if only women ruled the world” shit has no place outside the Hallmark Corporation. Ascribing a Marian grace to my gender might work in the Catholic Church but it really shouldn’t have any function for those who do not worship the Blessed Virgin.

Women are not gifted, either socially or biologically, of anything special. If we believe that they are, then we must also accept the possibility that the gender could be marked with unpleasant characteristics. If we believe that women are “better negotiators” or “great multitaskers”, we can also easily believe they are “not very good with money”.

I find any work that even considers the idea that privileged white women do things in any way that is markedly superior or different to the things done by privileged white men so ineffably deluded I want to take ALL of the Alanis Morissette CDs purchased in the 1990s and make a sculpture of an enormous plastic masturbating woman and win the Turner Prize with a piece I have called “Enormous Plastic Masturbating Woman Wins the Turner Prize”.

Anyhow. The writing. One of many pieces of crap I saw today. I know little of its author Jenna Price. However, I certainly do know how to Google and, as a Media Professional, could easily pretend I have been aware of the lady’s work as an activist and academic for some time. And, in a way, I have as she is one of the architects of the local “movement” known as “Destroy the Joint”.

No. Destroy the Joint is not a competitive league of doobie smokers, nor is it the work of those who especially like to eat spring lamb. It is, in fact, the locus for much feminist “action” and so a good site for inquiry.

Look. If you don’t know about it, read this hagiography. In short, the campaign sought to reignite feminism through a social media critique of traditional media.

“I know the Labor Party deludes itself that the electorate can be nudged to good by marginal lies and marketing. Don’t make the same mistake.”

For mine, Destroy the Joint began, very quickly, to Destroy the Point. As a fairly rash user of social media myself, I made the view known to tens of followers that I found the exercise distastefully onanistic. The fast cycles of uncritical rage that greeted a number of purportedly “misogynist” incidents — the average comedy of Daniel Tosh, the dressing of children in inappropriate clothing, the naming of a racehorse as a woman — brought to mind the usual pace of my own visits to RedTube.

We sit in front of screens and we suspend our thought to enhance our desire and then we mash our own genitals to the point they explode in a brief but ecstatic frenzy of nothing especially productive. It’s a sad little ragegasm we need to repeat seven times a day in the absence of genuine congress.

I do not mind a good wank but I have little patience for a bad one and this mean and dessicated DTJ masturbation must, at some point, cease. The expense of this libidinal energy cannot be calculated. We are spending our climaxes in tiny online moments when, really, they are due elsewhere to fuck the system.

Feminism is the struggle against masculinsed violence and feminised poverty. Or, the acknowledgement that physical violence is enacted disproportionately by men and poverty is experienced disproportionately by women. That’s it, really.

And don’t give me that “there are many feminisms” shit. Yes, of course there are and my experience of gender is markedly different to that of a lass (or lad) living, say, in Maputo. But, for the sake of fuck, at SOME point, we have to agree about our basic aims and get off this DTJ-endorsed fap-wreck before we all perish from the carnal stink.

There are two chief DTJ problems and the first is that it feels like a cultural studies tutorial from 1991. I know what it is like to be absorbed in the novelty of semiotics and that “Angrily Calling Out Sexism Wherever You See It” is habit-forming. The behaviour is compulsive and sometimes, you know, it makes you act before you think and you get it wrong. SO wrong. I recall, for example, a moment in which DTJ ally Anne Summers called a urinal shaped like a mouth “misogynist”.

That the mouth urinals purchased by a Sydney restaurant were very clearly referencing the famous John Pasche Rolling Stones male mouth logo was immaterial; the lavs are on display at a Rolling Stones museum in Germany. And, that these latrines had been present for years just a kilometre away in Oxford St in the bathroom of a club for homosexual men was not deemed relevant, either. Didn’t matter. Here, recourse to logic and facts would mean a pause in the fun, fast online work of screaming “MISOGYNY”.

In one social media conversation, a DTJ “pledge” told me I was a misogynist for “supporting” (NB: if one is not objecting along with DTJ then one is supporting rape, et al) this “crap”. As a great fan of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, I couldn’t have been happier when she told me that a “urinal could never be art”. HA HA HA.

How am I the only person reminded here of the Piss Christ shame of the ’90s with Summers and DTJ cast as George Pell? The idea that art (yes, even low or middle-brow art; and that includes Sexist Comedians) needs absolution from the Feminist Cardinal is, to me at least, anathema.

(Was it a similar frustration with dummies that drove both Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia to publish on the topic of visual art?)

So. Yes. Bad cultural studies practice is the first problem. The second problem is that DTJ and her associates actually believe they are healing the faithless.

Look. Here’s the thing: telling people they are being disadvantaged is a tricky business, Caroline Chisholm. There’s something dangerously missionary in an approach that seeks to draft sisters to a Crusade chiefly at war with nonsense on the behalf of hollow gods. You are make-believe-slaying paps that snap pregnant celebrities. Oooooh.

Are these your true adversaries? Do you REALLY think The Patriarchy will cease to function if you boycott a bar or a performer or a clothing store? Are you jamming the gears of capitalism by defending Chrissie Swan?

No, honey. You’re not.

Baby, what are you fighting for? I presume the rationale is that by talking about “Everyday Sexism”, Everyday Women will join the struggle.

No. Don’t think so. People aren’t that easily led or recruited. I know the Labor Party deludes itself that the electorate can be nudged to good by marginal lies and marketing. Don’t make the same mistake. Tell your constituency it is the struggle against masculinised violence and feminised poverty. They are bright and brave enough to hear it. It is arrogant and unhelpful and even alienating to suppose that they are not.

If you want to politicise someone, here’s a thought: talk to them about politics.

You don’t need some ridiculous spin about inappropriate plumbing or sexist wallpaper or whatever the fuck it is this week to apprentice folk to The Struggle. You need to read some macroeconomics, bitches, and spread the fucking word.

Hey. I’m right. I was, in fact, appointed feminism’s door bitch. And, no, you can’t come in if all you have to talk about is The Need For More Women CEOs and Less Sexism in Ads.

I am, however, flexible about double denims.

*This article was first published at Helen Razer’s blog Bad Hostess. Read Jenna Price’s response at The King’s Tribune.

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16 thoughts on “Women in media? Destroy the Joint misses the point

  1. Jonathan Maddox

    You are welcome to my copies of Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Do you realise guys I was born in 1974?

  2. Joshua Granath

    The Duchamp ‘ready made’ comment was the clincher. Great piece.

  3. matthews chris

    It is so easy to be a contrarian rather than actually take part in any real action. And by real action I do mean things like writing to advertisers on 2GB and boycotting and naming sexist attitudes.

    Razer says we should be fighting the fight against “masculinised violence and feminised poverty” well I would be happy to join her in the front lines if she could just let me know where. But that is the point isn’t it because reading ‘some macroeconomic texts bitches’ (I love the Felicia Day bitches hook especially)is not going to change the world.

    So while I am waiting for the big fight to begin, and it may some day and I will be there, I spend my time like many other women, doing what I can when I can. Oh and because some of this takes place on social media then women who have access to my stuff, and to my daughter’s stuff and who were not politically active, are now becoming so.

  4. klewso

    What I find most intriguing about ardent feminists is the way they seem so bent on treating men the way they have taken exception to being treated by men.

  5. zut alors

    ‘Women are not gifted, either socially or biologically, of anything special.’

    That’s mere opinion. According to a doco on SBS last week about the sinking of the ‘Titanic’, women survive longer in icy water.

  6. Eva Cox

    I find myself trying to be peacemaker, an unusual role, and say we are on the same tracks. I have some concerns that tackling sexist incidents and language etc will be confused with making serious change to power and influence. My definition of feminism is wider than Helen’s, i.e. change gender based power and values that benefits masculinity(including in women) and revalue those good skills, tasks and responsibilities that are assumed to be feminine.That is radical but i agree that women are just as good and evil as men, but our more social upbringing and responsibilities give us different viewpoints that are needed.

  7. Buddy

    Helen extols us to look to the bigger picture or the more important issues.. truth is we need people who can do the small and those who can do the big.. its not an all or nothing deal Helen.. So lets applaud all the people who are reaching out and making a difference in the way their world allows..rather than diminishing or criticizing their contribution… in doing this the ripples of change continue one change at a time … Feminists come in all shapes and sizes, colors, political persuasions and yes even different senses of humor!

  8. Warren Joffe

    Brilliant. Certainly sparkling and enjoyable and useful in providing that summary “masculined violence and feminised poverty” as the core of what feminism is against.

    After living with women enjoyably for many years and hearing their views (and they are much more observant than I am) about male and female differences and the likelihood that they are from nature rather than nurture (except those built on environmental adaptations to nature in the form of being physically weaker and capable of child bearing, and the ability perhaps to be more verbally adroit) I might go a little beyond Eva Cox and Zut Alors.

    That is because I have also paid attention to some reports of differences in brain structure – more white matter may have it seems something to do with better communication skills and interest in people – and the a priori likelihood that evolution would have produced some systematic average differences between large males and small, weaker, females who had to nurture helpless children – and have good enough hearing to hear their cries in the night. Not have billions of sperm which could spread one’s genes around at a much greater rate than on shot at it every nine months would have to provide scope for natural selection to get a look in also. On the whole it doesn’t seem likely that women would end up with brains which were as likely to show off with crazy brave belligerence as those of young men can produce…..

  9. Tom Jones

    Well Helen there is certainly room for you to engage people in ongoing action even if it is limited. Sometimes you just have to start somewhere. Swearing and mouthing off insults doesn’t actually achieve anything whereas there are certainly some businesses in Australia that are sorry that they have misappropriated women’s images or have put women down or have encouraged rape and violence. There is certainly room for women to be encouraged to act in their own interests and in your foul mouthed diatribe you suggest nothing positive. In fact you are looking a little like someone who is doing very nicely in the patriachy thank you and let’s not upset the fellas who are paying the bills. I find it hard to believe you are a feminist at all. How do you propose that women drag themselves out of poverty if they are constantly undermined by other women and men? Destroy the Joint has done more to get action to better society for women than any other organisation I can recall for a long time. Far from Destroying the Point it looks like they are making it.

  10. Patrick Bowman

    Thanks for publishing Razer. I (almost) always enjoy it when you do.