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.

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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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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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