Sunday, November 6, 2011

FABB meeting 10/29/11

-Class stuff (pg 37 & next 2 chapters)
-Feminist Masculinity (pg 67)
-Sexuality (?maybe?)

-divided power feminism/ vision of true feminism
->changing the system itself
-> ultimately this is the only way to go
-> people also confuse prejudiced speech with racism : hurt feelings/institutional force
-There have been women who've hired other women and worked within the system and found a way to have a mutually beneficial, consensual relationship.
-does her [hooks] restructuring include keeping a capaitalist system?
-> radical leftist deconstructed state? equalized socialism?
- Can we change the system if we all conciously change the way we relate to one another?
->people might be inclined to try different systems because the one we've got going right now is FUCKED
-> we can break down the system by breaking down the ways we oppress one another. (like internalized patriarchy)
-if we morphed out of patriarchy, everything would have to be run on a local scale
- also dismantle right/wrong dichotomies

-whats up with how movies don't show long term personal struggle????


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: A Woman Among Warlords

Reading this book was an eye-opening experience for me.  Not only did I realize some of my own ignorance about the Middle East, but also the true plight of the Afghan people, especially women.  For as long as I’ve known about Afghanistan, I’ve had a vague understanding that there is a corrupt, oppressive government.  I had never researched the extent of the corruption.  Many countries, especially the United States, use the mainstream media to manipulate their people into thinking that they are providing help and democracy to Afghanistan.  In actuality, they are lining their pockets while turning a blind eye to the crimes of the warlords that used religious fanaticism, intimidation, and riches to gain influence and political power.  

Learning about the horrible brutality that the women of Afghanistan face was infuriating enough, but when I realized that Afghanistan was once governable, I was first upset by my own ignorance and then with the US media.  Why when I watch news reports about the US occupation in Afghanistan is there nothing mentioned of this?  Why does the US media paint the picture that our occupation is liberating women?  I feel that I, and most likely many others, were led to believe that religious oppression and sexism has always run rampant in Afghan culture when a progressive women’s rights movement was happening in the 1920s.  At the end of this decade, religious extremists backed by the British took over and reformed.  Over the next 30 years, women’s rights were somewhat restored.  Women were staging demonstrations, freely attending school, and the burqa was banned.  This was not a result of a foreign invasion.  This point is proven when the Soviets took over in the late 70s and the women’s rights movement was forced underground. 

Joya’s election into Parliament began with rocky start considering 60 percent of her fellow MPs were warlords or allies.  I feel that the only reason the votes weren’t doctored to make her lose was to give the impression that a democratic government exists in Afghanistan.  Even though her position in Parliament has not been reinstated, many leaders across the world have protested her suspension.  This public outcry gives hope to the women of Afghanistan so that they will continue to stand up for their rights.  

At the end of the book, she critically dissects the US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan.  I agree that democratic values cannot be forced by foreign invasion.  The women of Afghanistan need to have the opportunity to fight for themselves, to gain their own power.  The money and man power that the US pours in only feeds the money, power hungry warlords.  It strengthens them and leaves the Afghan people poorer and more oppressed.  Imperialism has been the norm for every US president for decades and it is showing no signs of changing with the addition of more troops by the  Obama Administration.  

She pleads with the people of the world to show the Afghan people that we stand publicly in solidarity with them.  There must be an international sense of community in place to empower the women of Afghanistan.  Even if it takes time before change, they need to witness support from the Americas and Europe.  In the end, her message is hopeful.  She has faith that Afghanistan will one day be a place where warlords are tried for their crimes, foreign occupation ends, women are treated equally to men, and a secular, democratic government exists.    

Malalai Joya is a true revolutionary and her story was inspiring to me.  She has courageously stared some of the most evil leaders in the eye and speaks publicly of their oppressive crimes to her people. President Karzai and fundamentalist leaders have used her notoriety as a scapegoat to avoid addressing the real problems that face the Afghan people.  She has received countless death threats and assassination attempts.  Though she does not wish to be a martyr, she has accepted that her life may end because of her outspoken dedication to Afghan women.  In the event of her death, she trusts that her supporters will carry on her work and invites us to shout to her and pour water on her grave.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Documentary on Malalai Joya

Monday, March 28, 2011

Malalai Joy to speak at SPSCC April 5 at Noon

This book is my suggestion for our next read. I wish I could attend this event, please go to to show your solidarity.

Alice Walker to speak at TESC

Rachel Corrie Foundation presents

Peace Works 2011: Solidarity in Action

Keynote speaker Alice Walker

April 8-9 at the Evergreen State College

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baise Moi to screen on Sunday March 20th

I have a copy of Baise Moi, co-directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, and will screen it after my projection shift at OFS on Sunday March 20th at 9pm. Please come if you want.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the email i sent out

hey everyone,

it was really awesome to get together and talk with everyone the other night. Our conversation got me thinking about a book that I haven't looked at in a while. It's called Reconstructing Political Theory: Feminist Perspectives. It's a collection of essays edited by two professors from the college I went to, Mary Shanley and Uma Narayan. I'd originally bought the collection because of Uma Narayan's essay, "Towards a Feminist Vision of Citizenship: Rethinking the Implications of Dignity, Political Participation and Nationality", which was the piece that led to me thinking of myself as a feminist and opened my eyes to all of the radical things that entails. I'd like to suggest this as something to read, I don't know if it's the direction folks want to go in, but I really like that it draws from academics who are really concerned with intersectionality, AND there's an article on Feminism and Anarchism included, which I'd really like to re-read.

here's a link to it on googlebooks:


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meet Up?

Seems like a lot of folks want to meet up and discuss the reading. Someone should organize a time and place that works for most.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

not very organized

As I've been reading this book, I've found myself vacillating wildly between feelings of distress, epiphany, horror, understanding....I too found it really difficult to read her account of being raped. I thought it immensely important and powerful for Despentes to discuss rape fantasy, particularly in relation to the reality of being raped. I think that Despentes does a wonderful job of complicating arguments, not allowing solid footing or a moral highground. Juxtaposing her enjoyment of dressing up as "a creature of vice" (pg 59) with her idea that "these kids in g-strings seem to be proclaiming, 'look at what a hot girl i am, in spite of my independance, my culture, my intelligence, all i care about is pleasing you. i can do whatever i want but i choose to alienate myself through these efficient seduction strategies.'" (pg 19), Despentes places herself within this world, not allowing herself the safety of speaking outside of this world. At times, her constant reworking of perspective can make it difficult to get a firm read on where she's going, particularly in regards to rape-- I read the chapter "she's so depraved you can't rape her" as dealing more with a conundrum that a solution. She advocates violence against rape, speaks to her own feelings of helplessness during rape, feelings of shame, the ways that rape so insidiously permeates our lives (collectively and individually). When she writes on page 50 that "I always imagine that one day I will be done with it. Will have gotten over the event, emptied it, exhausted it. Impossible. It is a founding event. Of who I am as a writer, and as a woman who is no longer quite a woman. It is both that which disfigures me, and that which makes me," She seems to me to be saying that her experience isn't the answer-- she will continue to struggle with her experience, and that struggle is a part of her. She isn't attempting to provide a solution to a problem, but demanding that we interrogate our responses to ourselves and everything around us.

On pages 53-54, Virginie Despentes writes "Over the last ten years I have often found myself in stylish living rooms in the company of ladies who have always had their bills paid for them by the marriage contract, often divorced women living off substantial alimony aggreements, and these same ladies explain to me, without the shadow of a doubt, that prostitution is in itself a bad thing for women". I think this speaks to the ways that Despentes sets up an intersection of gender and class-- in order to lay claim to the power and comfort of higher class standing, women must also perpetuate patriarchal hate and judgement. I agree with Tobi that Despentes does not seem to be speaking from a perspective that addresses the intersection of race/ class/ sexual identity, but within her analysis I believe that she begins to break down the universal, rigidly defined gendered binaries that she initially imposes, particularly when writing about her experiences with prostitution. On page 61, she writes " my small experience, the clients were heavy with humanity, fragility, distress." and on page 68, " The experience of seeing men in a childlike, fragile, vulnerable light made them seem nicer, less intimidating, more endearing And in fact accessable ...More than I would have thought, it lessened my aggressiveness toward men, which I consider a good thing."

I thought that it was really important for Despentes to point out that patriarchy and oppression were not invented in the 1970s, nor were violence and assault invented by cinema. On page 17 she writes, "Neither women nor men are happy here. And this has nothing to do with the respect of gender traditions. Women going back to the kitchen, putting on aprons and producing kids every time they fuck would have no impact at all on the failures of work, free enterprise, christianity or enviornmental sustainability." The context that she paints is a difficult and harsh one, implicating the structures that we hold up and so seldom benefit from, but it refuses to allow that the struggle to break free is to blame.

I think I need to go back through and reread the book, jot down notes and spend some more time with her ideas. These are my initial responses, it's a lot to take in, but in my reading I didn't feel that her constructs of 'male' and 'female' were rigidly defined roles, but rather recognition of patriarchal archetypes that are damaging to all individuals.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meet Up?

I am going out of town from the13th to the 19th of feb. Do people want to meet face to face to discuss the book?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Secondary Impressions of King Kong Theory

"I am furious with a society that has educated me without ever teaching me to injure a man if he pulls my thighs apart against my will, when that same society has taught me that this is a crime from which I will never recover"
"Forever guilty of what is done to us. Creatures held responsible for the desire we provoke"
King Kong Theory is growing on me.

At first I found it sort of off-putting in a Valarie Solanis-meets-Camille Paglia kind of way. Her anger is totally justified, but hard for me to let in to my life. I cried a lot reading about her rape. She argues for violence, which I have a hard time with. I agree that self-defense and knowing how to fight is necessary, given the world we live in, but I personally do not want to fight. I hate violence. I don't want to hurt someone even if they are hurting me, but as Virginie Despentes points out, this is exactly what it means to be a woman under patriarchy.

Writing about her rape, she says:
"I wish I'd been able to escape the values instilled in my gender that night and slit each of their throats one by one. Instead of having to live with being someone who didn't dare defend herself, because she's a woman and violence is not her domain and the physical integrity of the male body is more important than that of the female".
"A powerful and ancient political strategy has taught women not to defend themselves".

Well, ok. So in being a pacifist, am I then just brainwashed to be a victim? Her point is that violence is the answer to rape, claiming that that is what a man would do. Her "proof" is to name films made by men, who depict violent response to rape.
She writes:
"When men create female characters, it is rarely an attempt to understand what the characters are experiencing and feeling as women. It tends instead to be a way of depicting male sensibility in a female body"
Citing several examples she claims their message is "why don't you defend yourselves more fiercely".

This discussion takes place in reaction to women who saw Base-Moi as perpetuating violence against women. Her film was banned, but when men have make violent films about rape, they are often celebrated or viewed as entertainment.

Again referring to her own rape, she notes that she had a switchblade in her pocket, but was afraid to use it against 3 men with a gun who she felt were stronger than her:
"At that precise moment I felt female, disgustingly female, in a way I had never felt and have never felt since"
"It was rape that turned me back into a woman, into someone essentially vulnerable"
So, she equates submission, helplessness and being violated with what it means to be a woman. It is hard to argue that this is what it means to be a woman in the society we live in. Under patriarchy, woman=weak. But is that really all we are?

I can identify with her rage and empathize with the pain of her experience, but I don't know if being a woman necessarily equates being in pain…If that is what it means to be female….well, how is viewing the world this way going to help us change it?

She wants us to fight. To continue to risk rape by living our lives freely, going out in public alone at night, being brave and adventurous. But she also claims that rape is what defines her and says that she is "infected", as if it is a disease that she caught that has no cure. This contradiction is at the core of her work.

I don't know what I think about the usefulness or truth of her statements about femininity vs. masculinity, asserting that men are powerful and women are weak. Clearly she is saying that this is the culturally prescribed meaning, not things-as-they-should-be, but things-as-they-are--the social order we are all subject to…still, what good does equating femininity with patriarchal oppression do? Does this perpetuate the gender binary? What about women who enjoy being "girly"? Are we all duped by the patriarchy? Is "the feminine" purely oppressive, something concocted to enslave women, totally subjected on us by men to serve them and control us (like in Stepford Wives) or do woman have a role to play in its cultural construction? And what role does biology play? These are some of the same questions I have for second-wave feminist theory.

A lot of Virginie Despentes claims about "women" and "men" also seem to (ironically) assume that everyone is straight. This is troubling because I don't think this is her world view, but when she describes the world in terms of rape, her generalizations about gender and use of the binary system get more intense.

In all these "universal" claims about men and women we lose sight of a class/race/sexual identity lens. Over and over again she states that men have all the power and women don't have any. But that is not really true, as we know. In reality, upper class white women have more power than many working class men of color and the same is even more true in a global sense…but so far these nuances don't seem to surface in her thinking.

But there is still something really solid and compelling about what she is saying. It's hard for me to think about everything in terms of rape because it does become so polarizing and fear and rage begin to take over my relationship to the world. That is what has been happening to me when I've been reading this book and it's been really overwhelming so far. I keep putting it down and picking it up again.

a repost of my bumpidee reader review: initial impressions

king kong theory by virginie despentes...I asked for and got this book for xmas, since kanako said she might start a book club. I read the first and last chapter and skimmed the rest. that's usually what I do with theory, a habit from school, where you try to figure out what the thesis is and evaluate whether or not it's argued coherently. so far it's more poetic than I expected and rebellious in an in-yr-face punk style, which is rare these days. in that sense it reminds me of s.c.u.m. manifesto by valarie solanis, which I'm not a big fan of although I recognize its historical impact was major --it helped inspire the women's liberation movement for example--but I never got totally into the poetry or rhetoric of solanis like some of my friends did.
I don't know too much about virginie despentes other than that she is a filmmaker. I've heard her compared to catherine breillat. I know some people think her movies reinforce patriarchy in their depiction of violence against women, even though that is not her intent. she's provocative and controversial and seems to be more of an artist than anything. she's interested in power...the weak and the strong...she evokes some of nietzsche's ideas in the genealogy of morals/beyond good and evil... also: lydia lunch helped translate this book.
I'd like to read some contemporary feminist criticism of king kong theory to see how people have reacted to her work. there seem to be some possible limitations here repeated from early 'radical feminism'...radical feminism in the sense of feminists who believe that gender oppression is primary and trumps class or race...that despentes has a class analysis and talks about economics and capitalism is relevant here, but so did many "radical feminists" and as invigorating and influential as a lot of those early texts are, they are limited in scope and have been widely critiqued. I'm not saying king kong theory is necessarily fucked up in the same ways, just that I'm questioning a lot of her claims and some of my thought process is the same as what happens when I read a lot of what is known as radical feminism from the late 60's/early 70's...I am questioning a lot of her generalizations and broad sweeping statements and wishing for more specificity.
these are my initial impressions, which will probably change as I read more. I want to finish this before february so I might actually go ahead and read it this week...but maybe that is just wishful far I'm not super into it, but I can see how it might be totally inspiring if you read it in the right time and place. it's got a lot of anger and vision to it. it's cool to hear someone say "fuck you, this world is totally fucked but I am not". it's a bold thing to say and something that women need to hear. there is a lot of resistance and courage in this work. it's visceral and descriptive.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I woke up this morning and the Beatles were playing on the radio and I thought about Despentes thoughts on the mass sexually overt reaction women had publicly to the band and how this unique phenomenon is rarely researched/discussed. What if we added her thoughts to the wiki-page on beatlemania...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

a repost of my bumpidee reader review:

King Kong Theory By Virginie Despentes

Punk feminist writer/film maker Virginie Despentes wrote King Kong theory, her manifesto in 2005, recently translated from french (w/help from Lydia Lunch!) and released on The Feminist Press.

Virginie is writing from a lower working class, socialized punk, post fame, post rape, post sex worker, 41 year old experience. She is pissed, into who she is and calls a lot of idiots out in this text. Virginie dissects pornography, sexuality, hetero-conditioning, rape...there is a whole lot covered in this little book. She writes about prostitution and how it can liberate/empower women, argues that prostitution threatens upper and middle class women and their financially dependent domestic partnerships and exposes how theses same classy women are making prostitution remain illegal and dangerous (which oppresses sex workers much more then prostitution itself).

Virginie Despentes shares her criticism of the over glorification of motherhood, describes how mothers can act like the ultimate police state, and exposes the trap of motherhood in which women are doomed to feel like failures due to impossible expectations and the dire state of society. She does this all while respecting women who chose motherhood.

One idea of Virgine's that won't stop knocking around in my head is her hypothesis that women who show cleavage/wear make up/uncomfortable shoes/act submissive/seductive (prostitutes excluded) are actually apologizing to men because they feel guilty that men lost (or more are threatened to lose) their macho unearned authority. still processing that idea, but I find it super interesting. King Kong Theory also sympathies for men up against redonkulous masculine ideals and Virginie includes her thoughts on how/why all that is problematic.

Despentes is best known for her rape revenge novel, Bosie-Moi. She also co-directed a film adaptation of her novel with the film's lead actress Coralie Trinh Thi, released in 2000.

killer read, check it out...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

King Kong Theory
Virginie Despentes

With humor, rage, and confessional detail, Virginie Despentes—in her own words “more King Kong than Kate Moss”—delivers a highly charged account of women’s lives today. She explodes common attitudes about sex and gender, and shows how modern beauty myths are ripe for rebelling against. Using her own experiences of rape, prostitution, and working in the porn industry as a jumping-off point, she creates a new space for all those who can’t or won’t obey the rules.

"King Kong Theory is essential reading!"

—Dorothy Allison

"King Kong Theory brings to mind Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto, Muscio’s CUNT, and Plath’s The Bell Jar—feminist eloquence without restraint. You will love it."

—Susie Bright

"Finally someone has done it! The feminist movement needs King Kong Theory now more than ever. A must read for every sex worker, tranny, punk, queer, john, academic, pornographer—and for all those people who dislike them too."

—Annie Sprinkle


F.A.B.B. is back! All are welcome to join us in reading The King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes. Copys of the book will be available in Olympia, WA at wholesale price at Phantom City Records on Feb. 1st. You can also order the book online here:

Feel free to email if you would like to post on this blog.