Saturday, 12 April 2014

Last Night I Saw ‘Cock’

Last night I saw ‘Cock’ and it made me think.
True, that’s what often happens to me on Friday nights.
 Only this time ‘Cock’ was a play at The Theatre Centre.
It was funny as hell.
But the play made me think about identity politics and of course what is wrong with the world and why we are all going to hell in a hand-basket.
            The play ‘Cock’ sends the message that sexual identity politics are (is?) not important. It doesn’t matter whether people are gay or straight. People fall in love with a human being, not a gender, and everyone is truly multi-(or omni) sexual.
            I have lots of problems with this; basically because it’s not true.
            But more important -- the ideas in ‘Cock’ are part of a new trend that presently flowers fiercely both inside and outside of academia:  the ‘Anti Identity Politics Movement’. These days it’s very hip to be against identity politics -- and very old fashioned to speak about straight vs. gay, or male vs. female. The trans movement and the bisexual movement send the same ultra-universal, ultra-inclusive message. If you identify as male or female, straight or gay, you are simply boxing yourself into an oppressive corner. Labels punish people. So why not live in a world without labels? In an ideal world, there would be no need for such exclusive categories such as gender, and there would be no sexual categories. We would be free to love whomever we pleased.
            This new anti-identity trend has put the feminist and queer communities in a unique dilemma. I know women today who still speak proudly of the special experience of being born into a woman’s body in a patriarchal culture. These women are now being told by some trans-activists that for women to talk of themselves proudly as Cisgender women (i.e. women born with vaginas and assigned as female at birth) is oppressive.
Hm. What ever happened to women’s lib? To feminism?  I guess that’s over.
            And Gay Liberation is, of course, necessarily over too.  
            But what’s ironic about this new ‘Anti Identity Politics Movement’ is that it promulgates the same mistaken ideas that were the foundation for Gay Liberation. You see the founders of Gay Liberation did not predict that the happy result of their policies would be a totally ‘gay world’ (all right-wing hate literature to the contrary). What early gay-libbers desired was a world without sexual identity categories where everyone loved whom they wished and sexual identity did not matter.
            Suffice it to say, that after nearly forty-five years of gay liberation and nearly fifty years of feminism in North America, we do not live in a genderless world, or a world without sexuality categories.
            But my big question is this: was this utopia ever possible? And is it even desirable?
            For all these future fantasies are based on a very human delusion – that people everywhere are all, basically the same.
            In our global, tolerant world, (which is of course also rife with hate and religious fundamentalism) we like to pretend that everyone is the same. But this deluded utopian vision simply helps us avoid the very thing we are all afraid of, that deep down we are all fundamentally different.
            It is this human ‘difference’ that is one of the most frightening things about being alive. Yes we might all be very shocked with how our neighbours -- and even some of our friends -- think, feel and act, deep down in their ‘private lives’  (to quote Noel Coward). But the challenge for humanity is to somehow not only be tolerant, but to learn -- from the vast differences that threaten to separate us on a daily basis.
            I do not wish to deny that there is much hate directed at trans people and bisexuals,  and that the hate is unfair and it should stop. But the answer isn’t to yearn for a genderless, ‘sexuality-less’ world.
            The answer is not that we are all the same, but that we must somehow come to terms with how we are all so frighteningly different.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Susan Cole and and Margaret Wente have one thing in common. They’re both in heavy denial about what they really believe.
 It’s a wily tactic. These days everybody wants to appear hip, and most women want to appear as ‘post-feminist cool’ (whatever that means). And yet certain women are able to get away with supremely anti-feminist views without being branded as social conservatives. Margaret and Susan aren’t quite as bad as those niqab-wearing women who insist that by swathing their bodies from head to toe in black fabric they achieve a special kind of sexual equality and gender freedom -- but they’re basically up to the same thing.
Wente is an interesting case. Recently accused of plagiarism (but by no means exonerated) she claims not to be right wing. Yet her columns betray a fundamental, – well – fundamentalism, when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender.
            In a recent Globe and Mail article Wente attacked women pornographers. Her hate filled diatribe suggests that the some feminists find porn empowering “especially if it’s produced by lesbians.” This is patently not true. By allying lesbians with porn, she seems to thing she is taking a cheap jab at lesbians, who Wente obviously dislikes. Wente also has something against large women. She says that female pornographer Courtney Trouble’s films “feature a lot of fat women with nipple piercings and appliances.” And what, may I ask, is wrong with that?
            But the essence of Wente’s argument is also dangerous nonsense. She objects to students studying pornography at the university level, and specifically targets feminist pornographers recently visiting the University of Toronto. Obviously, for Wente, ignorance is bliss. We live in a porn-saturated, sexism-saturated culture. We are bombarded daily with explicit sexist images of women via the internet. These images are accessible to everyone, even children. Does it make sense for universities NOT to teach students how to cast a critical/ political eye on this cultural phenomenon?
            Susan Cole and Margaret Wente may sound like a strange bedfellows, however Cole shares the same anti-sex stance. I have tried to confront Susan in person and in print, about her anti-male, anti-porn position. It’s something she always denies. However in her latest pan of Lars Von Trier’s fascinating and important film Nymphomaniac, she prefers to falsely label Von Trier a misogynist instead of thoughtfully analyzing the thoughtful pro-feminist, pro-women stance the film presents.
            Susan Cole and Margaret Wente are unfortunately not stupid.  Cole knows that if she were to attack Von Trier’s film for defending women’s rights to their bodies, their sexuality, their promiscuity, and their ‘kink’ – she would be ‘outed’ as the sex-hater she really is.
            I’m not a fan of the pompous Von Trier, but this somewhat preachy film, is evidently on the side of women, down to the end (spoiler alert!) when the female protagonist shoots her so-called male friend for attempting to rape her.
            It’s not our fault that Margaret Wente and Susan Cole are a tad dusty and rusty below the belt. And it’s time for them to stop taking their own sexual frustrations out on their fellow women, ranting against pornography, promiscuity and women who like sex.
            And it’s time someone exposed them for what they really are. Old-fashioned women-haters masquerading as modern culture critics.