Can One Defend the Indefensible?
Before I launch into my spiel, I’ll say one thing so everyone knows I’m an equal opportunity blame doler when it comes to pointing out shitty male behaviour. No country or culture is off the hook. Of course, the majority of people often claim moral superiority for their own country or culture and spend a lot of time pointing out the faults of other countries and cultures. And of those others, those upon whom the most blame is heaped are generally women. Women are always to blame for the way misogyny manifests in their country or culture. It’s easy to blame the powerless for the misdeeds of the powerful. So, in short:
- every country and culture hates women,
- the hate manifests in different ways,
- people are generally unable to own the bullshit that happens in their own backyard, preferring to point fingers at other backyards, and
- women are forced to take responsibility for the shitty things men do in said backyards.
Okay, that out of the way, let me move on to what I wanted to talk about.
For a long time now, I’ve lived in a different backyard. It is one that no matter how long I stay in or assimilate into, I will never be allowed to belong to. Monoracial countries are like that. And this particular monoracial country is China. I teach university in China – undergrads, Masters and PhD students. China is a rough place to be in a lot of ways. It has a poor track record in the human rights department. The locals are abused, and foreign workers have severely limited rights and often must put up with very strange and abusive treatment (I’ll save for another post my experience being chained into my college staff building at night.) The people are very racist, xenophobic, traditional, and oh yeah, they hate women. But as mentioned above, they don’t really see any of this, and similar to Americans, most can’t figure out why the world hates them.
And so we get to Americans. China has a love-hate relationship with the US. Personally, I think it’s a ‘study your enemy’ type of thing. There are things they envy about the US (e.g., capitalism), there are things they absolutely hate (e.g., gun violence) and there is a shit-ton of stuff they don’t understand and have developed stereotypes and half-truths about. Even the highly educated believe that what they see in American film and television is true. It is very much like Western people believing that all Chinese know kung fu and play the cello.
One of the things that has become disturbingly and increasingly more popular as a question or topic of discussion among the undergraduates as well as the post-graduate students is what they see as the American obsession with sex. I often get asked why this is so. I also get woman-blaming questions that boil down to ‘Why are Western women such slutty whores???’ and a lot of the male students want to hug, kiss or touch me, because of course, white women are increasingly seen around the world as communal property that will pretty much fuck anyone. We WANT everyone to touch us. Thanks American television and misogyny and dangerous/misguided Third Wave Feminism. Please note that white men are not treated this way. And different racial groups are treated in different ways. You can’t take models that apply in the West and have them work in the same way in other places. And I absolutely don’t want to minimize shitty treatment of non-Chinese women of other races here in China. I am not qualified to talk about what these women experience. Anyhow, female ‘white privilege’ will be talked about in a different post.
I address the subject of Western entertainment carefully. I definitely want to talk about what is happening and make sure that people do some deep thinking about these very important issues. I also like to introduce radical feminism anywhere and everywhere I can. I do see tiny feminist stirrings in a few of the young women I teach. I like to nurture that kind of human rights thinking.
I begin by telling people that hatred of women exists in every country and culture – educated Chinese are beginning to acknowledge and feel shame over the fact that as a culture they have selectively and deliberately aborted female fetuses and killed baby girls – so they can kind of get what I’m saying.
But woman-hate manifests in different ways, I tell them. It is all based on sex. I tell them that in the US, there are some similarities. For example, as in China, Americans fetishize female ‘purity’. But in the US, while baby girls might not be left to die somewhere en masse, society is inundated with pornography. (Pornography is illegal in China – in the US it is fucking ‘free speech’ and ‘art’.) Boys are taught that women exist only for sex and that sex is owed to boys. Rape is sexy shit, and secretly, girls love it. Girls are taught that they must remain pure, but at the same time, they must be as fuckable as possible. It is confusing and dehumanizing. And what you see in mainstream media – news, TV, and film – is evidence of this fuckability mandate. The burgeoning porn and violent porn industry is becoming the number one American export. Something to be proud of.
Anyhow, I use simpler words, but I get this message across to my Chinese students. I want them to see the truth that unites what happens in their country with what happens in the US and everywhere else. That truth being ‘woman hate’.
I also challenge their ideas about television and film. Most of my students tell me that they learn about American culture (meaning ‘all Western culture’) from what they watch. Most can’t afford to travel, so they learn from whatever materials they can get their hands on. So most educated Chinese take what they see on TV and in movies literally. Everyone is rich and beautiful and fucking is the most important thing in life. So I ask them, “Do you believe everything you see in Chinese TV and film? Does everyone do Kung Fu in China like Jackie Chan (Chan Kong-sang)?” They say, “Of course not! That’s crazy!” Then I ask, “Then why would you believe everything you see in American TV and film? Just like Chinese media, it is just entertainment.” That stops them. They think about it. And they realize that TV and film are not educational materials.
I hate being put in a position where I have to defend American culture – especially as a non-American, and especially as a feminist. Some things, I’m happy to talk about. I did post-graduate education in the US and many of my most excellent human-rightsy, hippie friends are American. I have good memories of living there, and I love many things about being there. I’ll talk about volunteer work and hippies and human rights protests. These are positive things about the US. The entertainment world is NOT one of those things, however, and I think it’s only getting worse. Having seen and experienced the impact in developing countries of the mainstream shit that is churned out in the US, and having been at the receiving end of ‘white chicks are rapeable sluts’ in Western and developing countries (which I think is a very serious outcome of what is going on in popular culture), I worry. I worry a lot. And I truly hope these American ‘values’ are not adopted and promulgated elsewhere.
The only thing I can do is make sure dialogue occurs and try to get people to think on a deeper level about what misogyny is and the power it has to destroy all cultures.
Posted on August 23, 2015, in Anti-Feminism, Education, Male Privilege and tagged China, culture, Entertainment, film, misogyny, patriarchy, sex, television, United States. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Can One Defend the Indefensible?.