Analysis of ‘Salomé’

I: Introduction

Salomé is an opera by Richard Strauss that premiered in 1905, the libretto being Hedwig Lachmann‘s German translation (with some editing by Strauss) of Oscar Wilde‘s 1891 French play. Wilde’s play, of course, was in turn inspired by the Biblical narratives in the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew.

Wilde transformed the brief Biblical story, making what’s implied explicit, namely how Salomé’s dance sexually aroused the Tetrarch Herod Antipas, elaborating on it as The Dance of the Seven Veils, considered by some to be the origin, however unwitting, of the modern striptease. Wilde also altered certain details, such as when, in the Biblical version, Herodias tells her daughter, Salomé, to demand the head of John the Baptist; instead, Wilde has Salome ask for “the head of Iokanaan” of her own accord.

Both Wilde’s play and Strauss’s opera caused scandals on their earliest performances, resulting in performances of them being cancelled or banned, for example in London, for many years. Now, Strauss’s opera is considered a masterwork, a regular part of any orchestral or operatic repertoire.

II: Quotes

Here are some quotes from Wilde’s play (some of which are not in Strauss’s opera), in English translation:

“How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!” –Narraboth, the young Syrian, Captain of the Guard

“You are always looking at her. You look at her too much. It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen.” –Herodias’ page

“How pale the Princess is! Never have I seen her so pale. She is like the shadow of a white rose in a mirror of silver.” –Narraboth

“The Jews worship a God that one cannot see.” –First Soldier

“After me shall come another mightier than I. I am not worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of his shoes. When he cometh, the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.” –the voice of Iokanaan, heard from below, in a cistern

“What a strange voice! I would speak with him.” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

[Approaching the cistern and looking down into it.] “How black it is, down there ! It must be terrible to be in so black a hole ! It is like a tomb. . . . .” [To the soldiers.] “Did you not hear me? Bring out the prophet. I would look on him.” –Salomé

“Thou wilt do this thing for me, Narraboth, and to-morrow when I pass in my litter beneath the gateway of the idol-sellers I will let fall for thee a little flower, a little green flower.” –Salomé

“Oh! How strange the moon looks. Like the hand of a dead woman who is seeking to cover herself with a shroud.” –Herodias’ page

“Where is he whose cup of abominations is now full? Where is he, who in a robe of silver shall one day die in the face of all the people? Bid him come forth, that he may hear the voice of him who hath cried in the waste places and in the houses of kings.” –Iokanaan, having emerged from the underground cistern

“It is his eyes above all that are terrible. They are like black holes burned by torches in a tapestry of Tyre. They are like the black caverns of Egypt in which the dragons make their lairs. They are like black lakes troubled by fantastic moons. . . . Do you think he will speak again?” –Salomé, of Iokanaan

“Who is this woman who is looking at me? I will not have her look at me. Wherefore doth she look at me with her golden eyes, under her gilded eyelids? I know not who she is. I do not desire to know who she is. Bid her begone. It is not to her that I would speak.” –Iokanaan, of Salomé

“Speak again, Iokanaan. Thy voice is as music to mine ear.” –Salomé

“Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

“Thy hair is horrible. It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a knot of serpents coiled round thy neck. I love not thy hair. . . . It is thy mouth that I desire, Iokanaan.” […] “There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth. . . . Suffer me to kiss thy mouth.” –Salomé

IOKANAAN: Never! daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! Never.

SALOMÉ: I will kiss thy mouth, Iokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth.

“Cursed be thou! daughter of an incestuous mother, be thou accursed!” –Iokanaan, to Salomé

HEROD: Where is Salomé? Where is the Princess? Why did she not return to the banquet as I commanded her? Ah! there she is!

HERODIAS: You must not look at her! You are always looking at her! […]

HEROD: I am not ill, It is your daughter who is sick to death. Never have I seen her so pale.

HERODIAS: I have told you not to look at her.

HEROD: Pour me forth wine [wine is brought.] Salomé, come drink a little wine with me. I have here a wine that is exquisite. Cæsar himself sent it me. Dip into it thy little red lips, that I may drain the cup.

SALOMÉ: I am not thirsty, Tetrarch.

HEROD: You hear how she answers me, this daughter of yours?

HERODIAS: She does right. Why are you always gazing at her?

HEROD: Bring me ripe fruits [fruits are brought.] Salomé, come and eat fruits with me. I love to see in a fruit the mark of thy little teeth. Bite but a little of this fruit that I may eat what is left.

SALOMÉ: I am not hungry, Tetrarch. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Behold the time is come! That which I foretold has come to pass. The day that I spoke of is at hand.

HERODIAS: Bid him be silent. I will not listen to his voice. This man is for ever hurling insults against me.

HEROD: He has said nothing against you. Besides, he is a very great prophet. […]

A THIRD JEW: God is at no time hidden. He showeth Himself at all times and in all places. God is in what is evil even as He is in what is good.

A FOURTH JEW: Thou shouldst not say that. It is a very dangerous doctrine, it is a doctrine that cometh from Alexandria, where men teach the philosophy of the Greeks. And the Greeks are Gentiles: They are not even circumcised. […]

FIRST NAZARENE, of Jesus: This man worketh true miracles. Thus, at a marriage which took place in a little town of Galilee, a town of some importance, He changed water into wine. Certain persons who were present related it to me. Also He healed two lepers that were seated before the Gate of Capernaum simply by touching them. […]

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN, of Herodias: Ah! the wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her. . . .

HERODIAS: Command him to be silent.

THE VOICE OF IOKANAAN: Let the captains of the hosts pierce her with their swords, let them crush her beneath their shields. […]

HEROD: Dance for me, Salomé.

HERODIAS: I will not have her dance.

SALOMÉ: I have no desire to dance, Tetrarch. […]

HEROD: Salomé, Salomé, dance for me. I pray thee dance for me. I am sad to-night. Yes; I am passing sad to-night. When I came hither I slipped in blood, which is an evil omen; also I heard in the air a beating of wings, a beating of giant wings. I cannot tell what they mean . . . I am sad to-night. Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salomé, I beseech thee. If thou dancest for me thou mayest ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: [Rising.] Will you indeed give me whatsoever I shall ask of thee, Tetrarch? […]

HEROD: Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, even unto the half of my kingdom.

SALOMÉ: You swear it, Tetrarch?

HEROD: I swear it, Salomé. […]

SALOMÉ: I am ready, Tetrarch. [Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.]

HEROD: Ah! wonderful! wonderful! You see that she has danced for me, your daughter. Come near, Salomé, come near, that I may give thee thy fee. Ah! I pay a royal price to those who dance for my pleasure. I will pay thee royally. I will give thee whatsoever thy soul desireth. What wouldst thou have? Speak.

SALOMÉ [Kneeling]: I would that they presently bring me in a silver charger . . .

HEROD [Laughing]: In a silver charger? Surely yes, in a silver charger. She is charming, is she not? What is it thou wouldst have in a silver charger, O sweet and fair Salomé, thou art fairer than all the daughters of Judæa? What wouldst thou have them bring thee in a silver charger? Tell me. Whatsoever it may be, thou shalt receive it. My treasures belong to thee. What is it that thou wouldst have, Salomé?

SALOMÉ [Rising]: The head of Iokanaan.

HERODIAS: Ah! that is well said, my daughter.

HEROD: No, no!

HERODIAS: That is well said, my daughter. […]

“You have sworn an oath, Herod.” –Salomé

“Well, thou hast seen thy God, Iokanaan, but me, me, thou didst never see. If thou hadst seen me thou hadst loved me. I saw thee, and I loved thee. Oh, how I loved thee! I love thee yet, Iokanaan, I love only thee. . . . I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire. . . Ah! ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me? If thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me. Well I know that thou wouldst have loved me, and the mystery of love is greater that the mystery of death.” –Salomé, holding and gazing upon the severed head of Iokanaan

“She is monstrous, thy daughter I tell thee she is monstrous.” –Herod, to Herodias

“Ah! I have kissed thy mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed thy mouth. There was a bitter taste on my lips. Was it the taste of blood ? . . . Nay; but perchance it was the taste of love. . . . They say that love hath a bitter taste. . . . But what matter? what matter? I have kissed thy mouth.” –Salomé, still with Iokanaan’s head

HEROD: [Turning round and seeing Salomé.] Kill that woman! [The soldiers rush forward and crush beneath their shields Salomé, daughter of Herodias, Princess of Judæa.]

III: Themes and Beginning

Recurring themes in the play/opera include these: lust, with gazing/leering/staring at the object of desire, hence objectification; the conflict between, and complementarity of, opposites (love/loathing, spirituality/carnality, desire/disgust, white/black, male/female roles, beauty/ugliness, life/death, victim/victimizer, etc.); and the decadence of the ruling classes, as against the assurances for the oppressed that revolution, redemption, and liberation are soon to come.

The story begins at night, just outside a banquet held by Herod, his wife, Herodias (widow of his half-brother, Herod II), and her daughter, Salomé, along with all their guests in Herod’s palace. The moon is shining, silvery-white and bright. Silvery-white because, as Narraboth says, “She [the moon] is like a little princess…whose feet are of silver,” and “who has little white doves for feet.”

Narraboth, a young Syrian and Captain of the Guard, amorously declares how beautiful Salomé looks. The Page of Herodias wishes he wouldn’t always stare at her, for the Page fears that disaster will come of his passion.

The moon is a pale, virgin, silvery white, as is Salomé’s flesh. The moon looks so pale and white, “She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman,” as the page of Herodias observes.

The princess-moon, with her innocent white feet, can drive men lunatic, as can Salomé’s virginal beauty; as, in turn, the holy purity of similarly-pale Iokanaan drives her mad with love for him. In this play, virginal innocence is dialectically related to the deadly sin of lust: the one opposite dissolves into the other.

IV: Enter Salomé

Salomé leaves the banquet area, finding it disturbing how Herod keeps staring at her with lust in his eyes. Of course, Narraboth is eyeing her similarly, but she will soon be an ogler herself, for she hears the voice of Iokanaan from the cistern below.

He has spoken harsh words against her mother, Herodias, as well as against Herod (i.e., his incestuous marriage with his half-brother’s widow); Salomé knows of this, but instead of being offended by Iokanaan’s words, she’s intrigued. It seems evident that Salomé has hardly any less contempt for her mother than she does for her adoptive father: alienation, including that between family members, is a typical symptom in a world of class conflict, in this case, that of the ancient slave vs. master variety.

Thus, any speaker of ill against Salomé’s family is a singer of sweet music to her ears. Small wonder she’d like to take a look at that mysterious man down in that dark, yonic pit. She looks down into it, awed by its darkness. This blackness, of course, is associated with Iokanaan’s mysticism. An ominous, eerie tritone is heard in the musical background when she looks into the cistern and notes its blackness, near the beginning of scene two.

Let’s compare some images used so far. Pale Salomé is consistently associated with the silvery-white, virginal moon, an ominous orb portending imminent evil. The cistern is black, as Salomé observes, but since it houses a holy man, a celibate man, it could be seen as virginal, too, the yoni of a virgin such as Salomé herself. The cistern’s blackness thus has a dialectical relationship with the silvery-white moon, which phases from white full moon to black new moon, and back again. Iokanaan, like the moon, also portends an evil coming too soon for comfort.

She insists on having Iokanaan brought out so she can see him, to have his mysteries revealed…just as Herod will want Salomé to dance a striptease for him, to reveal her anatomic mysteries. The lecherous, decadent tetrarch, of course, also hopes to make the young beauty replace her mother as his new queen, so her virginal yoni‘s dark secrets can be revealed to him…just as she wishes to have Iokanaan, the secret of the dark yoni of the cistern, revealed to her eyes.

The parallels between Iokanaan’s display and that of her nakedness continue, first with Narraboth’s and the soldiers’ insistence that the prophet not be allowed out (by Herod’s orders), on the one hand, and Herodias’ disapproval of her daughter dancing erotically for Herod. Also, Salomé entices Narraboth with suggestions of her favouring him (offering a green flower and a smile) if he’ll allow Iokanaan to come out, and Herod entices her with an oath to give her anything she wants if she’ll dance for him. Both Narraboth and Salomé are persuaded to do what they’d otherwise never do.

V: Enter John the Baptist

Iokanaan emerges from the cistern, pale, hairy, and filthy, but always shouting his imprecations against the decadent kings and queens of the world, especially Herodias. His holiness inspires Salomé’s passion for him, symbolizing the dialectical relationship between the erotic and the ascetic (something also explored in Hindu myth, as Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty observed in Siva: the Erotic Ascetic, pages 33-36).

At first, Salomé loves Iokanaan’s white flesh, a parallel of the love Narraboth and Herod have for her pale flesh. The prophet, of course, rejects her wish to touch his body; indeed, he can’t even bear to have this “daughter of Sodom” look at him. She’s angered by his rejection, feeling narcissistic injury, no doubt; but his chastity fascinates her all the same.

Salomé is used to having a train of admiring men following her everywhere, leering at her, lusting after her. Such men bore her, annoy her, inspire her contempt; but Iokanaan is no lecherous pig. With him, the sexes are reversed, and the man is disgusted with the woman’s lechery. She’s hurt by his rejection, but she can only admire him all the more for it. This man’s spiritual willpower is as rare as her physical beauty is, and her desire for him is made all the hotter for this.

As soon as he rejects her, she speaks ill of his whitest of white body, which she’s just finished praising. Now she speaks of loving his blackest of black hair; note the immediate juxtaposition of opposites–loved/loathed, beautiful/ugly, and white/black. When he rejects her wish to touch his hair, she’s now repelled by it and begins loving his red lips.

VI: Baiser

She wants to kiss his mouth, saying in Wilde’s French: “Laisse-moi baiser ta bouche.” Baiser, as a verb, originally meant ‘to kiss,’ but it grew to mean ‘to fuck,’ this new meaning starting as early as the 16th or 17th century, having been used this way in, for example, a few poems by François Maynard. This usage began to grow more common by the beginning of the 20th century, prompting the French to start using embrasser to mean ‘to kiss’ instead.

My point is, given the already shockingly erotic overtones of Wilde’s play, as well as in his choice to write it in French instead of his usual English, did he use baiser as a double entendre? Was he suggesting a secondary meaning, a cunnilingus fantasy of Salomé’s, to get head from Iokanaan?

Now Strauss, in using a German translation for his opera, used the word küssen, which only means ‘to kiss.’ Perhaps he was aware of the growing use of the sexual meaning of baiser, and wanted to mitigate the scandal by eliminating that problematic French word. I’m guessing that my speculations hadn’t been discussed by critics back around the turn of the 20th century, given the-then taboo nature of this subject; but this taboo use of baiser has been discussed more recently.

VII: Lustful Staring

Back to the story. The prophet is so shocked by this “daughter of Babylon” that he curses her and goes back down into the cistern. Salomé’s unfulfillable desire has turned into an obsession; speaking of which, Narraboth’s has caused him to implode with sexual jealousy, since he can see she clearly prefers Iokanaan to him. Thus, he stabs himself and dies, fulfilling Herodias’ page’s dire prediction that his obsessive, mesmerized staring at Salomé would bring evil.

Of course, the young Syrian hasn’t been the only one staring at Salomé to the point of such ogling being dangerous. Herod enters with Herodias; he slips on Narraboth’s spilled blood, an obvious omen.

The tetrarch speaks of the silvery-white moon and Salomé’s pale skin, an evident identifying of the one with the other, just as Salomé has identified the chaste moon with celibate Iokanaan. We see more unions of opposites: virginity and whorish objects of desire, in both her and the prophet.

Herodias is annoyed with Herod’s staring at her daughter, with Iokanaan’s insulting diatribes against her, and Herod’s–to her, absurd–belief in omens and prophecies. She is a purely materialist, decadent queen: the moon is just the moon to her.

She wishes he would just give Iokanaan over to the ever-disputatious Jews, who come out and begin a clamorous storm of debating over whether Iokanaan has seen God, whether he is Elijah having returned, and whether this or that dogma is correct. This is another example of wanting to know mysteries, to see secrets.

In all of this arguing among the Jews, we see dramatized the dialectic of contradictory viewpoints. Added to this is the contradiction between the Jewish point of view and that of the Nazarenes, who now come onstage.

VIII: Revolution

Since the Crucifixion hasn’t happened yet, discussion of how the Messiah will save the Jews from their sins is never in the Pauline notion of a Divine Rescuer dying and resurrecting, so that believing in Him will confer God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins. Instead, salvation for the Jews is understood to come in the form of a revolution against Palestine’s Roman imperialist oppressors. Recall Matthew 10:34.

Revolution! Insurrection! Such words terrify decadent rulers like Herod and Herodias, who naturally don’t want to lose their privileges as members of the ruling class. Thus do we see the dialectic move, from the Hegelian sort we heard among the debating Jews, to the materialist sort that Marx discussed: the contradiction between the rich and poor.

Iokanaan prophesies the downfall of sinful rulers like incestuous Herod and Herodias, as well as the redemption of the downtrodden. As the prophet says at the beginning of Wilde’s play, “the solitary places shall be glad. They shall blossom like the rose. The eyes of the blind shall see the day, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened. The suckling child shall put his hand upon the dragon’s lair, he shall lead the lions by their manes.”

Such welcome changes can be seen to symbolize revolutionary relief given to the suffering. The blind seeing, and the deaf hearing, suggests the enlightenment of the poor, hitherto ignorant of the true causes of their sorrows. The idea of gladdened solitary places suggests the replacement of alienation with communal love. The suckling child, with his hand on the dragon’s lair, and leading the lions, suggests the end of the oppression of the weak by the strong, replacing it with equality.

Marx similarly prophesied the end of the rule of the bourgeois, to be replaced by communist society. The bourgeois today, like threatened Herod and Herodias, are scared of their imminent downfall, for many believe their days are numbered.

My associating Iokanaan with Marx is no idle fancy, for in 1891, the very same year Wilde wrote Salomé, he also wrote The Soul of Man under Socialism, inspired by his reading of Peter Kropotkin, and in which Wilde considered Jesus to be a symbol of the extreme individualist he idealized. Wilde would also have been aware of the short-lived Paris Commune twenty years prior, which Marx joyfully described as being a manifestation of his notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

IX: The Music

It seems apposite, at this belated point, finally to discuss Strauss’s music. Influenced by Wagner’s musical dramas, Strauss used Leitmotivs (“leading motives”) for each character in Salomé, as well as for many key moments or concepts in the story.

There’s the light, dreamy Leitmotiv heard when Narraboth expresses his admiration for Salomé’s beauty at the beginning of the opera. There’s the Leitmotiv when she sings of wanting “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” which gets increasingly dissonant with her every iteration of the demand for it, to ever-reluctant Herod.

And there are Leitmotivs for Iokanaan and his prophetic abilities, the former being a stately, dignified chordal theme heard on the horns; and the latter melody being a trio of fourths, C down to G, then F down to C, then–instead of another, third perfect fourth–there’s a tritone of A down to D-sharp, then up to E, now a perfect fourth (relative to the previous A). These three sets of perfect fourths symbolize Triune, holy, divine perfection; the tritone, though the diabolus in musica, nonetheless resolves to E, symbolizing a prophecy of sinning imperfection soon to be made perfect, redeemed.

Strauss, as a late Romantic/early modern composer, anticipated many of the revolutionary musical ideas soon to be realized in full by such modernists as Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg, and Webern. Strauss was thus a kind of musical Iokanaan. Strauss, through his extreme chromaticism, pushed tonality to its limits, while not quite emancipating the dissonance, as Schoenberg would soon do. Since some have seen the emancipation of the dissonance as linked with the emancipation of society and of humanity, the music of Strauss–as musical Iokanaan–can be seen symbolically as heralding the coming of that social liberation I mentioned above.

The harsh discords in his score symbolize the contradictions not only in the class conflict between the decadent rulers (puppet rulers for imperial Rome) and the oppressed poor, but also in the conflicts between what Narraboth, Salomé, Iokanaan, Herod, and Herodias each wants. Also, the contrast between these dissonant moments and the prettier, more tuneful sections suggests the dialectical relationships between beauty and ugliness, and love and loathing.

Finally, the choice of ‘harsh‘ (at least from the point of view of English speakers), guttural German–instead of Wilde’s erotically lyrical (if a tad idiosyncratic) French–reinforces the dramatic tension, especially when Salomé demands the prophet’s head on a silver charger.

X: Dance for Me, Salomé

Back to the story. Herod is so obviously troubled, on the one hand by the threats Iokanaan is making against his rule, and on the other by his fear of the prophet as a man of God–which means he can’t kill him–that the soldiers note the tetrarch’s sombre look.

Herod hopes that Salomé will dance for him, to take his mind off his troubles. This escape into sensuous pleasure is an example of the manic defence, to avoid facing up to what makes one so unhappy.

Always annoyed that her husband stares lustfully at her daughter, Herodias forbids Salomé to dance for him. But his oath to give her anything she wants, even to half of his kingdom, puts a sly grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye; so Salome agrees to dance.

Wilde‘s brief stage direction, of Salomé dancing in seven veils, has been made so much of. It says nothing explicitly of a striptease, but why else would she dance in those veils, if not to remove them one by one?

Strauss’s exotic, sensuous music certainly makes much of the dance, starting with a slow, erotic, mysterious aura and building up to a fast, frenzied, and dissonant climax, once almost all (or absolutely all, depending on the boldness of the woman playing Salomé) of the veils have been removed.

XI: Getting Naked

As each veil is removed, more of the mysteries of her body are revealed to horny Herod, just as the mystery of Iokanaan was revealed to lascivious Salomé when he emerged from the vaginal cistern. This story is all about the desire to have secrets revealed, including, as the Jews obsess over, the mysteries of God, through such things as prophecies, as the Nazarenes are concerned with. Mysteries thus may be sensual or spiritual: note the dialectical relationship between these two.

While we usually think of men objectifying women, as Herod is doing with Salomé here, in Salomé the objectifying is a two-way street, since she lusts after chaste Iokanaan. And while it is usual and correct to be concerned with the injuries done to female strippers, sex workers, and pornographic models and actresses, consider how pathetic the men are, those addicted to porn, prostitutes, and strippers, using these as a manic defence to avoid facing their own sadness. Consider their shame at knowing what pigs they’re being (or at least seen as being), each a modern Herod, walking guiltily in and out of strip joints, whorehouses, and the porn sections of DVD rentals.

There are two sides to objectification: the view to destroy, as Salomé does to Iokanaan, and as Herod does to Salomé at the end of the opera; and there’s the view to admire, to worship the beautiful object, as any connoisseur of art understands…and as Salomé and Herod also do to their adored objects. Looking to admire and to destroy are, again, dialectically related. This obsessive urge to look, a pagan adoration of divinity that is–in this opera–thematically related to whether or not the Jew or Nazarene has ‘seen’ God, is also a weakness that can be exploited.

Salomé is certainly using her sexuality to take advantage of this weakness of Herod’s. And since, on the one hand, the tetrarch is objectifying and using her for his pleasure, getting her to strip down to a state of nude vulnerability; and on the other hand, she’s turning his lust against him, we have here a male/female variant of Hegel‘s master/slave dialectic, or a dialectic of feminism meeting antifeminism.

XII: Switching Roles

The master (Herod) uses the, so to speak, slave (Salomé) for his own pleasure, but she uses her creativity (her dance) to build up her own mastery over him. Thus, master and slave switch roles, making her especially triumphant, since she’ll cause the doom of two men–decapitated Iokanaan, and the revolutionary toppling of Herod, as it is assumed will happen to him when the Nazarenes (and God!) are so enraged to learn of the execution of their beloved prophet.

Women are perceived to be inspiring of lust and sin (the misogynistic, antifeminist side of the dialectic), yet Salomé and Herodias triumph in thwarting the tetrarch and killing the male religious authority (the feminist side). What’s more, Salomé is all the more feminist in wishing for Iokanaan’s head for her own pleasure, not out of obedience to her mother.

Herod pleads with Salomé to ask for something else. The tetrarch has made himself a slave to his oath, of which she’s the master. He offers her rare jewels, ones even her mother doesn’t know he has; he offers her rare white peacocks. All she does is repeat her demand for “den Kopf des Jochanaan,” each time given more and more aggressively, with increasingly tense music in the background. Finally, he is forced, in all exasperation, to relent.

XIII: The Head

When the executioner is down in the dark cistern, Salomé waits by the hole and listens. Suspense is built when she hears nothing. She grows impatient, thinking she’ll need the soldiers to do the job she imagines the slave who went down with his axe is too incompetent or cowardly to do. Nonetheless, he emerges with Iokanaan’s bloody head. The ruling class’s indulgence of their petty desires always brings about violence of this sort.

Still, there are contradictions even among the desires of the different members of the ruling class. Herod is horrified to see Salomé’s maniacal gazing at the head, but Herodias is pleased to no end. Salomé kisses the mouth, triumphant in having achieved what the living prophet refused to let her do. In her mania, she imagines for the moment that Iokanaan’s eyes should be looking at her, as if the severed head could possibly be alive. She is thus disappointed that the eyes don’t look at her.

She wishes that he could have accepted her love, that if he’d looked at her, that if he’d just let her kiss his mouth, he would have loved her back, for love is a greater mystery than death.

XIV: Decapitation as Symbolic Castration

Since Wilde’s use of baiser has the implied secondary meaning of “to fuck,” and since she says, “Ah! thou wouldst not suffer me to kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. Well! I will kiss it now. I will bite it with my teeth as one bites a ripe fruit. Yes, I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan,” she is implying that she has a symbolic vagina dentata, which will castrate him when they make love. She compares his body to a column of ivory, a column being a phallic symbol. Thus, ‘fucking’ his mouth with the implied vagina dentata means his decapitation is a symbolic castration.

Herod’s unwillingness to have Iokanaan beheaded is thus an example of castration anxiety, especially since loss of the phallus is a symbolic loss of power. Herod’s fear of Iokanaan’s execution provoking a Nazarene revolution, spearheaded by none other than God, reinforces this symbolic fear of castration. Iokanaan’s “Kopf” is a cock.

XV: Conclusion–Who Wins the Sex War (and the Class War)?

Salomé (and by extension Herodias, since she has wanted Iokanaan’s death from the beginning), having the prophet’s head in her arms, is now symbolically the powerful phallic woman. She, especially in her madness and perversity, is a threat to Herod. Regarding her as “monstrous,” he orders all the torches to be put out. He says, “Hide the moon! Hide the stars!” For the whiteness of the moon and stars resemble her pale skin far too much for his comfort.

Finally, the male/female dialectic sways back in the antifeminist direction, and Herod orders his soldiers to “Kill that woman!” The men surround Salomé with their shields, and crush her to death with them, ending the opera with a barrage of discords.

Still, we know that the days of all decadent kings and queens–as well as those of the tetrarch, it seems–are numbered. Herod is still quaking in fear over the consequences of killing a holy man. The Nazarenes believe the tetrarch cannot stop the march of God through history, just as we Marxists believe the bourgeoisie cannot stop the dialectical movement of historical materialism.

Herod can hide the moon and the stars for only so long. Recall Iokanaan’s words: “In that day the sun shall become black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon shall become like blood, and the stars of the heaven shall fall upon the earth like unripe figs that fall from the fig-tree, and the kings of the earth shall be afraid.”

Furthermore, Salomé may be dead, but her double, that pale moon overhead, is still shining. In his poem, ‘Problems of Gender,’ Robert Graves wondered which gender to assign the moon, asking, “who controls the regal powers of night?” In Salomé, I think we know which sex controls them.

Analysis of ‘Viridiana’

Viridiana is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican film by Luis Buñuel, loosely based on the novel Halma by Benito Pérez Galdós, and starring Silvia Pinal in the title role, as well as Fernando Rey, Margarita Lozano, and Francisco Rabal. As usual, Buñuel criticizes the Church and bourgeois society in this film. It is about a novice soon to take her vows as a nun, but who finds it increasingly difficult–due to external pressure, or internal?–to reconcile herself with the moral ideals of the Church.

Viridiana was the co-winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.

Here are a few quotes in English translation:

Viridiana: I know my own weakness, and whatever I do will be humble. But, however little it is, I want to do it alone.

Jorge: I always knew that you and I were going to end up playing cards together!

Verdiana was the name of a generous, charitable saint who secluded herself for 34 years to focus on her faith. The Viridiana of this film is similarly, if not so extremely, reclusive, but just as generous and charitable. Her name comes from a word meaning ‘green’: I think of an old meaning of green, from back in Shakespeare’s time, meaning ‘youthful, inexperienced, immature’; but also, ‘fresh, recent, new’ (Crystal and Crystal, page 205), strongly implying ‘pure.’ There is, indeed, a strong sense that this novice embodies all of these definitions, in more ways than one.

She also happens to be a beautiful young blonde, most desirable to men; her choice to become a nun seems to be, at least in part, motivated by a fear of sexually predatory men. Her virgin purity makes her all the more attractive to her uncle, Don Jaime (Rey), who finds that she reminds him of his late bride, who died before he could even consummate their marriage.

When devotion is carried too far.

His preoccupation with her beauty and purity reminds me of Heinrich Heine‘s poem:

Du bist wie eine Blume,
So hold und schön und rein;
Ich schau’ dich an, und Wehmut
Schleicht mir ins Herz hinein.

Mir ist, als ob ich die Hände
Aufs Haupt dir legen sollt’,
Betend, dass Gott dich erhalte
So rein und schön und hold.
You are like a flower,
So lovely, fair and pure;
I gaze at you and wistful
Melancholy slips into my heart.

It’s as though I ought to place
My hands upon your head
And pray God to ever keep you
So pure, fair, and lovely.

This notion of extreme purity leads to an exploration of the themes of modesty, humility, and every other point on the circular continuum I symbolize with the ouroboros, including the dialectical opposites of pride (the serpent’s biting head) vs. shame (the bitten tail). Viridiana is so particular about her maidenly modesty, it’s a source of narcissistic pride for her. Thus, even the mere suggestion of male physical closeness feels like a violation to her.

This excessive modesty comes from her stern Catholic upbringing, once again Buñuel’s satirical target. She has no interest in visiting her Uncle Jaime, whom she’s met only once; but she’s pressured into visiting him by her mother superior. She’d rather stay secluded and cloistered, suggesting she regards the Church as more of a family than her biological one. I suspect she had an unhappy family upbringing, driving her to the Church for a replacement.

Viridiana, the Mary wanna-be.

The Virgin Mary seems to be an idealized parental imago for Viridiana, the perfect mother who represents an ego ideal to which she aspires. We get a sense of this when she prays the Angelus with the homeless people. Mary is “full of grace” (κεχαριτωμένη), which the Catholic Church interprets as a kind of purity existing from birth, the Immaculate Conception. Viridiana would thus want to identify with Mary, for narcissistic reasons.

Any man even making a pass at her threatens this purity she so covets, causing her narcissistic injury. Viridiana, I suspect, has transferred her feelings of maternal love to Mary, just as Don Jaime, admiring Viridiana’s beauty and purity, transfers his love of his deceased bride onto her, especially since the two women look so alike. Indeed, transference is a major theme in this Freudo-Marxist film.

Normally, one thinks of transference in the psychoanalytical setting; the patient transfers the feelings of a powerful emotional bond, especially one from childhood, onto the therapist. Viridiana has made this kind of transference onto Mary, her ‘therapist.’ Similarly, Viridiana has become, however unwittingly, Jaime’s ‘therapist.’ They are using their transferences in an attempt to heal, though these attempts ultimately fail.

On the first night of Viridiana’s visit, we see her in her bedroom, taking off black stockings to reveal her delicious legs; Buñuel’s lustful camera does a closeup on them, another example of his irreverence towards Church authority. She unpacks a large wooden crucifix and a crown of thorns. She’s so devoted to her faith, she’d rather sleep on the hard floor, as Jaime’s servant, Ramona, notes.

Sleepwalking Viridiana tosses yarn into the fire.

Now, Ramona is an interesting character to compare and contrast with Viridiana. Jaime’s servant is dutiful, bashful, and modest, but also lacking in the novice’s religious pretensions. This is another of Buñuel’s jabs at the Church. And who, I’m curious, is the father of Ramona’s naughty, nosy daughter Rita? Jaime has been kind enough to take mother and daughter in: is the girl an illegitimate child, as Jaime’s son, Jorge, is? Again, we see Buñuel’s alternative morality to the hypocritical one of the Church.

I suspect that Ramona has a secret love for Jaime, an Oedipal feeling, perhaps, transferred from her father onto her master, but a feeling she’s too shy to express openly. In any case, after he hangs himself and she meets Jorge, she transfers her love from father to handsome son…and feels that love more overtly, this time.

The morning of the second day of Viridiana’s visit, she goes to a servant milking a cow. She tries pulling on one of the cow’s teats; but they are long, even phallic in length. She can’t bring herself to handle them, as doing so, it seems, far too much resembles masturbating a man to orgasm (i.e., the squirting out of the milk). Her pious modesty is so extreme, she cannot do anything even vaguely redolent of sexuality.

Then, naughty Rita agitates her by saying she saw her in her nightgown the night before, having sneaked a peek from a nearby terrace. Viridiana blenches at even having been spied on by a pre-teen girl.

That night, Jaime has been fetishizing the bridal clothes of his deceased wife; he puts his too-large foot into one of her high heels (symbolic intercourse wish-fulfillment), then stands before a mirror while almost trying on her girdle. Apart from the erotic overtones of these actions, we sense his pathetic yearning for his lost love, his unfulfillable wish to be at one with her.

Then he sees Viridiana sleepwalking in that white nightgown, with her pretty bare feet and lower legs exposed. She is doubly vulnerable before him, in a relative state of undress, and unaware of it. The thought of his predatory eyes on her will terrify her when he tells her what he’s seen the next morning.

During her sleepwalking, she’s also psychologically naked and vulnerable, for her unconscious is let loose, expressing her hidden desires, if only symbolically. Kneeling at his fireplace, she empties a basket of yarn and needles into the fire, representing an unconscious wish to be rid of clothing, the antithesis of a nun’s modesty. She has a bad habit, it seems.

Don Jaime (Rey) and his niece, Viridiana (Pinal)

Then she gathers ashes in the basket and takes them to his bedroom, then sprinkles them on his bed; the ashes, we learn the next day, are a symbol of penitence…and death. What has she to repent of…secret, repressed sexual desires? Death associated with his bed suggests once again the marriage of the life (e.g., sex) and death drives.

The next day, Don Jaime, so captivated by Viridiana’s beauty, her purity (So hold und schön und rein), and of course her resemblance to her deceased aunt, asks her to dress up in her bridal gown, another shocking thing to do, in Viridiana’s view. The deceased bride, having worn white to the wedding, was in all probability a virgin (especially given the conservative mores of the time); but Viridiana–though complying–still feels uncomfortable doing it, as she feels like a sex object.

She of course is being objectified and ogled by her uncle, who has Ramona drug Viridiana’s coffee. Ramona, wholly devoted to her master, will do whatever he wants her to do, even as wicked a thing as helping him take advantage of his unconscious niece! Why? I suspect because Ramona secretly wishes Jaime desired her in the same way…also, allowing Viridiana to be deflowered–and thus, shamed–would serve Ramona because of sexual jealousy. Hence, she doesn’t mind telling Viridiana of Jaime’s shameful wish to marry his niece. Still, he’s a good man, in Ramona’s mind.

Don Jaime, Viridiana, and Ramona (Lozano)

Viridiana is already uneasy enough knowing her uncle is the father of an illegitimate child (Jorge), for such is her lofty moral ideal. Her purity is part of what makes her so attractive to him; she looks so sexy in that virginal white dress…and she knows exactly how he feels about her.

Being in that dress with him at night is, of course, a reenacting of his wedding night with her aunt, when she died of a heart attack before he could consummate the marriage. This lonely, reclusive man has yearned to have that night given back to him, and now he can have it back through Viridiana.

Even before Ramona has given her the drugged coffee, Viridiana can sense her uncle’s lust; wearing that bridal gown strongly implies a soon-t0-be-lost virginity, which is anathema, horrifying to her. By helping Jaime satisfy his desire, though, Ramona can satisfy hers vicariously through Viridiana. Meanwhile, little Rita is frightened by a bull she claims entered her bedroom; the animal represents a sexually predatory male…is this an omen of what’s to come between Jaime and Viridiana?

While sexual assault (of anyone, woman, man, or child) is of course never defensible, especially to a communist like Buñuel, Viridiana’s predicament can be seen unconsciously, symbolically as a wish-fulfillment in that it desecrates the Catholic ideal of sexual purity in a woman. Destroying this impossible ideal by demonstrating its unattainability can liberate women sexually, by making them give up on it. Indeed, Viridiana will be so liberated at the end of the film.

Note that Jaime never carries out his plan to deflower her. While she’s unconscious, and Mozart‘s Requiem Mass is playing (symbolizing a fusion of the libido and death drive), he kisses her on the lips, unbuttons her top to reveal her creamy cleavage, then kisses her there (and naughty Rita spies on them); but moral scruple makes him come to his senses, and he stops. He mustn’t stain such divine purity.

Jaime burns with lust…and love…for his niece.

So hold und schön und rein.

The next morning, when he tells her he took advantage of her while she was out cold, even when he later insists he never actually penetrated her, she can’t be certain of which statement is the truth, and which the lie–has he, or has he not raped her? So she, “for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety,” and imagine the worst. But how can she be unsure of what’s happened? Surely she knows that she will feel vaginal soreness, pain from a ruptured hymen, that there will be blood, if he’s had her.

He lies about having intercourse with her while she slept (later admitting he’s lied) so she’ll think her ‘stained’ body will make her unworthy of being a nun, then she’ll have nowhere else to go but to live with him. She’s afraid of male sexual predation to a far greater degree than the average woman, religiously devoted or not—why?

I don’t think we’re supposed to believe she was sexually abused at an earlier period of her life (though she, in all likelihood, has endured men’s leers and groping hands on many occasions throughout her life); for if she was raped, given the strict Catholic morality of her world, she surely would have already considered herself too ‘unclean’ to be a nun.

Now, for her, the meaning of sexual assault is expanded to mean “that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Furthermore, given the way rape victims tend to be slut-shamed, especially in Viridiana’s prudish world, she will feel as guilty, however unjustifiably, of having ‘tempted’ her attackers as they are of attacking her.

So hold, und schön, und rein…und schlafend.

So her fears about whatever Don Jaime has done while she’s been unconscious are not based on a fear of possibly having been penetrated, nor do they seem to be a kind of PTSD reliving of what may have happened to her sometime before the beginning of this film. His having touched her, kissed her, and partially undressed her are rape enough. 

And how far did he undress her? She has no idea. We know he only unbuttoned her top: he saw her cleavage, but not her whole breasts. Still, how does she know he didn’t undress her further? Does he know what her whole naked body looks like? Did he fondle her nakedness? Taste it? How many of her anatomical secrets does he know of?

Even the few of those secrets that Don Jaime knows would be enough to make any woman cringe, because they have been divulged without consent (consider the complaints against lecherous Bill Cosby to see my point). But for a woman as proud of keeping her secrets hidden as Viridiana is, her uncle’s–however slight–‘breaking and entering,’ as it were, is all the more outrageous and unbearable.

She feels the shame, but don’t forget that he does, too. After all, he’s the sinner, not she…and no one is more aware of his exclusive guilt than he is. He’s so tearfully desperate to get her forgiveness that, when he doesn’t get it, he hangs himself.

What we must remember is that he doesn’t merely lust after her–he’s fallen in love with her (which is not to excuse him for his scurrilous scheming), out of her resemblance, in her looks, her walk, her voice, in every way, to his beloved late bride. He’s transferred that deep passion onto Viridiana.

Buñuel has been said to have valued sex over love: this seems to be a vulgar, bourgeois interpretation of his frank depiction of sexuality in his films, and it’s utter nonsense. Buñuel uses sex to enhance love, to free it from the bourgeois chains of Church morality.

Jorge (Rabal), his girlfriend Lucia (Victoria Zinny), and Buñuel.

Another theme in this film is that of solitude. Viridiana prefers being cut off from the larger society: if not hidden from it in the convent, then in the outbuilding section of late Jaime’s estate, which he’s left to her and Jorge. Her religious solitude, as I’ve said above, echoes that of the saint who shares her name; but is this solitude out of spiritual conviction, or social alienation?

Jaime’s solitude is certainly out of alienation, for he, as a bourgeois, rentier capitalist, is inevitably affected by the estrangement that capitalism causes. He has some goodness, though, as all the characters in Viridiana are each a mix of good and bad. For example, Jaime has taken in Ramona and Rita, and he even saves a bee from drowning.

His illegitimate son, Jorge, has a sexual interest in Viridiana that bothers both her and his jealous, live-in girlfriend, Lucia, who soon leaves him; but he isn’t the type to rape a woman. The worst he does is to walk into Viridiana’s bedroom without her permission. He kisses Ramona on the lips only because he knows, from the longing in her eyes, that she is aching for his kiss.

Still yearning to be a good Christian even though she feels unworthy of being a nun, Viridiana takes in a group of beggars to live in the outbuilding part of the house. As pitiable as these wretches are, though, they’re far from virtuous; they make one of them, a bald fellow without his upper front teeth, into a pariah because his varicose veins seem to them to be a symptom of leprosy.

Out in the field with Viridiana, they pray the Angelus with her while Jorge’s hired workers are renovating the house and surrounding area; in other words, the first group is engaging in faith, while the second group is actually working. Here is another example of Buñuel taking a jab at the Church, which values grace through faith over good works. She and the beggars are praying a useless prayer to her idol, Mary, while Jorge’s men are making themselves useful–working, because il faut cultiver notre jardin.

One of the beggars, El Cojo (‘the lame one,’ played by José Manuel Martin), fancies himself a faithful Catholic and not only helps Viridiana in leading the Angelus prayer, but also paints a portrait of the Madonna; still, he’s a bad, even violent fellow, for he threatens the ‘leper,’ and later Jorge, with a knife, and even tries to rape Viridiana toward the end of the film. Again, Buñuel demonstrates the emptiness of faith as against good works.

The Least (of His Brethren’s) Supper.

When she, Jorge, Ramona, and Rita leave the house on business (the servants have also left, out of disgust with the beggars), the beggars decide to go in the house and have a party. They’ll clean up after, and no one will be the wiser…or so they imagine.

This party symbolizes a proletarian seizing of the means of production…though it’s a poorly planned ‘revolution,’ more like anarchist Catalonia, or the Ukrainian Free Territory under Makhno, than anything like the Bolshevik takeover of Russia. Accordingly, their ‘insurrection’ doesn’t last.

During their dinner, they take a group photo at the long table. Buñuel deliberately has the actors pose in a manner parodying Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper, with the blind Don Amalio (played by José Calvo) in the middle, in Christ’s place. When Enedina (played by Lola Gaos) takes the photo, her lifting up of her dress is the ‘flash!’

After that, the ‘leper’ puts on a record of Händel‘s Hallelujah Chorus, and he dresses up in some of Jaime’s bride’s clothing, repeating the suicide’s cross-dressing, though in a comical, rather than pathetic, way.  His dancing around to the music is more of Buñuel making fun of religious piety. He tosses to the floor the feathers of a dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, he found earlier.

The ‘leper’ in drag.

Furthermore, this juxtaposition of these would-be lumpenproletariat revolutionaries with Christian music and iconography represents how the infantile disorder of ‘left’ communism is as unrealistic as is Viridiana’s idealization of Marian Catholicism. Just as there is no way to be a morally perfect woman, there is also no way to have a perfect communist revolution, all in one fell swoop. The beggars have no vanguard to educate and organize them, so their ‘revolution’ is practically still-born.

And so, because these people are, in varying degrees, degenerates, their party degenerates, too. A man takes Enedina behind the sofa and has her. An older beggar, Manuel, who has a penchant for gossip, tells Don Amalio about the screwing around, but he won’t lead the jealous blind man over to the sofa to beat the man for taking his woman; so Don Amalio smashes his cane on the dinner table, destroying the dishes.

As we can see, their ‘revolution’ is a bit too Makhnovist for comfort. Jorge, Viridiana, Ramona, and Rita return early to find out what’s been happening. El Cojo and the “leper” subdue Jorge while Ramona goes off in the car to get the police; this leaves Viridiana to the mercy of El Cojo’s lust. She fights the good fight to get him off of her.

All her efforts to be a good Christian, to show charity and compassion to the beggars and to give them moral instruction, have been for naught. Jorge, however, promises money to the “leper” if he’ll beat El Cojo on the head with a small shovel to stop him from raping her. Though El Cojo is stopped, she, overwhelmed with trauma, faints…just as she was unconscious when Jaime–almost–had her.

Viridiana’s neurotic moral perfectionism, vs. Jorge’s laid-back, realistic morality.

Note how, only when unconscious, will she allow any man to touch her. This shows how, only in her unconscious mind, will she allow herself any expression of sexuality. The conscious wish to be an imitator of Christ, of Mary, is clearly a reaction formation against her deepest, most repressed desires, expressed when she was sleepwalking.

The wish to lead a life of chastity rubs against its dialectical opposite, the secret wish to be sexual. Jorge, in contrast, is neither extreme: he accepts the ephemeral nature of sexual relationships, and is none too upset when Lucia leaves him. At the same time, he doesn’t force sex on anyone, unlike El Cojo, the ‘good Catholic.’

Viridiana’s trauma from the attempted rape has, for what it’s worth, one good side effect: she’s been liberated from her attachment to an impossible moral ideal–perfect chastity. As painful as this has been for her, at least she can now get off her high horse and join humanity…and become truly humble, not affectedly so.

She looks at herself in a small mirror, Lacan‘s mirror, as a tear runs down her cheek. That nun she’s seen in the reflection was an illusion, not the real her, but an idealization that has alienated her from herself. Her ability to be ‘pure’ cannot be eternal and unchanging. She must accept this painful truth.

She joins Jorge and Ramona in the main part of the house. He’s pleasantly surprised to see Viridiana at the door. Since Ramona is already his lover, Viridiana’s involvement is implying a ménage à trois, surely to the chagrin of the Francoist censors, but this ending was allowed nonetheless. Instead of listening to pompous religious music, the three would rather hear some fun popular music, Ashley Beaumont’s Shimmy Doll

Their sitting at table together to play cards suggests an equality the beggars couldn’t attain: that of male and female, of master and servant. Jorge’s moderate ‘socialism,’ if you will, is rather like Dengism; one incrementally moves from capitalism to communism, as Xi Jinping‘s government is doing. His sexuality is similarly neither prudish nor overly licentious. No idealistic rushes to extremes here, but rather a cautious creeping ahead.

Jorge doesn’t like the degenerate beggars any more than the other workers in his home. He considers Viridiana’s charitable duties to them pointless; he does, however, tolerate them for a while…until they commit their crimes on him and her. He also takes compassion on a dog, Canelo, and he offers money to the “leper” to stop lustful El Cojo. Though Jorge, representing industrial capitalism, is the bourgeois owner of the house given to him by his father, he’s clearly more generous than the average capitalist.

So, Jorge’s morality is a comfortable middle ground between Viridiana’s Catholic idealism and the reckless anarchism of the beggars. It’s like a Marxist sublation of the Christian thesis of an unattainable moral perfection, and its Makhnovist negation. This is the alternative morality Buñuel is proposing, and it’s a refreshing alternative to all the rubbish we’ve had thrown in our faces for so long.

Analysis of ‘Un Chien Andalou’

Un Chien Andalou (“An Andalusian Dog”) is a 1929 French surrealist short silent film directed by Luis Buñuel and written by him and Salvador Dali. It launched the careers of these two Spaniards, though they’d been expecting a scandalized reaction from their bourgeois Parisian audience; Buñuel even had his pockets filled with rocks to throw at an audience he’d thought would be so outraged that they’d want to attack the filmmakers. Instead, the bourgeois audience loved the twenty-minute short.

Buñuel’s and Dali’s intention had been to shock their audience with images of blatant sexuality and violence; Buñuel called the film an “impassioned call for murder.” As a communist, Buñuel despised the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie and the Church; accordingly, he went out of his way to expose, ridicule, and offend that sanctimonious establishment in all the films of his career. 

Sadly, Dali went in the opposite political direction of Buñuel, instead following that of fellow Spanish shocker Camilo José Cela, embracing Franco‘s fascism after having had a falling out with Buñuel before they could finish L’Age d’Or, originally meant to be another collaboration, but a movie Buñuel would finish without Dali. What a shame it is when talent is misused for reactionary purposes.

Two of the most famous images in Un Chien Andalou were inspired by dreams Buñuel and Dali had had, the former dreaming of a cloud cutting through the moon like a razor slicing an eye, and the latter dreaming of ants crawling on a man’s hand.

As a surrealist film, it was meant to be only one of random, shocking images with no consciously intended story or meaning. Indeed, if Buñuel and Dali were to come back from the dead and read this analysis, they doubtless would scoff at the meanings my interpretation here will impose on their fanciful flashes of black and white vignettes.

Nonetheless, the unconscious has meanings and intentions of its own, however non-rational and obscure they may be. Surrealism as an art form expresses unconscious meaning, a reality above our normal reality, hence the name of the movement. Since psychoanalysis is centred on an understanding of the unconscious, explored through dreams, free association, and the transference, a classical Freudian psychoanalytic interpretation is not only a possible way of making sense out of Un Chien Andalou: it’s the way, the royal road, even, for understanding the movie. 

Il était une fois, a man (Buñuel) sharpens a razor, then goes out onto a balcony and looks up at the moon. A greyish cloud is about to cut across the full moon, just as his razor will cut through the black iris of a young woman (Simone Mareuil).

The contrast of the black sky surrounding the white circle of the moon is like a photographic negative of her white eyeball surrounding her black iris. The greyish cloud is the silver, phallic razor.

This opening scene establishes the theme of the yin-and-yang-like, dialectical relationship between opposites, here symbolized by black and white, the thesis and negation, and by the sublation of the opposites with the grey cloud and razor. We will see many manifestations of the conflict and interaction between opposites in this film.

The man in the nun’s habit, riding a bicycle.

Huit ans après,” a man (Pierre Batcheff) is riding a bicycle down a street approaching her apartment building. He’s wearing a nun’s habit, and a box hangs by a strap around his neck. Here we see a fusion of masculinity and femininity, not only through his crossdressing, but also through the yonic symbolism of the box, which dangles like a penis…or a breast.

She goes to the window to watch him. He falls and lies on the curb in front of her apartment building; she empathizes, and rushes down to help him. Back in her apartment, she arranges the nun’s habit on a bed while he, in a dark suit, stands by a door looking at the palm of his hand. The juxtaposition of a nun’s habit on a bed suggests the meeting opposites of piety vs. sexual indulgence (as does her unlocking of the box). We’ll get more of the opposition between piety and lust soon after.

He’s looking at his hand because ants are crawling out of a yonic wound on his palm–more androgyny. The emerging ants suggest a projection outward of what’s wrong with him inside, the myrmidons (Greek: μύρμηξ, ‘ant’) of destruction. His fixed stare at the projection suggests a wish to see the bad inside him get out.

Next, we see her lying on the beach, with a closeup on her hairy armpit, which dissolves into a spherical sea urchin lying on the sand, its roundness reminding us of her eye just before it had been ‘raped,’ as it were, by the phallic razor. The armpit is a yoni, like the eyeball and the cloud-raped moon; the spiny, dark sea urchin is associated with both the yoni and a testicle, suggesting more androgyny, more unity of opposites.

The androgynous woman, holding the man’s box.

The urchin dissolves into the bird’s-eye-view of the head of a short-haired woman dressed rather mannishly–yet more androgyny. Holding a phallic cane, she pokes at a severed hand, which symbolizes castration, a reminder of the ‘yonic’ wounds of the slit eye and the wound on the man’s hand. With both injured hands, we once again see a unity of male and female through the castration complex.

The androgyny of the man and this woman in the street suggests Freud’s notion of the inherent ‘bisexuality’ of both sexes: ““we shall, of course, willingly agree that the majority of men are…far behind the masculine ideal and that all human individuals, as a result of their bisexual disposition and of cross-inheritance, combine in themselves both masculine and feminine characteristics, so that pure masculinity and femininity remain theoretical constructions of uncertain content.” (Freud, ‘Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes,’ p. 342)

Let’s now contrast the scenes of both gender-benders on the street, what unifies them and what makes them opposites. He rides a bike alone, but she stands surrounded by people. He has the yonic box, she the phallic cane…though a policeman later gives her the box to put the hand inside–symbolic of sexual union as well as androgyny.

He falls to the ground, causing the woman in the apartment to feel compassion for him and help him; the androgynous woman is hit by a car, while the man in the apartment grins, sadistically enjoying watching her get hurt, possibly killed, and neither he nor the woman with him in the room go down to help the injured woman. Note the merging of pleasure and pain, not only in his sadism, but also her smile of pleasure from having the hand in the box (representing intercourse and androgyny), and this happens just before she’s hit by the car.

The man (Batcheff) and woman (Mareuil) watch the androgynous woman, just before she’s hit by the car.

Now the man looks lustfully at the woman in the apartment. After having been aroused by the injury/death of the androgynous woman below, he’s now desiring this woman in the room with him. He grabs her breasts and imagines her nude, her breasts dissolving into her buttocks. We go from symbolic rape (the razor slicing the eye) to literal, attempted rape.

Remember that, as a surrealist film, Un Chien Andalou depicts the world of the unconscious, a realm of unbridled id impulses. Here, the pleasure principle rules, an ending of tension or excitation. Now, excitation can be ended by either pleasure (libido) or death, Thanatos. “We have decided to relate pleasure and unpleasure to the quantity of excitation that is present in the mind…and to relate them in such a manner that unpleasure corresponds to an increase in the quantity of excitation and pleasure to a diminution.” (Freud, page 276, his emphasis)

The man’s enjoyment of watching the androgynous woman hit by a car is an indication of his death drive, directed outwards, wished on another. His libidinous pawing at the first woman’s breasts suggest a fusion of the life instinct, Eros (of which the sex drive is a manifestation) with Thanatos (his rapist aggression), another fusion of opposites.

In light of this fusion of the life (i.e., sex) and death drives, it is significant that Buñuel chose, in 1960, Wagner‘s Liebestod (“love-death”) as part of the soundtrack for the movie. This was music he’d also used in L’Age d’Or, incidentally. The fused sex and death drives seem to be represented in many of his films, including these two early ones, as well as in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (see my analysis for that movie), Viridiana (<<her uncle’s suicide happening so soon after his having her dress in his dead wife’s bridal gown, then drugging her so he could have her in bed), and even Belle de Jour (consider this scene).

The man attempts to rape the woman while carrying his unconscious ‘baggage,’ if you will.

Unconscious id impulses are represented in the man’s attack on the woman; unconscious ego defence is seen in her attempt to defend herself with a tennis racquet when he has her cornered. So she, symbolically, is the ego, and he represents the id.

He grabs onto ropes linking Moses’ tablets of the Ten Commandments with pairs of pumpkins, seminarists (Dali himself being one of them), and pianos, each with a bloody, slaughtered donkey lying on the inner strings. These together represent his superego in their attempt to restrain him. He pulls on them and falls, then gets up and pulls again, all that weight slowing him down as he tries to get closer to her in the corner.

Note how the id, ego, and superego are all unconscious here. While the ego and superego are partly conscious, as opposed to the completely unconscious id, much, if not most, of the ego and superego are either unconscious or at least preconscious; so much of their activity is unknown, at least at the time, to the mind controlled by them. To understand the true feelings of the aggressive man here, since this is a surrealist film, we should see his scurrilous aggression thus as unconscious phantasy in his mind, not his actual treatment of the woman.

The decalogue tablets and seminarists represent the ego ideal that he is required by society to approach as best he can. Of course, neither the Bible nor the Catholic priesthood have ever set a good example for preventing rape, as seen in priests’ largely unpunished sexual abuse of children over the years, or in such Bible verses as these: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31: 17-18)

Two seminarists (Dali on the right) being dragged by the man in his attempt to rape the woman.

The pianos represent society’s use of culture in taming the beast; their weight slows the man down much better than clergy or tablets could. The slaughtered donkeys represent the killing of man’s bestial nature in order to civilize him. The pumpkins seem testicular to me, perhaps a reminder from society that sex is for procreation, not for mere pleasure, especially not for a man’s pleasure at the expense of a woman.

In any case, she fortunately gets away from him, slamming the door on his hand (a symbolic castration of a phallus) and reopening the yonic would from which the ants emerge, another projective ridding of the myrmidon killer within him…or is it an ejaculation (a fusion of sex with death), a masochistic pleasure from a previously rape-inclined sadist? “A person who feels pleasure in producing pain in someone else in a sexual relationship is also capable of enjoying as pleasure any pain which he may himself derive from sexual relations. A sadist is always at the same time a masochist.”  (Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, page 73)

On the bed in the room she’s entered is the man, now wearing the nun’s habit and box, and behaving much better. Is this the moralizing influence of religion that’s taming his lust, or is it the feminine inside him, making him more respectful to her?

Speaking of moralizing influences, “around three in the morning,” she hears a door-bell (represented by two hands poking out of holes in a wall and shaking a Martini-shaker–symbolic of masturbation) and lets a man in who, as it eventually turns out, is also played by Batcheff. Wearing a lighter-coloured suit this time, he berates the first man for wearing the habit, demanding that he remove it, then throwing the clothing out the window. This second version of the man, now making the first version of him (in his darker suit) stand in the corner shamefacedly, represents the superego, the inner critic, chiding the dark-suited id.

(Compare the superego-man, making the id-man stand in the corner, to the id-man rapist making the ego-woman stand in the corner. These are, respectively, the conflict between the pleasure principle and the ego ideal, and the conflict between the pleasure and reality principles, intensified with the ego ideal being dragged by the id-man.)

The man, in his nun-habit again, lying in bed.

What form of morality is being promoted in getting rid of the nun’s habit? Is it a conservative morality, telling the crossdresser that ‘real men’ never wear women’s clothes? Or is it a progressive morality, telling the man to do away with the shackles, as it were, of the hypocritical trappings of religion? Given Buñuel’s attitude towards the Church, the latter explanation seems more likely.

The lighter-suited man, “sixteen years earlier,” shows an interest in art supplies and books lying on a table, and he gives the darker-suited man in the corner two books to hold in his hands as he stays in the corner. This love of art and culture, like the dragged pianos mentioned above, and its imposition on the man standing in the corner, suggests the use of sublimation as a way of redirecting id drives down more socially desirable paths.

The id-man in the corner, though, would rather be destructive than creative (yet another juxtaposition of opposites), and so the books he’s holding transform into phallic pistols, which he causes to ejaculate bullets at the lighter-suited superego-man, killing him. He falls down dead…but in a forest, his body brushing against the nude back of the woman: another juxtaposition of opposites–the life instinct’s libido and the death drive.

Let’s compare this death with that of the androgynous woman and the fall off the bike of the man in the nun’s habit. In many ways, these first two accidents were mutually antithetical, as described above. This new death is comparable and contrasting to the previous two incidents, suggesting a sublation of the previous two.

Pierre Batcheff, the ‘id-man,’ as I’m calling him.

This superego-man is played by the same actor, Batcheff, as the id-man, but the superego-man isn’t a crossdresser. The antithetical androgynes are male and female; the third man’s lighter-coloured suit is a bit effeminate looking, though. The first two fall on a street (i.e., a man-made ground); the third one falls on the ground of Mother Nature, in a forest.

Only the woman in the apartment helps the crossdressing man; several people, mostly men, go to help the fallen androgynous woman; and a group of men, including a man with a cane, reminding us of the androgynous woman’s cane, find and pick up the body of the dead third person. The Liebestod is played during all three incidents.

Sublation, or Aufhebung, is a better word to use than ‘synthesis’ to describe how contradictions are resolved in dialectical thinking. One doesn’t merely combine the opposites: one refines one’s originally proposed idea by considering the opposition’s point of view. Some of the original ideas of the thesis remain; aspects of the negation are acknowledged; some contradictory aspects cancel each other out in the sublation. Then the refined idea becomes a new thesis to be negated and sublated, all over again.

This process can repeat itself again and again in a cycle, like the ouroboros: the thesis is the bitten tail, the negation is the biting head, and the coiled body of the serpent is the sublation. This dialectic can be symbolized by these three incidents in the film.

The ouroboros can symbolize the dialectic: the bitten tail is the thesis, the biting head is the negation of that thesis, and the coiled length of the serpent’s body–symbolizing a circular continuum of everything between the extremes of the biting at the top–is the sublation.

Another thing to note about all the film’s dialectical opposites is their physicality, their materiality. Conflict and contradiction are expressed in the forms of violence (as in The Omen) and sexuality (as in Caligula), a most material expression; so these aren’t the idealist dialectics of Hegel, but the materialist ones of Marx. (“Seize ans avant” suggests an association with historical materialism, too.)

This Marxism is Buñuel’s leftism shining through, though Dali’s right-wing tendencies would limit how far Buñuel could go with his leftism. Hence, there’s very little criticism of the bourgeoisie here. His “impassioned call for murder” (I find it fairly safe to assume that, by “murder,” Buñuel meant communist revolution–that is, killing off the bourgeoisie) fell largely on deaf ears.

In the next scene, the woman that the man tried to rape enters a room and sees a death’s head hawkmoth on a wall. This, a mature creature fully bloomed into life as an imago, but with a marking like a skull on its thorax, is yet another symbol of the merging of the life and death drives.

She sees the man who tried to rape her. He rubs his mouth, erasing it from his face. Disquieted by this, she applies lipstick to herself, as if wishing to draw his mouth back on his face by sympathetic magic, or what Melanie Klein called projective identification. Instead, her armpit hair appears on his face, as if a beard! She sticks her tongue out at him several times, then leaves.

There are multiple possible meanings here. Since she’s resisted his sexual advances, he, annoyed with her, wishes no longer to communicate with her. No longer having his empathy-prompting feminine symbols (the nun’s habit and yonic box), he’s gone from lecher to woman-hating incel. Her applying of lipstick, intended to be a projected drawing of a mouth back on his face, represents a wish to restore communication.

His erased mouth is another yoni, a rejection of the feminine. Her phallic lipstick, applied to her yonic mouth, suggests a wish for sexual union and restored androgyny. Above, I showed how her armpit hair suggests her pubic hair. Instead of projecting a mouth (symbolic yoni) onto his face, she accidentally projects her symbolic pubic hair…and pubic hair can be male or female. In having her hair on his face, he’s mirroring back to her how unattractive he now finds her. Hurt, she rejects him, too.

The removal of her armpit hair and her applying of lipstick suggest something that has upset feminists for a long time: the lofty standards of beauty women are societally expected to attain. (In contemporary pornography, it is standard to remove the models’ pubic hair, too.) In sticking out her phallic tongue at him several times, she’s defying his misogyny while reaffirming androgyny.

The woman and her boyfriend on the beach in the final scene.

In the final scene, she leaves her apartment building not to see the street, but a beach. A handsome young man by the shore turns and sees her; he seems to be her boyfriend, for she grins in delight to see him, and she hangs affectionately on his shoulder. They kiss.

I have elsewhere associated the sea or ocean with a state of nirvana. I’ve also associated a nirvana-like state with the biting head of the ouroboros, yet also with the danger of hellish samsara close by, on the sands of the beach, as when Luther confronts Swan on the beach at the end of The Warriors.

The woman and her boyfriend enjoy walking on the beach together, in each other’s arms; but they find the nun’s habit and box, broken and messy with sand, having washed on the shore after the superego-man threw them out the window. They represent the misogynistic id-man’s rejected feminine side as well as his rejected religious upbringing. The hostility they represent seems a danger to the man, who tosses the things aside so he and the girl can continue their blissful walk along the shore.

Au printemps,” a time of renewed life, shows the two lovers buried almost to their chests in the sand, presumably dead. Again, Eros and Thanatos unite: “these guardians of life…were originally the myrmidons of death” (Freud, page 312). The Myrmidons, incidentally, were created by Zeus from a colony of…ants!

The razor rapes her eye, as the passing cloud rapes the moon.

Freud had more to say about the interaction between the opposing life and death drives, that is to say, the pleasure principle on the one hand, and the drive to return to an inorganic state, on the other: “The pleasure principle…is a tendency operating in the service of a function whose business it is to free the mental apparatus entirely from excitation or to keep the amount of excitation in it constant or to keep it as low as possible…it is clear that the function thus described would be concerned with the most universal endeavour of all living substance–namely to return to the quiescence of the inorganic world. We have all experienced how the greatest pleasure attainable by us, that of the sexual act, is associated with a momentary extinction of a highly intensified excitation…The pleasure principle seems actually to serve the death instincts.” (Freud, 336-337, 338)

As we can see, Un Chien Andalou isn’t just a random jumble of vignettes, even if its creators insisted that it was. Like any great work of art, there are consistent themes to be explored: its surrealism merely means that one must be something of a psychoanalyst to uncover its secrets. Using free association, one looks at the freely given images and associates them to reveal the unconscious meanings within. 

…and what are those unconscious meanings? The interaction and unity of opposites: male/female, life/death, pleasure/pain, sex/violence, projection/introjection. I harp on the interconnection of opposites quite a lot, but that’s because in all this dialectical intermixing, we find a deeper truth, a truth that encapsulates everything. That universal truth is what makes films like Un Chien Andalou so great.

Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (The Pelican Freud Library, #7), Penguin Books, London, 1977

Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology; The Theory of Psychoanalysis (The Pelican Freud Library, #11), Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1984

On Freeing Our Identities From Labels

In our alienating world, we all tend too often to label each other, describing each other in absolute terms, or to accept such labels from others. In thus labelling others, we expect them to conform to the stereotyped behaviour associated with those labels. Also, in accepting such labelling from others, we often unconsciously adopt the stereotyped behaviour and attitudes of the labels we’ve received, thus making a self-fulfilling prophecy of this labelling.

Apart from how unhealthy all this describing of ourselves and others is, it’s also simply unrealistic. Part of the Buddhist concept of anatta (or anatman, “no self”) is the idea that we people are as changeable as everything else in the world. The personality of each and every person out there is not some block of rigid matter that stays essentially the same from birth to death; rather, it’s like the waves of the ocean, the crests and troughs tend to rise and fall to approximately the same highs and lows over a certain period of time in life, but eventually, those highs and lows will be different; in any case, the matter that is ourselves is in constant, dialectical, wavelike motion.

abstract aqua blue clean
Our personalities move like the waves.

We know the above to be true, but we forget this truth far more often than we remember it. Part of the reason we forget, I believe, is because those who drilled into our brains the ‘rigid block’ idea of the personality are people who want to control us by limiting our sense of self. I have written elsewhere of ways we can free ourselves of this dysfunctional kind of thinking.

Those up-and-down waves of water that are our personalities are interconnected with the adjacent waves of those personalities nearest to, and therefore most influential with, ourselves. Projection, introjection, identification, and projective identification are the winds that blow the waves, causing personality traits and habits to be traded around and moved from person to person. We become what other people are, and vice versa.

If other people have hurt you with negative labels, never believe for a second that you have to accept them. Even if you did conform to such a bad label at the time of your receiving it, remember that your conforming to it was only a temporary state of affairs, a momentary blowing of the wind to make the waves of your personality rise or sink to that undesirable place…then the wind blew your waves to a different place–perhaps a desirable opposite.

body of water under purple and blue sky illustration
Influences change us like the wind on the water of our personalities.

Emotionally abusive parents can force us into taking on a rigid label, or permanent role, such as the scapegoat or the golden child, if they’re not making their kids trade these roles back and forth over time. In the case of the former, unchanging version of the labelling, we can try all we want to free ourselves from the role assigned to us, but our abusers will insist on our staying put, and they’ll manipulate us, through projective identification, into acting in exact, unvarying accordance with that straitjacket of a role.

This happened to me whenever I tried to get out of the role of identified patient with regards to my (probably) narcissistic late mother. If I tried to show thoughtfulness, kindness, or generosity to anyone in the family, she would figure out a way to sabotage my good intentions and manipulate me into changing from a loving to a bitter son.

Similarly, if my golden child sister, J., stepped out of her prescribed role, she would feel the terror of Mom’s wrath so quickly and intensely that her head would spin.

men s black and white checkered shirt
Poverty is a trap the rich won’t let the poor free themselves from.

In other areas, we can see society forcing us into permanent roles. Any time people in Third World countries try to pull themselves out of poverty, as has been demonstrated many times in, for example, Latin America, imperialism puts them right back in ‘their place,’ as has been seen in the coups against such countries as Guatemala and Chile.

Also, as the sexes try to free themselves from their traditional roles, in particular, as women try to achieve political equality with men, forces in capitalist society prevent these necessary changes from being fully realized. A variety of manipulative factors are used, including the reassertion of fundamentalist religion (e.g., Pence) and its promotion of the traditional patriarchal family; but also such things as requiring men to ‘man up,’ and even more liberal ideas like divisive identity politics.

We need to be freed from the chains of ‘identity,’ not attached them all the more rigidly! Human liberation in all its forms–racial, class, sexual, etc.–will be achieved through solidarity, not through dividing the people against each other via ‘identity.’

As for my own personal ‘identity,’ it mustn’t be assumed to be an unchanging state of affairs, either. I have grown and evolved politically, in sweeping ways over the past few years, causing many of the things I’ve said in past blog posts to be no longer accurately representative of my current beliefs. (I won’t, however, update those old posts, and for two reasons: 1) there are far, far too many changes to be made, and I’d rather not hassle with such a large amount of work; and 2) I find it interesting to look back to those old posts sometimes, and see how I’ve grown and changed over the years.)

beach dawn dusk ocean
The dawn of a new day means new waves for a new personality.

So, if you read something in one of my posts that you find objectionable, check the date that it was published. The older the post is, the further away it will probably be from my current belief system. If I discuss subject matter similar to that of an older post, but demonstrate a different attitude in the more recent post, use the newer post to get a more accurate idea of how I now think on that matter, not the older one.

For example, in my earlier posts, I took on a strictly anarcho-communist position, with a stridently anti-Lenin, anti-Stalin, and anti-Mao position. After more carefully researching the history of the USSR and China under Mao, though, I now realize how much my thinking was influenced by Western capitalist and CIAoriented propaganda, the same CIA and Western capitalism that has swayed so many of us into accepting all these needless imperialist wars of the past two to three decades, since the USSR’s dissolution.

Accordingly, I’ve grown less and less libertarian in my leftism, and more and more patient in my waiting for the realization of stateless communism. With that, I recognize and accept the need for a temporary proletarian state to help facilitate the transition from today’s neoliberal nightmare to the final goal: communist society–no class differences, a withered-away state, and a gift economy to replace money.

sunset beach people sunrise
The dawn of a new day of freedom we all hope, one day, to have.

That workers’ state, needed for as long as it will take to defend itself from imperialism until capitalism is no more, will also be needed to help in the transformation of society to rid it of racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry, and all the other evils capitalist society uses to divide us all.

This transformation will include, for example, social programs to provide day care, freeing women from the burden of childcare so they can focus on careers and pursue their dreams. This will help eliminate the glass ceiling. Socialist states have provided such programs, and thus done a much better job of achieving equality of the sexes than capitalist societies ever have.

Better still, a society that produces commodities as use-values to provide for everyone, rather than produce exchange-values to generate profit, will do away with landlords and provide universal housing, thus eliminating the homeless, most of whom are men. This reorienting of society can have both sexes do an equal mixture of both traditional roles (breadwinning vs. homemaking), thus achieving sexual equality.

grayscale photography of man praying on sidewalk with food in front
Having a home is a right, not a privilege.

I never thought out these ideas so thoroughly in my otherwise prolix posts, so I hope this brief revision will suffice, at least for the moment. Just know that I have changed a lot in my political views, as I have from those earlier years, when my family had far too much influence in my life.

In sum, we must always remember that who we are changes and moves like the waves of the ocean. The winds of change ensure that we never are who we were, and we won’t be who we are. Those who would have us believe otherwise do so for themselves, not for the sake of the truth.

Analysis of ‘The Big Lebowski’

Introduction

The Big Lebowski is a 1998 comedy written, produced, and directed by the Coen brothers, starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore, and with Steve BuscemiJohn Turturro, Peter Stormare, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott, and David Huddleston. The story was inspired by the complex plots of Raymond Chandler stories, especially The Big Sleep; indeed, one joke of the story is its wildly intricate plot, which ends with a conclusion of no consequence and no fundamental change in the characters.

Though the movie did poorly at the box office, it has since then grown into a cult classic, with fans of the movie dressing up as their favourite characters at Lebowski Fests; there’s even a Taoist-oriented religion based on the wisdom of the Dude (Bridges).

Quotes

“Well, sir, it’s this rug I had. It really tied the room together.” –the Dude (Jeffrey Lebowski)

“Look, let me explain something to you. I’m not Mr. Lebowski. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. That, or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” –the Dude

“This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. Luckily I’m adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber.” –the Dude

“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” –the Dude

“Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!” –the Dude

“Well, you know, the Dude abides.” –the Dude

Nihilists! ..Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos” –Walter Sobchak

“You see what happens, Larry?! Do you see what happens, Larry, when you fuck a stranger in the ass?! This is what happens, Larry! This is what happens, Larry!” –Sobchak

“Fuck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.” –Sobchak

“Life does not start and stop at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!” –Sobchak

“Shut the fuck up, Donny.” –Sobchak

“Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element!” –Sobchak

“HEY! What’s this day of rest shit?! What’s this bullshit?! I don’t fuckin’ care! It don’t matter to Jesus. But you’re not foolin’ me, man. You might fool the fucks in the league office, but you don’t fool Jesus. This bush league psych out stuff. Laughable, man – HA HA! I would have fucked you in the ass Saturday. I fuck you in the ass next Wednesday instead. Wooo! You got a date Wednesday, baby!” –Jesus Quintana

“You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.” –Quintana

“What the fuck are you talking about? The Chinaman is not the issue here, Dude! I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you do not… Also, Dude, ‘Chinaman’ is not the preferred nomenclature. ‘Asian-American,’ please.” –Sobchak

Brandt: Uh, our guest needs to be going now, Mrs. Lebowski.

The Dude: (realizes) Ohh, you’re Bunny.

Bunny Lebowski: [takes off her sunglasses] I’ll suck your cock for a thousand dollars.

Brandt: Ah-hahahahaha! Ah – Wonderful woman. We’re all, we’re all very fond of her. Very free-spirited.

Bunny Lebowski: Brandt can’t watch, though – or he has to pay a hundred.

Brandt: Ah-haha. That’s marvelous.

The Dude: [Dude turns his head back as Brandt escorts him away] ..Uh, I’m just gonna go find a cash machine.

“Fucking dog has fucking papers—OVER THE LINE!” –Sobchak

“Has the whole world gone CRAZY?! [stands up] AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE RULES?! MARK IT ZERO!” –Sobchak

“Lady, I got buddies who died face-down in the muck so that you and I could enjoy this family restaurant!” –Sobchak, to waitress

“Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax…You’re goddamn right I’m living in the fucking past!” –Sobchak

“You human … paraquat!” –the Dude, to the big Lebowski

“‘The Dude abides.’ I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.” –the Stranger

Themes

These are the themes I’ll be examining in this analysis:

  • Taoism and Dudeism
  • Pride and Shame
  • The Castration Complex
  • Male Humiliation
  • Sexual Aggression
  • Political Allegory

I) Taoism and Dudeism

The Taoist orientation of ‘Dudeism’ is more than justified, for the Dude’s whole way of life is, like that tumbling tumbleweed, a passive going-with-the-flow, though this passivity is carried to a comically slothful extreme. As it says in the Tao Te Ching, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” (Chapter 48) Now, note what the Stranger says of the Dude: “And even if he’s a lazy man – and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.”

Still, for all his faults, this White-Russian-drinking pothead represents a laid-back ideal many of the more high-strung characters would be wise to try to emulate. Indeed, between the grumpy curmudgeonliness of the big Lebowski (Huddleston), the moronic thuggery of the goons of Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), the loudmouth blustering of Jesus Quintana (Turturro) and Walter Sobchak (Goodman), and the buffoonish bullying of the German nihilists (Stormare, Flea, and Torsten Voges), the Dude finds it challenging to be his normal, easy-going self.

Other parallels with Taoism are the themes of duality, dialectics, and the unity of opposites. First, we’ll deal with duality. Characters in the movie can often be paired, based on their comparable and contrasting qualities and traits. The most obvious pairing is that of the two Jeffrey Lebowskis, the millionaire in the wheelchair and the Dude. Yet apart from their shared name, the two men are opposites in almost every way.

The Dude is laid-back, while the big Lebowski is a grouch. The Dude is lazy and unemployed, possibly, if only temporarily, living off the welfare system that would continue to exist as such for another five years (the Coens’ original idea to have the Dude live off some of the wealth from a family invention, the Rubik’s Cube, wasn’t included in the movie); the big Lebowski is an “achiever”…or is he? (More on that below.)

The next pairing is that of the Dude and Walter Sobchak. They’re both bowlers, on the same team in a competition, and they’re friends…though the friendship is rather strained over the course of the movie; for Sobchak’s bad temper and asinine impulsivity are a constant source of frustration and embarrassment to the Dude, who just wants to “take it easy,” and have Sobchak do the same.

Next, there’s the pairing of Sobchak and Jesus Quintana. Both bowl, but are on rival teams. Both talk tough and indulge in outbursts in the bowling alley. A contrast, however, is Sobchak’s adopted Judaism versus the presumably lapsed Catholicism of “the Jesus,” for there’s no reason to believe that the “pederast” ever goes to church.

More pairings: Maude and Bunny Lebowski (Moore and Tara Reid, respectively). Both women are liberated and sexually aggressive in the extreme, though only Bunny is tainted with the label of “slut” for appearing in porn. Maude, in contrast, is clearly a pro-sex feminist and “vaginal” artist, though she throws herself at the Dude as blatantly as Bunny does.

Next, we must explore the dialectical relationship between these comparable/contrasting pairs, as well as other examples of the yin/yang-like unity of opposites in the movie. Like the black dot in yang, and the white dot in yin, each opposite has a bit of the other in it.

Consider who’s upset and who’s calm. Sobchak points a gun at Smokey and yells at him for stepping over the line when bowling a strike and not accepting marking it zero for committing a foul; meanwhile the Dude keeps his cool, warns Sobchak that they’re calling the cops, and tells him calmly to put the piece away. As soon as Smokey marks it zero, Sobchak calms right down and puts the gun away.

As he and the Dude leave the bowling alley and go into the latter’s car, the Dude gets increasingly agitated trying to get Sobchak to understand how excessively he reacted. After hearing the Dude yell, “Just take it easy, man,” Sobchak says, “I’m calmer than you are,” with perfect coolness.

II) Pride and Shame

Pride and shame are intermixed, which makes perfect sense, since with Sobchak, pride goes before a fall…not that he really ever notices himself fall. Apart from his explosion with Smokey in the bowling alley, Sobchak makes an absurd, Vietnam-war-esque stealing of the big Lebowski’s ‘money’ instead of tossing it over to Bunny’s ‘kidnappers.’ He imagines his plan to be brilliant, when really he’s just being “a goddamn moron.”

Then there’s his outburst about “basic freedoms” in a diner, when all he’s been asked to do is lower his voice for the sake of the other customers. The Dude is so embarrassed, he quickly pays and leaves, while Sobchak is so oblivious to what an ass he’s being, he’s proudly “staying,” “finishing,” and “enjoying [his] coffee.”

Finally, Sobchak proudly imagines he’s clever enough to know that the big Lebowski isn’t really a cripple, then picks the old man up and out of his wheelchair, imagining Lebowski will stand when he’s let go of. Of course he falls to the floor…though I can’t help suspecting–in the scene when the Dude explains to Sobchak in his van that he’s figured out how Lebowski never put money in the briefcase–that he’s actually standing in the dark, his body physically far from the back of his wheelchair, as he’s putting a phone book, etc., in the “ringer” briefcase. (Were the Coen brothers just sneaking that into the movie, to see if anyone was really watching carefully, or am I overthinking the scene?)

This leads me to the fallen pride of the big Lebowski. He presents himself as a ‘great achiever,’ but we learn from Maude that his money is actually her mother’s, he failed at running the family business, and Maude gives him an allowance. He married Bunny for the same reason Trump married Melania…as a kind of male jewellery to boost his ego. If I’m right about him actually faking as a cripple (which, by the way, doesn’t make Sobchak any less of a jackass for pulling him out of his wheelchair), is his posing as a disabled man supposed to be idpol compensation for his failures in life, a cure for the narcissistic injury of not being the ‘achiever’ he poses as? Is his falling on the floor, after Sobchak lets him go, a kind of face-saving continuation of the pretence?

III) The Castration Complex

The theme of shame is further developed in the form of the motif of Freud’s castration complex. The German nihilists threaten to castrate the Dude after dumping a marmot between his legs in his bathtub as he’s lying naked in it; he yelps as he tries to stop the animal from scratching at his balls.

The big Lebowski gives the Dude a severed toe with green nail polish on it, the same colour Bunny had on hers when she offered to perform fellatio on him. Actually, the severed toe (symbolic castration) was that of a German girlfriend of the nihilists, the only one of them in the restaurant scene who can’t speak English. Bunny’s toes, however, are all intact, and she freely expresses herself as she sings ‘Viva Las Vegas’ while driving.

When Maude meets the Dude, she mentions how the word “vagina” bothers some men. Sometimes the vulva is perceived as a wound resulting from castration, as Freud noted; consider also Camille Paglia‘s comments on the subject of the–to men, frightening–mystery surrounding the vagina, which can also be the vagina dentata (Paglia, pages 13, 22-23, 47). Furthermore, ‘nothing‘ (what the castration-threatening nihilists believe in), ‘no thing,’ or ‘an O-thing’ was slang for a woman’s genitals back in Shakespeare’s day.

Incidentally, a large painting of scissors is hanging on a wall in Maude’s studio; after saying, “dick” and “rod,” she gives a brief, uncomfortable pause before saying “Johnson,” the very word the nihilists use when threatening to emasculate the Dude. Still, “without batting an eye,” Maude can refer to Bunny’s porno film as “the beaver picture.” Maude wants to have a child; and Freud noted, in his 1917 essay “On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Erotism,” that a girl’s penis envy would transform later in life, from das Kleine (‘little one’) for the penis, to das Kleine for a baby.

Lacan said that “women don’t exist” because in the Symbolic Order, they in a sense have no language (i.e., no symbolic phallus as signifier); for him, this was the true, phallocentric meaning of Freud’s notion of penis envy, a phallogocentrism. Remember the soft-spoken German woman without a toe, who also needed the nihilists to translate her pancake order into English. Symbolically castrated, the nine-toed woman had no English signifiers to express the meaning in her mind, to order pancakes. Stifled and silenced by the three Germans, who represent fascism (as I’ll explain below), she has been subordinated just as women in Nazi Germany were.

In contrast, Maude and Bunny are liberated, expressive women each with all ten toes; their vulvas aren’t felt to be ‘wounds’ from castration, and accordingly, they’re proud, and in full control of their lives. They speak freely, in full control of linguistic signifiers: Bunny in her jouissance has a lascivious tongue, and she doesn’t care who hears it; Maude is particularly articulate. These two women aren’t thwarted by psychoanalytic sexism.

IV) Male Humiliation

Men, however, are constantly being humiliated in this movie. Sobchak destroys a beautiful, brand new car, whose infuriated owner then smashes up the Dude’s; once again, Sobchak’s idiot impulsivity makes him lose face.

Donny, who’s constantly being told to “shut the fuck up,” dies of a heart attack, and his ashes are put in a Folger’s tin; then Sobchak, after quoting Hamlet, scatters them…all over the Dude’s face.

The threat of castration is a recurring potential humiliation for him, especially in the scissors dream sequence, reminding us of Maude’s painting.

Quintana is embarrassed at having to tell everyone in his neighbourhood that he’s “a pederast.”

A major form of this theme of male humiliation is expressed in the language of male-on-male rape, a making of the victim into a passive partner in sex, his anus made into a vagina, as it were. Quintana says he’ll beat the Dude’s team so crushingly, he’ll “fuck [them] in the ass next Wednesday.”

Elsewhere, Sobchak is so enraged with mute, uncooperative Larry, who he and the Dude believe stole the money they [thought they] stole from Lebowski, that the boy shouldn’t “fuck a stranger in the ass.”

When the nihilists fight Sobchak, the Dude, and Donny, Uli brandishing a phallic sword, the Germans shout “I fuck you!” over and over. Sobchak bites off Uli’s ear, another removing of a bodily appendage symbolic of castration; and the German played by Flea is hit by Sobchak’s bowling ball, and he buckles over as if emasculated. The nihilists are now as silent as their girlfriend in the pancake restaurant.

V) Sexual Aggression

We see that sexual aggression is a major theme in this movie, one in which the word “fuck” is used more than in most others. This isn’t mere overindulgent swearing in a Hollywood movie. “Fuck,” incidentally, comes from (among other possible etymologies) Middle Dutch fokken, meaning ‘to hit,’ or ‘to strike.’ Bowling is full of sexual symbolism in this movie, the testicle-shaped ball knocking out all the phallic, penis pins in a strike; then the ball goes into a yonic hole behind the mechanical pinsetter. Bowling is a pun on balling.

The three finger holes in a bowling ball can represent a woman’s urethra, vagina, and anus, thus making the testicular ball an androgynous sexual symbol, a union of yin and yang. Similarly, in the ‘Gutterballs‘ dream sequence, the dancing ladies–under and between whose legs the Dude enjoys floating, looking up their skirts with an ear-to-ear grin–wear hats of phallic bowling pins…more androgyny.

Then there’s Maude in her Viking outfit, with the phallic horns on her helmet and her thrice-phallic trident. Since yin and yang represent the intermixing unity of opposites, it should come as no surprise that Maude and Bunny are sexually aggressive women, coming on to a very sexually passive Dude, a stoner who doesn’t seem all that interested in “coitus.”

VI) Political Allegory

Finally, we must examine the political allegory of The Big Lebowski. Appropriately, the two Lebowskis are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Here is a list of what a number of the major characters in the movie symbolize, even if they don’t necessarily espouse the political position they represent:

  • The Dude……………………..left-libertarianism
  • The Big Lebowski……….Trump-like, narcissistic capitalism
  • Maude………………………….liberal centrism
  • Jesus Quintana…………….corrupt, abusive Catholic Church
  • Walter Sobchak……………neo-con, imperialist militarism and Zionism
  • Nihilists………………………..fascism
  • Jackie Treehorn…………..exploitative capitalism

I’ll deal with each one by one, starting with the Dude.

Lying in bed with Maude, the Dude tells her he was involved in the original drafting of the Port Huron Statement, associated with the New Left. The Dude says he was also a member of the Seattle Seven (Jeff Dowd, on whom the Dude was based as a character, was an actual member of the Seven), a radical anti-Vietnam-War movement. These two facts establish his credentials as a progressive: remember the Dude’s pro-woman, “racially…cool” attitude; it also, however, shows his disengagement from the labour movement and concern for class struggle.

Indeed, his problem is that, like most libertarian leftists (myself excepted), the Dude doesn’t put enough thought into self-protection. His home is constantly broken into–fouled and ransacked. His efforts to keep intruders out are comically pathetic; and his car is progressively damaged and degraded, until finally destroyed. Left-libertarians sneer at tankiesauthoritarian measures, all the while oblivious to the need for that authoritarianism, which is for the sake of defending their ever-so-fragile revolutions. The Dude, representing the left, sees his property destroyed, which symbolizes capitalist sabotage of socialist states; his home is his own private DPRK.

In reference to the already-suspected faking of Bunny’s kidnapping, the Dude makes a reference to Lenin, whom clueless Donny confuses with Lennon. Sobchak shuts up and corrects Donny, growling “V. I. Lenin–Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!” This suggests that, apart from being annoyed at Donny being once again “out of [his] element,” Sobchak isn’t happy talking about the man famous for decrying imperialism, which Sobchak personifies (more on that below).

The big Lebowski represents the spoiled capitalist who finds himself in the upper classes by association with them (i.e., marrying a rich woman, Maude’s mother), not by having “achieved” on his own merits, as he and other capitalists like to boast. He steals from his own charity, while hypocritically pretending it’s his generosity that helps his ‘urban achievers.’

However the Dude is able to provide for himself financially–whether it be from the Rubik’s Cube fortune of his family, as originally conceived by the Coen brothers, or if it be, as I speculate, from his receiving unemployment insurance or welfare benefits–his ability to have money while not working can be seen to symbolize the socialist ideal of a Guaranteed Basic (or Universal) Income. If the Dude, thus representing the left, is a slacker, then the big Lebowski, a millionaire capitalist married into money, is a kind of corporate welfare bum. So their yin and yang opposition is also an identification, a dialectical association.

Maude is a bourgeois liberal who judges her father for his conservative posturing, but she’s sitting on all that wealth, too, rather than pushing for revolution. She is in the political centre, in control of her parents’ money (her mother’s, actually) while doing her hipster art; she also exploits the Dude (to get her pregnant) every bit as much as her father does (to act as courier to pay off Uli et al).

Thus, Maude politically represents how liberals are no better than conservatives when it comes to preserving the class structure of society, all the while acting as though such establishment thinking is solely the fault of conservatives. If the Dude represents the besieged socialist states and vulnerable Third World, she–in her seduction of him–represents the liberals who exploit such poor countries no less than those on the right do.

The last thing that Jesus Quintana comes across as is a practicing Catholic, but that doesn’t mean he can’t symbolize the corruption of the Church. Sobchak’s “day of rest shit…don’t matter to Jesus” reminds one of Christ telling the Pharisees that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), in response to seeing Jews working on Saturday (i.e., “to pluck the ears of corn,” Mark 2:23, presumably because of an emergency [an urgent need to feed the hungry], the only time breaking of the Sabbath is allowed in Jewish law). This scene shows the contrast between ‘Quintana’s’ Church and ‘Sobchak’s’ synagogue.

The sex offences of “the Jesus” can be seen to represent the largely unpunished Catholic priests guilty of sexually abusing boys: one is reminded of the sex perversion and wickedness of the priests in the erotic novels of the Marquis de Sade, for he, an ardent atheist, enjoyed satirizing and shaming the Church (see Sade, pages 762-798).

Sobchak, a Vietnam vet obsessed with his years fighting “Charlie, eyeball to eyeball,” represents neo-con, US imperialism and Zionism, aggressively shoving itself into other people’s business and lives, as Sobchak does. His outbursts indicate the emotional dysregulation of PTSD sufferers. He may refer to Lenin angrily, but he’s most comfortable discussing Theodor Herzl

Though born a Polish Catholic, he’s converted to Judaism, so he’s as much a lapsed Catholic as Quintana. This conversion to Judaism, constant talking about it, and his use of a spinning Uzi when he jumps out of the car during the hand-off of the money, all suggest Christian Zionism, which really is just another form of Western imperialism, rather than an inherently Jewish issue. (Indeed, legitimate anti-Zionism and illegitimate antisemitism are often wrongly conflated by, ironically, both Zionists and antisemites.)

Furthermore, consider Sobchak’s contempt for Saddam (“…look at our current situation with that camel-fucker in Iraq.”) and the Iraqis (“…what we have here, a bunch of fig-eaters, wearing towels on their heads tryin’ to find reverse on a Soviet tank. This, this is not a worthy fucking adversary.”), and therefore, of Muslims in general, all examples of neo-con/Zionist traits.

The three nihilists aren’t Nazis, of course, but their use of violence and destruction in pursuit of their goals (as well as, unfortunately, the German stereotype) shows that they represent the fascist wing of capitalism, for they cut off the toe of their German girlfriend, in hopes of getting “ze money.” (Sobchak’s confusion of the three nihilists with Nazis, as wrong as he is about that, nonetheless strengthens this symbolic association.)

That the big Lebowski seems to have cut a deal with the nihilists to give him an excuse to move some charity funds, while hoping they’ll kill Bunny, suggests a symbolizing of capitalism’s habitual cozying up to fascism, while treating its victims as contemptible and expendable. Her owing money all over town can symbolize the economic crises of capitalism that often fan the flames of fascism, hence the involvement of the nihilists.

Jackie Treehorn, as a pornographer who “treats objects like women,” consummately personifies capitalist exploitation. Of course, he has the “reactionary” and “fascist” Malibu police on his side (two epithets the Dude has for the police chief who hits him on the head with a coffee mug), for capitalists can always rely on the cops to help them, no matter how questionable their business practices may be.

Porn’s objectification of women is so obvious and oft-discussed that my elaboration on the matter would just be redundant; the fact that the “studs” of porn are every bit as exploited and shamed is worthy of note, however, since this shaming is a further developing of the theme of male humiliation.

I suspect that Treehorn’s two goons, Wu and the blond who dunks the Dude’s head in his toilet, are porn studs who double as Treehorn’s muscle, given the two men’s muscles and good looks, not to mention their vulgarity.

More importantly, consider Uli’s humiliation as “Karl Hungus” in the video “Logjammin’.” He and the other two nihilists were musicians as “Autobahn,” a synthesizer-driven “techno-pop” group modelled on such groups as Kraftwerk; the lack of Autobahn’s success, combined with presumed financial woes, has led Uli (and possibly the other two) to have to resort to doing porn in order to survive.

The nihilists’ humiliation has driven them to “takes de money” in a desperate attempt to restore their existence to its pre-porn status, back to their former glory as musicians, hence the playing of their electronic music on a tape player during the fight scene. The nihilists’ situation reminds us of German humiliation and economic woes in the 1920s…and the desperate urge felt to restore the nation’s honour led to…you know. Hence we can see a further association of the nihilists with fascism.

The political meaning behind who is most brutally made fun of in the movie (the big Lebowski, Sobchak, the nihilists, Treehorn and his goons, Quintana, and the gnomish, dancing landlord) is that what they represent is a group of establishment ideologies that deserve our contempt and loathing. Arguably, despite her bourgeois liberalism, Maude is OK–provided she relents and lets the Dude regularly see their future child; for the Dude, for all his faults, foibles, and laughable moments, is the closest the movie comes to having a character who represents a political ideal worth striving for.

As the Stranger says, “sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.”

Conclusion

Finally, the whole twisting and turning plot, which has “a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s,” ends up as, really, much ado about nothing. Instead of the conflict ending with the characters changing or growing in any significant way, everything just ends up more or less the same as it was in the beginning: the tail of the ouroboros at the end of the story finds itself in the biting mouth of the story’s beginning, with no sublation.

Bunny has come back unharmed, for she never even “kidnapped herself”; she just took off without telling anyone, in her usual carefree, irresponsible way. Though they lost Donny, the Dude and Sobchak will resume their bowling tournament. There will be “a little Lebowski on the way,” since the Dude has just passively gone along with aggressive Maude’s agenda to be a mother.

Indeed, the first Dudeist is like a Taoist, who teaches us: “Know the masculine, keep to the feminine.” (Tao Te Ching, 28…and, of course, Maude and Bunny reverse the sex roles of this wisdom.) So, the story, as needlessly and comically complicated as it was, ultimately amounted to nothing, because the Dude’s philosophy is about doing nothing to leave nothing undone. Going with the flow, and following the Tao, “the Dude abides.”

Analysis of ‘Slutlips’

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Slutlips is an album by Cat Corelli, which she released in 2017. It isn’t exactly a rock opera, since much, if not most, of the music isn’t even rock (you’ll hear an eclectic switching back and forth between neo-Baroque, jazz, rock [i.e., a kind of symphonic metalcore], and electronic styles, as well as dreamy, almost psychedelic passages, music reminiscent of the soundtracks of noir films, and even a piano waltz). You’ve heard of silent films; Slutlips is like a film without visuals. As the Chorus of Henry V advised us, we have to use our imaginations to fill in the visual details.

The first link above is to the entire playlist of songs/story scenes; I recommend listening to it all in order for the following analysis to make sense. Here is a link to the lyrics/script.

The story is non-linear, with flashbacks of Lily, one of the main characters, who was sexually abused by her father, Daniel (“Danny”) Torrance. The other main character is Alice, who sees herself in a mirror and imagines herself to be “a slut” (as is her reputation); she’s also a murderess, having bitten into the neck of Roy Torrance, sucked his blood like a vampiress, and slit his throat with a machete (we learn from the police investigation that Roy is Daniel’s brother). Daisy is another significant female character in the story, a nicer, more socially conforming type of girl, what I suspect Lily could have been had she not been abused.

Other characters include Morgan, who plays the piano waltz, Investigator Andy Trudeau and Agent Matt Curtis, who aren’t able to find Roy’s killer, and who expect more killings in the future. There’s also a “Mystery Girl” (Alice? Or, perhaps, the ‘unknown self’ described in the concluding section of this link?), who speaks in an electronically altered voice. There is much mystery in this story, without any real resolution…but this all seems to be deliberate, for the plot is of secondary importance. Slutlips is, essentially, a character study, an exploration of the mind of a victim of child sexual abuse.

Everything about this album involves disjointed elements, with a sudden switching from one idea to another, in terms of the music and the non-linear story. In fact, the whole album began as a number of separate songs written and recorded years back, then later incorporated into the story. This sense of disjointedness shouldn’t deter the listener from enjoying the story, though, for it all serves a purpose in expressing the main theme of Slutlips: psychological fragmentation resulting from childhood trauma.

Much of the story involves Lily’s childhood memories of being dominated by her beast of a father, who, far from giving her the empathic mirroring and love she needed, sexually abused her, then hypocritically imposed the sanctimonious morality of the Church onto her.

Young children, whose personalities are only just forming, need psychological structure and cohesion, which can come only from empathic parents mirroring their kids’ grandiosity in the form of an idealized parent imago. Such mirroring, coupled with optimal frustrations of the dual narcissistic configuration (i.e., grandiose self/idealized parent imago), will help the child mature by taming his narcissism and transforming it, by transmuting internalization, into healthier, more restrained and realistic self-esteem, the sort that allows one to blend in comfortably with society.

Heinz Kohut explained it thus: “The child that is to survive psychologically is born into an empathic-responsive human milieu (of self-objects) just as he is born into an atmosphere that contains an optimal amount of oxygen if he is to survive physically. And his nascent self “expects”…an empathic environment to be in tune with his psychological need-wishes with the same unquestioning certitude as the respiratory apparatus of the newborn infant may be said to “expect” oxygen to be contained in the surrounding atmosphere. When the child’s psychological balance is disturbed, the child’s tensions are, under normal circumstances, empathically perceived and responded to by the self-object. The self-object, equipped with a mature psychological organization that can realistically assess the child’s need and what is to be done about it, will include the child into its own psychological organization and will remedy the child’s homeostatic imbalance through actions.” (Kohut, page 85)

Without that needed structure and cohesion, the child is in danger of fragmentation, which leads, in extreme cases, to psychosis and a detachment from reality. The unhealthy form of narcissism is a dysfunctional attempt at structure and cohesion, in the form of a False Self.

According to Kohut: “I believe…that defects in the self occur mainly as the result of empathy failures from the side of the self-objects–due to narcissistic disturbances of the self-object; especially, and I think, more frequently than analysts realize, due to the self-object’s latent psychosis…” (Kohut, page 87)

Because of the trauma Lily suffered as a child from her narcissistic father, she feels her personality in danger of disintegration, a fragmentation into separate selves, a psychotic falling apart of the personality. I’m not saying she suffers from dissociative identity disorder, but all the female characters in the story–Lily, Alice, Daisy, and the Mystery Girl–seem to represent different aspects of her fragmented self: respectively, the innocent victim, the slut/murderess, the nice girl, and the ‘unknown self’.

The men in the story, paired as Daniel/Roy/Morgan, and the detectives, all seem to be repeats of each other, too; for splitting into good and bad versions of people (the detectives and the Torrance brothers/Morgan, respectively, as the good and bad father) is a common defence mechanism. Also, Alice’s killing of Daniel’s brother, Roy, can represent a displaced wish to kill Daniel himself (in unconscious phantasy); remember that Alice is another version of Lily, slut-shamed as a result of her trauma from the child sexual abuse, and thus–to ease guilt and anxiety–Lily projects the murder phantasy (and sluttishness) onto Alice.

Alice seeing herself in the mirror can be seen as another manifestation of fragmentation, since Lacan‘s mirror stage, not limited to the spastic years of infancy, results in a fragmented body, an alienation of oneself from the ideal-I in the mirror reflection. The clumsy baby senses a discord between himself and the unified, coherent image in the mirror; just as Lily–with only one leg, it would seem–can’t even stand up or dance; while the image Alice sees in the mirror, “a slut” and a killer, can be the ideal-I (Lily’s other self) only of someone having suffered terrible childhood traumas.

Slutlips makes allusions to several films, the noirish Mulholland Drive and Pulp Fiction (another non-linear narrative that symbolically reinforces the theme of fragmentation), and the horror classic, The Shining, also a story involving parental abuse. Slutlips‘ Daniel Torrance, who doesn’t have the psychic powers of The Shining‘s boy (Danny), or of Dick Hallorann, since Lily’s father lacks the empathy of the boy or of Dick, and is trapped in the past (as Jack Torrance is, as I argued in my analysis of The Shining [the novel]), in tradition, Daniel’s Christian heritage.

One thing deserves attention: all of the men speak in overdone, affected accents, cheesy to the point of being comically stereotyped. Rather than be irked by this, the listener should hear in these caricatured voices a manifestation of the False Self of narcissists, or of otherwise alienated members of society, alienated from themselves–more fragmentation.

Lily’s father speaks with an affected German accent, like a clownish Nazi. I say ‘Nazi’, and not German in the general sense, because of his abusiveness to her and his authoritarianism. He’s also a racist, since he doesn’t want to “risk [his] reputation” by being associated with “niggers” in being seen playing the banjo [!]. Since he has a non-German surname, Torrance, it is truly odd that he has a German accent; but that’s just part of the surreal, non-rational world of the unconscious that this story inhabits, Alice’s nonsensical Wonderland, down the rabbit hole and into a world where an authoritarian monarch threatens physical fragmentation (“Off with her head!” says the Queen in Carroll’s story [and Alice’s creator, Lewis Carroll, photographer and drawer of nude children, could have been, like Lily’s father, a pedophile], but in Slutlips, Lily’s father says, “You’re supposed to have only one leg!”). The Alices of both stories, however, remain defiant (Lily: “Daddy, you’re a moron.”) to the dictates of others.

Indeed, this is a world of dreams, dissociations, and mish-mashes of identities. Since I suspect that Slutlips is semi-autobiographical, I get the impression that Daisy, Lily, Alice, and all the other females in this story represent different aspects of Cat Corelli’s personality, the nice girl/bad girl sides, and the good and bad object relations introjected into her unconscious.

The good and bad object relations include the males in the story, too; not just Lily’s father, but also Roy and Morgan, are internalized in her unconscious. Now, the unconscious tends to make confluent mish-mashes of such things as the self and objects, or, I believe at least, between internalized objects, good or bad; just as it makes no distinction between liquids (milk, blood, urine, as Melanie Klein observed–see my analysis of Alien for more details on that).

Compare Lily’s father with Morgan. Her father poses as a good Christian, but he molests her. Morgan presents himself–as a piano player of waltzes and a connoisseur of The Shining–as at least somewhat cultured (he seems to have Lily temporarily fooled into thinking he’s a ‘good father’ substitute), but there’s something creepy in his voice. Speaking of his voice, he too has an affected, overdone accent–a southern accent, making one think of the ‘redneck’ stereotype. Morgan calls blacks “niggers”, too, though he seems to have a more ‘enlightened liberal’ attitude. He even lies to little Lily that he’s Morgan Freeman, an absurd bit of gaslighting comparable to her father’s gaslighting about her “one leg”, which supposedly wasn’t an erroneous belief he’d manipulated her into having, but one she’d pushed onto herself.

So, her father’s a quasi-Nazi bigot, and Morgan’s a redneck hick who at least seems to be a closeted bigot. Her father would have her believe he’s a good church-goer, and Morgan would have her believe he’s a well-loved movie star whose soothing voice embodies all the phoney liberal values the mainstream media promotes (too bad the real Morgan Freeman recently promoted Russophobic thinking, in aid of needlessly escalating tensions between two nuclear superpowers, in a short Rob Reiner video). More False Selves.

In Daniel and Morgan we have two oppressor stereotypes: the Nazi and the American redneck, both racist, both manipulative, the one a double of the other, a fusion of the worst kinds of German and American. The former, as Lily’s abusive father and religious authoritarian, is also representative of the traditional patriarchal family. In contemporary politics, we see Daniel representative of Donald Trump, an American ignoramus of German descent who also has creepy attitudes toward his pretty daughter (and by extension, in US politics there’s a much closer relationship with Naziism than is commonly understood).  But redneck “Morgan Freeman”, being representative of the liberal Democrat who pretends to be progressive but does nothing substantive to help the needy, is hardly an improvement on Daniel. Morgan–presumably white, and claiming he’s a famous black actor–suggests how liberals replace the legitimate proletarian struggle with divisive identity politics. Thus, Lily, representing the proletariat, is manipulated by both liberals and conservatives.

So, how do we help abuse victims like Lily? Do we leave them to their phantasy world of wishing murder on their abusers, dreaming of how Daniel, for example, descends into fragmentation and psychosis on learning of his brother’s murder? Or shall we transform society, so the Lilys of the world can “wake up” (i.e., bring their unconscious traumas into consciousness, and thus, by establishing a coherent, structured self for them, we can cure them) and become whole?

If we plan to do the latter, we can start by listening to these victims, rather than preach to them about behaving better so they won’t ‘irritate’ us so much, as Daniel demands of his daughter. Listening with an empathic ear will help restore the damaged self. Part of listening will require liberating those of colour, LGBT people, and the working class, as well as ensuring equality of the sexes in a socialist, not bourgeois, context. Putting money into childcare will liberate women from domestic burdens; it will also lessen family strain and thus allow for more empathic parenting. Putting money into healthcare–rather than into imperialist wars–must include funding for improving mental health, to provide those listening ears for victims like Lily.

But for now, before a proletarian revolution happens, I urge you, Dear Reader, to listen to Slutlips with an attentive and compassionate ear. For, apart from the pain Cat Corelli screams out on this album, and in spite of (or rather, because of) the many idiosyncratic moments you’ll hear, she is an extraordinary musical talent, capable of a wide range of colours, styles, emotions, and timbres, as well as showing a creative fusion of musical and film genres. Daniel may not have the shining, but in my opinion at least, Cat Corelli does.

Heinz Kohut, The Restoration of the Self, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1977

The Nail

Foreword: What follows is a long, complex, and nuanced argument. It is long because there is no simple way to express the opinions given here. Since I will be touching on some controversial ideas here, I will ask the reader to continue right to the end, and not let his or her preconceptions cause a premature giving up on the argument, to jump to oversimplified conclusions about what my beliefs really are about the subject. Please read without prejudice. This post is meant to be read as a totality, with all of the arguments’ tints and shades weighed in the balance, not plucked out of context to create straw-man arguments.

I: Introduction

“‘…’virtue’ has been impaired more for me by its boring advocates than by anything else…” –Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, ‘Our Virtues’, section 228 (Walter Kaufmann translation)

I once watched this amusing video on Facebook.

Now, as amusing as this video is, it also–whether deliberately or not–can be seen to represent certain political issues that similarly require us all to “listen, and believe,” instead of engaging in rational debate. The ones who require this ‘listening and believing’ are not all women, of course–indeed, many women in the world would prefer rational debate, and many of those who’d have us all ‘listen and believe’ are men–but those that the listen-and-believe faction claim to speak for are women. I refer here to third wave feminists.

I would like to start off by saying that I am in full support of equality for the sexes, and therefore of first and second wave feminism: no discrimination against either sex is even remotely justified in my opinion. I’m not one of those MRAs who rant and rave on Reddit about how women and feminists are, apparently, the root of all evil.

At the same time, though, I don’t believe it’s my duty as a man to lick the boots of third wave feminists, either, who are in many ways the heirs of the preachers of academic Marxism, who in turn are isolated in their ivory towers (in corporate-controlled universities, no less) from the working class they claim to represent. All ideas, whether popular or not, whether politically correct or not, should be properly debated instead of being given sacrosanct ‘safe spaces.’ If women are as strong as men are, then feminists can take criticism as well as dish it out.

Issues regarding the sexes are complex: it is by no means a straightforward task to sort out who the heroes and villains are (if people should even be so simplistically called ‘heroes’ or ‘villains’) in the struggle to liberate us all from the chains of sex roles. There are the well-intentioned and the malicious in all factions, as well as those who are a combination of good and bad. All should be listened to, but none should be credulously believed without first checking the facts. Similarly, if I have asserted anything here that you, Dear Reader, find unbelievable, please check the links to see how my assertions have been backed up.

II: The Wage Gap

Let the shit-storm begin.

A popular statistic gets trumpeted around in the media: women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. It is assumed that this is all unequal pay for equal work. Actually, these kinds of figures are derived merely by looking at overall averages in pay. It doesn’t take into account choices that men and women make–for example, married mothers taking fewer hours at work to have more time for their children, as opposed to fathers taking on more hours, out of a societally-induced obligation, to provide more money for the family.

Nor do these wage gap myths take into account such factors as years of work experience, or the nature of the jobs themselves (the danger pay made by miners, construction workers, etc., stereotypically male jobs, as opposed to the lower pay of office workers, secretaries, teachers, etc., in well-lit, air-conditioned rooms, more stereotypically female jobs, partly because they are jobs women usually prefer over dangerous jobs). If such factors as these are taken into account, the ‘wage gap’ is reduced almost to zero. Now, none of this means that discrimination against women doesn’t exist at all in the West, but rather that it isn’t the gargantuan problem it is said to be.

There is another objection that must be cleared up here: it is often said that women aren’t so much choosing to do these more traditional female jobs, but rather they are societally coerced into doing them because ‘gender’ is a social construct created by ‘the patriarchy’ to keep women down. Put another way, society somehow brainwashes women into being passive, maternal, and gentle (while similarly giving men the supposedly joyous opportunity of being strong and dominant–even though a small minority of men are in dominant positions in the social hierarchy: most men are workers, in the lower echelons of the pyramid; many of us forget that. The vast majority of leadership positions being held by men is not the same as the vast majority of men holding leadership positions.).

This notion of brainwashing women can only be seen as condescending to anyone capable of rational thought. Surely after fifty years of modern feminism, most Western women are aware not only of their sense of agency, but also their expanded opportunities: more women than men graduate from universities, and though women in STEM fields are still minorities, those minorities are hardly the result of societal discouragement (nor is it due to discrimination against women, as is commonly assumed); indeed, if a man suggests–even in jest–that women are less capable than men in such fields, or are more delicate than men, it is instant career suicide for him.

The mainstream Western media, far from limiting women to the traditional roles of housewife, mother, and caregiver (as it had 50-60 years ago), constantly shows women in professional roles in TV and movies, roles once considered only the domain of men: lawyers, doctors, police, politicians, ambitious career women, and fighters. Though women in such roles are obviously dwarfed by their male counterparts, and they tend to be too beautiful too often, these portrayals are clearly meant to inspire and encourage girls to pursue such careers in real life. A whole generation of girls has grown up being told they can do anything a man can. Contrast this with the portrayal of men in commercials, songs, music videos, movies, etc., as either stupid, hopeless losers or incorrigibly wicked.

The encouragement of girls is a wonderfully positive development, and while I personally can do without its lapsing into a female form of chauvinism, it’s also proof that no patriarchal brainwashing of girls exists in the modern Western world. To explain the ‘pay gap’, we must look elsewhere than the sexism theory.

III: Sex Roles–a Reinterpretation

Conventional wisdom has perpetuated the idea that the traditional role of breadwinner privileges men, while the traditional role of housewife enslaves women. Now there is no doubt that doing housework has more than its share of frustrations: the drudgery, the dull routine, the feeling of being like a prisoner in one’s own home. But a man in an office can feel the same way, and the stress of men’s intensified breadwinning, traditional sex role (including holding in feelings, out of the societally-induced obligation to ‘take it like a man’) has been one of many factors leading to them dying considerably younger than women on average (this was especially true in the 20th century). Women report more stress and manage it better than men do, but reporting and managing stress is part of the solution: holding it in and pretending it isn’t there is part of the problem. Hence, stress in men leads to greater mental and physical illness in them than in women, hence, earlier death.

Also, consider how men do almost all of the hazardous jobs: construction workers, soldiers, miners…even garbagemen don’t have a safe job. Over 90% of workplace deaths happen to men.

But ultimately, there shouldn’t be a competition between MRAs and feminists, for all of this comparing of which sex has it worse is beside the point: sex roles were never meant as a conspiracy to privilege one sex at the expense of the other; they were created because, historically, they were the most sensible way to ensure survival. In the past, when the great majority of people did physical labour to make a living, men’s greater physical strength gave women protection, an especially needed thing during the incapacitating final months of pregnancy, before the rise of modern medicine.

The fact that women are the sex that gets pregnant has huge social implications. When a woman gives birth, we can see that she is the mother of that newborn baby; but who was the man who got her pregnant nine months ago? If we cannot identify the father, whichever lovers the mother may have had can all deny paternity: mothers cannot. This is the cruel double standard imposed on women; nature is the unfair one. Patrilineal succession, which motivates fathers to commit to family life rather than abandon pregnant women, is merely society’s rigid attempt to remedy the problem of fatherless families.

I am not recommending a return to such a backward form of social organization. Many of the methods used to ensure the legal fiction of paternity–veiling women, female genital mutilation, killing women merely suspected of lewdness (stoning, honour beatings)–are clearly dysfunctional and abhorrent even to contemplate. What I am trying to do is show that ensuring paternity, for all of its obviously execrable methods, was historically preferable to having a society with litters of fatherless children, a terrible burden for single mothers. Also, the negative psychological effects on children who are fatherless are well-documented.

Fortunately, in today’s society we have DNA testing to ascertain paternity; also–in the developed countries, at least–modern technology, modern medicine, the birth control pill, and economic growth have to a considerable extent liberated women by, among other things, shrinking the burdens of housekeeping from a 24/7 job to a flexible part-time one, allowing women to choose between full-time housekeeping, full-time work outside the home, or some combination of both jobs. Men, on the other hand, have a slight variation on these options: work full-time, and…oh, wait, that’s it, with far too few exceptions. (If more women were willing to support a husband, on the other hand…) Another rarely acknowledged issue is how the modernizing mentioned above was largely the responsibility of the ‘oppressor sex.’ [For more details on this idea, check out “Chapter Two: Stage I to Stage II: How Successful Men Freed Women (But Forgot to Free Themselves)” from Warren Farrell’s Myth of Male Power.]

To return to the subject of traditional sex roles, another issue, one apart from the need to assure paternity, comes from women being the sex that gets pregnant: the greater need to protect women than to protect men. A tribe with, say, one man each to impregnate every ten women has a far better chance of surviving than a tribe of ten men for every one woman, since population growth is crucial to the survival of the community. When we consider how, through most of history, death and disease were around the corner, women frequently died when giving birth, and children frequently didn’t survive to adulthood–due to a lack of modern medicine–it should be easy to see how seriously people took the idea of protecting women for the sake of survival. Small wonder most soldiers in history have been men. Small wonder most dangerous jobs are done by men. Small wonder society values men rescuing damsels in distress instead of women saving men. The feminists who complain about all this ‘benevolent sexism‘ tend to be those in comfortable offices in the First World, for the most part out of reach of the danger, disease, or the destruction of war that plagues developing countries. Women in the Third World, in contrast, usually accept traditional roles eagerly: when you and your family are starving, you tend not to care about GamerGate.

What most third-wave feminists tend to ignore is how women have been honoured–even held in awe–as the Giver of Life. During the Palaeolithic Age, the male role in reproduction wasn’t known: it was assumed that women created life in the womb all by themselves, until such things as cattle-breeding, during the transition to the Neolithic Age, helped man to discover the link between copulation and procreation. The notion of woman as Giver of Life, whose menstruation was once considered a sacred, divine power, was already lodged into our unconscious, though, as was the dually sacred and taboo nature of her genitals. This is the real meaning behind holding women up on pedestals: worshipping feminine beauty, far more than male beauty, as divine; this traditional respect for women (something blacks, gays, and transgender people never experienced as compensation for the bigotry they’ve suffered) can be traced back to such matrilineal practices as ancient goddess worship.

This awe of the Eternal Feminine continued in the worship of goddesses in otherwise patriarchal pagan societies (there’s always a nucleus of matriarchy in every cell of patriarchy): though the Confucianists clearly favoured the male, the Taoists, in their preference of feminine yin over masculine yang, counterbalanced the Confucianists by preferring women. According to Gulik’s Sexual Life in Ancient China, “The Taoists…venerated woman because they considered her as by nature closer to those forces [the primordial forces of nature] than man, and because in her womb new life is created and fostered.” (page 43)

Consider also the implications of the ancient Chinese characters for man and for woman, especially as they were originally written: “…the Yin graph for “woman” consists of a picture of a kneeling human figure the most distinctive feature of which is a pair of disproportionally large breasts…breasts and not, for instance, hands akimbo in wide sleeves, is proved…by the graph for “mother” mu, which has the nipples added…The graph for “man” nan, on the other hand, consists of a square picture of a piece of cultivated land, and another sign indicating to “to work”…This suggests that whereas the Yin principle considered woman chiefly as the nourishing mother, man was viewed primarily in his function of tiller of the land and provider of the family–a distinction which points in matriarchal direction.” (page 5)

Eve (Hebrew hawah, ‘life’) was “the mother of all living.” The almost Isis-like Virgin Mary continues this tradition of honouring mothers in otherwise patriarchal monotheism; and part of the purpose of veiling Muslim women is, apart from restricting their freedoms, to protect them from objectification and the ‘mental rape’ of the male gaze, among other dangers (Koran Surah 33:59). Here we see how traditional notions of femininity and radical feminism aren’t as dissimilar as they seem.

The awe of femininity continues in Europe through the Courtly Love Tradition in medieval literature, in which the female objects of male poets’ love are practically worshipped as goddesses. If a woman was her husband’s property, so was a man his wife’s, in many ways. Consider what Provost and Pompey say at the beginning of scene two of Act 4 in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:

Provost: Come hither, sirrah. Can you cut off a man’s head?

Pompey: If the man be a bachelor, sir, I can; but if he be a married man, he’s his wife’s head, and I can never cut off a woman’s head.

A man’s whole raison d’être is to work, marry, and provide for a family: if he fails to fulfill these duties, he’s shamed, considered less of a man, every bit as much as a spinster is considered less of a woman.

None of this is meant to discredit the many legitimate issues that the women’s movement has raised. I’m not suggesting, through the above examples, that some kind of ‘traditional sexual equality’ has existed throughout history: quite the opposite is true. I merely wish to show that traditional roles have been a mix of honour and oppression for both sexes. Traditional awe of the virtuous virgin certainly makes women feel confined in many ways, but it also privileges them through a presumption of innocence men rarely get (Farrell, 267-299).

Remember that, while the Virgin Mary represents an unattainable ideal for women, so does Hercules for men. Dashing male heroes don’t privilege men–they pressure men to risk death in real life–all just ‘to prove one’s manhood.’ All those male daredevils on motorcycles, etc., do what they do because masculinity is embattled and fragile. Women, as bearers of our sons and daughters, menstruating every month, usually feel little doubt about their femininity–even if they’re unattractive or getting old. Their very bodies ensure their respect–the flip-side of how their bodies are too often sexually objectified.

Now, many of the generalizations that I’ve made about women will doubtless come across as ‘ignorant’ to my readers here. But what must be taken into consideration is the plethora of ignorant generalizations, almost all negative, that are made about men, too, and how the mainstream media and ‘polite’ discourse allows such ignorance to be perpetuated. The egregious website, ‘Everyday Feminism’, is particularly painful when it comes to its ignorant attitudes towards men, attitudes the writers there can get away with making (often with few links to back up their generalizations), since one tends not to find any ‘comments’ sections at the bottom of an article where, had there been one, the pages would surely be bombarded with trolling. Obviously, the writers there need the site to be a ‘safe space’, safe from criticism.

In contrast, I’m not criticizing women as a sex, nor am I even criticizing feminism in general: I’m limiting my criticisms to third wave and radical feminism, and I’m doing my best to back up my claims with sources, since I know my controversial observations won’t just blow by without a reaction of some kind against them.

In a larger sense, though, we’re all limited by our own forms of ignorance and foolish assumptions. This doesn’t necessarily make us ‘bad people’: it makes us human. Anyone who takes issue with what I’ve said may, of course, comment. Personal attacks, verbal abuse, and trolling for its own sake, however, will be ignored. Points of disagreement will be dealt with in a future blog post, either of my acknowledging my errors, or backing my points up with, I hope, more persuasive proof and counterarguments.

IV: Men’s Issues and MRAs

As I’ve said above, I am not an MRA. I don’t believe in wallowing in male victimhood any more than most reasonable women wallow in female victimhood, these being pet hobbies of MRAs and third-wave feminists. Yet just as there are non-feminists who acknowledge real women’s issues in the world (to be dealt with below), there are also non-MRAs who acknowledge men’s issues. For it is the issues themselves (those of both sexes) that need to be focused on, not the validity of the movements that obsess over the issues.

I have already mentioned a few of these: men’s near monopoly on workplace deaths, obligation to fight in wars, obligation to be breadwinners for their wives instead of wives’ obligation to provide financially for househusbands. There are also the earlier deaths of men on average. Third-wave feminists, ever insisting that they only want equality, rarely pay attention to any of these and a number of other men’s issues; but an honest fight for equality of the sexes must include a discussion of these problems.

Other issues include male suicide (four men for each woman), health issues like prostate cancer getting disproportionately less funding than breast cancer, the great majority of child custody cases going in favour of women, most of the homeless being male, and men being given heavier punishments than women for committing the same crimes. When we consider the deplorable state of prison labour for corporations to profit from (and ‘liberals’ like Hillary Clinton, who could become America’s next president, is getting funding from these capitalists), and how it’s essentially a form of slave labour, we easily see the classism and racism (the convicts are disproportionately poor, black, Hispanic, or aboriginal), but we rarely see the sexism (they’re mostly men). If there was ever a form of disenfranchisement par excellence, it’s prison labour. But men do most of it, so we look the other way. Instead, third-wave feminists wring their hands over ‘man-spreading‘, ‘shirt-gate‘, ‘GamerGate’, and ‘elevator-gate‘. Stop the world, I want to get off: which gate will get me out of here?

Now we must deal with the rationalizations typically used for not caring about men’s issues. Male deaths in war are blamed on men, since the vast majority of those who have started history’s wars were male leaders. Indeed, third wave feminists often indulge in the female chauvinist self-congratulation that ‘peace-loving’ women would never cause wars if they were the leaders. The reinforcing of the stereotype of the loving woman versus the warlike male (blithely ignoring hawkish women leaders like Elizabeth I, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher, as well as male pacifists like Mohandas Gandhi, etc.) ultimately betrays the third wave feminists’ ignorance of the whole reason for the existence of war. They, spouting postmodernism and political correctness in their comfortable offices, have rarely been in the trenches, I can safely assume; not surprisingly, they reduce war to men with their army ‘toys’ playing boys’ games.

This is egregious ignorance on the level of ‘anarcho’-capitalists spuriously equating fascism and Naziism with socialism. War isn’t a game: it’s a competition for access to land and resources. Capitalist imperialism has aggravated that murderous competition; and while most of the leaders who have brought about these wars are male, the females in the families of the ruling class have enjoyed the benefits and privileges of empire every bit as much as their male counterparts have, and without sharing the responsibility equally (even though they eagerly endorse the military aggressions of their fathers, brothers, and husbands). The world should be every bit as mad at conservative women like Laura Bush, who in a speech obscenely exploited the plight of Muslim women under the Taliban, which was used as part of the justification for the neocon agenda in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq) in the early 2000s.

When it comes to war-mongering, equality is largely at the top. The deaths on the front lines are almost all boys and young men: legs blown off by land mines, chests riddled with bullets; and the survivors’ memento when they go home is a dash of PTSD. The idea that university students get ‘triggered’ by subject matter they deem offensive or objectionable (usually, such material merely challenges their politically correct assumptions of the world) is a slap in the face to the surviving victims of war, be they military or civilian casualties, who really experience recurring flashbacks of their trauma.

When people speak of the intersectionality of race, ‘gender’, and class, they imply that all white males correspond with the bourgeoisie, and that all women, including white ones, are part of the proletariat. Put another way, men are the ‘whites’ and women are the ‘blacks‘. While it is obvious that blacks, Hispanics, and aboriginals of both sexes are far too often among the poor, both sexes are more or less equally distributed among the upper, middle, and lower classes. Women are the only ‘minority’ that is actually a slight majority.

Now, the lack of access to education for girls is a serious problem in much of the world, one that prevents women from attaining needed financial independence from men; but it’s not like every man is a prince with a pauper for a wife. Show us the male millionaires and billionaires of the world, and we’ll see their wives or girlfriends at their sides, enjoying plentiful access to their wealth, or we’ll learn of their ex-wives, who gouged out a huge amount of their wealth in divorce settlements. The male homeless generally don’t have wives, an obvious point, except that we tend to ignore them as part of the male sex.

We tend to think of a world with men at the top, and women at the bottom, just like whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. Actually, men tend to occupy both extremes more often than women: more geniuses, but also more idiots; more millionaires, but also more derelicts (who have been treated more and more like vermin in recent years); more winners, but also more losers (criminals, alcoholics, drug addicts, the mentally ill, suicides, and murder victims). When third wave feminists seethe with rage at all those men at the top, they blind themselves to all the men at the bottom, dismissing them as ‘inadequate’ or ‘pathetic’, instead of showing the compassion stereotypically ascribed to women. Like many of those bitter MRAs who are enraged over being consigned to the ‘friend-zone’, these feminists are focusing on only a portion of the opposite sex, the portion that is the most sexually attractive. Like the invisible obese or older women who lack the sexual power of their younger, shapelier counterparts, there are also bald, fat, older, short, or poor men who lack the financial or political power of their more desirable counterparts; and rather than feeling ‘entitled’ to sex with women, as many third wave feminists complain about the ‘friend-zoned’, actually these men are just lonely and starving for love. Contrary to popular belief, straight men don’t want only sex from a woman; they want a loving relationship, of which sex is just a part, and they want this from a woman every bit as much as a straight woman wants these things from a man.

Creating true equality for the sexes, therefore, should not be so simplistically reduced to a matter of raising women up to a lofty level that all men are assumed to have always enjoyed. True justice means also raising those men who are homeless, victims of violence, incarcerated, suicidal, or in hazardous jobs, out of the ‘glass cellar’.

However sympathetic I may be to a number of men’s issues, though, I’m not always sympathetic to the way they are articulated by MRAs. While the feminist accusations of misogyny among MRAs are exaggerated (as, to be fair, the charge of misandry among feminists is over-generalized, too: indeed, I’ve even known a few third-wavers who aren’t outright man-haters; I would say, instead, that these otherwise nice people are unaware of how their opinions are informed by propaganda rather than facts), way too many MRAs express their frustrations in a totally inappropriate way. Paul Elam can be particularly prickly: I was disgusted with him when he made this very ungentlemanly remark (to put it mildly) about women’s softening influence in the workplace. That wasn’t an isolated incident, either, and it sends the wrong message to the world. Small wonder MRAs are stereotyped as woman-haters.

When it comes to the leaders of the men’s movement, I always preferred the more soft-spoken approach of Warren Farrell, though his grooming of Paul Elam is, I believe, ill-advised. Still, if we shouldn’t stereotype all feminists as ‘femi-Nazis’, just because of the mentally unstable types like Valerie Solanas, Andrea Dworkin, Kate Millet, and ‘Big Red’, why do we stereotype all MRAs as being, at best, crass big mouths like Elam, and at worst, violent, woman-hating psychotics?

Indeed, an example of the kind of blatantly, deliberately misleading propaganda (scroll down and read Jack Strawb’s comment in the Comments section of this link for a rebuttal of the propaganda) that we have come to expect from the mainstream media can be seen in the labelling of sexually frustrated psychopaths like Elliot Rodger as MRAs. (The media also can’t resist labelling that immature kid as a white male, even though he was actually half-Asian; not that his racial identity should matter one iota, but in our ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ age, colour keeps getting brought up.) What is the proof, beyond the spurious evidence of stereotypical ‘MRA’ misogyny in the rantings of his ‘manifesto’ (in which he also expressed hatred of men), that he was an MRA? Answer: he is known to have visited a few PUA websites. Apparently, guilty as charged…

…Not. The mainstream media, in all of its shameless lying, enjoys conflating MRAs, PUAs, and other Y-chromosome types into an apparently indistinguishable online mass called the ‘manosphere’. While it is true that most of the men in this group are, in varying degrees, traditionally male and critical of feminism, such an admission does not lead inescapably to the idea that they’re all MRAs. MRAs are actually quite a diverse group, some even being socialists.

Many in the ‘manosphere’ aren’t MRAs, but rather are opposed to the men’s movement. Indeed, I remember conservative men calling the men’s movement the ‘war of the wusses’ back in the 1990s. The MRA agenda is to improve the lives of men, sometimes challenging the traditional male role (when it’s harmful to men, as we’ve seen above), sometimes critiquing feminism (because it has clearly harmed men in more ways than it has helped us). PUAs, on the other hand, merely teach men how to get laid.

Since MRAs recognize that the traditional male role hurts men, and initiating dates with women, or pursuing them, is part of that harmful role (i.e., men risk rejection; and the hurt Elliot Rodger felt from being rejected by the beauty queens that society addicted him to is what drove him to kill or injure his victims, who, by the way, were mostly men), then it is clear that PUAs are the antithesis of the MRA worldview. The whole MGTOW movement is all about men freeing themselves from the societally-induced addiction to female sexuality. Being an MRA is not about pursuing women. Ergo, Rodger was no MRA.

V: Rape and ‘Rape Culture’

As every decent person knows, rape is an abhorrent outrage that cannot be tolerated, anywhere or any time. It is a serious crime whose frequency must be brought as close to zero as humanly possible. It doesn’t matter how provocatively a woman may be dressed: men never have the right to force women to have sex, regardless of whether they’re our wives, dates, friends, or complete strangers.

For these reasons, the study of the frequency of rape, as well as how to prevent it, must be as well-equipped as possible with reliable facts. With these two issues in mind, we now have to examine, first, the media’s representation of rape’s frequency (going everywhere from the most publicized to the least publicized of statistics); and second, effective methods for the prevention of rape (as well as ineffective, but greatly popularized, ones).

It is impossible to get consistently reliable statistics of the frequency of rape, since, depending on the research methods, statistics ranging from one in two women being raped, to one in one hundred, can be found. Which figures can be trusted? We really shouldn’t be surprised that the mainstream media has, over the past thirty years, favoured statistics of one in two, one in three, one in four, or one in five, over one in twenty, twenty-five, or fifty. There are two main reasons for this, as I see it: first, there is conservative zeal to protect women from danger (this is the chivalrous ‘women and children first’ mentality, i.e., when a ship is sinking; it’s safer to believe too high a percentage than one that’s too low); second, there is the influence of third wave feminists, who are eager to give maximum media exposure to high percentages for the male rape of women (we must remember that a not insignificant minority of third wave feminists see little difference between all forms of penile-vaginal intercourse and rape, and are on a vigorous campaign to convince Western women that they’re living in a ‘rape culture’).

But seriously, how do researchers come to the one in two, three, four, five, or six frequencies? Typically, these high percentages are the result of exaggerated definitions of rape. Furthermore, the university samples looked at aren’t nationally representative of US college campuses.

In case the reader is unsure of what rape actually is, I recommend viewing such unsettling movies as A Clockwork Orange, Death Wish, I Spit On Your Grave (a particularly anti-male film, actually), and Deliverance (men are sometimes victims of rape, too–an issue all too often forgotten). The victim is physically forced to engage in sexual activity. But these statistics include as examples of rape such things as a man begging and pleading for sex until a woman gives in, ‘mercy sex’–no physical force used at all; a woman getting drunk in a bar, a man–also drunk in the bar–taking her home and sleeping with her, and her regretting it the next day (perhaps because he didn’t call her afterwards); a man making out with a girl, then sneaking his finger inside her vagina or anus, and she slaps him, him blushing and sheepishly apologizing after. It can be reasonably argued that the men in these situations have, to varying extents, behaved badly; but are they rapists? Can their faults be in any way compared with those of Alexander the Large or any of the other low-lifes depicted in the movies mentioned above? (See Chapter 10, ‘Rape Research’, in Sommers [1994].)

Another interesting thing to consider is what happens when we ask both sexes the same broad-based questions used to get those percentages of 50, 33, 25, or 20: the men’s answers also give high percentages of ‘rape’ frequency! (See Farrell, 1993, pages 339-340.) Now it seems as if almost everyone is getting raped. This is how rape gets trivialized. I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but as a man, I was raised with the understanding that rape is one of the most horrifying, despicable things ever done to its victims, be they men, women, or children. These high percentages give off, by the nature of how ‘common’ they make rape appear to be, the impression that rape is just ‘one of those things,’ a sad fact of everyday life. I beg to differ: I consider rape to be something much worse than that.

Along with the seriousness of the rape of women and children is also that of the rape of men. It is often noted how rapes of women are underreported by their victims, for fear that they’ll be called ‘whores’ who were ‘asking for it’. This, of course, is a serious issue that compounds the women’s pain and therefore must be addressed. Another consideration should be all the underreported homosexual rapes of men, where the victims are afraid of receiving ‘gay’ slurs. The fact that society stereotypes men as always wanting sex is no help in this regard, either.

It is assumed that the rapists of men and boys are always men, thus deflecting sympathy away from the victims and reinforcing the feminist myth of ‘toxic masculinity’. Actually, apart from prison rape (in which it must be emphasized that the victims are no less victims just because ‘their own Y-chromosome kind’ raped them), many rapists of men, amazingly, are women, and it could be that many, if not most, molesters of boys (aside from the pedophile priest stereotype) are women (really, really underreported: see Farrell [1993], pages 222-223 ). Consider women teachers seducing their boy students. Just because a man or boy has an erection doesn’t automatically mean he wants sex. Again, while it would be wrong to suggest that third wave feminists never sympathize with this issue, they certainly pay far too little attention to it.

As we can see, third wave feminism and conservatism have taken rape and made a two-sex issue into a ‘gendered’ one, prioritizing women at the expense of men. These two supposedly opposed groups have done the same thing with domestic violence, assuming that battered wives are the rule and that battered husbands are the exception, when actually dozens of studies have been done over the decades that show sexual symmetry in domestic violence at every level of severity (sometimes, a greater number of female initiators of violence are found). Police records will never show this symmetry, since socialization to ‘take it like a man’ makes the battering of husbands far more underreported than the battering of wives. Again, conservative ‘misogynists’ typically favour protecting women over protecting men, just as third wave feminists do. The confluence of traditional and radical feminist thinking in this regard is truly quite eerie.

But pardon my digressions, Dear Reader. What statistics for the frequency of the male rape of women are reasonably trustworthy? I have discovered figures, ranging from one in twenty to one in twenty-five (Farrell, page 340), which acknowledge the many times that women don’t report having been raped, but also define rape as it really is–a forcible assault (the one-in-25 figure resulted from asking women anonymously in a national survey). These figures, unsurprisingly, get little media attention. Why? Isn’t the hierarchy of power and privilege in America and the rest of the West all right-wing, conservative patriarchy, which would prefer to focus on low percentages, to minimize blame of men and perpetuate that male privilege? Our society is certainly all capitalist, or state-capitalist. What statistic, however, have we heard quoted by Obama, that mouth-piece of the ruling class? (Similarly, Obama has quoted the 77-cents-to-the-dollar wage gap.)

Now let us consider effective methods to prevent the rape of women. Merely teaching women to dress ‘modestly’ is woefully inadequate, and leads to victim-blaming, which is of course no solution at all. But what about the popularized notion of ‘teaching men not to rape’? Obviously men have to learn how to curb their id impulses and control themselves. But how does one ‘teach’ men not to rape? Is there a course curriculum, by chance? Training films? Weekly pop quizzes, to keep us lecherous men on our toes? How gruelling the final exam must be! If we fail, how many retests do we get to take? What is a passing grade? 100%, I suspect.

One of the fundamental flaws of third wave feminism is its constant assumption that men are essentially morally degenerate animals that get off on hurting people, assumed to be male property. This assumption is also the basis of their anti-male bigotry, an odd position to have in a political group that professes a belief in sexual equality. To be sure, most perpetrators of violence are men; but when men are violent, they usually attack other men. Prior to third wave feminism’s hegemony over the mainstream media, people had a common-sense view of masculine aggression: some men are good, other men are bad. Good men use their strength to protect women, children, and society in general: contrary to the feminist conspiracy theory about ‘rape culture’, this protection of women is the societal ideal taught to all men; but some men fail to learn, either because of frustrations, due to such problems as financial instability making them unable to find a mate, or because of family abuse, or the failure to adapt to the pressures of the traditional male role, or just these men’s own personal inadequacies. The rage these men feel drives them to be the bad men they become, and they use their aggression in destructive ways. Sometimes, that destructiveness results in rape. Society doesn’t teach men to rape; society sometimes fails in its attempts to teach people good behaviour…but society does try its best.

That drunken, horny men normally control themselves among naked women in strip joints is proof that men in society do learn to refrain from raping women. Yes, there are some men in those establishments who, from time to time, shout rude remarks, grope the women, and behave in other loutish ways; but far more often, the bouncers aren’t needed to throw the lecherous, drunken pigs out of the bars. Usually, the men know that, besides the fear of being beaten up by the bouncers or the strippers’ boyfriends, the women who are turning them on are people, too.

Many leftists reading this will hiss and groan at my ‘insensitivity’ to the plight of objectified women. The very fact that women are far too often regarded only sexually is seen as proof that a ‘rape culture’ exists in the West. Actually, studies show that rape has declined in recent years; but for the typical rad-fem, men’s mere looking at women with lust in their eyes–the ‘male gaze’–is ‘mental rape‘.

While it is true that we need to regard women as much more than just sex objects, often enough, men already do see women as more than that. That men are being guilt-tripped for desires that are perfectly natural is symptomatic of how third wave feminism is working hard to divide the sexes. It’s one thing to minimize male rape of women, which of course must be a minimized crime; it is another to imply, if not outright explicitly say, that penile-vaginal sex and rape are almost indistinguishable (because heterosexual sex, apparently, is about a man dominating a woman instead of both sexes enjoying each other), that women enjoying such sex are manifesting an example of ‘internalizing patriarchy’, that men desiring the beautiful women society addicts us to are ‘raping’ women with their eyes, and women should embrace lesbianism for political reasons–as is often promoted in women’s studies classes–rather than for personal reasons.

If women are regarded as sex objects, I maintain that men are sexual subjects, i.e., assumed to have only sex on their minds. We’re assumed to be guilty of lechery until proven innocent. Yes, we men do tend to be rather sexually eager, to put it mildly (aren’t women, too?); but a casual glance at all the male writing throughout history shows that we think about lots of other things, too: philosophy, art, music, science, politics, literature, etc. The stereotype that each of us men is a 24/7 Priapus is simply insulting.

In societies all over the world throughout history, men have been bombarded with images of idealized feminine beauty, from nude paintings and sculptures, to models on billboards, TV, movies, to strip joints and pornography. Men don’t merely ‘enjoy’ these sexualized images: they’re tantalized by them, made to be addicted to the fleeting pleasures promised, then finally denied access to them until they prove themselves worthy, through making enough money to support a family, being strong enough to protect a family, and having enough style and charm to initiate courtship with a potential female mate. Obviously, many men fail to prove this kind of ‘worthiness.’ The frustration of being rejected by women has reached new lows recently, and men are doing it, too. Since men are much more obligated to pursue women than vice versa, I suspect that the ‘Waste Her Time’ hashtag is retaliation. Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong about that, this ‘joking around’ is actually a really sad state of affairs; it’s as if the divisiveness between the sexes wasn’t already bad enough.

Some men, in their frustration over female rejections, will resort to seeking out prostitutes, porn, or strip joints to satisfy their addiction. Others will behave like oafs and sexually harass women. Occasionally, they’ll sink to Elliot Rodger’s level. We’ll stop men from raping women not by ‘teaching’ them to be good little pro-feminist allies (whose mocking of male chauvinists often suspiciously seems like a repressed, unconscious wish to emulate them; on the other hand, male feminists often suspiciously look like they are being emotionally abused by manipulative feminist wives or girlfriends). Male rape of women will stop by liberating society of sex roles to the extent that women pursue men as often as men pursue women, and are equally willing to be providers and protectors, too.

Along with the demonization of male sexuality is that of female sexuality. For some third wave or radical feminists, women who enjoy sex with men are eroticizing their own submission to ‘patriarchy’, just to ‘get off’. Once again, how condescending the rad-fem attitude is to these truly sexually liberated women. This attitude reminds us of the conservative prude who denigrates such women as ‘sluts’. Apparently, we must still protect our ‘dainty, innocent’ girls from the darker realms of sexuality, as sorority sisters once were when given curfews back in the 50s, 60s, and earlier. Similarly, many rad-fems don’t like the decriminalizing of prostitution recently proposed by Amnesty International: conservatives would agree. While human trafficking for prostitution is a terrible crime that should never be permitted, many sex-workers, independent of pimps and tired of having their work and sexual agency invalidated, want the police protection (to the extent that the police actually protect the public, of course–more on that in the next section below) that will come from decriminalizing their work. Prostitution will continue to exist regardless of whether it’s decriminalized or not; keeping it a crime keeps the stigma against it alive, and when prostitutes are abused, raped, or murdered, neither the law nor much of anybody else will help them.

For my part, I have no desire to go anywhere near prostitutes, for fear of diseases; more importantly, I’m happily married. But criminalizing prostitution hasn’t helped the exploited women (or men) one iota (my novel, Vamps, expresses in allegorical form how I see the difference between exploited sex-workers and independent ones). And ‘abolishing’ prostitution is little more than an idle dream. If there are buyers, there will be sellers.

As for helping girls out of the poverty that often forces them into prostitution or pornography, I believe that the best solution is to have an anarcho-communist society, in which the workers directly control the means of production, including collectivized brothels; the value of mutual aid embodied in such a society would provide the kind of social safety net that would minimize, if not obliterate entirely, the impoverishing conditions that force too many girls into such an unwanted means of making a living. The remaining prostitutes, strippers, or people in porn (which, instead of banning it–a pointlessly futile idea–needs to be made in a non-harmful way), unionized to protect themselves against exploitation, would be doing such work out of choice.

One notable rape case is of a worker in the sex industry, a former pornographic actress named Cytherea; she was raped not during the making of a sex film, but in her own apartment. Even after her friend, porn star Mercedes Carrera, appealed to feminists like Anita Sarkeesian for help in raising funds for Cytherea’s sake, neither the rad-fems nor the mainstream media showed much interest in the story. The rad-fems seem to prefer the rape accusation of the ‘mattress girl,’ someone who was probably lying in order to spite the man she accused.

One could never find a more textbook example of a rape victim unfairly stigmatized by society as a ‘slut’ than Cytherea, and the rad-fems didn’t want to help; while the ‘mattress girl’, doing her performance art and regarded as a more ‘respectable’ kind of woman among the rad-fem university crowd, seems to conform more to the ‘slut’ label (consider her Facebook conversations with the man she accused, as well as her sex tape), especially after she turned on him and slandered him. Just watch the videos of both women here, noting their body language, and tell me which is telling the truth about being raped, and which is probably lying.

Before I move on the next section, there are one or two things that cannot be overlooked: the tastelessness of ‘rape jokes’. Some of this kind of sophomoric ‘humour’ occurs in universities, which are normally bastions of political correctness (as are a lot of public schools, in which children are indoctrinated with third wave feminist ideology), and so these jokes seem in part to be a defiance of PC, for shock value. While I’m all for defiance against PC and the whole SJW mentality (as are some leftists, even), I also recognize that such defiance can be carried too far, as it was with the Yale chanting of ‘No means yes, yes means anal,’ leading to the particularly egregious sale of the slogan on T-shirts, as well as its appearance on a banner in Texas Tech.

Does this prove the existence of a ‘rape culture’, then? Not in my opinion: outrage against the chanting, the banner, and the T-shirts quickly led to their suppression, whereas a rape culture would have condoned and even celebrated them.

We mustn’t generalize about the attitudes of all of society, which has obviously and rightly condemned these scurrilous antics, based on the bestial words of a group of Neanderthals. While it is true that there are still some awful T-shirts of this kind still on sale (please, protest their existence), I can’t imagine them selling well, let alone being worn in public often: the lecherous (and socially inept) minority of men who buy them will surely scare all women away.

On the other side of the coin, there are also innocent men who are falsely accused of being sexual predators, including those of children. As I said before, men are sexual subjects, always assumed to have lewd thoughts in their filthy minds. When a man has been falsely accused, his life has been ruined. And false accusations, though not as widespread as the MRAs claim they are, are also not the rare exception third wave feminists dismiss them as.

VI: Women’s Issues

So far, I’ve been mostly critical of feminism, while being vindicating of men’s issues; just so my readers don’t get the impression that I’m being unreasonably biased in these matters, I’d like to go into those women’s issues I consider worthy of attention.

Before I can do that, though, I’ll have to confront an issue that the disciples of ‘identity politics’ will inevitably thrust before me: I, a ‘cis-gendered straight white male’, have no business whatsoever giving an opinion on what constitutes genuine oppression among the groups that political correctness has officially established as the victims of the world. Once again, we have a weaselly tactic for silencing genuine debate. Instead of appealing to everyone’s common humanity, which lends itself to real equality and reconciliation (an indispensable feature of a united 99%), the social justice warriors (SJWs) would rather divide us and reinforce a discriminatory attitude.

The SJWs may want to reassess their closed-minded attitude when considering that, though I as a man cannot fully understand the female experience (nor do I pretend to), let’s be fair: women cannot fully understand that of the male; yet third wave feminists can be relied on to show contempt for men’s issues, including such impertinence as ‘drinking male tears’, or singing ‘Cry Me a River’, or saying that feminists, of all people, can arrange support groups for suicidal men, these same rad-fems who call MRAs ‘scum’ for seeking such support from men’s groups and ‘rape apologists’ (and if disagreeing about the prevalence of rape is such a reprehensible thing, consider that ‘rape apologists’ are among the SJWs, too). These rad-fems need to reconsider whose presumption is the problem.

We all have ideas to contribute to solving the world’s problems, regardless of our race, sex, or sexuality. And the sexes have a symbiotic relationship with each other: we can’t understand human experience separately from the opposite sex. The only area to show suspicion in is where human bias is too unrestrained. Let’s hear as many ideas as possible; then we can disregard those ideas as unfit when they’re clearly indefensible.

It should be easy for any sensible person to see that women who are truly oppressed in the world are those living in Third World countries, or those where such repressive practices as sharia law go on unchecked. Women being sold into sexual slavery is, of course, one of the biggest problems. I believe it can be partly solved through decriminalized, but regulated prostitution–while keeping human trafficking illegal–for pimp-less, independent sex workers who, free of the social stigmas associated with prostitution, would then have legal recourse to police protection, and could thus also inform the police of those mafia organizations that force women and children into the sex trade. Since I’m not too trusting of the police, as most people aren’t these days, because cops clearly serve the interests of the capitalist class instead of those of the people, I would replace cops with a vigilant militia in the anarchist society I envision; this militia would regularly and thoroughly inspect all red-light districts and collectivized brothels, making sure that no exploitation of any kind is going on.

Other issues include ‘honour’ beatings, lack of girls’ education (Malala Yousafzai, rather than Anita Sarkeesian, is my feminist heroine), female genital mutilation (and let’s not forget its male equivalent, circumcision), the women with HIV in Africa, often raped by men who think a virgin will cure their own AIDS, Saudi women not being allowed to do such things as driving, and all the bizarre stories of rape that we hear of in India, where a true rape culture seems to exist (or is this just a racist exaggeration?), as in Afghanistan and the rape of boys.

My wish to emphasize these problems is not out of a wish to excuse Western men of their scurrilous treatment of women when it happens, such as in the Yale and Texas Tech examples mentioned above, the horrific Planned Parenthood shooting, or to general right-wing opposition to abortion; rather, my wish is to remind us all of how much more urgent women’s problems are elsewhere. The feeling that I get from most third wave feminists is that they use these other, more serious issues to facilitate imposing collective guilt on all men, as if we in the West are no better than the patriarchs who impose sharia law. If the rad-fems really care about those women as much as they say they do, they need to focus less on guilt-tripping Western men, by genital association, with these Third World horror stories, and focus more on simply going out to those countries and helping those women.

Let us consider the Kurdish women in the YPJ, who carry rifles and fight ISIS in the Kobane region. If feminists want me to show more respect for their movement, I’ll give that respect to those women fighters, for it is they who are the real feminists of today, not these bourgeois upper middle class white women we keep hearing complain, without end, in the Western media.

Now, when we speak critically of the treatment of women in the Islamic world, we must bear in mind that, while much of that criticism legitimately concerns authoritarian Muslim fundamentalism, other parts of it are based not so much on fact, but on our Western biases. The Western media is fond of stressing the oppression of women there and in the Third World, as a means of justifying Western imperialism (if we invade and ‘liberate’ countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ll ‘liberate’ their women, too; when anyone with a brain knows the West is plundering those countries for resources). Actually, when the West leaves these countries alone, they are often already with reasonably liberated women. The oppression of women tends to come once the Western (and, in the case of Afghanistan, Soviet) imperialists have done their damage, then authoritarian Muslim extremists come along to fill up the power vacuum left behind when the imperialists leave.

Ignorance of the Islamic world and its history abounds when there’s discussion of such things as a Muslim man being permitted to have up to four wives: this was based on a need to marry off widows after wars in 7th century Arabia killed off scores of the men; in the appalling poverty of the desert, getting their widows protected and provided for was urgent (Rodinson, p. 232). The problem is that this custom became enshrined in the Koran as an ‘eternal law of Allah’ rather than understood as an answer to a specific problem at a particular time in history.

It is smugly assumed in the Western world that a harem is a male paradise, as if the only thing a rich man does with his wives and concubines is lie in bed with them all day and night. What nonsense. Many men will tell us of the trials of living with one nagging wife: imagine having up to four!

Mohammed had many wives, not merely for his pleasure, but because these wives were all alliances of great political importance, linking Mohammed with a number of clans for the sake of spreading Islam. He also had a pretty young concubine, Mariya, whom he especially liked (I’m not condoning his proclivities in the least; it’s just part of the story), and on the night he was supposed to spend with one wife, Hafsa, he was naughty and spent it with the concubine…in Hafsa’s hut! (She was thought to be away for the night, but she unexpectedly returned.) Hafsa was furious, and kicked up such a loud fuss that her complaints couldn’t be ignored just because she was a woman. [See pages 280-281 of Muhammad, by Maxime Rodinson.]

There is similar respect given to multiple wives in Chinese history that is recorded in Sexual Life in Ancient China: a Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society from ca. 1500 BC till 1644 AD, by R.H. Van Gulik, on page 109:

“Our traditional habit of referring in common parlance to the polygamy system in a spirit of levity has given the general public the mistaken impression that a harem is a man’s paradise…In China wives and concubines had a definite status and vested individual rights, fixed by both statutory and common law. The householder had to respect those rights, and fulfil his many duties to his womenfolk, not only in giving them sexual satisfaction and supporting them economically, but also in the more subtle field of personal affection, consideration for individual preferences and foibles…If the householder was deficient in one of those duties, bedlam would result. And this failure to maintain a harmonious household could ruin a man’s reputation and break his career.” As we can see, a harem isn’t a mere brothel.

Actually, polygyny, properly understood, is like a kind of socialism for poorer women (Farrell, 75-76), as is hypergamy. Generally, the wealthier men of history have had multiple wives. No one feels pity for all those poor men who cannot have a wife, and are thus deprived not merely of sex, but more importantly, of love, because the rich men married the poor women. At the same time, those no longer poor women may have had to endure such annoyances as sharing one man, always jealously fighting over which one he loves the most; but on average, they’d got to live in finer houses, eat better food, and wear prettier clothes.

I in no way wish to condone the marital arrangements Muslims and Mormons have had, not only for the reasons feminists don’t like, but for the reasons I’ve just outlined.

I want women to have financial independence from men not just for the sake of improving women’s opportunities in life, which I value as much as feminists do, but for the sake of improving men’s opportunities, namely, to give men the greater opportunity of being financially supported by their wives, if needed. This just might reduce the number of male homeless. If third wave feminists publicly paid more attention to such men’s issues as this, they might not have to hear the ‘femi-Nazi’ slur so often.

It’s terrific to be living in a world today when women can be more than just a wife, a mother, or an object of male desire. But young women in college today would show their feminist credentials far better by studying business, engineering, and the like, than by wasting their years in ‘Women’s Studies’ courses, which hardly lead to high-paying jobs. Instead of complaining about ‘the patriarchy’, more Western women should be taking full advantage of their newly-gained opportunities, more than those women who actually do. If men in the sciences are saying such things as, “Three things happen when [women] are in the lab … you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry,” instead of ruining the career and reputation of a foolish man for saying a stupid thing, prove the male chauvinists wrong by demonstrating that you, women, are nothing like the old stereotypes. Don’t censor sexism: manifest proof of its wrong-headedness, and it will fade away.

Don’t complain about the nail in the woman’s head: pull it out. If women today allow third wave feminist propaganda to continue spreading, the second wave gains may one day be lost. It is to this problem that we must now turn.

VII: Third Wave Feminism Is a Danger to Second Wave Feminism

Third wave feminists tend to think that the more radical they get, the better, and thus the closer to ‘true liberation’. When they think this way, however, they ignore the dialectical nature of ideas, which acknowledges the unity of opposites. Every idea has a negation, or opposing point of view, every yin has its yang; and the more we ignore these oppositions, the more they insist on being known. The antithesis of feminism is, of course, the backward notion that women are inferior to, or weaker, more emotional, and less rational, than men.

Currently, conservatives, MRAs, and the like generally limit their criticisms of all things feminine to third wave feminism, while rad-fems exaggerate these criticisms, calling them all ‘misogyny’. Along with such an absurd generalization, third wavers assume that they speak for all women, and that any woman opposing rad-fem ideas has ‘internalized misogyny’, or is currying male favour, or is a ‘rape apologist’, rather than displaying a logic clearly superior to that of the rad-fems (who include men, don’t forget), who can’t answer to these criticisms with better counter-arguments.

Now, when the powers-that-be, and the mainstream media, including Hollywood movie stars, back up the rad-fem claim to speak for all women, and with such bizarre claims as ‘everything is sexist’, including video games, how men sit on the subway, ‘benevolent sexism’, censoring the internet to protect women from ‘cyberviolence’ (while ignoring how often feminists and SJWs harass people online, too), creating ‘safe spaces’ in universities to protect women from criticisms of radical feminism, and the hypocritical insistence on ‘gender neutral’ language while equally insisting on male-negative language (man-spreading, mansplaining, etc.), this could cause criticisms of feminism to degenerate into those of women in general (in the case of Roosh V, this degeneration has already happened). Misandry leads to genuine misogyny. From thesis to antithesis. Dialectics.

The third wave feminist penchant for censorship of any ideas critical of its ideology, while also using the mainstream media to ensure its ideological dominance, presents dangers and threats not limited to the ‘fragile male ego’ (which, incidentally, is much tougher and more resilient than many imagine, considering how men endure hazing and trolling more than women, the third wave feminist section of which needs ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’), but to freedom of speech and democracy in general. If we lose those last two, civilization could be spiralling back down into a new Dark Ages; and with so much of the world’s wealth being concentrated in the hands of so few, protected by the power structures of the state, the fear of neo-feudalism on the rise isn’t as alarmist as it may sound.

When some third wave feminists insist on assuming that a man accused of rape is guilty, without needing to doubt or question the accuser, but instead, ‘listening to and believing’ whatever she says, they are setting a dangerous legal precedent that threatens our modern notion that the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This kind of thing is what I mean when I say they are putting freedom of speech and democracy in danger.

With such fears in mind, we might want to remember some old quotes about women, once considered ‘wisdom’:

A clever man builds a strong rampart, a clever woman overthrows it. —Book of Odes, no. 264 (Chinese classics)

Mulier taceat in politicis. (‘Woman should be silent when it comes to politics.’) –Napoleon, quoted by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil, ‘Our Virtues’, 232

If a woman has no talents, that is virtue for her. –a dictum during the Ming Dynasty

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. –St. Paul, I Corinthians 14:35

Are you visiting women? Do not forget your whip! –Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘Of Old and Young Women’

…women remain children all their lives, never see anything but what is closest to them, cleave to the present moment, take appearance for reality and prefer trifles to the most important affairs. –Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘On Women’

This is what misogyny really looks like.

I assure you, Dear Reader, that I don’t agree with one word of any of the above quotes; but I wish to use them to warn women of the dangers of allowing the third wave feminists to continue spitting their bile. The harshest remarks of the MRAs against ‘femi-Nazis’ will be sweet poetry compared to the misogyny of the future if we allow to continue such nonsense as complaining about ‘man-spreading’, ‘air conditioner sexism’, and ‘video game sexism’, to say nothing about advocating internet censorship of trolling against the likes of Anita Sarkeesian, or reducing the male to 10% of the population.

If women don’t mobilize against third wave feminist excesses, which are sure to grow into ever greater absurdities in the next few decades, conservatives (of the Attila the Hun variety) will be listened to much more than currently, and dialectics will rebound against women; then, adieu to the vote, ladies, and farewell to anti-sex-discrimination legislation. Welcome back to college women having a curfew in their dorms at night, to protect them from ‘rape culture’. Welcome back to the kitchen. Welcome back to ‘the problem that has no name’. And watch coat-hangers replace abortion clinics.

VIII: Fact and Fiction

One area where third wave feminists eagerly look for excuses to complain about being victimized isn’t in the real world, but in fiction, of all places. In any novel, short story, TV show, video game, or movie in which women are victimized or abused, it is assumed that these fictions are promoting or encouraging such mistreatment in real life. Accordingly, outrage is shown against these ‘misogynist’ fictions. Violence against men in such made-up stories, on average much more frequent, is rarely discussed, let alone condemned.

Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho is a case in point. While it is true that the novel features horrific, graphically-described violence against women, such shocking scenes are hardly proof that the novel is a celebration of the violence. The killer, who narrates the story, is no sympathetic character, even though Patrick Bateman was based on Ellis, who felt Bateman’s alienation in yuppie 80s New York City. Bateman’s bland conformity, ridiculous taste in music and movies, and contemptible personality clearly show that the novel isn’t anti-woman, but rather an anti-yuppie, anti-capitalist satire.

Recently, we have the strange case of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel whose real sin is the awful prose style, if it can even be called a prose style, rather than its portrayal of a woman in an abusive relationship. The controlling nature of Christian Grey, who apart from that seems every conservative woman’s dream (handsome, rich, great in bed, ‘take charge’ attitude), is the centre of conflict in the novel. Just because he’s controlling doesn’t mean the author is trying to encourage abuse; Christian’s abusive manner is meant to create tension in the story. Anastasia Steele is torn between having a ‘nearly perfect’ man and giving up one who is flawed in one especially troubling way. Even a writer as clumsy as E.L. James knows that her story has to have a conflict: without conflict, a novel is dull. Christian’s ‘fifty shades of fucked-up’ (barf) is the conflict that needs to be dealt with. When he carries his spanking too far, Ana does the sensible, if painful, thing and leaves him. Ergo, abuse isn’t condoned.

Normally, when we encounter violence against women, it’s in the horror genre, because violence against women is horrifying to us. When we find violence against men on the screen, it’s typically in action movies, because seeing men shot, stabbed, decapitated, or blown up is exciting. A movie about wife-beating is shocking; a movie with a battered husband amuses us.

When we saw women killed in Mad Max: Fury Road, an obvious third wave feminist allegory, we were deeply saddened; whereas when the men–almost all of them dehumanized, skeletal clones of the patriarchal system set up by Immortan Joe–got killed, we felt nothing for them. After all, evil men set up the system. Similarly, for all of the movie’s pretensions about showing women fighting by men’s side as their equals, the protection of the five wives–the damsels in distress (!)–is paramount. The men, even the few good ones, are expendable.

Opposition to the feminist Mad Max movie has been portrayed in the media as mostly about insecure men who are threatened by the idea of women fighters in a ‘guy movie’. For my part, I couldn’t care less whether or not an action movie is for men; being a bit of a comic book geek myself, I tend to go for superhero movies, in which there are at least a fair number of women fighters, rather than your average ‘shoot-’em-up’ movie.

As far as being a feminist movie is concerned, the new Mad Max should be under scrutiny for its anti-male content, not for its not-so-male content. The women, and all that is feminine, represent life; the men, being their opposite, represent their opposite, too–death. The ‘Green Place’ (“of many mothers”) is the old matriarchy of feminist myth, an ecological utopia laid barren by life-destroying men, who are explicitly blamed by the Splendid Angharad for the catastrophe (“Then who killed the world?”). Immortan Joe wears a skull-like breathing mask; the ‘War Boys’, with their white-powdered skin, blackened eyes, and parched lips, look like skinny skeletons. The woman/life idea is nothing new: the Eternal Feminine as Giver of Life has been with us throughout history. It isn’t a revolutionary idea: it’s a conservative one.

The only two good men in the movie, Max and Nux, must first be redeemed and guided into the paths of righteousness by Furiosa and the other females; she calls Max ‘Fool’ even when he’s demonstrated that he’s on their side. (As is pointed out in Spreading Misandry, the mainstream media typically portrays men as either evil or inadequate in some way: consider Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Silence of the Lambs, Kids, or the Scorcese remake of Cape Fear, to name just a few movies of this sort.)

When the former female inhabitants of the matriarchal paradise called the ‘Green Place’, called the ‘Vuvalini’ (an obvious pun on vulva), they show suspicion of Max and Nux until Furiosa acknowledges these men as ‘reliable’. Elsewhere, Immortan Joe’s son–a hulking, muscular jock who mourns the loss of an unborn younger brother (Joe’s ‘property’), but couldn’t care less about the death of the pregnant mother–is named ‘Rictus Erectus’, of all absurd names. Need I explain the meaning of that name in its feminist context?

Now, despite the criticisms I’ve made of ‘one of the best action movies ever’, I will acknowledge that Mad Max: Fury Road was a reasonably entertaining movie, and not as ‘offensive’ as the MRAs and the manosphere see it as (see Thelma and Louise to get an idea of how bad a misandrist movie can be). I consider the excessive praise Mad Max has been given, however, to be politically motivated, as well as the result of our superficiality, always fetishizing car chases and explosions. My wife found the thinly-plotted story to be so ludicrous that she stopped watching the rented DVD with me thirty minutes into it. Politics aside, though, my personal verdict? Meh.

To link these stories up and give them relevance for my essay, third wave feminists cherry-pick incidents of violence against women in novels and films to suggest a misogynist acceptance, or even glorification, of such violence; while the far more frequent examples of violence against men and other forms of misandry in the media are ignored, rationalized, or even laughed at.

To show the absurdity and hypocrisy of this position by way of contrast, consider the writings of the Marquis de Sade, a man formerly categorized under Wikipedia as an anarchist and a feminist. The feminist label seemed particularly bizarre given his penchant for writing pornographic tales involving tying up and whipping women (not to mention this vice having been a guilty pleasure of his in real life). But when we consider his involvement in revolutionary politics during the French Revolution, sitting at the far left wing in the National Convention of the French First Republic in the 1790s, advocating absolute individual freedom, even from morality and religion, the anarchist label had at least some justification. Also, he extended his philosophy of sexual libertinage to women, honouring their free right even to cuckold their husbands, as he does in Philosophy in the Bedroom; given how ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ is based on a male fear of being cuckolded, such advocacy of women’s sexual freedom is about as pro-feminist as it gets, especially by late 18th century standards.

Now we can consider Sade’s pornography-cum-philosophy (pardon the pun) in perspective. Justine, Or the Misfortunes of Virtue is no celebration of violence against women, even though the libertines–who torment, rape, and humiliate poor Justine throughout the story–are all spokesmen for Sade’s anti-Church, pro-individualist beliefs. Her suffering, all while doing good and holding fast to her faith that God will eventually deliver her from her persecutors, is meant to illustrate Sade’s belief that no good deed goes unpunished. Sade had a virulent hatred of Christianity and Catholic authoritarianism, and gave vent to this hate in some of the most creative literary blasphemies I’ve ever read. Indeed, when Justine is caught and sexually abused by a group of monks, this is meant to show the Church’s moral hypocrisy, not to condone misogyny.

Still, radical feminist Andrea Dworkin dismissed Sade as a writer of “vile pornography“, while moderate feminist Simone de Beauvoir defended Sade in an essay called, “Must We Burn Sade?”. This comparison of the moderate and radical forms of feminism should show how intellectually bankrupt the latter is. If feminism can defend Sade, why can’t it defend Bret Easton Ellis or E.L. James? And why does feminism celebrate an action movie cluttered with violence against men from beginning to end, calling such violence ‘women’s liberation’?

IX: Gloria Steinem, the CIA, and a Divided Left

Gloria Steinem was crucial in bridging the gap between second and third wave feminism during the 1970s and 80s. With her calm, stoic, and even lady-like manner, she helped weaken the stereotype of the ‘loud mouth feminist bitch’. What not so many people know about her, however, is her involvement with the CIA during the early years of her career.

In the late 1950s, Steinem was hired by the CIA to send non-communist American students to the World Youth Festival, a Soviet-sponsored event, in Europe. As anyone who knows anything about the CIA can easily see, that organization is ruthless in its promotion of the interests of the American capitalist class, as is its British counterpart, the MI6; both intelligence organizations, we’ll recall, helped in the ouster of Mohammad Mosaddegh, who wanted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. The CIA also helped remove the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende on September 11th, 1973, when he was trying to nationalize Chilean industries.

Another thing the CIA wanted to start manipulating was the world media: this was the purpose of Operation Mockingbird in the late 1950s and early 60s. Now, in 1963, Steinem did some reporting on the exploitation of women as Playboy bunnies; this story gave her little advancement as a journalist. She said it was because she had “become a Bunny,” but I suspect that this was because of Hugh Hefner’s powerful influence, punishing her for embarrassing him. She would rise to prominence in the media, nonetheless, with a 1969 article.

Some believe that her CIA contacts helped her with that rise, culminating in the creation of Ms. Magazine. Quickly, she moved from the moderate kind of feminism we associate with the second wave to what we now call the radically ‘Marxist’ third wave. Warren Farrell, then sitting on the board of directors of NOW, noticed that quick change in her. Oddly, though, he has continued to speak kindly of her, even in recent years.

Here’s a question for you, Dear Reader: if Steinem (who considers herself a radical feminist) and radical feminism are legitimately leftist, why has the CIA helped them to grow and have so much influence in the media? Is that connected with the divisiveness of their ideology? I believe the connection is there.

In an early interview, Steinem spoke glowingly of the CIA, saying it could promote liberal values. Of course: bourgeois liberalism, which Steinem has always epitomized.

The capitalist class knows that in its manipulation of the media, it cannot present only right-wing views; the rich know that enough of the masses can recognize conservative propaganda, so there must be a considerable measure of left-leaning propaganda peppered in there, too, to create the illusion of a free press. But as Noam Chomsky has observed, the debate between such things as the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ is given only within strictly limited bounds, to ensure a minimal, controlled exchange of ideas. Divide and conquer.

I believe that such a circumscribed presentation of the issues has been given on the controversies regarding the sexes, and deliberately so, to ensure a divided working class. Elsewhere, the right portrays its ideology as representing ‘Christian, family values’, rather than the authoritarianism and bigotry that their ideology really is. The right portrays the West as ‘civilized’ and the Islamic world as ‘barbaric’, while bombing Muslim villages in drone strikes and driving Muslims to revenge, out of desperation to defend themselves against imperialism. The right portrays capitalism as ‘freedom’ (i.e., the ‘free market’ as the only ‘true’ capitalism, totally unfettered by the state), and socialism as ‘Big Brother government’ (instead of a worker-controlled society, without the need of a state); yet with every ‘free market’ deregulation and tax cut to the rich, the state actually expands instead of shrinking, since the rich–who need the state to protect their wealth–use their extra wealth to buy more politicians and extend state power into foreign lands via imperialism (to steal more resources, like oil), thus creating the very crony capitalism that the right-libertarians think the ‘free market’ will eradicate.

Similarly, third wave feminism is portrayed in the mainstream media as reasonable, moderate (mentally unstable extremists like Valerie Solanas, whose radical feminism during the second wave inspired much of the misandry seen today in the mainstream media, even seem to be ‘hip’), and only wanting equality (in contrast to Anita Sarkeesian’s bizarre idea that the media routinely portrays feminists, who raise ‘legitimate concerns’, as extremists); when actually third wave feminism is in many ways a traditionalist movement, frequently anti-porn and anti-sex, constantly demanding extra protections for women, while largely ignoring the need to give men equal protection.

Furthermore, it’s the men’s movement that is portrayed as extremists and haters of the opposite sex (if Anita is concerned about how feminists are portrayed in the media, she might want to consider how MRAs are straw-manned as fedora-wearing, virginal ‘neck-beards’ who live in their moms’ basements eating Cheetos–a much more pervasive media misrepresentation: look anywhere on Facebook to see what I mean). Leaders like Warren Farrell actually never gave up their original sympathy for feminism (the moderate, second wave kind); instead, MRAs often break the taboo against extending protection equally to both sexes, and it is for this kind of reason that they’re misrepresented as misogynists. (After all, giving men equal protection means taking some protection away from women; this is seen as tantamount to violence against women.) But here’s the crucial thing: to ensure true equality for the sexes, this taboo must be broken. Breaking this taboo will ensure the existence of strong, independent women. But don’t expect third wave feminists to lead the way there any time soon.

The media’s focus on the misogynist rants of some MRAs (like Paul Elam), and the associating of murderers like Roger Elliot with MRAs, adds to the same divisiveness that third wave feminist misandry causes. More and more, the global proletariat is divided, which is exactly what the ruling class wants.

Instead of promoting real solidarity among the working class, Steinem has been more interested in promoting the divisive writing of Andrea Dworkin, Marilyn French, and others. Steinem was also instrumental in promoting (perhaps even ghost-writing) Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, about black men’s mistreatment of black women; this was a book that was criticized particularly for dividing the black community. I can’t help thinking that this was the intention Steinem had for the book.

I’m not denying that there have been many Marxists who have genuine sympathies for radical feminism; but before the 1980s, they were largely among the fringes. A Marxist feminist named Juliet Mitchell even defended Freud against feminist criticisms back in the 1970s with her book, Psychoanalysis and Feminism.

On the other hand, one group of radical feminists/communists, the Redstockings, did something I applaud: in the late Seventies, they questioned Steinem about her former CIA activities. Crucial evidence against Steinem was presented by the Redstockings in a publication called Feminist Revolution. Then it was censored, the CIA chapters removed, the threat of litigation being a deterrent to their publication. Hmm…

What ultimately matters, for the purpose of my argument, is not whether most Marxists have always sympathized with the ideas of third wave feminism; but rather that, since Steinem’s rise to prominence, the mainstream media has pushed radical feminist ideas (contempt for men, exaggerated rape statistics, female chauvinism in general) away from the fringes and into the consciousness of the general public.

Now, since I believe in freedom of speech (unlike Sarkeesian and her ilk), I would allow all radical feminist literature to be published; but I’d prefer that it not be given such prominent attention in the mainstream media. There will always be extreme thinkers out there spouting excesses (among MRAs, too, of course), and silencing them would only validate their sense of being oppressed. Bringing their hysterical ideas into everyday discourse, however, will not help women (or men) by one millimetre; it will divide the sexes, as it already has.

Consider the allegorical meaning of kids fighting each other to the death in The Hunger Games. Instead of us little people fighting the big people (the Capitol, the 1%), we little people fight with each other in pointless online disputes. This divisiveness between the sexes is so bad now that, among the MRAs, there’s the MGTOW movement. Given how divorce is so stacked against men these days, men’s despair at the prospect of marriage is understandable; but if there’s any one way to stop the 99% from finally rising up against the 1%dividing the people, 50/50 because of the sex war, is a perfect way to do it. For this reason, the sexes must be reconciled.

Never forget just how adaptable capitalism is, including the promoters of its ideology. Consider David Harvey’s words:

“Capital is not a fixed magnitude! Always remember this, and appreciate that there is a great deal of flexibility and fluidity in the system. The left opposition to capitalism has too often underestimated this. If capitalists cannot accumulate this way, then they will do it another way. If they cannot use science and technology to their own advantage, they will raid nature or give recipes to the working class. There are innumerable strategies open to them, and they have a record of sophistication in their use. Capitalism may be monstrous, but it is not a rigid monster. Oppositional movements ignore its capacity for adaptation, flexibility and fluidity at their peril. Capital is not a thing, but a process. It is continually in motion, even as it itself internalizes the regulative principle of ‘accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production.” –David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, page 262

I believe the capitalist class is responsible for promoting an extreme, mutant form of feminism into mainstream thinking (the same applies to the men’s movement). The super-rich control the media, and contrary to the notion that we are routinely bombarded with ‘misogynist’ messages in the media, we have actually been so saturated with third wave feminist propaganda for the past thirty to forty years that we haven’t even noticed it, this increasing saturation eerily coinciding with the rise of neoliberalism and the corporate takeover of universities (which, though in some ways have grown more right-wing, have in other ways grown ever more politically correct) during those very same years.

Contrast today’s world with the spirit of hope in the late Sixties, when Keynesian economics prevailed, unions were strong, the welfare state provided a strong, if imperfect, social safety net for the poor, the fight for racial and sexual equality was largely in a spirit of harmony and solidarity, and socialist states like the USSR and Cuba provided a genuine, if flawed, alternative to capitalism (the problems of Mao Zedong’s rule notwithstanding). On top of all that was the hippie counterculture, which–though in many ways too idealistic–added to the optimism of creating a better world.

The ruling classes must have been terrified that they were going to lose all their money. They were clearly looking for ways to turn things back around in their favour. People like Milton Friedman were proposing a return to laissez-faire as a response to the stagflation in the economic crises of the early-mid 70s. The CIA, with Operation Mockingbird, had their darling Gloria Steinem. Perhaps I’m being a bit too conspiracy-minded here, but I find her rise, and later that of third wave feminism, the corporate takeover of universities (which includes the CIA’s promotion of French intellectuals like Foucault and Lacan, as a kind of pseudo-left that intellectualizes instead of committing to anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism), and the Reagan way of doing things a little too coincidental. (Consider how ‘Marxist’ Steinem prefers imperialist Hillary Clinton over social democrat Bernie Sanders, merely because she is a she.)

We have no problem acknowledging how the ruling class used fascism to pervert socialism by turning it into nationalism. We easily see how true libertarianism was redefined as a right-wing movement, opposing government-granted social welfare. When will we acknowledge that the ruling class surreptitiously stole feminism by creating a sex war to divide the working class? When male leftists who criticize third wave feminism are called ‘manarchists’ or ‘brocialists’, this is an insult; but to be called an ‘anarcha’-feminist is a badge of honour, even though it gives third wave feminism illegitimate authority, as I will explore soon.

My comrades on the Left will naturally want to vilify me as not being a ‘true’ leftist for refusing to validate third wave feminism (even though I thoroughly honour the achievements of first and second wave feminism). Actually, I can invalidate third wave feminism precisely on anarchist and even Marxist principles.

The fundamental principle of anarchism is the requirement of all systems of authority to justify themselves; if they can’t be justified, they should be dismantled, and the anarchist assumes no authority is justified from the beginning. The burden of proof is on the system of authority to justify itself, not on the anarchist to prove the authoritarian system invalid. Accordingly, the vast majority of authoritarian structures–capitalism, the state, monarchy, feudalism, religion, the police, etc.–cannot be accepted by the anarchist.

To be sure, the traditional patriarchal family–with the father as its unquestioned head–is rejected by all anarchists, including me. And in those traditionalist families in, for example, the Bible Belt or the Islamic world, the patriarchal family still shows its ugly face.

But by what reasonable measure can we say that the average modern Western family is ruled by the father? Around half of Western marriages, on average, end in divorce, and the mother usually wins custody of the children, the ex-husband being saddled with alimony. The proper, historical definition of patriarchy, contrary to the third wave feminist notion of an invisible bogeyman that permeates all of politics and society, is of a family structure in which the father is the head of the house. That was the norm in Western society…until its breakdown in the 60s and 70s, with increasing divorce rates and the Sexual Revolution.

When we see a world where all the political, economic, and religious structures are dominated by men, we’re seeing a reflection of sex roles, not of ‘patriarchy’. The traditional male role has been to protect society and provide for a family, so most of the leaders and those in the upper echelons in the world have always been men; but only a small percentage of men have leadership positions in these hierarchies (as opposed to the great majority of men, who are poor workers), this being especially true today, with an ever-increasing minority of women alongside men in most of the echelons of these hierarchies.

The traditional female role has been to raise a family, so those who have dominant influence in the financial and power structures of today’s Western family are typically women, with so many single mothers raising fatherless children, and even in many married families, where wives are free to berate their bumbling, apologizing husbands. With few women willing to support a husband financially while he does domestic duties (Farrell, p. 33), we’re still seeing not too many examples of fathers with dominant influence in the family in today’s Western world. Feminists like to claim that ‘the patriarchy’ invented sex roles (rather than biological necessity) to benefit men at women’s expense; in reality, sex roles paradoxically advantage and disadvantage both sexes simultaneously, though in different ways.

How sex roles have created male advantage and female disadvantage is a dead horse flogged by feminists for decades, if not centuries; that’s why I’m not going into very much detail there. The men’s movement’s challenge to third wave feminism has been to show male disadvantage and female advantage in sex roles…and this is the real threat to the third wave feminist establishment–not misogyny, but proof that the radical feminist establishment is an invalid system of authority.

If we anarchists can oppose vanguardism as unnecessarily authoritarian, even though Leninists are leftists, then we can oppose third wave feminism on the same grounds, even though rad-fems are considered to be leftists, too. Just as the Leninist tries to justify the vanguard as a protection against such things as revisionism and reactionaries, so the third wave feminist justifies gynocentrism as a protection against ‘the patriarchy’. The Third Worldist should oppose third wavers, too, because they, as well as SJWs and promoters of ‘identity politics’, distract us all from Third World suffering by focusing on such First World problems as video game ‘sexism‘, ‘man-spreading’, etc.

Marxist principles can also be called upon to invalidate third wave feminism, which too often relies on the obscurantist writings of academic ‘Marxists’ in the Frankfurt School, or those of postmodernists, writers trapped in the ivory towers of university life, and completely isolated from the experience of workers. It’s all style over substance. Words, words, words. That’s all those loquacious twits care about.

The notion that men represent a ‘class’ and women a class beneath men is laughable: women are the only ‘oppressed’ group to have numbers equal to men in each of the classes of society. Imagine an upper middle class white woman saying, ‘Check your privilege,’ to a homeless white man! The infamous cat-calling video should draw more attention to the lower-class status of the male cat-callers, generally men of colour, and the middle-class status of the white woman putting up with them, than to the ‘sexism’.

Men cat-call women more than vice-versa because men are obligated, by traditional sex roles, to initiate the pursuit of sexual or romantic partners. Naturally, lots of men initiate badly. Western women today have the opportunity, but not the obligation, to initiate. If women equally shared this obligation, in a society that valued male beauty and sexuality as much as it did that of the female, there’d be less male cat-calling…or ‘friend-zoning’.

The top earners may be male, but the spenders, or influencers of spending at least, tend to be more female than male: just look in any department store or shopping mall to see how much shopping is focused on women’s products over men’s. Is this why women stereotypically are the shoppers? Diamonds are…which sex’s…best friend? It is the spending of money, not the earning, that is where the real financial power lies.

The material conditions of society refute third wave feminism as do dialectics, since feminists today generally, bitterly refuse to hear the opposing point of view, preferring ‘safe spaces’ and censoring the internet to protect women from ‘cyberviolence’ whenever their sacred cows (video gamesexism‘, ‘rape culture’, ‘gender’ as a social construct, ‘the patriarchy’, etc.) are challenged. The basic principle of dialectics involves acknowledging contradictions and resolving opposing ideas in order to refine one’s world view. Third wave feminism, in contrast, is more like a religion that mustn’t be disagreed with.

While I generally describe third wave feminism as a religion in a metaphorical sense, some rad-fems have quite literally made a religion out of their ideology: these would be among the Wiccans (of whom I was one back in the early 90s) and other Goddess-worshippers.

Taken literally or figuratively, this religion posits a primordial, peaceful ‘matriarchy‘ as a kind of Garden of Eden from which the emerging, warlike ‘patriarchy’ was a Fall of Man. Never mind that some societies (e.g., most pre-Islamic pagan Arab ones–Rodinson, pp. 229-230) have been patrilineal since time immemorial, that there are extant matrilineal societies today, and that sex roles are largely the same (i.e., men hunt, women gather; mostly men fight tribal wars, women usually take care of babies) regardless of whether men on the father’s side or the mother’s side of the family protect the family property, or the clan in general, or whether a newly-married woman moves into her husband’s family’s hut, or a newly-married man moves into his wife’s family’s hut.

In this religion, original sin is sexism, with women “more sinn’d against than sinning.” Redemption and salvation comes from faith, or ‘listening and believing’. Apostasy or heresy (i.e., being an MRA, etc.) cannot be pardoned or tolerated. The dialectical antithesis of third wave feminism is thus a seduction of the Devil…who, unlike God, is never a woman.

All of this should help convince those doubtful of my contention that there is a discomfiting confluence between third wave feminism and conservative thinking, in spite of rad-fems’ insistence that they are revolutionaries. I don’t believe that the seeping of radical feminist ideas into mainstream thinking has been part of a rebellion against the rise of the right: I believe both ideologies rose together, arm in arm, in spite of Rush Limbaugh’s blathering against ‘femi-Nazis’.

The ruling class’s tactics for keeping the masses in line, never agitating for revolution as one, are much more subtle than involving a simple appeal to people’s prejudices in favour of capitalism, male authority, and white power, as against communism, equality for the sexes, and racial harmony. To be sure, the division between conventionally leftist and rightist ideas is maintained in the corporately controlled media and universities; using radical feminism, however, not only to divide the left in half, but to make many dissident leftists give up in despair and run to the right, is a tried-and-true strategy, too.

This is why sneaking a little conservatism into feminism was such a clever idea for the capitalist class: our instinct to protect women from danger is deeply ingrained. Male feminists, typically berated as weak and unmanly, are actually a kind of machismo in themselves, for they are ‘man enough’ to handle feminism (yet are never pro-feminist enough for rad-fems, because nothing they do will ever be good enough); MRAs, on the other hand, are fighting a ‘war of the wusses’, as conservatives have called their struggle. If we are so solicitous to protect women from such trivialities as video game ‘sexism’, ‘cyber-violence’, and ‘man-spreading’, how will women gain the courage to fight alongside men in a proletarian revolution, as the YPJ have?

X: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

I believe the damning of Freud by feminism has been bad for understanding relationships, including those between the sexes. To be sure, Freud was far from right about everything, including his bizarre observation that women are less morally developed than men (an attitude based on the outdated idea that fear of punishment from one’s father, rather than empathy, is the basis of developing a solid superego and sense of morality).

His mapping of the non-rational world of the unconscious is, however, crucial in understanding human nature. One must remember, also, that writers like Lacan, so influential on feminism, are thoroughly grounded in Freud; Lacan considered his ideas to be a return to Freud. Unfortunately, Lacan has the same problem with obscurantism and loquaciousness as the other postmodernists and the Frankfurt School writers; their preoccupation with words and pedantic showing off of reading, which they seem to prefer to the treating of patients, is why I consider their ideas to be a perversion of psychoanalysis.

I believe, as does Marxist feminist Juliet Mitchell, that Freud’s castration complex, interpreted metaphorically, could be one of the keys to understanding the psychology of both male chauvinism and third wave or radical feminism. It shows that these two ideas aren’t opposites, but rather variations of the same conservative theme, opposite sides of the same coin.

Simply put, the castration complex states that both sexes erroneously believe that men have something women don’t have. Male genitalia can symbolize the perception of male power, talent, achievement, privileges, etc. The male response to this perception is a combination of pride (male chauvinism) and fear of losing what he has (castration anxiety), hence feeling that women’s modern advances are a threat to his manhood.

The female response is envy of that male power, privileges, and achievement (symbolic penis envy), blinding women to female forms of power and privileges. Castration and what it symbolizes, of course, are an illusion. This envy is part of the basis of third wave feminism, since women have made great advances over the past thirty to forty years alone, a remarkable achievement given the backdrop of women’s history prior to these advances; yet rad-fems today still act as though women are essentially as lacking in power now as they were in the 1950s, even with affirmative action for women, divorce courts biased in women’s favour, an education system favouring girls over boys, and ‘Take Back the Night’ marches when men are actually more likely to be victims of violent crime than women in every category except rape, which happens far less often than the media would have us believe (see above). Along with this is how third wave feminists obsessively look for ‘sexism’ in everything, often in places where there is none at all, including video games. ‘Men have something women lack’ still seems to loom large in third wave feminists’ minds.

The male chauvinist agrees. Herein we can see a psychological basis for the confluence between conservative and ‘radical’ feminist thinking. The wrongheadedness of this is seen when we remember that men don’t really have something women lack; rather, men and women possess different forms of power. We all know about the male forms of power and authority (political, religious, etc.). The female forms of power are manifested in their influence over children. Our mothers, aunts, and primary school teachers (mostly women) do most of that ‘social construction’ of boys and girls into their respective roles, a process that third wave feminists call ‘patriarchal’, when if anything, it’s matriarchal. These women’s influence over children creates the psychological and sociological foundations upon which male legal and political institutions are built. The basis of our psychological makeup is firmly established already in childhood.

This overwhelming psychological influence that our primary caregivers have on us when we’re infants leads me to my next point about the psychoanalytic factor in contemporary male/female relations: the Kleinian element.

According to Melanie Klein, we all develop, from infancy, internalized representations of our primary caregivers, mainly our mothers, but our fathers, also, to a great extent. These internalizations are the basis of our object relations, which profoundly influence our relationships later in life. These internalized representations of Mom and Dad hover forever in our unconscious minds, haunting us like ghosts. So if we have good relationships with our parents, we’ll tend to have good relationships later in life, since we’ll find or bring out the ‘good mother’ and ‘good father’ in people, and avoid bad people as best we can.

But if we’ve experienced too much of the ‘bad mother’ or ‘bad father’, we’ll tend to see versions of these bad imagos in people later in life, connecting with bad people, who will reinforce our negative view of the world, and we’ll ignore the good people who’d change our world view into a positive one.

With this psychological reality in mind, let’s now consider a deeper level of meaning in the word, ‘patriarchy’, which literally means ‘father-rule’. With increasing divorce over the past forty to fifty years in the West, resulting in most child custody going to mothers, this means we’ve had two generations with large numbers of people whose childhoods were in fatherless homes. On top of this, there have been many children born out of wedlock, often with the fathers having abandoned their pregnant girlfriends, resulting in even more fatherless children.

While a great many of these fathers were surely being immature and irresponsible in leaving their children, many other men wanted to be involved, but the bias against fathers in divorce court denied the men access to their kids. Either way, the kids were probably led to believe their fathers didn’t love them, often because their mothers demonized the men as ‘deadbeat dads’ (either justifiably or not). This would cause the growth of the ‘bad father’ imago in the children’s object relations, and the near–if not absolute–annihilation of the ‘good father’.

Combining this psychological reality with that of conservative fathers who stay married, and in keeping in contact with their kids, are authoritarian and bullying in nature, and it’s a small step from there to listening uncritically in women’s studies classes. Every bad man or boy encountered in life only reinforces, by way of displacement, this negative mental image of the father and of the male sex in general. Third wave feminist propaganda gives it all a faux political dimension.

According to Kleinian theory, when our parents frustrate us in any way (the prototypical part object being the ‘bad breast’ that doesn’t feed the baby, as opposed to the ‘good breast’ that gives the baby plentiful supplies of milk), we feel an urge to get revenge by attacking our parents in phantasy, imagining the most vicious acts of violence on Mom and Dad. These sadistic imaginings result in fears of retaliation by our parents, causing terrible unconscious anxieties that lead to more sadistic phantasies. A vicious circle then occurs, causing psychological splitting, or the paranoid-schizoid position. Here, people are either all-good or all-bad.

The frustrations caused by authoritarian, abusive, or–in a way, perhaps worst of all–distant, absent, or abandoning fathers, cause many of our sons and daughters unconsciously, if not consciously, to wish all manner of evil on those ‘patriarchs’, or ‘bad fathers’ (whose prototypical part object is the violent and sadistic ‘bad penis’ [!], as opposed to the sexually gratifying ‘good penis’). These sadistic phantasies, which include projecting one’s own bad internal aspects into men (the prototype being one’s father), including male feminists, and thus trying to control them, will in turn unleash the fear of a ‘patriarchal’ retaliation, resulting in the imagined backlash against feminism of the past twenty years, including ‘rape culture’, MRAs, ‘man-spreading’, etc. This leads to more verbally abusive feminists. And the needless sex war rages on and on…

What is needed is a cure to this psychological problem of always thinking in black and white, the paranoid-schizoid position, where people are either exclusively good (i.e., the politically correct pro-feminist male ally who ‘listens and believes’), or are exclusively evil (the ‘misogynist’ critic of feminism). Instead, we need to help these psychologically damaged people to develop and achieve reparation with their objects by replacing, or balancing out, their bad object relations with good ones. They’ll thus acquire a healthy ambivalence towards people, seeing both good and bad in everyone, a healthy grey area that Klein called the depressive position. In this situation, we may find ourselves not agreeing with much of what the critics of feminism say, but we can happily agree with at least some of what they say, without damning them all as ‘woman-hating scum’.

For more information on these aspects of Kleinian theory, I recommend reading Chapter XI: ‘The Effects of Early Anxiety-situations on the Sexual Development of the Girl’, from Melanie Klein’s Psychoanalysis of Children, particularly the section, ‘Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict’, pages 277-278, pages 280-281, and pages 305-306. Applied to our contemporary problems, these passages, I believe, can provide an illuminating interpretation of the radical feminist idea that ‘PIV sex’ is hard to distinguish from rape.

XI: Conclusion: Back to the Second Wave, With a Two-Sex Movement Instead of Only a Men’s or a Women’s Movement

Many will assume that I’m in denial when I insist I’m not an MRA after having largely discussed men’s issues and criticized third wave or radical feminism. I hope to clarify my position once and for all here: I don’t want a separate men’s movement in the West any more than I want a Western women’s movement; I want both movements to end their bickering and combine into a two-sex movement to make a transition for all of us from the limitations of traditional roles to a lifestyle suitable for all our individual preferences.

Shifting away from traditional sex roles, however, won’t be a simple matter of socially reconstructing ‘gender’. This shift will be an evolutionary one (Farrell, 399-400). While I acknowledge a biological basis for sex differences, I also recognize that we are ‘soft-wired’, so to speak: mutation is the basis of evolution, and the sexes can shift from traditional roles gradually through natural selection. This means that men can start selecting women with a more protective, aggressive disposition, and women can select men with a gentler, more nurturing one.

The dogmatic idea that masculinity and femininity are just social lies taught to us by a conspiratorial patriarchy makes nonsense out the experience of transgender people. If, for example, a feminine personality is just a patriarchal lie designed to keep women submissive, then why don’t we just refer to trans women as men who, defying social convention, prefer wearing dresses, makeup, and high heels to wearing suits? And if ‘femininity’ makes women as a rule submissive, why do more transgender people identify as women rather than men? Are they masochists?

Acknowledging the existence of masculine and feminine personality traits as real, on the other hand, makes the transgender experience intelligible: a trans woman is a woman because her personality is feminine even though she doesn’t have feminine anatomy (without the sex-reassignment surgery). The same applies to trans men, who need to do more than just have short hair, wear no makeup, and eschew dresses in favour of T-shirts and jeans, something any cis-woman can do with ease.

This flexibility of dress (much more so for women than for men…!) brings me to my next point: that acknowledging masculinity and femininity needn’t require us to adopt stereotypical attitudes about them. Femininity isn’t limited to acting like a wide-eyed ingenue, a nurturer, or an overly-emotional type; many otherwise traditional women have shown strength, even ruthlessly, as in the unpleasant examples of Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir. There are as many ways to be feminine as there have been women and girls throughout history. I’m sure the Kurdish women fighting in the YPJ are as much feminine as they are brave–and I’ll wager that they’re damned good at both.

Similarly, masculinity isn’t all about being like Rambo, who, you’ll recall, was weeping like a baby at the end of First Blood, comforted by another ‘macho’ army man, played by Richard Crenna. These may just be fictitious examples, but I’m sure it isn’t too hard to find real life examples of genuinely masculine men who regularly show feelings of tenderness. All those divorced fathers who are fighting for equal child custody are fighting for love, not ‘the patriarchy’. There are as many ways to be masculine as there have been men and boys.

Interestingly, for all of third wave feminists’ pretensions about wanting to do away with sexual stereotypes, many of them sure are fond of reinforcing them, even to the point of fabricating exaggerations of them. All men are rapists, apparently. Men hate, women love. Men are warmongers, women are peacelovers, in spite of the women leaders or politicians in history who have fought wars, sent men to die in them, or were hawkish in general (Thatcher, Meir, Indira Gandhi, Elizabeth I, Joan of Arc, Queen Boadicea, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, etc.) and the male pacifists (Mohandas Gandhi, Buddhist monks, male hippies and Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.).

At the same time, though, and to be fair, there is a disquieting strand among MRAs, and in the ‘manosphere’ in general, that is reinforcing these traditional roles, too. While some in the men’s movement, like Farrell, want to end sex roles, others want a return to them, and some even celebrate male aggression. I distance myself from the latter, as I part company with the genuinely misogynist elements in the manosphere (consider the excesses of Roosh V) and the way it over-generalizes about women’s manipulation of men, (though, on the other side of the coin, Esther Vilar has also received death threats for her book just as feminists claim to have received threats from men in the manosphere). I want maximum flexibility for both sexes, and a two-sex movement can achieve that end while curbing the excesses of both men’s and women’s activists.

Below are some suggestions of mine for a workable agenda for a two-sex movement. It is far from complete, it shouldn’t be forced, and it’s only meant to be a contribution that can be expanded on in the future by like-minded writers.

1) Both sexes will be taught, from childhood, that career is as much an obligation, as much a burden, as childcare and housekeeping are. Similarly, homemaking will be represented as every bit as rewarding an experience (i.e., the art of cooking, access to one’s beloved children) as career can be. Allowing fathers equal child custody is part of this, as is ending the stereotype of pedophile men who enjoy being in childcare.

2) Stricter safety standards will be enforced to the point that such jobs as construction worker or miner will be no less attractive to women than to men. Not only might this kind of thing narrow the wage gap, but it might actually cause fewer injuries and deaths on the job.

3) Stop shaming boys for exhibiting ‘feminine’ behaviour, which will include allowing (not forcing) men to complain more and ask for help more; while also teaching girls to ‘woman up’ a little more. When third wave feminists learn that strength is about enduring physical and psychological pain, and not just barking orders at men, we’ll see more women willing to enter male-dominated jobs, and real equality will ensue. On the other side of the coin, ending the shaming of weakness in men (which includes third wave feminists no longer ‘drinking male tears’) will bring out that male sensitivity rad-fems claim to crave. Now, this encouraging of ‘feminine’ behaviour in boys won’t be forced, as the rad-fems would have it: it will be allowed, just as boys with a natural disposition to traditional (and ethical) masculinity will be allowed to be who they are. The idea isn’t to force boys and girls to be the same; it is to allow a maximum of variety along the whole continuum, from masculinity at one end to femininity at the other.

4) Teach people to value male beauty and sexuality on an even level with female beauty, while also de-emphasizing sexualized femininity to the level of sexualized masculinity. This will teach us to value male life, and the male body, as much as female life, and reduce the objectification of and pressure on women to be ‘beach body ready’. Women will be appreciated more for who they are than just for their looks, and male sexuality won’t be so devalued that they’ll feel the only way they can be appealing to women is through their wallets. Men won’t be so addicted to female beauty, and women won’t be so dependent on it.

5) Teach people that the responsibility, not just the opportunity, to initiate dating is both sexes…equally. When men aren’t the only sex socially obligated to pursue the opposite sex, but more women ask men out, buy men dinner, and risk rejection by making the first move to be sexual, there will be fewer men obsessing about sex, fewer male rapists, fewer men hooked on porn, strippers, and prostitution, fewer men complaining about the ‘friend-zone’, and fewer Elliot Rodgers. Women will experience less sexual harassment and cat-calling, too.

6) When there are wars, have two-sex drafts when drafting is necessary (as has recently happened in the US military). Make the hazing of women soldiers equal to that of men (to ensure they’ve been tested and proven able to handle the stress of war). While it is imperative that we end all imperialist wars for the gain of the capitalist class, battle-readiness will be necessary in a proletarian revolution, and in my opinion, a woman’s place is beside men’s fighting that revolution. When women equally protect men as vice versa, we’ll have equality.

7) Teach people that providing for spouse and family is both sexes’ equal responsibility. When women don’t ‘marry up’ any more than men might, and an equal number of men have the opportunity to depend on women financially if necessary, we’ll have economic equality. Of course, if anarchists just focused on the class war instead of being distracted by all the SJW ‘issues’ that I suspect the ruling class addles us with, we might have the worker-ruled society we want; and with the ideal of ‘from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need’, there would be no more wage gap to complain about.

8) Men shouldn’t be punished any more harshly than women for the same crimes. Prisons have always been known to harden, rather than rehabilitate, criminals; and if third wavers are so worried about ‘toxic masculinity’, then reforming the prison system should be part of their focus. Of course, if we stopped incarcerating people for drugs and the like, making them virtual slave labourers, that would help. Kropotkin believed in improving rehabilitation; so do I.

Now, these changes are proposed with these two understandings, these assumptions, in mind: one, that they will involve a slow, evolutionary shift in the sexes; and two, that the people really want to make these changes. Do they? I leave that to you, Dear Reader, but especially to future generations, to answer.

Most importantly of all, however one chooses to judge my eight suggestions, what absolutely must be achieved is this: the sexes must be brought back together again. Sexual separatism must stop if we’re to unite against the 1%, who are the real enemy; neither the misogynist ideas of the extreme wings of the men’s movement (including the MGTOWs) nor the misandrist ideas of third wave or radical feminism are acceptable. (I’m sure I’ll be criticized for using ‘third wave’ and ‘radical’ interchangeably in my description of how feminism went wrong over the past three decades; but in my opinion, what was radical during 70s second wave feminism [the near equation of heterosexual sex with rape, man-hating, etc.] has become, to a great extent at least, mainstream thinking in third wave feminism since the 90s.) In giving maximum media exposure to these opposite-sex-hating ideas, and minimal exposure to the moderate ideas of second wave feminism and to men’s movement activists like Warren Farrell, the super-rich, who control the mainstream media, are fuelling the divide between the sexes to ensure that the 99% will never rise up against the 1%.

XII: Epilogue–Note on Method

I will probably be criticized by leftists for sometimes using links and source material from right-libertarian or otherwise non-socialist sources. Such sources are routinely condemned on the left as having a ‘hidden agenda’, and are therefore dismissed as completely unreliable. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the right-libertarian agenda of the American Enterprise Institute (for whom Christina Hoff Sommers, a political moderate recently praised by none less than the NWPC, does her Factual Feminist videos), or for that of Reason.com, or that of Breitbart.com, or even of Spiked! I’m interested in facts…facts that can be substantiated, regardless of whatever otherwise execrable source they may come from. As for my agenda, just read these links to know what that is. Also, though I may use a source in which one hears slurs from time to time, my use of that source is not meant to condone the use of that language; I’m only using those sources’ ideas that are pertinent to my argument. I’m not agreeing with every idea expressed in the links; only those aspects that relate to this essay.

As for these ‘questionable’ sources, we must remember that no one political ideology, be it left, right, or centre, be it authoritarian or libertarian, has a monopoly on the truth. The truth is elusive; it’s inconvenient. The truth is not fixed in some permanent place: it moves up and down, and sways like the dialectical waves of the ocean. This is why we anarchists oppose authoritarianism in all of its forms, be they left or right-wing, be they masculine or feminine.

Some would say I’m just cherry-picking those snippets I find convenient, while disregarding ‘crucial’ aspects of left-anarchism because they threaten my sense of ‘cis-hetero-white-male privilege’. I would say that I feel no need to be ‘informed’ by leftists who only read each other, reinforcing their confirmation bias, and demanding absolute ideological conformity from all their members, which is the essence of Stalinism. True intellectuals are willing to learn from an eclectic range of sources, knowing that even their ideological enemies aren’t wrong 100% of the time.

We need more dissident voices on the Left, like Noam Chomsky. Cultural libertarians tend to find forums that are right-leaning not necessarily because they themselves are right libertarians, but because the Left so rarely provides proper dissident forumsDissident anarchists are afraid to speak out because of political correctness and identity politics, though more and more are starting to. I feel that fear, too, but some things simply must be said.

You see, I refuse to ‘listen, and believe’. I won’t indulge the self-pity of the woman with the nail in her head. Pulling that nail out will be painful for her, but it will be the only way we can truly liberate her.

‘The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word “Liberty”; yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, “Freedom.” Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas — principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. In all other “issues” there is always a limit; some imaginary boundary line beyond which the searching mind dare not penetrate, lest some pet idea melt into a myth. But anarchism is the usher of science — the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth. It would remove all barriers between the human being and natural development.’ —Lucy Parsons

Further Reading:

Melanie Klein, The Psychoanalysis of Children, translation by Alix Strachey, Grove Press, Inc., New York, first Evergreen Edition 1960 [originally published by Hogarth Press, London, 1932]

R.H. Van Gulik, Sexual Life in Ancient China: A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society from Ca. 1500 BC to 1644 AD, 1974, E.J.Brill, Leiden, Netherlands

Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, translation from the French by Anne Carter, 1971, Penguin Books, London, England

Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, 1993, Simon and Schuster, 1st ed., New York

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, 1990, Yale University Press, London

Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, 1994, Simon and Schuster, New York

Donna LaFramboise, The Princess At the Window: a New Gender Morality, 1996, Penguin Books, Toronto

Rene Denfeld, The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, 1995, Warner Bros. Books, New York