male ego

Fem v. Fem; What’s the Point? It’s ALL Female Oppression!

“Us and Them;” Culture and Female Oppression

By T.L. Dayen burka_muell_igfm

Oppression is the anti-thesis of liberty. Women all over the world enjoy different degrees of liberty, so you could say that women all over the world also suffer different degrees of oppression, from the right to equal pay to the right to not be burned alive in our own kitchen. Culture, perhaps more than anything else, is the lens through which these differing degrees of liberty and oppression are perceived. So when feminists attempt to assess and evaluate global female oppression outside the context of culture, conclusions will no doubt be skewed and ineffectual; skewed because conclusions have not allowed for “differing” cultural perspectives, and ineffectual because skewed conclusions are not taken seriously to effect change. Advancement in information and communication technologies have made the world a “smaller” and less unfamiliar place since the 2nd wave feminist movement of the mid-20th century here in the U.S., but unique and personal female experience (most often defined by culture) has been said by many to remain overlooked when assessing female oppression, and remains a source of contention within what has become a fragmented feminist movement. A truly empathetic understanding of Culture, which encompasses ones race, ethnicity, religion, class and even sexuality, seems to be the one factor that continues to divide women and prevent a unified approach to emancipation from female subordination and oppression. However, we cannot risk the danger of allowing culture to justify oppression. Culture explains social norms of female acquiescence, but cultural oppression reflects mandated social constructs that demand female capitulation often by threat of harm.

The Challenges of Cultural Divisions

As females, we need to understand that our everyday lives, responsibilities and personal experiences can be dramatically different from one another dependent upon the social norms of not only where we live, but by those defined by the culture within which we live; even in the same geographic location.   The need to recognize our cultural differences is real and pertinent to the feminist discourse. In this context, representations of all female voices are crucial within the movement to gain the trust and engagement of all women. The feminist perspective within the gay community will be dramatically different from that of the Latina community, and the Latina different from the African [American] community, and African American different from the Muslim community, and the Muslim different from white suburbia or Wall Street, etc. Female oppression is experienced on a level unique to each of our ‘cultures.’ Linda Alcoff writes of this dilemma; “the advocacy of the oppressed must be done by the oppressed themselves,” as it “will have a significant effect on the content [impact] of what is said.” She goes on to warn that the “practice of privileged persons speaking on behalf of less privileged persons has actually (in many cases) resulted in increasing or reinforcing the oppression of the group spoken for.” (Alcoff, 78-91). Although it is not always possible on every occasion the movement has a chance to be heard, whenever possible, the empowerment of oppressed voices to speak for themselves is always more potent (and valid). However, I would argue that for those whose voices are invalidated by their own cultural constructs, then sensitive, sensible and cognizant advocacy is not only legitimate but often necessary.

Is Oppression Culturally Justified?

Repression is synonymous with ‘oppression.’ According to the North American English Encarta Dictionary, repression is “being politically or socially kept down by force;” also a “psychological protective mechanism by which people protect themselves from threatening thoughts by blocking them out of the conscious mind.” When we speak of cultural oppression, we have to be mindful that from within an ‘oppressive culture’ there is not a collective sense of injustice, but rather a consensual social construct shared and enforced by the community.   When confronted by perceptions ‘outside’ the purview of those within the social construct, defense mechanisms may be necessary to protect oneself from facing what may otherwise be horrible truths. These can include justification involving explanations that account for history, tradition and religious beliefs, and/or projection, which entails transposition or false equivalents.  In other words, instead of facing a difficult truth we’re confronted with, we may instead choose to assert that the confronter’s situation is similar to our own to dilute or negate unpleasant realizations brought about through otherwise stark comparisons.

I believe that Uma Narayan is doing just that when she compares rampant “dowry deaths” in India to cases of domestic murder in the U.S. No murder should ever be considered “better” than another, but the circumstances surrounding the act can be deemed more or less egregious! Murder is not cultural. What is cultural is the uniformity of victim, motive and method, and of the collective social response. Narayan uses false equivalents between Indian dowry murder and U.S. domestic murder in the defense of her own culture when she says, “fatal forms of violence against mainstream Western women seem interestingly resistant to such ‘cultural explanations,’ leaving Western women seemingly more immune to ‘death by culture’” (Narayan, 62-77).  Domestic murder in the U.S. has no uniformity in method or motive. They are random acts of violence that are often not premeditated or intentional. They are often motivated by spontaneous moments of rage and often facilitated by substance abuse. They are committed by spouses and non-spouses alike who are often not cohabitating at the time of the act. In contrast, Indian dowry murder is a frequent (5,000 annually) act of premeditated murder for dowry profit, committed only by a husband against his wife by burning her to death in only one way that can also be culturally explained as an accident; “pressurized kerosene stoves [that] are in common use in [Indian] homes; a tin of fuel is ‘always kept in reserve’…. A highly flammable nylon sari easily catches fire…signs of struggle do not show up on bodies with 90 percent or more third degree burns.” (Narayan, 62-77). The victim, motive and method are the same in every case and specific to Indian culture.Dowry death

Social and community response is another factor that differentiates fundamental female subordination from ‘cultural’ female oppression. Women are not the only victims of violence; however when they are, they are nearly exclusively victim to men. This is globally consistent and not confined to the U.S. or India. What is not globally consistent is the customary response from local communities, authorities and governments, and that is reflective of culture. Culturally justified female oppression does not – cannot – occur in societies that, 1) have collectively established an infrastructure of support and safety nets for women in need which includes education, housing/shelter, economic, employment and legal assistance, and 2) have collectively recognized civilly, politically and legally, a woman’s autonomous right to liberty. These were once feminist issues in the U.S. and the world, but they are now woven within our collective cultural fabric as “civilly humane” issues. Narayan concedes to “the virtual absence in India of state-provided welfare, education, and medical care…legal services… that would enable Indian women to leave family contexts where they are victims of violence.” She also cites the powerful social “stigma” in India of “women living on their own” that deter even those with financial means to leave abusive situations (Narayan, 62-77). A lack of support structure to address social vulnerabilities specific to women fosters the cultural message to both men and women that these vulnerabilities are tolerable and acceptable and therefore ensuing consequences are ‘culturally justified.’ Even while Narayan admits that “feminist policies and solutions are dependent upon the background social, economic and institutional features of the national landscape,” she actually appears indignant when she says that “some Western feminists seem to have assumed that the Indian women’s movement is “less developed” (Narayan, 62-77). I say she is right, but taking a ‘personal’ offense to the Western observation of institutionalized female oppression in India is not only counterproductive it actually fuels the defensive narrative that female oppression and violence can be culturally justified.

This defensive position taken by women in the international feminist community is not uncommon. An incensed Chandra Mohanty-Talpade gave a seething indictment of Western feminist perspective when she said there are “issues around which apparently all women are expected to organize,” and that this “reinforces the assumption that people in the third world just have not evolved to the extent that the West has.” She asserts that the West has a “paternalistic attitude towards women” whose lives are constrained within the social constructs of “religion,” “domesticity,” “child marriages,” and “illiteracy” (Talpade-Mohanty). If the Western paternal or dominant perspective is the expectation that women should “organize” around the abolition of child marriage, female illiteracy and even forced child birth, than Chandra is correct in her assessment, but severely misguided in her scorn of such an expectation. True liberty allows for personal choice of religion and domestic ambitions such as motherhood. Children and illiterates are not equipped to exercise informed and unshackled personal ‘choice.’ Civically or religiously mandated female behavior under threat of harm or exile is nothing more than culturally justified oppression, whether its child marriage, female illiteracy, forced child birth or even veiling. This is not a matter of evolution, but one of dissolute cultural authority.

Prospects for UnificationChristian female oppression

The 3rd wave or “postmodern” feminist movement of the 21st century may hold the key to recognizing our differences without having to ‘reconcile’ them. Coming from the perspective that differences and even contradictions in the female experience should be welcomed and even expected, perhaps unification against female oppression does not require an objective consensus but rather a subjective coordinated effort. In other words, is it really so much about whom “we” are, as it is about what “oppression” is? Can we objectively define what we are fighting while subjectively maintaining why we are fighting it? Stephanie Riley quotes philosopher Paul Ricoeur when contemplating “bridging the gap” between the complexity of feminists and the simplicity of our cause, “a process of self-attestation takes place as a moment of constituting self-identity: we are, we act, and we suffer.” (Riley). From this approach, a multi-cultural feminist narrative is “free within a text to be appropriated not as an individual possession, but as a shared notion that contributes to change. Feminists reading each other… can share one another’s stories to shape and color their own existence.” (Riley). Part of the nature of our cause is the lack of empathy to our plight. I believe that if the feminist movement is mindful that we should expect of ourselves at least what we are expecting of others, that a balanced unification is possible.

Change is Always Evolutionary and Sometimes Revolutionary.

Evolution cannot occur without change. They are intrinsically intertwined. Change can come slow, as in ‘movement,’ or change can come fast, as in a ‘revolution.’ Regardless of how change comes about it is inevitable and constant. But how it comes about can determine the degree and pace of change. It is generally agreed that the feminist movement began during the Enlightenment Era of the 17th century, and more specifically during the French Revolution. Terms like “liberty” and “freedom” and “social justice” and “self-determination” sparked the courage and insight of an entire generation of women to embark on the long journey that is the struggle for female equality and emancipation from oppression known as the “feminist movement.” Its momentum has been marked in terms of “waves.” The 1st Wave was women’s suffrage (the right to vote). The 2nd Wave was equality and the end of sexism in the work place. It is said we are now in the 3rd Wave or post modernism. This reflects multi-cultural and multi-national feminist identities, issues of female oppression and violence, severe income inequality and women’s health issues. Given the history of the troublesome fragmentation of the movement and its inability to coalesce, this 3rd Wave feminist effort seems to recognize our need to ‘pull together’ the voices of ALL women to affect real, positive and lasting progress for women’s liberties.

The feminist movement is now global.

Groups like the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) that advocates for “equality around the world” and the National Organization for Women (NOW) that advocates for the diverse issues of women in a multi-cultural U.S. and uses the strength and influence of the U.S. within the United Nations (UN) to address multi-national women’s issues, are both organizations that reflect a renewed sense of urgency in the feminist movement to come together as a global force.

Using new networking technologies that can converge and rally millions of women all over the world, these groups focus on petitioning governments whose policies are oppressive to women, educating men to the benefits of a world of full equality, empowering and supporting women in their local communities, as well as staging and sponsoring protests, and national and international discussion forums.   There is also a renewed push to engage women in the political process and encourage women to run for political office. Both the FMF and NOW are educating and encouraging their members to urge their legislators to finally ratify CEDAW; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Adopted in 1979 by the UN, “187 countries have ratified the Convention, pledging to give women equal rights in all aspects of their lives including political, health, educational, social and legal.” (Global Women’s Rights: CEDAW). Shamefully, the United States is not on this list. In fact it is one of only seven countries including Iran and Somalia that have not ratified the only International Treaty that “comprehensively [addresses] women’s rights within political, cultural, economic, social, and family life.” The FMF justly contends that, “the United States compromises its credibility as a leader for either human rights or women’s rights.” (Global Women’s Rights: CEDAW). The feminist movement has yet to inspire a “revolution,” but it’s fair to say we may be closer to such an event then we have ever been.

Conclusion

There’s a term, “Think globally, but act locally.” Originally coined to support the environmental movement, I believe it is completely apropos to the feminist movement. While we all need to have a clear and empathetic understanding of the global challenges that women face in the 21st century, our individual focus needs to be in our own lives and our own communities. Whether you live in Alabama or Bangladesh; whether you’re gay or straight, black or Latina; by working within our own cultural infrastructures and addressing the issues unique to our own experiences, we will surely and steadily change the reality of female oppression on a global scale.

Riley reflects on the words of famous feminist literary icon, bell hooks, discussing our individual needs in relation to our common desires; “she [bell hooks] emphasizes the importance of a feminist theory that would offer everyone, men and women alike, a liberated vision of love and sexual expression. From what humanity is freed differs for each [person], but that something exists from which to be liberated, and that liberation involves love, remains a constant.” (Riley).

We must all be informed by our unique and personal experience, but I would suggest that if we have indeed made a personal commitment to the cause of female emancipation and equality, then we have indeed made that commitment to breach the cultural boundaries between us and them.

Bibliography

Alcoff, Linda. “The Problem with Speaking for Others.” Trans. Array Theorizing Feminisms.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 78-91. Print.

“Global Women’s Rights: CEDAW.” Feminsit Majority Foundation. Ms. Magazine. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <Feminist.org>.

Narayan, Uma. “Cross-cultural Connections, Border-Crossings and “Death by Culture”.” Trans.

Array Theorizing Feminisms. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 62-77. Print.      

           National Organization for Women (NOW). Web. 6 Dec 2013 <now.org>.

Riley, Stephanie. “”First” and “Third” World Feminism(s); Does Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophy

Offer a Way to Bridge the Gap?.” Ricoeur Studies. University of Pittsburg Press, 2013. Vol. 4, No.1 pg.

57-70. Web. 11 Nov 2013. <ricoeur.pitt.edu>. (Riley)

Talpade-Mohanty, Chandra. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial

Discourse.” On Humanism and the University I: The Discourse of Humanism. Duke

University Press, 1984.Vol.12, No.3 pg. 333-358. Web. 11 Nov 2013. <jstor.org>.

Save

Save

Advertisements

After Women Took off Their Aprons, Advertisers Began Taking Off the Rest!

fem 17Once we won our equal liberty to choose our personal “place” in the world, the male ego swiftly began to make sure that women would never forget their universal “purpose” in the world.

By T.L.Dayen

They say “a picture paints a thousand words.” Imagery has the power to elicit emotion and provoke thought. It can also be used to subconsciously persuade or manipulate. Imagery has also historically been used to disseminate propaganda such as the iconic “Rosie the Riveter;” an animated image of a strong-armed woman in a factory uniform intended to convey that it was acceptable to see women; the majority of the domestic work force during the war effort of WWII, as strong and capable. Images can also portray social behavioral norms like iconic Norman Rockwell fem 15paintings depicting ‘normal’ life in middle and working class America from the early to mid 20th century. Culturally, our social norms are reflected through imagery in our media; movies (entertainment mostly) and advertising (expressly to persuade).

Imagery in advertising works to convince, confirm or inform viewers about what they should want, think, identify with or accept as good for them. When advertisers use sexually implicit images to sell a product, it is reaffirming stereotypes that objectify women’s bodies and marginalize their humanity.

Selling Sex

Exploiting sexuality to sell a product is, unfortunately, effective. The ‘sex kitten’ eating Doritos on T.V. prompts the dorritosman to buy the chips because he wants to “get the girl” in the ad, and the woman buys the chips because she wants to “be the girl” in the ad; “We’re a visually explicit culture that’s become comfortable with selling domain names and winter coats on the backs of pretty, naked people” (Thompson, 2011).

Using sex in advertising subliminally links our most primal motive of procreation to the impulse desire for that product/service. In other words, buy the product, get (feel) the sex.

Sell Sex; Buy Sexism

The problem with ‘selling sex’ is that it takes the elemental human drive to procreate (which requires dominant and pliant roles), and attaches it to everything in our lives from food to cars to clothing to cleaning products to insurance. fem 14The dominant/ pliant roles of our sex organs become the roles we identify with as represented subliminally by the products and services we need and use every day. By ascribing the yielding female sex organ to her overall nature and character (as subordinate), advertisers can use sexually explicit imagery to not only potently objectify women’s bodies, but also marginalize female humanity by transforming “actual women into [sexual] objects, devoid of individual will or subjectivity” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

The female body, pliant in sex, becomes the objectified woman, subordinate in life.

Even while women have made stellar strides in education and work force parity since the blatantly sexist advertising of the 1950’s; “an era when women’s roles were confined to the corridor between the bedroom and the kitchen” (Thompson, 2011);

the ‘new sexism’ is simply explicitly sexist imagery without the explicitly sexist messaging. In the 21st century, the message of sexual servitude is “implied.”

“Having lost the argument that women are incompetent, American advertising has had to settle on the argument that fem 18women are [still] attractive” (Thompson, 2011). In other words the iconic domestic dependent ‘June Cleaver’ telling viewers something like, “Your husband will never complain about undercooked eggs again with this new and improved egg timer!” has been replaced with the sexually implicit ‘cleavage and stilettoes’ seductively and silently stepping out of a Lincoln Continental. I call this “objectified female imagery.” This more modern version of sexism has only fed new life into age old social constructs of female subordination, because “American women still develop a sense of self-worth based primarily on how they look, rather than how talented or intelligent they are” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

Domestic dependent submissiveness has simply been replaced by sexual objectification; both are demeaning and subordinate positions of “service.”

What’s even more poignant is that some of worst offenders of this type of sexist advertising are ‘women on women.’ fem 19Women who appeared on a Phil Donahue Show “fashion segment,” un-apologetically defended their unusual preoccupation with ‘perfecting’ their hair, skin, eyes, clothing and bodies. Susan Bordo took note of their naiveté and that “putting on makeup, styling hair, and so forth are conceived of only as free play, fun, a matter of creative expression,” but in reality is, “also experienced by many women as ‘necessary’ before they show themselves to the world, even a quick trip to the corner mailbox.” Bordo expresses her concern that the true messages being sent by ‘fashion statements’ are merely “whimsical and politically neutral vicissitudes [that] supply endless amusement for women’s [apparent] eternally superficial values.” Bordo goes on to say in the context of the fashion and beauty industry, “the specific ideals that women are drawn to embody…are seen as arbitrary, without meaning [by society].”

In other words, obsession with fashion culturally indicates frivolous and superficial priorities.

Bordo’s trepidation with the multi-million dollar fashion and beauty industry is shared by Benshoff and Griffen who assert that this advertising strives to persuade women to “buy their [own] femininity;” be re-made into “some ideal fem 20form” as an “object of the male gaze (objectification).” This, alleges Benshoff and Griffen, actually convinces women “to be complicit in their own objectification.” A massive and still growing fashion and beauty industry in America may be evidence that many women have indeed “internalized the ideology that their self-worth is based upon their public image… that achieving total objectified desirability is the only thing that will give them happiness and fulfillment” and that, “this mythical ideal keeps patriarchal (male) domination in place” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256). If women are buying sexism, then apparently sexist advertising is working.

Hijacked Sexuality

Full disclosure: as a woman myself, I am frustrated that an industry has “hijacked” my God given sexuality for their profits! Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality without the implication that she is consenting to, even encouraging the sexist messages sent by the objectified female imagery in media advertising? And what of those who feed into the ‘cultural messages’ that are fabricated from objectified female imagery in the media; that a woman’s sexuality is by its very nature literally “there for the taking?”fem 5

Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality personally without the implication that she is “asking for it” publically? I fear that the answer to these questions today is “no.”

Sharon Marcus writes of the misleading dialogue used when legislating rape laws or hearing rape cases; “The rape script describes female bodies as vulnerable, violable, penetrable, and wounded.” A website called “Controltonight.com” ran an ad showing a young woman’s legs with her panties around her ankles lying on what looks like a bathroom floor. The ad reads, “2:19 a.m. She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say NO.” The ad intends to warn against drinking and date rape, but the ‘message’ is that women’s bodies are simply up for grabs by anyone who may gain the advantage to take it – and that’s somehow a woman’s fault. Marcus purports, “the adherents of rape culture see female sexuality as a property which only men can truly own, which women often hoard, which can thus justifiably be wrested from us, which women themselves merely hold in trust for a lawful owner. Rape thus becomes the theft or violation of one man’s property rights by another.”

fem 8If women’s sexuality is not even seen in our law as our own rightful possession, it is no wonder it could be unabashedly exploited personally or commercially by whomever and however it serves to benefit.

Audrey Lorde writes of the uses and power of the ‘erotic’ – in this context, ones ‘passions;’ sexual or otherwise; “We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused and devalued within western society… the erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority.” So a woman’s capacity to “feel deeply” has been equated with weakness, and that “only by the suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can women truly be strong. But this strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power” (Lorde 188-192).

If we follow Lordes’ premise, then a woman’s capacity to feel her own sexuality is considered “suspect” and therefore only passably expressed within and through our patriarchal society’s consent and capacity to control it.

Conclusion

What came first, female objectification or female objectified imagery? The truth is not what you might think. While media imagery only began in the early 1900’s, female objectification is just one arm of female subordination that has fem 12stigmatized the male/female dynamic for thousands of years. However, in the 21st century human kind is capable of growing beyond our prejudices; capable of a much broader perspective of the male/female dynamic.

In the 21st century human kind is capable of recognizing our two species as ‘different in measure but equal in value.’

This is where the media continues to culturally perpetuate female objectification even as we are collectively capable of moving beyond it. Advertising media imagery is especially harmful because it is scrupulously knitted within the fabric of our consumer based culture. Every decade that passes, fem 4human kind becomes more familiar with women in leadership positions of authority in politics, more acceding to our dependability as an equal successful womanpartner within the home, and more reliant on our equally competent skills in the work place and industry. While this reality of the male/female dynamic may smack of truth, the false postulation of our disparity and subordination continues to be culturally projected before us as sexually objectified minions of the patriarchal social construct.

Women’s sexuality; our very autonomy is reduced to a collective cultural commodity, and only valid through its collective cultural usefulness to the patriarchal bedroom, boardroom or billboard.

If sex is selling, it’s only selling women out.

fem 16

 

References

Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin. America On Film. 2nd. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

238-256. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Material Girl: The Effacements of Post Modern Culture.” Trans. Array

Theorizing Feminisms. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 385-404. Print.

Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Trans. Array Theorizing Feminisms.

N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 188-192. Print.

Marcus, Sharon. “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention.”

Trans. Array Theorizing Feminism. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 369-

  1. Print. (Marcus, 369-381)

Thompson, Derek. “Are T.V. Ads Getting More Sexist?.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly

Group, 31 Oct 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <theatlantic.com>.

Save

The “Other” Original Sin of America

indian 2

Before Slavery there was Cultural Genocide

What 3 Films can teach us about what and if we’ve learned from our egregious history….

By T.L.Dayen

Racism has deep roots within our collective cultural history, and for this reason has not escaped ‘the grand mirror’ of the cinema. Early films depicting ‘race’ simply reflected our collective understanding of it, which needless to say, was quite narrow and well, “racist”. We do have emotional connections with films. Film as art is an outward expression of our internal processes. But films are also a grand mirror of our real and imagined existence. If we can live and dream through film, then we can also ‘learn’ through film about life and our imaginations. So film allows us to explore and affirm who we are and what we believe, but also learn about whom we are and what we believe. We have a century of film history to reveal what this symbiotic relationship has born to us culturally. So it could be said movies are a cinematic documentary of the evolution of our culture; sometimes in real time, and sometimes in retrospect.

Early 20th century understanding of ‘ethnicity’ was limited to white and non-white; white being “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” (WASP), and everyone else being not WASP (Benshoff, Grifffen page 51).   In early American film, “white is positioned as a default category, the center or the assumed norm on which everything else is based.” (Benshoff, Griffen page 53). Non-whites were typically positioned in the periphery of this “assumed norm” of American life and were “represented with certain stereotypes.” (Benshoff, Griffen page 51). These stereotypes were not subtle and were often purposefully exaggerated for theatrical impact; the ‘lazy’ Mexican; the ‘ignorant’ black person; the ‘gangster’ Italian; the ‘savage’ Indian; the ‘fighting’ Irish; etc.Indian 3

By the later part of the 20th century however, cultural differences as defined by our ‘race’, for the most part, began to be seen as the ‘normal’ reflection of our diverse society. Individual opinion on ‘white supremacy’ still was and is, largely dependent on demographics, and lingering racial intransigence is still evident in every aspect of American life. The film industry is no exception, but the days of outright racial stereotyping in film is again for the most part, no longer tolerated by an audience with a more discerning eye toward social integrity. Modern audiences have proven to appreciate a mix of entertainment and education, and some films have had great success in re-visiting past grievances of discrimination, as well as exposing existing racial injustice. These historical accounts can be rich with all the elements of a gripping and moving cinematic drama as evidenced by the box office receipts and film awards of films like Schindler’s List, Dances with Wolves and Lincoln.

The historical genocide of the Native American Indian is one of our nation’s worst racial transgressions. The American Indian still lacks significant civic representation in our current culture, so a realistic and meaningful cinematic representation of their plight should be worthy of analysis.

“Dances with Wolves” – 1990

https://youtu.be/pkWc4UrfyBc

Perhaps no other movie dealing with the plight of the American Indian has touched the hearts of the American movie goer like Dances with Wolves (DW), directed and produced by Kevin Costner. DW is the “highest grossing western of all time” and is said to have sparked a Hollywood renaissance in western genre films. (“Dances with Wolves; Trivia”). It won seven of its 12 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Based on the 1988 novel by Michael Blake, DW takes us to the Great Plains during the Civil War in 1863 as seen through the eyes and mind of Lt. John Dunbar, played by Kevin Costner. What he learns and shares with the viewer provides an intimate window into the clash of cultures that ultimately led to the extermination of the American Indian, but also the psychological factors that could have prevented it.

DW explores the injustice of genocide from the perspective of 19th century Lakota Indians and the U.S. Calvary. Genocide has been committed throughout history on the basis of geo-politics, racism and religion; reasons, but by no means justifications. The character of Dunbar is fully aware of the conflict between Indians and settlers on the dwNorthern Plains, yet he still displays cautious optimism about his prospects for a life on the prairie. This requires a character not prone to blind assumption or gullible to irrational fears spurred by prejudiced hearsay. Roger Ebert, who gave the film Four Thumbs Up, contemplated Dunbar’s character when he said, “A civilized man is a person whose curiosity outweighs his prejudices.” (Ebert). John Dunbar was a civilized man.

Evidence of murder and desperation on the plains is made clear by the skeleton and destroyed wagon that Dunbar passes on the trail, and the eerily bizarre condition he finds his abandoned post, Fort Sedgwick. But even while Dunbar fears the worst fate for those soldiers, without the facts, he must suspend his impulse to accuse, blame or persecute the Indian people who were most likely involved in some way. He first encounters Kicking Bird, a Lakota Holy Man who is quietly attempting to take his horse, Cisco, while Dunbar is bathing in the creek. A naked Dunbar aggressively comes up on the Indian startling him with a loud and abrupt “Hey!” Frantic with fear and surprise the Indian scrambles to his horse and quickly rides away. This encounter illustrates a ‘typically human’ reaction from both Dunbar and the Indian. Dunbar doesn’t ‘shoot first and ask questions later’, and Kicking Bird doesn’t savagely rush Dunbar with a hatchet to take his scalp. The fact that both men reacted ‘rationally’ in contradiction to their preconceptions is not lost on either of them, and this sets the tone which allows for the development of their relationship.

In a study on genocide, David L. Smith, PhD said “In dehumanizing others, we exclude them from the circle of moral obligation. We can then kill, oppress, and enslave them with impunity. Taking the life of a dehumanized person becomes of no greater consequence than crushing an insect under one’s boot.” (Smith, PhD). So, the act of genocide requires ‘dehumanization’.  The contrast between Dunbar’s attitude of respecting the differences between white and Indian, and that of the Calvary and common folk that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” explains to the viewer 070524192730_american_indian_playing_an_instrument_LGhow the native American’s right to even exist was dismissed as easily and coldly as they shot and killed Dunbar’s wolf, Two Socks, who inspired his Lakota name, Dances with Wolves. The lucidity in Dunbar’s efforts to understand and empathize with the Indians, reveals it was indeed the dehumanization of native Americans that led to their genocide – not the presence of American settlers.

It was no mistake that Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Sound and Best Musical Score.  The film relied heavily but adeptly on non-diegetic sound, as the period and the geography of the film provided little audio opportunities from the setting that many other films are afforded. We have one man, a horse and a wolf on the Prairie with Indians who don’t speak English. Yet the film is alive with feeling and thoughtful communication.  The orchestral musical score was written by John Barry who “agreed to score the film immediately after reading the script.” (“Dances with Wolves; Trivia”). His score ‘shows’ the grandeur of the prairie, the utopian harmony of the Indian camp and the pale bleakness of the soldier fort.  We ‘hear’ the silent conversations between Dunbar, Cisco and Two Socks and his Indian connections. We ‘feel’ the confusion and trepidation of a people confronting an unknown future; the excitement of the hunt; the adrenaline of battle; and we ‘sense’ the powerful love between Dunbar and Stands with a Fist. Diegetic uses of sound include the natural sounds of the prairie; wind, a horse’s breath, a buffalo stampede, a lone wagon.  Silence is also poignantly used; the vastness of the ‘American Frontier’; the loneliness at the fort; the peace within the Lakota camp; as well as the tension between cultures either longing to connect or stewing in their resentment and frustration.

Costner’s narration as Dunbar compliments an amazing score. Dunbar provides the audience with the objective clarity of a news reporter, seemingly aware that his words need to maintain the impartial tone of an honest observer void of bias for those who will follow. Of a three day buffalo hunt with his native friends he writes, “They were a people so eager to laugh; so devoted to family; so dedicated to each other. The only word that comes to mind is harmony.” English subtitles add realism to the Lakota people and to the film itself. The cultural wall that separated the Indian and the white man in the 1800’s would never have been conveyed to the audience as powerfully if these Indians had spoken English just for the benefit of the viewer.dw 2

This is a chronological tale told in first person narrative through the eyes and words of Lt. John Dunbar in 1863 Civil war torn America. As a ‘classical’ phase of genre, we follow the protagonist, Dunbar, on a journey of self-discovery. Dissatisfied and disillusioned with “dark political” wars, Dunbar becomes an unlikely war hero after a moment of clarity, or insanity, triggers him to risk his life on the battle field, and in the process, break a protracted stand-off on the Confederate front lines. He is given his choice of post for his ‘courage’, and he decides to see the American Frontier “before it’s gone.” His open mind and longing for peace leads Dunbar to find philosophical meaning and emotional sanctuary with a Lakota tribe. His time with the Lakota forces Dunbar to question the values of his own people. After witnessing the needless slaughter of dozens of buffalo left to rot only for their tongues and hides, he writes “It was clear whoever did this were a people without value and without soul. The wagon tracks left no doubt who was responsible.” When he finds love with Stands with a Fist, the orphaned white women raised by the tribe, his destiny is sealed, and he is renamed “Dances with Wolves” from his observed relations with the wolf he befriends on the prairie. The Ideology of DW can be found in a quote from a Pawnee War Chief killed in 1872, “When a white man kills an Indian in a fair fight it is called honorable, but when an Indian kills a white man in a fair fight, it is called murder.” Dances with Wolves allows us to finally grieve and honor the loss of our genocidal victims, and resolve to ‘never forget’.

“Billy Jack” – 1971

https://youtu.be/_rNDsbtwtyI

billy_jack_poster_01Written, directed and starring Tom Laughlin in 1969, and released in 1971, Billy Jack came to personify the counter-culture movement of the mid-20th century. Billy Jack was a half-blood Sioux Indian Special Ops Vietnam veteran, who didn’t ‘pull any punches’ when it came to defending the weak, the outnumbered or the mistreated. It won no awards, and received mixed reviews, but a 2007 expose’ on the Billy Jack Franchise in “Pop Matters” said, “this counterculture icon became a wholesome household word.” (Gibron). His anti-establishment views and Shaman-warrior style came to symbolize the dichotomy of an enlightened generation “fighting for peace”.

Billy Jack (BJ) shines a cinematic light on both flagrant and institutional racism. The issues of the American “counter culture” movement that peaked in the late 1960’s with the growing unrest over the Vietnam War, included freedom of personal expression; gender equality; civil rights of minorities; spiritualism over materialism; sexual freedom; mind expansion through drug use; and non-violence aimed at the military industrial complex.  There were many who were reluctant to accept these changes in society, even spiteful toward its advocates; that believed equality and integration of ideas, gender and race were a dangerous threat to the moral fabric of society.   Systemic fundamental bigotry soon became cloaked in the guise of ‘traditional values’ and ‘morality’, and is still rampant in America today, ‘cloaked’ or not.

In the film, the recluse character of Billy Jack lives outside a small conservative town on an Indian reservation, also home to “Freedom School” run by pacifist, Jean Roberts. The school houses kids who either ran away or were rejected by families who can’t cope with their ‘problematic’ ways.  After her repeated attempts to run away to California, the town Deputy’s 15 year old daughter Barbara tells her father she’s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is.  When he asks what she means, she replies, “What I mean ‘dear father’ is that I was passed around by so many men, I don’t know whether this baby’s gonna come out white, Indian, Mexican or ‘black’!”   The beating he gives her puts her in the hospital.  She soon finds refuge at the school, which becomes a point of serious contention between the school and the town.Indian 4

Another iconic scene is when the owner of the local sundry refuses to serve ice-cream to Indian kids from the school during a town visit. An older ‘white’ student challenges him but she is interrupted by the wealthy and exalted Mr. Posner’s masochistic son Bernard, who enters and claims he has a “solution.”  He pours flour on their young faces as they sit in shock, and tells the owner, “See, now they’re all white – problem solved.”   The town’s people ask the timorous town Sherriff what he’s “gonna do about those long haired weirdoes”, and during a town council meeting regarding the ‘disruption’ caused by the ‘students’ in the town, one student is referred to as “a filthy little girl” when she asks if it is her ‘sexuality’ that scares them all so much. Ultimately an Indian student, Martin, is shot and killed when the Deputy discovers his daughter has feelings for him.  Billy’s revenge on those who torment the students, the school, or Jean, is bittersweet. The symptoms of bigotry are merely a veneer.

Billy Jack is a parable of ‘good vs. evil’.  We are told the tale through Jean Roberts. The protagonist Billy Jack is the proverbial warrior who places himself between all that is good in his world, and all that is evil.  All that is good is the Indian reservation where he lives, the wild horses he protects from poachers, the Freedom School, and Jean who keeps the dream and vision of the school alive.  All that is evil are the corrupt law authority and ignorant simpletons of the town who shoot his horses for dog food, and terrorize the students of the school for what it and they stand for – equality, creativity, freedom and peace – embodied in his beloved Jean.  In one scene, Billy says, “When policemen break the law, then there isn’t any law – just a fight for survival.” When policemen broke the law or didn’t enforce it, Billy was the law.

billy-jack-quoteIt is a realist ‘social problem’ film, and as Roger Ebert put it, “There’s not a single contemporary  issue, from ecology to gun control, that’s not covered,” (Ebert). We’re taken chronologically through a series of clashes between the ‘good school’ and ‘evil town’; each time Billy appears to protect and to pass his judgment, usually with adept physical might.  But as these clashes intensify, Billy cannot be all places at all times. After Martin is shot and killed by the Deputy, and Jean is raped by Bernard, the film climaxes as Billy hands down his fierce wrath of justice without impunity.  After killing the Deputy and Bernard, there is a shootout and ultimate standoff at a church where Billy is hold up.  Jean pleads with Billy to give himself up; “So easy for you to die dramatically! It’s a hell of a lot tougher for those of us who have to keep on trying!” Out of his love for Jean he surrenders on the demands the school will be protected. Jean cries as she tells Billy she knows how “letting them” handcuff and arrest him will be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, and in a moving last scene as Billy is led off in a squad car, the students of Freedom school line the street with their fists raised in salute, to Billy Jack.

The films score embodies the premise and message of BJ; of innocence, peace and courage in constant struggle with corruption, hostility and fear. Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, “One Tin Soldier” spent weeks on the Top 40 List. The musical score opens the film as we see aerial footage of several men on horseback chasing down dozens of beautiful wild horses for slaughter.  The score also closes the film during Billy’s arrest, exit and his salute.   The chorus is as follows:  “Go ahead and hate your neighbor.  Go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven. You can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpets blowing come the judgment day, on the bloody morning after….One tin soldier rides away.”  “[Billy Jack] was more than a cinematic symbol; he began taking the unlikely form of a substantive political force. People identified with the man, seeing an empathetic anti-establishment pose in everything he stood for.” (Gibron). In 2011, Mark Wahlberg’s production company purchased the rights to the Billy Jack franchise (Micciow). Perhaps a new generation can now learn the lessons of Billy Jack’s struggle of fighting for peace.

“Thunderheart” – 1992

https://youtu.be/rEl1x-vhtEU

thunderheart            As a fictional film, Thunderheart is actually based loosely on two real events; the 1973 hold-out at the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee and the 1975 shootout at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that resulted in the death of FBI agents.  The film’s director, Michael Apted, had previously in 1992 directed a documentary surrounding the 1975 shootings titled Incident at OglalaBoth incidents were blamed on the aboriginal militant group, American Indian Movement (AIM).  The group protested social injustices and substandard living conditions on the reservation, and a corrupt pro-American tribal government, whom residents blamed for much of the violence and bloodshed. (“AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins”).

Thunderheart (TH) paints a stark picture of the substandard living conditions on an Indian Reservation, as well as the exploitation of their lands for mineral resources. The U.S. government recognizes 565 Indian tribes in 35 states. Nearly half of Native Americans in the U.S. qualify for federal assistance. Twenty three percent of Native Americans live at or under the poverty line. Alcohol related death is over 500 percent higher; diabetes 177 percent higher; TB 500 percent higher; and suicide double that of average population rates. Suicide among Native American teens is the highest of any demographic in the nation. As of 2000, 47 percent of Native Americans lived on reservations. (“Center for Native American Youth”).

The reservation in the film is located in South Dakota on the outskirts of the ‘Badlands’ National Park; strangely beautiful but less than hospitable. To the Natives who live on the ‘rez’ it is their home, and has been for hundreds of years (on a much larger scale). The natives are poor, living among scattered broken cars and appliances; lacking the resources to have them removed. Their homes are dilapidated and many are ‘makeshift’ from recycled materials; “a modern Indian reservation — which, as the movie reveals, is by now a fancy word for slum.” (Gleiberman). Their children are forced to play among the debris. But the Indians find their solace and their peace of mind in their traditions, each other and in their history.

When FBI agent Ray Levoy (Val Kilmer) first comes to the ‘rez’, he asks, “Where the hell did they send us?” His field supervisor, Frank Coutelle says, “Well Ray, these are your people.” “They’re not my people.” He retorts. Ray’s Rezfather was a Sioux; an alcoholic who died when Ray was seven. He spent his life ashamed and in denial of his heritage. Hesitant and cynical at first, Ray begins to sensitize to the people, their culture and their obvious suffering. Ray’s investigation uncovers several truths. Among them that the tribal government is violent and antagonistic toward the traditionalists, and that the water is making the people sick. Ray also rediscovers a deep connection with his heritage and a people he had denied all his life in shame; much like a country who in their own shame and denial, fenced in an entire race as if to have to look in their eyes would mean to face their collective guilt.

TH is a contemporary western genre thriller. It is a chronological narrative that tells itself in realist form with “a documentary’s attentiveness to detail.” (Maslin). Filming took place in South Dakota and even on Pine Ridge Reservation where the Oglala and Wounded Knee incidents that inspired the film took place. Silhouetted Native Americans in song chant open the film. There is diegetic use of Native song and chant among the natives in prayer and celebration, and during Ray’s visions of ancient warriors performing the aboriginal ‘Ghost Dance’. Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” accompanies the first scene of Ray Levoy on a Washington D.C. freeway. There is some use of Native language, but mostly heavily accented English is used adding diegetic color to the native characters.

Agent Ray Levoy comes to Bear Creek Reservation for an in-and-out ‘sensitive operations unit’ to assist an investigation in the murder of a member of its tribal government in a civil war with the Aboriginal Rights Movement (ARM), and the apprehension of the accused killer, Jimmy Looks Twice. His estranged Native heritage is what prompts Washington to give Ray this assignment in hopes he can “get the natives talkin.” Tentative and dubious at first, Ray soon begins to question the violent methods and tactics used against the traditionalists and, to his own incredulity, begins to sympathize with the cause of the ARM, and his people. The reservation Elders have awarded him a certain level of trust with the natives that he cannot explain, but soon learns they believe him to be the reincarnated Thunderheart, sent to end the war and heal their land.

With the ethereal wisdom of Elder Grandpa Sam Reaches and street smart Crow Horse, Ray learns the tribal government is corrupt and has made a deal with Ray’s field superior, Frank Coutelle, to illegally lease tribal lands to strip mine for uranium, which is poisoning the water. The alleged murder is a cover up of an ‘inside job’ to eliminate anyone who finds out, and frame it on the ARM: Jimmy. When Maggie Eagle Bear is found murdered at the ‘source’ of the Little White River where pollutants from uranium test drilling are entering the water supply, Ray and Crow pineridge-2408e954fd9a00bd7dfe7088acb6b6e448468135-s6-c30Horse take the miscreants including, Agent Frank Coutelle, on a car chase to the “strong hold”; where Thunderheart led his people at Wounded Knee 100 years before, and where he was shot in the back by the U.S. Calvary. Just when it seems Ray and Crow Horse will repeat history, the traditionalists appear on the craggy cliffs surrounding them, holding their assailants at gun point. Agent Coutelle is handed over to Internal Affairs. Crow Horse calls it a “white wash”.

Ray discards the mirage of his prior life and vows to use his ‘white man’s education’ to expose the injustices brought on Bear Creek Reservation, and continue the work Maggie Eagle Bear had started to improve the life of Native Americans. The film ends as Ray silently sits at the cross roads of the reservation exit and the interstate highway – symbolic of the cross roads of Native Americans in 21st century America; evocative of the Native Americans in 19th century America.

There is high degree of explicit ideology in TH. At first for Ray, there’s no difference between the traditionalists and the tribal government supporters – they’re all Indians, or as the café owner puts it, “Prairie niggers”. But soon, his keen senses pick up the clear contrasts. Tribal government supporters or “goons” as they’re called are loud, crass, ge9and aggressive. They dress well, but they’re hollow and speak poorly. They carry guns because they’re impatient. The traditionalists are spiritual and passive family people. They don’t carry guns; they carry a quiet resolve. Outside their native ceremonial dress, they are disheveled, but they have a solid grace about them. They are quick witted and alert and have a kind of knowing that is almost unnerving. Ray becomes known as the “Washington redskin”. Reservation cop, Walter Crow horse calls him the “Federal Bureau of Intimidation.” Yellow Hawk tells him that around there he’s “the FBI – Full Blooded Indian.” Ray is struck by their insight and boldness in the face of impossible odds.

Crow Horse takes him to the Elder, Grandpa Sam Reaches, who tells Ray about his father, his heritage, and his past life as “Thunderheart”; a holy man who died in a massacre 100 years before, “with the others at Wounded Knee”.   Ray begins to have visions of this place – his place. He begins to understand his people and what they are teaching him. When a piece of evidence is found that has the power to clear Jimmy Looks Twice, wrongfully accused of murder, Maggie Eagle Bear tells him, “That’s not power Ray. That’s paper. Power is a rain storm; that river right huey11there. That’s what I have to protect! If Jimmy goes to prison for being a warrior, that’s what he accepts. That’s our way.” When Ray comes upon Jimmy at Grandpa Reaches, he pleads with Jimmy to flee or “they’ll kill” him. Jimmy looks Ray in eye, “Sometimes they have to kill us. They have to kill us, because they can’t break our spirit. We choose the right to be who we are. We know the difference between the reality of freedom, and the illusion of freedom. There is a way to live with the earth and a way not to live with the earth. We choose the way of earth. It’s about power, Ray.” It is this ‘power’ that ultimately frees the reservation traditionalists from their corrupt overseers, and Ray Levoy from his shallow life as the Washington redskin, who now identifies with – and is proud of – his people.

Conclusion

Perhaps we hold Hollywood to standards that our outside of its purview. If film is simply the outward expression of our collective “inner processes”, then how can we expect a higher standard from these cinematic expressions than we expect from the essence of its fabrication? This is essentially “shooting the messenger” isn’t it? The portrayal of race in film has evolved as our understanding of race has evolved. Early films like Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913) depicting blood thirsty pillaging native Americans, or Birth of a Nation (1915) depicting 408595_293644054091547_441726372_nrancorous malicious African Americans, were simply stereotypes that supported our own revisionist history; imagery that justified and even projected our own rancorous, malicious and pillaging history as European American imperialists. The power and endurance of these stereotypes on the social construct are commensurate with our own ignorance and/or insolence of the truth.

With help from our own victims, it would take a willingness to face our collective guilt to begin to explore these truths. Groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Film Committee of the Association on American Indian Affairs, worked to show us that we couldn’t move forward as one nation, unless we understood the true history of its people, as self-incriminating as it may be. The betterment of our society requires a fundamental and unsullied understanding of who we are as a society. We certainly can expect American film to represent all of our citizens and our very real differences in a true and respectful manner, but only to the extent that we expect the same of ourselves.

 

Resources

“AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins.” History.com. A&E Networks Digital. Web.

17 Apr 2013.

Benshoff, Griffen; Harry M., Sean. America on Film. 2nd. United Kingdom: Wiley –

Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print.

“Center for Native American Youth.” Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. The

Aspen Institute. Web. 18 Apr 2013. <AspenInstitute.org>.

“Dances with Wolves; Trivia.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc.. Web. 15 Apr 2013.

<IMDb.com>.

Ebert, Roger. Reviews; Great Movies; Dances with Wolves. Chicago: Chicago Sun

Times, Nov. 9, 1990. Web. <Rogerebert.com>.

Ebert, Roger. Reviews; Billy Jack. Chicago: Chicago SunTimes, Aug. 2, 1971. Web.

<Rogerebert.com>.

Gibron, Bill. “PopMatters; Film.” PopMatters.com. Pop Matters Media Inc., 5 Jun 2007.

Web. 16 Apr 2013.

Gleiberman, Owen. “Movie Review; Thunderheart.” EntertainmentWeekly.com.

Entertainment Weekly, Inc., 17 Apr 1992. Web. 17 Apr 2013.

Miccio, Anthony. “VH1 Celebrity.” VH1.com. Viacom International Inc., 15 Apr 2011.

Web. 16 Apr 2013.

Smith, Phd, David L.. “Philosophy Dispatches; Thoughts on human nature.” Psychology

            Today. Sussex Publishers LLC, 2 DEC 2011. Web. 15 Apr 2013

Maslin, Janet. “The New York Times Movies.” The New York Times. The New York Times

Company, 19 Apr 1992. Web. 19 Apr 2013.

Its Time for A Re-Release of “Bowling for Columbine”

If Columbine was to be the Beginning of the New Normal, Then Bowling for Columbine needs to be Compulsory in our College Classrooms

By T.L. Dayen

Guns don’t kill people, people do. But guns don’t work without bullets, so ‘bullets’ kill people? But bullets can’t kill people without combustion, so ‘combustion’ kills people? But then again, combustion cannot occur without a trigger mechanism; so ‘triggers’ kill people? But wait a minute; a trigger can’t pull itself, so guns loaded with bullets triggered by combustion by people kills people? Now I get it. People with guns kill people! And if they’re not killing people with their guns, they are practicing how to kill people with their guns. They imagine and prepare for all sorts of scenarios of why and where to kill people with their guns. This is their Constitutional right!   You can pry that gun off their “cold, dead fingers”; that is, if they haven’t killed you first.

Written and directed by Michael Moore, Bowling for Columbine was released in October, 2002. This documentary style film was tragically inspired by the 1999 massacre in Littleton, CO at Columbine High School when two students gunned down 43 people, killing 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves. Under Moore’s narration, the film not only explores factors that may have contributed to the Columbine massacre, but also goes deeper to address factors that may contribute to America’s unique “culture of violence” overall. Moore uses satire in much of the film to present his findings; perhaps in a way more engaging and digestible to the audience. For instance we hear the song “What a Wonderful World” played over a montage of pre-emptive, or non-defensive military campaigns that the U.S. has engaged in since 1953. Moore looks at our culture of violence as being perpetuated by a “culture of fear”, imposed on Americans by our military industrial complex, media institutions and politics.

The Columbine Massacre would be the first in a string of mass shooting massacres over the next fourteen years. In fact, by the time this film had been released just two months, an additional three more mass shootings had occurred in three different states taking a total of 26 lives. (Shen). Unbeknown to Moore at that time, between April, 1999 and December, 2012, this nation would see 29 mass shootings in 42 states taking the lives of more than 250 people. (Shen). In 2012 alone, we would see nine mass shootings in 29 states killing more than 60 people, culminating with the slaughter of 20 first and second graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT. (Shen). Since Dec.14, 2012, more than 3,360 lives have been taken by gun violence. (Kirk, and Kois).

Bowling for Columbine is a basis for analysis of this perverse phenomenon through theories of applied social science substantiating Michael Moore’s argument that a culture of fear is the impetus behind gun violence in America.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_3MFZYni6Y

Applied Philosophy.    Bowling for Columbine (BFC), uses “induction” (Rothchild, pg.2) to reach its assumptions that a “culture of fear” is the basis for gun violence in America. Moore presents a collection of facts, statistics and interviews to weave together a set of conclusions that when all things equal are considered, gun violence is unique to America because of our culture of fear.

(Table 1)                                                                    2012/2013

                                    Gun Deaths Per 100,000                   Reported Incidents of Crime

United States:            11,127 (3.601/100,000)                       1st in crime 11,877,218

Germany:                    381 (0.466/100,000)                            3rd in crime 6,507,394

France:                        255 (0.389/100,000)                            4th in crime 3,771,850

Canada:                       165 (0.484/100,000)                            8th in crime 2,516,918

United Kingdom:        68 (0.109/100,000)                             2nd in crime 6,523,706

Australia:                     65 (0.292/100,000)                              (not in top 10 of crime)

Japan:                          39 (0.030/100,000)                             6th in crime 2,853,739

Sources: “Bowling for Columbine” and Maps of World

The U.S. is number one in gun deaths among other wealthy democratic nations. We are 96.6 percent higher in gun deaths than the country in second and 87 percent higher per capita. (Table 1). Moore concludes that neither wealth, freedom, nor the size of our population makes us unique regarding gun violence. In Table 1, we can also see the national crime rates of these countries Moore references in the film. Fear of crime and the need for self-defense is often the most compelling argument for the vigorous defense of gun rights in America. However, statistics as seen in Table 1 show no correlation between crime rates and gun deaths. For instance, Great Britain and Australia have less than 2 tenths of a percent difference in gun deaths per capita; yet Great Britain is second in the top ten countries of reported crime, and Australia isn’t even in the top 10. Canada has twice the number of gun deaths of Great Britain, yet nearly two thirds less reported violent crime.

Gun Deaths

BFC points out other false rationales for gun violence in America as compared to these countries. Moore indicates that the two young men responsible for the carnage at Columbine were known as “Goth’s”: a genre of music and fashion popular in the 1990’s that combined heavy metal and punk music that’s fans are characterized as “anti-social”, and identified by their black clothing; black eye, lip and pale face makeup. After the Columbine massacre, the media focused on the Gothic lifestyle and music like “Marilyn Mason” as a factor in what may have motivated the boys to violence. However, Moore also points out that Goth fashion and music originated in Europe, and that Germany had a larger Marilyn Manson and Goth population per capita than the U.S. at the time. While Goth may indicate the social dissatisfaction of a young emerging counter culture in the U.S., BFC argues that the statistics show there is no correlation between counter culture music and fashion and gun violence in America.

Violence in movies and games were also explored as a possible factor in increasing gun violence in America in 1999. Once again, the film points out violent American movies are seen and enjoy huge success all over the world. In fact, Asia and Japan created especially gruesome franchises such as The Ring, The Grudge and Saw. Violent video games continue to be implicated in the violent behavior of American youth even today, yet Moore reminds us that some of the most successful violent video games are made in Japan and widely played by their youth. So while the effects of violent movies and video games will continue to be studied, BFC argues there is no statistical evidence that specifically links violence in our entertainment media to the high level of gun violence unique to America.

Finally, in an interview by Michael Moore in the film with former National Rifle Association (NRA), Charlton Hesston, when asked why America has such a high level of gun violence, Mr. Hesston replies that it may be due to our nation’s “history of violence.” Moore counters this thesis with the fact that European nations have a much longer if not, more horrific, “history of violence” than the U.S. This could also easily be said of Asia.

Applied Psychology.    BFC illustrates the “Justification Hypothesis” (Henriques, pg.166) as the unconscious process by which gun violence in America is perpetuated by fear. In the film, Moore attributes much of American’s fear to a “fear of the other”. The film uses a cartoon interlude called “A Brief History of the United States of America” that explores our sullied history with racism up to today, and a tenacious xenophobic fervor in America as collective “justifications” for apprehensive and defensive behavior. Gang violence in this country is also an illustration of the Justification Hypothesis; a reality within reality justified only by those within the “bubble” in order to make sense of the nonsensical. According to Henriques, humans do not justify behavior based on “objective reality”, but instead will “explain their behavior in a believable and favorable way” to others and to themselves.

While murder rates are high in gang infested urban centers, Moore points out that 90 percent of guns in America are owned by rural and suburban white people. It could be argued that people in gang neighborhoods may actually have reason to be “waiting for the bad guy with a gun”, but white suburbia is “looking for the bad guy with a gun.” This does not justify gang behavior however, because in most cases they would only need to travel a mile or two in any direction to find that their version of “reality” is a false impression compared to lives of the vast majority of Americans. But if gang violence is relatively sequestered to finite demographics, who are 90 percent of gun touting Americans afraid of? This is exactly the question asked in BFC.   The film exposes the turning point of America becoming a “locked and loaded” society as being the civil rights movement. Moore cites statistics depicting the American gun sales and manufacturing phenomenon originating during this time, and sustained by the Justification Hypothesis theory that “the other is comin to getcha!” One fairly lighthearted example the film provides is the hyperbolic national hysteria over “Africanized Killer Bees”; playing news reels of reports indicating that the “Africanized Killer Bee” is much more “aggressive and dangerous” than its “European counterpart.” The film also points out this trumped up national threat has yet to manifest.

Applied Anthropology.            BFC clearly demonstrates how the cultural institution of the news media has sensationalized violence in America to the point of creating a “business of violence” that requires fear to exist. It is also within this context that Moore does draw correlations between violence and the media; not as a causal affect, but that sensationalizing fear is profit motivated.

The film makes the startling point that while murder in this country has decreased significantly since peaking in the 1970’s, news media coverage of murder has gone up by 600 percent! Moore narrates the tragic story of a 6 year old boy who shoots and kills a class mate at Buelle Elementary in Moore’s hometown of Flint Michigan, not long after the Columbine massacre. News media from all over the country descended on the small town in droves to report endless hours of repetitive details of the heart-rending incident. The young boy was black. His mother was a welfare-to-work program single mom. The little girl was white. You get the picture. It was a “sensational” story; perfect for the endless loop of the 24 hour news cycle. But Moore points out, that while the incident may be newsworthy, so too were the circumstances surrounding the travesty. Eighty seven percent of the residents in Flint were at or under the poverty line. The highest cause of death in Flint was suicide. The high school football team was sponsored by the most affluent business in town – the funeral home. The boy’s mother worked 70 hours per week at two jobs. But social accountability stories don’t get the ratings.

BFC also indicates that while crime has significantly decreased in America, the polls show that fear of crime has risen, and in tandem, gun ownership and gun sales. Moore interviews the Executive Producer of the massively successful 1990’s show, C.O.P.S., who tells Moore point blank that anger, hate and violence “does well in shows” even while he admits that the crimes and perpetrators given coverage on C.O.P.S. were not representative of the nation as whole. It just got the best ratings.

It is here we can see the Deterministic Theory of Karl Marx’s “Historical Materialism” on the critical role that social forces play on our culture; “The collective material actions of people in society [are] shaped by the interests of the dominant class [and] are responsible for the human condition at any point in history.” (Shultz and Lavenda, pg.21). Marx goes on to assert that “Progress comes only through revolution”; an overthrow of the dominant view to “make way for the new.” (Shultz and Lavenda, pg.21). It is our addiction to fear that has created a market for it, and the market feeds that addiction. The market simply fulfills need and desire without conscience. Break the addiction and you break the power of the market.

Applied Sociology.      BFC exemplifies Gladwell’s “Broken Windows Theory” and C.W. Mills’ “Conflict Theory” as sociological factors in America’s unique culture of fear. Gladwell contends that the condition of our physical environments reflect the concerns and priorities of our community, as well as that community’s expectations of conduct from its members. For example, dilapidated neighborhoods in disrepair convey to its resident’s a lack of civil concern and the high probability that misconduct is likely to be overlooked or discounted. (Gladwell, pg.105). Moore draws this same inference with gun violence in the U.S. in as much as a nation so accepting of violence as a means to an end simply fosters a society that uses violence as a means to an end.  The number of guns owned in America averages 88.8 percent of every 100 people compared with 33.86 percent of the top 24 richest nations in the world combined. (“International Firearm Injury Prevention and Policy”).   What kind of message is a society sending to itself when its citizens own enough guns to provide a firearm to 88 out of every 100 of its people?

Moore points out that Littleton, CO. is home to the largest weapons manufacturer in the world, Lockheed Martin; the town’s largest employer with approximately 5,000 workers. In a conversation with the rocket missile facility’s Communications Director, Evan McCollum, Moore asks about a possible connection between the weapons of mass destruction built at the facility and the mass destruction that took place at the nearby Columbine high school. McCollum replies that he does not see the connection, as the missiles built at Lockheed are “designed to defend us” against those “who would be aggressors against us.” It is here in the film that we see the musical montage of “What a Wonderful World” mentioned in the introduction, chronologically revealing 16 pre-emptive, or non-defensive military intervention campaigns conducted by the U.S. since 1953; an average of nearly one every 36 months for 46 years up to April 20, 1999 when U.S. and NATO allies conducted the largest air strike bombing campaign in Kosovo, hitting a school and hospital. One hour after the strikes were conducted in Kosovo, 900 rounds of legally purchased ammunition were being fired at the students of Columbine high school; “The Home of the Rebels.”

Sociologist C.W. Mills speaks of a social “Conflict Theory” that results from social stratification, which is the grouping of individuals by social class or status. (Harrison, pg.105).   A recent Brookings Institute study found that over the past 25 years of income inequality in the U.S., we are seeing “an increase in “permanent inequality” — the advantaged becoming permanently better-off, while the disadvantaged [are] becoming permanently worse-off.” (Debaker, Heim, and et al). Mills contends that indeed “in the U.S. a ‘ruling class’ exists”; a “power elite that includes top business executives, media moguls, and military and government leaders who dominate decision making in this country.” Also that this “Stratification negatively affects the thinking of members of the lower [non-ruling] class [and] may even be ‘dysfunctional’….if it fosters feelings of suspicion, hostility and disloyalty to society.” (Harrison, pg.105).

BFC looks at the 250 percent rise in military militias in the U.S., specifically in Michigan where civilian paramilitary activity is especially high. These groups represent a growing ‘uneasiness’ in America that our “power elite” may not have our best interests at heart, and in fact, may have malicious intent. Moore interviews Terry Nichol’s, cousin of Timothy McVee who bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building; the worst act of domestic terrorism in our history.  While he claimed to not subscribe to the deadly terrorism wrought by McVee, he did confess his firm belief that a “government overthrow” should be carried out through violence if necessary, should that government become “tyrannical.” However, in this country, many believe that everything from income taxes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), is an act of government tyranny. Anti-government conspiracy theories are gaining considerable support among the U.S. citizenry. According to a recent PPP poll, over 50 percent of 1000 respondents could NOT affirmatively say that they did NOT believe a secret power-elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government or One World Order. (“Conspiracy Theory Poll Results”).

Applied Political Science.        BFC reveals the use of “fear” by powerful interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) to influence politicians and the political process for their own economic gain. Moore reminds America that the NRA conducted “rallies” in Littleton, CO. and Flint, MI. within days after each of the tragic events wrought on these communities by gun violence. Actual footage of these “rallies” in the film shows former NRA President Charlton Hesston revving up the audience with slogans like, “they can pry my gun out of my cold dead hands.” Moore points out that evidently the NRA felt it was necessary to inform their members that no tragic massacre from gun violence, no matter how heinous, could be allowed to affect any public policy on gun ownership whatsoever; that anything less than zero tolerance for any legal interpretation of “the right to bear arms” that may include regulation or oversight is an infringement upon their Constitutional rights – period! The NRA capitalizes on senseless killing to actually encourage new membership into its ranks – “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The premise of the NRA is that if everyone owned and carried a gun, we’d ALL be “safe.”

The truth is, with the number of firearms owned in this country, gun and ammunition clip manufacturing is one of the most lucrative industries in the nation. In fact, according to the Violence Policy Center of GunPolicy.org, just 22 firearm manufacturers gave nearly 39 million dollars to the NRA from 2005 to 2011; that’s over 6 million dollars per year from just 22 of its “members.” The NRA claims to have approximately 3 million members. Combine these annual dues with gun manufacture donations and you’ve got one of the most powerful and influential lobbies in Washington D.C. In the same way the NRA wields their propaganda scare tactics on their members that any reasonable gun safety policy is an infringement upon the 2nd Amendment, the NRA uses their money to pressure law makers with promises of “smear campaigns” come election time, should they support any legislation that would regulate the sale, purchase or use of firearms in this country. The recent gun debate in America after one of the worst gun massacres in this country at Sandy Hook Elementary school could easily be basis for an entire paper, but suffice it to say – they won – for now.

The political dichotomy of the NRA is perhaps most troubling, because its influence over our lawmakers, and its members, is neither “normative” nor “empirical”. (Spragens, slide 8). The empirical evidence against the NRA’s position on gun ownership in this country is overwhelming. The statistics of gun violence in America are quite clear and indisputable. However, they also seem to prevail against the normative argument; that the untethered access of paramilitary weaponry in this country is an unethical and immoral threat to the national domestic security of our citizens.   Perhaps this is because their trump card on both fronts is “fear” which is neither logical nor reasonable especially when you’re dealing with self-preservation – of your “profits.”

Conclusion

There are two facts about guns in America that will never change; Americans will continue to own and use guns, and Americans will continue to die from them. These are the facts, and again, they will never change. What can change however is the pathetic timidity with which Americans address the very real and present danger of unregulated gun ownership in this country. It is said that over 90 percent of Americans agree that we should have more thorough background checks on gun purchases, and that the streets of America are no place for the same caliber of weaponry and amo that is afforded our police and military. But reasonable people have many issues and concerns regarding American public policy, while those in opposition to reasonable “gun” concerns care only about guns. They have no other issue other than the absolute “‘un-infringed’ right to bear arms.” Until reasonable Americans meet this challenge with the same fervor and passion, these “extremists” will continue to win the argument – because that’s the only argument they’re making, and they’re getting good at it.

Michael Moore appeared on MSNBC Reports on March 22 where, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre of Dec.14, he said of his film BFC, “On a personal level I feel like I’ve failed. I made that movie to try and stop this madness.”   The courage it took to make BFC is the same courage we 90 percent of Americans need to muster unless the “wild west” is what we’re now willing to call home. One thing’s for sure, whether it’s the “other”, the zombie apocalypse, losing a congressional seat, losing profits or losing 2nd Amendment rights, FEAR is the one element driving every argument, or excuse.

Resources

“Conspiracy Theory Poll Results.” Public Policy Polling. 2 Apr 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

<publicpolicypolling.com>.

Debaker, Jason, Bradley Heim, et al. “Rising Inequality: Transitory or Permanent: New Evidence from a

Panel of U.S. Tax Returns.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. (2013): n. page. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. <Brookings.edu>.

Gladwell, Malcolm. “The Tipping Point.” The Power of Context.

“Gun Facts, Figures and the Law.” International Firearm Injury Prevention and Policy. n.d. n. page.

Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <GunPolicy.org>.

Harrison, Brigid C. “Sociology and the Study of the Social Sciences.” Power and the Social Sciences.

Henriques, Gregg. “The Justification Hypothesis.” The Tree of Knowledge.

Kirk, Chris, and Dan Kois. “How Many People Have Been Killed By Guns Since Newtown?” Slate. 17

Apr. 2013: n. page. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <Slate.com>.

Rothchild, Irving. Induction, Deduction and the Scientific Method.

Schultz, and Lavenda. “Deterministic Theories of Sociology.” Culture and the Human Condition.

Shen, Aviva. “A Timeline of Mass Shootings in the U.S. Since Columbine.” Think Progress. 14 Dec

2012: n. page. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <thinkprogress.org>.

Spragens, Thomas. “Understanding Political Theory.” Politics and Political Theory.

“Top Ten Countries with Highest Reported Crime Rates.” Maps of World. <mapsofworld.com>.

“Life!?”

At What Point “Human?”

dads pic

By Shane Stewart

March 20

I am a man blogging on a subject that in truth belongs entirely in the realm of female consciousness and control. Women, and only women have the right to control their own bodies. Men have no business legislating anything about the female body. So why am I writing on this subject that belongs solely in the world of the female? I must write on this subject as a male because I know that the male of our species has hijacked the definition of “human life,” and it has been done solely to strengthen the image of male “superiority.” Men have done it to further strip the female of any power and authority over her own body and what happens in -or to – it. The negative, dominant, violent male ego knows no bounds in its blatant attempts at maintaining female oppression and domination throughout the world – forever. Men have women “locked down” in every aspect of life, and the male ego is now even trying to “legally,” through legislation, reach into the “cradle of life” – the female womb – to control and oppress women; to legislate that a human being exists inside a woman’s body at the moment of “insemination” by the male sperm. This is a ludicrous, female – oppressive, male ego idea. This type of “moral legislation” is mostly known as “person-hood.” And the legislation being proposed by these men about the definition of “life” is being driven mostly by religious fantasies which is in violation of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution and, I must add, in the separation of “morality” and individuality in human society! Every American has the right to religious “freedom.” But no American has the right to force their religious “ideology” upon the other citizens of America through government legislation, no matter what your religious belief. We are not a theocracy! Every American as well, has the right to their own “moral” structure, but not the right to force those morals  upon others in society.

To the male ego, the female is nothing more than a resource, a commodity to be used and controlled by men; much like a deposit of oil, a stand of trees, or a herd of cattle. And men are the ones who have taken unto themselves the power  to decide how the “female resource” is to be used on this planet. And men have decided that the “use” of women is mostly sexual and domestic in nature. Men long ago quashed any concepts that women might have had regarding female “independence.” In the consciousness of most men, women are a “dependent attachment,” an addendum to the male ego, and certainly do not stand as equal “partners” in this “man‘s” world. This male ego attitude of female inferiority is quite remarkable because everyone knows we have all arrived on Earth through a woman, haven’t we? How then can women be “inferior” to the very beings they “create?” 

Humanity is the product of female labor. It is “she” who brings forth our population. It is “her” body that allows or disallows a bio-chemical reaction to continue to possibly develop into an independent being. And that process takes months and months inside the female body. The male body has nothing at all to do with that “eventual” development. In the entire process of procreation, the male has but a small responsibility; a brief encounter of necessity for “insemination.” And if “artificial” insemination is used for pregnancy, then that brief encounter is not even necessary. The male presence is not required throughout the entire process of pregnancy, or the entire lifetime of that being. Not so for the female. So obviously, the responsibility for “life” between the male and female is wholly and entirely, out of balance; a brief encounter as opposed to months and months and years and years? Men do not like that fact! It makes them appear to be relatively unimportant. And in reality, that is the cold, hard truth. This is why many dominant males are trying so hard to legislate that the second the sperm “breaks through” the wall of the ovum (insemination) a human being has sprung forth in the womb of a woman. This fallacy of thinking is critical to the image of male superiority because what is being said here is that the sperm is the most important element in life and decides everything. Not so! And a sperm does not “break through” the wall of the ovum. If that were true many more of these millions of sperm would be banging their way into the same ovum at the same time! This however, is a good example of the forceful and violent way most men think about women; the sperm (male) dominates the ovum (female). The truth is that the ovum “accepts” a sperm and then closes off to the others. Acceptance is the female reality and the truth. Force is the male reality and the lie.

There is no human “life” in the ovum at the moment of insemination. There is simply a bio-chemical reaction taking place. Just as surely as a seed newly planted in a field is not the crop, a seed newly planted in a female womb is not a human being!! No one plants rows and rows of corn seed then turns around the next day to go get the tractor and harvest the crop! There is no crop! Developmental stages must occur over time through which bio-chemical reactions can build a viable product. This is also true in the human world. In actuality, the entire issue of when life occurs during procreation is merely about male ego control over women, their bodies, and their activities! It’s all about the image of male “superiority” and male dominated “religious” control over women. Men have dominated women across thousands of centuries and will struggle to continue to do so at any expense, forever!

Many egotistical and oppressive men – and some women molded by them – are rabid about not allowing women the freedom to discontinue a pregnancy. This means at anytime under any conditions, even unto the death of the mother! And to make matters even worse for women, those people trying to legislate the definition of “life” are also trying to stop the use of birth control! Any kind of birth control! Many company owners will impose their religious “ideology” upon their female workers by molding their insurance plans that will pay for Viagra to bolster a man’s virility, but will not pay for birth control where-by a woman could prevent becoming pregnant and not have to discontinue it. So now we have an unbelievable situation where men would deny a woman the ability to prevent a pregnancy, and once pregnant, would force her to give birth, even unto her own death. Where is “pro-life” in the conscious killing of a woman? This is truly an unspeakable evil perpetrated by the male ego. There are even organizations today making the claim that birth control itself (the prevention of pregnancy) is killing “children!” Where are these children that are being killed? How can you “kill” something that does not exist? Truly, these people see women solely as broodmares and servants, and are determined to control the entire sexuality of the female!

So what about the sperm itself in this issue? There is hardly any attention given to the sperm in all this ruckus about “life.” If men insist that the sperm is life, then why are they not legislating protection for that life. Let’s consider for a moment the various ways many men treat that life. That “life” is ejaculated down shower drains, down the toilet, behind the barn, off in the bushes, into a condom, into a “sex toy,” into their fist, onto a glossy page in a sex magazine, and yes, even into animals! Should this not be considered then the “destruction” of life? Men do not consider their sperm to be “life” until it is ejaculated into a female vagina. Then suddenly this sperm is immediately a human being? Should there not be legislation then that a man cannot ejaculate his sperm anywhere or anytime unless it is into a female vagina? Is that not the protection of “life?” Just imagine those millions of sperm dying down the drain! But the sperm does not construct human life. Human life is constructed in the female ovum in stages, through bio-chemical reactions, over a long period of time!!! But once again male domination of the female springs forth. And if a pregnancy does continue to eventual fruition, men have assured that this child will come into a world dominated by the male ego practice of Patrilineage. This practice (ancestry through the male line) is overwhelmingly followed in virtually all societies of the Earth. Men consider children to be “theirs.” “These are ‘my’ children. They have ‘my’ name. She only gives birth to these children for me. That is her duty! To give me children.” And on and on they go in their male ego fantasy world…

This blog is titled “Life?; At What Point “Human?” Frankly I am not sure anyone knows when that point is reached. I do know that the moment the ovum and sperm combine, the “potential” for human life is there, yes. But potential is not “actuality;” it is only “possibility.” Many things can occur over time through the process of the construction of viable life in the womb, including spontaneous miscarriage and still-birth. Again, it is ludicrous to say that a human being has sprung forth at the moment of insemination. This idea is only being bandied around so men can further continue their campaign to dominate the female body. Some men say that the intention of the sperm is the development of “human life”. But again, intent is not a “reality.” Intent can be changed at anytime. This is comparable to saying that a bank robber who walks in with the intent to rob a bank, must now continue to do so at any cost because that was the intent. Are these people saying intent can’t be changed? Insemination is only the design for something; it is not the actuality of it. Again, this “idea of life” at insemination is being driven by religious fantasies which are only “beliefs.” Religious “belief,” and/or any other “belief” does not have to have rationale, thought, or truth behind it.

Suppose I burn the blueprint design for a ten story building and I am taken to court. What will the charge be? Destroying a ten story building? There was no building to destroy. The judge might say; “Mr. Stewart, the prosecutor is charging you with destroying a ten story building! How do you plead?”   I will respond; “Your Honor, I am innocent. There was no building. I simply burnt a piece of paper that had a ‘design’ for a possible building. Is that destroying a building?” The judge will dismiss the case. Why? Because the blueprint potential, the design for a building is not the actuality of a building. At what point human life occurs in the womb is not a decision to be legislated by the male ego through male dominated religious edict! It is an issue that must rest entirely with the female of our species. But I do know that it is NOT at the moment of “insemination.” That is simply a male ego lie to continue female oppression and most women know that.

Every woman on Earth is inherently endowed with the right to discontinue pregnancy for ANY reason up to a certain point. The morning after? Of course! One week down the road? Absolutely! A month from now?  Yes! I will save any further comments on this subject for another blog because this particular writing is solely to correct the male ego lie that a human being “appears” at the moment of insemination. Once again, this is religious ideology and personal “moral” structure, and those who believe it are free to do so. But that “belief” must not be forced upon the human female in our society!

Implanting the “Attitude” of Female Oppression

Male/Female “Stereotype” Behavior

dads pic

February 9, 2015

By Shane Stewart

Do you ever wonder why men and women play such different “roles” in society? Does it ever disturb you to think that almost everyone on Earth is “acting out” stereotype male/female behavior roles they were taught? Why is it that men and women are “expected” to act in certain ways? Why are women expected to act “subordinate” around men, and men expected to act “dominant” around women? And why do we seem to “act like men and women are supposed to act” without even giving it a second thought? Do you ever think about how you act when you are around the “opposite” sex, and why you act that way? We are so conditioned to “act” like girls and boys, men and women, males and females, that we may never be able to change it. And our stereotype male/female behavior is the very thing that maintains the injustice of female oppression. Women especially are deeply “implanted” with female, subservient behavior patterns, conditioned perhaps to the point of not even knowing that their behavior is designed to maintain – and is maintaining – their own female oppression. The world-wide social construct of male/female behavior patterns strongly supports male domination of the female. So men of course, do not want to see changed. Here is a common claim out of the mouth of the male: “Well that’s how men and women are ‘supposed’ to act. It’s natural. We’ve always acted that way and you can’t change it.” It appears that men really have it wrapped up for themselves.

-The following is an excerpt from The Female Imperative-

“The interaction between men and women in every culture on earth is an open exhibition of superior male and inferior female stereotype behavior patterns. Children learn how they are expected to behave by watching the men and women around them as they go about their daily business performing appropriate, authoritative male and subordinate female roles of behavior. These everyday displays of gender-specific male/female behavior patterns are deeply absorbed into the child’s mind; imprinting the attitude that the male is most certainly superior to the female. Children automatically accept, adopt, and mimic the human behavior they observe around them as being normal, and will continue to display such “normal” human behavior as they journey throughout their lives. The exhibition of dominant male and subordinate female behavior is essential to the process of planting and nurturing the seeds of the image of male superiority and female inferiority in the minds of young children.”

“Seeing that each new generation of males is properly conditioned to maintaining female oppression is paramount in the lives of most men. Throughout the world men find their importance in the ego image of being “superior” to women. Indeed, manhood is defined by a man’s ability to dominate and control the inferior females around him. Conditioning young boys to believe they are superior to girls must begin at an early age. Men form boys unto their own negative image by planting the seeds of violence, aggression, and superiority into their young minds. Men insist that boys be physically aggressive and dominant. They teach them that they are superior to, and vastly more important than, weak and inferior girls. Men fully understand that male dominant programming cannot be put off until later in life. This programming must be completed before a boy reaches the “age of reason” or he may find it very difficult to accept the primitive notion that one human being has an inherent right to dominate another. If boys were allowed to develop naturally, without being saturated with the attitude of male superiority, they would develop not as oppressors of women, but as human beings, existing in a gender equitable world.”

“Contrary to what the male ego wants us to believe, humans are not predisposed to gender-specific behavior. We are not born with a “gender behavior road map” that leads us to act as stereotype males and females. Behaving as a boy or girl is not a genetically inherent human trait, but comes out of an applied process that indoctrinates children with appropriate images that represent superior male and inferior female behavior patterns. Gender specific behavior is a learned process. We are designated male or female dependent upon the shape of our bodies. The male body has the shape of the penis. The female body has the shape of the vagina. The type of behavior programming children receive is simply determined by whether they were born with a penis or vagina. Children born with a body in the shape of a penis are programmed for dominant and aggressive behavior. Children born with a body in the shape of a vagina are programmed for subservient and submissive behavior. This is easily accomplished because children constantly observe men displaying dominant and superior behavior over women, and women constantly displaying submissive and subservient behavior under men in everyday life.”

“Programming the child’s mind for gender specific, male/female, stereotype behavior is critical to the foundation that supports the perpetual image of male “superiority.” Infant boys and girls are born onto this earth with no concept or preconceived idea of proper gender behavior. They are open and receptive to learning. They cannot act like a ‘superior’ boy or an ‘inferior’ girl unless they are conditioned to do so.” (Stewart and Dayen, 2014, Ch. 22, p.120-121).

* * *

Learning how to “act” as a boy or girl by watching men and women is the process I call “observation imprinting,” the most subtle of all types of behavioral conditioning, but yet the most effective. It depends upon the minds of children being implanted with the seed of the image of male superiority and it will grow just as surely as a seed planted in fertile soil.

We are all born as human beings with open minds. The fact that we are physically born as “male or female” has nothing to do with our “social” position or character as “dominant or subservient.” Our male/female “body shape” merely determines our “role” in physical human reproduction. THAT IS ALL! There is no “built in” dominant or subordinate behavior patterns between males and females. Those patterns are falsely assigned to us and maintained by the negative male ego.

Children are born “innocent” of the negative effects of prejudice and hate that are brought about through ethnicity, race, culture, nationality, religion, and gender-ism; all divisive factors that the male ego has established to maintain conflict within humanity and perpetuate the oppression of the female. Children are simply open and curious about life. They want to learn, but instead they are “implanted” with the negativity and hate of the divisive attitudes of “pride” in their particular culture, nationality, race, ethnicity, and religion; and for boys, their gender! We do not give children a chance to become a unified human species, to develop “pride” in being human. Boys are strongly molded by the male ego to be aggressive in preparation for their time in war and domination of women. Girls are strongly molded by the male ego to be subservient and subordinate to the male in preparation for their time in having “his” children and taking care of “his” house.He” will boss, “she” will obey.

Such is the sad state of our species of which I am working very hard to change. I am a male human being. I understand that like all men, I am “infected” with the male ego which definitely effects my judgment. However, although every man is infected with the male ego, the male ego is not the same “strength” in every man. Some men have a very “thick” male ego. Some have a “thin” male ego. Men can change by “peeling away” layers of their negative male ego through understanding that they are not here to be dominant over women, but cooperative. That they are not here to be superior to women, but to stand as equal partners as two halves of one human whole. I know it is possible for men to change because I am doing it! I have peeled away layer upon layer of my male ego to the point of being able to co-write the The Female Imperative with my partner T.L. Dayen, and participate with her in this blog site dedicated to female emancipation. I can only write these words because I have “thinned out” my male ego to the point that I can now see the truth through it. It’s a “liberating” feeling. It is comforting to me when men respond to my blogs and comment that “it’s a good read,” or they “understand,” and they, like me, know they can change.

Why Does the Evolved Female Seek “Equality” with the Destructive Male??

Some women are tragically sacrificing their own creational consciousness to become “like men!

dads pic

By Shane Stewart

Modern women are struggling for their “freedom;” something they erroneously consider that men already possess. Many modern women therefore, feel it necessary to “have what men have,” “do what men do,” and “act like men act,” in order to be “free.”  This attitude displays that many women have “accepted” the negative image that the male ego has painted of them; that they are indeed “inferiors” of men, and therefore must reach “upward” to match the status of the “superior” male. Sadly then, many women (and “feminist” organizations) consider female emancipation, or “freedom,” to mean women attaining “equality” with men! This is ludicrous! It is obvious that more women of the Earth are already generations ahead of most men in every “quality” of human consciousness that matters for our survival and evolution: compassion, compromise, cooperation, and community.  These “human qualities,” possessed by the female of our species, are necessary elements in order for humanity to move forward in evolution.

In short, if the male ego continues to force us to “think” in terms of “superior and inferior,” then female creational consciousness is already far “superior” to the negativity of the male ego and its consciousness of destruction and oppression. Women have let themselves be “fooled” by the destructive male ego into believing that the “physical” human body is the primary and fundamental “reality” of “being human,” and therefore a woman, not physically being a man, nor generally being physically as strong as a man, can never be “equal” to a man, and therefore can never be as “truly free” as a man. Women are admonished by the male ego to “accept their place” in the human structure and do what they were “created” to do; which is of course, to serve men! Many young males who might otherwise seek “individuality,” and think differently, have been duped by males of previous generations with the fallacy that “this is a man’s world,” and therefore it is a man’s “birthright” to control the female.  Men therefore, have succeeded in “reversing” the polarity of truth in human consciousness, because it is men who should be striving for “equality” with women! Women cooperate: men* conflict. Women give life: men* take life. Women create: men* destroy.

The concept of women trying to attain “freedom and equality” by being “like men” is comparable to a scenario in which humanity has to attain “equality” with the Apes in order to be “free” because apes are free. Because men are generally “stronger” than women, they have convinced women that “physical strength” equals “superior person”. Accordingly then, following this “logic,” does it mean that weaker men are inferior to stronger Apes? The way the male ego forces men to behave, it would appear so! If women succeed in lowering themselves to “become like men,” then the world will suffer a tragic void of female creational consciousness. We will be left with only the male consciousness of destruction and domination and therefore have no way of altering the course of our eventual annihilation upon which the male ego has set us. Our survival and subsequent evolution is entirely up to female creational consciousness.

Women cannot “become” men and expect to make the positive changes within humanity that are necessary. If women “think” like men and “act” like men, they are going to make “men” choices. Men make destructive and personal choices. This is how they are destroying our world. If women keep their female creational consciousness, and that creational consciousness is emancipated, then we will have a chance of continuing as a viable species. You must understand that it is precisely the female creational consciousness that the negative male ego is so desperate to continue oppressing, because only through female oppression can men maintain their false image of male “superiority.” As long as the beast of the male ego controls humanity, we are doomed. Men must strive to develop their creational consciousness and women must strive to help them. Men must lay down their weapon of male ego, and dissolve their negative attitude and false image of male superiority.

Every destructive, violent, and oppressive situation in the human world – past and present – has its origins in the male ego. 99.9% of all violent, destructive activity on this planet is carried out by those men driven by their negative male ego to dominate and control everything around them. The male ego is devoid of compassion, compromise, cooperation and community. This holds true especially in situations involving the female of our species.

We have had countless centuries of male leadership and false images of male superiority and female inferiority, and I am desperate to find the progress we have made in human consciousness under male leadership during those centuries. Where is it? Why are men, with their male ego, still the most violent and destructive creatures to ever have walked the Earth?

“It is MEN who commit the violence; against women, against each other, against the planet. All life on Earth is victim to violent acts from the human male!! Physical violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, gang violence, military violence, terrorist violence, racial violence, ethnic violence, homophobic violence, gun violence, serial and ritual killing, mass killing, honor killing, animal sport killing, species extinction, and violent environmental and planetary destruction; it’s ALL committed by men under the parasitic control of the male ego!”  (Shane Stewart/T.L. Dayen, The Female Imperative, 2014, p. 204)

Men fill our world with “technological wonders,” and convince us that this is indeed human “evolution” when it is merely advancement in technology. And sadly, technology is mostly used by the male ego to configure greater weapons of mass destruction through which men* can destroy more of humanity and continue their wars of domination until all is lost, including the Earth itself. Technology is the world of “it”, the world of things, not the world of humans, human interaction, and human attitudes toward each other. Men are “it” motivated; “thing” motivated. They see reality as being outside the self in the world of “it,” in the situation, not inside the self in the world of “I am.” To the male ego reality is; “It is. I want it. I dominate it.” And that includes how most men think and feel about women. Women are “it,” men want “it,” and men dominate “it.” Being focused outside the self is one reason many men can kill so easily. They have no problem with killing “it.”

Women of the world I say to you;

“You are not an ‘it.’ You are the evolution of ‘human mind’ in society. You are our only hope! As ‘creators‘ of life you understand the ‘self.’ You understand ‘I am.’ You must not sacrifice your ‘creational consciousness’ to the male ego and ‘become like men.’ You must stand as women, not as ‘men.’ You must shed the yoke of the image of female ‘inferiority’ that men have hung around your necks. There-in lies your ‘freedom,’ as well as the opportunity for men to free themselves from the male ego image of ‘superiority’, which has arrested their evolution. You must help men to rise up and become of ‘human mind.’ You must help men to develop the creational qualities of compassion, compromise, cooperation, and community. The male of our species is like a man who is so deep in a feverish illness that he doesn’t even know how sick he is. This fever of course, is the negative male ego, and it results in violent male convulsions that are destroying you, the Earth, and everything on it. The male ego is the antithesis of anything and everything creational on our planet.

Women of the world, your leadership of our species is essential to the continued survival and evolution of humanity. You must not become like our destroyers! Males and females were never meant to stand alone as two equal but separate parts of humanity. This is the false image of feminism created by the male ego that relishes in perpetuating this feminist argument, because as long as you are fighting for an “equal but separate” equality with men that can never be achieved, you will never realize the hidden truth that men and women are in fact two incomplete halves of one integral human whole. The destructive dominant male ego will cease to exist only when this evolutionary male/female union finally occurs, and the positive male nature will at last flourish.”

~  ~  ~

*It must be noted that my co-writer, T.L. Dayen and I, are not advocating that “all men” are violent destroyers. We are simply acknowledging that the violence and destruction carried out on Earth is and has been overwhelmingly carried out by men inflicted with the dominant and destructive male ego. This is not misandry. This is a statistical and historical fact! Most men are of Animal Mind. Fortunately, many men of Human Mind are working as I speak toward a sustainable future of compassion, compromise, cooperation, and community. I am one of them.

Save

Save