the fetish issue winter 2018
FEM NEWSMAGAZINE dedicates itself to furthering the application of intersectional feminism to dismantle structures of oppression. We recognize that oppression operates along a multitude of intersecting axes, and we strive to present perspectives that might be otherwise marginalized, erased, or silenced in the mainstream media. We aim to offer perceptive critique of pop culture, report news and current events that we believe are essential to the feminist cause, and provide a space for creative feminist work.
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c FEM NEWSMAGAZINE
08 - 10 12 - 13 CONSUMING NOW TRENDING: BODIES: HOW #WHITEWOKENESS MEAT FEEDS THE CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY
14 - 15 BUILD-A-GIRLFRIEND THE DISTURBING REALITY OF SIMULATED DATING
16 -17 NO UNITY WITHOUT SOLIDARITY: SEXISM AND ANTI-BLACKNESS IN ASAIN AMERICA
18 - 19 MARGINALIZED PEOPLE DON’T EXIST FOR YOUR GRATIFICATION
20 BLUE DOLL
22 - 23 TECHNOORIENTALISM: AN ORIENTAL’S VISION OF THE FUTURE WITHOUT ANY ORIENTALS
24 - 25 EXOTIC, EROTIC, AND RACIST
28 - 29 THE AMERICAN VOTE: A WORKING CLASS FETISHIZATION
30 - 31 UCLA’S POLICIES EXPLOIT COLLEGIATE ATHLETES
32 - 33 WHITE AMERICAN WOMAN: THE VALUE OF RACE IN HOOKUP CULTURE
34 - 35 NEOLIBERALISM AND THE “MODERN LIBERATED WOMAN”
36 THE PRESENT IS FEMALE... SO WHY AREN’T WE ACTING LIKE IT
26 - 27 HE DIDN’T REMIND ME OF MY FATHER: A REFLECTION ON “DADDY ISSUES”
38 ON THAT DAY OF INFAMY
contents FEM NEWSMAGAZINE
Last quarter, FEM’s theme – Divinity – was about transcendence and open space. This quarter, our theme is Fetish, in which we grapple with attachment, displacement, and paradox. In this issue, we are interested in thinking about fetishization not just as a projection of a set of desires or imaginations onto things and people, but also as a rhetorical form or logic, a structure of desire, and a displacement of value. While sexuality still remains an important aspect of the conversation on fetishism, we have tried in this issue to push the conversation in different directions and show how fetishism can be and is an extremely relevant and useful tool to think about issues like voter disenfranchisement (pg 25), neoliberalism and the entrepreneurial self (pg 30), and the exploitation of student athletes at UCLA (pg 26), amongst other issues. I think what this issue has helped us learn is the necessity of investigating desire and attachment in this period of late capitalism, particularly in the US, where commodity culture reigns supreme – and I say “commodity culture” to denote something deeper than simple materialism. Many have used the phrase
“I shop, therefore I am” – a neat distillation of Marxist commodity fetishism, and what is especially noteworthy, I think, is its new form: “I shop feminist, therefore I am feminist.” As we have seen with the rise of commodity feminism, even so-called leftist movements are not immune to the logic of capitalist consumption; when we use fetishism to think about desire and the self, we realize that they are not separate. Fetishism helps us ask: does desire piggyback on value – a strange specter that seems to belong to nobody? How malleable is desire in the hands of power? When we realize that desire and value do not reside where we think they do, what does that mean about who we are? Fetishism helps us account for the ever-shifting ambivalencies and paradoxes of late capitalist configurations of desire and anxiety, the social and individual, economic and psychic – and the ways in which processes of global imperialism collide with what feel like intimate parts of our bodies. When we use fetishism as an analytic tool, we are more open to and better equipped to understand the dynamic, illusory nature of power, the ways in which value clings to things almost like a mystical aura, and how WINTER 2018
our bodies become channels for that value as well. So yes, Fetish has been an extremely challenging theme – perhaps our most challenging yet. But time and time again I am amazed at FEM Staff’s incredible capacity to rise to a challenge – honestly my job as Editor-in-Chief feels easier each quarter. The writers and editors that have contributed to this issue have worked hard to plumb the theme and connect it with ideas of personal importance, or ideas imported from class discussions, and present it to you. My design team has shown themselves to be not just amazing artists, but theoreticians in their own right – the art in this issue speaks along with the words; we hope that we have been able to open new spaces in an old conversation. I feel so lucky to work with these amazing people every day of every quarter. This issue is the grand quarterly culmination of our love and labor – thank you for your support.
IMAGES BY MADDY PEASE
Tulika Varma: Editor In Chief
Design: Maddy Pease: Co-Design Director Jenny Dodge: Co-Design Director Marina Movellan: Designer Isabel Bina: Designer Isabella Child Dâ€™Agnenica: Designer Simone Montgomery: Designer Shannon Boland: Designer Val Cardona: Designer Soli Rachwal: Designer Breana Lee: Designer Sophie Marencik: Designer Maya Sol Levy: Designer Gaby Freid: Designer Lucia Santina Ribisi: Designer Section: Arts + Creative Laura Jue: Section Editor Madeline Offerman: Assistant Section Editor Christine Nguyen: Assistant Section Editor Samantha Fisher: Copy Editor Alana Francis-Crow: Staff Writer Lily Bollinger: Staff Writer Megan Anderson: Staff Writer
Section: Dialogue Rebecca Vorick: Section Editor Monica Day: Assistant Section Editor Ariana Damavandi: Assistant Section Editor Alexandra Barraza: Copy Editor Gabi Kamran: Copy Editor Robin Miller: Writer Madison Thantu: Writer Victoria Sheber: Writer Heidi Choi: Writer Jhemari Quintana: Writer
Section: Gendertainment Kerri Yund: Section Editor Ananya Bhargava: Assistant Section Editor Feven Negussie: Assistant Section Editor Kayla Andry: Copy Editor Elle Cumberbatch: Copy Editor Eugene Lee: Writer Aliza Ayaz: Writer
Section: Campus Life Sophia Galluccio: Section Editor Erin Nishimura: Assistant Section Editor Laine Gruver: Assistant Section Editor Natalie Delpino: Copy Editor Grace Fernandez: Copy Editor Erin Nishimura: Writer Madison Thantu: Writer
Section: Politics Patty Viramontes: Section Editor Jhemari Quintana: Assistant Editor Eve McNally: Assistant Editor Chiamaka Nwadike: Writer Ciarra Davison: Writer Marcella Pensamiento: Writer
ARTS + CREATIVE
Consuming Bodies: How Meat Feeds the Capitalist Patriarchy BY ALANA FRANCIS - CROW 8
ARTS + CREATIVE
As feminists, our work involves analyzing and critiquing institutions that, under the capitalist patriarchy, we are supposed to accept as normal. We work to understand how institutions like the 905 billion dollar retail industry or the prison-industrial complex feed off of and contribute to systems of oppression. But one institution seems to be missing from our analysis: the 900 billion dollar meat and animal product industry that produces meat, dairy, and eggs for human consumption. Like other systems steeped in capitalism and patriarchy, the meat and animal product industry relies on the objectification of human beings. But unlike most other industries, it also requires the objectification of animals. In this system, the objectification of humans and animals is deeply intertwined. As Angela Davis, prominent feminist scholar and activist as well as a vegan, stated in a 2016 interview: “I am sometimes really disappointed that many of us can assume that we are these radical activists but we don’t know how to reflect on the food that we put in our bodies. We don’t realize the extent to which we are implicated in the whole process of capitalism by participating uncritically in the food politics offered to us by the great corporations.” Some activists and theorists are starting this conversation. Carol J. Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat, published in 1990, laid important groundwork for how to start thinking about the links between systems of human oppression and the meat and animal product industry. The connections between the objectification of humans and animals she illuminates are vast and complex, and we must continue this critical work. At its core, the meat production system relies on turning bodies into objects. First and foremost, its job is to turn sentient animals into products to be consumed by people. Most people love animals; we have pets who are just as intelligent as the animals we eat, so in order for us to consume them, we subconsciously turn off that part of ourselves. But this industry does not only turn animal bodies into objects––since it is soaked in capitalism and patriarchy, it turns human bodies into consumable and exploitable objects as well. In order to understand the meat and animal product industry’s relationship with capitalism and patriarchy, we must first understand meat-eating’s relationship with masculinity and power. Meat has traditionally been reserved for those with the most power. Nineteenth-century white supremacist George Beard endorsed white British people as “superior beings” that were higher on the “food chain” because of their heavy meat consumption. He asked, “[w]hy is it that savages and semi-savages are able to live on forms of food which, according to the theory of evolution, must be far below them in the scale of development?” And when meat used to be more difficult to acquire, the small amount of meat family had would be reserved for the family member with the most power, the head male of the household. The narratives we subscribe to as well as the language we use about meat and vegetables subconsciously create meaning around the foods we consume and what kinds of people consume what. Every child learns at a young age that when people lived in caves, the women would go out and pick berries and the strong men would go out with their spears and kill animals to eat. Even the way in which we use the words meat and vegetables in everyday language speaks to the roles we subconsciously assign to them. Along with its literal definition, meat is defined as “the essence or chief part of something,” while the word vegetable is used as an ableist slur for a person in a coma. In other words, meat becomes associated with being active or essential and vegetables become associated with being passive and secondary. Since meat is coded as dominant, powerful, and active, it is no surprise that meat-eating is an essential part of toxic masculinity, or the aggressive, violent
behaviors that many men are forced to display in order to fit societal expectations of masculinity. As a result, it is no coincidence that 79% of vegans are women and that meat advertisements are often targeted at men. An essential part of toxic masculinity is the domination over and objectification of female bodies. Often, men’s consumption of animal bodies and the sexual objectification and consumption of female bodies become wrapped up in each other. The process of turning an animal into consumable food and of turning a female body into an object for male pleasure rely on the same three steps. First, objectification: the body is transformed from a living being into an inert object. Second, fragmentation: the body is dismembered and broken down into consumable pieces; animal bodies are literally dismembered through butchery, while female bodies are fragmented into body parts fetishized for male pleasure. Finally, consumption: animals are literally eaten and female bodies are consumed by the male gaze or sexually assaulted. The clearest representation of this blurred line between female and animal bodies is t-shirts and advertisements that display naked female bodies divided up into segments labeled like cuts of meat (rump, ribs, soup bone) in the same way that cows or pigs are labeled in butchery diagrams. Meat advertisements are often created for the male gaze. These advertisements depict either sexualized animal bodies or fragmented female body parts morphed with pieces of actual meat. For example, a 2009 Arby’s burger advertisement features a woman’s crossed arms cupping two hamburgers standing in as breasts. A 2001 LG microwave advertisement features a roasted chicken with a bikini tan line captioned “chicken never looked so good in a microwave.” When female and animal bodies become nearly interchangeable, the language we use to refer to both as well as the violence against both have notable parallels. Just like everyone has their favorite fragment of an animal body, more commonly known as a cut of beef, men are divided into either “boobs guys” or “ass guys.” And when people commit violence against animals, it is often a precursor to committing violence against people. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 71% of abuse survivors report that their abuser has also battered an animal. As a result of this link between violence against female bodies and against animals, when women are objectified or assaulted, they often describe feeling like “pieces of meat.” Many animal rights activists know about meat’s relationship with masculinity and, instead of challenging it, try to make veganism more appealing by catering to other aspects of toxic masculinity. For example, the book called Eat Veggies Like a Man: A Man’s Guide to Being a Vegetarian and the term “heganism” help vegan or vegetarian men who do not want to feel emasculated by their choices. While these examples may seem ridiculous yet benign, animal rights groups often rely on the objectification of female bodies just as much as corporations trying to sell meat to men do. PETA, an animal rights activism group known for its offensive campaign techniques, relies on fragmented female bodies to promote veganism. For example, they portray naked women in their “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign, put on performances that show women covered in blood-red paint and saran wrap as if they were pieces of meat, and even use the butchery diagram imagery to show that “all animals have the same parts.” Of course, these organizations justify their actions by arguing that “sex sells.” Other than the blatant issues with using female bodies in this way, the problem with this kind of activism is that it looks at violence against animals in a vacuum even though the meat and animal product industry is steeped in not only patriarchal values, but also in capitalism. In other words, you cannot dismantle violence against animals by using the same tools the meat and animal product industry itself uses.
ARTS + CREATIVE
While the patriarchy turns female bodies into consumable objects, capitalism turns workers’ bodies into objects that produce capital. The history of capitalism itself is rooted in the meat and animal product industry. Henry Ford’s idea about assembly lines that altered the meaning of production and work was inspired by his visit to a meat-packing plant where he observed the “dis-assembly” line process in which whole animals are fragmented into pieces of meat. In factory assembly lines, workers repeatedly perform the same tasks, so they become mere extensions of the factory’s machines. Assembly lines also estrange the worker from the product of their labor; in factories, many objects are produced, but the workers do not feel connected to what they are making and are not the ones who profit from their work. In the case of the meat and animal product industry, these “products” are sentient beings turned into objects for profit. Under capitalism, it is not profitable to treat beings with dignity or respect, so in the case of the meat and animal product industry, the animals are abused and the workers are exploited. Factory farm and slaughterhouse workers are “at-will employees,” so their employers do not have to establish “just cause” before firing them. As a result, out of fear of being fired, these workers rarely speak up about the deadly working conditions they are subject to. According to a recent study conducted by Iowa State University, a factory farm employee who has been employed for five years has a 50% chance of suffering a serious injury and 70% of factory farm workers have respiratory diseases. Additionally, since their jobs involve killing gentle creatures, many of them suffer from psychological consequences including PTSD as well as increased rates of domestic abuse and substance abuse. Meat consumers disconnect from the fact that an animal’s death occurred for their meal, but slaughterhouse workers are forced to disconnect from killing animals themselves. As a former
slaughterhouse employee recounts in the book Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, “[t]he worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. If you work in the stick pit [where pigs are killed] for any period of time—that let’s [sic] you kill things but doesn’t let you care...Pigs down on the kill floor have come up to nuzzle me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them...I can’t care.” Because these workers have little to no control over their work conditions and their wages are so low, factory farm meat is incredibly cheap. As a result, choosing to be vegan is simply not an option for the poorest Americans who, in order to survive, are forced to consume fast food which is largely made up of animal products. It is a vicious cycle that Angela Davis perfectly sums up in an excerpt from the aforementioned interview: “[s]entient beings … endure pain and torture as they are transformed into food for profit, food that generates disease in humans whose poverty compels them to rely on McDonald’s and KFC for nourishment.” The changes I am calling for will require us to deeply alter our relationships with food, the world around us, and ourselves as humans. Doing so will allow us to have more complete feminist theory and activism. The conversations about human liberation and animal liberation have been separate for far too long. Feminism is incomplete if it does not take into account how meat feeds the capitalist patriarchy. By looking at systems of human oppression through the lens of the meat and animal product industry, we enhance our understanding of how these systems function. And without feminism, veganism risks relying on and contributing to misogyny and classism. Let’s be the ones who bring this critical connection to light.
IMAGES BY GABY FREID
NOW TRENDING #WHITEWOKENESS
CIARRA DAVISON WINTER 2018
We’ve had the greater part of a year to sit and think about the time in which the solution to institutional racism was presented to the public in the form of a soft drink-wielding, wealthy, white supermodel. If none of that rings a bell, in April of 2017, Pepsi released a nearly 3 minute ad featuring Kendall Jenner ditching her glamorous exterior to lead a “fun,” light-hearted protest. She eventually achieves peace between the protesters and cops by facing them straight on and handing them a Pepsi—an abhorrently shameless allusion to the iconic image of Iesha Evans standing before a slew of armed state troopers in Baton Rouge during a Black Lives Matter rally in 2016. Pepsi knew that things were changing in the world. Practically overnight, it was cool to wear pussy hats and to pay attention to the news. In other words, it was now cool to be “woke,” and big companies like Pepsi were taking notice. Before going any further, I would like to state that when I say it was suddenly “cool to be woke,” I am specifically addressing a predominantly white, liberal audience, such as myself. While countless political activists of color (Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Erica Garner and Angela Davis, just to name a few) have paved the way for minorities’ rights, unfortunately, it took the festishizing of “wokeness” for white liberals to pay attention. The Pepsi campaign was a failure. In their apology tweet, after stating that their intended message was one of “unity, peace and understanding,” Pepsi concluded that they had in fact “missed the mark.” The thing is, with the ways in which “wokeness” functions in today’s society—that is to say, how it is fetishized and commodified especially amongst privileged communities—we must ask ourselves: by just how much did Pepsi miss the mark anyway? Of course, the hope is that they had the same aim as someone dizzy and blindfolded, but in order to truly understand how “wokeness” perpetuates throughout society, we “woke” white liberals must take an honest and difficult look at ourselves and how being woke has turned into the latest trend. Take gentrification for example. A few months ago, I was walking through H Street Corridor in Washington, D.C.—a neighborhood which has seen an extreme increase in gentrification in recent years. In fact, Clarice Metzger, a fourth-year student at Howard University says, “During my matriculation at Howard, I’ve noticed the demographic shift in the immediate Shaw neighborhood from black middle
class to white upper-middle. Our 2015 homecoming lacked an outdoor concert (a Howard Homecoming tradition) due to the ‘complaints and concerns’ of the people living in the neighborhood.” Despite Howard being an established university since 1867, with its own events and traditions, gentrification allowed white people who chose to move into an active college town to demand the discontinuation of a tradition that had been around for generations. This is just one example of white populations moving into communities of color and immediately trying to control them. Ironically, on my walk, I observed Black Lives Matter posters in several of the white-owned, gentrified houses’ windows. Pay close attention to the moment I am describing, because it is this very moment that far too many of us white liberals would rather overlook. It is this moment that allows corporations like Pepsi to co-opt entire movements, as well as systems of oppression and violence real people still consistently face, and turn them into a two and a half minute ad where protesting is fun and people of color are not being targeted and murdered at alarmingly disproportionate rates. Buying into gentrification is just another form of white supremacy. No white liberal wants to believe they are a danger to the very causes they fight for, but let’s think back to those Black Lives Matter signs in the windows. Though I do not personally know the individuals who occupy the refurbished row houses on H Street, I know enough to see there is blaring hypocrisy that must be identified. The same residents who assert their wokeness through windows are the same residents who are actively contributing to the displacement and subversion of lower income communities and communities of color through gentrification. In the same way that one cannot be a feminist unless their feminism is intersectional, people who claim to be allies and advocates for communities of color cannot turn a blind eye when it may inconvenience them to do otherwise. Inherent in this problem is the white liberal’s desire to promote their wokeness as a means of gaining social value. As we see with Pepsi, “wokeness” is quite literally a selling point. That is to say, advocacy gets conflated with upholding public image. We see this through social media posts, where it is obvious the individual is more concerned with the amount of likes they get on a picture of them holding up a protest sign than they are about actively working to dismantle systems of oppression. FEM NEWSMAGAZINE
The point is not to condemn people’s genuine strides towards becoming more aware and caring individuals. However, the less palatable truth that many of us white liberals need to face is that despite how genuine we believe our intentions to be, there are often quite self-centered, politically unaware drives to our “good” behavior. This is crucial for us to recognize because when there is no stake in our claims, it only makes it that much easier for larger systems and corporations—ones which have no regard for underrepresented communities—to capitalize off of the mainstream political moment, and worse: for us to buy it. H&M is a perfect example. In recent years, the company has sold shirts that say “Feminist,” and define feminism as “the radical notion that women are people.” However, in addition to some of the worst reported labor conditions, H&M has only continued to prove the emptiness of public image-based “activism.” Recently, H&M came under fire for a disturbingly racist children’s fashion campaign. Essentially, consumers had the chance to recognize that to mistake H&M and other big companies’ attempts at wokeness for genuine activism is just that—a mistake. This sends a powerful message to all users and consumers of media: cyber activism is simply not the answer. For myself and many other twenty-somethings, we have become obsessed with imagining how others will perceive us—especially through the lens of social media. When young white liberals become more focused on ensuring that strangers perceive us as “woke” because that is what is cool, instead of putting our beliefs to the test in the real world, we fail the communities that we claim to be allies for by maintaining and continuing to benefit from white supremacy. We are setting ourselves up to be the next Pepsi commercial or H&M campaign. To my fellow white, liberal readers: we can do better than this. We need to do better than this. I’m sure we would all be quick to purport that we are “so much better” than big corporations like Pepsi and H&M. But like with any trend or marketing strategy, they are merely reflections of the individuals whose voices and desires have the privilege of being heard most. Let’s accept it—we have fetishized and romanticized what it means to be an ally and it is time we stop making it about ourselves.
Advertisers have been capitalizing on acquired human desires to sell products for decades. Technology has created new modes of generating capital that are unique to late capitalism, and love is increasingly marketed as a commodity that can be bought and sold in the marketplace. The modern paradigm of romantic love regards it as the ultimate source of meaning and fulfillment. However, love is also portrayed as scarce and difficult to obtain, which conveniently serves as a “problem” for capitalists to solve. Technological advances make love more accessible and available, thus allowing capitalism to bridge the gap between the need for love and its supposed scarcity. For instance, dating websites such as Tinder claim to help you find the love of your life, but solely act to commercialize love. However, this commodification has also created some more lesser known, disturbing products such as the “simulated girlfriend” experience, in which individuals download an app that allows them to “date” an animated, fictional character. It might seem an uncommon, innocuous (if a little odd) phenomenon that social beings should forgo intimate connections with real people for a character trapped in a screen, but the trend is on the rise, and this acts as an avenue for men to play out their sick fantasies. One such app, the Japanese game “Loveplus,” taps into the psyche of a niche segment of lonely individuals (predominantly men) who crave intimacy but are frightened by the reality of it. It allows users to escape into a strange fantasy on their Nintendo DS’s in which they interact with a customizable 13-year-old schoolgirl as if she were real, even letting them take her on dates. Loveplus seems like a perfect fix for unconfident, antisocial individuals, as it gives them the care and affection they crave without the difficulties of a real-world relationship. Users have the ability to modify the girl’s appearance and personality, thereby reducing the entire concept of a girlfriend to a commodity that can be controlled and interacted with as and when the user sees fit. The fact that users literally construct a schoolgirl to adhere to some preconceived notions of what it means to be desirable, is harmful because it reflects objectification. The digital reduction of a woman to a schoolgirl archetype is representative of the sexual fetishization of innocence and virginity, and an unfulfilled desire to dominate and control women as if they are children. The television show “Dark Net” presents the relationship between a devoted user of Loveplus and his virtual girlfriend Rinko. The user has been in a relationship with Rinko for two years, devoting much of his time to taking her on dates
and talking to her on his Nintendo DS. He regards her as his real and only girlfriend. Other users of the app claim that Rinko is shy and timid, but that’s why they like her; she can never leave them unless they delete that data. Rinko is real to these men, and Loveplus propagates the sexual fetishization of minors while normalizing relationships between older men and young girls. Rinko is programmed to be meek, attentive, and vulnerable, with large, dark eyes and a slender body. She is adjusted to fit the desires of the man, neatly conforming to the culture of cute, or “kawaii” aesthetic in Japan. Men’s fetishized view of young girls creates demand for media that caters to the expression of that fetish, such as Loveplus. Thus, the desire for young girls gives rise to the video games, which then bolster the desire as legitimate, creating further demand for such media. Even more sickening is that the app’s users are by and large men above the age of 30, whose girlfriends are in high school. This is nothing short of virtual pedophilia. Loveplus is an outlet for men’s perverse desire to possess girls in high school, and in that way morphs the fantasy of being with a younger girl into a semi-reality. Who’s to say that after gaining a sense of confidence from this game, that these men won’t then pursue real schoolgirls, if they haven’t already? More often than not, Asian women are labelled as exotic which is often a synonym for erotic. As outlined by Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism, Asian women are characterized as commodities to be marveled at or possessed by the beholder. Beyond confronting these existing stereotypes, we have to address their global presence. In Japan, the “kawaii” aesthetic may be a partial cause for the fetishization of girls in this way, but the problem does not start or end with these apps. It is part of a larger trend of technology and its use as a tool for objectification. The American movie “Her” capitalized on a similar idea by focusing on a lonely male divorcee, Theodore, who falls in love with the operating system that organizes his life. The movie is set in the near future, and is in fact completely plausible given the current influx of technological advances in the field of AI. Looking to the future for positive change is pointless, as exemplified by the newest developments in AI- sex robots that are used solely as an outlet for sexual intercourse. In other words, as technology progresses, the means to fetishize women and treat them as use-and-throw sexual objects are multiplying. The fact is fetishization is not changing, it simply mutates to take on different forms in different time periods.
by heidi choi
no unity without solidarity: sexism and anti-blackness
in asian america 16
Asian American masculinity appears to spark a peculiar amount of political contention. Often, the conversation on emasculation pertaining to Asian men focuses on uprooting the racist caricatures that infantilize and exclude Asian men in popular culture. Asian American academics touch upon Orientalism as the white supremacist logics that justify colonialism in the East and exclusionary policy in the West. Consequentially, cisgender Asian men logically conclude that they are incapable of perpetuating toxic masculinity for they’ve been stripped of masculinity entirely. Yet as dialogue inches forward, Asian women have come out to say that Asian men’s claim to victimhood is actually a form of harmful entitlement akin to white Men’s Rights Activism. Since liberalism befuddles the intersection of race and gender within Asian America by dissociating the narratives of Asian men from those of Asian women, these narratives seem difficult to reconcile. Although it may seem contradictory that Asian men who have been codified as passive can still perpetuate toxic masculinity, this contradiction only allows their toxic behaviors to fly under the radar. Ask an average Asian American man what they think of feminism, and common responses pivot the conversation toward their own understanding of gendered oppression: Asian male undesirability. However, the claim that society perceives Asian men as undesirable is not unique to Asians. Men of color tend to be excluded from potential romantic partnership with white women as the intersection of white supremacy and patriarchy lead straight white women to typically prefer white men. This appeal to white women as the metric for desirability is an assimilatory practice rather than an anti-racist one. Similarly, the model minority mythos encourages Asian America
to aim for financial leverage in a society that continues to displace and exclude their communities. This emphasis on the need for white approval buys into white supremacy rather than seeking liberation from it. Thus, the Asian American struggle against racism will only be set back by striving to establish Asian male desirability the way that diversity campaigns put forth by liberal media do now, since this merely reproduces white supremacist and patriarchal rhetoric. Old race sciences assert that the “Oriental” man is weak and submissive and therefore easy to subjugate. In “Crania Americana” (1839), S.G. Morton wrote that the skull shape of “Mongolians [implicate them to be] highly susceptible of cultivation.” Imperialist plundering of Asian countries and barriers to citizenship in the U.S. jointly carry out Orientalist logics that rob Asians of the claim to “land, women and resources.” But these holdings that Asian men try to reclaim are patriarchal in character. Although Asian men correctly identify the discrimination they experience as racism, conversely assigning the fetishization of Asian women as privilege is a reductive, toxic logic. Finding one’s body subject to fetishization is not privilege at all. This rhetoric that Asian women should appreciate their own objectification lends itself to rape apologia and makes Asian men’s relationship to Asian women incredibly violent. White men have access to the bodies of women of color because the intersection of whiteness and maleness entitles them to all women. White women, however, do not typically date non-white men because white women have access to wealth and resources that is structurally higher than most men of color; consequently, these men do not adequately fulfill
the “breadwinner” patriarchal role that is expected of masculine partners. Emasculation serves as the particular racialization of Asian men that confines their access to romantic partners. In Black and brown men, it is commonly their criminalization that hems their dating pool. Asian American men loudly challenge the racism they experience but find little reason to address their positionality relative to nonAsian people of color. Asian Americans who grow up in the U.S. find media to be dominated by a dichotomy between white culture and Black culture. Many Asian Americans are prompted to turn to the appropriation of Blackness as a means to rebel against traditionalist parents this turn usually happens because of a profound sense of geographical displacement and an intense pressure to assimilate in an exclusionary country. Many also genuinely identify with Black cultural products because they relate to Black exclusion from America’s white supremacist narratives. Yet, there exists a stark difference between being able to read oneself in another cultural narrative and weaponizing that culture as a tool to strip oneself of “Asian-ness.” Often, those who commit the latter feel brazen to take up the same anti-Black behaviors as white people do (while criticizing white people) because they superficially understand American race relations to be white vs. non-white. This binary perspective on race erases the unique formation and characterization of Blackness and ignores the structural imbalance between Black people and Asians. A key tool of whiteness is division and stratification of race, which assigns Asian Americans a structurally higher social position than that of Black Americans. Consequently, Black-Asian conflict has historically benefited Asians, such as the light sentencing of the Korean business owner that murdered 15-year-old Latasha Harlins over a bottle of juice (which partially sparked the 1992 Los Angeles IMAGES BY BREANNA LEE
Uprising). Asian men in particular often turn to Blackness because it is codified as hypermasculine due to the criminalization of Black people. Their masculinity, therefore, depends on upholding the perception of Black criminality. They essentially choose to reassert their masculinity through cultural appropriation, homophobia and misogyny, while doing nothing to advocate for Black lives. Asian America will never find liberation by assimilating into white America. Liberation from white supremacy needs to occur in a multinational struggle, which simply will not be possible without unearthing the anti-Blackness that persists in our non-Black communities of color. Campaigns for diversity and reinstituting masculinity will always fall short of achieving substantive change in structural race relations. It is telling that the likes of Aziz Ansari, Jeremy Lin, and Eddie Huang, perhaps some of the most famous Asian American male figures today, have been criticized for sexual coercion, appropriating dreads, or weaponizing misogynoir, respectively. The anti-Black and misogynistic elements of “reclaiming” Asian masculinity prove it is rooted in an investment by Asian men to “liberate” only themselves. Rather than a genuine critique of Orientalism and its greater consequences, the campaign for Asian masculinity comes from a desire to occupy the beneficiary social position within a white supremacist patriarchal framework. Efforts to “reclaim” Asian American masculinity usually do not oppose this assimilationist rubric, and therefore are not anti-racist. The fact that Asian men have pushed to center themselves in Asian anti-racist discourse at the expense of Asian women means Asian women need to be unafraid in challenging Asian men and speak louder than the silencing calls for unity that drum within communities of color.
IMAGES BY SIMONE MONTGOMERY
Marginalized People Don’t Exist For Your Gratification
CHIAMAKA NWADIKE The fetishization of non-White, non-Cisgender, and non-heterosexual people is something we have been subconsciously taught to engage in, perpetuate, and protect. Popular media and historically produced cultural stereotypes have conditioned us to view relationships with these folks as something exotic and out of the ordinary: “I’ve never had sex with a Black girl before.” “Mixed kids are so attractive.” “How exactly does gay sex work?” “My parents would kill me if they found out I was with a Black man.” These phrases and questions stem from the power of White hegemony, which places whiteness as the norm and dominant culture, and as a result, everything else is “othered.” Sexuality and gender have played a major role in the placement of cisgender and heterosexual folks as the norm. Simultaneously, the aestheticized “culture” of marginalized folks are readily consumed and enjoyed in the West, while the people doing the labor are sexually and economically fetishized and treated as second-class citizens. Historically, America has characterized Black folks as immoral sexual deviants in order to justify slavery and colonization. Black women specifically were depicted as sexual objects whose bodies were distinct from white women’s in a way that maintained the image of white women as fragile and pure figures with direct lineage to Eve. Similarly, Black men are depicted as sex-crazed, aggressive, uncontrollable animals who have the ability to defile white women These stereotypes were created to protect white womanhood and uphold whiteness. Effects of these stereotypes are very much present today as people continue to associate Blackness with hypersexuality. Non-Black people still date Black folks
to antagonize their parents. Black women are reduced to their physical features and are ironically referred to as “chocolate Nubian queens” by those who think the phrase is a compliment. Black men are still characterized as hypersexual individuals who only desire white women. An example of this, covered by the New York Times: the infamous Lena Dunham, a white woman, was publicly angered by Odell Beckham Jr’s “audacity” not to be attracted to her. Women like Lena Dunham are the perfect example of white entitlement and the fantasy of an inherent ownership of the Black body. Tangentially, Indigenous women struggle with a similar “othering” that Black folks have historically struggled with in terms of hypersexualization. Indigenous women are characterized as overtly sexual beings in popular media. Indigenous garments, such as headdresses, are made into costumes although they play an essential role in Indigenous traditions including healing ceremonies or powwows. The overt sexualization of Indigenous women plays a direct role in the increased risk of rape that Indigenous women bear; according to EndSexualViolence.org, 34% of Indigenous women in America will be raped in her lifetime, which is a higher chance than any other woman will experience in their lifetime. The hypersexualization that Indigenous women face coincides with the way in which they are left unprotected in many spaces. Indigenous women in the United States have historically been unprotected and underrepresented in women-led movements. According to Roxane Dunbar-Oritz’s book “An Indigenous People’s History of the United States,” when the Violence Against Women Act was in its early stages, a provision that centered on the punishment for violence against Native women was not approved by Congress. This instance of apparent disregard for Indigenous women leaves many Indigenous women vulnerable to sexual violence/abuse in many situations. It is very important to note that fetishization is not only limited to race and ethnicity. The harms of fetishization can be found in the intersection of gender and sexuality. Heteronormativity and cis-normativity are hegemonic structures that normalize heterosexuality and cis-gender folks. These violent structures suppress the liberation of Queer and Trans folks. People in the most conservative parts of America who uphold violent queerphobic rhetoric are also more likely to watch porn centering lesbian women, according to Pornhub analytics. Thus we see that these conservative people enjoy the labor of queer sex workers while publicly condemning queer folks and voting against marriage equality. This kind of fetishization intersects with the concept of commodification. This means that the hegemonic power (that is heteronormativity) can simultaneously make heterosexuality the dominant culture while profiting from the labor of those that lie outside that culture. The same level of commodification and fetishization occurs with different cultures as well. This is not surprising when one takes into consideration how the United States has historically thrived on the labor of people it hates. For example, white people routinely indulge in hip-hop, a genre of music that originated in African-American communities, while adopting anti-Black racist ideas. The labor of Black musicians is commodified and consumed while the
musicians’ own human rights are not acknowledged or prioritized. South Asian women and their cultural practices are discarded as savagery, oriental, and lessthan, while bindis are sold to festival goers. Vietnamese Ao Dai’s with traditional prints are stripped of their cultural meaning, cheapened, and sold as sexy, fashionable wear for meaningless occasions. Transgender and gender non-conforming folks are consistently dehumanized and hypersexualized while popular culture coopts their slang and lingo; folks love using phrases such as “slay me” or “hunty” but ignore the struggles of the queer communities where those phrases originated. We need to recognize that a lot of the fetishization that we see today is constantly normalized by popular media. The Kardashians are infamous for their theft of Black culture and fetishization of Black men, while they simultaneously remain ignorant of the issues and struggles that comes with Blackness. Mixed children are held up to a disturbing, borderline pedophilic standard of beauty. The trend of appearing racially ambiguous has become omnipresent in a world where one can get a spray tan, plump their lips, get tattoos written in Chinese characters, appropriate dreads, a bindi, and a Native headdress all at the same time. What exactly can one do to actively deconstruct these hegemonic structures that uphold the fetishization of marginalized people? For starters, stop subscribing to the negative and overtly sexual stereotypes that are projected onto different groups. Asian women are not all passive and submissive. Black women do not enjoy being referred to as chocolate all the time. Traditional Indigenous garments are not for decoration. Black men are not aggressive hypersexual beings. Lesbian women do not engage in PDA with their significant others to please you. The list could quite literally continue forever. Denounce all these notions that non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgender people are abnormal. Use inclusive language that normalizes and validates people of color, queer, and trans folks’ traditions and cultural practices. Unlearn ideas that protect harmful structures and relearn how you can use your voice to uplift those who have been displaced and marginalized. Talk to and engage with people from different communities in order to learn from them. Perhaps read books from Black women authors such as Kimberle Crenshaw or Alice Walker who have lessons to offer those who have misconceptions about Black women. Similarly, authors like Nella Larson or Audre Lorde have much to offer in terms of the queer experience. Center Indigenous people in all that you do by learning about the land you occupy and showing up for Indigenous people. Understand when to remove yourself and lower your voice in spaces that are not meant for you. Deconstruct all that you know about folks that come from various communities.
ARTS + CREATIVE
Blue Doll the day my mother’s spine gave way my dog lay across her legs head bowed she made little to no noise and she was shrouded in indigo most days, I wear my indigo as lingerie hidden under my clothes eyelet lace and satin, more private than any gentleness I’ve felt maybe, buried in flesh, it’ll become nothing yet somehow, I feel as though He can sniff it out following it like a trail of blood in the ocean He can smell my wound beneath the indigo, drawn to me like shark to seal
He wants to make me a paper doll, colored blue some flimsy project, a craft He wants me to talk about my mother while his lips stitch down my neck fingers under my shirt, reaching for my indigo the day she died I took up the color donned it like a cloak, or armor and each day since, have found that He will use it to warm his bed I’m sick of my wound being made out as just another hole for Him to fill. by lily bollinger
IMAGE BY SOLI RACHWAL
IMAGES BY JENNY DODGE
TechnoOrientalism An Oriental Vision of the Future without any Orientals
Asian Americans have always had a difficult time seeing depictions of themselves on screens, big or small. According to a 2016 Teen Vogue article, only 1 out of every 20 speaking roles go to Asian actors, while only 1% of leading roles in films go to Asian Actors. Although Asian individuals are practically invisible, their culture can be found throughout many popular American creative mediums. One such genre in which Asian cultures can be found often is science fiction. In the present state of American popular media, science fiction has dominated a large variety of different creative mediums. Popular science fiction franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, or Doctor Who have millions of audience members tuning into a journey often found in futuristic cities or space odysseys. However, despite its popularity, science fiction comes with its own issues. It draws heavily from Asian cultures and aesthetics, while failing to include any Asian individuals or bodies within its various depictions. Science fiction has a tendency to remove the identity of the culture that it draws heavily from, and due to this, it’s easy to identify that science fiction has an Orientalism problem, specifically a Techno-Orientalism problem. It’s a sign that there is a particular sickness that afflicts the way people from Western (Euro-American) countries perceive individuals of Asian descent. At its heart, Techno-Orientalism reveals the deep rooted depths of Orientalism, and how it even trickles into visions of the future and its inhabitants. For example, in “Blade Runner,” a film that many science fiction fans revere and uphold, there are many instances in the opening scenes where Asian culture is depicted. A large majority of the population speaks a variety of languages, due to the proliferation of a globalized society, and Japanese is seen to be one of the dominant languages spoken. Elegant Japanese women in Kimonos grace holographic screens and futurist advertisements for high tech products. Rick Deckard, Harrison Ford’s character is seen eating noodles at a Japanese food stand. The metal towering skyscrapers, menacing large corporations, and the prevailing Asian aesthetics that permeate these mediums represent an Euro-American fear of a corporate takeover, and specifically an Asian one. And yet despite centering these narratives around this fear, they still lack a space for individual Asian identity in these worlds. Despite the commonality of Japan and its culture, Asian characters cannot be found in the world of “Blade Runner” unless they are a background character or an aesthetic hologram. And this is because works like “Blade Runner” care more about adopting Asian aesthetics, than representing actual Asian individuals. Unfortunately this isn’t a singular phenomenon, as this occurs in other popular
science fiction mediums, such as the television show “Firefly.” “Firefly” draws heavily upon the Chinese culture, and the main characters often speak Mandarin. The premise of the show is that the Chinese government has merged with the government of the United States to create one authoritative super government. This super government is tyrannical and deeply flawed, and heavily coded as Asian, whereas the dissenters in the main cast are non-Asian. This narrative feeds into the common American anxiety that East Asian nations will eventually dominate and consume other culture in a dystopian future. At its heart, science fiction aspires to envision the future, the amazing technological advances,and discoveries that come with it. It works towards asking thought-provoking questions about what defines humanity, its gradual continued merging, and the globalization of our societies. However, Techno-Orientalism reveals that the Euro-American canon still has room to improve in the representation of Asian identity and its place in the Western world. Many depictions of future cities in Euro-American thought imagine cities that mirror Asian cities. Future cities look like Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul, and Hong Kong, with high rise buildings that span beyond the horizon, and are full of unfeeling, cold, machine-like citizens. Techno-orientalism works towards perpetuating Asian stereotypes of simultaneously being technologically superior to the Western masses, while being intellectually and emotionally primitive in comparison. The people are unfeeling and othered in their exotic cultural practices, while engaging with high tech machines that are mystical and beyond standard comprehension. When they are given representation, they are given roles that perpetuate racial stereotypes of Asian immigrants unable to speak proper English, or pronounce their “L’s” and “R’s” correctly. They are the exotic oriental background on which white characters scamper about. Asians exist in science fiction only to represent the dystopian urban sprawl prophesied by the fearful Western masses. These fears could stem from an innate fear and unsettlement from the rising cultural and economic presence and strength of East Asian economies such as China and Japan. Euro-Americans fear a world in which their culture no longer dominates the markets and minds of other countries, and envision a dystopian world in which non-Asian women are expected to paint their faces and dress in kimonos, while eating sushi, listening to K-pop, and speaking in Mandarin. But East Asians and their cities are not the dystopian future that white science fiction writers should fear, especially not when it is their own visions of the future that exclude entire populations from their narratives.
IMAGES BY MARINA MOVELLAN
Exotic Erotic & Racist CAMPUS LIFE
MADISON THANTU The term“exotic” is often used by people in Euro-America as a “compliment” for people of color, often women of Asian heritage and appearance. However, the seemingly positive connotation is riddled with racist, objectifying, and derogatory underpinnings that go unnoticed by those who employ it. It reinforces the perception that Asians and Asian-Americans are foreign, alien, and unassimilated into Euro-American culture, alienating them from mainstream society. In addition to the prejudicial implications, the term “exotic” also evokes stereotypes of submission and sensuality that have defined the Euro-American world’s perception of Asian women. UCLA students Grace Fernandez, a third-year American Literature and Culture culture major who identifies as Filipino-American, and Chloe Pan, a fourth-year double-major in International Development Studies and Asian American Studies who identifies as Asian-American and Chinese-American, spoke with FEM on what the term exotic means to them, and its presence in their personal and studential lives. WINTER 2018
FEM: What does the term exotic mean to you objectively? GF: “My mind immediately goes to ‘foreign’ when I hear the term exotic. I perceive it as synonymous with ‘different’ and ‘other.’ Especially in a society built on white ‘culture’ and dominance—a society in which I was born and grew up— I just know that ‘exotic’ means anything not Eurocentric or of Western society.” CP: “Objectively, I would see the word exotic as something that’s unique and different. Something at which you would gawk at or even gaze at because it’s something that is out of the norm.” FEM: What does the term exotic mean to you when you are called exotic? GF: “When I’ve been called ‘exotic’ or that I have ‘exotic beauty’, I understand that people are trying to compliment me. But… there is an inherently racist meaning behind it, especially when coming from a white person.It’s offensive because the people doing the ‘complimenting’ are insinuating that my ethnicity is something that isn’t perceived and accepted as the norm or standard. It happens in my own family, too — with the people who are literally of the same ethnicity as me. Because I’m not a dark-skinned Filipino like most of my family members, they say I’m exotic-looking because I don’t look like a ‘typical’ Filipino. My light skin and the fact that I may look half-White is even fetishized, something that my family glorifies. Within my own ethnicity, I know that it’s a problem of colorism, but the point is that the perception of someone as ‘exotic’ is to label them as different, unfamiliar, unusual.” CP: “In context, I’ve seen it directed to a lot of East-Asian women in particular and I think a lot of those notions of exoticism are rooted in Orientalism. Edward Said was really the [theorist] who pioneered the understanding of Orientalism, which is the idea that we posit the East in opposition to the West. We see the West as being this fashion of civilization, the East is seen as this very backwards place, and part of that includes women who are seen as coming from the East, and so these women are seen as a spectacle. They’re seen as less than human. This interpretation of a human being assumes that one’s own identities are the norm and so you have a right to gawk at or that you deserve some level of ownership.” FEM: How has your understanding of the word exotic evolved throughout your life and education? GF: “When I was in high school, I honestly would have taken being called exotic as such a big compliment. I thought that looking different meant I possessed a unique beauty. But I’ve learned that the problem with the term is not just that there’s a discriminating racial context to it, but it’s also fetishizing and sexualizing Asian-American women.” CP: “I think when I was younger, if I heard the word exotic I would have taken it as a compliment. For example, we often use it in the context of zoo animals. I remember visiting the zoo when I was little and people would be like ‘Wow. That’s so exotic. That’s not something you’ve seen before.’ And when I think about it now, it’s so strange that an adjective that you would use to describe an animal that we literally look at through often bars at a zoo is the same word that we use to describe women who basically don’t appear white in the United States. “ FEM: How has the label of exotic contributed to your sense of self, self-worth, and perception of your Asian heritage? GF: “I don’t let the label of exotic change the way I personally perceive my Asian heritage. But at the same time, it’s frustrating that some non-Asians can still see Asian physical features and culture as exotic or foreign. It just reinforces the generalization of Asian-Americans as perpetual foreigners… [But] the label doesn’t affect my own self-worth. I definitely don’t like the idea of people sexualizing Asian women — it makes me feel like a sexual object to those who do claim to have an Asian fetish. But I think that by taking being called ‘exotic,’ or having ‘exotic beauty’ as derogatory rather than a compliment, I can critique the way that people perceive the physical beauty of women of color, and redefine Eurocentric beauty standards, which actually reassures my self-worth that I can be beautiful and it’s not because of my ethnicity or because someone fetishizes my race.” CP: “The word nymph is often used to describe East-Asian women in terms of being really small, really light, really thin boned. And so in a way, we’re often seen as almost small children who are very dainty. I remember that that notion of needing to be some small, cute little Asian girl was something that I definitely struggled with growing up because on the one hand I wanted to be able to claim my physical appearance on my own terms, but then on the other hand when I thought about norms of beauty, I didn’t want to have to aspire to Whiteness,
and so it was a struggle to accept the way that I looked, while at the same time having to navigate the stereotypes that other people would have of me because of the notion of East Asians being exotic.” FEM: What are some instances where you’ve encountered the label exotic on UCLA’s campus? GF: “The term ‘yellow fever’ is disturbing and offensive. It’s fetishism and racism in one phrase, and I hear it too often at UCLA, a space that’s so impacted with Asians. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable. As an Asian woman, I don’t want to be preyed upon by a man who says he has a taste for Asian girls, and who reduces me to a sexual object who can fulfill his Asian girl desires and fantasies… I was walking in front of Powell library when I was abruptly approached by a white male student running in front of me to stop me, and whose first words were, ‘Are you Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish?’ I was really shocked to hear a question like that coming from a complete stranger; I was thinking, why do you need to know my exact ethnicity? Why is it important or relevant to you? I simply said ‘no’ and he then said to me, ‘I’m trying to guess your ethnicity. It’s really hard to tell. You have really exotic features.’ Then he went on to say, ‘Like an exotic beauty. You’re really pretty.’ He invited me to hang out with him and asked for my number. But the whole encounter from him invading my personal space, to immediately asking about my ethnicity, and commenting on my ‘exotic features’ was just offensive and unsettling.” CP: “I haven’t seen the word appear necessarily, but differently I think it’s something that I’ve seen happen online because I think that it’s easier to not have to own up to the things that you say when you post about it online. I’ve heard about it in passing, especially when it comes to white men who fetishize Asian-American women in particular because they feel like we’re ‘exotic.’ As if they’re thinking that we’re a special group that they can date.” FEM: How do you view the stereotype that UCLA is dominated by Asians and Asian-Americans? GF: “It’s definitely true that Asians and Asian-Americans make up a huge proportion of UCLA students. But… a lot of the stereotypes about Asians that are problematic, like that [idea] that, of course we got accepted to the university because we’re Asian and we’re naturally smart. But the stereotype that we’re also passive, submissive, innocent, and apathetic creates a problem that also contributes to Asian fetishization. Perceiving Asian women as having all these qualities sexualizes that submissiveness and innocence, the naiveté and vulnerability behind those things, which again is disturbing and makes us feel extremely uncomfortable.” The Euro-American world has fetishized those who they perceive as exotic. One is expected to satisfy the narrow Euro-American stereotype of exotic, and if one fails to do so, one is further alienated from mainstream culture and society. Women who embody the “exotic” ideals are reduced to trophies, viewed as rare and foreign souvenirs of conquest that have been fetishized by the Euro-American perspective. Exoticism’s erotic connotation is one of racism, bigotry, and objectification, yet society at large still views it as a compliment that its receivers should delight in–a reflection of the subliminal prejudices that are fortified by ignorance. White beauty standards have not only infiltrated the Euro-American public, but also East-Asian cultures. It is critical to re-evaluate how we perceive East-Asian women and more importantly the dominating white beauty standards as a whole. We must reject the fetishizing and alienation of those who Euro-American culture has historically deemed “foreign.” We must empower all women on a basis beyond their physical appearance, liberating women from the racist stereotypes that have been constructed to oppress them.
He Didn’t Remind Me of My Father A Reflection on “Daddy Issues”
IMAGE BY SOPHIE MARENCIK
There’s just something about an older man. The notion of “daddy issues” has its roots in Sigmund Freud’s misguided ideas regarding the existence of an Electra complex, the fetishization of young women in sexual relationships with older men, and a continuous attempt to control the sexual expression of women. This is something I know and understand. I am acutely aware of the sexism inextricably tied to the idea of daddy issues, as well as the blatant inaccuracy and oversimplification of the personal issues women undergo. WINTER 2018
And yet. Three days before Christmas, I typed the phrase “Do I have daddy issues?” into my internet search bar, waiting for results to appear on my laptop screen that I anticipated were just as fraudulent as Freud’s theory. I clicked on each link that appeared to — ironically — be the most legitimate explanation of what I was going through. I read and skimmed through articles that discussed topics ranging from the “sexual deviance” that appeared in women who lacked a father figure in their lives, to the types of abuse women experience at the hands of their father figures, to the argument that paternal influences can cause women to become queer. It was degrading to read, sickeningly queerphobic, and mind-numbingly misogynistic. But I couldn’t look away. *** The first time we met in person, I could sense the age gap between us. The awareness crawled across my skin when he spoke and wrapped itself around my throat every time his gaze fell upon my face. The first time he held me close, I could feel not just the power dynamic between us — he, being much older, and I younger — but also the countless other women he must have held the same way in the years that I still hadn’t lived. Being with him was both the most intoxicating and the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I have no desire to ever replicate the experience. We started seeing one another around the time Kristen Roupenian’s virally popular short story, “Cat Person,” was published in The New Yorker, so we’ll call the gentleman I’m describing here “Robert” — the same name as Roupenian’s male character. Robert worked a job which required that he wear a tailored suit, owned a nice car that he would drive at barely-legal speeds, and lived in an apartment he suspiciously never wanted to bring me to. He had a sense of self and a level of maturity I was desperately trying to achieve for myself, and which I had never seen in my male peers. He carried himself with confidence, and I liked hearing him talk about the lives he lived in the years that separated us. Whenever I was with him, I knew my age must have been a fetish to him. He was an older man who was having a fling with a college girl. I was another story that he would tell his friends over several glasses of scotch. He only wanted certain things from me, and I didn’t expect anything more from him. In retrospect, I’d like to think that I was fetishizing Robert as well. In my head, he became “daddy.” A daddy with a nice car and expensive cologne who treated me like I was the prettiest girl alive. I’d like to think that even though he probably laughed at my supposed naïveté with his friends, I would be doing the same. While he had his scotch, I had my three dollar wine that I drank from a cup as I sat around and told my friends about him. Of course, the power dynamic between us was always in his favor. He knew what he was doing, whereas I was proceeding without prior experience.
Like other sexist messages that women are bombarded with on a day-to-day basis, the idea that women have daddy issues is an idea that many individuals must analyze critically, try to unlearn, and resist. Women have their own identities. What we do, what we choose to do, is not solely dependent on our relationships with our fathers or other parental figures — to make this broad generalization is to diminish all that we are and the ways in which we choose to express our sexuality. The concept of daddy issues blames women for the reckless and self-destructive sexual behavior they may partake in when they internalize the message that their agency is tied to male patriarchal figures. There is no critique of the established social system that convinces women that they need sexual approval from men. This internalization can lead women to do things such as using sex as a mechanism for validation or security in their relationship, rather than for enjoyment. This gaslights us and is toxically dismissive. Many people have issues with their parents, but someone’s parents do not make up the entirety of someone’s identity. The framing of daddy issues as something that affects women and women only is not only sexist and infantilizing, but also serves to draw attention away from the fact that many men are not good father figures. There are men who leave their children behind, are emotionally distant or unavailable, or who simply cannot meet the demands having a child requires. Similarly, there are men who have daddy issues or “mommy issues” of their own, and yet are not punished or looked down upon as women are. A man’s relationship with his mother can be tumultuous and negatively affect the way he views and interacts with women going forward, and yet his actions are unlikely to be tied to his connection he shares with his maternal figure. Women are indoctrinated with false narratives that continuously undermine our agency and autonomy. These concepts range from daddy issues, to marriage being the only and ultimate goal to which we must aspire, to owing men sex for merely acknowledging our humanity. Even women who are self-identified feminists are taught this, and they are in the process of reflection and unlearning. Intersectional feminism can be hard to practice, and we will make mistakes. However, it is essential that we do so in order to better ourselves and the world we interact with. I know this. I’m doing this. I’m still in the process of unlearning. After spending a few minutes more on pointless articles, I finally put away my laptop, picked up a book, and cuddled with my dog. This was something I decided to do without my father’s influence.
When winter break came around a few weeks later, I went back home and spent time with my family. The relationship I have with my biological father is distant at best, and spiteful at worst. My father and I don’t talk, and he only references me in discussion in the event his co-workers start talking about their own children. We argue viciously. We ignore each other and become distant. There are moments where my father treats me like an unwelcome stranger. It was after an argument with my father over the holidays, after one of those periods of growing, gnawing distance where he and I would ignore each other, that I ended up Googling that wretched phrase which has likely, at one point or another, been the fixation of countless women: “Do I have daddy issues?” Even as I read all of those articles in which people explained their own personal perspectives, psychologists talked about what “daddy issues” were, and men talked about their experiences with women who had daddy issues, thoughts in the back of my head screamed that all of the sexist information I was receiving was wrong. The daddy issues narrative is meant to control the sexuality and sexual expression of women, taking away our agency by making our sexualities reliant on the neglect by a paternal father figure. I know this. I know this. I know this. And yet, there I was, an intersectional feminist, Googling these terms and succumbing to a panic that I knew was irrational. FEM NEWSMAGAZINE
IMAGE BY MAYA SOL LEVY
the american vote: a working class fetishization BY
VICTORIA SHEBER With the 2018 midterm election just around the corner, Facebook feeds and YouTube advertisements are bound to bloat with campaign ads urging Americans to vote. By using buzzwords like “family values” and presenting vaguely patriotic imagery like the American flag, these aggressive media tactics illustrate how politicians continue to fetishize electoral politics. Despite this civic imagery, democracy has never actually existed in America. One only has to look at structures like the electoral college and bicameral Congress to see this.The first strips the Presidential election of any popular vote and the second establishes a Senate made up of elites. Of course, voting is still championed by politicians as an “American virtue” and a privilege of citizens. Perhaps the vote is more of a symbolic gesture towards the “success” of liberal democracy, rather than a way for popular opinion to actually be heard. The fact that voter turnout is sharply divided by class points to how ineffective American “democracy” is. According to U.S. Census data from the 2012 election, “80.2 percent of those making more than $150,000 voted, while only 46.9 percent of those making less than $10,000 voted.” In fact, there is only one occurrence in every American election during 2008, 2010, and 2012 of a poorer income bracket having a higher turnout than wealthier brackets. In those same elections, each successively higher income bracket was 3.7 percent more likely to vote. A 2013 study, “Class Bias in Voter Turnout and Income Inequality” by William Franko, et al. found that from 1976 to 2006, 29 states had an increase in class voting bias. They also found that 21 states had a decrease in class voting bias, but noted that the increases were larger than the decreases. This phenomenon of a class bias in voting in which the working class votes significantly less than its wealthy counterparts can best be understood by examining Karl Marx’s theory of “commodity fetishism.” Commodity fetishism is the practice of determining the value of goods insofar as they can be exchanged rather than used. For Marx, “use value” is the direct applicability of a given product, such as how a hammer can be used to pound a nail. By contrast, an “exchange value” is the amount for which a product can be exchanged, like how a hammer can be worth $10. Exchange value refers to more than just money. Part of commodity fetishism is that commodities begin to take on a more mystical quality that alienate the objects from the concrete labor force that goes into producing them. This creation of a surplus value tied to a property outside of the physical work put into it is a key aspect of commodity fetishism. Commodity fetishism shouldn’t be confused with consumerism, which promotes the never-ending pursuit of purchasing goods and services. Commodity fetishism is the way that products are viewed, whereas consumerism is the way that products are consumed. Similar to how products are viewed in terms of their exchange value, the American vote is fetishized by politicians seeking election. Campaigns are just a race of making fake promises to Americans to gather the most votes. These votes become a commodity, no longer necessarily linked to its usefulness of electing a popular candidate, but rather to block the election of another. An example of this was the 2016 presidential race in Utah, where a third-party candidate almost won the electoral votes. Evan McMullin won 21.54 percent of the votes, close to Clinton’s 27.46 percent. Donald Trump won the vote with 45.54 percent, but this election was unique in that a third-party candidate got so close to winning. Most of the people who voted for McMullin, a staunchly conservative politician, were Democrats. Their strategy was to make McMullin win in Utah so that Utah’s electoral votes wouldn’t be given to Trump, making it easier for Clinton to win in the long run. Obviously, this strategy failed, but it is an
example of how votes are part of a larger game of exchange in order to help a candidate win. Votes are viewed by their exchange value — an amount that can win an election — rather than their use value — the expression of a person’s “choice” in an election. In other words, people are viewed as votes, which has become their exchange value in the political marketplace, rather than their personhood. Not only do politicians see individuals merely as votes, but they are also able to use this fetishization to their advantage in elections by exploiting real worries of marginalized communities. During his campaign, Donald Trump leveraged anxieties of the working class to gain support for his racist policies. Hillary Clinton championed open borders, but deported Honduran refugees during her time as Secretary of State. She also never acknowledged that she supported former President Bill Clinton’s mass incarceration of Black men which added to the already dense imprisoned population. As in a capitalist system, some votes (people) will be worth more in their exchange value. Part of why the working class has the lowest voter turnout is because their votes are systematically devalued in comparison to an affluent individual, super PAC, or special interest group. This reality is just an addition to an already broken system which privileges the interests of the upper class during elections. Perhaps this fetishization of the American vote is just one reason among many that the working class is discouraged from getting to the polling booth. Low turnout among the working class is an extremely complex issue. Just one example of this nuance is the fact that felons cannot vote in most states. Due to racist laws, usually related to drugs, most felons are people of color or individuals from marginalized communities. A 2014 Princeton study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” proved a positive correlation between the rate of policies passed and the income level of the groups supporting them. The study found that the probability of a policy changing is 0.3 percent no matter how many “average citizens” prefer a policy change. Alternatively, even if the economic elite supports a policy change by 20 percent, it is 18 percent likely to be adopted. If this same group supports a change by 80 percent, the policy has a 45 percent chance of passing. Because their opinion has little sway in politics anyways, the working class is discouraged from voting at all. With the presence of gerrymandering, these numbers are even worse for non-white, working class communities. Districts are intentionally split into obscure shapes that divide the votes of individuals in certain neighborhoods. This almost always occurs in areas where people of color reside, resulting in racialized voter suppression. As if making working class votes exchangeable wasn’t enough, politicians also suppress the voices of particular marginalized communities in order to preserve a patriarchal, racist, imperialist, classist government run by rich, white politicians. The fetishization of the American vote demonstrates the way that the wealthy continue to be favored in electoral politics. Liberal democracy in America has always been an upward battle to bring people to the table — and this table hasn’t even been filled yet. Perhaps it never will under our current electoral system. Campaign ads popping up on Facebook can serve as a reminder of how little a vote is worth anymore. If we lived in a world where votes were not fetishized, then we would vote for a politician based on their actions and what they can do for each individual voter. In reality, politicians advertise themselves, hoping to capture the attention of those votes that are worth more in the political marketplace.
UCLA’s Policies Exploit Collegiate Athletes 20
Athletes are among the most high-profile students on UCLA’s campus, easily
recognized by their personalized backpacks and school-branded apparel. Some have their faces on banners outside Pauley Pavilion, and others have their games broadcast on national television. Business Insider claims that UCLA makes $97 million each year off of its athletes. Similarly, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) — which governs college athletics in the U.S. — self-reports that it makes at least $872 million. Despite their elevated status and obvious financial value to the university, collegiate athletes are largely unrewarded: the NCAA forbids them from being paid. This includes sponsorships and strictly limits income from part-time jobs. The NCAA and the universities it governs simultaneously recognize the value of student-athletes’ labor yet refuse to acknowledge it by compensating them for that labor, exemplifying the logic of psychoanalytic fetishization.
Guerrero made $1.5 million in 2013, according to a University of California Data Analysis website, while basketball head coach Steve Alford made $2.6 million for the 2016-2017 season. USA Today reported that former football head coach Jim Mora made $3.5 million in 2017, and The Los Angeles Times covered incoming coach Chip Kelly’s contract for $23.3 million over 5 years, or $4.7 million per year. The huge deals and salaries at UCLA are representative of many universities in NCAA’s Division I. The millions of dollars UCLA and the NCAA make annually from athletics make it clear that both organizations are aware of the value of student-athlete labor.
One of the ways that psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud described fetishization is as a split in knowledge. Two logically incompatible beliefs are applied to the same situation and are both regarded as valid. This same strain of logic is applied to collegiate athletes. Although it is possible, even likely, that NCAA executives are intentionally exploiting athletes, they cannot do so openly. They may commit their organization to the language of uplifting and educating young athletes, while their vast income and restrictive policies show conflicting stances on the value of these same athletes. Regardless of whether individual executives intentionally take advantage of young athletes, as an organization the NCAA fetishizes athletes in order to exploit them. And because they do not challenge these rules, UCLA is complicit as well.
This point becomes more obvious by looking at the different ways in which UCLA invests in its athletics department. The school recently finished construction on two new facilities dedicated solely to football and basketball. The Wasserman Football Center opened in August 2017 and consists of meeting rooms, offices, training centers, locker rooms, a player’s lounge, nutrition center, hydrotherapy pools, and a barbershop, according to its official website. The Mo Ostin Basketball Center opened in October 2017 and its website claims that it features practice courts, conference rooms, offices, locker rooms, training rooms, a film room, and a nutrition center for both the men’s and women’s teams. Construction took about two years from groundbreaking to completion for both facilities, and UCLA estimated them to cost $64 million and $25 million, respectively. It is currently unclear how the facility will benefit the general campus population, other than supposedly freeing up other athletic centers. By making huge investments in facilities that will only directly benefit student-athletes, UCLA implicitly states that athletics are valuable to the school.
UCLA and the NCAA demonstrate that they recognize the value of collegiate athletes through the money they make off of them and the investments they put into the athletics department. Both organizations make millions of dollars every year through media rights deals with broadcasting companies, such as the NCAA’s agreement with CBS/Turner for $10.8 billion over 14 years and UCLA’s agreement with WME/IMG for $145 million over 10 years. UCLA also recently signed a deal with the apparel company Under Armor for $250 million over 15 years, the biggest merchandise deal of any university in the U.S. These huge deals are reflected in the athletic department salaries. UCLA athletic director Dan
Another way the university invests in its athletes is by providing tutors, learning centers, and academic advisors that are not available to other students. Tutors are paid $15-20 per hour, according to the application for the 2017-2018 school year, must have at least a 3.25 GPA and submit a letter of recommendation and academic transcript. They additionally must attend a three-day training. By offering wages that are high compared to other on-campus jobs and by upholding strict requirements, the athletics department clearly puts effort into ensuring that only the most qualified undergraduates tutor athletes. While this could show the school values student-athletes’ education, when the NCAA’s 2.3 GPA
eligibility requirement is taken into account it becomes clear that this investment is also a precaution to make sure athletes can play and make money for the school. Despite the many ways the NCAA and UCLA recognize that athletes’ labor is a large source of income for the school, both refuse to acknowledge it by awarding appropriate compensation. The NCAA enforces strict rules on amateurism, forbidding student-athletes from accepting any outside payment or benefits for playing their sport or for using their reputation as an athlete. This prevents them from being paid to sponsor a product, as well as from accepting any scholarships provided by someone other than their university. Although full scholarships will cover tuition, housing, and textbooks, it is at most worth $240,000 over four years for out-of-state students, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, and does not compare to the millions UCLA makes each year. This is especially true of football and basketball players, whose high-profile games are the face of UCLA athletics. Former UCLA basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, writing in Jacobin magazine, further claimed that the full scholarship cannot be used for other expenses and around $3000 must come out-of-pocket. The NCAA also exhibits its skewed prioritization of student-athletes’ bodies and labor over their educations — despite claiming otherwise — in its ungenerous injury policy. In the case of a career-ending injury, the NCAA allows schools to take away all scholarships. Any student-athletes from low-income backgrounds would thus lose the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree they may not have otherwise been able to afford. Additionally, it does not insure coverage for medical bills below $90,000. A low-income student-athlete would then not only be deprived of an education, but potentially left heavily in debt and without assistance. In 2013, The Atlantic covered the story of Stanley Doughty, a former University of Southern Carolina football player whose coaches and doctors never informed him of the extent of his injuries. Doughty continued to play for the school, unaware of his high-risk for paralyzation, and eventually left to play in the National Football League (NFL). However, NFL doctors prohibited Doughty from playing because of the risk he faced. This left him without a job, without a degree, and without the NCAA’s assistance for the $20,000 surgery he needed. If a student-athlete is no longer productive and useful for the university, in the NCAA’s eyes they no longer have any worth.
Similarly, one reason that the NCAA insists on calling collegiate athletes “student-athletes” is to distinguish them from employees of the universities they attend. The Atlantic also detailed how the wife of a college football player sued the NCAA for compensation after her husband died from injuries sustained while competing. If collegiate athletes were formally regarded as employees, this would entitle them to worker’s compensation and lifetime medical coverage. The NCAA insists that student-athletes are students before all else, yet the hours of practice they put into their jobs and the money they make for their schools says otherwise. The fetishization and resulting exploitation of athletes by the NCAA and UCLA is also tied to racism. Many from around the world of college sports, including athletes and sports journalists, have highlighted exploitation in the NCAA over the past several years. Despite increased awareness of the problem, public opinion indicates that many Americans oppose paying student-athletes. A study by the University of Utah attempted to measure how racism affects this opinion. Researchers measured racial bias by asking participants if they agreed with various racist statements, and then showed them a picture of a Black person’s face before asking their opinion on paying collegiate athletes. They found that racist White participants were more likely to oppose it when they were shown the image. This was also true when they were shown a group of racially mixed faces. Researchers attributed this trend to the fact that most famous collegiate athletes are Black: NCAA diversity data indicates that Black athletes outnumbered White athletes in both football and basketball — the NCAA’s most visible sports — during the 2016-2017 school year. The study did not find any similar trends among people of color and concluded that racism plays a large factor in how White Americans view college athletes. Fetishization, motivated by capitalistic greed and racism, allows the NCAA, UCLA, and other Division I schools to exploit young athletes. Taking a contradictory stance on what their athletes’ labor is worth allows them to increase their profits. The policies these organizations uphold and the investments they make both show that they do not value collegiate athletes as human beings but as a means to make money.
White American Woman the value of race in hookup culture
by anonymous WINTER 2018
IMAGE BY ISABEL BINA
I made my sexual debut with little fanfare; I approached sexual exploits through a clinical and scientific lens. I just wanted to do the deed for the sake of having an experience. I engaged in hookup culture with reckless abandon (and I was very reckless). My facilitators were Tinder, clubbing, and alcoholic courage— the latter being more of an enemy than a friend. Through my adventures, I saw a side of human interaction that I had never seen before. Previously too shy to date or hookup, I was now participating in the experiences I had always wanted to try, and in a new way that made me feel empowered. My new sense of confidence and inflated ego dwindled quickly when I noticed an uncomfortable trend — my partners’ fetishization of our races. Through my experiences, many of which were with international students from racially homogenous regions. Through these experiences I became aware of the fetishization of white women in a completely new way. Many of the men I was with were from racially homogenous countries such as India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc., and the White American Woman is the pinnacle of beauty in their eyes, (stemming from generations of Eurocentric beauty standards and the dehumanization and “othering” of women of color). I knew white women have always been sexually valued differently than women of color, but I didn’t know the full extent until I became an unwilling participant in such fetishization. I was involuntarily pushed into participating in unpleasant racialized role-playing instances during sexual acts. Out of nowhere, the man I was with would make it obvious that his race and mine were an an integral part of his dirty talk. In the process of fetishizing me, he also fetishized himself, “Hey you like that [insert race/nationality] dick white girl?” I didn’t agree to this being a fetishized sexual encounter — but I guess that this lack of consent is the inherent crux of fetishization. This awkward truth was verbalized by one of my hookups, an immigrant from Turkey, who told me that he actively slept with white American girls because it made him feel like he was “winning” at being an American. I didn’t know how to respond. I was a “prize” to him (yes, he used that word). Through countless years of Eurocentric beauty standards, and the value placed on whiteness, my own whiteness and sexuality became representative of his American Dream. He favored white girls because he felt validated by them, and in the same breath he made disgustingly disparaging remarks about Latinx and Black women for similarly racist reasons. Women of color were not valued the same because they were “exotic” and didn’t represent the America he idealized: a white one. I realized that he carried his racism over into sexual exploits and I, in my naivety, helped him facilitate that. His behavior is indicative of the many people of color whose internalized racism spurs them to place a greater value on white Americans. This adherence and support of the American racial hierarchy is entirely due to his socialization and overwhelming global influence of white supremacy. By distancing himself from women of color, and only pursuing white women (because whiteness in his eyes is the epitome of female sexuality), he feels like he’s reached a level of privilege only reserved for whiteness. American hookup culture is steeped in racial hierarchies; while white women are fetishized as the American Ideal, women of color are reduced to the “hypersexual Latina”, the “demure East Asian woman”, etc. Their sexual value comes from stereotypes, whereas white women’s value comes from the worldwide influence of white supremacy—putting us in a place of privilege. Even all women experience varying levels of fetshization, white women experience it to a degree that isn’t detrimental the same way that is to women of color. On multiple occasions I’ve inadvertently got into positions with men like this. I never know if I’m going into a hookup only to be fetishized for another’s enjoyment at the cost of my comfort — all I can do is ditch them after the fact. I am exhausted over any woman being treated as a sexual prize because of her race, or being seen as sexually undesirable because of her race. Racial bias denote almost every aspect of human interaction, from the workplace, to academia, and in hookup culture. When the basis for sexual desire stems from white supremacy it not only perpetuates objectification of women, but also upholds white superiority. I am privileged as a white woman, but in certain sexual situations I find that my partner reduces me to my race in order to fulfill his own personal conquest and achieve his own sexual pleasure. It is a difficult concept to come to terms with: to be both fetishzied and privileged, but that is not to imply that fetishization is a privilege because it is quite the opposite. The racial politics of it all are very complicated— but it is important to understand where my privilege comes from, and that race is no excuse for objectification or fetishization.
“Modern Liberated Woman“
MADISON THANTU WINTER 2018
We live in a world increasingly suffused with capitalist dogma; principles such as free market, consumerism, and individualism reign supreme. However, despite their pervasive influence on our values and beliefs, we remain ignorant to the financial and material processes behind those ideologies. Neoliberalism in particular is an extension and new form of capitalist principles, where the ultimate goal is to maximize profits, disregarding human life and welfare in the process. While neoliberalism is, by definition, an economic structure, it is now an ideology and process that is the foundation of our ideas on how to be a person, how to work, and how to live. Individuals are outlined as consumers whose responsibility is to produce and consume goods, which inevitably reshapes personal, familial, and social relations. At the helm of the neoliberal order are institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, which are entangled with nation-states as well as capitalist interests. Through neoliberalism, human existence has been financialized - that is, more and more shaped by the flows of capital and commodities across the world. So what does this have to do with feminism? With the rise of neoliberalism, a new identity of “woman” has been construcuted. In fact, there is a deep historical and theoretical intersection between feminism and neoliberalism. In her essay “The Neoliberal Subject of Feminism,” Johanna Oskala highlights how Western society and the neoliberal order depend on the creation of a conformative, submissive feminine ideal. There is a codependent relationship between normative femininity and neoliberalism, where one needs to the other to sustain itself. The neoliberal system survives on the self-regulation of its subjects, a continued belief in choice and free will, and therefore the complete invisibility of its own power. To be clear – Western capitalism was founded upon gender inequality and repression, as we can see in “man’s right to property”: a classical component of capitalist society. This ownership has always extended to the woman and the female body, where reproductive and sexual autonomy is regulated and suppressed. Thus, capitalism’s survival is dependent on maintaining these power constructs which preserve female subjugation. So yes, neoliberal capitalism too sustains this subjugation. However, even many forms of feminism follow the same logic but under a different name. The mutation of feminism into a form now known as liberal feminism is a reflection of how neoliberal logic has seeped into the movement. Liberal feminism is the form of feminism which is individual-centered, a feminist praxis that focuses on each woman elevating her own status in already-established social and political arenas (such as her professional field, electoral politics, etc.) as a means of achieving gender equality. Liberal feminism has redefined Western (primarily white) women’s sense of self and “personal” aspirations. Neoliberalism operates under the illusion of choice. However, this principle of self-autonomy has little meaning in a society where wealth determines an individual’s power. In order to succeed and survive in a gruesome capitalist world, one must buy into the neoliberal system and pursue the financial goals that it set for them. Thus, “choice” only exists once the woman conforms to liberalization. Through illusionary principles of self-agency and individual empowerment, women have become ideal neoliberal subjects. “Progressive” society refashions women as entrepreneurs and financial agents of their respective lives. It defines female success and empowerment financially - as we see in the celebration of more women CEOs. Women are outlined as subjects with the ability to maximize their self worth, constantly seeking to transform themselves into an ideal entrepreneurial subject through “managerial” tactics. Neoliberal tenets transform the American Dream into the Woman’s Dream, where an individual’s hard work and dedication can relieve gender inequality, or at least the effects of it in their lives. However, one woman’s occupational success fails to alter the patriarchal status quo. The notions of success, achievement, and female empowerment in the neoliberal system are illusions that fail to attack institutionalized gender equality. Neoliberal subjectivity has forced responsibility onto women to personally achieve their own liberation.
The effects of the neoliberal era penetrate into the very core of a woman’s identity. Women’s self-perception and worth is evaluated according to neoliberal criteria, characterized by principles of free market, free trade and private property. Women view themselves as a business – they construct themselves as the entrepreneurs of their own lives. The booming “health and fitness” industry in the US is relying on a customer base of women who are dedicated to constant “self-improvement,” now termed “empowerment.” A concept that could be useful here in our understanding of new female subjectivity is Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism. In a capitalist economy, financial institutions and processes shape social relationships. Commodities grow to take on a life of their own, were the value of an object is derived solely from its designated currency and is alienated from the human labor that is involved in manufacturing it. With money as the universal unit of exchange, the value of a commodity becomes linked to it instead of the labor-time that went into its production. Money, a capitalist abstraction, enables the creation of surplus and accumulation. Therefore, commodities take on a life of their own, and become attached to real human feelings and relationships. This is why the feeling of “female empowerment” is now linked to commodities such as make-up – previously vilified as an instrument of patriarchal domination, makeup has rebranded itself into a tool of personal self-expression – the same commodity has taken on a different life and meaning, i.e. it becomes a fetish object. In the neoliberal era, not only are commodities fetishized, but those who have acquired control of these commodities are fetishized. This is seen in the case of the successful entrepreneurial female subject. Through the idealization of the female CEO, who represents the pinnacle of liberal feminist success, the woman is praised for her ability to infiltrate and prove herself in a male dominated arena. Through her success in the workforce, the female CEO embodies the archetype of the heroine over patriarchy. Society views her as empowered and independent, a status that other women must aspire to in order to combat the patriarchy. Thus, the woman’s subconscious is conditioned to view the self-transformed entrepreneur as the subject she must strive for. Another critical aspect of Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism is the alienation of the individual from their sense of self and community. Capitalism demands competitiveness to exploitative and inhumane effects. Through constant contest, the sole source of an individual’s determinant of self-worth, and in turn sense of self, is derived from comparison to others. Through this system of absolute competition and comparison, the individual is alienated from both themselves and the sense of solidarity with other human beings. Neoliberal subjectivities have facilitated social alienation amongst its female subjects. As a result of neoliberal ideals, women of the Global North validate their empowerment through ignorant Western bias. These women compare themselves to the status of women in countries with more “explicit” patriarchal and misogynistic regimes. In Dr. Christina Scharff’s article “Gender and Neoliberalism: Exploring the Exclusions and Contours of Neoliberal Subjectivities,” research demonstrates that neoliberal women of the Global North “present themselves as empowered… by constructing the figure of the oppressed, ‘Muslim’ woman who was a passive victim of patriarchy.” Such sweeping generalizations epitomize privileged white feminism, reinforcing disparities of empowerment as determined by racial and class inequality. Thus, neoliberal principles and subjectivity obstruct solidarity among women. Neoliberalism thrives off of alienation, as solidarity is the only true threat to this contemporary oligarchy. It is a system of subliminal destruction that prevents community and support. It is critical to constantly re-evaluate one’s own subjectivities and those of the world around us to be aware of how our perspectives are shaped by both destructive and beneficial forces. We must interrogate the systems that are in place and recognize the camouflaged oppression that is inherent to them.
The Present is Female ...So Why Aren’t We Acting Like It
IMAGE BY SHANNON BOLAND 36
During the last Women’s March of 2017, I arrived in Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles with hundreds of women. In my hand I held a sign that read “the Future is Female.” I was excited to show the world that I, too, believed inequality was on its way to becoming history. In American society, it is common to look forward to the possibilities of the “future.” It is tempting to “get over it” or to “cross the bridge” in times of distress and tremor. We have been taught to use a vocabulary that pushes the burden of rectifying America’s biased cultural norms onto tomorrow’s to do list. As a nation we tend to use language that places our hope in the hands of tomorrow, but leave none for the ditches of the present day. On the evening of January 10th when Oprah mentioned “a new day is on the horizon” in her 2018 Golden Globes speech, and when Hillary Clinton similarly explained that “the future is female” on February 7th in a Maker’s video addressing the Women’s March of 2017, both women called for action to take place soon, not today. The problem is not with Clinton or Winfrey’s choice of words, but how these words can shape a generation. With a small shift in our diction, the language we use to describe how we will move through times of inequality and terror will shape the manner in which we fight for a more aware world. These times expose the sexist, racist, and classist undertones of America, and unveil the true state of our far from democratic culture. These hurdles are not fixed like broken bones or wounds that can heal over time alone. To end the slave trade in Libya, or to ensure we never have to roll our eyes at another committed sex offender in Hollywood, we need action in the present; words like “now” and “today” can serve to better guide us into a truer progression. This mindset that throws pressure onto tomorrow’s hope is toxic for rectifying matters in the present. We should not forget and forgive our family members who voted for “the wrong candidate.” We should not merely smooth over our matters in the hopes that our kin will one day respect our values, that one day we will cast a ballot for the same name. We need to work on these matters today, we need to speak to our friends and family now. We will use our words as they will manifest into action we can touch. Linguistics studies have long explored the validity of the Whorfian Hypothesis, the idea that the language one uses can influence their thought in manners otherwise impossible. While the thesis has long been disputed, semantics still seem
to matter a great deal. There is an understanding that the difference between “Indian” and “Native American” is the difference between a person who lives in regions of warm showers or snowfall and a person who lives 8,000 miles away in the dry and cool American climates. In changing this group of people’s title from Indian to Native America, we get a better sense and completely different understanding of them. They are not from the Indian Ocean, they are from the American continent. The words we use shape our perception. Words play roles in shaping our lenses, as the difference between “doctour”, the noun for male doctor in French, and “docteuresse”, the later added female noun for doctor, is an entire era in which women were not anticipated to be bright or hungry enough to enter the medical field. When a movement like “#MeToo” floods the mainstream media with the accounts of hundreds, we need the white and affluent members of Hollywood to say “today” we will fund a program mandating that everyone in Hollywood receive consent education, or “now” we will educate our children so they do not have to grow up in a world where Black and Latinx people have disproportionately less access to sex education. In a way, words in the present tense can transpire to present-ness. In a world where roadblocks in the path to equality grow overnight, we need to enable audiences with the mindset that calls for change in the present day. Our language should galvanize imminent action instead of inspiring the prospect of a safer environment eventually. What does it say if we tell young children that they have to be complacent with the world they live in today, where people are not subjected to respect and kindness of others? We will weaken the actions of oppressors both in the White House and across industries not if we use words that train audiences to hang on to the promise of tomorrow, but rather words that give them the tools to rise today. The weight of our speech in times of political unrest can tug and untangle the passive and limp threads of complacency we have grown so comfortable in. When a young womxn from St.Louis explains “up from a past rooted in shame, I rise, ” we are reminded not to allow the history we have seen to impede our actions today. She tells us, “I am the hope and the dream of the slave,” and now in the present tense, she speaks “I rise...I rise...I rise.”
IMAGES BY DIANNA KIM
ARTS + CREATIVE
On that day of infamy Your grandmother — as I remember her vague outline in the kitchen/living room — Was my main concern. How would she feel? 38
For you — Howling outside my door Honey — Make this easy For You know better than to Smile at me like that For You can’t forget the man Making you shake For, as with most things, She’ll forgive. And You’ll come back. by megan anderson
MADDY PEASE JENNY DODGE CREATIVE DIRECTION, CONSUMING LAYOUT DESIGN, BODIES NOW TRENDING: UCLA’S POLICIES #WHITEWOKENESS, EXPLOIT COLLEGIATE NEOLIBERALISM AND ATHLETES THE “MODERN LIBERBREANA LEE ATED WOMAN,” NO UNITY WITHOUT EXOTIC, EROTIC, SOLIDARITY: SEXISM AND RACIST, AND ANTI-BLACKNESS IN ASAIN AMERICA
MARINA MOVELLAN TECHNOORIENTALISM
ISABEL BINA WHITE AMERICAN WOMAN: THE VALUE OF RACE IN HOOKUP CULTURE
ISABELLA CHILD D’AGNENICA FRONT AND BACK COVER ART, EDITORS NOTE
SIMONE MONTGOMERY MARGINALIZED PEOPLE DON’T EXIST FOR YOUR GRATIFICATION
SHANNON BOLAND THE PRESENT IS FEMALE... SO WHY AREN’T WE ACTING LIKE IT
SOPHIE MARENCIK HE DIDN’T REMIND ME OF MY FATHER: A REFLECTION ON “DADDY ISSUES”
MAYA SOL LEVY THE AMERICAN VOTE: A WORKING CLASS FETISHIZATION
LUCIA SANTINA RIBISI BUILD-A-GIRLFRIEND THE DISTURBING REALITY OF SIMULATED DATING
GABY FREID DESIGN CREDITS
SOLI RACHWAL BLUE DOLL ON THAT DAY OF INFAMY
IMAGES BY GABY FREID
This quarter our theme is Fetish, in which we grapple with attachment, displacement, and paradox. In this issue, we are interested in thinki...
Published on Mar 5, 2018
This quarter our theme is Fetish, in which we grapple with attachment, displacement, and paradox. In this issue, we are interested in thinki...