Because I’ve been doing D.C. stuff all day and thus have only had time to follow this blow-up. I’ll admit; when I first read the quotes Lizz put up at HuffPo, I was appalled at Moe and Tracie. But then I actually got some decent wi-fi speed and watched the videos and felt, okay, they were trying to be outrageous and funny. And considering the fact that alcohol was flowing freely, it’s hard for me to get upset that they weren’t dazzling wits and instead going for shock value. Tracie affirms as much. I can’t even get upset that they failed to be sober on a TV show, which strikes me as a bare minimum thing to do, because the show is about drinking. The jokes about pulling out especially didn’t deserve the moralistic shaming, because when you watch the videos, it’s clear that they’re jokes that only work because it’s so wrong. The joking about rape was an attempt at more of the same, but even more inept. It’s easy to wave your hands and say that jokes about rape are categorically wrong, but I refuse on principle to believe that jokes about anything are categorically wrong, if told correctly. They just failed. But they didn’t fail, I think, from a baseline of cruelty that characterizes the offensive jokes about rape, and so I think the rending of garments is a bit misplaced.
Look, I can tell when watching it that what’s going on is two women who are at odds with a hipster culture that plays at men and women being equals, but still makes women tap dance and submit like performing monkeys begging for cookies. The jokes about pulling out? The denial (from Tracie) and joking around (Moe) about rape? These were all coming from that place that I know so well. It reminds me of the jokes that women back home would make about living under their male lords and masters, though those jokes were often more about housekeeping and more mundane sexual topics. There’s a tendency, when one thinks of one’s self as a spicy and bold woman, to exhibit a lot of bravado when you have to reconcile that with the ugly fact that dudes are pushing you around. If you’ve ever seen a cat lose its cool, you know what I mean. Like it falls in the toilet while trying to drink from it, and walks away sopping wet like, “Yeah, I meant to do that.” Letting a guy come in you without a condom because he whined and you wanted him to like you is a lot like that, I guess. You say, “Oh, I meant to do that. It was sexier. Yeah. For me. Really. Ha.” Women make excuses for bending to their own oppression all the time. I’ve done it. We all do it. And sometimes we make really dark jokes about it, as Moe and Tracie did.
Still, I feel Lizz’s disappointment. I’m not mad at Moe and Tracie. I’m not even disappointed in them, exactly. I am to the extent that they’re very privileged young women who have a lot of influence by virtue of being a part of a coddled middle class that can even afford to live in the hip parts of of New York, which to me means that they should own more responsibility to use their glamorous images for the good of young women who look up to that, instead of coddling the men who roam around taking advantage of their even greater advantages to guilt women into having sex with them against their will, or not using condoms, or doing whatever other thing you can get a woman to do by disdaining her with the full knowledge that your penis gives you more right to say what’s cool and what’s not than she has. I’m not mad at them; I’ve definitely seen the same game play out in hip scenes in Austin, and I’ve felt the sharp pain of knowing that even though we’re all supposed to be liberated and shit, men just have more social capital in hipster circles. Or any circles that women have to jockey for status, and men can often hurt that by saying all sorts of things about you if they ever got you in a vulnerable position, such as fooling around. Things are better than they used to be—I suspect the scene of selling a groupie for a 6 pack of beer in the movie “Almost Famous” was no exaggeration, and now you get to be in your own band and everything, where you may even get more social capital than some men. But we’re still far away from that day, and we’re still where a lot of women feel that they have to roll with routine degradations and laugh them off in order to stay on the inside.
No, I’m just disappointed in the whole fucking world when I see something like this. To me, that hip, rock and roll world out there was an escape hatch. Of course, when I was plotting my escape, Kim Gordon and Kathleen Hanna were greasing the path for me, and they really didn’t seem to have any desire to bend over for any man. Then again, we also had hot mess Courtney Love, so I shouldn’t put on rose-colored glasses. But while I learned that things were far from perfect in the world I reached out for, I felt grounded in the images of feminist anger that initially attracted me. If in fact Moe and Tracie are that to young women in Podunk now—images of urban glamor and sexual liberation to emulate—then it’s worrying that they’re sending out a positive message about just rolling over to men’s petulant demands out of fear of men’s social power to disgrace your reputation by not liking you enough. I mean, I laughed sometimes during their performance. But I found myself questioning their exalted irreverence. It’s one thing to be irreverent about male power while accepting it, and another to be irreverent about it while pulling a riot girl and throwing the finger at it. But it’s also worth noting that the latter might feel like a pipe dream when you get into the real world and find yourself compromising with men all the time on the basic issue of your dignity because they have certain outside powers to bring into the situation.
It’s never as easy as it sounds to just liberate yourself is all I’m saying. I’m often asked when I speak in public why young women don’t call themselves feminists that much. And I say honestly, young straight women are afraid that they’ll never get laid again, that their fragile dependence on men’s good will is threatened by the word “feminism”. And that’s actually true. Young women aren’t stupid when they perceive this. What they don’t perceive, and where older feminists can step in and offer reassurance, is that there are good men out there if you clear out the ugly ones by getting a spine. But it’s hard to see the good apples when bad ones clutter the room.