by Shaker Sunless Nick
In the comment thread of a recent post, I was moved to say of anti-choicers and MRAs, "The same attitude is common to both, that women's bodies are just facilities."
At the time, I was just thinking in terms of property and availability—but Liss of course sees further, and pointed me at her Disembodied Things series—a set of posts about mouse pads, cakes, furniture, bikes, bottle openers, ashtrays, pencil sharpeners, remotes, dartboards, sinks, and toilets, all in the shape of women's body parts. Yep, toilets; those things that "facilities" are a euphemism for.
I find myself unable and unwilling to take these things in the lighthearted, jokey kind of way they're (mostly) presented to be meaning. Because really, what is the joke here? What can the basis of the joke possibly be but to imagine real women's body parts in their place? Imagining pissing into a real woman or jamming a bottle into her vagina. Imagining a woman who exists only to have these things done for the man's convenience (another euphemism for toilets).
In a post at the Curvature, Cara said of an ad for a men's magazine (a picture of a near-naked woman posed on a bed with a video game controller connected to her navel, and the slogan "Keep on dreaming of a better world"):
Few, I imagine, would consider this image to be promoting rape. But personally, it's all I can see.And the same is true of these Disembodied Things items—both they and their promotion by their architects/fans are (allegedly) meant to be humourous, but the humour they try to evoke is dependent idea of a real woman in their place, unable to escape being used. Just like you can't describe a fembot with no appetite, need for rest, or will of its own as "the perfect woman" without evoking the idea that that's how women should be—because without that idea, the only response could be, "but it's not a woman."
And that's why people who say feminists are taking these things out of context are full of shit: Debasement of women is the context.
Relatedly, how often do we talk about men's bodies in a separate context from talking about the men themselves? How often is a distance constructed between men's bodies and their identities, their very personhood?
Meanwhile, all the different strands of political misogyny—"traditional family," rape-apologism, purity balls, anti-choice—have in common a disconnect between women's bodies and their identities. To reiterate the line that sparked off this post, women's bodies are treated in our culture like facilities—toolkits, devices, things to be used. And what are women in this view?
"Traditional family" espouses submission to the husband/father figure and service to husband and children; rape apologism talks about carelessness or dressing wrongly, and necessarily treats the female body as public property; purity balls talk about, well, purity, and the female body being kept pristine until a man has use for it; anti-choice talks about babies and the female body's forced subjugation to bearing them.
All of them claim not to be limiting the rights of women, but merely to be exhorting women to behave "properly." I look at that, and think "staff." If a woman's body is a facility, then the woman herself is the receptionist (responsible for overseeing access to it) and janitor (responsible for keeping it clean and decorated); and the "perk" is that she gets to use it whenever no one else needs it.