Bettie Page, Feminism and Me

I am not a great feminist. In fact many people would not only state that as obvious, they would also maintain that I am not a feminist at all. And certainly a look at the many definitions of the word would make that a plausible argument. But that doesn’t mean that feminism isn’t important to me and that working to be a more well rounded respectful human being is important to me (contrary to the mounds of evidence that speak in volumes against such notions).

We could, but we won’t, talk long and hard about my education in feminism. Needless to say I consider my education being made up of a lot of life lessons in experience. Such as a conversation I had this weekend. I was out at a bar with a friend of mine. She’s fairly new in town and she stated that she didn’t go out much. I asked her why, and she said she didn’t like to go out alone, to explore this city without friends. And rather matter of factly she said that life had reinforced for her that as a woman, it wasn’t safe for her to go out, that she should be careful and that the world was dangerous. She said in essence that a lifetime of that type of thinking can cripple a person. Which isn’t surprising, but it sure as hell made me sad. Like an idiot I asked her what we could do about it. Which is to say, what can I do about it? I mean how do you tell a person that the world is not as scary and threatening when that is what they have believed their whole life? You can’t exactly go out with them, to let them know the world is not this overbearing threatening place. The worst part is, she’s not the first woman who has shared similar feelings on life. What underlies these feelings of fear of course is that men are predators. There is a significant truth to that. Masculinity is a strange, often violent bird. And surely it’s a fear of being attacked that perpetuates some of the fear and uneasiness women feel in our culture. Again, how can I attempt to illustrate that these are exceptions and not neccisarily the rule? Especially when it clearly doesn’t seem that way. For all I know the world really is that fucking scary. the state of oblivious is not all that unfamiliar to me after all.

Bettie Page has past away. And this for me is very sad. Like many a young men and women, Bettie Page spoke to me. Surely she was very beautiful. Surely she had an essence of grand sexuality portrayed through her work. And she will remain in history as a very interesting charachter in history.

For me I think I came across Bettie Page in college. I was immediately transfixed on her amazing smile that was always present in her work. And while I am aware of the taboo nature of a lot of her work as it emerged, there was an innocence of humanity present. In her passing I read an appreciation that stated she normalized the abnormal expressions of sexuality. I was really appauled by this because there is nothing abnormal present in any of the work I have seen. Again, it’s a question of context, but I exist in the world of extreme and violent depictions of women in regular media, let alone the subversive world of pornography. It’s hard to have hindsight in certain situations. But I digress here. I find Bettie Page very empowering, even when she is bound or gaged. I think sub/dom play speaks volumes to ideas about stress in, and control over our lives. If sexual espressions emerge in this manner, and they are safe and concentual, I think sub/dom play serve a very important function in our society and are hardly abnormal. Which isn’t to say I get it or understand these manifestations completely, but I recognize they are neccessary for some people.

Of course bondage, especially images of women bound and tourtued by anyone speaks deeply to a social psychology that is disturbing. Weather a person understands how pain can be a pleasurable release it doesn’t negate that we are creating all these depictions of the torture of women as a means of sexual titilation. This shit is dangerous in the wrong hands. It could be argued that it is damaging even in the right hands. This of course includes people who don’t understand concepts of control and role play and just enjoy seeing women being torutured, but it also reinforces this idea that women are some how weak. This should not be confused for any condemnation of anyone that willingly participates in this art, either as actor/actress or director/artisan. However, I can certainly undrstand how someone with a certain point of view could see something like this and be horrified to reinforce negative views on secuality, propegating men as predator, propegating a sense of inferiority in women who don’t express themselves in more traditional masculine ways. Domination is a heavy world to navigate., even if you do feel well equiped to handle such things.

So I live with these conflicts daily. And as a self proclaimed feminist I acknoledge that there are a great deal of contradictions in my life. But I am a strong beliver in the duality of our humanness. We do have to negotiate our sexuality and our roles within that against a greater amount of problems in the the world, in our societies and in our heads. This is a daunting and overwhelming task, which I think for a lot of people just crushes their willingness to struggle and they relent one way or another towards some radical direction.

It will probably do me some good in my life to read more about the history and philosophies of different feminists. I am some times very overwhelmed and saddned when I do dealve into this world and at thirty, it’s something I have probably avioded for a little too long since my days of college. I think though now, I have enough grounding that it won’t be so debilitating. I wish to contribute to a world where everyone feels as free as I do, to explore, to adventure and just wonder aimlessly around the landscapes they find themselves in. We live in a mostly beautiful, mostly amazing world. We just happen to do a devestating amount of really terrible fucking things to each other. And while I have to negotiate my actions against my beleifs, I feel much greater ability to defend the contradictions then I used to. I also have a lot more confidence in taking responsibility for my inherit fuckedupedness and recognize the responsibilities and the roles that I have inherited or accepted.

I welcome comments and criticsim to this. These are ideas, and they have the power to be shaped and nurtured, but I can’t both produce the seeds and tend to the fields myself. Please feel free to leave your mark on this one.

Much love to all.

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