Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympic Bathrooms: Casinha Grande e Senzala?

Nick Trask
has some delightful commentary on Sochi bathroom hotels:

"On Sochi hotel toilets: Žižek was right that differences among toilets convey national ideologies. In this case: hastily and shoddily put together to impress Westerners, but also not giving a fuck because fuck Westerners!

'It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a pos
t-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.'"

Brazilian Olympic planners should take this into consideration: you can jail dissidents, kill stray dogs, beat prostitutes, torture gays, evict poor communities at the point of the police baton and the Western media will still give you the benefit of the doubt.

Fuck with the journalists' shitters, however, and you'll have a PR disaster on your hands.

It's going to be fun to see how these same people react to Rio in six months time.

Here, toilets are completely schizophrenic.

Some rival anything in the first world for comfort and convenience, at least outwardly. Most, however, are cracked and stained, lacking seats, and can't reliably swallow toilet paper.

Even in the best bathrooms, however, where no expense has been spared to convince guests that they are crapping in civilized comfort, problems are routine. Brazilian plumbers have apparently never heard of S-traps, so sewer gas will frequently waft up from below. And, for some reason, bathroom builders here often have a hard time anchoring toilets to the floor. As you lean over to go for the paper, you'll thus often find yourself wobbling precariously on your porcelain throne.

Brazilian bathroom behavior is even more revealing. Many men display their patriarchical contempt for the (often literally) shitty accomodations by walking to the door of the commode and letting loose with a spray in the general direction of the bowl.

Meanwhile, women (educated from childhood on that the vagina is the sacred repository of the family's honor and should never be sullied by public exposure) often decide to perch on top of the toilet bowl, planting their feet on it and crouching to do their business (which might explained why the fixtures so commonly come unanchored in this country).

In spite of the fact that the Russians invented the name, however, Rio has had much more practice at building Potemkin Villages, so we'll see how many of these hard-boiled seekers of truth get fooled.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and the construction of benevolent personalities through virtual lynching

Captain John Alden, denounced as a witch by a child, Salem Massachusetts, 1693

By Thaddeus (Ana Paula does not want to be associated with anything that has to do with the Farrow/Allen debate)

Here's the problem: Dylan Farrow was certainly abused. The question was, who did it?

In spite of all the emotions that are running very high on this issue, we know for a fact that not all child-abuse accusations are true, especially when they are made by 7 year old children with emotional problems who are caught in the middle of extremely ligitiious divorces.

Memories can indeed be manipulated and implanted. We know that for a fact. In fact, we admit that every time we accept that someone remembered child sexual abuse after twenty years of denying it.

And kids can indeed be manipulated into telling false stories of sexual abuse. This has happened many times. The people who were falsely accused of raping children during the 1990s "ritual satanic abuse" panic are only getting out of jail now and there are people who were child witnesses back then who STILL believe that the stories they said were true.

Kids can indeed be manipulated. If they are in a psychological environment which supports the false stories, they can believe them for their whole lives. We know this is true because this is precisely what happens when a child sexual abuse survivor is brainwashed to accept, whole-heartedly, a story that nothing ever happened.

It's not up to me to say whether or not Woody Allen is guilty, at 20 year remove, via FB. What I will say is that I feel there's just as likely a probability that Dylan Farrow was abused by her mother as by her father. I'm thus not really sympathetic when people say I HAVE to believe that Allen is a kiddie fiddler because otherwise there's a chance I'm supporting a child abuser.

If the child psych experts were correct in their analysis, then Mia Farrow was the abuser. Could they have made a mistake? Yes, they could have. But take a moment to think that they might just as possibly have been right about the case and that if this is true, uncritically accepting Farrow's story would thus also be supporting a child abuser.

Whom I support is Dylan Farrow. I think she was abused and needs all the aid she can get. What I have my doubts about are whether or not her memories of that abuse are what really occurred.

This raises a lot of emotions because too often, abused people are NOT listened to and their experiences are dismissed out of hand. But that is not what occurred in this case. Dylan Farrow's story wasn't ignored: it was investigated at the time by a board of very competent child psych specialists who were appointed by the court. Their professional opinion was that Farrow was being unduly influenced by her mother, that her story was inconsistent, that she had a difficult time distinguishing fact from fantasy and that there was no other evidence to corroborate the claims that abuse had occurred. Farrow had excellent in-court suppot. The judge was sympathetic to her. The prosecuter was so notoriously sympathetic that he was officially investigated for misconduct.

This is not a case where a child's accusations were dismissed out of hand or where she was told to shut up by everyone she loved.

I disagree that a charge of sexual abuse of children is notoriously easy to defeat, as far too many people are claiming. There are many people who have gone to jail over false charges and the legal and social repercussions of even a unsuccessful attempt to acuse someone of child abuse can be crippling.

I also know, for a fact, that the worst witch hunts have always been those carried out in the name of protecting innocent children. These often use children's accusations as the "proof" needed to lynch. Two excellent examples of this are the Salem Witch Hunts and anti-semitic blood libel.

It is PRECISELY because child sexual abuse is so serious and so prevalent that we cannot treat accusations of it as ipso facto proof, putting on three ring circuses where we're all invited to create benevolent identities for ourselves through the expedient of lynching monsters.

I will go to my grave insisting on some evidence to back up charges of misconduct, sexual or otherwise. The word of a self-proclaimed victim - no matter how photogenic that person might be, no matter how desperate his or her story - is simply not enough, on its own, to condemn someone of a serious crime.

Defriend me if you like, but I've seen as much abuse created by presumptions of guilt without proof as I've seen created by closeted, all-powerful pedophiles.

Blood Libel: painting adorning Sandomierz Cathedral, Poland

In the context of this on-going debate, I've been thinking about Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. If you've read it, you'll probably recall when the anonymous heroine, offred, goes to an officially sponsored lynching of an accused rapist. Offred and the other "handmaids", who are the most objectified, sexually oppressed citizens of the Evangelical Christian State of Gilead, are invited into the stadium to tear the accused apart with their own hands.

Offred participates enthusiastically and then, on her way home, contemplates how society has neatly directed her anger towards her own oppression into a means of supporting its precepts.

Abortion rights are being pushed back everywhere in the world. Female poverty is at an all-time high. Reproductive care? Claim you have a right to it and Congressmen will call you a slut in front of the nation. Sex work is criminalized even though we all know full well that the police are sex workers' worst abusers. The sacrosanct Family is being represented as the cure-all for every female complaint. Meanwhile, rape and abuse continue unabated.

But hell, let's get socially lynch someone who the courts cleared two decades ago and for which no evidence against has surfaced since. Let's simultaneously claim the courts are patriarchical and hate women and minorities while clamoring for more and harsher laws, more police powers and demanding that accusations be seen as proof, in and of themselves. And we'll justify all this by recourse to our own exploitation and victimhood. Because we were abused - or know someone who has been abused - Woody Allen must be guilty.

That's what the emotionalities in this case are apparently boiling down to: fuck proof. My pain is all the proof I need to call for another human being's lynching.