Ke$ha, naked ladies in France and the 1893 World’s Fair

Matt recently told me about Ke$ha’s new video, “Take It Off,” with the caveat that it is, if possible, worse than “TiK ToK.”  At first I wasn’t going to watch it, but it exerted a pull upon me not unlike that of a horrible accident on the side of the highway.  And then I was glad I had, because it’s intellectually interesting, if aurally assaulting:

If you have spent any time in an American elementary school, you will immediately recognize the tune: it’s “The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid,” aka the “Hootchy Cootchy Song,” aka “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance/There’s a hole in the wall where the boys can see it all…”

But rather than naked ladies in France, there is apparently a place downtown where the freaks all come around–it’s a hole in the wall, it’s a dirty free-for-all where the preferred accessory is a water bottle full of whiskey in one’s purse.  There is also glitter on the floor.

Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of the history of the melody: originally written for, or at least best known for its early appearance at, the 1893 World’s Fair (which took place just a few blocks from me!), it served as the music for two belly dancers (I don’t love this term, but I don’t know a better one) who appeared at said fair.  An alternate theory about the origins of the tune posits that it is related to one of several Algerian melodies that perhaps migrated to France in the context of the colonial encounter in Maghrebi Africa.

The ethnographic excursions at this fair were bound up in all the colonialist/Orientalist nonsense that was in full swing at the time, and long story short, this tune has since been frequently used to depict salacious “exotic”/Arab/North African female behavior of the kind that frequently shows up in Orientalist film, music, opera, literature, visual art, and so forth.  Think “Sheherazade,” harems, a dirtier version of Disney’s Aladdin, etc.  You’ve probably heard it in any form of media that wants to quickly depict deserts, sexy dancing girls, “the Orient,” snake charmers, and all the usual stereotypes.

Interestingly, Ke-dollar sign-ha positions herself in a highly sexualized, somewhat “exotic” role in this video (and in her public self-representations more generally).  She “goes hardcore,” wears clothes that fall on the unconventional end of the normal spectrum, frequently acts like a wild animal (that hair!  crawling around on the desert floor!  ripped clothes! that eye makeup!  think of the children!) and portrays herself as an out-of-control, trashy-as-all-get-out partier (this is now her second song where she’s referenced doing things with whiskey–using it as toothpaste and carrying bottles around in her purse–that fall firmly in the realm of “alcoholism”).

I also find her evocation (intentional or not) of the Hindu holiday of Holi really fascinating (and problematic), especially in the context of the “Hootchy Cootchy Song.”  One of the primary customs observed for Holi is the throwing of colored powders and water, just as Ke$ha, et al do in this video.  Somewhat like Purim and Carnival, Holi is festive and the world is a bit topsy-turvy for a set period of time as the forces of good/order and evil/chaos battle it out (good and order, of course, eventually win out).  This is, of course, a massive oversimplification, and you should go read about it if you’re interested, but it gets the job done for the point I’m making.

So, what are the implications of linking this exoticizing, Orientalist, sort of salacious song with Hindu religious customs and bratty female-rock-star behavior that tries to be convention-defying but (at least to my mind) ends up being trashy and boring?  I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think I’m down with it.

Sometimes I worry about spending my life in academia…

I just finished reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology, a major work of “criticism.”  I’m not going to comment on my thoughts about the substance of the book itself, because to quote my dad and grandfather, it’s not prudent to get into a pissing match with a skunk.

I just wanted to point out that the following blurb is on the back of the book (I have the 1998 corrected edition, the English translation by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak) and that it makes me die a little inside to be a member of a world where this is considered some kind of meaningful praise (up there on the back cover with “One of the major works in the development of contemporary criticism and philosophy.” from J. Hillis Miller of Yale University):

Of Grammatology is the tool-kit for anyone who wants to empty the ‘presence’ out of any text he has taken a dislike to.  A handy arsenal of deconstructive tools are to be found in its pages, and the technique, once learnt, is as simple, and as destructive, as leaving a bomb in a brown paper bag outside (or inside) a pub. –Roger Poole, Notes and Queries

Participation, the Wauwatosa casserole brigade, and the notion of gospel brunch

A few weeks back, Matt and I went to gospel brunch at the Chicago branch of the House of Blues.  For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, gospel brunch is exactly that: you go to a brunch event at which a gospel group performs.  I don’t remember how we alighted on this as an option when we were trying to think of a performing arts event to go to, but alight upon it we did, both because we like gospel and because we thought it would be sociologically interesting.

As we made our way up to the near north side, we tried to guess what it would be like, who would be there and how they might react to or interpret gospel.  At first, with no prior knowledge of how gospel brunches work, we thought that the audience might be predominantly black; when we got there, we were surprised to see that not only was the audience predominantly white, but that the audience seemed primarily composed of white tourist types who looked very much like the soccer moms and Lutheran casserole brigade of my hometown, Wauwatosa, WI.  (Not that I’m knocking Tosans–I say this in a loving way!  But, you know, some of my friends like to refer to it as “Comatosa.”)

We waited in the lobby for a long time before we were allowed to go in and sit (which I thought odd); the food was served buffet-style, and was in my opinion pretty darn good although lacking in vegetarian options (unnecessary bacon in things, always so frustrating); and then we all sat down for the show.  The bandleader, of the group William Smith Jr. and the Renewed Voices for Christ, opened by introducing the group and welcoming everyone to the “ecumenical church of…” and listed just about every religion under the sun.  The music was fantastic, in my opinion: they had a mixed choir, a drummer, and an organist; all the musicians were truly excellent at what they did; the arrangements were tight and energetic; the repertoire selection was good, etc.  I bought their CD and have listened to it a couple times.

What I was really interested in was the interaction between the musicians and the audience.  The bandleader was really good about trying to have the audience participate, exhorting us to clap, sway, dance, sing responsorial phrases, and at one point had a couple people come up on stage and mock-conduct.  Here’s where things got awkward.

In my past experience (having a preschool teacher who was an excellent singer and did gospel with us, and doing fieldwork in a Jamaican Pentecostalist church, as well as going to various friends’ churches here and there), gospel is a participatory musical form: although there are designated “musicians” or “performers” in the church setting, everyone joins in one way or another, by clapping, singing along, pulling out a tambourine, dancing, or just active, engaged listening.  Those who raised their hand when the band asked who had been to gospel events before seemed to know this.  Matt and I, the family next to us, and various other small groups scattered throughout the crowd had no problem clapping, waving our hands, dancing or singing as we felt moved.

However, the casserole brigade folks were painfully reticent, to the confusion of the bandleader.  At first I chalked it up to the combination of intercultural awkwardness, perceived lack of musical knowledge on the part of the audience, or the desire to eat rather than participate in the goings-on.

A few days earlier, I had begun to read Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation, by ethnomusicologist Tom Turino.  In this book, he introduces a four-part classification scheme for all musical types that I think is really useful: 1) participatory traditions, musics in which there is no distinction between performer and audience, such as, for example, the traditional Andean music that he studies, or Irish session music, and many more; 2) presentational traditions, such as European classical music; 3) high-fidelity recording, or recording that tries its best to capture an audio event accurately; and 4) studio audio art, or recorded music that does not pretend to have any fidelity to acoustically produced sound, such as computer-generated music.

What I realized about the gospel brunch after reading this book is that the very notion of the gospel brunch seeks to use a participation-based tradition in a presentational setting.  In my experience, gospel tends to run along a spectrum of participation: at one end is the model where the entire church participates in singing gospel hymns, a completely participatory experience; in the middle is the setup I mentioned earlier, where there are designated musicians but the churchgoers actively participate in “secondary” ways; and at the more presentational end of the spectrum, commercial gospel concerts where the audience nonetheless is often actively and physically engaged.  This expectation of a participatory experience is what conditioned me and those few others who did clap and sing along at the brunch.

However, Turino also makes the point that, in contemporary American culture, especially urban and suburban culture, the majority of the music we know is presentational or falls into one of the two recorded categories.  The average American musical experience includes attending concerts at which audience participation is somewhat limited (perhaps restricted to cheering or clapping) and purchasing recorded music.  The only participatory moments that many of us have might be at our preferred place of worship or if we happen to be musicians ourselves, which is not terribly common.

I realized that the people who seemed awkward probably came in with the expectation of having a presentational musical experience: the gospel group performs during brunch, and they expect to sit and appreciate it rather than participate directly, as they had probably been trained to do in other musical settings.  The difference between the varied sets of expectations was probably a major cause of the stiffness and tension.

After all, I grew up in the same kind of environment that I am assuming many of these folks came from–so why did I feel comfortable clapping and singing where others might not have?  It seems to me that the answer lies in my particular set of musical experiences, arrived at somewhat randomly: if I had had a different preschool teacher, or chosen not to take the course “Field Methods in Ethnomusicology” during the semester in which it had been decided that we would all do fieldwork in a particular type of church, I would not have known what to do or felt comfortable doing it, given that the majority of my musical training as both performer and audience member has been within the context of the highly presentational tradition of European classical music.

To me, this insight gives some hope.  Rather than attributing the reluctance to participate on the part of the white folks in the casserole brigade to racial issues, or to some inherent rhythmic deficiencies that people joke about white people having,

it’s about our exposure to diverse musical traditions and the communities in which they are embedded that helps us develop ease and comfort with each other and with each other’s music.  Granted, this doesn’t take away the complexity with which these encounters are often fraught, but it does speak to the power of relationship-building, of sustained engagement with the unfamiliar, and of not being afraid to mess up.

I haven’t really addressed here the complex issues of putting historically black musical traditions on display for paying white audiences, a topic that’s highly fraught.  I admit that the situation made me uncomfortable at first, especially because it brought up the specter of gospel tourism, something I’ve previously discussed: the increasing trend of white people going on tours of black gospel churches, gawking at what they seem to consider a primitive spectacle put on for their benefit.  In my previous post, I expressed my belief that learning about new kinds of music is a good thing, and building respectful relationships with members of the communities that make that music is also a good thing, but that objectifying and exploiting people is obviously not.

I would rather have a bunch of white suburban folks pay to go to a gospel event that is designated as a commercial performance–thus ensuring the consent and fair compensation of the performers, and not turning an overtly participatory event into an overtly presentational one–than go to a gospel church as a tourist.  The gospel brunch setup seems more fair.  The House of Blues setup is a space designated for controlled, consensual spectacle, as it were.  In this context, I felt that it was okay.

The final point that Matt and I pondered was, what is the motivation for tourists to come to a gospel brunch?  We went out of curiosity as to how such an event works, and a love of gospel, but we’re not tourists; it was something to do on a Sunday morning in the city in which we live.  We came up with a couple hypotheses:

  • If you’re a tourist, you have to eat on Sunday morning, and why not go to a brunch that also has some music?
  • White Americans have long been both fascinated with and scared of African-American culture, especially music.  Chicago is well-known for its excellence in several musical styles rooted in the African-American musical tradition: blues and jazz, among others.  Rather than going to a jazz or blues club on a weekend evening in a predominantly black neighborhood, which might not be considered “safe,” or a predominantly black church, which offers a very different worship model than your average white Lutheran church, the House of Blues, a corporate chain barely out of the Loop, presents a way of engaging with gospel that feels safer, easier and more comfortable–it’s perceived as just like going to any other concert.

So, in conclusion: stepping out of our comfortable molds is difficult.  People may not know the behavior that is expected of them, or the setting may conflate conflicting sets of behavioral expectations (which I think was part of the difficulty at the House of Blues).  Unfortunately, our society prescribes such rigid racial/ethnic/cultural boundaries that we often have few if any tools at our disposal when we want to try something new, much less build relationships with those who are not like us in one way or another.  On the one hand, an experience like this gospel brunch can reify some of these boundaries; on the other, it’s a better alternative for allowing people to begin to engage with new cultural experiences than gospel tourism.  This is compounded by the fact that American culture does not teach us how to behave in participatory musical settings, such that many people feel awkward and ashamed about their perceived lack of musical ability despite their desire to try to participate.

What could some solutions be?  Nothing simple, I’m afraid.  A true solution would have to encompass a vast and concerted effort to combat the racism that still lingers in our culture, and a similarly large-scale effort to build participatory music-making, and music education, into daily life.  In the meantime, conscious attempts at self-education and relationship-building, in both areas, would go a long way.

Wyclef Jean’s presidential bid

Some ethnomusicologist better get on this story asap.  Diasporism, Caribbean studies, music and national identity, global hip-hop, the music business, it’s all here…

Ethnomusicology as a practice of freedom?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot of works lately that deal with the histories of anthropology and ethnomusicology.  I’ve also recently begun the second book in bell hooks‘ trilogy on education, Teaching Community.

The history of ethnography, in short, is a story of its use as an instrument of domination and oppression, the realization of this and a desire to turn away from it, and subsequently attempts at creating new ways of writing and thinking to avoid the re-inscription of domination.  While the original means of producing and using ethnography were pretty horrible, the last several decades of challenging the ways in which we represent other people have been productive, courageous and incredibly necessary.  A lot of good things have come out of this challenge, these re-thinkings; I’m convinced that there is now a good-sized body of work that does very little or nothing to reify the oppression inherent, and even desired, in earlier eras of ethnography.

However, as I read hooks, and try to digest her notions of “education as the practice of freedom,” I’m not convinced that leaving the smallest footprint of oppression possible is the right way of thinking about doing ethnography and ethnomusicology–and I’m not convinced that new ways of writing about the ethnographic experience can go all the way in flattening power relationships.  Two major changes need to be made (and I want to stipulate that I know of some people, and I’m sure there are many more out there, who are making these changes as individuals–but this needs to be done on a disciplinary level):

  • Ethnomusicologists, and ethnographers more generally, need to think about how the research experience itself, and not just our models of writing, can be inherently liberating; and
  • We need to go beyond trying not to act in oppressive ways in our research, to actively undoing systems of oppression (whether within ethnography or in the world more generally) in our research and in our writing.

In my experience, limited as it is, most ethnomusicologists I know are truly committed to feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, etc. points of view and have every intention of making their work reflect these commitments; it’s taboo in the discipline as a whole not to espouse these beliefs at some level.  But what I would like to see is not just a verbal commitment to these ideals.

Instead of asking how we can make ethnomusicology as it stands more feminist, anti-racist, etc., we need to start from the bottom up and ask, what would a liberating and liberated practice of the study of music as embedded in sociocultural processes look like? Continue reading

I’m a hemophiliac and I support lifting the ban on blood donations from gay men

Here is the first of the non-music posts I warned you about yesterday.  I’ll keep it short, but this is important.

In yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, an article buried in the front section summarized the latest in the debate around blood donation policy.  As most of you probably know, various categories of “high-risk” people are currently forbidden from donating blood or have to wait a certain length of time since their last incidence, generally a year, to donate blood.  These categories include intravenous drug users, people who have gotten tattoos within the past year, people who have traveled to countries where certain diseases are prevalent, and men who engage in anal intercourse with other men (MSM).

These restrictions are meant well: many of these behaviors put people at risk for blood-borne illness, which, obviously, we don’t want in our blood supply.  And many of these categories were created under sound scientific reasoning: IV drug use, for example, is one of the riskiest behaviors in which people can engage.

The ban on MSMs may have been sound in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was rampant in the gay community, the disease and its control were poorly understood, and medical technology for screening blood was relatively primitive.  Now, however, the ban is outdated and discriminatory, for several reasons:

  • HIV/AIDS is no longer confined to any one group of people.  In fact, heterosexuals represent the fastest-growing category of new HIV diagnoses.  Therefore, to single out one group of donors for a lifetime ban is discriminatory and not supported by scientific evidence.
  • Behaviors that are far riskier than anal intercourse (especially safe anal intercourse, with condoms and monogamous partners), such as IV drug use, are restricted less severely.  A man who has EVER had sex with another man since 1977–even if he tests negative for every disease in the book and has always practiced safe sex–cannot donate blood. A man who has only had sex with women could, in theory, donate blood if he had been an IV drug user more than a year ago, and could donate blood even if he did not observe safe sex practices–both of which put this hypothetical man at great risk for carrying blood-borne disease.  Even heterosexuals who have had sex with a known carrier of HIV only have to wait one year to donate blood.
  • Medical technology has advanced to the point where we can screen all donated blood–no matter its source–for diseases.  In fact, this happens regularly, because people lie about all kinds of risk factors when they donate blood.  No HIV infections from donated blood have been reported since at least 2002, and possibly earlier.

I was especially saddened to read that major hemophilia advocacy groups have been pushing to keep the ban on MSM donation in place, despite mounting scientific evidence that, as I’ve described, it’s unnecessary.  Many of you reading this are probably aware that I have an atypical form of von Willebrand disease, a mild type of hemophilia; it bothers me deeply that advocacy groups purporting to speak for my best interests are perpetuating discrimination at the federal level in the process.

It’s especially shocking when one considers that we always seem to have blood bank shortages.  The thought that we are turning down potentially-lifesaving donations on the basis of pure bigotry is unconscionable to me.

Here’s what I’d like to see, both as a hemophiliac who understands the importance of keeping the blood supply safe, and as someone who supports full equality for people of all sexual orientations:

  • A scientific review of all risk factors for blood-borne pathogens AND a scientifically-rigorous analysis of how long someone must wait after engaging in said risky behaviors for donated blood to be reasonably safe;
  • A donor screening process that sorts people of all sexual orientations, and of other demographic groups, by actual risky behavior (i.e., not using barrier protection during sex, no matter who you are) rather than by a personal characteristic that is perceived to be risky (i.e., being a gay man); and
  • Further research into testing and securing the post-donation blood supply so that, in the event that someone with a blood-borne pathogen did donate blood, we would be able to catch it and keep all donated blood safe for all recipients.

Hemophilia advocacy groups do NOT speak for my medical needs and for my beliefs when they perpetuate discriminatory practices against the gay community.

Torture music redux

After a two-week hiatus, ettg is back!

Wayne Marshall over at wayneandwax and Ben Tausig over at Weird Vibrations have both recently taken up the role of sound in U.S. military and police operations.  While I checked out the role of music in torture a while back, these gentlemen are investigating another, potentially more-harmful phenomenon: the use of sound as physical force to control protesters and crowds–not to mention warfare.  Just as Joshua was able to bring down the walls of Jericho with ear-splitting trumpet blasts (see the incomparable Mahalia Jackson’s explanation below), the vibrations that are the essence of sound can cause severe damage at high decibel levels.

During the recent G20 protests in Pittsburgh, police used sound cannons (aka LRADs, Long Range Acoustic Devices) to disperse and control the protesters.  These weapons are capable of producing sound that is intensely focused and well above the human threshold of pain, thus running the risk of producing permanent hearing loss in those targeted by the weapon.  Weird Vibrations breaks down the questionable use of these devices:

This is something of a loophole in the ethical treatment of protesters – the human body cannot tolerate sound in excess, but exposure leaves no (visible) scars. Perhaps in a wiser moment, we’ll take stock of the emotional distress such conditions can produce, of the long-term hearing loss that can occur with misuse of the machines, of potentially dangerous levels of stress, and of the disturbing political asymmetry such technology facilitates between a government and its citizens. But for now, sound cannons are perfectly legal.

LRADs operate in the threshold between normal listening, where vibration is mild enough that we experience sound as essentially immaterial, and where we can readily pay attention to communicative and aesthetic content (music, language, texture), and extreme sonic exposure, where vibration is felt as a force throughout the body. The sound cannon is far enough along this spectrum that we react involuntarily to its painful volume, but not so far along that we lose life or limb. It’s pretty brilliant, in a mad scientist kind of way.

wayneandwax expands the conversation by reminding us that sound is an inherently physical medium, though we do not always perceive it that way under normal conditions–that extreme frequencies and decibel levels can pass right through us, moving us (and not in the metaphorical sense!) and shaking up our insides until we’re severely messed up.

These two concepts taken together–torture music and sound as weapon–will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to folks who think music is just about aesthetics and emotional expression: though we’d like to think some things are incorruptible and without inherent meaning, that’s just not the case.  Keep your eyes open for how music can be used in questionable ways–and bring a pair of these along to your next protest in case they bring out the LRADs.

Taqwacore

Like Jewish hip hop, Muslim punk or “taqwacore” is about finding one’s place at the intersection of a global religion and a nation-state in which that religion is in the minority.  I’ve heard of taqwacore a few times before, but it seems to be getting more buzz lately and I thought it was worth a shout-out.

Taqwacore as such is the brainchild of a guy called Michael Muhammad Knight, a convert to Islam who became disillusioned with his faith and, in 2003, published a novel called The Taqwacores in which a bunch of Muslim kids who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else move into a house together and do their own thing.  (Basically just like parts of West Philly, but plus Islam and probably more fun…anyway.)

The novel inspired a full-fledged genre of Muslim punk music, which is becoming more and more successful all the time; most of the music deals with issues of concern to American Muslims and generally sounds like regular punk music with a few nods to Arab influence here and there.  The musicians conceive of themselves as

stoking the revolution – against traditionalists in their own communities and against the clichés forced upon them from the outside – “we’re giving the finger to both sides,” says one Taqwacore. “Fuck you and fuck you.”

Here’s a review of an Al-Thawra concert earlier this year. As an aside that should be developed further at some point, I think it’s pretty interesting that this is (to my knowledge) the only music scene that has grown almost entirely out of an imaginary group of music-makers in a fictional work.  It’s almost too pomo to be happening in real life.

Unlike Jewish hip hop (which is the topic of my current research hence my constant reference to it), which tries very hard to contextualize itself within and connect itself to both mainstream American society and to the larger Jewish diaspora, taqwacore seems to be more about individual identity–more about asserting oneself against the larger Muslim and American communities.  (Not that there aren’t elements of both in each style.)  I don’t always like the strident individualism in the punk ethos, but I think in this case it can be really valuable for members of a community who are often seen by other Americans, and by the media, as monolithic, dogmatic and obedient (especially women).

Taqwacores don’t unproblematically identify as Muslim; they have many different views on the practice of Islam, on American culture, on music, and how they deal with all of the above and more.  They’re also really savvy about speaking for themselves–check out the Taqwacore Webzine–and seem to be making room for themselves and their unique take on American Muslim identity.  Perhaps their paradoxical “shared sense of isolation” will be the tension driving a new way of thinking about Islam in the American public sphere.  We can hope, right?

Rush vs. Jay-Z: Is talk radio gangsta rap for angry white men?

David Segal has an interesting breakdown in yesterday’s New York Times comparing right-wing talk show hosts to rappers, especially gangsta rappers.  He admits that both groups would probably not be happy to be compared to the other, and I agree, but I still think he has a point.

Segal argues that four key things are necessary for success in both fields: an enormous ego that you’re not shy about discussing; haters; feuds with others in your field; and verbal skills, especially an ability for improvisation and free-association.  This is true, but not the most profound analysis–yet.

Segal then describes how rap can be among the most politically conservative of genres: that it “exalts capitalism and entrepreneurship with a brio that is typically considered Republican.”  And so do Rush, Glenn Beck, et al.

Rap loves the Second Amendment; right-wing talk radio fans are probably the kind of people who made gun sales spike right after the 2008 elections.

Both rap and talk radio regularly assert that criminals cannot be reformed–but “gangsta rappers often identify themselves as the criminals, and are proud of their unreformability.”

And

Finally, rappers and conservative talkers both speak for a demographic that believes its interests and problems have been slighted and both offer stories that have allegedly been ignored.

Obviously, there are limits to all these parallels, but there is one more worth noting: rap has inspired its share of fear and now, liberals and moderates are asking the same question about conservative talk radio that conservatives have long asked about rap: How dangerous is it?

Interestingly (with respect to the first paragraph of the quote) rap was often referred to as “black TV” in its early days for its timeliness and opinionated, sometimes paranoid take on current events.  Anyway, I will admit that I am much more scared of Glenn Beck’s followers than those who listen to Ludacris (notwithstanding the fact that I’m in the latter category), but perhaps that’s just the socialist-health-care-loving left-winger in me talking.

Anyway, I think that overall Segal’s right on here.  I would have been interested in a little more gender analysis, though.  It is well-documented that gangsta rap is (at least partially) about working out a very specific kind of masculinity in the face of oppression or perceived oppression–a tough, heterosexual, homophobic, muscular, violent, self-sufficient masculinity.

This has not been as studied in the case of right-wing talk radio, but anecdotally, it seems to serve the same purpose for angry white men.  In fact, Rush Limbaugh is well-known for tasteless rape jokes, Glenn Beck has made misogynistic remarks about women’s looks and a host of other things, and Michael Savage has stated that “any heterosexual woman today over the age of 25 who grew up in America is basically a dominatrix.  You ask any heterosexual guy” as well as making some nasty transphobic comments.  (Note, I find it interesting that Ann Coulter, who doesn’t have a talk show but who is a public figure who says a lot of similar things, is often characterized as “mannish.”  Perhaps we are picking up on this gender work going on in right-wing media, albeit in a sexist way.)

And this doesn’t take into account the xenophobia, pro-gun and pro-war positions, and other macho and bigoted things that come out of these guys’ mouths.  They are constructing a notion of white American masculinity that is even more unappealing than gangsta rap’s portrait of black American masculinity.  Men can do better!

Random oddity: Madonna in Israel

All respect to Madonna for her groundbreaking stuff in the 1980s, but I’m kind of sick of hearing about her now.  And I’m also wondering why she is meeting with top Israeli politicians…she’s on tour there and everything, and has visited some Jewish sites (presumably as part of her dubious “kabbalah study” interest) but I don’t see what she and Tzipi Livni could really have to talk about that’s of import.

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