PCS Not Privatization

The news about the recent protests against the newly elected Tory (Scum) government has drawn attention across the pond to just how fucked this conglomerate of corporate creeps will be. All indicators point to them seeking to cut the heart and soul out of the arts in the UK (among every other public program).

RS21 recently covered the sacking of union badass, organizing extraordinaire Candy Udwin.  Candy who has made the fight for union rights, economic equality and worker power has led fights against austerity for the last several decades.

From the RS21 coverage, “National Gallery staff have taken a total of 23 days of strike action against the privatisation plans, which will affect 400 out of 600 staff, including those who ensure the security of the paintings and answer questions from the public. The campaign, which had continued for months, has won massive support, including from cultural figures like Ken Loach and Grayson Perry. As Polly Toynbee wrote in January, the National Gallery is the only national museum in London not paying the living wage. Staff working here from a commitment to making art accessible to people are to be transferred to a private sector firm interested only in profit – in the words of one staff member, 'I came to work at the National Gallery, but I could be transferred to a supermarket car park.'"

The union workers at the National Gallery are essential staff (unlike their administrators) providing care, assistance and expert knowledge within the museum setting. They are expected to execute perfect customer service, and perform the most menial to arduous tasks and unbelievably NOT at the LIVING WAGE. This seems less than shocking for a person such as myself who also does not earn a living wage in a museum work environment, however the fact that the National Gallery has somehow dodged the being-decent-bullet in ALL OF London’s cultural centers is fairly remarkable and disgusting. So kudos for being colossal assholes, museum board.

So take a moment to read up on what’s happening with Candy’s case and sign/share the petitions that are circulating for their cause. An attack on any worker is an attack on all workers. We gotta stop this Tory Scum before it spreads, demand an end to privatization and support cultural worker’s rights to organize!

"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte

These Be Her Very C's, Her U's and Her T's

I take it personally when people don’t get Shakespeare. This is something I am not very good about working on. I will outright judge you. Now, to be clear this is only in the case of those acting in the role of critic-pretending-to-know-Shakespeare. My current frustration lies with Chloe Riley of the Reader. Her latest review of Paul Pasulka’s play Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth seemed more like a personal morality beef than a thoughtful or critical theatre production review. Her chief concern was the “foul language” and a “cacophony of grunts” during the performance.

Really? I mean c’mon.

Chloe is dismayed because of the foul language in a play that takes its inspiration directly from the great mastermind of sexual innuendo. Second only to Chaucer perhaps in his use of genitalia jest, Shakespeare is known for his cunning tongue. All Pasulka did was update the vocabulary. Contemporizing Shakespeare results in as much. Jokes about sexual stamina, class position, and competence are commonplace. It’s Shakespeare. The language might get an update, but I can guarantee the up-skirt will remain. It’s Shakespeare.

For your humble consideration I submit the following:

The Taming of the Shrew: Act 2, Scene 1

PETRUCHIO

Who knows not where a wasp does
wear his sting? In his tail.

KATHERINE

In his tongue.

PETRUCHIO

Whose tongue?

KATHERINE

Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.

PETRUCHIO

What, with my tongue in your tail?

Othello: Act 1, Scene 1

IAGO

I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

Titus Andronicus: Act 4, Scene 2

CHIRON

Thou hast undone our mother.

AARON

Villain, I have done thy mother.

Much Ado About Nothing: Act 5, Scene 2

BENEDICK

I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be
buried in thy eyes.

Venus & Adonis (Ven. 233-234)

Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.

Okay let’s recap: we’ve got anal rimming, straight interracial sex, quite possibly the first ever "your mom" joke, reference to sexual climax, make out sessions and cunnilingus. And that’s just a minescule sampling of four plays and one poem. Chloe, our very own Master of the Revels, also took exception with the “grunting” and what she describes as “poorly performed” roles. I’ve seen some bad Shakespeare, and though I had my own thoughts about some of the casting, on the whole they understood and loved every minute of what they were performing. They used melodrama, and humor to convey and exaggerate meaning -- and it was successful. Pasulka’s playful use of the contemporary familiar, intermittent with the Elizabethan plot tropes was fun, new, and daring.

People are far too safe with Shakespeare, pedestaling it without a nod to the groundlings it was equally penned for. Our culture which privileges so-called "high art" over "low brow" art is the problem here. The things which have been allowed into the Canon, into the Ivory Towers of Academia, into museum institutions often get white-washed of their historical or popular context. That results in critics who take up this "high art" position, shaming and patronizing folks who are experimenting and reviving popular (i.e. of the people) theatre.

So please,

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.

And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnéd luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

     -- Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene 1

[Exit.]

"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte

Get Off My Clit!

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There is nothing inherently wrong with pornography. There is however, a lot, wrong with society. Like all cultural objects, the conditions under which they are produced: the labor involved, the exchange, exploitation and alienation have to be accorded. These conditions cannot be ignored, and rightfully should be questioned, but not at the expense of the humanity of those doing the producing. Not all cultural producers are working under the same conditions- some are actively challenging the systems of oppression in place that alienate ourselves from our own bodies, our desires and operate without our enthusiastic consent. Feminist porn does exist. Sex positivity is alive and well — and sex workers (contrary to popular belief) live out a myriad of experiences and do not need some sort of bullshit deus ex machina to swoop in and save us  we need to be trusted and our struggle respected.

There are some "feminists" who coincidentally are predominantly male-identifying that want us to associate shame, and terror with our labor as cultural workers who produce porn, erotica or participate in the sex trade. I feel like a broken record, but it bears repeating, stop telling women what we can and cannot do with our own bodies. I say women specifically here, because these men identifying ‘feminists’ practice total erasure when it comes to talking about the spectrum of identities that are affected by their criminalizing analysis.

I am referring to Chris Hedges and Robert Jensen, however the anti-sex worker ideas that they harbor reach far beyond these two individuals.

I wonder, when Jensen writes this (and Hedges quotes this), “Porn, like global capitalism, is where human beings are sent to die.” if they actually considered the real people that statements like these impact? Porn doesn’t make itself. Pornography is produced by people. People who are workers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons. It does bear mentioning that Jensen himself as an unapologetic transphobic bigot might have some difficulty grasping the concept that those who differ from himself deserve respect and justice. Still, it is expected by this author and cultural worker, that he do just that.

Hedges ejaculates in his recent piece, “A new wave of feminists, who have betrayed the iconic work of radicals such as Andrea Dworkin, defends porn as a form of sexual liberation and self-empowerment. These 'feminists,' grounded in Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, are stunted products of neoliberalism and postmodernism. Feminism, for them, is no longer about the liberation of women who are oppressed; it is defined by a handful of women who are successful, powerful and wealthy — or, as in the case of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' able to snag a rich and powerful man. A woman wrote the 'Fifty Shades' book, as well as the screenplay. A woman directed the film. A woman studio head bought the movie. This collusion by women is part of the internalization of oppression and sexual violence that have their roots in porn. Dworkin understood. She wrote that 'the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.'”

“…its whores...too.” That phrase encapsulates why it was essential to abandon Dworkin as a feminist theorist. The hateful drek, that she constantly evangelized against sex workers and those engaged in the sex trade, that passed as feminist theory has long since needed debunking. Taking agency away from women (and I should be clear, I use ‘women’ to encapsulate the many forms of that identity), prescribing a path to empowerment and healthy consensual sexual desires is in fact NOT how you fight for equality and win liberation. You recognize and support agency, comprehensive sexual education and health care, living wages and radical enthusiastic consent practices.

  "Anatomy of a Pin-Up," photo by Annie Sprinkle

"Anatomy of a Pin-Up," photo by Annie Sprinkle

Then there’s Gail Dines, who Hedges also lauds for her Sex Negative perspectives. She writes, “Porn is woven into the corporate destruction of intimacy and connectedness, and this includes connectedness to the earth. If we were a society where we were whole, connected human beings in real communities, then we would not be able to look at porn. We would not be able to watch another human being tortured.”

Hedges further jizzes, “And with porn mainstreamed — some porn video participants are treated like film celebrities by talk show hosts such as Oprah and Howard Stern — the behavior promoted by porn, including stripping, promiscuity, S&M and exhibitionism, has become chic. Porn also sets the standard for female beauty and female comportment. And this has had terrifying consequences for girls.”

HEAVEN FORBID WE GET ANY ACKNOWLEDGMENT OR APPRECIATION FOR OUR WORK. HEAVEN FORBID WE ACTUALLY ENJOY OUR SEXUALITY AND MAKE A LIVING.

Now we see what he is really concerned with  it seems that pornography is a red herring. In fact Hedges just wants to perpetuate the male chauvinist monogamist ideal of woman as property. Not her own person, and certainly not sexually active with multiple partners. How have we moved from the problem of pornography, to stripping, to promiscuity? What is shared across these subjects is the perception of women acting out of turn.

Also considering that in this article they haven’t mentioned their definition of ‘women’ as radically inclusive (as I am using) I can only imagine that their analysis of sex workers is equally limited and without consideration for our trans* sisters and brothers, and genderqueer folks who should have equal job protection and be able to work without fear of criminalization.

        "Sexiest Writer in America," photo by Veronica Vera

 "Sexiest Writer in America," photo by Veronica Vera

To those like Hedges, Jensen and Dines, there is Nothing Scarier Than A Black Trans Woman With A Degree (and I would add: “who is also sex worker”). To see those who work in the sex trade as competent, intelligent, and capable is beyond them. I wonder if they would have the gall to say any of this shit to her face, to any of our faces. Something tells me it would feel like facing down those right-wing anti-choice bigots outside of an abortion clinic- all hell fire and brimstone, all white supremacist and anti-poor.

It does beg the question(s): Why are none of these conversations about decriminalizing our work so we can unionize? Why do none of these conversations center our voices? Why do none of these conversations appreciate our work as cultural work, or artistic performance? Answered: Because then what we do would have to be acknowledged as labor. Our work, and our lives would have to be valued. Our art and talents accepted. We would be outside of the shadow economy.

On this International Working Women’s Day, with International Sex Worker Rights Day just behind us, consider ditching the would-be feminists with the not-so-hidden conservative agenda. Respect sex workers. Join the fight to decriminalize our work. Adopt a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of what pornography can be- and champion safe, enthusiastic consensual sexual practices.

"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte

Begin Fifty Shades Rant

FINALLY some fan fiction this Marxist can get into. No more helpless women, incorrect and non-consensual faux BDSM speak, or disgusting misogynists dressed up as prince charming!  

In “Fifty Shades of Socialist Feminism,” Laurie Penny weaves us a brief, but real delicious misandrist fantasy.

Since the debut of the Fifty Shades series, the reactions from those of us in the kink community have ranged from pithy apathy to excruciating rage. While I am most frequently attributed to the latter camp of vehement, sometimes incoherent fury toward these abuse peddling, and poorly written novels (YES I READ THE FIRST ONE, AND NO I’LL NEVER GET THAT WEEK OF MY LIFE BACK) I completely understand that many folks wouldn’t take this trash seriously. The problem with that sort of shrug-off stance though is that over 100 million copies of this stomach-churning junk food have been sold (I STOLE THE COPY I READ). The themes, overt and otherwise within its pages enumerate the kind of sexist, misogynistic garbage that this society wants women to gobble up  and choke on. It’s a pamphlet on abusive behavior.

Take it from the kink community, there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills, and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. Radical and enthusiastic consent is an essential feature within the practice of BDSM. This principle says that “no means no” is crucial  if a sexual partner says no, you must stop  but it goes beyond that. In order to ensure consent and prevent sexual violence, everyone, regardless of gender, has to make sure that their partner is enthusiastic about what’s going on.

Honestly, this is a VERY BASIC principle – sex of any variety should only happen when all participants actually want it. Enthusiastic consent is ongoing, not a yes/no lightswitch. It does mean that partners have to pay attention to whether one another are into sex acts, and that if it is unclear, you have to ask. It requires sexual partners to be in ongoing communication with each other. It does not mean that you get a signed contract, and all things are go – ahem, Mr.Grey

As Emma Green outlines in her piece for The Atlantic, “This is a troubling fantasy in American culture, where one in five women will be raped within their lifetime, according to the CDC; where nearly 40 percent of those rapes will happen to women aged 18 to 24; and where troubling evidence of casual attitudes toward rape — such as in 2010 when a number of Ivy League-educated men thought it was okay to chant 'no means yes, yes means anal' on their campus — is not uncommon. As images of Ana being beaten by Christian become the new normal for what’s considered erotic, they raise questions about what it means to 'consent' to sex. Clearly, consent is necessary; but is it sufficient?”

This is why radical sex positivity is absolutely essential. Sex positivity that champions radical enthusiastic consent, that demands the decriminalization of sex work, that advocates for comprehensive sex education for all, bodily autonomy, and that demystifies the kink, fetish, and BDSM communities is what we need. Stop shaming people who participate in safe, consensual sex acts and start shaming bigoted misogynist trash that teaches women and young girls that they’re only worth the bruises someone inflicts upon them!

Pants off to Laurie Penny, I hope to see more of the witty feminist fan fic dealing blows in the coming weeks!!!  

"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte