Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Women's work

Torque Control points to an interesting post about fan-video.

Vidding, like a lot of women's art, exists in the chinks of the world-machine; and the world-machine will crush it out of indifference as much as malice ... Both academics and journalists tend to cast this expression of female desire as a pathology or a joke, at the same time erasing desires that don't fit into the easily fashioned and very comfortable story of women indulging in an excess of heteronormativity.

They include an embedded video of a fan video called 'Women's Work'. You might want to watch it (it's at the top of the blog linked to 'interesting post') before you read on, or read the article, because I completely misinterpreted the video the first time I watched it. Or anyway, I interpreted it differently from its makers' intentions. So I'd be interested in how it strikes you at first sight.

The way I saw it as a f/f video using body-horror metaphors to symbolise sexual desire - specifically women's desire for one another. The tearing apart of the body is like the tearing apart of the heart. Giving in to desire is like voluntarily abandoning the integrity of the body. This is like what Angela Carter did in most of her books, like The Company of Wolves, though that was mainly about male/female relations IIRC.

Towards the end I was confused because it seemed to veer away from my interpretation. But when I read the article I find out I was wrong. Firstly, I didn't realise all the clips were taken from one source - the Horror series 'Supernatural'. I don't watch it so I might have missed quite a bit of subtext.

Secondly, the vidders meant to convey something quite different (or is it different?) from what I saw.

"Women's Work" is a thesis in the misogyny of basic, unexamined story structures--structures which are more obvious because they are more literal in horror, but which are present in every genre and every variation of style, from pop culture to high art. The vid explicitly and viscerally demonstrates how SO MANY of the stories we know and tell and re-tell depend on the suffering of women, the death or dismemberment or otherwise disposing of; the story depends on the suffering of women, but the suffering of women isn't the story; the suffering of women just propels the story. The suffering of men is the story, and that's one (though not the only) big way suffering is gendered: men suffering are subjects on a quest, but women suffering are objects of pity or desire.

Actually, here's what I think. The function of desire in ripping up the body and heart are things which both men and women feel, but in misogynist art men isolate themselves from the suffering by projecting it onto women. The men suffer only vicariously, either as rescuers or murderers.

What Angela Carter and other gothic female writers do is to try to short-circuit this by becoming active agents in the process ('The Sadean Woman' by Carter is about this). Another strategy is to reverse the tables by projecting suffering onto male figures (he he) and I think this is an even more common strategy in fan fiction and videos by women.

So I think this video can be taken two ways, as a female-only celebration of women's bodies, or a male/female denigration of them. And it may be that in our society it is quite difficult to keep these two visions separate from each other.
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