March 03, 2003

Make War Not Love

I heard about this Lysistrata project a few days ago somewhere, but I forgot to blog about it. Steven Den Beste reminded me with this very nice shout out to me and some other bellicose femmes of the net. I don't think I've seen it mentioned, though, that the actual play was a ribald comedy whose actors in the male parts were supposed to wear gigantic phalluses as part of their costume. Aristophanes himself seems to have been quite conservative, and he despised the democratic, working-class Socrates (thus his caricature of the man in The Clouds). Interestingly enough, Aristophanes was apparently a member of the nobility, and he was also a member of the "peace party" of the times (this was during the Peloponnesian war). He seems to have had no use for the democrats, which party at that time had become infested with demagogues. Sounds familiar...

In any case, the plot of the play is not so much about how right and noble the women were, but how ridiculous the whole situation was. But it has somehow become emblematic of the whole cracked idea that women are naturally anti-war. Then again, maybe none of us bellicose females are real women at all! Maybe we are secretly men!

Posted by Andrea Harris at March 3, 2003 11:38 PM

Women are far too dainty and fragile and nurturing to ever support war. That should be obvious to everyone.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at March 4, 2003 at 02:00 AM

Of course, we can demonstrate our womanhood AND support the war by having more sex with men who will be going off to fight, or who support our military action in Iraq. That we'll be withholding sex from peaceniks and idiotarians goes without saying, and I don't think it will require a huge sacrifice to stay away from these types of men. :)

All joking aside, this Lysistrata project really burns me. Not only have the women involved misinterpreted the play, as Andrea points out, but they also are making two insulting and erroneous assumptions. The first assumption is that women are terrified of war and incapable of understanding the reasons it might be necessary. The second assumption is that women are so weak and powerless, yet manipulative, that the only method of preventing war women can devise is to withhold sex from men. Much as I dislike the peace protestors, I have more respect for a female protestor who speaks out against war (or runs a weblog) than I have for one who thinks she's doing her part to preserve world peace by refusing to have sex. How immature and self-involved can you get?

I thought the feminism of the 70's was supposed to free us from these outdated assumptions. Guess the Lysistrata women haven't made it that far.

Posted by: Kimberly at March 4, 2003 at 07:28 AM

eeuuwww. I only spent maybe two minutes at the "Real Women" site so I could have gotten the wrong impression but there was something about it that gave me the creeps. I think it's the idea that anyone would try to define womanhood and suggest that only those women who are agree with that definition are "real women."

Posted by: Lynn S at March 4, 2003 at 09:08 AM

I think the point to be made about Lysistrada and its would-be reenactors is that both run COUNTER to women's natural (i.e. Darwinian) reaction to war and violence. I mean, really, if you feel yourself or your children to be in danger what is your gut instinct? Push your man out in front of you, of course, presuming he has not already leapt there of his own volition (for which he gets lots of extra points in the respect department).

In a time of general peace we can play around all we want with gender roles and stereotypes, try to neuter men and make them all sensitive and FRENCHIFIED. But war snaps us out of our reverie (or at least should) and we reexamine our reexaminations of yesterday. I'm not saying let's get back to our respective caves--I cheer women on the front lines and do not endorse unrestrained machismo in men. But let's not kid ourselves about how irreversibly evolved we've become in this regard.

Case in point: before Sept. 11th the closest I got to letting my young sons play with guns was a UN Peacekeeper action figure (hey guys, let's pretend we're guarding the safe haven in Srebrinica!). Today, they have soldiers up the wazoo, regularly lay waste to my living room with their war games, and have become obsessed with the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This is what real women do in the face of rising danger: prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Oh, and push their men to be all that they can be. And yeah, if I had girls I'd be doing the same thing.

Posted by: Kelli at March 4, 2003 at 09:17 AM

This reminds me the the 60's slogan. "Girls say 'yes' to boys who say 'no'" (ie. girls will sleep with you if you resist the draft.)

from an evolutionary perspective this could lead to and increase in the polarization of the two camps with pro-war people sleeping with there kind and anti-war people sleeping with like minded people.

if this is genetically determined then the children will exhibit increasing strident views.

so for the new millenium is is no longer, "do you have a condom?" but "do you support the president, our boys, military intervention in...."

and sex fantasies, "oh baby you are so hot, you read steve and glenn and charles and you want to make the world safe from islamofacism and North Korean blackmail, yes, yes....."

new descriptor category aborning.

Posted by: iceman at March 4, 2003 at 09:22 AM

I guess this means that Rosie the Riveter was not a real woman. And neither are those female pilots in Afghanistan.

Of course, according to some of the more rabid types, only lesbians are real womyn anyway.

Posted by: Ken Summers at March 4, 2003 at 09:37 AM

Hmmm, all this time I thought it was just because we're old and tired. Now I discover that my wife is secretly against the war.

Posted by: Peter at March 4, 2003 at 09:43 AM

From The State newspaper (Columbia, SC) Letters to the Editor, 2/26/03:

'Lysistrata' will do little to keep the peace

I was happy to read that the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the University of South Carolina Women Studies Program are joining forces to promote abstinence with their production of Lysistrata. The sight of the Women in Black protesters and other feminists performing a play in which the prevention of war rests upon their threat of abstaining from sex would surely have Aristophanes rolling in the aisle with laughter.

If this threat is our last obstacle to war, then the soldiers of Fort Jackson better pack their bags. My guess is those young men will not be at the performance of the Lysistrata Project, but instead at one of our local drinking establishments in either the Vista or Five Points in hopes of engaging one of the numerous inviting young women there in a little tete-a-tete. As Unitarian Universalist minister Patrick Price said, "It's good to have a sense of humor."

Posted by: The Kid at March 4, 2003 at 10:36 AM

Hey, The Kid, I'm from Columbia. Thanks for posting the letter to the editor. So the feminists are fighting Fort Jackson by supporting the Lysistrata Project, eh? Since when do feminists (or Unitarians) support abstinence? And whatever gave them the idea that such a silly plan would affect the soldiers of Fort Jackson (and their wives & girlfriends) in any way?

Silly fools.

Posted by: Kimberly at March 4, 2003 at 11:34 AM

My friend auditioned for one of these readings. After getting the part, he was SHOCKED, SHOCKED to discover that the organizers planned to use a new translation of the play, one which protrayed men as evil warmongers and included scenes not in the original. I'm afraid I wasn't very sympathetic to his anguish. The phrase "consider the source" leaps immediately to mind.

Posted by: Theresa at March 4, 2003 at 12:17 PM

I used to be involved in martial arts. And when I say 'martial arts' we aren't talking about the once a month 'self-defense' courses--we are talking about the stuff the peasants used in medieval Japan to kill sword-wielding samurai before they got their heads chopped off.

Anyway, it was my experience that a person's propensity or willingness to use violent force was not related to the said person's gender. People who were uncomfortable with force would often adopt very defensive tactics in sparring matches, whereas those who were more comfortable with using force would adopt more aggressive tactics, if the current situation warranted it. And it appeared gender had little do with that. The percentage of women willing to use violent force was about the same percentage as men.

On the other hand, I do believe women are naturally more compassionate than men. Women are more likely to show mercy to defeated opponents, even when it's dangerous to do so. Men are more likely to simply dispatch their foes and be done with it. Even more interestingly, a woman's level of compassion also had little to do with her willingness to use force, either. One of the girls I remember that I use to train with was a very nice girl, always polite. Inside the ring it was like trying to fight the Tasmanian Devil after he had taken an overdose of Angel Dust.

Anyway, the point of this long post is that those Womenproject people have no idea what they are talking about. Just wanted everyone to know that.

Posted by: James P at March 4, 2003 at 01:35 PM

Since clearly I am not a real woman because I support the war, I might as well go for it and engage my husband in anti-Lysitrata project. I am sure he will not mind.
I can see this: "Honey, we need to suport our troops again tonight!"

Posted by: Katherine at March 4, 2003 at 01:42 PM

I hate to admit this, but back in the '70's, there were guys who used this (Girls say 'yes' to Boys who say 'no') to our advantage. ... meaning, you'd just say 'no', be getting some, and at the climactic moment, spew (pun intended) out something along the lines of "thanks, dumbell!! I'm off to war!".

Of course, the "off" is an intended pun, also.

Posted by: Paul A'Barge at March 4, 2003 at 01:47 PM

Actually, I make the case that this project will help our boys to battle... anthropology, you learn that tribes men REFRAIN FROM SEX before going into battle. Saving their 'anxiety' for the heat of battle. This was true in ancient Rome and Greece.

so the women who are playing shrew are just doing their patriotic duty!!!

Posted by: Sharon Ferguson at March 4, 2003 at 01:48 PM

Well, since I have as much right as any other women to define what aREAL woman is...

Posted by: Lynn S at March 4, 2003 at 03:30 PM

The thing I noticed about the "real woman creed" is that it's all about....Meeeeeeee. I bet the "I" key on their keyboard wore out before they got it done.

It must be terrifying to be that living within a hall of mirrors.

Posted by: David Foster at March 4, 2003 at 05:00 PM

Women withholding sex from men who support war? And what? Letting gay men have all the fun? Unless, gay men are also naturally anti-war, which means I am really a closet heterosexual. Oh well, I'll figure out the right stereotype to uphold someday.

Posted by: pok at March 4, 2003 at 10:55 PM

Identity politics can be so confusing sometimes, can't it?

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at March 5, 2003 at 04:49 AM

You've discovered my secret. My real name is Dennis [g]

I rant at the TV every time one of those women are on and talk about how if women ran the country, we'd be hugging and not making war. The absolute cheek of them to presume to speak for all women!

Posted by: Ith at March 5, 2003 at 03:50 PM

Yep, that Real Woman site is about as self-absorbed and airheaded as it gets these days. They want to "Spread an epidemic of health through the repetition and transmission of affirming images and messages"? Please.

It's particularly galling that the project came about because a group of women asked the question, "If we could change one thing in women's health in the next century that would impact women the most, what would it be?" - and somehow the liberation of women trapped in slavery and Muslim tyrannies never came to mind. No, let's just all be over-fed and spoiled Western women who reject science and celebrate "affirmation" and make sure that we're all healthy and joyous, and let's make sure we don't have any "negative thoughts", about war or anything scary. REAL women don't wish that the Marines would bomb Iraq out of the stone age, or anything like that.


Posted by: Kimberly at March 5, 2003 at 04:16 PM

Oh boy! Another strange intersection of patriarchy and feminism. Just as women and gay men in the armed forces are beginning to get some legitimacy, an old stereotype they fought so hard to break down is once again casting suspicions on their fitness to fight. This time though feminist fools are channeling the bigots of the past.

Posted by: pok at March 5, 2003 at 06:37 PM