December 11th, 2013 / 8:50 pm
Massive People

THE ZAMBRENO DOLL

flapperdoll

TWO WEEKS AGO I saw on Facebook a comment Kate Zambreno made regarding a review of James Franco’s new book that mentioned Kathy Acker, presumedly in reference to Franco’s ventriloquizing River Pheonix, possibly others. (My exposure to the book is limited to Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm interview with Franco.) Zambreno’s position was that this comparison is really dumb, completely off-base. In the comments thread, I posted: “Altars are altars.” I was immediately unfriended by Zambreno and thus occluded from the conversation and any subsequent threads, a chess move that — tho clever — strikes me as a bit ridiculous, considering the neutrality of my statement.

The Word is The Word.

I re-requested her friendship and sent the following message:

Probably that Franco & Acker are both Americans of ambiguous sexuality writing within the same 100 year period and using similar devices within hybridized genre is reason enough for it to be mentioned in a review, is my thinking. .. Guarantee Acker got at least a few dozen readers she’d never have had otherwise if the reviewer hadn’t dropped the name, erroneous tho the comparison may be within the world of our specialized knowledge. .. This, admittedly, appealing to that ‘Oprah does good for lit’ kind of sensibility.

Considering I received no response, I regret having put even as much thought as this into a comment placed in tangent with a request to participate in a conversation I’ve got as much right to as any other human being, regardless of the seemingness of my being white or male. The notion of feeling obliged to ask permission to express an opinion, no matter who or what you are, is humiliating. And tho I find the prospect of humiliation somewhat exciting, my conviction to challenge hypocrisy and reductionist thinking — in this case, ongoing invective generalization practiced with impunity — wins out.

: : : : :

Barred from this particular temple, I sit down outside the gates and I weep. What is the cause of my tears? I wonder, palms slick and face hidden from the priestesses streaming in arrival and departure from the pylon. Is it envy? and of what? Have I not got my own good things to feel glad about? Must I access *every* goddess? Why is it I care so much..?

These questions — or simply the act of questioning — are enough to stop my crying. I pick myself up, dust myself off, and return to the keep of my Citadel.

: : : : :

The Zambreno doll arrives in the mail. Part of the ‘Iconoclast Series’ I’ve been collecting. Perhaps one day I’ll be similarly immortalized, tho I have my doubts. I read the copy on the box: “Speaks Over a Dozen Variations of Reactionary Polemic Toward History’s Majority Shareholders”. This seems in bad taste for a number of reasons.

I remove the doll from its box. I remove the accessories from the box. The Zambreno doll comes with its own Green Girl doll, stuck thru with pins.

: : : : :

GREEN GIRL. I read that one. I enjoyed the cruelty with which the author handled her character. Indeed, if not for this cruelty, I’d have had no interest in a character so shallow and insipid. Ruth. Ruth reminded me of some of the girls I’ve gone out with. My tendency to chase shiny objects. And indeed, I found something of myself in a young man in the book who had the misfortune of falling for Ruth. When they finally had sex, Ruth was disgusted that this boy adored her, his face beaming up from between her legs. She wanted to be fucked, not worshipped. Poor kid.

Not that I’ve not repeated similar mistakes. My natural tendency in relationships has also been one of adoration. In bed when my ex-girlfriend said, ‘Do whatever you want to me,’ I didn’t do anything different. In the past, in more intimate settings than the internet, I’ve expounded that — because women have plenty of historical reasons to resent men, and not the other way around — a certain artificial misogyny must be invoked at will in order to strike a balance and produce the magnetism necessary to drive the engine of desire/attraction. Admittedly, I am not so great at doing this, and so I fail at fucking the shit out of someone. Achieving the heights of penetration. That said, I’m still learning.

: : : : :

I pull the pull-string on the Zambreno doll’s back. A pre-recorded phrase issues from somewhere within the doll’s depths.

Something is wrong. I assume from both the box’s copy and what I know of Zambreno’s public persona and character that I am being condemned for occupying my body. This assumption provides a certain giddy thrill. And yet, I am unable to understand. Why? I pull the string again. A different phrase. The same effect. And yet the words themselves are clear. The syntax is sound. It’s just that I can’t make sense of what the doll is saying.

Rather than any problem with the mechanism, I assume the issue lies with some personal deficiency, or deficiencies, of my own. Perhaps certain gaps in my education apropos feminism and its waves. Probably for too long I have been staring into the vastness of the Supernal Ocean and imagining its Depths, whereas I should have studied spume. Its contexts. Its effects. Its specifics.

I pull the string a few more times. No luck. I look for some sign on the doll.

On the foot of the doll in small letters: ‘Made by Men’.

Obviously this must refer to the facsimile of Zambreno — the doll Zambreno — and not Zambreno herself. I cannot imagine that the woman Zambreno is herself tattooed with these words.

At first, I am tempted to read it as a misprint. Surely it should read ‘Mankind’. On further reflection, however, I suspect this is incorrect.

Is it that only a man would make a fetish object of Zambreno ?? The internet has proven this is not so, the difference between an idol and a doll being negligible. Even so, if this doll was in fact produced by men, the men who made the doll were themselves made by women, so it seems a half-truth at best.

: : : : :

I decide to take a different sort of view.
On a more abstract plane, I see the doll coursing with essence.

I observe in the doll the womb of the doll,
giving rise to wave after wave of tiny Zambrenos,
like Charlotte’s eggsack hatching at the center of her web
a force spread glowing out in all directions.

zambrenospider

: : : : :

A friend of mine has it that Zambreno’s project is nothing less than the destruction of the female — and hence the male — archetype.

I like archetypes. Being a metaphysician, they are more or less my primary means of navigating the multiverse.

Is the objectification involved in an act of worship or transubstantiation identical to a sexual objectification, a corporeal objectification with physical satisfaction as its means ??

And presuming they’re different, is it possible that these seemingly disparate forms of objectification can be bridged ?? If bridged, are they still bad ?? Are they to be eradicated ??

or are they simply an inevitable part of existing in a world where birth signs us into a gender ??

I won’t pretend to have an answer. I am, however, concerned, since I’m a part of everybody.

I suspect the problem is the notion that History is something that matters.

: : : : :

Donning my robes,
I step up into the sanctum-chambers of the Citadel.

On the holy slab at the temple center,
surrounded by mirrors,
Kathy Acker is pegging James Franco.

She reaches down below the harness, dips her fingers into her snatch, then pops them fish-hooking into Franco’s mouth all moaning.

Infinite Ackers and infinite Francos flank out all arounding.

Nearing the moment of climax under my presiding chants,
Acker draws up the boline, etched with the appropriate symbols.

Slapping stone reverberant echo and moan as they cum the blade is drawn across Franco’s throat, severing his head gone rolling.

Amongst and from the blood come spurting from the stump springs an Acker-Franco fully formed.

An androgyne fit to occupy by all // and here we are // together.

androgyne-aurora

TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR THE EXCITING CONCLUSION:
“The Assassination of the Angel of History”

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166 Comments

  1. columbusmatt

      “how Jimmy Chen hurt my feelings…”

      Oh no!

  2. columbusmatt

      “Jimmy Chen hurt my feelings…”

      Oh, noooooooo!

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  6. facetat

      what does the size of his dick have anything to do with this, and why does that have so many upvotes.. it doesn’t make sense to target a weakness of all men as a reaction to patriarchy when the source of misogyny in our society is rooted in capitalist ethics. saying things like that might feel necessary to create an equilibrium but is creating a more fucked up balance that contradicts shame-free progressive sexuality and will only result in further reactionary discourse between men/women.

      it would be more logical to target his monetary wealth or age as justification for his misogyny than his small/bad dick. if i was likely born after you, you are more responsible for inequality in our society than i am. as a male who was born into a society and existed passively i feel no guilt or responsibility to make amends nor be subject to inequality/hatred based on skewed outlooks constructed by old rich white men before me. thus my reaction to your statement would be to say you have a loose vagina or something

      my reductionist reasoning, like your original comment, is to root the problem in sexual guilt, hypothesising that the patriarchy resulted as a reaction to humans (particularly females) polyamorous tendencies stigmatized by catholic/capitalist based ideals in our society

  7. cats420

      wow, this is CRAZY.

  8. 8o88y

      Your caterwauling goes on for so long and into so many rabbit-holes that it’s hard to discern what it was that you did intend. I get it that you felt shut out of what was ostensibly an at least semi-public conversation for a relatively moderate comment (“Altars are altars.”) Such things happen all the time, though, and I can’t see how this particular event warrants an almost 1400 word meditation, some of it relevant, most of it self-indulgent.
      __ I agree with other posters that you don’t have a right to be heard by someone who doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Your claiming a “right” to be heard by her (rights being taken very
      seriously) implies that she should have to listen to you, and that
      violates her right to direct her attentions as she chooses. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t claim a
      “right” to be heard by those who close the door in their faces.
      __ On the other hand, it does say something about someone who opens up a semi-public conversation and then shuts out someone who says something she might not want to hear. It happens. People have shortcomings. You have yours; she has hers, and perhaps she’s not good at accepting criticism. Real life relationships have foundered on less. So just walk away.
      __ You seem to be operating from the standpoint of someone who buys into the feminist mythology, and can’t get past the humiliation it imposes on you. The feminist mythology isn’t any better or worse than the patriarchal mythology of centuries past, and you don’t have to accept the sexism directed at white males to accept that women were oppressed in the past. But things are different today. Feminists own the gender discourse, and owning a discourse leads to echo-chamber effects and a shutting out of any really substantial diversity of opinion. Every movement has its internal squabbles, and when that movement judges dissenters as evil or inconceivably stupid, those internal squabbles can come to seem like the only diversity worth taking seriously.
      __ Owning a discourse allows a group to choose methods, criteria, assumptions, and favorite vices and virtues that make their inquiries come out in their favor. Feminists do this today just as the ancient patriarchs did in the past. When men were self-indulgently articulating the phallocentric voice, they frequently voiced sentiments regarding their victimizations by women– hence the oppression. At least they could hide a little bit behind the veil of ignorance. Those dead white men invented logic, mathematics, abstract thinking as such, and a bunch of other foundations of the intellect, and they seem to have taken that as an indication that the intellect was inherently masculine. And from that starting point, it must have been easy to dismiss women’s different priorities, concerns, and experiences as trivial and sub-human, just as feminists do today regarding men’s priorities, concerns, and experiences. What causes you pain, since your male, doesn’t matter, because your experience isn’t as “real” as women’s experience, because you’re judgment and emotions are distorted by “privilege.”
      __ Feminists invented the critique of phallocentrism, and put the concept of gender biased thinking on the map. Yet in the spirit of equality, uterocentrism should have been subjected to the same scrutiny as phallocentrism, but that hasn’t happened. If men’s gender-biased thinking is an incomplete representation of human thinking, so is women’s gender-biased thinking, but examining the incompleteness of the latter would require the inclusion of oil-and-water, alien thoughts. It was difficult for men in the past, and it’s difficult for women today, and given the vast influence feminism has had among educators, social scientists, and other determiners of conventional wisdom, much of male experience is treated as invalid, and many men raised and educated by feminism-influenced women have accepted that invalidation of their experience. What’s troubling to me is the hypocrisy of claiming to be an equality movement while applying selective scrutiny to men’s gender-biases and not to women’s. These gender biases dictate different criteria, methods, assumptions, and values, and gender equality requires a lot deeper consideration than the credulous application of feminist criteria, methods, assumptions, and values to today’s circumstances and pretending that the outcomes that support feminist agendas are adequate and valid. That just duplicates the mistakes of the patriarchs, but without their excuse of ignorance– they were clueless about gender bias.
      __ Testosterone levels have been correlated with tendencies for violence. What’s generally ignored, though, is what the internal experience of testosterone-laden beings is that would cause outward manifest violence. It’s not too much of a stretch to propose that testosterone causes internal, emotional violence before it causes outward physical violence, especially since women who take testosterone report that their emotions rage out of control. Interestingly, men’s egos are often said to be “fragile,” but not “vulnerable,” though these terms are functionally synonymous. “Fragility” today connotes weakness, while “vulnerability” connotes a virtue, in relevant respects. And when men in the past articulated the masculine voice as self-indulgently as women articulate the feminine voice today, they complained about women victimizing them emotionally, not materially or economically. Apples and apples comparisons of men’s and women’s victimizations of one another are relevant only halfway. Call it “fragility” if you must, but the bottom line is that men’s experience tends to focus less centrally on material, physical, and economic risk and pain, and more on emotional pain. And so they avoid their emotions, for the sake of survival. Those old patriarchs preached that passion was the road to destruction, and the uncontrolled passion of men has ruined many male lives.
      __ Of course this is blasphemy, according to current conventional wisdom, the idea that men are more emotionally sensitive than women. But then, men used to chalk women’s greater vulnerability to physical and economic threats and insecurity up to their being mercenary (or worse), and most men eventually realized that what they may have considered harmless brawling was something far more significant to women. And from a society where risk-taking was the lot of everyone, we’ve turned into a society of insurance up the ying-yang, and all manner of other programs designed to minimize risk and insecurity, even to the point of impinging on personal freedoms. So if men can learn to take women’s biased concerns seriously, perhaps feminists can someday learn to take men’s biased concerns seriously.
      __ Your feelings were hurt. Get over it, and get used to it. Your hurt and resentment are valid, but there isn’t much to be done about them. They’re part of life in a species where both sexes have tendencies to be biased, and the discrepancies are going to continue to cause pain to everybody.

  9. Garett Strickland

      If only everything were this thoughtful.

  10. Iona Watson

      Perhaps Zambreno wasn’t removing Strickland from her Facebook circle because he was a male who made a comment in disagreement with her (cf. “I acknowledge that it may be presumptuous to assume that my being gendered male had to do with my voice being denied or shut down. But I suspect it’s involved,”) but because of a more personal aversion to that particular person. Not a general aversion to his gender, or opinions–agreeing or disagreeing–from other people of his gender, but instead a desire to end communication with a person who is, as evidenced by the above post, prone to sociopathic self-aggrandizement. It could just be that gender has nothing to do with it, and merely personality does. I see a far more micoscopic reason for Zambreno to de-friend Strickland from her private Facebook account: because of his personal feelings of entitlement to her time. In other words, because he was creepy.

  11. Bryce Livingston

      I guarantee you were unfriended for disrespectful things you’ve been saying all along. Whatever your comment about the book review meant, it was just the straw that broke the back of the you-know-what. Stop whining and see if you can learn something from it, because this piece makes it obvious that you’re learning nothing.

  12. Erin Fortenberry

      I am late to HTMLGiant’s ur-psuedo-intellectual-pasty-men-party and I am GLAD. Just dropping by to say that these are some of the most self-absorbed, cowardly, hide-behind-deconstructionist-theory-to-justify-misogyny-and-racism pseudo-intellectuals I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across. [(See also the comments section of the HTMLGiant article on “Adventures of Wigger Girl” (google it and you’ll be linked to what I’m talking about)]. Blake Butler’s comments there, and much of those here make me feel like my insides are being scraped out with a rusty spoon — apparently misogyny and racism are just conceptual specters. May I just say a very sincere (without wax or cowardly resorting to obscure theory) FUCK YOU to all the misogynistic, casually racist pseudo-intellects who hide behind po-po-mo theory to justify being inane, small-minded assholes on this site. And word to all the women and people of color and truly anti-sexist anti-racist people of any color and/or gender. Keep up the fight.

  13. facetat

      i have autism

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