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Review: Documentary about Judith Butler

The great folks at First Run Icarus Films sent me a DVD of the excellent Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind several months ago. I watched the film recently, and I'm finally getting around to writing a brief review of it.

High points: Butler walks through an art gallery discussing photographs by Cindy Sherman, who is one of my favorite photographers. She points out how Sherman's images critique gender categories and norms, and her comments are illuminative.

Butler also talks about violence and hate crimes, and while I was always convinced that the whole "Judith Butler doesn't pay enough attention to what's happening on the ground" argument was misguided and inaccurate, I think anyone who sees this film would recognize that Butler cares very much about real, material bodies and what happens to them.

One point of criticism, though. This has nothing to do with the content of the film, but rather the copyright policy (my emphasis):

We send review copies of First Run/Icarus Films releases with the understanding that if a review is published or posted (on-line), the reviewer may then retain the review copy sent for his or her own personal (but not classroom) use.

It's too bad that classroom use -- even, it seems, just showing a clip of it in class -- is prohibited. I had considered ripping a short clip as a sample so as to help sell the film, but I don't want to get a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney.

Bottom line, I would recommend that research libraries purchase the documentary. At $390 for the DVD, it might be a tad expensive for individuals, but if you're doing work on Butler, it might be worth it, especially if you have some grant funding.


I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I'm addicted to Hot Chicks with Douchebags, but let me explain. The writing is often clever and hilarious, and there's actually quite a bit of revealing cultural commentary. For example, DB1 offers this explanation of the douchebag phenomenon:

At its essence, if I were to attempt to make a generalized definition, douchebaggery is simply about the affected performative role-playing of the peacocking male in an utterly false and constructed way. It is about the adoption of cultural signifiers of "the stud" as an attempt to woo the female by inverting attraction, by making the male douchebag perform as the object of the female's gaze -- to feminize himself. This attempt at gender inversion, an almost mythic reinvention, allows the male to become the object of attraction through invocation of the tropes of gender masquerade. In this way, the male douchifies himself in the hopes of hiding his true self. Douchitude is the mask, the role being played, which hides the douche from his true reality in hopes of, well, getting jiggy with the hot.

I'd actually love to be in a room where Judith Butler is sitting in front of a computer analyzing these images in a think-aloud protocol way.

Plus, a commenter in this post claims that douchebaggery is about the hyperreal, as DB1 had pointed out that the three guys in the post actually looked more like drawn cartoons than people.

Recent References on Women and Blogging

Collecting articles about the John Edwards campaign will have to wait for another day.

A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs, by Brad Stone, New York Times, 9 April 07

Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers, by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, 30 April 07

Fear of Blogging: Why women shouldn't apologize for being afraid of threats on the Web, by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 4 May 07

In Stores Now

A couple of projects I've worked on are now live:

1. My article "Attracting Readers: Sex and Audience in the Blogosphere" is now live in the new issue of Scholar & Feminist Online. The issue has a companion blog for discussion of the articles.

While I stand by what I wrote, I am somewhat concerned that Daniel Drezner comes off sounding like a bad guy. That isn't actually true at all; he is very nice and collegial, and I reference a couple of posts on his weblog simply as examples of discourse.

2. A Conversation: From "They Call Me Doctor?" to Tenure is live in the Professional Development section of Computers and Composition Online. Cheryl Ball and Kristin Arola composed the piece, but I am one of the people interviewed. My contributions can be found here and here, but I encourage you to interact with the whole thing.

Extended Deadline for Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference

Call for Papers

The 2007 Feminism(s) & Rhetoric(s) conference invites proposals on civic discourse, feminisms, and rhetorics. The conference draws inspiration from the 50th anniversary of Little Rock’s Central High School integration, the Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer Project International & the Clinton School for Public Service.

For conference information, go to http://femrhet.cwshrc.org


Submit your abstracts online—http://femrhet.cwshrc.org/submissions.php

Register for the conference online—http://femrhet.cwshrc.org and click Conference Registration


Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Krista Ratcliffe

Invitation Pending Keynote Speaker/not confirmed: Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton

Featured Speakers: Hui Wu, Shirley Wilson Logan, Malea Powell, Carol Mattingly, Jessica Reyman, and more.


This conference asks us to explore civic discourse and how civic discourse, feminism(s) and rhetoric(s) interact with, for, and against each other.

What is civic discourse? What counts as civic discourse?

How has civic discourse changed over the years for women? For feminism?

How can we expand the definition of civic discourse?

What does it mean to participate in civic discourse in the 21st century?

How do women participate in civic discourse?

How has the internet/electronic discourse affected civic discourse?

How has civic discourse become corporatized?

How has globalization impacted civic discourse?

What does it mean to be a feminist and/or rhetorician participating in civic discourse?


We look forward to reading proposals from a wide variety of disciplines, including, but not limited to, history, ethics, new media, political science, social justice, pedagogy, law, literature, art and art theory, queer theory, international studies, cultural studies, race studies, economics, environmental studies, science, social activism, communication studies, technical communication, visual design, philosophy, and engineering.

Questions--contact Barbara L’Eplattenier (bleplatt@ualr.edu) or Marcia Smith (mmsmith@ualr.edu).

Virginity soap

Lori over at Sand gets in your eyes asks what my opinion is of virginity soap. Lori lives in Saudi Arabia, and that's where she saw it. When I read her post, I thought, hey, we have virgin soap here; what's the difference?

Oh, and we have slut soap too, for that Madonna/whore dichotomy. But while the Dirty Girl brand soaps above are presumably campy and not to be taken seriously, virginity soap is a different story:

The idea is that the soap’s astringents “constrict and tighten" , creating that coveted "look and feel" of virginity.

One manufacturer boasts their product is...."Used and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of women in the Middle East and Asia, it has brought back youthful passions, rekindled sensual yearnings, and completely intensified sexual experience.”

Well, okay. But again, this is by no means just a Middle East thing. I first heard of China Shrink cream when I was, I believe, a sophomore in high school (1991!):

China Shrink Cream can be used to tighten vaginal muscles. Five minutes after application, the vagina will tighten and maintain its tightness for a period of 24 hours.

Each tube contains 1/2 ounce of cream. The active ingredient is Potassium Alum. Potassium Alum is usually used in cheese preparation and to make foods sour.

Important Note; Do not use China Shrink Cream if you are pregnant.

Anyway, Lori's central concern is that women's chastity is a very high-stakes issue in the Middle East, and that desperate might take virginity soap too seriously. While virginity soap doesn't seem to be harmful, I agree with Lori that the whole situation is sad, particularly the placement of the responsibility of chastity on women. But again, here in the USA we have father/daughter purity balls.

I guess my opinion is that the distinction, to me, is blurred somewhat, though the consequences of first-time sex for women may be more severe in Saudi Arabia than they are in western countries -- but hey, what do I know? What exactly are the consequences, anyway?

Quick Takes

Not that anyone's been asking, but yes, I have been following the M&M controversy intently. To make a long story short, the John Edwards '08 campaign asked two excellent bloggers, Amanda Marcotte* and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister, to write for the Edwards campaign blog. They were hailed by lefty bloggers, not only because they demonstrated web savvy by picking established bloggers who had built audiences, but also because these particular bloggers were women, who are, as we know, underrepresented in punditry.

Then the protests began, spearheaded by Michelle Malkin and Bill Donohue. They, along with some other politically conservative bloggers, objected to posts Marcotte and McEwan had written about the Duke lacrosse team rape case and about reproductive freedom. The Catholic League called for their termination from the Edwards campaign. Edwards seems to have decided to keep them, at least for now. You can find more detailed analyses at Noli Irritare Leones, Obsidian Wings, oh, and a couple thousand via Technorati.

Web 2.0 network ecology stories. This, to me, is potentially a very productive methodology for understanding networks and social software.

If you haven't yet read this stunning and courageous narrative by Eric Fair, do so now.

Watch A Girl Like Me, a film by Kiri Davis. Via BlackProf, and read that post too.

Anyone know how to tweak Google Reader to filter out all stories related to sports? I subscribe to Google News and BBC News, and I want to keep those, but I don't give a yotz about sports.

* whom I'd love to hang out with now that she's in Chapel Hill!

RIP Molly Ivins

This is terrible. We have lost such a brilliant woman. I don't know what else to say.

UPDATE: Norbizness has a much better tribute.

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