Monday, March 03, 2014

Stop Treating People Like THINGS! Mykel Board's Post-MRR Column 7

by Mykel Board

What connects us, what relates us, is our certainty that each of us is real, and how we take that profound fact in whatever, together, we do. – John Stoltenberg

This is one of those columns that's inspired by a book. In previous “book-columns,” the inspiration has been great books by great writers. Wonderful ideas by people I respect: Celine, J.G. Ballard, Phillip Wylie. There are more.

This month is different. This column was inspired by someone who is so wrong, that at times he seems like a parody. By a man who writes: All pornography exists because it connects to some man's sexuality somewhere. There's no other reason. This is a guy who's never perused (Kicked off the internet, sorry. Best lesbo-for-lesbo site ever!).

The man is John Stoltenberg. The book, appropriately enough, is called Refusing to Be A Man. The book makes (very) occasional good points, though the author gets a D- for run-on sentences.

To be “oriented” toward a particular sex as the object of one's sexual expressivity means, in effect, having a sexuality that is like target practice-- keeping it aimed at bodies who display a particular sexual definition above all else, picking out which one to want, which one to get, which one to have. Self-consciousness about one's “sexual orientation” keeps the issue of gender central.

Okay, that's something I've been saying for years, though in a better way. But Stoltenberg is usually as wrong as he is verbose. Try this one:

Every economic system devised by men-- whether capitalism or communism or socialism-- is designed to defend male ownership of the bodies and labor of women. (Obviously, this guy's never been to Sweden.) Or A male must not identify with females, he must not associate with females in feeling, interests, or action. His identity as a member of the sex class men absolutely depends on the extent to which he repudiates the values and interests of the sex class women. (Obviously, this guy's never watched The Food Channel.)

I cannot say I read the book with an open mind. I'd heard the author was Andrea Dworkin's significant other. Oy vey! The book is certainly filled with her quotes. I did read it with curiosity-- and amazement-- like my liberal friends watch Fox News... how can people think this way?

The author spends much of the book complaining about objectification. That is the idea that men see women as things rather than looking at them as complete human beings. To be a real man, says Stoltenberg, you have to divorce yourself from the feelings, life and emotions of the person you're having sex with. You have to think like you're fucking (or in porn, watching) a THING. This is the central idea of the book.

So it got me thinking. Objectification is not seeing the whole person, but rather using the person-- or an image of the person-- as a THING. The theory is that we should always recognize the whole human being... not just jerk off to a squirting twat or pumping beef whistle-- but consider the person as a living entity with thoughts, needs and emotions.

I'm not exactly sure you can consider the human needs of a bunch of ones and zeroes residing on hard drives at Broke Straight Boys DOT com, but that's the idea.

But why only in sex? Sex, unfortunately, is a very small part of my daily life... even if you include jerking off. Don't we objectify people in ALL our activities? Maybe it's time we stop... start looking at people as full human beings... everywhere. Maybe it's time to humanize everything... not just the genitals.

I'm on the Number 6 train... on the way home from work. It's late. I've been out drinking at the Korean bar with some students. Almost a quarter hour passes before a train pulls into Grand Central. I get in a nearly empty car, sit down, and begin to read my primer on Hangul. Learn Hangul in One Hour. Yeah, right.

At 33rd Street, the door opens. In a cartoon-like cloud of fetor, a stinking wretch stumbles in. A white guy... mid-thirties, with a Duck Dynasty beard... stinking of piss and body odor. Of course, he sits next to me... not sits exactly, but slumps. I need to jump... to move away from this... this malodorous THING... Then I realize. I'm objectifying.

“You must be miserable,” I tell him, speaking to the person behind the object. “Tell me what you're feeling.”

“Iyablahgazzid,” says the human, resting his body against my shoulder.

“I understand,” I tell him. “And this train-ride, is it good for you? Is it something you want to do? Or were you coerced into it by social circumstances or physical weakness?”

“Godaplassikflah,” he says.

“Of course,” I answer.

By now, we're reached the next station. More people have entered the car. Once the stench reaches their nostrils, they stand and huddle at the opposite end of the car... or near the door... waiting to rush out at the next stop. Those callous commuters... they see some repulsive THING rather than understand a whole human.

When the doors open, they bolt. I continue my exercise in humanizing.

“My stop is coming up,” I tell the human, now asleep and drooling on my shoulder. “I'll try to make you comfortable in your misery.”

Gently, I lift his head off my shoulder and lay him down across the seats. I pick up a few discarded newspapers and scrunch them up. Ah, an almost presentable pillow. I put my right hand under the non-objectified human head-- it feels like a greasy coconut-- and lift it up. With my left hand, I push the newspaper pillow underneath.

The train stops, I get out and walk to my favorite bar in Manhattan! I'm a little early, so I enjoy the walk. There is fresh snow on the sides of the street. Dingy New York has a beautiful coat of white paint. The only part I don't like is by the creepy dark NYU buildings of Washington Square Village. Huge Corbusieresque buildings... a block long... ugly as an anal wart. They're the places where the (lower) faculty and staff live. Ugly cinder-block apartments-- one on top of the other-- with three covered entrances. Outside, the buildings are dark and menacing. Ironically, inside is a playground. It's one of the few family friendly places in Greenwich Village.

I pass the buildings and walk into the West Village and then The Peculier Pub. Behind the bar is Kate, my favorite... and most amply bazoomed bartendress. STOP... I'm not objectifying! Back up... Behind the bar is Kate, a wonderfully sensitive young woman from Florida. Her life is a secret, but I can see that, every day, people treat her like... like... a bartender. Not like a human being.

The place is nearly empty and Kate is using her ample... time... to straighten it up and wipe down the bar. She speaks to me.

“Evening, Mykel,” she says, “how's... What's that funny smell?”

“It's the smell of another human being,” I tell her. “It rubbed off on me, like kindness rubs off on a stray dog..”

“Are you all right, Mykel?” she asks.

“I feel your oppression, Kate,” I tell her. “I know that you're forced to rely on using your body to squeeze tips out of customers. I know how that makes you, every day, a victim of the patriarchy.... Not a victim, of course, but a survivor.”

I rest my hand on hers, rubbing the bar rag it holds between my pinkie and ring finger.

“Let me clean the bar,” I tell her. “You are forced to stand on your feet all day. People treat you like an object, expecting you to serve them.”

“Of course they expect me to serve them, Mykel,” she says, “I'm a bartender.”

“You are also a human being,” I say, searching for her eyes with mine. “You have feelings, a whole personality. You are more than just your beer tap-pulling hands or your customer-attracting boo... er... attractions. People see you, but they don't see YOU! They see an object... something to serve them.”

“Mykel,” she says, “you're making a scene.”

“A scene?” I say. “Did you say a scene? Like in a play? Where the actors on stage are just objects to the audience. Where people look at them like puppets... objects with strings and talking heads. This is not a scene. This is life! We are not actors. WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!”

I can feel my voice raising. A man at the bar-- late 50s, carefully trimmed gray beard... bushy gray hair... professorial-looking... gets up from his bar stool and walks over to us. His eyebrows come together in a wrinkle. He speaks to Kate.

“Are you all right, Kate?” he asks her. “Is this guy giving you any trouble?”

I turn to him.

“And YOU!” I shout at him, releasing Kate's hand and stepping back. “And YOU! With your macho posturing. Trying to save the damsel in distress. All you care about is getting laid. You think playing the big hero will get you into her pants. You barely even think about what's between her legs! You only think about what's between YOURS!”

I'm trembling now.

He doesn't look at me, but I can tell he's shaken up.

He leans over to speak into Kate's ear. I hear every word.

“I think you'd better call 911,” he says.

I'm outta there, walking back to my apartment... same direction as the subway. I pass the evil Washington Square Village. A white woman comes out of one of the buildings. In her early 30s, she hides her body under a long coat. A colorful babushka is wrapped around her head. She pushes a stroller with a white child in it. (That's a rarity here in Nannyville. I mean a white woman pushing a white child in a stroller.) The child, about a year old , is bundled up in a yellow snowsuit and knitted yellow toque. The woman comes down the small driveway and crosses my path.

“Hello,” I say to her. “Cute little one you've got there.”

“Her name is Madison,” says the woman. “We're just going out to enjoy the night.”

“Have you considered what Madison wants?” I ask.

“Huh?” asks the mom.

“Just because she's small... a child... That doesn't mean she's a subhuman,” I tell her. “Children are humans. They have feelings. Are you sure you have CONSENT before you take the child out? What if she doesn't want to be in the coldness of the city? What if she feels lonely... all by herself... confined to a three-wheeled machine? Have you tried to find out about her feelings... and not just treat her like a THING... A CHILD?”

“Listen Mister,” says mom. “Who are you to tell me how to raise my child? How many children do YOU have?”

“Have?” I ask. “You say HAVE? Like HAVE a car? HAVE a bagel? HAVE a mutual fund? You HAVE THINGS. You don't HAVE people... unless you treat them like things.”

“Fuck you!” she says.

“Now you're looking at ME like a thing,” I tell her, “a sex object that you abuse in a sexual way. You are exploiting me by not seeing my humanity. You are objectifying me.”

The woman stands stone still. I can hear her teeth grind. From the corner of eye, I see the flash of something large and square... maybe a pocketbook. Then there is nothing. Then there is the feeling of cold beneath my cheek. A rough cold... snow. I'm lying on the sidewalk, something sticky on the side of my face. I gotta get up. Get home.

I push my hands against the sidewalk and force my upper body to rise from the muck. I walk my hands back, and raise myself to a doggie position. Then, slowly, unsteadily, I make it to my feet. I can't think straight. It takes a second or two to get my bearings. Very slowly, unsteadily, I walk to my apartment building, let myself in, and go up to my apartment.

Once inside, I look in the mirror. There is a bruise from chin to cheek. Little flecks of blood mix with the snow and car grime on my face. The eyes on the face in the mirror stare glazedly into mine. What are you thinking? I ask that face. What are you feeling right now-- as a human being?

ENDNOTES: [You can contact me by email at Through the post office: send those... er... private DVDs..or music or zines... or anything else (legal only!) to: Mykel Board, POB 137, New York, NY 10012-0003. If you like my writing, you can be notified when anything new is available by joining the MYKEL'S READERS Yahoo group]

--> Hard to believe dept: People are complaining that J.C. Penny's and Forever 21 are marketing t-shirts to girls. The shirts say things like Allergic to Algebra and I'm Too Pretty To Do Homework So My Brother Does It For Me. The complaint? The shirts “send the wrong message” to school-age girls. But the protesters have it backwards. This is capitalism... you sell what people WANT. Hey buckaroos, those shirts wouldn't sell if girls didn't think that in the first place. It's not sending a message. It's receiving one! You're complaining to the wrong side.

--> There's a magazine I'm NOT going to subscribe to dept: A study published in the December 2000 International Journal of Impotence Research found that average erect penis length in 50 Jewish Caucasian males was 13.6 cm (5.35 in) An earlier study conducted by LifeStyles Condoms found an average of 14.9 cm (5.9 in) among all U.S. Males.
Yeah we're shorter... but we're also smarter.

-->Sorry to report dept: Marty Thau died this month. He was 75. For those who don't know, he was a punk rock pioneer. Manager of the New York Dolls, he was also the brains and money behind Red Star records. That company produced the SUICIDE LP, one of the best records ever. I did not know Marty well, but that guy had taste... and balls.

-->What the frack? dept: So an earthquake hits the U.S. South and people are shocked! How could such a thing happen? There are no plates there to move like in California or Japan. In 2011, there was a tremor in Virginia. This year, it was at the South Carolina-Georgia border. So, quick... to the fracking map. Nothing on the SC-Georgia border... but plenty close. Very heavy in Mississippi, a bunch in East Tennessee. And Virginia last year? BINGO.
And look at all that fracking in New Mexico? Can you say underground radiation leak?

-->Keeping the pressure on: I want to thank reader George Metesky for suggesting a Bring Back Mykel concerted effort directed at Maximum Rock'n'Roll. He forwarded me an answer to a letter MRR printed where the editors excuse my firing not as censorship for content, but because I “refuse to answer letters in the letters section.”
That is wrong. I only asked that I be allowed to say I don't LIKE to answer letters in the letters section. It's unfair to the letter-writer for the columnist to always get the last word. If they want me to answer there, I will. SO, here I'm publicly agreeing to abide by their rules. Here it is in ones and zeroes. Their excuse for censoring me disappears.
I hope you'll cut and paste the paragraph above into an email, and send it-- along with your comments-- to with the subject line: BRING BACK MYKEL. Let me know how they answer.
MRR also has a facebook page, (as does as Mariam Bastani, the girl who fired me, but I can't link to her... she's banned from my webpage). You might want to let them know how you feel.


No comments: