Friday, August 25, 2006

They Used to Call Me Snow White, Now They Call Me Shrill

Speaking 'Shrilly' of George "Macaca" Allen and Gods and Generals

Conservative blogger, Kleinheider says we’re "shrill." Just in case we don’t know what that means, the blogger from Volunteer Voters adds that the women on this blog are "girls."

Actually, we do know the meaning of "shrill." The term has a long and weary history of being used as a means of dismissing women’s voices. Shrill must surely be one of the "most hackneyed woman-bashing tropes" -- or one of the most popular pejorative feminine, or feminist adjectives of all time.

adj. shrill•er, shrill•est
1. High-pitched and piercing in tone or sound: the shrill wail of a siren.
2. Producing a sharp, high-pitched tone or sound: a shrill fife.

When men are called shrill, it is the unkindest cut. Cause in patriarchy, one of the most insulting things that can ever be said about a man is that he is like a woman.

Kleinheider’s argument, if you want to call it that, is the usual one -- "if only we were less shrill, we might persuade more people over to our side."

If only we could be a manly man like Kleinheider, he could then move straight to his argument, but since we’re "girls" – his first line of offense is to point that out. Once everyone knows that we are merely shrill girls, it’s supposed to be obvious that Kleinheider is the one who knows what he’s talking about. Cause girls don’t have a clue about politics, else we’d be more than 15% of Congress. Unless, of course, politics remains male-dominated because women’s voices were intentionally excluded when the system was set up, and because some of the men still don’t play fair.

Kleinheider’s second point is that there is nothing to criticize about the sight of Senator George "Macaca" Allen dressing up like a Confederate Rebel and singing "Southern Rights, Hurrah." There is nothing suspect about a U.S. Senator choosing to appear in a movie that is an ode to the Confederacy. In Kleinheider’s view, adding the film to George "Macaca" Allen’s long list of crimes is going too far.

This is the problem with the Guerilla Girls -- shrillness. Having a legitimate point and then taking it too far. George Allen has stepped in the macaca enough times that you don't need to reach like this. There's the noose. The high school graffiti. Plus the recent flap. This is all plenty of ammunition with which to paint Mr. Allen with the broad brush of racism.

But when you cite a CAMEO appearance in a movie where the Senator is seen singing one the classic songs of Southern Independence you marginalize yourself and drive people, who might otherwise condemn the Senator, to defending him. When you lump legitimate charges in with this one. It makes the whole thing appear trivial.

When you accuse someone of racism for issuing a veiled ethnic slur, you have all but the most rabid partisans behind you. When you use this cameo appearance in movie about the War Between the States, you insult historians, reenactors, and thespians.

Kleinheider plays the Sesame Street game - Which of these things is not like the other? We think the blogger from Mt. Paternalism needs to go back and watch Sesame Street again.

Let’s see now, which of these things is not like the other?

Nailing the Confederate flag to your living room wall
Wearing a Confederate flag pin
Displaying a noose hanging on a small tree in your law office
Proclaiming April to be "Confederate History and Heritage Month"
Voting against a Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday and calling the NAACP an "extremist group"
Calling a brown person a monkey
Singing “Southern Rights, Hurrah!” in an ode to the Confederacy film while you are serving the full union as a U.S. Senator

Hmmm, it must be my shrill girly eyes; I just can’t find one thing that’s not like the other.

But let's look closer at the blogger's laughable claim that there is nothing suspect about a U.S. Senator and presidential aspirant appearing in this particular film that, by all accounts, paints the Confederacy with a sweet and righteous brush. In Kleinheider's view, Gods and Generals is just a mainstream movie.

What do movie reviewers say about that?

“Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy." -- Roger Ebert

''Gods and Generals'' makes going to war feel like going to church. The religiosity of the rhetoric may be authentic, but its relentlessness portrays the Confederate cause as a holy war. .. Its one-sided vision shows freed and about-to-be-freed slaves cleaving to their benign white masters and loyally serving the Confederate army. “ – New York Times Review

"[T]he film tries to soften slavery and distance the South from the brutalness of the ugly institution.” -- George Geder

"The final, crowning touch of awfulness in the steaming mass of offal that is Gods and Generals is the movie's disdain for the issue of slavery. The African-American characters that appear are servile and humble and irrelevant. The horror of slavery is completely elided; there's no sense of what any of these people in blue or gray are fighting to eradicate or protect." -- Curtis Edmonds

From the sound of it, Kleinheider may well have his own love affair with the Confederacy, but that's another post.

And speaking of shrill women, don't forget that August 26th is Equality Day.

Finally, Ampersand gets to have the last word on shrill:

"Why does anyone with a working brain think “shrill” is a legitimate critique of anything?"