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Gender roles gain their power from the fact that they appear natural and eternal. By looking to the past, we can draw aside this veil and see these categories for what they are—made by people, and able to be changed by people.

Alyssa Goldstein at AlterNet.  When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men

And how the stereotype flipped.
(via protoslacker)

The single best thing about doing an anthropology degree was the lens it gave me on my own culture: an understanding of what is a human universal, and what is not. Not much is a human universal, and least of all attitudes to gender and sexuality.

This is an excellent article, and I wish everyone knew this history. It is… freeing. To be sure it doesn’t free you from the bonds of culture and upbringing - there is no position wholly outside, there is no perfect individualist agency. But recognising there are other ways to be - that is freeing.

[…] the first sexual revolution was characterised by an extraordinary reversal in assumptions about female sexuality. Ever since the dawn of western civilisation it had been presumed that women were the more lustful sex. As they were mentally, morally and physically weaker than males, it followed that they were less able to control their passions and thus (like Eve) more likely to tempt others into sin.

Yet, by 1800, exactly the opposite idea had become entrenched. Now it was believed that men were much more naturally libidinous and liable to seduce women. Women had come to be seen as comparatively delicate and sexually defensive, needing to be constantly on their guard against male rapacity. The notion of women’s relative sexual passivity became fundamental to sexual dynamics across the western world. Its effects were ubiquitous – they still are.

[…] Even some of the most basic features of our sexual desire are therefore not natural and unchanging, but historically created. What we think of as “natural” in men and women, where the boundaries lie between the normal and the deviant, how we feel about the pursuit of pleasure and the transgression of sexual norms – all these are matters on which our current attitudes are fundamentally different from those that have prevailed for most of western history.

Extracts from The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution by Faramerz Dabhoiwala, which’ll be published on 2 Feb 2012.

I wish ideas like these were more widely known - that it was common knowledge quite how culturally contingent and historically specific our attitudes to gender and sexuality are. This would give people a lot more freedom.

"Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets."

Amazing photos of Kabul in the 1950s/60s, before 30 years of war sent it somewhere quite different. (But not backward in time - Is Afghanistan “Medieval?” No)

Original source: “Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…” by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy, May 2010. This has been archived - but the content’s now public on English Russia instead.

"Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets."

Amazing photos of Kabul in the 1950s/60s, before 30 years of war sent it somewhere quite different. (But not backward in time - Is Afghanistan “Medieval?” No)

Original source: “Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…” by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy, May 2010. This has been archived - but the content’s now public on English Russia instead.

Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu’s CRONOCAOS exhibition at the New Museum, New York.

the show draws on ideas that have been floating around architectural circles for several years now — particularly the view among many academics that preservation movements around the world, working hand in hand with governments and developers, have become a force for gentrification and social displacement, driving out the poor to make room for wealthy homeowners and tourists.

Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past.

[…]

Inside, the architects drew a line down the middle of the space, transforming one side into a pristine white gallery and leaving the other raw and untouched.

The result is startling. The uneven, patched-up floors and soiled walls of the old space look vibrant and alive; the new space looks sterile, an illustration of how even the minimalist renovations favored by art galleries today, which often are promoted as ways of preserving a building’s character, can cleanse it of historical meaning.

Obvious, but nonetheless not a bad point to see made.
Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu’s CRONOCAOS exhibition at the New Museum, New York.

the show draws on ideas that have been floating around architectural circles for several years now — particularly the view among many academics that preservation movements around the world, working hand in hand with governments and developers, have become a force for gentrification and social displacement, driving out the poor to make room for wealthy homeowners and tourists.

Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past.

[…]

Inside, the architects drew a line down the middle of the space, transforming one side into a pristine white gallery and leaving the other raw and untouched.

The result is startling. The uneven, patched-up floors and soiled walls of the old space look vibrant and alive; the new space looks sterile, an illustration of how even the minimalist renovations favored by art galleries today, which often are promoted as ways of preserving a building’s character, can cleanse it of historical meaning.

Obvious, but nonetheless not a bad point to see made.