The Omnipresence (i.e absence) of Women

Living in a foreign country (especially one as wacky as this one) gives me great insights into how patriarchy works, because I feel as though I’m living a parody, like I’m literally acting in a play…

Femininity is “done” differently, for a start, so I had to unlearn everything I knew in that respect, and then re-learn how to pass as a woman by adopting a new set of appropriate mannerisms. It was either that, or be treated like a freak. So I chose the former. Less mental energy all round.

Anyway,  living on this stage in this ongoing play never ceases to fascinate me. I should probably mention that I think about Mary Daly every single day at least once a day.

One of the things Daly wrote about was how patriarchy completely destroys women’s elemental selves, our essence and our being, and it then replaces us with brainwashed fembots, or with madwomen, or witches or whatever, or sometimes even with men (transwomen) pretending to be us, which is enough to drive us mad in itself. The more a woman has embraced the inanity and stupidity required of her, the further she has travelled from her authentic  self, which is nothing more— or less— than the price women have to pay for the crumbs we’re thrown.

A radfem visitor to Japan would take a look around and think that the women here were completely lost, having been long ago been ripped away from their Selves— going by the high-pitched voices, the hyper-femininity, the obsession with cooking, flower-arranging, and fashion etc. But after living here for a while, you begin to realise that that’s not actually what the women are like at all. So how could I have got it so wrong…?

That’s a very interesting question, and one that Daly answers very well. Patriarchy’s constant mission is to eliminate women, sometimes literally (when they kill us), sometimes by raping etc, but that’s only half a job, so they try to finish the job by using their (Orwellian)  media imagery to play back images of women to ourselves. Constantly. We see the neverending omnipresence of women all around us in the media, on billboards, in magazines, and what is more we are always always smiling.

Smiling? This is the tail-end of millenia of oppression, and yet the (STILL!) oppressed half of the human populace apparently cannot stop smiling. It’s enough to convince us that we are, indeed, deserving of our oppression if we’re so incessantly, unrelentingly cheerful, while our kind is being murdered left, right and centre…

Daly conceived of the background, the place where women’s souls reside, where our authentic selves are given a voice; and though it exists in every country on earth, men worldwide are not privy to it. So they create foreground imagery of women in order to soothe themselves. This may manifest in a number of ways. A good example is the picture of the “family” on a CEO’s desk. Or a snapshot of a girlfriend in a soldier’s pocket. The current digital age emphasizes and exaggerates the omnipresence (absence) of women in the foreground, where we emphatically do not exist, neither physically or spiritually. Porn is spectacularly good at this. Billboards and advertisements are second only to pornography in the constant stream of lies they tell about us.

This is what it boils down to. Telling lies about women to themselves and to us. Do not buy it.

And take all of this frenetic activity as a sign of their desperation.

Below you will find a collection of ‘smiley women’ images by two brilliant bloggers: “Woman Smiling Alone with Salad” by Edith Zimmerman, and “Woman Smiling with Small Pastel Weights” by Fit and Feminist.

Woman Smiling Alone with Salad

And “Woman Smiling with Small Pastel Weights” 🙂


22 thoughts on “The Omnipresence (i.e absence) of Women

  1. Interesting post CBL, and highlights that “culture” is always male culture. It is just a case of how any particular group of men have tweaked their demands as to how women should perform “femininity” for them.

  2. On the smiling thing: high end fashion models are NOT supposed to smile. They find this very difficult because it’s been trained in to them. The reason they are not supposed to smile is because they want them to appear as if they feel superior and smug to those who gaze upon them in live shows, and to the women who are buying the magazines in which advertisements feature their air brushed, unnaturally thin bodies.
    This is, of course, the exception that proves the rule – supermodels are supposed to be some unattainable level of “beauty”, and therefore something apart from, higher than, real women. Even their rare natural body shape – tall and thin – is forced to starve and then air-brushed thinner with all natural skin “flaws” erased and whitened. Then these manufactured goddesses may dispense with the requirement to smile, smile, smile.

  3. dalys concept of the background changed my brain and my thinking just as much as her concept of the reversal i think. both are critical tools for understanding our plight. somewhere, davina suggested that playing “spot the reversal” should be second nature to any feminists dissecting and understanding the p including political and media messages and i agree. i also can now “spot” the background, wherever women report experiencing joy i know its bc they have slipped into the background to find it — there is no joy for women in the foreground, its a bloody horror show. its the only way to make ANY sense of the demonstrable fact that women can be happy, if only in moments, considering their truly awful political and social positioning and sex role as fuckholes and breeders. we know we are not stupid, we know we are not masochists, so YES the background makes sense. finally something does!

    as far as the intent and effect of patriarchal media images, this is dear to my heart to thanks for addressing that! men do not know and cannot know what women really look like because all they see when they see us is basically a deer in the headlights. they think we “really” look like that, or sound like that, that we are simpering fools or have no “humor” or whatever but that is not true. they cant see whats there of course bc they are idiots and are lying and projecting all the time, but its also bc the “us” they see is the foreground “us” and in point of fact what they see is “us” responding to the presence of predators — them. clearly, daly hit the nail on the head wrt photographic images and even more recently the massive, pervasive media images of “woman” that men constantly project on every flat surface. without those images women would be notably absent bc we are actually absent from the foreground. they craft it so that its not noticeable at all. just like they erase the fact that there are literally millions of missing women due to infanticide and BILLIONS of missing women — all of us are missing — from mens precious “marketplace of ideas.” they make it so that our energy and creativity is not even missed at all. as long as they have images of us to wank to, “we” are not even missed. it is overwhelming and horrifying to think about, and yet at the same time, as daly always does, she suggests that things are not as they seem, that there are other dimensions to this life and that womens nature is to be free. in “quintessence” she imagines that we are finally free. dalys work always leaves me feeling hopeful, not despairing. what is the substantive difference between dalys work and dworkins (for example) and why did dworkin seem to die of a broken heart when daly reportedly died peacefully with friends all around? was it just a difference in personality, or was it a background/foreground thing? or what? its something i think about often. thanks for this post. 🙂

    • Yes. without images of women everywhere, we would be nowhere, (except in the service and care industries.) Women are present in porn all over the internet. BUt in fact, those women go and “work” the shoot, but then they go home and have a cup of tea (or some pain-killers/ alchohol/ drugs to deal with the after-effects). I heard that many women who act in porn prefer not to have “sex” outside of their “job”. Wonder why…?
      But the image of them remains on the internet, forever clickable, accessible, and present.

      • I think this is what I really find the most offensive about M2Ts, copying the horrid femininity mannerisms that we are forced to do (foreground stuff) and not actually knowing the true essence of being female, because they are not, and never can be.

        All the happy-smiley-innane photographs, they are only for patriarchy-approved crap: salad=dieting, ladylike exercising=keeping the manz-attracting figure. Most of the happy-smileys are to do with appearance, maintaining patriarchy-approved attractiveness for males – with the exception of babies, having happy-smiley puke-free, snot-free, clean-nappied babies. Don’t forget to be radiantly smiling on the wedding day, another patriarchy-approved pile of crap.

    • Come to think about it, men are jerking off to pornographic images of women who could well be dead in real life, who probably are dead if the porn is a few years old.
      That has got to be patriarchal utopia, has it not?

  4. Great post! I visited family over the holidays and had a chance to see some photographs of relatives, great-grandmothers, great-great grandmothers. Mostly they are not smiling at all. Some are quite stern. There are a couple with somewhat pleasant looks on their faces, but none of the manic smiles presented by media images such as those here. These women, who did not even have the right to vote, seem dignified in their photographs. They have gravitas. Looking at them does not make me ” feel good but rather makes me want to know them and know about their lives.

    I see those manic smiles as a mask.

    Still, I’d rather smile at a salad or workout equipment, things that are good for me, than at men, who aren’t.

    • You’Re right that those images of the Salad women above are not dignified at all. They look like idiots, to be honest. Unthreatening, I suppose. THat’s the goal men are aiming for. Make women appear silly and cute and stupid so they can feel superior. Jesus christ, they have to put so much effort into this oppression business of theirs don’t they. It almost makes me laugh how hard they have to try!

  5. Hmm. The reason high fashion models (not models like Christie Brinkley and “super” models) but models showing Dior, Balenciaga and McQueen, for example, do not smile is because they are not to show any personality or engagement that would detract from the clothing, but to disappear so the focus is on the design. Any eye contact, or flash of a smile would destroy that. She is a stand in for the fitting dummy. The invisible woman.

  6. I loved this post! seeing all these photos together really pointed to the complete surreality and absurdity of the smiles, and also how deeply propagandic it is. it’s very spooky: every woman is a copy of the other – it makes the organised, planned and intentional aspect of it so obvious – just as any genocide propaganda. This is what propaganda is, repeating the exact same hateful lie again ans again and again until it breaks into the brain and colonises our consciousness (if it were truth, you’d only have to say it once and it would stay with you, you’d integrate it immediately because it’s true). It is also a tactic of pyschological torture used against political prisoners to brainwash them – except that when it’s done to men, the violence is named appropriately. In fact men are never completely psychically colonised to the extent that they can still name the violence that they are subjected to, give sense to it, externalise it – their enemy is always identifiable by an external system, it gives truth to it. There is not the complete internalisation of violence as with us.

    By contrast, to see the photos separately and randomly (for instance in the street) induces thought termination. it takes me an extra effort to remember the different layers of reversals and the intended effects, to defend myself from thought-termination. it’s really tiring to do this all the time though, so most often I don’t see the images anymore and shut my brain down, but every time I do this it reduces my capacity to see the male system and horror of it all, and it takes me further away from myself. yet being constantly aware of the horror is destructive and soul-crushing, so I shut my brain down (dissociate). We’re going in circles but it’s just to say that when violence is constant and omnipresent, there’s no non-colonised state, we are never free from the effects of violence on us, on some level, and consciousness of the system might be gained or then reverted again, or reduced, altered. I find this quite scary.

    Another point I would make about the women is the opened mouth and empty look – this is common to all fake women in the male media nowadays, whether smiling or not. The open mouth means cluelessness, insecurity, stupidity, numbness – also the stupefied face of someone being shocked (assaulted). It also plays out women’s penetrability – women are supposed to be physically open and serviceable to men, penetrable, without barriers. It refers to the penetration of women’s mouths by men’s penises in porn. The empty look is the look of dissociated women, women who have been raped and abused so much that they not even in their bodies any more.

    And I agree with doublevez that the absence of smile is an extreme eradication of personality and life. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of the “dead woman look”: absent look, half open mouth, livid, white and ill-looking face, shadowy eyes, skeletal body, standing or sitting position that either looks like she is hanging like a dead puppet or that her corpse has been lumped and fitted in a corner. It really is a genocidal imagery, many women do look like the genocide survivors we see in war photos.

    • God, you’re right there WW. It *is* spooky, and it is reminiscent of genocide propaganda isn’t it. I remember when I first arrived to Japan that I was literally horrified at some of the imagery I saw everywhere. Public spaces are more pornified here than the UK, but less pornified than Russia. But women are infantilized in the images here in a way that they’re not in the west.
      Horrible, creepy, spooky and frightening when you contemplate the motivations behind it all. And yes, when you see the images together all at once like in this post you begin to see the deliberate intent. Brrr.

  7. And yes I agree with you Davina and Cherry about M2T. I have always found it extremely insulting to women – it’s as if they all dressed up as cockroaches and said “I’m a woman, this is my woman essence”. It is a pure outcome of genocidal propaganda. First they claim to replace women and second, replace us with the very thing that represents our annihilation (male made femininity). It’s a condensation of female annihilation.

    • Yes, the M2Ts adorn themselves with the shallow, stereotypical, “feminine” facade portrayed by “women’s magazines” and on TV and in the movies. One merely has to read anything they write to perceive the nasty male peeking out from beneath the makeup mask. They do not/cannot possess a woman’s soul.

  8. This post has alerted me to look for this. For instance, I was on a local news website and there were photos of the news women and men, quite a few. It was startling to see that all the women were smiling and only one man was smiling. My gut level was this: The one man who was smiling struck me as having a facade and someone not trustworthy and serious as the other men. Since he’s reporting the news, and news is serious business. The smiling women just looked like the women I’m used to seeing in the media. In other words, less serious, and more like “decorations.” I wonder about the picture taking process. Is the photographer making sure the women smile but the men look serious? Most likely.

    I’ve started to consciously curb my reflexive smile. There are other expressions, like pensive, thoughtful, etc. that are more appropriate in many social situations.

    • Oh, how interesting that you perceived the smiling man to be untrustworthy.
      I think you might be onto something there.
      Men are completely obsessed with projecting all sorts of personality traits onto women, and you listen to them and think, “Hang on a minute. Women aren’T like that.”
      But if smiley can “equal” untrustworthy in the minds of many, and if “smiley” images of women proliferate our surroundings, then it gives men another reason to justify women’s oppression and our lack of access to decent economic resources and political power. I would say that MANY men project their own dubious moral behaviour onto women. Well FFS, men are the killers and rapists of the world and yet they believe THEY get to run the justice system, and to decide when and whether we go to war because “women can’t be trusted to make big decisions”

  9. Smiling shows submissiveness. Traditionally induced by being scared. Therefore, poor people in Third World countries usually smile when some rich white male (i.e. powerful) photographer comes along, which is why we got / get to see all the smiling black kids on pictures of African slums. Actually this was an answer to a written question from a kid to a subsidized “we are the world”-like elementary school magazine, the kid wondered why these poor African kids who had is so tough smiled on all pictures he/she saw in that magazine. But so my female psychologist told me when I asked her why on earth women always smiled so stupidly on pictures (f.y.i. I was there to get an Asperger diagnosis), she simply said it was to show submissiveness.

    But of course if you don’t *have* to smile like men, it of course is a sign of being dishonest. While for women it is *normal* to be dishonest in a submissive way all the time to survive. A man does not have to act coy to be accepted, so it’s suspicious and he must have some special extra goal with it.

    Actually I think (not totally stupid) men do know that most women’s smiles are fake because they (the not being totally stupid variety) seem to be wary of smiley-faced men. But for women they probably just like the implied submissiveness, and they know that, in contrast to a woman, a smiling man can actually easily turn out to be dominating them using such deceit, and similarly, still play the bossy role when that act becomes more advantageous.

    • THat was so interesting Elin, especially the parallel with the smiling black kids in the African slums. I actually once watched a documentary where this white Australian photographer was lording it over some African village, trying to get the kids to pose in all sorts of positions. In the background I could see one of the kids’ dads just thinking, “WHat are you *doing* you boring, arrogant man”

      And yes, it’s very interesting that smiley people are seen to be untrustworthy! THat probably contributes to misogyny and the idea that women are all whores and liars. IT’s a vicious circle.

  10. Pingback: The Presence of Absence. An Illustration? | femonade

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