Survivor
Culture Shock And Violent Storms

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Miss Alli: F | Grade It Now!
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Hanging Chad

You know (yeah, it's one of my famous "you know" paragraphs), this is part of what just burns me about this season, and it's why I'm unable to take any satisfaction in the fact that the women are sticking together more than they usually do. It's true that women often are stupid and easily led in Survivor, and it's true that men have traditionally been the power players, and it's true that it would be nice to see a woman be a great player like Boston Rob or whatever. But what goes down my throat like ground glass about this season is that, to a great degree, I see Ami manipulating the other women by playing on the worst, most stereotypical bullshit that women carry around with them. She tries to make them feel guilty about looking out for their own interests, just as women have often been made to feel guilty about wanting their own lives, their own choices, their own money, and so forth. She presents them with a false choice between being loyal to "the group" and being a selfish betrayer. She coddles them with physical affection and praise when they're "good," and she freezes them out emotionally when they're "bad." She tries to convince them that they have an obligation to play what is ultimately an individual game as if it were a group game, as if they're serving some higher purpose by allowing somebody else to fry their bacon in the interests of "the sisterhood." She tries to convince a woman like Twila, who is clearly not interested in bonding over twee little junior-high activities like hair-braiding, that to dislike those activities is to reject the companionship of women and even to reject your own femininity. She tells everyone what they should do, tries to present it as a higher crusade, and then insists that she's not even "the one to talk to," because it's not as if she's pulling any strings. And as she just did with Twila, she reacts with all this disappointed head-shaking when another woman has the audacity to maintain any degree of perfectly healthy skepticism, as if the hegemony is winning any time a woman suggests that she balances her loyalties -- even to other women -- with her own self-interest. Scout is the same way. She sings around campfires and preaches world peace, but she tuts about who is and isn't "deserving," and she certainly did relish the moment when she got to put Eliza in her place in public by first embarrassing her as the bottom-feeder of the women's alliance, and then contemptuously eye-rolling at her for taking personally what any reasonable person would recognize as a personal attack, because that's exactly what it was. There's nothing wrong with playing hard, and there's nothing wrong with not liking everyone, but to demand that other people be generous while you're being self-serving is hypocritical, no matter your gender.

This is an individual game, after all. Ami and Scout have no intention of taking six women to the final four. They both want to get the money for themselves, and in order to get it, they're leveraging exactly the same "give it all up for the greater good" bullshit that they probably would rail against if you asked them about it directly. It's my least favorite definition of being a strong woman, where you take all the parts of both sexism and feminism that benefit you personally and use them as crowbars to beat the shit out of other women, and quite frankly, I find it very difficult to see much in the way of empowerment.

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Survivor

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