THE BLOG

OBL and Sex

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

When I was working as a technical adviser on a film, we'd end each day by sitting around with food (and alcohol) and watching the day's film takes. It was always kind of flat somehow, even when others were raving about how well this or that take had gone. Then I realized... there was no music, no background sound patched in. Now when I watch films, I pay attention to the background music, because I realize that it is the vehicle for my appropriate emotional response. We are being told how to feel about what is happening in the film, quite explicitly, and we don't even realize it.

That's how the social system of gender -- males on top, so to speak -- works in all those situations that are not explicitly articulated as gendered. But like that background music, it is there always, and it is explaining to us in a powerful non-verbal medium exactly how we are to feel about every situation we encounter. We learned this background music and its meanings -- without the slightest separation between what we call cognitive and emotional in our (male, dualistic) dissection of experience -- as early as we learned to recognize our first caretakers... usually a mother. We take it for granted; and so gender appears to us -- until the contradictions of later life expose it with power, pain, and confusion -- to be absolutely "natural," an irreducible and inescapable aspect of our very existence, like the need for oxygen or food...

... ... ...

...In the next part of this series, I was going to explore the relationship between actual politics, security-as-our preoccupation since 9-11, and gender. As it happens, the news today is full of the most recent video release from Osama bin Laden.

The commentary on this event will be predictably obtuse; and bin Laden will again emerge as a complete caricature of evil. Democrats will predictably point out that the Bush administration hasn't "got him" yet. Republicans will rejoice, because (1) this takes some of the heat off of them from the Larry Craig's sex solicitation scandal (no gender there... duh), and (2) every time the bogeyman shows up, it triggers a paranoid section of the public to seek the protection of "real man" saber-rattlers... a carefully crafted Republican archetype.

This only supports the thesis -- once one studies the actual bin Laden, a well-educated, calculating Saudi political actor who aims to topple the House of Saud -- that bin Laden himself is delighted with the war in Iraq and the concurrent debacle in Afghanistan, not to mention the US belligerence against his other arch-enemy, the Iranian government. Bin Laden reasonably assumes that his own intervention as the bogeyman, will reinforce support for the ill-defined Global War on Terror that has been such a godsend in support of his own political objectives: to isolate and break the power of the House of Saud in his home country, by exacerbating the dilemmas of the House of Saud's guarantor of power, the USA....