Monthly Archives: July 2013

Love Is The Root of All Evil

By Tova Kardonne

Oh, what a feeling. It’s the ultimate excuse, the unverifiable cause, the one self-interested pursuit that no one can critique. Heinous crimes are explained with love. Massive power imbalances rendered ostensibly harmless by authority’s love. An inner state, known only to its subject, it has no predictable appearance to its object. It’s also capricious and ineffable, transforming or disappearing for no apparent reason. And because it cannot be described, it’s not reliably distinguishable from other states; like say, for instance, hatred.

“One day you’ll understand that I do these things out of love.”

Punishment woman



At least half-yes. None of that is untrue. But there’s another side to this-here grammatical clause. “To love” is a transitive verb. Some of its meaning is defined by the lover; but some of the meaning is known only to the beloved.

To receive love; what is that? The love one receives can be seen and heard. It can be recognized and anticipated. A beloved one seems to fear less, to seek their best self, to be powerful in the face of that challenge, and to know that mistakes will be corrected and forgiven. Being loved is obvious; well-loved people are easy to get along with. They need little and can concede much, because, being full of love, they feel generous.    Friends, lovers, grammarians, we find ourselves in a well-frayed knot.






“Are you my one true love?”


  Love as feeling; love as action. Love as mystery; love as     practical.   Love as responsible to itself alone; love as responsible to the entire world.

In walks Feminism. (“Long time no see!”) Feminism, here’s your old dance partner, Gender Roles. (“Oh- you again.”)

Gender Roles likes to assign these pairs of opposites to the sexes. Feeling, mystery, subjectivity; these are Feminine attributes, so they say. Action, responsibility, objectivity; these are the domain of Man. And yet… doesn’t it seem, in our world of domestic violence and tribal loyalty, that it’s the patriarchy that has relied most heavily on the “feminine” side of love?  Isn’t it the abuser’s best defense that feelings cannot be measured by mere actions, nor undermined by them? All lovers, says Shakespeare, are mad. Lovers make no sense because of love’s magnitude, not despite. To demand that love act, and act well, in the eyes of more than just the beloved, these are the ‘masculine’ values of action, responsibility, and objectivity that refute the more sinister claims of love. Yet the confused love-cravings that the human race supposedly has no deliverance
from—these are the favourite talking points of leaders, worldly and spiritual, for whom Feminism is an unwelcome shaking-up of the established order—and for whom Gender Roles provide the normalcy upon which abusive love relies.

Want me to prove it? Do ya? Do ya?

fight for king

“For love of King and Country.”

But we’re all adults here, right? If Beloved over here and Lover over there disagree so completely as to what love means, they are free to part and never again to meet. They are each free, as we are each free, to be alone. But anyone who cannot choose to be alone has a greater stake in reconciling the two sides of love. Children, those beings so crucially dependent on love, constitute one of a handful of groups who can’t walk away from
such a difference of opinions. The elderly are another, as are those with mental illness that require relationship for survival. Can more be demanded of one who loves them?

Or less? The law endows some love-relationships with extra obligations—but curiously, exempts them from others. Spouses are exempt from the obligation to testify against each other. Lovers are, at the very least, less obligated to govern their urges. But while love can stand as a defense for a crime of passion, in the case of neglect, it’s only the assumed relationship of love that renders the act a crime.

“Love thy neighbour as thyself.”
mandelbrot heart

Without a coherent understanding of love, without being able to say, this is love, and that is not, we are adrift in a sea of usages, fictions, conventions and scripts. Maybe it’s not the root of all evil, but you don’t know what love is. None of us do.

A Tortured Metaphor About Love in the Age of Feminism

by Amorina Kingdon

There are scripts for love.

Why scripts? Because every role requires a script – that’s what defines it. And gender roles are…roles.

I was reading the script late last night, wandering about my city. I went to a cafe, after the storm ended, and sat at a small rain-spattered table beneath the leaves. You see, I was thinking about trying out for the role of Woman. It was going to be big, running on FX – or maybe HBO – starting next spring, the rumours went. Big money. A career-maker.

The cafe served me little cups of hot bitter espresso as I read the first act. I was nonplussed, but I thought I’d push on. I needed a stronger potion to fortify me. The woman behind the bar pours my wine, wordlessly raises an eyebrow at what I’m reading. I want to ask her… Do you know this play? Have you seen it? Will it be a good career move? Her dark eyes are set in lines a mile deep. Why is she the only one open late?

And it really is getting late, isn’t it? The city is starting to close, turn its lights off and turn in. The old sleep easy: the young sleep poorly with each other, above the fire escapes.

It’s getting cool outside. I take my sweating Chardonnay to a seat by the window. I read the next act in the worn, ancient script.

It’s an odd role, this Woman character. Have you ever read it? It requires a very skilled actress. I don’t know if I can do it.

Like in Act 2, for example. The woman has to pretend she doesn’t want sex: but she has to try and have sex with the young college Man. It’s a strange scene. You feel almost like she doesn’t really know what she wants.

Or here, where she pretends she wants a job with something called ‘work-life balance’ because the man in her life, despite being a good man, is on a good ten-year plan and will not be able to do anything fundamental to care for the children they’re supposed to have. Even if he says he will, it would murder the relationship – and her career – to expect him to. Imagine emoting in a few lines all the hundred thousand reasons behind a chirpy request for ‘work-life balance’!

Or what about here, where the princess myths, pop songs and romantic treacle she was weaned on founders on the rocks of a real human relationship. She realizes that Man is no more a Prince Charming that she is a Princess, and she faces the juddering mindfuck that all those fantasies, that felt better and meant more than anything she’s ever known, are lies that seem to exist solely to get her this far, slavering after a bargain that may not be that wonderful…

A nuanced and complicated part, indeed.

I should be in bed. The audition is in just five hours. But I still don’t know if I’ll be there.

Finally, even this cafe, the last outpost in a dark city, begins to close. I drop some coins on the table. As I wander home, I finger the dog-eared photocopy and wonder why the role exists at all.

Because I don’t really like this Woman character. I doubt you do, either, if you’re honest. No actress can play her well, the way she’s written. Sure you can see the type of person she’s supposed to be. You can even understand, in principle, her stagnations, her negative space and inevitable anger. But you just don’t like the role. She’s not written as a real person: she only serves a purpose, a one-dimensional plot device. Is that because she’s really like that, and the mad genius of the playwright has reproduced her on spec? Or is that because she’s never been written properly? How can you tell?

You like Man much better. He’s why you tune in. The more I read this script, the less I want this Woman part. She’s a stilted half-character.

A tired trope.

How was it I heard this part was so desirable, again? It’s hard to remember. It’s just the scuttlebutt. Everyone I know is trying out.

Maybe I won’t try out. In fact, I think I am going to sit in the producer’s chair. Yes, I am going to produce my own show. I’m going to rewrite my own Man, my own Woman. I’m going to do it better.


Whatever did we do before TV, before the omnipresent lens? A producer isn’t really all that different from an actress, wrapped in constricted narratives like so much unspooled 8mm, with deadlines to hit, roles to cast, scenes to shoot and record, lines to nail.

Drinking too much, blind under hot lights, running across cable-strewn floors between prima donnas and assholes with their makeup caking, sets built and torn down, way over budget, way behind schedule.

What started as a fresh, riveting, brainstorming magnum opus has turned slowly into a story so derivative you want to scream because you can write whatever you want but you still have a finite budget and a three-camera setup and the actors who audition only really know one or two ways of doing things, but your story cannot be told properly if you don’t produce it.

Knowing the other networks will carry this same story – they all will – and if you don’t, your viewers will tune out because you’re not giving them what they want.

Trying to produce the content for the people in the boardrooms, who wouldn’t know art if it shit in a jar for them, but who sign your paychecks.

Running up and down corridors late at night, knowing your reputation is only as good as your last episode, knowing your numbers are slipping, you can see it in the Neilsen ratings, you can see their eyeballs shift in real time, you’re sneaking drugs and puking in shame, thinning hair and sweat stains, neglected stand-ins with wide betrayed eyes on the other end of calls you don’t take because your star – your One – is suddenly entertaining offers from other studios.

Press an oily forehead into clenched fists onto bare thighs as you crouch in a stall in a halogen-haloed bathroom down in the basement where no one will hear, as you realize the production is complete shit, it’s saccharine and trite and one-dimensional. You must fight for your main character. This Woman character that no one wants to be.

So you stumble up stairs to the upstairs people and you bust in and you start to talk, you start to babble that it might be better if…could be better if…. maybe what if instead of boy-meets girl it’s girl meets girl or boy and girl have already met and they do business together or are actually good friends, equals, or they fuck once and move on as better people for not dragging each other down in the muck?

And the upstairs people laugh slow and they kick up their feet, and ask, how long have you been here, kid? and they gesture casually to a wall of Emmys and Peabodies and they turn their head sideways, and bob a finger at you and smile with one half of their mouth and say, I used to think like you. and we have a lot of money riding on this and her tits will sell and people don’t want to be sad and there’s ten younger, more energetic kids waiting to take your place if you’re tired.

And you go down and you sit in the folding chair and you slip headphones with worn pads that smell of thirty years of dandruff over your head and you focus your bleary eyes on the LED screen before you where hot young things that you hired to play Woman are gyrating and mewling, or at least they’re supposed to be hot young things, they certainly fit the casting notes, but you look at their marbleglass eyes and their candyfloss hair and their porcelain tits and their teeth behind their lips like glass chips pinched in fingertips and you feel nothing, and nothing, and nothing again.

When you watch them prance and shriek on the white backdrop it looks stupid but lower your eyes to the screen and it looks… familiar.

Yes, a little green screening and it’s Paris, a little effects and it’s every romantic fantasy and more. Where’s that pop song soundtrack? It costs more for post-production but it’s worth it, on that day you finally show them the tape and they laugh from their guts and pound your back and pour a scotch and take you to the shore club for lunch where they order you oysters and as they pass your lips one by one you know you’re recognizable and acceptable and isn’t that worth everything, look back at those latenight clusterfuck sessions about rewriting the world and understand just how…how…how harmful that is when there’s a charcuterie board at the end of the maze, and you spread it on hot white bread and sink your teeth in and they say, you’ll do fine kid, you’ll do fine.

The Ball’s in Whose Court?

Freyr is dying of lovesickness because he is afraid to ask out Gerðr

By Amy Medvick

Amongst my circle of g-friends, I have become the go-to girl for tips on what to do in perplexing adult situations involving MEN. It’s funny, since I don’t feel like an expert. But it makes sense: I have so many experiences to draw upon.

Especially—necessarily—break-ups. You give me the run-down, and I can call bullshit from a mile away, identify the type and give you a list of the possible outcomes, possible responses to each outcome, and another round of possible outcomes from each possible response to the first round of possible outcomes. I can organize it into a tree graph for you, compile the final combinations, and calculate the probability of each. I am ALL over the endings.

But I have come to realize there is a part of the process that I just shouldn’t give advice on, because it confounds me to no end. Or rather, to no beginning: courtship. What the fuck!!!

Because nothing says "I love you" like trying to act natural in a wind storm.

Because nothing says “I love you” like trying to act natural in a wind storm.

Nothing in the world is more frustrating. Sure, on TV (to which we turn in order to educate ourselves in these matters and rate our success) they make it look easy. But they are using the basest of camera tricks; make-up, good angles, wind-machines and scripts. With these aces up their sleeves, our televised love-gurus ask each other on dates with smooth and clever banter. Sometimes they get shy, just often enough to be believable human characters, but they almost always overcome it in an honest outpouring of their interest or grand, charming romantic gestures, and usually meet with success.

But in real life—or at least, in the artsy non-traditional-gender-roles circles that I walk in— courtship has to be conducted secretly. Sometimes so secretly that the person you are courting doesn’t even know about it, but that is a risk you have to take to maintain decorum. It has to be a secret that you like so-and-so, and when you ask them on a date, it has to be a secret date. So you don’t call it a date, you say: “let’s hang out” or “will you be at that party?” Cloak & dagger style: no one can know! You secretly get their phone number, ostensibly for some super platonic reason like, say, flute lessons. It’s not allowed to openly state your interest in someone—no! Two prospective mates must nudge incrementally towards each other, perhaps in real time while watching a movie—just as friends!—at a rate that is too slow to be observed by an outsider (so they suppose) but just fast enough that the other person will actually notice (so they hope). Often, the outcome is the reverse.

After it has become impossible to pretend there is nothing going on, like for example after you two have had sex, then it still has to be a secret whether you, like, like-like the person, and if so, how much. The status of the relationship (shhhh, don’t use the R-word) may remain secret—to the lovers and the world— long after the two love-birds have been happily nesting and fucking for weeks, even months.

Once in a while you hear stories about someone who got asked on a date, and who wasn’t so put off by this lack of seductive finesse that they actually accepted. But it’s always a friend of a friend, and quite frankly, I’m starting to wonder if the whole “will you go out with me some time?” thing is just an urban myth.

 Have things always been this way? I think they must have been different, once upon a time, or else where would the notion of date-asking-out-on have come from?

Actually, I know things have changed a lot whenever I talk to a friend of mine who is in her 60’s. When discussing how to get closer to my latest crush, she offers suggestions like:

 “Why don’t you go by his house and knock on his door and say hello?”

I’m left with my jaw on the ground, speechless.

“Um, um, you can’t just DO that,” I stammer.

“Why not?”

“People don’t knock on each others doors any more. Not even when they are expected. You just text that you are there.”

“Ok, so just text that you are in the neighbourhood and you would like to knock on his door.”

“No. Absolutely not, I can’t. Only friends do that. We’re not friends yet… If I just start acting like we’re friends, he’ll know I like him as more than a friend.”

“Isn’t that the point, to be more than friends?”

“No. Yes. No.” I sigh. “Not like that—there has to be another way.”

 What made such a great cultural divide between my friend and I, historically? Well, there is a lot: sexual liberation, the de-formalization of our social interactions, then cell-phones and social networking bringing us new mediums through which to interact. Each have shaped our mating rituals, though in many ways we have become more formal (in the sense of constricted by social codes) and more awkward about sex just as communications technology has allowed us to be constantly—and casually—connected to anyone we like. Hmm. There is also, of course, feminism, which brought many changes—right?

We still have the old cultural scripts lying around (the same ones that get used for TV) instructing us on how courtship used to be done, and I reckon that anyone who can’t relate to the mating ritual described above is probably still following these old scripts, or has maybe written entirely new ones that are working really well (I’d like to see them please!). In the olden days, the woman’s job was to simply be as attractive and nice as possible to the man she had her eye on, find ways to get his attention and hope he noticed. The man’s job was to take the lead, decide which woman struck his fancy and ask her out. It was undoubtedly a nerve-racking role for the men and a frustrating one for the women, but it had one thing going for it: it was clear. Everyone knew what to do. If a man asked you out, he liked you; if he didn’t ask you out, he didn’t like you. If a woman said yes, she liked you; if she didn’t…. well, actually, there’s the problem. There wasn’t much a woman could do if she wasn’t interested, other than hope she would be believed.


A game of love tennis in the 1970s, decade of feminism and mandatory long hair.  Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (], via Wikimedia Commons

One side of a game of love tennis in the 1970s, decade of feminism, mandatory long hair, and many shades of brown. Deutsche Fotothek‎, via Wikimedia Commons

Our courtship rituals have changed dramatically in response to feminism, and it’s a darned good thing. Ostensibly, since a woman can take a more active role in courtship, she is less likely to be pressured into any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with a man she isn’t interested in. Except, wait, no, that still happens. Shit.

Ok, well, at least now women can ask men out, and men can accept dates. No one has to pay for anyone else, and everybody opens their own doors and pulls out their own chairs. That’s all great stuff—if only it actually played out that way. It seems to me, though, that in the bohemian kinds of circles that have been amenable to the breaking down of traditional gender roles, men and women aren’t asking each other out in equal measure. Instead, no one is asking anyone out.

It’s understandable. I mean, it must have been hard all those centuries for those shy dudes to have all the pressure on to make the moves. I’m sure a lot of them sighed sighs of relief when they were finally allowed to take a more passive role. I totally get it, because the thought of asking a person on a date gives me night-sweats too.

 So now, for man and woman alike, it has all been turned into a covert operation. We are love-spies.

Of course, for me, as a woman, to what degree are those night sweats, and my predilection for love-espionage, caused by pre-feminist social conditioning? I’m pretty ballsy in other areas of my life, why not this one? How many women are eagerly embracing the ask-out? How successful is it when we do—how much encouragement do we get to ask men on dates? Any time I have taken even a mildly pro-active role in pursuing a man (ex. saying hello, talking to him, smiling, and if I’m feeling really bold, flirting back when he flirts with me), though he is usually flattered and I am sometimes successful, he seems to get the idea that I am totally obsessed with him, which is never true. (When I like a guy that much, I don’t do anything, for fear he’ll know!) Maybe it’s because we aren’t yet used to women behaving this way, and that makes our interest seem exaggerated, but just so much as wink at a man and he starts on about how he’s not ready for a rela—sorry. Not ready for an R-E-L-A—No! I can’t even spell it. We’ll call it an “R”.

 So, you learn to keep your winks in check and your feelings secret. Otherwise, you risk looking like you are a crazy marriage-mongering man-trapper. Instead, you play it cool, play it hard-to get. Which is what we had to do before, except now it’s also a secret that we are trying to look pretty and be nice. So, you wear sweatpants a few times around him, and are a little mean once in a while, to throw him off, and you call him “dude” sometimes because that’s what platonic man-friends call each other, right? But you have to be careful that you don’t give him the impression that you dislike him, or that you are actually a platonic man-friend.

Meanwhile, the dudes who were relieved that the onus is off of them for leading the courtship process still want to retain their dignity and their sense of masculinity while “opting out” of asking out. So, instead of letting their feelings show and hoping someone will act on them (which would be way too girly— that is, if that’s what girls still did), they pretend they aren’t all that interested (which is now what we do), that they aren’t looking for a re-… re-… for an “R”, with her or with anyone.

Nope, it’s all got to be a secret. Much MUCH more dignified for both involved to slowly inch towards each other on a couch, thereby maintaining the decorous illusion of platonic non-interest, while actually secretly touching knees, until one finds oneself in a serious R— top secret, of course.

 In a way, through mutual passivity, we have achieved a kind of gender equality— we are all pretending not to want anything, at least, nothing specific, although obviously we do (hello, hormones). At times, we still pretend that the men just want the sex and the ladies just want the love, and never the twain shall meet—for old times sake—but we do it with a wink, because we know it isn’t really true. It’s just those quaint old scripts. Shucks. 

Freyr is dying of lovesickness because he is afraid to ask out Gerðr

Freyr is dying of lovesickness because he is in love with Gerðr and he’s afraid to ask her out to dinner. I feel ya, Freyr.

And if perchance you’re talking to the semi-mythical relationship guy, or gal-who-just-wants-to-sow-her-wild-oats… or, um, collect them… or whatever… you’ll never know, because everyone’s desires are kept so well hidden. We are just as varied as ever, a variation that blatantly ignores gender binaries, but we’ve finished it with a veneer of sameness that has robbed us of our honesty. And though it makes for some delicious sexual tension, it’s an equal-ness that leaves you with few options and plenty of anxiety any time you actually have a crush on somebody.

Well. So maybe I do have some advice when it comes to courtship, but it might be useless while everyone else is sworn to secrecy. Could we all, perhaps, maybe try to be a bit more open, more straightforward about our interest? Stop acting like it’s shameful to like someone? Can we find non-aggressive but still clear ways to let our interest show? Gals, can we grow some ovaries and take the lead about half the time? Guys, can you remain calm when we do that, so that we don’t feel like we’re not really allowed to? Can we all just stop speaking in hushed tones and hiding behind the holographic screens of our spy-grade Bond-style love-espionage camera-phones, and actually say what we feel?

Or fine, text what we feel, with our spyPhones, whatever. Point is, this idea could be revolutionary:

 Honesty. Openness. Transparent communication. Dates. And then, lots of love.


Suzy Lake

image by Suzy Lake

Be sure to watch out for our COMING ATTRACTIONS:

1. July theme revelation (wait for it…. wait for it… keep waiting…)
2. Call for article submissions
3. The big answer to the big question: Why a parachute?

All this week!
Blasfemmer Editors