--- layout: post status: publish published: true title: Reading the "My Marxist Feminist Dialectic Brings all the Boys to the Yard" T-Shirt wordpress_id: 1551 wordpress_url: https://www.martineve.com/2011/10/21/reading-the-my-marxist-feminist-dialectic-brings-all-the-boys-to-the-yard-t-shirt/ date: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxMzo1MToyMyArMDIwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxMzo1MToyMyArMDIwMA== categories: - Literature - Academia tags: - Marxism - Feminism comments: - id: 6552 author: Jo VanEvery author_email: '' author_url: http://twitter.com/jovanevery date: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNDoxNjowMCArMDIwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNDoxNjowMCArMDIwMA== content: ! 'You can''t control how others read your shirt. There is no ONE right reading. I see some interesting possibilities here. 1) buy buying a feminist t-shirt from a company that sells a lot of sexist/misogynist crap you are helping them see that there is a market for something else 2) you are subverting the narrative of feminism (and Marxism, and omg Marxist-feminism) as sexually unattractive, frigid, etc. 3) you are subverting the narrative that for feminists to be sexy they have to conform in some way to dominant heteropatriarchal norms of "sexy" (the so called reclamation of high heels and makeup) 4) as a man wearing this shirt you are also subverting that feminists aren''t sexy narrative and a whole package of other narratives that assume feminism isn''t really relevant to men (except as something to be against) Oh my. Yes. Wear the shirt to class. Education should be disruptive.' - id: 6553 author: Martin Paul Eve author_email: email@example.com author_url: https://www.martineve.com date: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNTowNDowMCArMDIwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNTowNDowMCArMDIwMA== content: ! 'Yes, indeed. I like this set of readings and, of course, readings of the text are polyvalent. That said, I''m a little more sceptical on whether readings of the context of production are as multi-faceted. It is, after all, how my material, economic contribution towards the profits of the company that produces these items is read, by them, that matters. If they read it as a statement that, in general, their business model is positive, then I have made a negative contribution. Conversely, if they read it as a market for other products, then all well and good. How they read my statement turns back, though, towards interpretation of the product, again specifically theirs. If they think it is an attempt to undermine Marxist feminism, then no matter how I see my interaction with them, they will read it in materialist terms as an endorsement of misogyny. As you say, though, this is going to be a great talking point and there are so many ways in which this should jolt some out of complacency. I''ll let you know how the disruption goes!' - id: 6554 author: Jo VanEvery author_email: '' author_url: http://twitter.com/jovanevery date: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNToyODowMCArMDIwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMS0xMC0yMSAxNToyODowMCArMDIwMA== content: ! "Good point. I agree with that about the financial transaction. The wearing of the t-shirt itself goes way beyond that and may have benefits that mitigate. \n\nThere are no innocent choices. Thinking out loud about these things is itself an important political act." ---
I had reservations about doing so, but I finally ordered the "My Marxist Feminist Dialectic Brings all the Boys to the Yard" T-Shirt from T-Shirt Hell. I loved the shirt from day 1, but wanted to discuss the issues surrounding this.
But you're male. And? This is one of the strangest responses I've yet encountered. People are so absorbed in self interest that it seems impossible that someone would want something for others beside their dominant group. Yes, I'm male, but I would prefer it that women were given equal opportunities in society. Although I'm aware that the term is fragmented and in some definitions I cannot be a feminist, under the broad, succinct definition just given: it is possible to be a male feminist.
What about the shirt's heteronormativity?
Well, being male and wearing it certainly helps to undermine that statement!
What about T-Shirt Hell?
Now this is where it gets thorny. One of the reasons I resisted buying this shirt for a long time was that the site from whence they come seems to primarily sell misogynist and downright offensive material. First off, I didn't want to pay them! Secondly, though, this leads to the question of whether the shirt is being ironic.
Reading the shirt
The original reference is to the innuendo in Kelis' Milkshake in which her unspecified metaphorical "milkshake" "brings all the boys to the yard". Now, without entering into the debate on whether the liberation of female sexuality has been recuperated by the still-extant patriarchy in a post-feminist mode, in the case of the substitution here, the humour would be derived from an unlikely source of attraction. This reading is then logically saying that there is an incongruence between Marxist feminism and the sexual attractiveness of its adherents. Problematic to say the least, if only in raising the utter irrelevance of such a statement. Of course, it is possible that the humour is picking on the academic frame of reference and is a purely linguistic phenomenon, in which case all fair and good. It seems, though, quite plausible to read it as "ha! hardly going to pull with that kinda attitude, are ya, feminist?"
On the other hand, another potentially positive reading of the shirt is that "bringing to the yard" resonates with "brings to task", a taming of the patriarchal order. This brings the reading back in line with the empowering surface reading of the shirt.
Anyway, this is all food for thought. This week in my Texts in Time class, we'll be looking at The Roaring Girl and in particular Jean Howard's excellent article on cross-dressing in Early Modern England. As it will be necessary to discuss the history of Marxist (or at least Materialist) Feminist Dialectics in our work on this piece, I'm going to wear the shirt. I'm then going to ask the students to read it, in an academic sense, and see if they struggle with the implications or whether, at the end of the day, it's possible to laugh without a laughing-at-expense.