You know that feeling when there is so much going on, so much you have to do, so many different threads that you need to keep weaving together, or balls in the air that you can’t let drop, or spinning plates that you have to keep spinning, that you can’t make room in your head for a single, small, even the smallest, coherent thought to settle? Well, that’s been me these past couple of weeks. I’ve wanted to write about Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky and that whole infuriatingly shameful debacle, but I haven’t been able to feel anything other than enraged, haven’t been able to articulate a response other than wanting to take the world by the scruff of the neck and rub its nose in the rape Sandusky committed, that Paterno and so many, all too many, others conspired to cover up. And it doesn’t matter whether the cover-up was by commission or omission; it’s still a fucking cover-up; and it is part and parcel of the much larger cover-up that continues to obscure the scope and the consequences of the sexual abuse of boys that takes place very day all over the world.
I have wanted to write about that, and I have wanted to write yet one more time about Foreskin Man, which I have posted on before, because I am wide-eyed incredulous at the fact that Matthew Hess was unable to come up with a more imaginative female counterpart for Foreskin Man–because all Supermen need their Supergirls, right?–than Vulva Girl, whose picture I just have to show you:
And here is how Hess describes her:
With the Siri Amulet as he energy source, Vulva Girl harnesses the supernatural powers of flight and psychokinesis to battle female genital mutilation.
As she soars across the jungles of Africa, girls celebrate her victories over the bloodthirsty circumcisers who prey on their fragile innocence. After centuries of suffering, their intactivist superheroine has finally arrived.
the surgeries performed on boys and girls… I think everyone has met at least one person who believes that circumcising girls should be a crime, but circumcising boys is okay[.] The idea behind Foreskin Man #3 is to expose that double standard and help persuade readers that male and female circumcision are really two sides of the same coin.
That statement, of course, is problematic on its face and it completely obscures all kinds of problems inherent in the character of Vulva Girl, starting with the fact that she is certainly not a girl, and it doesn’t matter to me that calling her Vulva Girl is in the long tradition of Supergirl, Batgirl, Wondergirl or whatever. The names Foreskin Man and Vulva Girl, just placed side by side like that because they work as a team, recapitulates a whole string of patriarchal, sexist notions that do more harm than good, it seems to me, even if they are being deployed in the interests of ending female genital mutilation and routine infant penile circumcision. Not to mention the racism implicit in how she is described: the jungles of Africa? bloodthirsty circumcisers? But even that whole discussion, and it is a discussion worth having, has been crowded out of my head, leaving just enough room to tell you about, first, the trailer for Foreskin Man #3, which begins with the words, “The hate us because we are blond” and needs, I think, no other comment:
And, second, the Foreskin Man Song, the lyrics of which, I am afraid, speak similarly for themselves:
While you’re out saving boys from the knife
I can’t help feeling lonely in my life
I know it’s a calling that must be answered
They’re not the only ones who need to be pampered
I get relief knowing you put cutters away
But a girl still needs time for foreplay
When the doc and mohel are behind bars
Let me help you forget about those scars
Foreskin Man, I need your lovin’ tonight
It’s the only thing that makes me feel right
Foreskin Man, I want that slip and slide
Won’t you please come glide inside?
Foreskin Man, I miss your gentle caress
My body cries for you, I do confess
Foreskin Man, visit my balcony
Being gone this long is a felony
I’ll cheer for you on tonight’s news
When they talk about your latest rescues
And while my heart aches for a rendezvous
I trust you’ll return when my time is due
These lyrics truly left me speechless, and I know this is a terrible segue, but that speechlessness felt to me not so different from the speechlessness I experienced grading papers earlier today. I am not going to quote for you from my students’ work, but suffice it to say that a lot of it did not reach the caliber of this writing; and so I am left feeling utterly depressed. I just checked my grade book and fully 2/3 of one of my freshman composition classes is failing, most of them simply because they have elected not to hand in work that was due. It is, of course, entirely possible that they would be failing even if they had handed in that work, but I have no way of knowing that. What’s even more depressing is that they have all received a warning email from me and not one of them has bothered to come talk to me. And so tomorrow I will not be teaching. I will be telling the students who are not failing that they have the day off so that I can speak one by one with the students who are failing. I am not looking forward to those discussions.