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I blame the plutocracy!
Conventional femininity injures, mutilates, and sometimes kills.

Jill, at I Blame the Patriarchy ( ) considers who is to blame for the death of Carolin Berger, a German porn actress.

It is only too easy for defenders of the status quo to blame those who die of plastic surgery. All too many people believe the world is just. Devout believers in the American Dream believe that work will make them rich and free; that the rich have earned their wealth and the poor have squandered their opportunities. Drawing from the same world-view, they tend to believe whoever has been tortured must be guilty, whoever has been raped must have led their attackers on, and whoever has fallen ill must have neglected their health. Of course they will also believe that whoever has been injured or killed in surgery must have neglected the risks.

It is only too easy for cultural critics to blame the plastic surgery and porn industries. There is plenty of guilt among them. Surgery has its dangers. When some surgeons push extra procedures, or dismiss the risks, they betray their patients. When some practitioners use silicone injections, they mutilate, and often murder their patients. Rape culture depends on certain myths. When some porn producers imply that love doesn't matter, when they imply that consent doesn't matter, they encourage rape. When they normativize one body type and exoticize another, they encourage body-image problems, and racist and transphobic stereotypes. And the critics can do as much harm as good. When cultural critics turn aside, to mock trans people as Germaine Greer or Suzanne Moore have done, they create scapegoats while invisibilizing deeper problems.

I blame the plutocracy.

The ruling class has taken more and more wealth for itself. The other classes are faced with increasing precarity, the destruction of unions and communities, the growth of the prison-industrial complex, and the criminalization of poverty. The ruling class has taken more and more spending-power for itself, while destroying more and more of the bargaining power of the other classes. The ruling class is creating a harem economy. It is creating an economy where the best option for many lower-class individuals is to become concubines for higher-class ones. It is one of the few forms of class mobility left.

Individual tastes will vary, but the institution reinforces certain styles: ones which imply that the concubine is high-status, and still lower-status than their partner. Conspicuous consumption, expensive, and time-consuming styles can express high status; the combination of submissive-signifiers and dominant-signifiers can express unequal status between the concubine and their partner.

Foot-binding was an extreme example of both tendencies. It crippled its victims. It made it far harder for Chinese womyn to work, and the lost labor-power was conspicuously consumed. It made it far harder for Chinese womyn to assert independence, and enforced submission. Expensive surgeries, crippling footwear, fragile clothing and time-consuming cosmetics are not as extreme as foot binding, but they are status-signifiers and often submission-signifiers.

Under these circumstances, the status-signifiers, if not the submission-signifiers, of concubinage set beauty standards in other aspects of society. The plastic surgery industry cannot introduce new beauty standards. The porn industry can introduce its own beauty standards, but it will most often adopt the wider culture's beauty standards, and enforce them on its actresses and actors.


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