April 25, 2013 Leave a comment
January 16, 2013 42 Comments
Men as a class believe that they deserve access to women.
Given this context, I’d like to evaluate something I’ve heard said, which is:
If women withdrew their energy from men, the patriarchy would collapse.
I don’t believe this to be true, and I’d like to evaluate it in the context of male entitlement to women.
To begin with, the statement presumes that women are free to choose to leave men.
In many cases, there are economic considerations to think of when freeing women from men. Many women are currently financially unable, due to children, or disability, or life circumstances, to leave the men in their lives.
Furthermore, women are conditioned to reject one another in favor of male attention, and to pursue male attention as a primary life goal. Those very few women who find themselves able to become female-centric are rare, because the conditioning we receive to hate other women is so pervasive and insidious (see The Exceptional Woman ). At least in my case, I am not the perfect radical feminist, and am not always certain that I place women first in my life in every circumstance, though I *try* to. Undoing this conditioning and pursuing sisterhood can be a lifelong process.
(And of course, perhaps there are a very small number of truly pro-feminist
unicorns men who do not stomp on women’s liberation, but I am not getting into exceptionalism here.)
Now none of this means that all women are unable to withdraw their energy from all men. It simply illustrates the various difficulties women might encounter when attempting to do so.
But even if women are able to withdraw their energy from men, that will not change men’s behavior, or their sense of entitlement to women.
If there are not enough women willing to give men energy, men will take women’s energy for themselves.*
We see this in porn and prostitution already. In the ForeverAlone subreddit, for example, a man who has been “unsuccessful” at wooing women to be his f’khole and maid thinks it is funny to suggest that he should just buy a wife, aka trafficked woman. He feels he deserves a woman so much that if she won’t consent on her own, he’ll simply purchase that consent for himself. Either way, he’s getting his.
This happens all the time, and everywhere. Men laugh about their entitlement to women.
We can easily see this entitlement illustrated by a New York Times story that came out yesterday.
In the article, we read that Williston, North Dakota is a recently booming oil town where there are at least 1.6 men for every woman.
Men do not like this ratio, because it means there are not enough
f’hole maids women for their liking. They feel entitled to a certain type of object (that is, women), so they get very angry when they don’t get the toy they want to play with and take care of them.
Notice how resident Jon Kenworthy discusses the lack-of-women situation in Williston. His response illustrates his entitlement to women, and describes them as if they are dehumanized objects to be “imported”.
“It’s bad, dude,” said Jon Kenworthy, 22, who moved to Williston from Indiana in early December. “I was talking to my buddy here. I told him I was going to import from Indiana because there’s nothing here.”
What do men do when their entitlement to women is not met?
Men in Williston harass women in the grocery store and at the bars. They frequent prostituted women, and strip clubs. They attempt to carry women off in the middle of the afternoon. Men in Williston take their entitlement to women, and force themselves upon them. Either way, they’re getting theirs.
This is why women in Williston are afraid to leave their homes.
If women as a group withdraw our energy from men, then men will forcibly take us. Boundaries they find inconvenient will be violated by force.
We are, in a very real sense, their hostages.
This is why slutwalk marches don’t work. As I said in another blog post,
“By publicly dressing up in panties and duct tape, these women seem to me to be placating the men, saying, “I’ll consent, so you don’t need to rape me! See, sex is on the table, so no need to go forcing anyone.”
How disgusting that we live in a world where a popular protest against male sexual violence “works” by placating men with the offer of sex. How repulsive and infuriating that this is what men demand of women.
Now. All that having been said.
Please don’t think this post means that we shouldn’t focus on women, and withdraw our energy from men. We can and should do whatever we can to manage under patriarchy.
The point of my post is to state clearly that men are responsible for upholding patriarchy.
The point of my post is to state clearly that women are not responsible for upholding patriarchy.
*The short story Wives by Lisa Tuttle illustrates this.
** Thanks to Winnie for discussing these issues with me.
December 26, 2012 24 Comments
I cooked the holiday meal yesterday. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.
This was my first time hosting Xmas. For various reasons, Mom was invited to the festivities this year, but dad was not.
As we sat down to enjoy the meal I had just made, Mom addressed my partner.
“[smash’s nigel], why don’t you come over here and sit at the head of the table.”
Mom knows I’m a feminist, but this came so naturally to her that she said it anyway.
I informed her that we don’t do “head of the table” at my house, and that she herself might as well sit where she had been indicating, since there is nothing special in my house about plopping oneself in one part of the rectangular table versus another.
But, even if we did do “head of the table” bullsh*t at my house, one might think that the person who had cooked the meal should sit at the “head”—not the dude who is dating the person who cooked the entire meal.
It’s clear to me that Mom didn’t mean to offend me by offering the head/dominant seat to nigel. It was simply natural to her. If we had had the event at her house, dad would have taken the head seat. If dad had been invited to my place, he would have taken the head seat. Since the big ‘P’ Patriarch was absent, the little ‘p’ patriarch would have to do.
In Mom’s mind, she can’t imagine a world where the meal was not Ruled Over by a Male Figure. In Xmases past, she’s cooked the meal many times before, but still, the meal she cooked was Ruled Over by a Male Figure. She bought the presents, the groceries, and decorated the house; still, the event was Ruled Over by a Male Figure.
It’s not just my Mother for whom all big events must be RObaMF.
My grandpa was a preacher, and he often officiated weddings. He passed away several years ago. Grandma bore four children—the first two are my aunts, my dad is the third child, and my uncle is the fourth.
This year, my male cousin married a woman. Since grandpa has died, my cousin had a special request for my dad. Would he, as the new capital ‘P’ Patriarch, officiate the wedding? Even though dad was the THIRD born child, behind two Wonderful Women? Behind cousin’s Mother?
To my cousin, it was very important that this family event be RObaMF.
Perhaps because cousin hoped to someday become the big ‘P’ Patriarch. After all, that’s one big reason why dudes get married– this is a privilege they have been promised since birth. Perhaps it was because he was taught, as my Mom was taught, that DUDES rule the family, and events don’t really count unless they are RObaMF. Whatever the case may be, he didn’t ask his own Mother (the second born aunt)—he asked my dad.
Radical feminists know that the male domination of the family is exceptionally dangerous and we wish to eliminate the cult of masculinity. We recognize that choosing a man to sit at the “head” of the table, or officiate a wedding is a *symbolic* act that is used to convey to the family, and the world, that HE is in charge, and that we are subordinate to him. Sitting in a certain order at the table is a small “traditional” act, but it is an act that is symbolic of male domination, which is of course enacted through male violence.
It is important to notice this. We must open our eyes to the way patriarchy operates in every aspect of our lives.
Let’s remind each other that our analysis may take us to critical places we don’t want to go, but that we must go to in order to determine the truth about our lives as women, and the forces that suppress us.
Let’s support one another throughout this process, rather than condemn.
I know my mother didn’t mean harm by her statement; it was an instant reaction based on the patriarchal brainwashing she’s been soaked in since birth. At the same time, I can love my Mother without pretending away the harm.
When I was young, I asked my Mom, “What happens when you and dad disagree? Why is his word the Final Say on the Matter?”
At the time, she replied to me, “Because someone has to have the final say, or we’d continue to argue forever about it.”
Her answer hides the true nature of heteromarriage; it is built on RObaMF.
My response, as a child, was “Why don’t you get to have the final say, instead of him? Why is it always HIM?”
I was told, “Because, that is just the way it is.”
No thank you. I’ll pass.
November 28, 2012 4 Comments
The following passage does a good job of teaching children the difference between males and females. I applaud the efforts these parents have made to teach their children the difference between boys and girls (hint: it isn’t gender). (Click on the documents to make them larger):
From Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, page 214-216.
November 12, 2012 12 Comments
I was fortunate to have been able to attend a regional radical feminist mini-retreat the first weekend in November. We did a lot of brainstorming, networking, sharing, and discussing. It was truly awesome to be in person with my sisters, and I am so grateful to have been a part. Sorry for the length of the post– feel free to jump ahead to the sub-topics if you don’t have time for the whole thing.
Topics to Cover
On Friday night we decided what topics we were going to cover. We agreed to talk about what projects we are working on in our own lives, how to navigate the queering of our cities, and how to deal with disagreements within our radical feminist community. We also agreed to watch Water Lilies, Andrea Dworkin’s Anti-Pornography, and the BBC documentary Angry Wimmin.
Film: Water Lilies
We watched a lovely lesbian film called Water Lilies. It depicted the difficulties of falling in love with a friend, as well as the predatory nature of most teen males. That aspect reminded me of my own youth, and made me wish I had known better that most young men are only after sex. It was melancholy, but also lovely, and I was really grateful to have gotten the opportunity to see it.
Discussion: Feminist Projects
The next morning we drank coffee and tea and discussed what our feminist projects are. Several projects were discussed, including the need for a radical feminist blog for teens, ways to get our message across in cities, podcasts, working in domestic violence shelters, getting porn out of libraries through employee rights, etc. It was a really productive discussion, and we were able to brainstorm together good ways of working towards helping women in “real life” as well as on the internet.
Film: Against Pornography and Discussion
After lunch, we watched Against Pornography: The Feminism of Andrea Dworkin. You can find the documentary here. Dworkin explained that she always starts out her talks by describing what actually occurs in pornography, since folks may not be familiar with it. It isn’t just naked women’s bodies these days– it is violent, aggressive, and abusive. She says the message of porn is that no matter what happens to a woman in porn, she will enjoy it. This teaches men that women enjoy abuse, which makes it a very dangerous instruction manual. I really enjoyed this phrasing of the point, “Porn is the war room where strategies of sexual abuse are planned.” Porn ties orgasms to inequality, and it is an institution that socializes men to rape. She ended by reminding us that if you know what needs to be torn down, tear it down.
The film led to a very interesting discussion. We pointed out that many don’t address the problem of porn in our society, because many men don’t want to give up their porn, and many women don’t want to give up their men. So our society fails to address the issue because we are afraid of the changes we might need to make if we did. We also talked about BDSM and the consent ritual. Under patriarchy, women really have two options: consent to be hurt, or be hurt without consent. The thought is, perhaps if we consent to it, it won’t be as bad. We also discussed the phrase “consent is sexy”, which is often found on “feminist” placards and t- shirts. One woman pointed out that the reason rape is wrong is NOT because rape is “unsexy”. The “consent is sexy” campaign targets the wrong objection to rape. Furthermore, since women are told that sexy is a good thing, they are thereby coerced by this message, and encouraged to “consent”.
Film: Angry Wimmin
Next we watched Angry Wimmin which was an awesome documentary on the beginning of radical feminism in Brittan. It was interesting to see the ways in which our movement overlaps with theirs. For example, the movie talked about how radical feminists sometimes try to make sure in conversation to replace certain words with others. For example, to say “oh goddess!” instead of “oh god!” when frustrated or amazed, or to say “herstory” instead of “history”, etc. I have found myself afraid of bringing my patriarchal framings into discussions with other radical feminists by using these words, so I could totally relate. At the same time, I have also found that we shouldn’t be ashamed if we decide not to make simple word replacements like the above and focus our efforts on working to free women. It was also inspiring to see the first Reclaim the Night marches in this film. I saw a poster that said “all men benefit from rape”, and I thought that was right on. Non-rapist males benefit from a terrorized underclass of women who are afraid to go out at night (we all know that doesn’t mean all men rape). Of course, I was inspired by the movie, and I also hope we can avoid some of the pitfalls of what they went through. There was some discussion of racial tensions at the feminist publication Spare Rib. It was a good reminder that we keep in mind class and race issues while working towards women’s liberation.
Discussion: Queer Culture and Radical Feminism
After this documentary we discussed the ways that queer culture works against women’s liberation, and what to do about it. One woman pointed out that queer culture is often saturated by pornography. Some famous trans folk speak about and “star” in pornography, and many are highly resistant to radical feminist critiques of prostitution and pornography. This is the first clue that queer ideology may not be liberatory for women. Another clue is the lesbian erasure that occurs in queer communities. Many women have begun to identify as “queer” or “trans” rather than lesbian. Also, queer culture ignores the boundaries between men and women, and aggressively insists that women who would like to maintain their own private spaces are transphobic. Clearly, if women are not allowed to organize without MAAB (male assigned at birth) folk present, that is a problem for our liberation. We also discussed how to begin bringing the radical feminist message to folks within the queer-ified cities and towns we live in.
Discussion: Conflict within Radical Feminist Communities
Finally, we discussed what to do about conflicts within the radical feminist community. We all agreed that women must step in when we see others being abused– even if this makes us worried of being personally ostracized ourselves. We agreed that resolving conflict involves standing up for each other, meeting women where they are at, and supporting women who have been attacked, We agreed that when we disagree with a woman, it is best to either discuss the issue with her via private message, or in the comment section of her blog. It is not sisterly to, as a first strike, publicly denounce a woman on facebook or on your own blog. Clarification can sometimes dissolve conflict. We also recognized that sometimes resolution is not possible, and that in those cases it is best to disengage with one another, rather than dredging up old issues on a frequent basis. We are human, and we all make mistakes– sometimes huge mistakes. Sometimes there is abuse. But we are also a community with common goals.
I am fired up about finding more radical feminists in my community, and engaging in political action. I am so excited to be a part of this movement at this moment in time– despite how difficult it can be. We are attacked by MRAs (men’s rights activists), queer culture, the right wing, and the pornographers. We are often hated and many times deliberately misunderstood. But we are empathetic to the struggles of women’s lives, and we can provide a truthful analysis of life under patriarchy. We are here, we are organizing, and we are not going away.
November 1, 2012 7 Comments
The book Why Does He DO That? by Lundy Bancroft was recently recommended to me by Teh Bewilderness, and by the domestic violence shelter I’ve started volunteering at. It is exceptionally good. It’s written in 2002 by a man who runs programs for abusers, and it shows what tactics they use, as well as how their behavior can be crazy-making for women. Bancroft is very clear that MEN abuse women, and that women do not have the ability to terrorize and undermine men in the way men abuse women. He also discusses the ways in which friends, family, courts, and therapists can often take the abuser’s side without meaning to. He emphasizes that being “neutral” in cases where it is known that abuse is occurring is in fact choosing the side of the abuser.
Anyway, this is a great book, and I recommend every woman read it. We’ve all known (or been) women in abusive situations.
I thought the below checklist was very helpful in helping women discover whether they are in an abusive relationship. The list is taken from pages 124-130 of the book.
About his behavior, he is abusive if:
He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior.
He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment of you are your own problem.
He gives apologies that are insincere or angry and he demands that you accept them.
He blames you for the impact of his behavior.
It is never the right time or the right way to bring things up.
He undermines your progress in life.
He denies what he did.
He justifies his hurtful or frightening behavior or say that you “made him do it”.
He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways.
He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults you.
His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a problem.
About you, if you show signs of abuse such as:
Are you afraid of him?
Are you getting distant with your family and friends because he makes those relationships difficult?
Is your level of energy or motivation declining, or do you feel depressed?
Is your self opinion declining, so that you are always fighting to be good enough and to prove yourself?
Do you find yourself consistently preoccupied with the relationship and how to fix it?
Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?
Do you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your fault?
Do you repeatedly leave arguments feeling like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out why?
If you think you may be in an abusive situation, please contact your local shelter or crisis line. You can just call to talk. They can help. They want you to call. Please call. Also, you can buy the book here.
EDIT: This post got a lot of negative feedback and accusations of misandry (lol) so I wanted to clear up what author Lundy Bancroft of Why Does He DO That? actually says about men and abuse.
This is from page 288-289 of his book, under the subheading “How Society Adopts the Abuser’s Perspective”:
“To the person who says “These abuse activists are anti-male”:
How is it anti-male to be against abuse? Are we supposed to pretend we don’t notice that the overwhelming majority of abusers are male? This accusation parallels the abuser’s words to his partner: The reason you think I’m abusive is because you have a problem with men!” One of the best counters to this piece of side-tracking is to point out how many men are active in combating the abuse of women. Remember also that abused women are the sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends of men. Men’s lives are affected by abuse, because it happens to women we know and care about.”
Additionally, from page 290:
“Everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence. The great majority of allegations of abuse– though not all– are substantially accurate, and an abuser almost never ‘seems like the type’.”
September 24, 2012 6 Comments
I went to the farmer’s market this weekend, and had two feminism-related experiences.
First, there was an old dude wearing a “Feminist chicks dig me” shirt.
Dudes think they are soo hi-larious.
Watch us all laugh.
My initial thought was that this shirt must be a dig against feminists, and that those wearing it actually do hate feminist women and want to shame them.
But then I saw that Jessica Valenti gave Stephen Colbert one of these shirts on his show. I honestly do not know what to make of that. See? Feminists actually do like dudes! Look, I gave you this shirt that demeans me– that proves we have a “sense of humor”!
But most of the men who self-identify as feminists do so on the belief that so identifying will bring with it sexual perks. Make her think you give a ‘ish about her rights, and she’ll be sure to let you bone her!
Real pro-feminist men don’t spend their lives bloviating on about how much of a feminist they are. They teach other men, instead of trying to lead women. But these men are rare.
Anyway. My next feminism-related experience came when I saw what I’m calling a princess-off in the middle of the grounds. Yep. There were two adult women dressed up as Disney princesses for the kids. One was Cinderella, and the other was Princess Merida from Brave.
Obviously, one of the princesses is much more feminist-approved.
As you all know, Cinderella teaches young girls that women cannot trust each other, and that the only way to advance in life is to marry your way out of misery by being petite and “beautiful”.
Now, I haven’t seen Brave and therefore can’t fully evaluate its feminist cred, but I have read the wiki on it. Though it seems somewhat problematic in depicting Princess Merida’s relationship with her mother, it does revolve around a young woman’s self-determined choice not to be married against her will. Also, she is an active character that makes things happen, rather than a passive one that receives the action like Cinderella.
What was encouraging about the princess off was that the Brave princess was much more popular with the young girls. They were circled around her, and asked her if they could play with her adult-sized bow-and-arrow. They lined up to shoot the kids bow-and-arrow set that was set up for them. There were young boys there too. Cinderella looked bored and embarrassed in her hoop dress and shiny gloves. Actually, I felt bad for her.
The two princesses at the farmer’s market could not have been more different, and the young girls decidedly chose the more active, self-determining, and adventurous option. I found this quite encouraging.
For more feminist analysis of Disney princesses, check out Allecto’s post here. Andrea Dworkin also talks about Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in Woman Hating. As she says, the moral of fairy tales tells us that, “happiness for a woman is to be passive, victimized, destroyed, or asleep.”
So despite the frustration created by dude’s shirt, I was thrilled to see girls embracing a powerful– if imperfect– female role model. On top of all that, I bough some delicious chomp from local venders. Overall, it was a lovely Sunday.