Getting Savvy

I’ve included a section of Graham’s book _Loving to Survive_ here because I think these three pages, in their entirety, should be required reading for all women.

What follows is basically a guide to surviving in the patriarchy. Check out the tags to see what topics are covered.

Unfortunately, I was only able to find two of these three pages online. For the rest, I’ve just typed up the text from my copy (I don’t currently have access to a scanner).


button or in some way gotten too close to the truth for their comfort).


problem.” The patriarchal hope here is that not only will the scapegoated woman be intimidated and silenced but that other women will also fall for this splitting and will strive to show that they aren’t like her, in the hope that they’ll be safe from attack.

Co-optation is a form of divide and conquer. When a woman is effective in advocating for women’s rights, she may be offered a plumb position that will make her part of the men’s inner circle– with the implication that she needs to “tone it down” in order to stay in the power circle. Here, too, the other women around her, as well as the targeted women, should be wary, for they are being encouraged to sit back and let a leader do it all for them.
Acceding to some minor demands made by women is a time-honored patriarchal strategy. When men gallantly meet some demand that women are making, women should not be overly grateful for small kindnesses that we are due as human beings in any case. The implication often exists that because men already have done “so much,” they shouldn’t be asked to do more. Also, changes allegedly designed to increase fairness may be turned against women. This is especially true for changes that give women equal responsibilities while we still lack access to equal resources. For example, many states now require that the noncustodial parent pay child support when a couple divorces. As a result, women who must work for minimum wages (due to economic discrimination) can be required to pay child support to their former husbands, whose salaries are significantly higher. Women should be alert to setups such as these. We should notice, for instance, when women complain about such inequities, men respond, “Well, you want equal treatment, but then you whine when we give it to you.”

Patriarchal co-optation also can take the form of giving support to feminist-developed organizations serving women– but attaching sizable strings to their support. For instance, feminists started many rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters in the 1970s and ran them using feminist principles. including egalitarian decision-making and task-sharing. When the staffs of these organizations, desperate for money to keep them going, applied for governmental funding, they soon learned that the “gift” of funds came with requirements to change from a feminist non-hierarchical organization to a social-service-agency organization with a hierarchical chain of commannd and preset rules that the women in need of services had to follow in order to receive services (Ahrens 1981; Pride 1981; Schecter 1981, 1982).

All these patriarchal maneuvers, clearly, work to invoke or intensify the four conditions producing Societal Stockholm Syndrome: they cause women to feel afraid, trapped, cut off from the support of other women, and at men’s mercy. They make women feel confused. Coming to understand how these maneuvers work, getting savvy to them, provides women with a sense of perspective and mastery, which encourages us to develop ways to expose, confront, and defy men’s maneuvers.

Women can practice the ongoing art of becoming savvy to patriarchy by learning how to identify and defend ourselves against verbal abuse (see Elgin 1989) –and by sharing this knowledge with other women. Women can talk with other women, comparing notes and engaging in group analyses of the patterns of speech and behavior we encounter in the men around us. Women can familiarize ourselves with feminist analyses of patriarchal institutions– analyses available not only in feminist political and philosophical writings, but also in women’s fiction (e.g., Cholmondely 1899/1985) and feminist humor (e.g., Russ 1980b). Asking oneself–and other women– “What’s going on here? What definitions are being slipped in on us unawares? How are we being set up to distrust and avoid each other? How are we being made to feel guilty or insignificant or inadequate? How are we being co-opted or bought off?” will always prove to be a fruitful source of understanding and action.”

Source: Loving to Survive by Dee Graham p 260-263

About smash
Women's liberationist.

7 Responses to Getting Savvy

  1. Rainbow Riot says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is excellent, and very helpful. I think all women should read this.

  2. smash says:

    Thanks RR. I need to remind myself of the ways in which patriarchy functions, so that I can realize that my sisters and I are not crazy. Just the practice of questioning everything help tremendously. Mary Daly called this “positive paranoia”. http://books.google.com/books?id=_Vhe2AgQYckC&pg=PA316&dq=positive+paranoia+mary+daly+gyn/ecology&hl=en&ei=O2aDTtfbHI3TiAKrm_yJDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

  3. Hecuba says:

    Concur with Rainbow Riot – all women and girls should read this extract – but sadly I know many women and girls will deny this and claim it is a radical feminist conspiracy because all feminists are ‘man-haters!’

    That’s why Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys to name just three radical feminists have been demonised by male supremacy – because they all engage(d) in ‘positive paranoia. Question, question and question constantly – never ever take men’s claims their views concerning women and our experiences are rarely truths – rather they are always lies and/or propaganda.

  4. smash says:

    Yes, Hecuba, you are right. Those women question patriarchal power, and the societal responses to them are *so* disproportionately berserk. But, as Graham says, we should “get interested, not afraid” when this happens. The extreme responses these authors get tells us something about the importance of what they are saying.

    We should question what everyone says– radfems, funfems, our partners and our parents, our therapists and our friends, etc. The questioning should never stop. That’s how we’ll find the truth!

  5. DaveSquirrel says:

    Patriarchy as the reverse of truth was the aha! moment for me, where everything else just fell into place. Now it is just piss easy to see all the lies.

    The easiest of these is when patriarchy says “women are…” and it is almost always “men are…”
    eg “women are sluts” really means “men are sluts”, because lets face it, they will stick their dick into anything. And “women are inferior” means “men are inferior”.

    Yes, that extract should be essential reading for all wannabe feminists. And all females really.

  6. KatieS says:

    Smash, thanks for posting these great pages, including typing them up! I’ve never done it, but some people use the camera in their cell phone as a scanner, and there’s software for it.

    Much food for thought in this post and the previous one. Thanks for giving the book greater exposure, I think it helps some of us not get into a blaming mode with women who when they act out Stockholm Syndrome. It’s often good to point something out to other women on this stuff, but the blaming doesn’t work to help them. Being caring to oneself, conserving one’s precious energy, for instance, is also something to think about if one has been a hostage. It’s debilitating.

    Yes, Dave, I’ve noticed what you say about the “women are…” meaning “men are. . .” This is a good formula, nice and succinct.

  7. smash says:

    Yes KatieS, you are so right. Women are at various stages in their lives, and many of them are still directly wrapped up in SSS. Being male-identified is certainly a symptom of SSS, even though it burns me up to see male-identified women. It’s important to call things as they are, but also not to blame the captives.

    This book was very important in my growth as a radical feminist, and as an adult woman trying to negotiate my way through the p.

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