Yes, we’re back on the question of just what kind of feminist I am. Not because anyone else has been asking, but because I’ve been kind of shook down to my feminist foundations lately.
One was seeing the Wayward Boy Scout refer to his spouse as “the missus.” It hurt my heart. Being someone’s wife? Eh, whatever. You bake some cookies. You get the kids to school. You clip coupons. You sit around all day pretending like you give a shit about vacuuming. “The Missus?” She’s out drinking Tom Collines. She’s going on road trips. She’s an art thief and at the center of international intrigue. She’s well-versed in poetry and poker. She drives a vintage Jag.
“I’ve got to get home to the little wife.”? Fuck you, buddy.
“I’ve got to get home to the missus.”? Sign me up.
See, god, what the fuck is wrong with me?
And the other is my growing, sneaking suspicion that the problem with the patriarchy* is two-fold. It’s not just that men have power over women; it’s that they wield it so poorly.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Remember when we talked about how men rape women and so, if we want to stop rape, it’s pointless (and misandrous) to insist women change their behavior; men have to stop raping women? And some of you rightfully raised a stink and said that it wasn’t all men who were raping women, so please refer to them as rapists and don’t lump them in with y’all?
Here’s what I’ve been thinking, though. They are men–the men who rape or beat or kill women. But I think, as much as I’ve been arguing that feminism is not a moral position, I’ve failed to internalize that power is not inherently evil. Having power over someone is not inherently a bad thing.
As the Professor keeps saying, one can use one’s power for the betterment of the people you care about. Being powerful is not always to be the victimizer and being vulnerable is not always to be the victim**.
But people who don’t understand how to wield power can do a lot of damage. It’s not just the rapists and the wife-beaters, it’s also the mother who takes the electrical cord to her kids. But it’s the same thing: a belief that the most effective way to wield power is through violent oppression of the vulnerable.
But clearly, that’s based on a mistaken understanding of what power is and how to exercise it effectively.
Insisting that men give up their power is stupid and short-sighted. Why would they do that? No, what we have to do is two-fold. One, we’ve got to become aware and comfortable with our own power. (Of course, we’re going to have to move some folks out of the way to achieve this.) And the other is to insist upon the same thing from men. They need to be aware and comfortable with the ways they are powerful.
* Now that the children are asleep, the adults can talk.
** Though, of course, as must be pointed out–linking power to maleness and vulnerability exclusively to femaleness is utter bullshit.