My favorite Wayward Boy Scout leads me to believe that, when I talk about feminism, some of you have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about. He says:
OK, B, help me out here. I agree with cobra. I think the worst thing affecting girls’ and women’s’ self esteem are magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, etc. These magazines are typically owned by women, and have women as their chief editors. The market demographic is women.
Is this the Patriarchy oppressing women, and if so, how?
Whew. There’s a lot here. Let’s start with “The Patriarchy.” What is it?
The Patriarchy is a short-hand way of talking about the system of gender relations we have in place that, in general, favors and grants more power to men than women. It is not so easy as “all men are assholes who oppress women,” which is why “but women are hurting each other” is no refutation of the existence of the patriarchy. At its heart, the patriarchy is a system of hierarchizing people. Men are, in general, in the system, more powerful than women and one of the main luxuries they have is of being the default human beings and the arbiters of what is appropriate public discourse and what is not.
Women are not, however, utterly powerless within the patriarchy. But the main power they have is their sexuality and their ability to use it to gain access to powerful men. Under the patriarchy, women have no inherent power; they only have the power granted to them by their fathers or their husbands or the state. Therefore, it behooves women to undermine each other in order to gain an edge in their efforts to gain and keep access to powerful men.
This is not inherently how things are between men and women. We both have to be trained from a very early age to think of each other and ourselves this way. This is why, when Knuck says he’s all for equality, that he’s an equalist and not a feminist, I find it very sweet, but sad. He says, “So, to me, feminism is a sub-set of a philosophy I already subscribe to.” and I think, how can we even begin to talk about equality when we are so fucked up? How are we even going to recognize what equality means?
I suspect that one big difference between how things are now and how things would be if you really thought of me as an equal is that, when I told you I had a problem, you would not attempt to define that problem as something other than what I told you it was. But look here. Here’s Exador, a man I know thinks highly of me and when I say, “God, there’s really something fucked up about how girls view themselves and we need to do something about it,” he jumps in with “I, like this other man I don’t even know and unlike you, a woman that I do know, think the worst thing affecting girls’ and women’s’ self esteem are magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, etc.”
Really? Some ink on some dead trees is more damaging to my sense of self than my dad telling me that the most important position in the family is the oldest son; than some doofus scientist telling me that my job is just to be pretty; than HR telling me that some job only pays $20,000 a year because it’s a job for women with husbands, who just need a little pin money? Really? Because I don’t even read those magazines. Thank goodness. All my problems are solved.
I’m not disputing that women’s magazines promote unhealthy ideas about how to be women, but really, if Glamour was our biggest problem, we’d be damn lucky indeed.
I’m still back here working on how to be recognized by others as a human being with a right to be here. I’m still back here working on how to recognize myself as a human being with a right to be here. I’ve got the women’s magazine shit handled. I don’t read them. It’s the other shit I could use some help with.
I’d like to be able to walk around my neighborhood and think nothing of it. I’d like to take for granted that I can go to any bar in town unescorted and have a beer and be left alone. I’d like to go to meetings downtown and have the Director of that Big Important Place actually talk to me and the other women at the table, instead of making a point to acknowledge all the men and none of the women. I’d like to go to the gynecologist and not hear a lecture on how he doesn’t distribute birth control to unmarried women because he can’t condone my immorality. I’d like to be surprised when I meet a woman who tells me she was raped. I’d like to see women in pulpits and in the White House. I’d like women to have and wield well real straight-forward power and let go of the art of manipulation.
I’d like, when I talk to you about the things that make me feel vulnerable or confused, for you to refrain from trying to change the topic or insist that you have some better understanding of the thing that’s making me feel vulnerable or confused than I do. I know you mean well, but it feeds into this notion that you are the default human beings and, as such, it’s your right to insist that all discourse happens in ways you are comfortable with.
Listen, if you come here and read regularly, it must be in part because you don’t mind being made uncomfortable. All I’m asking is that you acknowledge, just to yourselves (you don’t have to say it out loud), that there’s a benefit from being made uncomfortable, that it can be good for you. And then, when you are uncomfortable, don’t try to resolve it. Because the way you resolve it is by falling back on this idea that you get to set the discourse and that you’re the arbiter of how the world works.
Please don’t pull that bullshit on me.