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Jul 22 2006

She Blames the Spice Girls

Irreparable damage, argues Carol Sarler in this article on the hollow promise of Girl Power, was wrought upon womandom by the Spice Girls. She connects various dots from vapid girl group worship to teen drunkenness to impoverished single motherhood:

It would be absurd, of course, to lay every teenage pregnancy, every inebriated ladette or every cheap tart sleeping with her sixth holiday ‘romance’ in a week at the feet of five barely competent girl singers. It would be fair, however, to recognise that [The Spice Girls] presided over a period that saw young womanhood spiral into a previously unimaginable decline; that they wrote its soundtrack, they sang its theme, they invited a generation to play along — and that altogether too many women sadly did.

Asserts Sarler, according to Girl Power you need only be hot and dumb to succeed as a woman.

It will come as no great shock that I concur with Sarler; women’s liberation from the Sexy’n'Stupid Mandate appears to have taken enormous, mind-blowing strides backwards. These days young women wish to emulate America’s spokes-ho Paris Hilton, whose glittering, anorexic, trust-funded blonde emptiness demonstrates the ample rewards awaiting those who agree to wear the nation’s jizz on their faces. The fellatiolution will be televised.

But uh-oh, guess what. It’s not your right to ‘choose’ to be a sexay layday. Making traditional, patriarchy-approved, feminine submissive ‘choices’ is like spitting in the eye of every woman who has ever been raped, humiliated, harassed, denied birth control, abandoned, passed over, or beaten. While you were poledancing for your patriarch in a maid’s uniform, this tragic woman was so deranged by the blunt force trauma of patriarchy she thought ditching her 6-year-old kid at a Chicago food fair was a ‘choice’.

Check it out: women—particularly educated women, the most potentially influential members of our oppressed class—do not have the luxury of ‘choice.’ Every move an oppressed class makes is a political act. And even when invoked with a saucy Paul Mitchell hair-toss, our ‘choice’ is not real, because our oppressed sex class has only limited agency. The consequences of asserting this faux choice mimic the consequences of oppression. The language and imagery of ‘choice feminism’ [see Linda Hirshman] is the language and imagery of sex, which, since it’s the only paradigm we’ve got, is simultaneously the language and imagery of patriarchy.

What if, instead of blindly asserting our ‘right’ to ‘choose’ the patriarchal sexbot model, we (and by ‘we’ I mean all the roller girls, amateur pole dancers, blow jobbists, and other ‘sex-positive feminists’ I’ve managed to encrabulate over the past year or two) examined what it is, exactly, we’re supposedly choosing?

I assert that we’re choosing the path of least resistance. It’s much easier to acquiesce to a set of established conventions—social, aesthetic, political, sexual, sartorial—for which the rewards (dudely approval, other women’s satisfying jealousy) dangle brightly ahead, than it is to blaze forth in a fury of white-hot anti-feminine iconoclasm and risk ridicule, ostracism, and male reproach. Life’s rich pageant is much more accessible when you go with the flow. Patriarchy, as the Spice Girls and Paris Hilton can attest, rewards conformity. Which is why the new feminism must be sex-ay, and why the only freedom it promises is the freedom to enjoy the degradation.

[Gracias, Laurel]

166 comments

5 pings

  1. norbizness

    Apart from the other interesting points you make, Twisty, some of the problem I see represented by that article is that of consumer choice (19 different colors of razor-phones!) is somehow being conflated with expressing oneself; I hear it in every commercial. With the rise of obscene disposable income/future debt in pre-teens, this probably has the effect of numbing young minds away from actual, difficult choices, such as how one processes information.

    I leave the rest to the encrabulated.

  2. vera

    I shudder at the memory of my younger daughter lapping up the Spice Girls. At least she “chose” Scary Spice as her idol.

    Ah, the choices of Madison Avenue — nineteen different colors of cellphones, nineteen different flavors of toothpaste, five different flavors of sexbot Spice Girl. The only antidote I know of, the only one that worked for me, is to have a frame-breaking, consciousness-expanding experience that shakes you to your roots. Then you can see the patriarchy/matrix in all its horrible glory.

    But how accessible is a frame-breaking experience? Can we put something in the water supply?

  3. No Blood for Hubris

    I must disagree.

    I do not think the Spice Girls are to blame for everything.

    I think sexism is to blame, and that blaming the Spice Girls is another flavor of blaming women — the old blame-a-rape survivor because she ‘asked for it’ by dressing ‘that way.’ Spice Girls are ‘dressed that way.’ Or were. Kinda.

    And I hardly think that the Spice Girls presided over anything. I mean, really. One would be better off singling out Brittney Spears as an example of a really bad example.

    Be that as it may, I feel sure it is so important to know that all are invited to drop by and enjoy Official Snowflake Adoption Week at No Blood for Hubris.

  4. Twisty

    No Blood, it’s mighty difficult not to get exasperated and want to give Pink’s “Stupid Girls” a vigorous shake and yell, “what the fuck are you thinking, capitulating to the status quo and calling it ‘empowerment’?”

  5. ::wendy::

    I’m a tadd confused. I’m happy that way :-)

    I read a conversation about capitalism (market forces). Hilton Market’s herself as stupid bimbo and for some reason it sells, the spice girls were marketed as sexy girls with ‘attitude’ and it worked. Females can ‘purchase’ they have purchase power. Diluting what makes an identity with outrageously diverse choices has the potential to diversify packaging of people (as sex objects) as well as packaging of products. UK capitolism has long pandered to what they call the ‘pink pound’ (yep, men’s money, gay mens money), at some point capitolism is going to realise there’s money to be made from marketting to girl-pound and they may well find that pink and fluffy isn’t a big seller…

  6. Pony

    All is well once again with the blogosphere.

  7. Hattie

    Very good, Twisty. I agree with every word you write. And I hope you are mending nicely. You’ll be something in your new suit!

  8. BothAnd

    Twisty, I think you’re right. But the trend toward embracing the bending over & taking it from the patriarchy in the name of girl power is, I think, motivated by something beyond consumerism & patriarchy-approval. Yes definitely, it’s the path of least resistance, but it’s also one of the very few coherently articulated models of woman-ness depicted in the media. (Let me be very careful to say that clearly there are all kinds of alternative coherently articulated models of what it is to be a woman – they just aren’t carried into everyone’s homes by some medium.) Pop culture can be a patriarchy feedback loop, for sure, and shifting strategies/ methods to resist authentic liberation are a patriarchy trademark, unquestionably. And vera, I think, has it right – people need to have access to a frame-breaking experience. As long as girls grow up believing that the patriarchy dictates the bounds of experience, including the bounds of possible challenge, of course they’re going to capitulate. Maybe there should be a cross-country vigorous-shaking tour (complete with reading material on alternatives)?

  9. Betsy

    Spot ON, Twisty!

    You enlarge my obstreperal lobe.

  10. mae

    Twisty – Everytime I read your posts I am blown away by your genius. Too bad there’s not a Nobel Prize for common sense.

  11. pippa

    This is far and away the best and clearest post I have read on “new feminism” and the absolutely crap idea of empowerment through reclaiming sex and sexual behaviours. Choice feminism my arse. I am delighting in your turn of phrase; fellatiolution indeed! Cheers, Pippa x

  12. CGG

    I think the Spice Girls, and other pop tart acts, were tapping into something that was already present in our culture. The article gives them far to much credit. Things were fucked up long before the Spice Girls, otherwise no one would have paid attention to them in the first place.

    I do agree that the idea of “choice feminism” is just another way of conforming to the status quo. Theconcept of oppression as a choice really gets under my skin. And as Norbiz points out consumerism also plays a role. Products are constantly being marketed to women as empowering. I love being able to choose which color my phone is as much as the next woman, but it’s hardly an act of empowerment or expression!

  13. Edith

    CGG: Tapping into something ALREADY PRESENT in our culture?!?!? No no no! It’s all the Spice Girls fault! All of it! REALLY!!!

    Twisty: I am flying flags around my computer, celebrating your homecoming. Blaming the patriarchy, unlike like pop vixen du jour, will never go out of style.

  14. No Blood for Hubris

    A vigrous shake and yell are sorely needed.

    Many shakes, many yells.

  15. bitchphd

    Brava.

  16. No Blood for Hubris

    “As long as girls grow up believing that the patriarchy dictates the bounds of experience . . . ”

    What seems more problematic is a general failure to NOTICE that the patriarchy dictates the bounds of experience . . . .

  17. KH

    I skipped reading all the comments to say: fuckin’ A, that’s what I come her for!

    I hate “choice” feminism.

    Now I’ll go read the comments.

  18. Emmanuel

    I dont think the Spice girls are to blame for nothing. They just came and did their thing. I blame the irresponsible parents who dont take care their teen daughters.

  19. KH

    Read ‘em. No encrabulation, so far! Excellent.

  20. mrs_enid

    OK, I really do agree with the ideas expressed in this blog entry. However, I’m more than a little confused about how the Chicago woman in the linked news story is an example of Paris Hilton/Spice Girls influenced male-defined, “do me” feminism. Marie Campbell (the woman in the article, for those who didn’t read it) seems to be a woman who made some very bad choices as a result of poverty, lack of a social support system and likely psychological problems. I don’t understand how her circumstances in abandoning her child can be compared to circumstances in which pole-dancing and conspicuous consumerism masquerade as feminism.

    I don’t think she made a choice to leave her child in order to go read Camille Paglia and give random blow-jobs to arty, sensitive male feminists. It sounds like she was acting out of desperation and mental illness.

  21. mrs_enid

    Add a re-read of the blog entry leads me to the conclusion that our erstwhile hostess linked to the aforementioned article in an apparent attempt at irony, which flew right over my earnest little head. I better go watch some Christopher Guest movies or Janeane Garaofalo’s stand up or something, before I completely lose it.

  22. Ruthie

    Thanks for the link to the Hirshman article. I realize it’s old, but I must have been too busy to read it at the time of publication. (A full-time legal career, two small children, and the need to use spare moments for something besides reading will do that to you. Maybe I was giving someone a blow job . . . no, I’d remember that.)

    I appreciate that Hirshman takes the risk of being prescriptive. It would be interesting to see some discussion here of her “What Is To Be Done” section.

  23. Twisty

    You are quite right, mrs_enid, to question my allusion to the “‘Taste’ Mother.” I meant her to be an example of how the same patriarchy to which white middle class sexy feminists submit for sport can push uneducated, underserved women into untenable positions. My point being that submissiveness is no joke, and has far-reaching ramifications. Not, perhaps, the most cogent argument I’ve ever made. I blame the Vicodin!

  24. Ruthie

    I’m sorry for the ellipses. It’s over 90 degrees here in the Pacific Northwest and we are all a little addled.

    The story about “‘Taste’ Mother” is very sad. It seems unlikely she’ll be able to get the kid back.

  25. Sandi

    My relationship with my (former?) sex-positive self has already become quite tenuous. Still, I’m not entirely convinced.

    But I’m glad you exist.

  26. Delphyne

    I agree that so-called choice femnism has led a whole lot of women down the garden path believing that they are being liberated when all they are doing is fitting in with what men want but Carol Sarler can go **** herself calling women “cheap tarts”.

  27. Kate K.

    Related:

    http://www.girl-wonder.org/girlsreadcomics/index.php?entry=entry060718-145925

  28. Tim

    As Delphyne suggests, for something that positions itself as a defense of feminism, that article on the Spice Girls has a remarkable level of contempt for women.

    That maybe shouldn’t be surprising. The Daily Mail, where the article was published, is an extremely right-wing newspaper, and regularly runs similar articles which claim that women have been harmed by feminism in one form or another. Arguments like Sarler’s against girl power are regularly deployed by Daily Mail columnists against access to contraception, or women having careers.

  29. Joanne

    Nice one Twisty, because of this entry I think I’m finally starting to work out my stance on the ‘sex positive’ debate.
    And as for the article, I saw it in the Daily Mail a few days ago and the word ‘feminism’ in the sub-heading sparked my interest (the Mail discussing feminism without hurling insults at it, surely not?). I turned the page shortly after reading the words ‘cheap tart’.
    This woman clearly has no idea.

  30. witchy-woo

    I WANT FEMINIST CHANGE!

    And I love you TF. Glad you’re back.

  31. Patricia

    Thank you for bringing back the horrible memory of being suckered into taking my nieces to see the Spice Girls at Madison Square Garden during their peak. I have seen hell, and it is twenty thousand screaming prepubescents going insane over five scantily clad women lip-syncing bad pop songs.

    And remember the unspoken rule–the better the job, the richer the husband. Let’s face it, Victoria Beckham is much more famous as the wife of a major soccer player than she ever was as “Posh Spice.” And another Spice Girl, appropriately nicknamed “Scary” is apparently about to marry Eddie Murphy. Gah.

  32. kathy a

    i thought the spice girls were hilarious — an over-the-top spoof. paris hilton, though, i can’t figure out at all. i do feel sorry that her parents apparently named her after one of the family holdings.

  33. atomic_violin

    Thank you.

  34. Melinika

    Awesome. As in, full of awe. Awful awesome.

  35. Jennifer Cascadia

    Nicehead stuff.

  36. thinking girl

    Hiya Twisty,

    this is my very first comment here at I Blame the Patriarchy! Here are some thoughts.

    I am concerned with the tension between social forces – such as patriarchy – and personal autonomy. Unless social forces – like patriarchy – are removed, every “choice” to conform with those forces must be viewed as, at the very least, suspect, at the most, not at all a choice. Notice how most successful women are only successful because they have conformed to – or in extreme cases completely embodied – patriarchal demands of femininity. (Pam Anderson, Paris Hilton eg) Either that or they have assumed a pseudo-masculine persona and steam-rolled their way overtop of their female competition to rise to the top. (Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, eg)

    I am, however, also concerned not to preclude the possiblity that autonomy is a matter of degrees, and that some autonomy should be afforded to women who do conform with patriarchy. Femininity being a patriarchal tool for oppression of women, am I acting non-autonomously when I put on a skirt and coat my lips in pink lipgloss? It is impossible to live completely out of reach of patriarchy, but there is some room for autonomy development – there has to be, otherwise you would not be writing this post and I would not be writing this comment. We have made choices, despite patriarchy, to be feminists. Does this mean there must be space for a reverse choice – a choice to conform to patriarchy? This is an idea that I am struggling with. I want to say “no, no choice available to conform to patriarchal oppressive practices,” as much as I hate the idea of accepting that my own participation in patriarchy (like my collection of high heels) is limiting my autonomy. But these absolutes seem to reduce women’s autonomy and the possibility of autonomy development, which makes me a bit squirmy.

    PS: Did you ever notice how the one black Spice Girl was called “Scary Spice”? All the cute white girls got nice names, Baby, Posh, whatever. Not the black girl. She was Scary. and often dressed in animal prints – jungle theme. Yikes.

  37. Twisty

    My point is that ‘choices’ that reinforce patriarchal ideals, you know, reinforce patriarchal ideals, and should perhaps undergo a more thorough analysis by modern young feminists than “I wear high heels because they make me feel sexy.”

    Women’s autonomy is a myth, and will continue to be as long as we continue to support male dominance.

  38. thinking girl

    yes, yes, I understand the point perfectly. How then do we go about building autonomy? Autonomy is a set of skills that must be exercised, skills like self-reflection, self-knowledge, etc.etc.etc. (Diana Meyers lays out the process perfectly if you want an academic discussion, although I think she leaves a lot out in terms of the substance of choices.) If patriarchy casts its evil net over everything we as women do, how is it that we are able to have this patriarchy-blaming conversation? I don’t think women’s autonomy is a complete myth. Autonomy isn’t an absolute – it admits of degrees.

    How do we go about not supporting male dominance, if we cannot find space to build autonomy within it? If patriarchy prevents all autonomous choice by women, how will we ever get out? Must we re-create ourselves as pseudo men in order to overthrow patriarchy? I don’t think feminism is about making women into men.

    Don’t take me as supporting this girl power crap. I do my best to understand the patriarchal influences in my life and the lives of other women, and I completely agree that patriarchy colours everything we do. I just feel that denying women have any autonomy under patriarchy is nihilistic, and I want to be as constructive as possible about my approach to feminism. My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?

  39. Twisty

    “My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”

    Nobody likes my answer to this question.

  40. Delphyne

    Sarler also needs to take a closer look at teenage motherhood if she thinks the Spice Girls are responsible for it. The majority of fathers to these babies are much older than the girls they get pregnant. Perhaps she should be turning her attention to the culture that encourages men to have sex at all costs even if it means them fucking thirteen year old girls and even (oh, horror) blame the men themselves for deciding that fucking thirteen year olds is OK because Maxim and all that kiddie porn he found on the internet tells him it is. It’s probably much more fun to blame Geri Halliwell however.

    Sorry Twisty, it’s a stupid article, but you can’t expect much better from the Daily Mail.

  41. Erin

    I always had a problem with the “Girl Power” phenomenom made popular by The Spice Girls. I saw them kicking and slamming their bodies down and zig-a-zig-AHing, but I didn’t see them asserting any kind of power that manifested anything real or tangible. They were a brand band. They had their own quirky style (wrought by stylists and the like, of course), and behaved totally cooky by being loud and having a totally fun time, but I never understood why this was power – power I should have wanted to attain for myself as a young girl. I was, afterall, in their target audience, though just barely.

    Though I’m sure they are all bright women, I know I have power and they have power, I just didn’t and don’t need ‘Girl’ attached to the front of anything, especially power, to make it mine, and it’s not something I want to see sold in the junior’s department all bedazzled on a necklace.

    I think what bothered me the most was how they made girl power a trend and a fad and a commodity. If I see a young women wearing a t-shirt that says Girl Power or other some derivative of the sort, I’m only seeing it on her t-shirt, not in her thoughts and actions.

  42. ruxandra

    ok, i tried to post this earlier but i think it was too long. so my response to this post – also my first comment at ibtp though i’ve linked to posts plenty of times – is over here. the gist of it is that while i agree that we should do our best to be patriarchy-fighters the thing is that unfortunately the “ridicule, ostracism and male [and female] reproach” that we can expect for making that choice is what the misguided patriarchy-lovers get as well. in fact, most of the misogyny that i see on a daily basis is directed at those women who do conform – because this is how patriarchy sets it up: if you don’t conform it definitely sucks for you, but if you do conform it also sucks for you because then you’re “feminine” and then misogyny can do its job. i think that it’s an important point: turning against “femininity” altogether might be said to be more patriarchy-loving than anything else, actually… why should “traditional femininity” and all it entails be automatically bad and despicable? i think we need to say that sometimes it’s NOT. we’re talking about different traits and behaviors – right? who gets to say what’s absolutely “worthy”? the patriarchy sure would like to.

    ps: i like what thinking girl is asking.

  43. Twisty

    I did not get the impression that Sarler was blaming the Spice Girls as individual women for singlehandedly bringing about an anti-feminist backlash, but rather that she feels they embodied and celebrated it. But maybe I didn’t read it closely enough. I blame the Vicodin!

  44. Delphyne

    The problem is that Sarler is part of the anti-feminist backlash. My favourite way to spot a sexist is when they argue “but women are sexist too!”. Sarler even acknowledges that Simon Fuller was the brains behind the Spice Girls, but “Simon Fuller: How he betrayed us” isn’t such a sexy headline as one that lets us put a whole lot of women in our sights, even though it might be more accurate.

  45. Carty

    Notice how most successful women are only successful because they have conformed to – or in extreme cases completely embodied – patriarchal demands of femininity. (Pam Anderson, Paris Hilton eg)

    Who really thinks that Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton are successful? Why not pick Madeleine Albright and Susan Hockfield? Does the argument still make any sense?

    I am hardly qualified to hold my own in an argument here, but I read here a lot. So much seems to go by unchallenged.

  46. ramblinrabbit

    “I wear high heels because they make me feel sexy.”

    Nope. I wear them because they make me feel tall. Since I usually wear flats, if for some reason I have a need to make people respect my authority, I add a few inches and wear a suit. I’m young, and in a new job where I have to stand up to people who are older than me and have been working in the same job for decades. Sometimes a surprise few inches helps.

  47. thinking girl

    carty, I also said,
    “Either that or they have assumed a pseudo-masculine persona and steam-rolled their way overtop of their female competition to rise to the top. (Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, eg).”
    I think Madeline Albright or Susan Hockfield might fit in with this, don’t you? Success is measured in different terms, definitely. Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton are successful capitalists. I guess I should have defined that a bit better.

    Twisty… just saying I won’t like your answer doesn’t actually give me one. I need to know what you think the answer to my question is!

  48. Ron Sullivan

    The word that’s missing from most of this talk is “collaborator.” If you’re real real old, that word has the scent of “Vichy” (the New! Feminine! Cologne!) and “Quisling” (Sporty, yet Subtly Sexy!). Shaving women’s heads for dating occupying non-coms is hardly a sisterly act, but being sure what our own actions smell like is absolutely necessary if we’re going to call ourselves grownups.

  49. Delphyne

    Collaborators is a good example – all that anger that should have been directed at the occupying forces got syphoned off and suddenly women were having their heads shaved and being hung from lamposts because a German had taken a fancy to them. I wonder how easy it was for a woman to resist a Nazi’s advances in occupied France.

  50. Carty

    “Either that or they have assumed a pseudo-masculine persona and steam-rolled their way overtop of their female competition to rise to the top. (Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, eg).”
    I think Madeline Albright or Susan Hockfield might fit in with this, don’t you?

    I don’t, not at all. Although I got to choose my examples.

    They both ooze competency in their traditionally male dominated domains, it’s the source of their power.

  51. Catherine Martell

    “Sarler even acknowledges that Simon Fuller was the brains behind the Spice Girls…”

    Yes – and praises him fulsomely for his ‘genius’. That Carol Sarler piece is a vicious, woman-hating, right-wing rant. Twisty, you don’t seem to be arguing the same thing as her at all. You’re bang on the mark about ‘choice feminism’, though. Hooray! Wonderful to have you back, Vicodin haze and all.

    I don’t think the Spice Girls were particularly sexbotty as far as female pop acts go. One of them was even allowed to wear a tracksuit. See? That’s choice feminism in action. The Pussycat Dolls must long for such liberation.

  52. Kaka Mak

    Wow. Those are some pretty harsh words, there, Twisty: Ho, anorexic (which is ALWAYS a “choice,” as we know), stupid blondes = agreeing to wear jizz on their faces.

    I ain’t so down with this one.

  53. thinking girl

    well, Carty, whatever. Po-tay-to Po-tah-to. I will respectfully disagree – I think Madeline Albright is certainly pseudo-masculine. It would be nice if there was some other way to have power – but since power is defined by patriarchy, I guess we’re stuck. How nihilistic.

  54. Hattie

    I don’t think added height helps women. I’m five nine and big, and I think men feel threatened by that. They decide that I am aggressive because of my size.
    I’ve been spending time with a very glam and very successful lawyer, and I know she does the femme stuff just to amuse herself. I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong with that.

  55. SFK

    How does this:
    “These days young women wish to emulate America’s spokes-ho Paris Hilton, whose glittering, anorexic, trust-funded blonde emptiness demonstrates the ample rewards awaiting those who agree to wear the nation’s jizz on their faces.”
    go with this:
    “Check it out: women—particularly educated women, the most potentially influential members of our oppressed class—do not have the luxury of ‘choice.’ Every move an oppressed class makes is a political act. And even when invoked with a saucy Paul Mitchell hair-toss, our ‘choice’ is not real, because our oppressed sex class has only limited agency.”?

    I’m going to have the blame the Vicodin for this post, too.

  56. Pony

    Their cunts belonged to der faderland. While der faderland was raping other cunts, those faderland cunts should have remembered who their cunts really belonged to.

  57. Pony

    holy shit pony don’t post without your brain.

    Their cunts belonged to der faderland. Those faderland cunts should have remembered who their cunts really belonged to.

  58. Ruthie

    Thinking Girl asked: “My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”

    Twisty replied: “Nobody likes my answer to this question.”

    I would seriously like to hear it. Not trying to be snarky, hoping I’m not being obtuse. I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, and I can’t recall that it’s ever been articulated. (Then again, I am sitting in an old house with no AC in 95 degree weather, so it’s possible I’ve just missed it.)

    So, go for it.

  59. Luckynkl

    >>>“My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”
    Nobody likes my answer to this question.

  60. Luckynkl

    Let’s try again. Apparently WP doesn’t like certain punctuation.

    “My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”
    Nobody likes my answer to this question.”

    LOL. No one likes my answer to this question either. Which is simply for women to stop production. It’s really quite elementary. There can be no patriarchy if there are no patriarchs. So stop breeding them! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they’re really cute when they’re little. So are tiger cubs. But then they grow up and eat you.

  61. No Blood for Hubris

    Patriarchy is invisible because it is the all-pervasive ground, like the sky (so far) and because all those who benefit from its existence require that it remain present and imperceptible.

  62. vera

    “My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”

    The escape comes only through revolution. And at the moment, the only revolution that’s accessible to us is the revolution that takes place inside one’s own radical soul.

    But there is a strategy for at least pissing off the patriarchy. It’s simple, too. Here it is:

    Find a woman who is living on the edge, barely making it — and give her money. Do it on a regular basis, like once a month.

    My closest friend is a woman who gathered her courage and left an abusive husband to raise three young children on her own. Shortly after she left him, she was hit by an uninsured driver and is now totally disabled. Even though she has full custody of the kids, the state won’t help her collect the support money her ex-husband owes her. And in California, a 100 percent disabled person gets to live on the grand sum of $500.00 per month.

    As far as I am concerned, she’s on the front line of the battle against the patriarchy. Her own mother once yelled at her for failing to put up with the abusive husband, pointing out that the kids would be so much better off now if she had just sucked it up! But she had the guts to resist.

    I am not on the front line. I have an income. I have a few choices about how I spend it. The designers of Madison Avenue would like me to spend it on expensive shoes and goop for my face. Fuck ‘em. I’m going to spend it in a non-patriarchy-approved manner, and help my friend keep a roof over her head.

    I realized that many people who read Twisty’s blog don’t have any spare resources to share. The proposal above is for those who do.

    And since I never curse in my writing, you can tell I’m serious because I used the F word. That’s how much I hate Madison Avenue, high heels, and face goop.

  63. vera

    I have a real potty mouth in person, though.

  64. KTal

    Thinking Girl says:

    “Either that or they have assumed a pseudo-masculine persona and steam-rolled their way overtop of their female competition to rise to the top. (Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, eg).”
    I think Madeline Albright or Susan Hockfield might fit in with this, don’t you? Success is measured in different terms, definitely. Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton are successful capitalists. I guess I should have defined that a bit better.”

    Wait a minute! You ask about how we are supposed to free ourselves from the patriarchy and then you turn around and hand them back the keys to the car, “Oh here you go honey, you drive, troubling myself with such a risky task will cause me to dry up and be unfeminine.”

    This is a patriarchy and therefore, all positions that hold power to make change belong to men. Men have for centuries claimed that women who step into these positions of power will lose their attractiveness, become barren, deserve a good beating and most likely will spend most of their lives alone.

    So, seems to me Thinking Girl, the first thing you need to think about is where YOU are going to get YOUR power because frankly, if you look to traditional female roles, it ain’t there. And if you don’t have power, the only thing you will be able to change in your life is the whether you will wear make-up immediately upon getting out of bed to make husband breakfast, or wait until after you clear the dishes.

    Hirschmann has it right all the way, in fact I printed the article to give to my daughters to read; so I can say, “See, I’m not the only one saying this!” She is absolutely right, that upper middle class women who have the ability to make an example, forge ahead and make a difference, choose instead to stay at home is a huge issue that feminism has failed to address.

    That women and men on the lower class sphere emulate what they see others ‘above’ doing goes without saying. The less examples there are of women breaking through non-traditional roles, the more women will feel that the journey isn’t worth the pain.

    And pain it is. When I majored in Building construction at the local tech school, I was the only female in the class preparing to be and actively engaged in building and remodeling — swinging a hammer for a living. Each year had one other women, usually in her late 30′s or 40′s who only took one year to ‘learn how to build playset/put in windows at home.” They in fact made great pains to make clear that they had never worked, nor intended to work in the trades. Made me sick.

    They looked at me with suspicion (maybe they saw my expression when they asserted their non-career status) and kept their distance. Everyone kept their distance. I was alienated and alone. The mere fact that no other career minded women were there put me in a class all by myself. Twenty something boys don’t feel comfortable around females who aren’t jazzed up to please or willing to act like their fucking mothers.

    Women also stay away from a woman wearing jeans and boots. Women were in 1) the nursing program, often only two years even though a four-year RN degree is the only one that brings an adequate income. 2) preschool education or child care or whatever the hell they call it which pays a paltry 8 bucks or less an hour 3) interior design which isn’t much better than child care. Why? Why? Why do these women, most of whom will never go further in college, why do they choose careers that guarantee they will not able to be independent?

    Because if they don’t they might be called ‘pseudo masculine’. Makes me want to wretch.

    When a women says of another who chooses a role that isn’t aligned with the patriarchy, she’s suspect, less feminine, pushing over to the ‘other side’ and losing contact with her sisterhood, those women are the ones so aligned with the oppressor, not the one pushing. So aligned are the that they assume the role of Gate Guard without asking. They volunteer with gusto!

    That its all to please the boys, well can we fully know when the men don’t even have to bother to keep the old standard in check? The women step in first.

    The article about the Chicago woman got me also. As I see always and have experienced myself personally, when a woman is poor and without a man and with children, she’s a ho, she’s scum and good woman stay away, she’s a social leper.

    Many women grow up in homes or worse, pseudo homes where they suffer inordinate abuse that is dictated to them based on their sex, whether sexual, emotional or physical abuse, it erodes their ability to cope with even the most minor struggles. ot also teaches them in an emphatic way that subordination to male power is an aboslute. Abuse of girl children guarantees them to be servants and victims of the patriarchy, unless by some luck, they have an intervener to help them pull their way out.

    Women make up the majority of social services workers, administrators and some of its leaders. Still controlled and dominated by men on the upper levels though, adherence to patriarchical classism and blaming is an all important growth step for advancement up the social services ladder. Like the social worker at the shelter who knew the woman, she was impotent to help. All the women she made contact with made the choice to stay their distance, even though they knew the woman was suffering. To actively engage would threaten the system that employs her and probably would also call up a lot of her own complicity.

    Of course this is where it all comes around. Every upper middle class woman who ‘chooses’ to stay home is in effect, sentencing other women to be judged, not by their contribution in greater society, but by their subservience to the male dominated construct of wife/mother/servant. Choices that women have, whatever they are, get narrower and narrower the further down one goes on the socio-economic ladder. Ability to earn enough for complete independence cause greater familial and cultural pressure to not take on roles that put into question or challenge the traditional.

    So for every upper middle class woman who chooses the nursery to the board room can credit herself for contributing, single handedly to the fall of hundreds of lesser empowered women below her.

  65. KTal

    “…steam-rolled their way overtop of their female competition to rise to the top. (Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, eg).”

    There’s another one. Women can’t compete. IF they compete, they are bitches, butches and whatever other label the patriarchy machine has invented to discount their hard work and dedication.

    Why are women getting steamrolled? Seems to me that’s what happens when you stand like an idiot in the middle of the friggin’ race track; you’re gonna get stampeded.

    Being competitive requires a willingness to get out and run the race, lose sometimes, get up, brush off, hobble on, try again and again, practice and practice. It requires personal strength, perservence, a strong sense of one’s purpose and goals and a strong sense of self.

    Its no accident that hobbies and roles for ‘good women’ have no element of competitiveness. Competitive women would get demanding.

    This also sequeways into the common housewife, who becomes the passive aggressive shrew for want of any other way to gain the self affirming power that all humans naturally long for.

    But I’ll stop there.

  66. Jodie

    Ktal, gotta beg to differ with you on 2yr vs 4yr RN. It’s the same money; a 4 yr is more likely to get you into management, though.

    Here in OK, a 2 yr RN is about 50K a year for those of us who have learned to negotiate, and as a single income, it’s adequate to buy a house, own a car and raise two children. Not only that, but it’s portable, the jobs I’ve chosen have always been flexible enough to allow for my kids’ illnesses and even breastfeeding on demand.

    Not only that, it’s a career that doesn’t give a damn about style or what kind of makeup you wear or how you wear your hair as long as you are not an infection source (which, BTW, there’s some evidence that nail polish and fake nails may be infection sources).

    Yes, it’s a traditional woman’s career, but that doesn’t invalidate it, and while there are RNs who would like nurses to remain the handmaidens of physicians, the MDs/DOs are not there enough for that to be likely these days. Nurses have a lot of autonomy.

    As a career, it may not be groundbreaking, but it means the woman with the degree doesn’t need a man to support her…which is power to make one’s own way.

  67. thinking girl

    Whoa, KTal! I’m glad my comments gave you cause to think and post, but you’re jumping to some conclusions based on my comments that are unwarranted. My comments about women who become successful under patriarchy were merely presenting a view of what is going on in the world right now, what patriarchy will allow successful women to be like. When I say that Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton are successful capitalists, I don’t mean that in a complimentary way.

    I happen to agree that if women want power we have to find ways to get out from under patriarchy’s thumb. I just don’t know how to make that happen, especially when we combine patriarchy with other oppressive forces like racism, classism, and homophobia. Yes, it does take perseverence and resolve and it won’t be easy – I doubt it women will have much more freedom by the time I die than we do right now. It seems like some of the freedoms we have fought so hard for are slipping away, like abortion rights.

    But traditional feminine roles do have some value. I think there is a certain amount of power to be found in raising the next generation and influencing their views and opinions and beliefs about the world. I don’t happen to want the traditional role of wife and mother for myself, and I plan on working hard all my life and becoming as successful in my chosen field as possible. I’m not sure all that hard work will come to anything under patriarchal rule, but that’s another matter.

    You ask how I am going to claim any power in this world. I think that since women don’t hold very much power, perhaps we should be seeking allies among those who do hold the power in society – men. Men aren’t going to simply give up and hand over their power just ’cause.

    What I want to suggest is that there might exist the possibility of reclaiming some of what is traditionally feminine and embodying those roles/characteristics in a way that allows for the development of personal autonomy. I don’t necessarily think that the answer to ending patriarchy lies in completely rejecting traditional feminine roles/characteristics. If we did, what would we be like? It seems like there are only two options, like I said before: ultra-fem or pseudo masculine. Where is the space for the creation of a new alternative? Is that even what we need?

    So swing your sledghammer, my dear, and I will admire you for it, but don’t think I’m a less committed feminist because I wear lipstick and skirts. One of the greatest modern critiques of femininity, a set of essays called Femininity and Domination, was written by a woman who wears makeup and high heels to lectures (Sandra Lee Bartky). There are all sorts of ways to be feminist, and although I don’t think girl power qualifies because it completely lacks substance, we are all working toward the same goal – even if we do take different approaches sometimes.

  68. willow

    First of all, Hell Yeah Twisty! Sing on, it soothes the soul! This “choice” to be so conformist– it IS the path of least resistance. Let’s stop calling it anything else, and then let’s move on.

    I don’t give a shit if you wear lipstick or skirts or whatever. Fine. What I hate is the “don’t think I’m a bad feminist if I (wear makeup, give blowjobs, stay at home with kids)” bullshit. If you’re really so committed to choosing the mainstream, quit asking me to validate your every move along the way. Do what you’ve got to do, move on, and focus on the issues that matter most to you. Asserting your right to wear high heels in the face of what is ultimately a minute feminist population is hardly a daring, meaningful place to take a stand.

  69. ruxandra

    “Asserting your right to wear high heels in the face of what is ultimately a minute feminist population is hardly a daring, meaningful place to take a stand.”

    what if the more general point is a political/strategical one, though – for “the feminist revolution”? it matters. shooting down “femininity” indiscriminately is precisely what the patriarchy does (and wants you to do). it’s misogyny, pure and simple. and i think that anything that brings you into alignment with the patriarchy – whether it be applying lipstick or your own version of misogyny – should give you some pause. we make those choices constantly: we think about them and what they’ll mean and at what cost they come, and then adopt them or not. but i certainly see more actual harm in denouncing “femininity” as if there were an absolute value scale somewhere than in wearing lipstick. and i maintain that there’s nobody who’s 100% patriarchy-fighing and nobody who’s 100% patriarchy-supporting. then why act/react as if there was?

  70. ruxandra

    and one more thing, very practically speaking: it’s much more nonconformist – and antipatriarchal – to be a feminist and mess with patriarchal gender roles and to promote/reclaim aspects of “femininity” than to simply be able to bond with guys over ridiculing “stupid girls,” for example. personally, i find that the former is much more of a mind-fuck for people anyway. this is what i said before, but it’s more explicitly where i’m coming from. i think it’s also precisely what thinking girl is saying – and i’d like to point out that ktal’s response, at least, shows she missed the point entirely.

  71. thinking girl

    thanks ruxandra – my sentiments exactly.

  72. anne

    Ktal – I’m with Jodie – I’m pursuing a two year RN *precisely* because it’s the quickest way for me to get into a field wherein I will have some stability, flexibility, and an income that will make me autonomous. I already have a BS and an MS (in the sciences); a four year RN would be in many ways redundant for me. With the 2-yr RN, I can earn 50-60K my first year out, and I can go on to become an NP AND take care of myself on that income.

    Twisty, this is exactly what I’ve been starving for. This very entry. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  73. Delphyne

    “it’s much more nonconformist – and antipatriarchal – to be a feminist and mess with patriarchal gender roles and to promote/reclaim aspects of “femininity” than to simply be able to bond with guys over ridiculing “stupid girls,” for example. personally, i find that the former is much more of a mind-fuck for people anyway. this is what i said before, but it’s more explicitly where i’m coming from.”

    Of course you could always do neither: it’s not like those are the only two choices. There’s a third one that you reject femininity *and* refuse to slag off women.

    Try going out in public with hairy legs and see how much of a mind-fuck you get, because I guarantee it will be you (or any woman who does this) who will be attacked. Or is that just a step too far? Until you can do that the patriarchy still has you under its thumb.

    Anyhow, who are you reclaiming feminity from? It’s not like it was ever stolen from women, more like forced down our throats alll the goddamn time.

  74. bigbalagan

    My version of the Answer to the Question:
    None of it works until men wear lipstick and women hair on their legs, and no one notices or gives a damn.
    Femininity and masculinity don’t exist in any fundamental sense. As social categories, like all social categories, they are owned by the patriarchy. One consequence is that debating whether it’s ok to support feminism and wear heels (“reclaim aspects of ‘femininity’ “) is itself a manifestation of patriarchy—whatever your position on the question. It’s really a milder form of the debate about whether one can give bjs and still be a feminist, qv. the Village Voice rant Twisty cited. The merits of the debate are overshadowed by its existence, which in turn is just another manifestation of the extremity of our hostagedom to patriarchy.

  75. ruxandra

    but i don’t think that you can “reject femininity” (i’m not talking about rejecting it for yourself, but “denouncing” it as a totality of traits and behaviors) and not “slag off women” – implicitly or explicitly. that was my main point. how can you say “all that is ‘feminine’ is crap” and not be at least somewhat misogynistic? i’ve never seen it done in real life. but then again how could saying that be a feminist act? it’s the converse of saying all that’s masculine is excellent. and basically i’d like to know what “rejecting femininity” means. it’s not like this “femininity” is defined absolutely. so – if you are rejecting it, which traits are you rejecting, exactly? and why do you pick those? and if you pick all of them, on principle, what are all of them, and why that principle? because patriarchy dictates it just so?

    i’m saying precisely that patriarchy does have us under its thumb to a certain extent, i think we all agree with that. the question is what do we do? and i’m obviously not saying we’ve lost femininity, i’m saying that the patriarchy tells us it’s all bad, all inferior etc. – and i’m insisting that in those cases where we know better we should resist that generalization, not dutifully agree! to me it seems so obvious.

  76. ruxandra

    @ bigbalagan: i‘m certainly not even close to “debating whether it’s ok to support feminism and wear heels” here. i’m speaking much more generally about femininity, and actually not at all about heels. so i don’t see how this is “a milder form of the debate about whether one can give bjs and still be a feminist” – maybe the latter is included in what i thought i was discussing, personally (though not even that). and your answer to the question is not an answer to the question, at all. the question is, what do we do.

    anyway i think i’ll stop here.

  77. Delphyne

    “and to promote/reclaim aspects of “femininity””

    What did you mean by this, Ruxandra? I thought you were talking about the physical ways women are forced to be “feminine” but maybe you meant something else. You did say that was “explicitly where you were at” so maybe you could be explicit about what you actually meant.

  78. kj

    I am so grateful for this entry. thanks twisty!

    I live in the redhot epicenter of the rich, well-educated, usually-white, stay-at-home mothers. (that’d be brooklyn.) They have all “chosen” to stay home with the kids. They live in million dollar brownstones and push status strollers. They are very…feminine. And rich. In their midst, I feel decidedly cranky.

    I’m writing a dissertation currently, so that I will soon be able to bring home the bacon. My (male) partner has a decent job, but it’s gonna be my smarts and my professor-dollars that will make the difference for us.

    And there’s really no way I’m ever going to have the “CHOICE” to stay home fulltime, if and when we have a kid, and “just be a mom,” because…well…I have to work. I don’t want to give up on my skills, ’cause I earned ‘em. And I don’t want to give up my own damn money, either.

  79. Delphyne

    I didn’t answer your question, sorry, Ruxandra. I was talking about rejecting the physical manifestations of femininity e.g. make-up, high-heels, lipstick etc. as they appeared to be the topic here.

    Women’s lives really would be different if none of us wore high-heels any more. We’d have more physical freedom and we wouldn’t have sore feet and we wouldn’t constantly feel unbalanced or precarious.

  80. ruxandra

    ““and to promote/reclaim aspects of “femininity””
    What did you mean by this, Ruxandra?”

    well, i was speaking generally first of all, and that’s my point, that “femininity” is a very large category which patriarchal rules deem unworthy in its entirety. twisty said that choosing “anti-feminine iconoclasm” can get you ridicule and reproach, and i wanted to say that, actually, choosing feminine iconoclasm also gets you those reactions – so it’s not “femininity” or “antifemininity” that’s the real problem, but rather the fact that we have a patriarchal value system. and i wanted to point out that blaming women who are “feminine” in some way is not really that different from what misogynists do. but personally – as i say in the blog entry i linked to – i’m referring to two v. “silly” things: my love of knitting and a girls’ game (the chinese jump rope), which i sometimes feel “conflicted” about as someone who’s otherwise not at all “feminine” (except when it comes to the essential stuff like choosing compassion over aggression etc. but that’s another story). and i feel conflicted because i think those things are too “girly” – or that people think they are too girly, and therefore stupid. which is what’s stupid. physically, i can only be referring to the fact that i’ve let my hair grow out lately, :) but i wasn’t actually reffering to anything physical, myself. however, i do feel that someone else can refer to something physical like wearing heels or lipstick if it applies to them and they wish. that’s another part of my point. ok, i hope this was explicit enough. :)

  81. TP

    I just love Twisty. I love her even more after slogging through dozens of tedious comments that are earnest and serious but confused and sometimes confusing.

    There is no escape from the Patriarchy, so just relax and educate yourself and everyone around you. Those who search for absolutes, like absolute perfection, a world without the patriarchy, are only deluding themselves. Being conscious that you are wearing patriarchal camouflage is better than convincing yourself that choosing mauve over Hottt Pink! lipstick is an empowering choice.

    Women can find themselves if they examine their choices within the context of understanding what forces determine their choices, can’t they? It’s much like how knowing that marketing will sway our consumer choices. Knowing this can add the critical grain of salt needed to reduce the useless and needless desires they inflame.

    It’s funny how choice is used to represent unchecked and uncontrollable desire for unnecessary things. No one ever thinks to examine whether the desires are as truly important as the titillation makes them feel.

  82. Wendy

    The “Spice Girl” article brings up many excellent points, but seems to suggest that Geri and Mel B. should be embarrassed for becoming single mothers.

    Twisty, I hope your recovery continues smoothly!

  83. ruxandra

    “It’s funny how choice is used to represent unchecked and uncontrollable desire for unnecessary things. No one ever thinks to examine whether the desires are as truly important as the titillation makes them feel.”

    whatever, dude. could you be any more patronizing?! really, are you sure, “no one” – not even a single one of us? yeah, we women “can find ourselves” in a variety of ways, of which the easiest one is definitely to have some patronizing guy de-confuse us. especially about the hottt pink! lipstick. this is exactly what i was talking about. and now i’m truly done taking up precious commenting space here.

  84. W.Shore

    Hey, Twisty, we’d all like to hear your take on Hirshman. That would be hott.

  85. Betsy

    The problem with the upper class married women who “choose” to stay home isn’t that they are spending lots of time at home or with the kids — it’s that the way they got there is by tying themselves to an upper-class male. Their “lifestyle” wouldn’t last 3 days without the income of their mate — which shows to whom and to what they owe their “choice”.

    Of course, when women without-a-man-or-his-income try to be moms, the patriarchy wants to put them in the workhouse (in various manifestations).

  86. Pony

    Apparently not!

    “There is no escape from the Patriarchy…”

    Hey TP anytime the slogging gets to be too much for you don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

  87. KH

    Twisty’s answer: there is no escape.

    That’s why people don’t like it. That’s why she didn’t answer the question.

    Moving on.

    Autonomy and feminity are not the issue. What is crucially at issue is “choice” feminism. Think of this: after x number of years of establishing that “choice” is as good as a right (in a constitutional sense), the patriarchy, which has been laying low all this time as women beat each other up with high heels, one day speaks up and says hey, we’re totally glad we’re all on the same page here, because we, the patriarchy, want to exercise OUR choice, which is choice x, and women won’t be able to do a damn thing about it because they’ve spent years defending, promoting and arguing for the tool which the patriarchy has owned all along, Choice.

    Choice feminism undermines a feminism which is capable of working toward Justice.

  88. Sarah Parry

    Spice Girls used as society’s scapegoat, why doesn’t Sarler come up with something new?

    I ripped that article apart on my site:

    http://diaryofbarbiesworstenemy.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_diaryofbarbiesworstenemy_archive.html#115356572545622393

    A journo dancing to the tune of the sexist insitution which is the Daily Mail that she works for.

  89. Pony

    SarahP this sentence is redundant. Get out while you can.

    “A journo dancing to the tune of the sexist insitution which is the Daily Mail that she works for.”

  90. Pony

    It seems to me there’s some confusion here between *female*and *femininity.* The diss is on femininity, not female.

  91. hedonistic

    This took me forever to write, so pardon me if someone has beat me to the punch.

    “The path of least resistance.” I’ll buy that. I’ll even buy Hirschman’s argument. Accepting male-dependence as some kind of a domestic ideal is certainly a choice, just not a feminist one.

    HOWEVER, I draw the line at calling superficial “feminine” habits (fashion, shaving, makeup, “girly” hobbies, etc.) harmful to women. They might be unfeminist, but harmless so long as those habits don’t make women POOR.

    Imagine if every blessed one of us stopped styling our hair, wearing makeup and shaving our legs/pits. Then imagine we slipped our feet into cozy shoes and drawstring pants in some sort of sartorial revolution. What do you think would happen? Do you REALLY think Teh Patriarchs would say “Hey! They don’t look like sexbots anymore! Let’s give them money and power!” I didn’t think so.

    Granted, we’d probably save ourselves some money. Meanwhile, the fashion and beauty industries would collapse and millions of people (most of them female) would be on the streets to do WHAT? Other women would no longer be promoted, accused of being “nonprofessional” for not wearing pumps or doing their hair. We would still be the sex class. We’d still be raped, harrassed, intimidated, and underpaid. We’d still be pressured to make choices against our economic best interests. Why? To ensure a steady supply of desperate pussy willing to give itself up in exchange for cash and/or safety, that’s why. It’s all about the MONEY and the POWER.

    My personal bottom line: I KNOW the System is set up deliberately to keep me away from the money and the power, and that submitting to the patriarchal beauty or behavior standard alone won’t liberate me. However, refusing to cop to it won’t liberate me either, because either way I’m supposed to lose. My PAYCHECK, however, presents the opportunity for liberation, so if donning lipstick and business pumps will increase my odds of enjoying dignity in old age I’ll get right on it. Hopefully, someday if/when I retire, I’ll be able to tell Teh Patriarchy to BITE MY ASS, because It will no longer be able to threaten me with poverty. Then I will touch up my lipstick, order a vodka martini with a twist, and shag the pool boy. Party at my place!

    (OK the pool boy part was a joke)

  92. Crys_T

    “They might be unfeminist, but harmless so long as those habits don’t make women POOR.”

    I disagree with this not because I think the examples hedonistic chose are “bad” or “dangerous” but simply because “making women poor” is not the acid test for whether actions cause harm or not. There is a lot of harm done to women that doesn’t cause them to become poor. Throughout history, rich women have been oppressed as well. Maybe in different ways to poorer women, but oppressed nevertheless.

  93. hedonistic

    Perhaps if you could explain how lipstick oppresses or harms (rich?) women (?) I’d be able to better understand your argument? Pardon me if that went right over my head.

    My point is that the System keeps women vulnerable on purpose, mostly (although perhaps not entirely) by keeping us poor, thereby limiting our options. To state “rich women are oppressed too” might be technically correct, but it does not refute my point.

  94. vera

    Twisty on escaping the patriarchy:


    You know how I’m convinced that the patriarchy = the Matrix and that there is no escape short of an uprising of spinster aunts in total revolution, some of which revolution will of course take place in bullet-time slo-mo, but with different shades, since those Matrix ones are starting to look a little dated, and in cowboy hats, because why the hell not?

    I too am convinced that the patriarchy=the Matrix, but I believe that the revolution will come in the form of a cultural singularity so profound that we will become something unrecognizable as human. Maybe we’ll be cyborgs. But whatever we will become is as hard to imagine as it is to visualize four dimensional space. Impossible, in other words, unless one is having the frame-breaking experience to which I alluded earlier.

    So arguing about high heels and makeup seems completely ridiculous to me.

    On the other hand, practical measures that resist and subvert the patriarchy are readily available. I’m not saying that I won’t be your friend or respect you less if you don’t avail yourself of these measures. But if you want to resist the patriarchy, why not:

    - Believe that your appearance is already fine, and refuse to spend an hour every morning trying to look different.
    - Refuse to wear tight/binding/uncomfortable/hobbling fashions.
    - Give your money to women on the bottom rung — you know, the ones the patriarchy forces to be subservient — instead of spending it on more stuff you don’t need
    - Be assertive and object to unjust crap whether it is directed at you or someone else, even if it means alienating people
    - Don’t even look at “fashion” magazines

    And that’s just a start.

  95. Sydney

    Hedonistic,

    I agree with you on your point that the accoutrements of femininity (shaving, makeup heels), are not the oppressors. One could argue that many women dress up in order to make themselves feel put together and strong, rather than to attract male attention. Just look at women in the middle east who wear makeup and jewelry under their burkhas.

    Now, where the ideas that heels, makeup, and shaving were attractive came from, well that could be the patriarchy. But to imply that dress up is only to impress the boys, I think that is false.

  96. Kiril

    These days young women wish to emulate America’s spokes-ho Paris Hilton

    No, they don’t.

    I think there’s a lot of “It’s on TV all the time, there must be something to it” going on here. On the other hand, many young people would like to be ultra-rich and go to parties all the time where everyone kisses their asses. Chalk that one up to the fact that most young people have very little control over their lives.

    Likewise, “Girl Power” was always a kind of joke, playing off the Riot Grrl/slacker-empowerment vibe of the ’90s. It was a gimmick that enabled a manufactured pop group to sell a lot of records and become briefly famous.

  97. KTal

    kj said: “so that I will soon be able to bring home the bacon. My (male) partner has a decent job, but it’s gonna be my smarts and my professor-dollars that will make the difference for us.

    And there’s really no way I’m ever going to have the “CHOICE” to stay home fulltime, if and when we have a kid, and “just be a mom,” because…well…I have to work. I don’t want to give up on my skills, ’cause I earned ‘em. And I don’t want to give up my own damn money, either. ”

    That’s it, in a nutshell.

    The patriarchal rule is that a worthy women ‘knows her place’ and assumes it quietly and without fanfare. That she spend her energy and her entire life assuming the role of the dependent and the invisible half-person who has nothing of her own, makes no impact on anything and speaks up and acts against nothing. She allows and assists the patriarchy in keeping the status quo.

    The women who challenges that role in the household is the one:

    refusing to be the only one to clean the house or cook dinner
    refusing to serve on demand
    demanding and enforcing shared child care responsibilities
    signing up for higher education and following through and taking the time to go and to study – and demanding that others make the room
    working late hours if the job demands it, going for the promotion, going to the convention or the meeting or the company retreat and not taking husband if she doesn’t want to.

    That’s what I don’t see enough of.

    And I don’t believe men are all against it either. I’ve seen examples of strong women who are the higher or sole breadwinner/earner, who puruse their own lives andhave full identities as people, not just mommies and wives and many who eschew marriage altogether, who raise their kids on their own.

    That women give time and succor to men who don’t support them for doing the above, is also what gets in my craw. Such men should be ostacized, left to live alone, chasing thirteen year old girls (and we having empowered girls who report them instantly).

    Which is also why being a mother should never be demeaned and I certainly don’t mean that. But when mothers subvert their own power and authority to the ‘man of the house’ they only serve to raise up a class of females who, confronted with feminism and their homelife might suffer cognitive dissidence and then suddenly BAM! another wing nut is born. That’s a scary thought.

  98. Pony

    Vera I want to know more about this:

    “the revolution will come in the form of a cultural singularity so profound that we will become something unrecognizable as human. Maybe we’ll be cyborgs. But whatever we will become is as hard to imagine as it is to visualize four dimensional space.

    And this:

    “Impossible, in other words, unless one is having the frame-breaking experience to which I alluded earlier.”

    Yes to your ideas of how to help.

    Hed:

    I think rich women who are only rich because they are attached to a man who is are oppressed. But rich women like Martha Stewart are not. (She’s not without problems yes, but not crushing oppression. And I admire MS for making her success at what women were expected to do for nothing. Although I don’t follow a damn thing she says or worship her, I just like the irony.

    We really need that BlameCon soon. Don’t y’all think?

  99. Hawise

    Well Sydney, that is a point.

    ‘Now, where the ideas that heels, makeup, and shaving were attractive came from, well that could be the patriarchy. But to imply that dress up is only to impress the boys, I think that is false.’

    Since heels, make up and shaving are meant to bring us back to a prepubescent appearance, I am not actually sure that only the patriarchy is at fault here. We are our own insecurities- many but not all of which come from the patriarchy. History used to have men dressed up in the same heels, make-up and shaved in all visible areas. Men were given leave to drop all that but somehow women kept it going. Are women just afraid to grow up? Do we seek permission from the patriarchy to remain teeny boppers for as long as the pancake make up can take the strain? Are we our own worst enemies when it comes to self-image?

    I am not totally against make-up for either men or women. I am bad at the game and so don’t play it, but I have seen it used to great effect. But it is a game, the hair, make-up and costume are just the pieces used for various plays. Our problem is that we have let others dictate the gameboard and the moves, we need to redefine the playing field before we can successfully define the winning conditions.

  100. hedonistic

    Pony, I believe Vera is referring to mind-expanding fungi. I could be wrong, however.

  101. Luckynkl

    “Femininity and masculinity don’t exist in any fundamental sense. As social categories, like all social categories, they are owned by the patriarchy.”

    Precisely, Bigbalagan. Femininity and masculinity are 2 faces of the same male god. Neither one has anything to do with being female. Whether it be the masculine Apollo model or the feminine Dionysus model, both gods are distinctly male.

    “My most serious question is: How do we escape patriarchy?”

    “Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right of anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them, by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc., by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities; by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation.” — Emma Goldman

  102. vera

    Pony, hedonistic: the “frame breaking experience” I referred to is, in my case, mediated by fungi and other plants just as hedonistic suggests. But I believe it is accessible through other means — meditation, perhaps? I just happen to have a very hard head, and it took power plants to get through to me.

    The “cultural singularity” — that may take me a while to explain. Perhaps I’d better do it in my own blog. But I’ll get back to you on that one, because it is time to go eat some noodles right now.

  103. thinking girl

    Luckynkl, thank you. I found that quote extremely helpful.

  104. Mandos

    “Femininity and masculinity don’t exist in any fundamental sense. As social categories, like all social categories, they are owned by the patriarchy.”

    Precisely, Bigbalagan. Femininity and masculinity are 2 faces of the same male god. Neither one has anything to do with being female. Whether it be the masculine Apollo model or the feminine Dionysus model, both gods are distinctly male.

    That’s not how I read that statement, although it’s up to Bigbalagan to decide what it means. Your interpretation suggests that femininity and masculinity, while not being essential categories for the female, are essential categories for the male. Is that what you meant?

  105. Ruthie

    Good stuff, y’all; thank you. I am all over the fungi thing, vera and hedonistic. There hasn’t been a good frame-breaking experience around my house in a long time. Hard to find the leisure time for that anymore.

  106. Luckynkl

    “Your interpretation suggests that femininity and masculinity, while not being essential categories for the female, are essential categories for the male. Is that what you meant?”

    Who said anything about essentiality? Masculinity and femininity have to do with gender. Gender is just a relatively new word that was created to cause confusion. Which is why I prefer to use the old word. Which is “sex roles.” That way no confusion can occur. Key word there is “role.” A role is a part played by an actor. In this case, it’s a “socially expected behavior pattern usually determined by an individual’s status in a particular society.”

    Is acting essential? Of course not. So stop acting stupid. Which is the 2-bit role you boys currently enjoy playing these days. Acting all fucking stupid and ignorant and pretending like you don’t have a clue. Go play those manipulative male reindeer games with someone else, Mandos. You know exactly what I’m saying. That gender is male created sex roles designed to manipulate social behavior and environment for your benefit. And no one knows it better than you boys. It’s women that tend to be oblivious to it. But I haven’t met a male yet that doesn’t know how the game all works. So your role playing at feigning ignorance is rather lame, Mandos. Nice try, tho.

  107. vera

    Leisure? Ack! I’m talking about a frame-breaking experience that shakes one to the core and reveals the Matrix/patriarchy! It’s hard work, believe you me. The West has a way of turning sacred substances into recreational opportunities. Anyway, for information, check here. And this is a great book on the subject.

    Actually, though, now that I’ve had my noodles and taken some time to think about it, the first glimmerings of my frame-breaking experience — when I first began to suspect that something was fishy — had nothing to do with fungi. It occurred when I was a mere slip of a lass, in my 20s, and I read Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room.

    That was when I began to see the wiring under the boards of the patriarchy, and realized that while I was worrying about equal pay and high heels, I hadn’t noticed the frightening truth that I’m embedded in a culture that hates me and depends for its continued existence on my subjugation.

  108. Jennifer C

    Frame-breaking??! I’m sure I read that as something akin to medieval torture device, until I thought “Picture frame!”

  109. thinking girl

    My frame-breaking experience came this year while watching the documentary Not A Love Story. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about the porn industry. That’s when I realized that pornography is hate speech, and I am the target,

  110. Carty

    That was when I began to see the wiring under the boards of the patriarchy, and realized that while I was worrying about equal pay and high heels, I hadn’t noticed the frightening truth that I’m embedded in a culture that hates me and depends for its continued existence on my subjugation.

    Vera, I am very early in the process and older than you were when you began. And I’m not a woman, so I can’t be sure I’ll ever really get there.

    But the quote above is some of the clearest writing I’ve seen during my feminist blog obsession.

    And perhaps I should resist suggesting an edit but I will not. The patriarchy does not hate woman anymore than masters hated their slaves. It is indifferent to them.

  111. hedonistic

    Vera, I’m all over the fungi path (I’m particularly obtuse and needed all the help I could get). Although, my own framebreaking experiences led me to realize the extent to which I create my own reality (LITERALLY). I didn’t find what I experienced as “The Matrix” to be a bad thing, only awesome and terrifying in its creative power, especially when the “reality” that’s been created from it is so hostile. Nihilistic, even.

    That was a long, long time ago.

  112. Repenting

    First of all, I’m so glad you’re feeling up to blamin again Twisty. Brava, you are one of the strongest people I have ever (virtually) met and I know that if anyone can take this shit and get stronger it’s YOU. I will always love you for what you write and how you write, because you have a brilliant mind and a beautiful spirit. Cheesy adoration blah blah blah but seriously, I live in Hicktardville, Ohio, and I’m probably the only person in a 500 mile radius who would publicly identify as a feminist. I wouldn’t survive without my daily dose of Twisty.

    That said, I’d like to throw out a quote within a quote from the Hirshman article, “as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”"

    I have washed a boyfriend’s dirty laundry. I have sucked his dick. I did these things because they were presented to me as choices, while fundamentally not being my choice at all. To not do either of these things would have deprived me of my relationship, however it was my doing these things without any reciprocation that caused our relationship to end.

    Perhaps the Sunday brides did not realize the privelege in their position to recieve an education in building a financial future and then to discard it in order to be a domestic drudge, and perhaps this is because upper-class women who chose to child-rear have the money to be less like a Friedan-style cooking/cleaning/fellatio-bot and more like princesses in a castle with a full staff. Their husbands make enough money that they do not suffer the way lower/middle-class women who chose domesticity over personal financial stability and empowerment, and so do not see the harm in presenting their lifestyle as a “choice”.

    So the Spice Girls are to blame. Britney Spears is to blame. Maureen Dowd is to blame. Every woman with money who tells women without it to submit to male rule and strip themselves (literally and metaphorically) of all forms of independence from the (admittedly multi-faceted but completely oppressive) patriarchal feminine ideal are to blame. Every man who (silently or not) buys into the system and personally, vocally, or even just mentally subjugates women.

    Mostly, however, I blame myself for being silent all these years.

  113. Ruthie

    I had the same experience with The Woman’s Room as a college student. I’d forgotten all about that book! Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to have to see if I can find a copy now.

    I also recall a book called Personal Politics, written by a woman whose name I can’t recall, about her experiences as part of Students for a Democratic Society. And MacKinnon’s Feminism Unmodified, a collection of her essays, now pretty old, but my favorite still.

  114. rumblelizard

    The Spice Girls always rubbed me the wrong way even before I started really thinking about feminism and the patriarchy, simply because of their “Girl Power” tagline. GIRL power, not WOMAN power. As in, women can only have power if they are non-threatening, infantilized, identifying as children, as “girls.” The whole thing just made me instinctively bristle, although I don’t know if I could have coherently explained then just what it was that was bugging me about them. Aside from my nascent feminist beef with the band, I also objected to the whole dishonest Marketing Svengali-assembled, pre-fabricated aesthetic of the band. That kind of music/band has always turned me right off.

    Plus, their songs sucked ass. Nails on a chalkboard. Eccch.

  115. vera

    Oh, Carty, the patriarchy may think it’s indifferent to me, but if it really got to know me, it would certainly hate me.

    As for guys figuring it all out, I don’t know. But maybe this will help: just remember what the patriarchy wants from you. Unless you are have a big pile of money, the patriarcy would like for you to live an insignificant little life and then die. Oh, and it would like you to do some work that lines the its pockets while you’re around.

    If you’re young and from the lower rungs of the economic ladder, it would like you to die fighting in a war that keeps or extend its power.

  116. vera

    Sorry for the typos. I should never write before 9AM!

  117. Pony

    Thinking Girl I’m surprised to hear you’ve seen that movie. It’s from the ’70s no? NFB still has it but not on DVD. I wish everyone could see it because the way it was told was stunning. Of course, it came out of the women’s production unit of that radical era for NFB. Recently I found a link on Feminish blog with a blog post linking an article about the movie Last Tango In Paris, and was slapped upside to note that movie was also about 30 years old. The subject of the movie, anal rape (I refuse to call it anything but what it is) has now become empowering, if not just pleasant. Maria Schneider, the then 19 year old star of the film said she felt humilated, didn’t know she could refuse to be anally violated, and found out later her part had originally been written for a boy. She even quotes Brando saying he felt raped, humilated and manipulated re the anal rape scene.

  118. Pony

    Here’s the link to the NFB film Not a Love Story. I recall that during the filming, two of the film’s cameramen and the sound man walked out in the middle of a pron shoot because they could not stomach what they were observing.

    http://www.onf.ca/trouverunfilm/fichefilm.php?v=h&lg=en&id=13558

    During this era of NFB (National Film Board an arts organization funded by govt somewhat similar to Canada Council, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation etc) had a production crew led by feminist and ovarianal filmaker Kathleen Shannon. Studio D put out quite a number of radical, stunning women and feminist viewpoint films in those early day, 1974 and on.

    Women of IBTP I don’t know how to convey to you what radical times those were. My memory fails me to lay it all out for you, or direct you and anyway, today is today and it’s not like there isn’t a LOT to do.

    http://tinyurl.com/fcjhm
    http://www.onf.ca/trouverunfilm/fichefilm.php?id=33303&v=h&lg=en&exp=${kathleen} AND ${shannon}

  119. thinking girl

    yeah, Pony, I watched it that film in class. It didn’t hit me until that night, and the next day, how much what I had seen disturbed me. I blame the patriarchy for numbing me to violence against women through media images. That movie hit me hard. Really hard. I’m thinking of writing my thesis about it.

    In a way, I wish there was still a lot of radical feminist activism going on. I don’t have anything like it where I live.

    by the way, surprised I’ve seen it because it’s an older movie? Or because of the ieas I’ve been fiddling with here?

  120. Repenting

    Hey guys, hey guys, guess what.

    You male patriarchy blamers wanna know how you can actively fight the patriarchy?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060725/od_nm/newzealand_lawyer_dc

  121. Pony

    I’ve only read one of your posts TG and not formed any opinion about you or them. My comment is with the film’s relative unknown status. First it was A FEMINIST FILM CREW, second it was a Canadian film, and then, it’s not in current release, although I believe I saw it on tv a couple years ago, possibly CBC, and likely at the time Shannon was honoured. I thank you for mentioning it here, and your film studies prof for showing it.

  122. Amy

    Regular reader, first time commenter.

    I’ve been bugged for a while by this notion of “choice feminism”, since I first encountered the Hirshman article last year. Case in point: last month the topic came up at another blog I read — http://julia.typepad.com/julia/2006/06/resume_resume_i.html — where I found myself bothered by the vast majority of the commenters who preened about “their choice” to be a stay-at-home mom or defined feminism as about choices, including the choice to not work.

    (As a precursor, I do believe that child-rearing is important work, and therefore, to some extent, I bristle at Hirshman’s suggestion that it equates to household drudgery. And I think that as long as we equate child-rearing as such, it frustrates efforts to provide quality subsidized day-care or increase salaries for teachers or assist struggling and under-funded public school districts or address any of the myriad of other ways in which we give the short-shrift to millions of children in this country.)

    But. It troubles me that the women who loudly tout their conscious choice of status as SAHM are, at the same time, silent about the undeniable fact that their choice is made possible by their status as white (largely), educated, and married. And that their discussion of choice is done solely in terms of personal situations, as opposed to societal losses/benefits or without regard to the fact that, for most women in the U.S., the so-called “SAHM choice” is largely illusory. And, perhaps most egregiously, that while all of these women are proudly declaring from the rooftops of their McMansions how children are sooooooo important, and thus a choice to stay home with them is valid, they are doing nothing to help those trapped in a cycle — poverty, poor education, teenage pregnancies, no jobs — that is utterly lacking in any meaningful choice.

    So, a long post to simply say thank you to you, Twisty. Your posts are always thought-provoking. And this one helped to clarify exactly what is troubling me about those who loudly proclaim their choice to accept the role of domestic goddess.

  123. Pony

    I’d like to say I chose to be a stay at home mom. Of course, I and those who tell you they made that choice don’t often admit why they made the choice. I made the ‘choice’ because there were no daycares, just like there was no shelter when I had been beaten, and no way out of an Arctic settlement except in the plane my husband piloted (kewl eh?) so I ‘chose’ to be a stay at home mom. I know not every stay at home mom can top this story, but I’d love to see them try. Sincerly, I’d love to see them drop the charade. Another reason I was a stay at home mom was becasue I was afraid to leave my child with anyone, because when I had to be left with someone while my widowed mother worked, I was raped.

    Choice. Gotta love it.

  124. Pony

    And I should add before I craswh here in a fit of rage that I then became a frequent truant, bush runner, and student who “isn’t performing to her potential”, which of course was followed by a “troubled teen”. then I was “promiscuous” and “dsiprespectiful of authority” and now, I’m a feminist. It all worked out in the end.

  125. saltyC

    Vera, you rock.

    I don’t have to read that article in the Daily Mail to know what it’s all about. Don’t spend money to help struggling single mothers, it’s their own choice that led them there. Der Patriarch sheds no tears for fallen cheerleaders, they’re a dime a dozen. The most misogynist men you know will not feel any pain if the Spice Girls or Paris Hilton or Britney Spears are brought down.

    Also, no I don’t feel like shaking and yelling at anyone, shaking and yelling is abuse. Yes is it. Abuse is never worth it.

  126. thinking girl

    thanks Pony. Actually, I am Canadian, so the film was a bit special to me in that regard as well. It was shown in a feminist theory class at my university.

    to add to my earlier post about the film, what struck me most about it was that the women in the film who were being so exploited looked like me. BY that, I mean that they were not the glossy, bleached, fake-eyelashed, fake-boobed, no-pubic-hair porn stars of today. They were normal, regular women who had little choice in what they were doing and what was done to them. I could feel their degradation in my own skin, much more intensely because they looked like me – soft bellies, small breasts, cellulite, large hips. They looked REAL – not like the porn stars splashed all over the internet and magazines and films today. Because they were real, it was real to me. I realized that I was guilty of pushing those modern porn stars away from my feminist consciousness completely because I couldn’t relate to them, because they were nothing like me. The porn stars today are the epitome of femininity… but the girls in Not a Love Story were real women. And they were being abused, exploited, raped, tortured, HATED, by men. And so they represented ME to myself. It was a bit surreal, but a very powerful experience.

  127. Pony

    I’m nodding here TG because that’s what I remember too. They looked just like us. The escalation of degradation, both in the acts perpetrated on women, and how women are now supposed to want to look. Something the same though, is that the women are first brain-washed by the patriarchy, informally and formally (by pimps and handlers) to think they are doing this freely, and that this makes them desirable. Plus ca change plus ca meme chose.

  128. Pony

    meant to say:
    The escalation of degradation, both in the acts perpetrated on women, and how women are now supposed to want to look, is what I find so disturbing.

  129. KTal

    What Lucky said, I agree.

    And Pony, I probably can’t ‘top’ your arctic story of stay at home, but I can relate: I was a ‘stay at home’ mom because as an abused girl, I never learned to say no, so the man I clung to after running away from home, whom i called my husband, naturally took charge completely and of course, breeding came along with that.

    Couple that with his propensity to move to another town or state about every year, his refusal for the first two years of our relationship to allow me out of his sight (when I was considering finding the guts to call my usually abusive family and beg to come home) and his use of my fear of physical violence to subjugate, haunt, taunt and control me.

    Oh fun years. But I was a stay at home mom – hurray! I didn’t finish high school, since I ran away from home in the middle of my senior year, met said Mr. Wonderful who wouldn’t allow me to go back to school, would not allow me to work, drive a car or even have any friends that he didn’t approve first. Lost all chance to have an education, took eight years to leave him, on my own.

    And you know what? My family still likes to harp that I ‘made the choice’ to stay with him for so long, have three kids and never finish school and live a life of poverty.

    Oh yes, we women have so many choices don’t we?

    Oh by the way Pony, I appreciated the links and have bookmarked, i will get the movie when I can, you and TG have piqued by curiosity.

  130. KTal

    I said ‘by’ in the last sentence above, meant ‘my’.

    Also folks, I did manage to get some education, but never have had the time or money to complete any degree program. So I’m not a completely uneducated cretin.

  131. Pony

    I don’t think Not a Love Story is available in general distribution. It can only be bought or loaned from the NFB.

    Glad to hear you made it through to be with us now KTal.

  132. LOLBall666

    “Patriarchy, as the Spice Girls and Paris Hilton can attest, rewards conformity.”

    Their consumer base was virtually all female, and were inflated to a phenomenon by

    women.

    Matriarchy rewards conformity.

    It’s sorta interesting though – there’s famine, war, tyranny, and torture all over the

    globe, and you’re all shitting your collective pants over…

    that’s right -

    the Spice Girls.

    Dur?

  133. hedonistic

    Oh, goodie. Here we go.

    (shuffles off to make popcorn)

  134. rumblelizard

    Ah, the classic “I’ll give you something to cry about” (TM Amanda) troll. Nice to see you, trolly!

  135. Carty

    I know it’s a bad idea to respond to trolls.

    But it is interesting to me how much ignorance exists about feminism even among people that demonstrate the ability to reason about other topics.

    And there are many valid frames of reference that explain this, I suppose. One is that they are components of the patriarchy, benefit from it, and are therefore not motivated to acknowledge it must less work to change it.

    Another is that the feminist movement is ineffective in helping people to understand its real issues. Bear with me a second, I know this is dangerously close to ‘blaming the victim’ territory. But accepting responsibility for the fact that there is such widespread ignorance of why the feminist movement matters, of the missed opportunity at making more rapid progress, provides some space in which we can be more powerful.

    In trying to learn more I am, for better or worse, depending on this blog and others to help me. And during my journey I have been impressed with how inaccessible and obscured some of the core principals of feminist movement seem to be.

    E.g. so much apparent energy and passion to work though whether it is OK to give blowjobs or wear high heels or shave one’s pits creates a caricature of the feminist movement that many people never get past. They conclude that it is just some obscure form of self-involvement and off they go to the mall, remaining asleep.

    But if one really thinks about the previous lives that Pony and KTal share, if one simply opens their eyes to the amount of abuse that that women are forced to tolerate, the notion that there is something radically wrong is inescapable.

    I suspect that there are many people who fundamentally understand that there is an big problem, many of them ‘trapped’ in conventional roles, that would move ahead very quickly if the movement were presented in a way that they understood the scope of the opportunity to see the world differently.

    LOLBall666 – dude, you’re asleep. Do the work to wake up then come back, there are amazing people here.

  136. hedonistic

    The One With the 666 Balls apparently thinks the subjegation of HALF THE HUMAN RACE is less important than all the other abusive shit Patriarchal Culture does to human beings (war, famine, etc.). Because, ya know, we’re just women. The subhuman servant class. Not important.

    666 Balls, Twisty’s post only LOOKED like a rant about the Spice Girls. Methinks you have reading comprehension problems.

    DUR.

  137. pony

    Have we all forgotten Twisty’s plea to ignore trolls, because it creates work for her when we respond to them?

  138. hedonistic

    Pony, Mr. Balls has demonstrated he’s a good sport on another thread, so I decided to bat him around like a cat toy over here. I don’t think he’ll go toxic on us.

    Still, you’re right.

  139. bdaggerlee

    Pony, are you familiar with Joy Harjo’s “Fear Poem”? I’ve always liked that poem a great deal, and have taught it quite a lot. If you go to www dot joyharjo dot com it’s listed on the right. There might be audio of Joy reading it somewhere on the site. I will look up the film you guys have been talking about. yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  140. saltyC

    KTal, you are awesome for leaving him. Many women take even longer than that. Or never.

    You know the manipulative power of guilt and shame.

    Hello! Shame is not a motivator, it is a manipulator! Shamed people are more likely to stay where they are. Haven’t we learned that obvious truth yet?

  141. jennie

    Not a Love Story is indeed available for purchase from the National Film Board of Canada, though apparently not through the online store.

  142. grrr kitty

    I guess I’d be more content if I could just believe the male half of my species thought of me as human. Alas, all I see is evidence to the contrary.

  143. pony

    I don’t know this poem or writer. I’ll see if I can find her work at the library.

  144. Repenting

    Hey Balls,

    Matriarchy is not the current state of our nation, wake up. There is NO systematic oppression of those born with balls by those born with ovaries.

    People born with balls mysteriously appear to be the only ones holding political and fiscal power, and it was someone with balls who put the Spice Girls together and marketed them to young members of the ball-less group (now known as females).

    This is patriarchy, when little girls are given as their primary form of entertainment images of frankentein-like whores who are eternally “sexy” or “baby” for the men they must serve. They are eternally girls, not women, they will never have personal power. Their purpose is to exploit the minds of little girls and tell them to look and act like overly-sexualized barbie dolls, not people.

    No equivalently harmful male role models are handed to young ball-bearers.

    Children of the west, do we live in matriarchy, or patriarchy? I think since you found this blog, balls, and not any matriarchy-blamin ones, it’s probably the latter.

  145. pony

    Here’s the purchasing information for the film Not A Love Story: A Film About Pornography. The link is for the U.S. information. This film is only available as a public performance DVD, which means anyone buying it automatically can show it to groups; schools, knitting circles, women’s organization meetings, etc.

    http://www2.nfb.ca/boutique/nfb_contactus_en.jsp?a=b#us

    DVD
    United States cost:
    $250.
    public performance rights

  146. pony

    You’ve got things a backwards Salty. Women aren’t shamed for staying in abusive and disastrous marriages, they are praised. I think you tortured that metaphor enough now thank you.

  147. Helen

    I really think things aren’t that bad. In my universe, it is perfectly acceptable for me to live my life as I choose. You just have to choose to surround yourself with people who are OK with difference. I am a 23 year old woman with short hair on my hair and long hair on my body (I haven’t shaved in 5 years). I’m a grad student in electrical engineering and also work part time as an engineer. I haven’t owned a TV in 7 years, but I watched some TV with friends in junior high. I wasn’t horribly brainwashed because my parents always made sure to explain to me that the stuff in mass media is just entertainment at the common denominator. All they had to do was tell me that I’m better than that – they brainwashed me into believing that I can do anything I want to do. So far it’s turned out to me true.

  148. Carty

    No equivalently harmful male role models are handed to young ball-bearers

    Boys are handed devastatingly constraining and damaging role models. Including, significantly, role models that normalize subjugating women.

    High school football, college fraternities, professional athletes, race car drivers, television, action movie heros all reinforce the perspective of women as helpless possessions.

    One may not wish to feel sorry for them, but let’s recognize how the status quo propagates. The patriarchy is a huge challenge, but I am not willing to conclude that it is instinctual.

  149. asilon

    Have to say my respect for Twisty has diminished slightly by her using this link. I’ve never read anything by Carol Sarler that doesn’t have a realy unpleasant tone, and the Daily Mail is the biggest piece of journalistic shit ever – calls itself a serious newspaper and is in fact a horrible right wing rantfest. Ugh.

  150. john diss

    I have trouble believing people’s myopia sometimes. We hear about Barbie and the spice girls, but have you even taken a look at little boys’ “action figures”/dolls? THAT’S an unrealistic image of beauty.

    Are women objectified and demeaned? Of course, and as often as not, it’s by other women. Blaming your own ill deeds (or that of other women, who you want to exculpate because it’s rhetorically convenient) on a illusory patriarchy is a mixture of learned helplessness (born of laziness as much as oppression) and bigotry.

    Take a look at the other side. Look at how narrow and constraining contemporary images of masculinity are compared to femininity. If anything half as sexist and demeaning were depicted about women in mainstream media as is shown about men, you’d be all but frothing at the mouth. Honestly, take a look as most commercials featuring a man and a women. How often is the man the butt of some joke reflecting his stupidity or oafishness. Take a look at the vast array of dreadful (but popular) TV sitcoms. How often is the male in a relationship uncultured, stupid, or just always to blame?

    Hell, compare how often you see commercials for penis enlargement vs breast enlargement.

    Does this mean we’re living in a matriarchy? No. It means we’re living in a commercial age where whatever is sleek and easy and appeals to the lowest common denomonator WORKS, because it sells. MEN are exploited. WOMEN are exploited. HOW you’re exploited depends on your sex (partially), but the fact that you’re exploited does not.

    And hey, having to drop your name off for military service when you’re 18 kind of puts the spice girls in perspective.

  151. vera

    Dear John: One of the defining characteristics of a patriarchy is that it devalues young low-status males. In fact, it needs to get rid of them, and sending them off to fight the patriarchy’s battles is one very efficient way.

    What we’re seeing in these comments is a sad lack of attention to Twisty’s guidelines. Please read them. If you don’t understand what a patriarchy is, go look it up. Perhaps you could start with the Wikipedia article. Be sure to scroll down to the section entitled “Feminist View.”

    This is a patriarchy-blaming blog. You should not be surprised to find patriarchy blamers here. It’s what we do for fun.

  152. vera

    Twisty’s guidelines are found by clicking on the word “this” in the sentence, “Cast your jaundiced eye upon this before commenting.” It’s right above the box where you enter your comments. I tried to provide a link, but the spamulator magically stripped it out of my comment. I guess it’s a non-self-referential spamulator.

  153. LOLBall666

    “The One With the 666 Balls apparently thinks the subjegation[sic] of HALF THE HUMAN RACE is less important than all the other abusive shit Patriarchal Culture does to human beings (war, famine, etc.). Because, ya know, we’re just women. The subhuman servant class. Not important.

    lol I’m officially adopting THAT as the new proper way to address me:
    The One with the 666 Balls.

    Subjugation

    n. 1: forced submission to control by others [syn: subjection] 2: the act of subjugating by cruelty; “the tyrant’s oppression of the people” [syn: oppression]

    You’re not in North Korea, you’re not in Darfur – you’re in a first world country, probably in America and part of the richest and politcally free 5% of humanity. No one is forcing you to submit to anything.

    Plz. Save the drama for ur mama.

    The women who aren’t residing in Western countries (or Japan) may have some claim to this.

    Repenting Jul 26th, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Hey Balls,

    Matriarchy is not the current state of our nation, wake up. There is NO systematic oppression of those born with balls by those born with ovaries.

    There is no systematic oppression of either sex(except for men having to register with the military @ 18 of course :P).

    “People born with balls mysteriously appear to be the only ones holding political and fiscal power,”

    I don’t see a mystery. Lion’s could physically survive on a diet of strictly veggies, though their nature compells them to eat gazelles instead.
    Man’s nature compells him towards material, financial, and political success to a far greater degree than woman’s nature.

    No one made it that way – that’s just how it is.

    “and it was someone with balls who put the Spice Girls together and marketed them to young members of the ball-less group (now known as females).”

    I don’t know the sexes of the people who organized them or any of the other middlemen (har har middlepeople?) involved in their success, though I do know that the group themselves and their customers were w-o-m-e-n, and it’s interesting that you absolve the two most important groups from any responsibility.

    You aren’t any more oppressed than a smoker is ‘oppressed’ by Marlboro.

    “This is patriarchy, when little girls are given as their primary form of entertainment images of frankentein-like whores who are eternally “sexy” or “baby” for the men they must serve. They are eternally girls, not women, they will never have personal power. Their purpose is to exploit the minds of little girls and tell them to look and act like overly-sexualized barbie dolls, not people.”

    Well 50 years ago women weren’t over-sexualized, they dressed modestly and didn’t put out until marriage. Then along came Feminism…
    American womanhood has been misled, gone full circle, and is now worse off than they started.

    “No equivalently harmful male role models are handed to young ball-bearers.
    Children of the west, do we live in matriarchy, or patriarchy? I think since you found this blog, balls, and not any matriarchy-blamin ones, it’s probably the latter.”

    That’s probably because men in general spend more time amassing power, than absorbing and regurgitating theories of their fictional oppression. 0_0

    “john diss Jul 26th, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    I have trouble believing people’s myopia sometimes. We hear about Barbie and the spice girls, but have you even taken a look at little boys’ “action figures”/dolls? THAT’S an unrealistic image of beauty. ”

    I always felt a little inadequate next to Stretch Armstrong as a child.
    I mean, if he wants to beat his wife, and she’s accross the room, NO problem! (and unlike me he has only ONE to worry about)
    My life won’t be that hassle free until I’m rich enough to hire my 24hr. staff of WifeBeat Butlers ^_^

  154. saltyC

    Pony, if you knew what the hell you’re talking about you’d know they are also shamed. I will not stop talking about the manipulative power of guilt, not for you. Why do you have a problem with me anyway? I don’t get it. But now at least I found out you act like you know more than you do.

  155. vera

    Hmmm… apparently some of the looney stuff is getting through the spamulator.

  156. hedonistic

    Pony, I sooooooo stand corrected. Twisty, my apologies.

  157. Pony

    SaltyC Would you spell this out for me? I’ve no idea what you’re on about but I’m willing to listen.

  158. Pony

    Hed see you at the spa.

  159. Betsy

    OWE, my god. I get it. This loll-ball guy is so obviously a parody. Right down to the “Plz.” and “ur” abbreviations.

    I didn’t figure it out until the part about “50 years ago women weren’t over-sexualized, they dressed modestly and didn’t put out until marriage” — and then I burst out laughing.

    It’s like the creationist take-offs on http://www.talkorigins.org (see archive). Every so often you get a witty evolutionary biologist who has too many homebrews and decides to post in the guise of a young-earther — right down to the characteristic misspellings and “argumentum ad allcaps.”

    So, you sly regular Twisty reader, nice try. Come on out and reveal your true identity. You should have known that a name like LOLBALL666 wouldn’t fly for long with us.

  160. Mandy

    Just had to say I’m so happy to see you back and ready to rock with that tart tongue and gigantically genius-type brain. So happy. Now I’ll go back and read the rest of the comments. So happy.

  161. KTal

    John Diss says among other things: “Honestly, take a look as most commercials featuring a man and a women. How often is the man the butt of some joke reflecting his stupidity or oafishness. Take a look at the vast array of dreadful (but popular) TV sitcoms. How often is the male in a relationship uncultured, stupid, or just always to blame?”

    Those in control of a class of people always have the priviledge of making light of themselves, of joking and ridiculing, because they know it will little effect their position of power and in fact, often serves to blanket their actual control. It allows those oppressed to let off a little ‘steam’ if you will as well and be under the illusion that they aren’t quite as oppressed as they thought.

    Jokes about men usually circle around incompetency in the home life, whether feeling adequate compassion for others, or being inept in carrying out tasks that are stereotypically that of the women, such as the father who fumbles taking care of the baby or the husband who can’t manage to do the dishes.

    Such ‘jokes’ serve only as qualifiers of the patriarchical construct, that men and women have distinctly, somehow, instinctively seperate roles that cannot be changed. Such serves men well and keeps women in their place.

    He also says: “but have you even taken a look at little boys’ “action figures”/dolls? THAT’S an unrealistic image of beauty.”

    Someone else posted about this above and since you apparently didn’t bother to read that, I’ll put it in my own words again. First off, get the verb in the title? “ACTION Figure” in other words, they are dolls in roles of doing great things, fighting evil, saving the mother ship, committing acts of bravery and heroism at every turn. In fact, since the fall of the old G.I. Joe doll, most all action figures are hard plastic figures formed with their costume and clothes INTACT, in other words, their role and purpose is not to be clothed or to accentuate body parts in any other way than to affirm the hero/macho role.

    Obversely, one can see with the never dying Barbie and all her imitators, particularly the new “Brat Dolls” with their answer to cultural diversity, that the focus of their function lies strictly with dress-up, appearance, make-up, high heels, boots and other acouterments meant to affirm the feminine role of eye candy. These dolls fight no battles, commit no acts of heroism, do not work against evil, save the weak or actually do anything but wear clothes and purses, prance on ponies and drive pink cars.

    He says again: “Hell, compare how often you see commercials for penis enlargement vs breast enlargement.”

    There are no ads on teevee for penis enlargement, but there are plenty of ads for penile erection aids and not enough for condoms. Ads do exist for plastic surgery, but they are cloaked and euphemistic, because of course, women’s bodies are secrets of shame and lust and not to be spoken about in living rooms in front of the kiddies.

    How many ads are there for aids for women’s sexual dysfunction? Exactly, who cares what women need, its all about the guy.

    And while we’re on that topic, dontcha think its just a wee bit disingenuous to push erectile dysfuction aids while at the same time telling women they must forgo sex until after marriage and only for procreation? (We all know that’s the goal of the anti-choicers).

    And finally: “Blaming your own ill deeds (or that of other women, who you want to exculpate because it’s rhetorically convenient) on a illusory patriarchy is a mixture of learned helplessness (born of laziness as much as oppression) and bigotry.”

    What ill deeds do you speak of?

    THe power imbalance that exists in this society will always have its victims. Women are human and not made to tolerate ill treatment and when they do, they do not cope well and cannot function well. The same holds true for those other groups and then women of color, who have things going at them both ways.

    Those who exercise the ability and have the interest in obtaining services and favors from others by the use of violence, shame and coercion have little desire to acknowledge the effect of their actions on the receiver thereof.

    To engage in such an exercise of recognition would be to grant the other party humanity. The granting of humanity and dignity to the group one oppresses would call upon the illegitimacy of such behavior. Thus it is no surprise to anyone here that someone such as yourself, would come here and say, as we hear everywhere else from men like you, all our lives that our experiences and perceptions are invalid and not worthy of consideration.

    The power imbalance you deny is most obvious in your dismissal in that you have the dillusion, given to you by your dominant status in society, that your opinion counts and is correct and can be applied to any group you please, regardless of how little you understand their experience.

    To you, our experience can be summed up in a little paragraph, borne of your testerone laden, white priviledged experience, even though you probably never even wore a high heel shoe for three seconds of your life, much less experience one scintilla of a minute of being a female in any form whatsoever.

    Until you take the time to listen to those like us and consider ways in which you do hold priviledge, your arguments are meaningless diatribe.

  162. KTal

    As for Balls, I refuse to slog through that adolescent text message shit. Write correctly so we can all read you quickly and thus have time to consider your point or just go the fuck away.

    Really, I don’t know why the rest of you good people bother to read and respond to his garble. I have no desire to prove or disprove my ability or inability to read teenage text messaging.

    As for my experience, of which I speak too often I think, I believe that the paradigm of shame occured thusly:

    I was shamed for being a female
    I was shamed for my sexuality as a female
    I was not taught to see myself as a full human, capable of making a meaningful contribution or worthy of any effort toward improvement. This being another factor of shame; “Do not bother us with your needs and problems.”

    Ronald Reagan came into office the year I first became pregnant and started his moral war on single mothers, specifcially teenage ‘unwed’ mothers and women on welfare. THe meta-message was clear: Women are only worthy in roles that we men deem worthy and when deem them unworthy, they will be abandoned, shamed and punished.

    How fitting. Kept me cemented to a man’s side.

    So shame got me there. What kept me there?

    Although on two occasions over the course of the early years, I had an opportunity to leave him and did leave temporarily in times of extreme crisis, both times I returned as quickly as i had an opportunity. Again shame, kept me there. Although I was encouraged to get my own place, I had to consider welfare as my jobless status and lack of experience would not land me a paying job.

    Welfare mothers were whores. I couldn’t cross that line, the fear of even further social abandonment was overwhelming. Not that i had any status in my position at the time, but looking at a crevice below from no matter how low one stands, is still a crevice.

    So in some sense shame kept me there as well.

    Consider that I was offered a short respite twice and that in all the people that I came in contact with through my then husband, I repeatedly was praised in my ‘decision’ to stay home or to ‘stick it out’ with the marriage.

    Also, might I add that quite a few times, people who probably could have helped relieved themselves of feeling any obligation by blaming and shaming me, only further driving me backward into the abyss.

    So praise kept me there sure, but shame played a larger role in bringing there, keeping me there and also allowing others to dismiss my circumstances and any feelings of responsibility they might have had.

  163. rumblelizard

    Balls was disemvoweled, KTal. But that’s ok, his arguments are only slightly less ridiculous in their disemvoweled form.

  164. Mar Iguana

    Have we all forgotten Twisty’s plea to ignore trolls, because it creates work for her when we respond to them?

    I’m sorry. I should have known better. It will not happen again.

  165. saltyC

    KTal, thank you for your illuminating stories. We need to hear it because any of us could at some point help a woman in that situation, and what they need is an open ear and heart.

  166. lightly

    “I assert that we’re choosing the path of least resistance.”

    Bingo.

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