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Jan 25 2007

Perfunctory BDSM comment of the week

uglyass_shoes

It’s the craziest thing. Just yesterday I was joking around about mocking BDSM for cheep laffs, when whaddya think happened but a pro-BDSM comment came in. It was left on an ancient post consisting of two short sentences and the above-pictured ‘fetish’ shoes. Because its outrage is so feebly expressed, I decided to promote it to Perfunctory BDSM Comment of the Week.

You people amaze me. You live blindly in a world where women are all victims. Have you ever discussed fetish with anyone? Have you ever been in a dominant/submissive relationship? Doubtful. These shoes are fetish play shoes. Not worn to work or even walked in for that matter. Most of the time I’ve encountered shoes like these have been in situations where there is a female dom and another female or male submissive wearing them. It’s a game that some people are into, and it’s just that. So cease your pathetic whining and wincing and let people live the lives they want to.

Or just unite as the victims you are and wallow in your misery!!!

I couldn’t have dreamed up a more archetypal example of dorkulence if I’d been offered a year’s supply of Cool Whip as a prize. How abundantly it expresses the bland fervor for conformity so popular among a certain species of Internetians (rhymes with ‘Venetians’) notable for their dexterity in eluding the persistent taint of enlightenment! This comment’s got it all. Observe:

- The dopey belief that pantomiming the dynamics of oppression through hackneyed sex maneuvers and jokey outfits is not merely gutsily outré, but is in fact Nature’s Masterpiece.

- The bizarre implication that I Blame the Patriarchy is somehow capable of dictating lifestyle choices, comically accompanied by the issue of orders (“cease what you are doing!”).

- The use of the word ‘victim’ as a derogatory epithet, a standard ploy among unimaginative patriarchy enthusiasts who wish to imply that calling bullshit on their dumb ideology is somehow tantamount to a character flaw (the old ‘victim mentality’ insult) .

- The self-deception that one’s parting zinger is so keen and trenchant that it warrants its own paragraph and three exclamation points!!!

Of course, the aforementioned are merely the icing on the cake. The comment’s outstanding value to the rafemblocom* scholar is this:

“Have you ever been in a dominant/submissive relationship? Doubtful.”

Doubtful! I’d like to meet the person who has never been in a dominant/submissive relationship. I’d totally buy that imaginary personage a purple diamond unicorn taco. The writer appears to be acutely insensible of the scientifically proven fact (four out of five radical feminists agree) that all human relationships, regardless of the degree to which they are afflicted with latex corsetry, depend on the model of dominance and submission. All human interaction, period, depends on it to some extent. They don’t call patriarchy the global paradigm for nothin. Our little fetishist’s insouciance seems astonishing, but it turns out that this willful — or possibly wishful — disregard for our society’s defining principle is more common among readers than I had imagined.

I allude to another, more recent comment [from this thread] wherein can be found the remarkable assertion that certain aspects of femininity are somehow innate or “authentic” and are therefore beneficial, and that the lone alternative available to a female who isn’t down with the trappings of sexbottery is to “ape masculinity.” This capitulation to the patriarchal edict compelling allegiance to binary sex roles — i.e. to the authority of the rule of dominance and submission — makes my hair hurt. Femininity isn’t, as one commenter suggests, ‘an aversion to violence’. That’s merely enlightenment. Femininity is learned behavior that fucks women up.

I frequently beat this dead horse, but I can’t help noticing that, despite my repeated floggings, there abounds a great confusion concerning the constituent aspects of ‘the feminine’. So I’ll just knock off a brief review, cribbing from the world’s foremost authority on the perils of girliness, and once more explain the term as it is used on this blog.

Femininity is a set of practices and behaviors (boob jobs, FGM, beauty, the veil, the flirty head-tilt, pornaliciousness, BDSM, fashion, compulsory pregnancy, marriage, et al) that are dangerous, painful, pink, or otherwise destructive; that compel female subordination; that exist only to benefit Dude Nation; that are overwhelmingly represented by ‘girly’ feminists as a ‘choice’; and that are overwhelmingly represented by godbags and other irritating conservatives as ‘natural instincts’. In fact these practices and behaviors are nothing but inviolable cultural traditions in abject compliance with which comfort, contentment, and personal fulfillment are inextricably intertwined, and from which deviation is discouraged by the threat of ingenious punishments ranging from diminished social influence, to unemployability, to ridicule, to imprisonment, to rape, to murder, to the policing of feminist blogs.

Although the female reader’s anxiety over the above will be, I predict, directly proportional to the degree to which her identity derives from compliance with the rule of femininity,** note that my purpose is to expose the invisible, tangled patriarchal root-ball of feminine behavior. It is not, in other words, to diss anybody for ‘wearing a satin dress’ or doing ‘what feels right.’*** It’s true that I personally advocate eliminating, to the greatest extent possible, voluntary compliance with patriarchal dictates; this is because I have personally experienced stuff like not giving a shit about my sassy sex-appeal as pretty liberating. But I am well aware, believe me, that women face untold horrors in the shape of situations wherein compliance with patriarchal dictates is not voluntary. The flipside, as I often find myself repeating, of the concept of femininity as-self-policed-subordination is femininity as-survival-skill. So it may be asserted that femininity is beneficial to the individual when using it prevents her from getting beaten up.

So — not that I expect anyone to do what I say or anything — I’d sure appreciate it if readers could resist the urge to (a) conclude that I promote something so trivial as anti-stilettoism as a substitute for activism or (b) interpret any of my ultimately inconsiderable blogutorials as self-important orders from Feminist High Command.

____________________________
*Rafemblocom: Radical feminist blog commentary.

** Whereas male anxiety will correspond to his dependence on female submissiveness, porn, free household drudge service, a constant supply of pussy, and his view of his masculine self as the default human state.

*** Although it’s no wonder that femininity “feels right”; we’ve been trained for it from the cradle, and, as I mentioned, the penalties for dissent are not paltry.

117 comments

2 pings

  1. Lalock

    “dangerous, painful, pink, or otherwise destructive”

    Great dancing Jeebus, I love you, Twisty.

  2. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Oh fer feck’s sake, not BDSM AGAIN?????? I thought this was a Free Zone!

  3. skyscraper

    “compelling allegiance to binary sex roles”

    I can’t wait to work that into a conversation. Right on Twisty.

  4. BrevisMus

    I like how the commenter justifies those shoes by saying that it’s usually a *female* dom making her submissives wear them. Oh, and said submissives might be *male* – in which case everything’s hunky-dory, and that’s clearly nothing to do with patriarchy or men getting off on the naughtiness that is forced feminisation.

  5. jitsu

    Tell it. Trained from birth. Boob jobs. It all makes me feel very sad. My sister had a boob job and I have never recovered from my feelings of sadness that she could willingly deform her body or hate herself to that extent.

  6. karen

    I love you, Twisty. Every day you don’t post is a day that my patriarchy controlled cubicle knows no joy.

  7. TP

    These feeble defenses are feeble merely because you can’t defend the indefensible.

    Once you start to question the painful tropes of sexual fantasy in any way that assumes full humanity for women, your dick wilts and you have little choice but to either tuck it between your legs and whine (while typing out accusatory posts to your favorite radical feminist blog that has forced you to wilt thusly, in your opinion) or set out to try to rescue whatever you can of your sexuality from the trash heap of patriarchal assumptions that has poisoned your pornsick mind.

    One thing that I believed in in less enlightened days was that there was a huge difference between fantasy and reality. Into this gap, radical feminist theory arose, explaining why stark reality never coincided with brain-dead self-decieving fantasy, and it has started a slow process of healing.

    I question with skepticism the reality of male enthusiasts; how many of them practice what they claim to adore more in the realm of solitary fantasy than in real life? I mean, how many guys are out there wishing they had some submissive girlfriend and wanking furiously away, versus how many are really defending a viable lifestyle?

    Even one is too many for me, though. But the protests have the whine of the loser who hopes to get what he’ll never have, rather than the conviction of someone who lives in a truly sick world.

  8. yankee transplant

    “But I am well aware, believe me, that women face untold horrors in the shape of situations wherein compliance with patriarchal dictates is not voluntary.”

    This, my dear, is one reason I love you.

  9. Twisty

    My hope and dream, Hedonistic, is that if any misguided soul earnestly attempts a serious or heated BDSM discussion — although BDSM is so goofy I don’t see how such a discussion could possibly be undertaken on this blog with a straight face — it will be shouted down toot-sweet by the resident wiseacres. O yes, my faith in the commentariat was once well and truly shaken, but that’s all in the past now. I fully expect a stalwart defense of our territory against any foolhardy incursions of the Taken In Handers.

  10. Random Lurker

    This post just made me realize what’s wrong with slash. After being told how wonderfully feminist, subversive, and sexually creative this type of amateur writing was I checked some of it out. What I saw wasn’t a bold project of women writers reinventing sexuality, but the same old dominant-submissive crap which was supposed to be somehow ok because the participants were the same gender. I was very disappointed though at the time I couldn’t put my finger on why. Though to be fair, clicking on the first few links to pop up in Google may not have been the best way to discover the web’s finest writing.

  11. Rainbow Girl

    Well you have your book learnin’ but your years of knowledge and activism are nothing compared to this zinger: Have YOU ever been in a dom/sub relationship?

    Have YOU ever made out with a cactus? Have YOU ever thrown rocks at a Kodiak bear while inching suspiciously towards her cubs? Then how do you know it’s wrong? ZING!

    It’s not called a trump card because it trumps anything, it’s called a trump card because it’s something stupid enough that Donald Trump would say it.

    Last month I was asked “Well do YOU know every single one of those sexual assault victims in Canada you claim exist?” Boy, did that shut me up, for about a tenth of a second.

  12. Pony

    I liked the last line best:

    “Or just unite as the victims you are and wallow in your misery”

    Isn’t this the defintion of BDSM?

  13. Jix

    Random Lurker,
    The only qualifier in labeling a piece of fanfiction (as it is usually the case) “slash” is that the primary pairing be same-sex. Slash fiction is written in the same world as heterosexual fiction; fetishizing dominance and submission is expected. Just as in heterosexual fiction (read: everything else), the quality is oftentimes bleak. But if you manage to wade through the bad (and keep your lunch from reappearing), you may find subversive, sexually creative writing. Just stay away from those in which the words “non-con” and “BDSM” appear in the disclaimer or synopsis.

  14. roamaround

    Taking a deep breath here…I, girly feminist of the week apparently, DID preface my post with the disclaimer that I might have missed prior Twisty wisdom on term femininity *as it is used on this blog.* I did get that bit right.

    In my defense, most of what I said about femininity was posed as questions rather than assertions, and this dead horse flogging has been enlightening. I too believe that there is no innate femininity or masculinity, and I will never use the word authentic again, even though I meant it in the sense of true to oneself not some silly primal womanhood.

    I still think that a lot of people (not Twisty of course!) think that being a feminist and rejecting femininity means that women should act more like men, and that was where I was coming from. An ex-boyfriend used to get mad at me for covering my eyes at graphic violence in movies (sometimes I have to plug my ears and hum too), saying that a real feminist would never act so girly. That kind of shit is not liberating.

    I didn’t say the only alternative is to ape men! I said that there aren’t a lot of other models around so that masculinity seems to become the default. We can’t pretend that rejecting femininity in real life is a simple matter that’s all been worked out by radical feminist theory.

    It’s obviously a work that will remain in progress until after the revolution when socially constructed gender roles will wither away. I loved everything B said, especially:

    “Smile at the guy with eyeliner and a handbag. Respect the woman with trainers and no makeup. Flirt with both. Admire the guy who bakes wonderful cakes as well as the woman who argues her points. Play wild outdoor games with girls and boys alike and don’t exclude boys from the intimate conversations about feelings and why someone might be wounded because of something.”

    A vision of post-gender possibilities? Meanwhile ditching the stilettos is surely a step in the right direction, Twisty.

    I won’t even get into the BDSM discussion because I have never made out with a cactus.

  15. SusanM

    a purple diamond unicorn taco

    I so totally want one of these for my Pony. Pleeeeze?

    Thanks, Twisty!

  16. Antelope

    Roamaround,

    Some boyfriends are quite wonderful, but I think it’s a really safe rule of feminism to say that one does not, under any circumstances, consider one’s boyfriend to be an authority on what a “real feminist” would do.

    If I read you right, we even had a bit of an “I’d like you better if you were more of a real feminist, which means more like me.”, argument going on there. What a hilarious twist on an old, old game. It’s enough to drive a woman into becoming a real feminist, really.

  17. Amanda Marcotte

    Although the female reader’s anxiety over the above will be, I predict, directly proportional to the degree to which her identity derives from compliance with the rule of femininity,

    A minor dissent. My femininity compliance factor is high but my agreement with your post is total. I do believe when we met I was in high heels, eyeliner, and toting a teeny purse. I come not to excuse my compliance—it’s personally beneficial, as you mention—but to say that some of us are willing to see it as it is. But then again, I am a longtime patriachy-blamer.

  18. roamaround

    Antelope,

    Right about the boyfriends. Thus the “ex” part. More feminist than thou? As a French snob once told me about social class, “You can always tell by the shoes.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  19. kcb

    Have you ever been in a dominant/submissive relationship?

    As Twisty said, who hasn’t?

    My first dom/sub relationship was with the obstetrical intern who grabbed my tiny skull with steel forceps and yanked my squalling self out of my mom’s vagina. I don’t recall it firsthand, of course, but in retrospect it seems like a proper introduction to what lay ahead.

  20. octogalore

    Twisty – a very witty and well-worded post. Despite some red flags that jumped out at me through the thick haze of my eyeliner, I thought this was great and am honored to be part of the reading group in March.

    I remain unclear about your view that querying whether some aspects of femininity are innate is “remarkable.” Despite your rather liberal grouping of many diverse things into one IBTP definition of “femininity,” thus setting up a much easier argument for why it’s all evil, I think others’ mileage may vary re whether they’d construct the category this way.

    I must admit that my background, though not my current discipline, is scientific, and so I have some difficulty being convinced by arguments grounded in (1) grouping all aspects mentioned with stuff like FGM or compulsory pregnancy; (2) saying counterarguments make your hair hurt; or even (3) mentioning that you are cribbing from a noted radfem. Because FGM “fucks women up,” wearing a scarf with a fringe will too? And, we know for sure that women aren’t innately going to gravitate in certain directions and men in certain others, even though many other directions are cultural constructs or learned behavior, why? I remain hung up by a little thing called “proof,” and therefore don’t think the horse is dead yet, despite all the floggings.

    Then comes the suggestion that, while you “have personally experienced stuff like not giving a shit about my sassy sex-appeal as pretty liberating,” other more benighted empowerful types will feel greater anxiety about this, as their “identity derives from compliance with the rule of femininity.” This kind of cognitive dissonance will then inevitably make them defensive and thus their defensiveness about satin dresses etc. Well, but isn’t there another rational explanation for this behavior, like: they happen to like satin dresses and are mystified as to how anyone who, to their knowledge, hasn’t conducted a satin-dress-or-the-equivalent survey can conclusively prove that this is “fucking them up”? Has there been any conclusive showing that women who adopt some behaviors in your definition of femininity, like pink or lipstick or dresses, yet don’t do anything uncomfortable, submissive, or otherwise denying of freedoms men have, are hurt in any way? Show me that study, and I’ll toss the sassy dresses. Until then, as I’ve managed to kick a certain amount of male patriarchal ass in platform boots up until now, I will continue to do so until otherwise enlightened.

  21. TP

    I, too, find it hard to believe that any man could have anything to say about what a real feminist does or says.

    But the large point, about whether to not be feminine is to simply ape masculine ways, is thorny and difficult. How could I know when I’m behaving according to patriarchal dictates or being a human being?

    I hope it is simply to be true to yourself. The masculine construct is false, difficult to conform to, and as full of crap as the feminine construct.

    I wince, cringe and cover my eyes at screen violence because I’m human and have enough simple empathy to react when I see something that would cause me grievous pain on screen. I have a particular loathing for lovingly-photographed glamour shots of needles plunging into arms and sternums.

    This is among many of my failings to conform to patriarchal masculine norms, and many times I’ve doubted my own worth and sexuality because of it when younger and stupider. From suchlike self doubts comes lessons in ‘feminism’ from boyfriends! Absurd.

    I think Twisty has opined that a man can’t be a feminist. I think a man can identify with feminists from reasons of self improvement and simple common sense, but no man should be giving lessons in feminism. It’s second hand information at best, by definition.

  22. Naomi

    Since I plugged your site on GodIsForSuckers yesterday, and have you to my blogroll on Blue.Coffee, may I plug my post “Men and God: Are they really needed?”

    http://townofautumn.com/blog/2007/01/24/men-and-god-are-they-really-needed/

    I first visited here from a “Carnival of the Godless”. I love this blog; but I have to wait a while before I go back to comments on Martian.Anthropologist–Twisty winds me up like a matchbox car, and I take heads off with little provocation!

    Thanks for being a yardstick against which I measure my commitment to feminism. When I’m not here, the regular world wears down the knife-edge of my vigilance.

    Naomi

  23. J

    “I think a man can identify with feminists from reasons of self improvement and simple common sense, but no man should be giving lessons in feminism. It’s second hand information at best, by definition.”

    Doesn’t this sort of criticism depend on the same sort of constructs that are otherwise being denied or at least subverted in the feminist cause?

  24. Edith

    True story: I once did the “flirty head tilt” so often and with so litle regard for context that, at my Bat Mitzvah, I prettily posed likewise with my mother, my father, my rabbi, and my creepy misogynist ex-army uncle who has no teeth and lives in the Nevada desert and has been writing “The Great American Novel” (about a man who lives in the desert and used to be in the army) since as long as I have known him (which has unfortunately been a long time indeed).

    My entire Bat Mitzvah photo album, an important object in Jewish womanhood second only to the eventual wedding album, shows these photographs with my head all askance in every single posed shot, like I’m ohmygod, so cute. It makes for some serious uncomfortable viewing. It’s the perfect marriage of godbaggery and femininity.

  25. Chris Clarke

    Have YOU ever made out with a cactus?

    [ ]

    I won’t even get into the BDSM discussion because I have never made out with a cactus.

    Hey now! I will not have my preferences blithely conflated with the evil-du-jour. Leave us cactus-lovers out of this.

  26. roamaround

    octogalore,

    It seems that little word “authentic” has brought out the heavy ammunition. A loaded term, in feminist circles, no matter how it’s meant. My background is linguistics, so I have it on high authority that definitions are just as socially constructed as gender roles. Very tricky business to agree on how such terms can be used (take Carter’s recent use of “apartheid” just for instance).

    I find Twisty et al’s take on femininity compelling, if idiosyncratic, and I agree that the *ways we construct* femininity and masculinity are not innate. I think we’re skirting around a discussion of (another hot button), essentialism. You’re right that the jury is not out (poor dead horse) on that one, however hard many have tried.

    To say ideas and explanations are taboo and/or counter to theory is no argument, but many “scientific” studies are so bad (and biased) that they aren’t that helpful either. Let’s not give up in a post-modern pique though; common ground can be forged, especially when there’s work to be done. And Rome is burning.

  27. Edith

    Also, RainbowGirl, in my BDSM play, maybe I WANNA make out with a cactus! Are you gonna deny me that right?!?!?!?! Have you ever been in a dominant-submissive-cactus-based relationship? It seems doubtful!

  28. roozen

    I cackled! I guffawed! Most of all i nodded in agreement. I love you Twisty – thanks :)
    OH and i totally want a purple diamond unicorn taco. really. I do!

  29. TP

    “I think a man can identify with feminists from reasons of self improvement and simple common sense, but no man should be giving lessons in feminism. It’s second hand information at best, by definition.”

    Doesn’t this sort of criticism depend on the same sort of constructs that are otherwise being denied or at least subverted in the feminist cause?

    I appreciate concise statements, but sometimes they confuse me, since I am a little slow. So first I had to try to understand what criticism I expressed, and realized it must be the criticism of a man who presumes to teach feminism to a woman. But the rest of it doesn’t make any sense at all to me, the more I read it. Perhaps you would be kind enough to explain it to me in terms I could understand. I’m very sorry that I don’t understand and am curious why criticizing a man for teaching feminism to a woman from the standpoint of male privilege depends on constructs that being denied or subverted in the feminist cause. A little expansion should help me nicely.

    I just dash these comments off, I certainly don’t think of them as especially well-thought out. I’m always looking for improvement!

  30. the first born fish

    The subject of gender binary reminds me of an awkward conversation I had yesterday with my mother (and most of the confused reactions I get from people who meet me), who, for Christmas, gave me lipstick, purfume, a jewelry box, lacy underware, and a glittery watch…

    Mom: “Blah blah blah WHEN you have children of your own…”

    Me: “I really wish you’d stop saying ‘when’. I don’t think I’ll be having any, to be honest.”

    Mom: “Why? Cause you don’t want them now? You’ll change your mind, just wait and see.”

    Me: “Well, it’s a bit more than that…”

    Mom: “Oh? And what’s that?”

    Me: “To be honest, I don’t really indentify as female, or male for that matter. But I certainly don’t feel like a ‘woman’, whatever that means, and pregnancy would be incredibly surreal and psychologically uncomfortable for me. I know it sounds like a lot of malarky, but it’s how I feel about it.”

    Mom: “What do you mean you don’t indentify as female? Of course you’re female, look in the mirror!”

    Me: “…”

    Sigh.

  31. J

    TP-

    When I started to write that reply, I had included what you mentioned of Twisty arguing that no man can be a feminist. I don’t know why I cut it off in the end, but perhaps to make my comment more to do with what I felt you were using of that sentiment. So, maybe I should somewhat try again.

    Doesn’t the criticism that feminism is not for men to pracice but only watch depend on the sort of gender constructs that, from my estimaton, underpin all of feminist criticism?

    Your example of a man telling a woman what a good feminist “really is” starts off with the dubious notion of a man and woman. Now, as absurd as it may sound to question that, you have to think, what is really at stake in this criticism? It certainly isn’t feminist revolution, but the notion of man and woman. These are the constructs I’m talking about, that are taken as given and natural. There is nothing natural, or extra-ideological, about man and woman, so saying that feminism is categorically the purview of “women” is using the same rhetoric that allows “men” to argue that women should act this way or that.

    I think you make a fair criticism insofar as it does not try and make the turn back towards ideology by pretending that it is walking away from it. In this sense, certain kinds of representation of “feminism” are really just patriarchal re-hashing. That doesn’t mean that this eminates from some something prior to the construct of “man” or “woman.”

  32. CafeSiren

    My friend and next-door-neighbor once briefly dated a man who was distressed that she didn’t wear makeup or paint her toenails. She tried to explain to him that it just wasn’t something she cared to do, and that it didn’t seem worth the bother. His response: “My god… who did this to you?!?”

    She dumped him in short order. He still doesn’t understand why.

  33. Ron Sullivan

    I remain unclear about your view that querying whether some aspects of femininity are innate is “remarkable.”

    Do you have a reason to suppose any aspects of femininity — by any definition — are innate? Which ones?

  34. octogalore

    roomaround — agree that common ground can be forged and I too find many of the opinions stated here compelling. Agreeing while disagreeing is harder than it sounds but worthwhile. To quote Firestone again (I promise, I won’t belabor it but it really fits here): “[feminism is plagued with] the same old games and power plays — often with new and complex feminine variations… [women who are in leadership positions in feminist groups] find themselves in the peculiar position of having to eradicate, at the same time, not only their submissive natures, but their dominant natures as well, thus burning the candle at both ends.” Dialectic, p45.

    It’s tempting to rail against, along with the patriarchy, a situation in which one is being gently and stylishly patronized a bit and told how things really are. I think it does make sense, while not always in complete agreement, to combine forces in the areas where there’s agreement, which tend to be the most immediate “Rome is burning” ones and therefore lower hanging fruit.

  35. Mike B)

    My freedom is your unfreedom. Get used to it. If you need therapy to deal with it, get help or engage in a little, controlled, consensual S&M. Make me “lick the boots of shiny, shiny leather…whip lash girl child” etc. etc.

    Now, you feel better, all adjusted, so that you can go out into the real world (outside our little S&M club) and do your duty to God and *His* country, because, as we all know from GENESIS or some other book telling us how to act, “when we obey our masters, we will be rewarded with recognition.”

    I get SO tired of really, really hip people telling me that I’m a Puritan, Vanilla sexer for critiquing dominance and submission dynamics–even as acted out in nicey, nice, consensual “clubs” with rules and all.

    I don’t care what people do for sexual pleasure. I do care about transcending D/M social relations and I don’t think S&M is anything but conservative. Don’t expect me to give you a seat on my freedom riders’ bus, ’cause I know a cop when I see one. Take your handcuffs and shove ‘em.

  36. donna

    Pink is a wonderful color.

    On flamingos.

  37. Antelope

    I’m not in a very theoretical mood tonight.

    For what it’s worth as far as the whole debate on whether men exist and whether they can be feminists, all I was trying to say was that a guy can’t go telling a woman what she oughtta do to be a “real feminist,” no matter how educated about feminism he happens to be.

    It’s trouble enough when women tell one another what real feminists would or wouldn’t do, as we’ve all learned here. If you happen to be what is commonly recognized as a guy it’s trouble squared. And if you happen to be the boyfriend of the woman in question? Right off the charts.

  38. winna

    I’d sure appreciate it if readers could resist the urge to [...] interpret any of my ultimately inconsiderable blogutorials as self-important orders from Feminist High Command.

    !!!

    They aren’t?

    Well, damn. I really don’t know what I’m going to do with all these comfy shoes and strategic examinations of likely shoe-based soft targets for the initial strike force of the Feminist Revolution.

    Not to mention the battleship I just ordered off e-bay. And I was even going to christen it the HTS Taco!

    This is a terrible day.

  39. J

    Okay, well, maybe the question shouldn’t be about whether a man can tell a woman how to be a feminist, but whether they are able to make the same observations and criticisms about the patriarchy as any woman.

  40. Victoria Marinelli

    But I am well aware, believe me, that women face untold horrors in the shape of situations wherein compliance with patriarchal dictates is not voluntary. The flipside [...]is femininity as-survival-skill. So it may be asserted that femininity is beneficial to the individual when using it prevents her from getting beaten up.

    I remember years ago reading through a certain radfem text with my then-declared lesbian separatist partner, and both of us just going apeshit crazy over the fact that the authors seemingly understood and could articulate the problem of femininity so profoundly, and yet, blamed prostituted women for their circumstances, when it ought to have been obvious that such women were living within the most extreme confines of this “flip side” you describe – prostitution being (in my opinion) the ultimate experience in compulsory heterosexuality, femininity, etc.

    In that context, capitulation to femininity isn’t just what might keep a woman from being beaten up, but it’s what might keep her from getting killed. (And then again, these capitulations might not prevent such violence from being meted out, since prostituted women are so broadly and casually considered to be disposable.)

    So I appreciate this, that you get it, that femininity is a deadly poisonous thing, but also that women as individuals have a right to survive. (At least, this is how I am reading you.) There are instances in my history when I know that without specific capitulations to femininity, I would have been murdered (would that this were an exaggeration; alas, it is not). That such capitulations are no longer necessary to my immediate survival, to me, means I have not only the privilege, but also the obligation to divest myself of those learned behaviors that are derived from femininity. But certainly, it was not always so.

  41. Scratchy888

    There are instances in my history when I know that without specific capitulations to femininity, I would have been murdered (would that this were an exaggeration; alas, it is not).

    Interesting how our experiences shape us. I had the opposite experience, wherein my accommodation of femininity was damaging me to the extreme. I actually became quite sick from all the anger and aggression I was holding inside, and then it got to the point where I was continually being challenged to submit even more, sacrifice even more — I rebelled.

    Since that night of saying no, my life has been on a different course. I do find it hard to relate to relationships which are conducted through the medium of femininity. I’ve tried jobs (such as school teaching) which demand stereotypical gender roles and I cannot do the femininity that is required of me. Trying to do so is the equivalent of walking around 60 hours a week in the shoes featured above.

    I believe I’ve always been constitutionally unfemininine, although I did fall into a relatively feminine social role in my early twenties. I believe that even during this time my underlying sense of vigour, playfulness and naturalness showed through. This is what caused the patriarchy and its female adherents to attack me. My response to these attacks was to relinquish not the part of me they were attacking me for, but the feminine part which was preventing me from fighting back effectively.

    I’ve spent the past 10 years defending my right just to think and feel as the human being I am.

  42. jo

    Going back to an earlier point, the reason some men play the “submissive” and enjoy wearing the pictured shoes is that they find a thrill in being humiliated. Humiliated, geddit? It seems some men see more clearly than some women the real symbology of “feminity”.

  43. Betsy

    Twisty, I’ve been meaning to say it for a long time, and your latest entry reminded me: your intelligence in discourse (it seems to me) is surpassed only by your compassion.

  44. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Random musings based on my own nonscientific observations:

    Anyone woman who has suffered from premenstral dysphoria, or any person who has seen the violent behavior of a weightlifter who takes too many steriods, KNOWS that hormones effect brain function. These days scientists are referring to certain hormones as “neurosteroids” because, even though they’re gonadal hormones, they synthesize and collect in the brain and do poorly-understood little dances with our neurotransmitters and receptors and what-have-you. The jury is still out on what this all means.

    Women and men possess the same hormones, but in different amounts (of course, there are outlier men and women, and hermaphrodites, who might possess different hormone cocktails than what one might expect).

    So, it stands to reason (even scientific reason) that in general, Men and Women are Different.

    The question is, HOW DIFFERENT? To the evpsych the hormonal differences mean everything. To the radfem (at least the radfem who really knows her theory and sticks to it – - and I’ve noticed that most commenters on this site DON’T) these differences mean NADA. Never the twain shall meet.

    While both sides present their theories there are hordes of well-meaning thinking people who are utterly confused. Count me in as one of them.

    I posit that, at the very LEAST, WE ALL CAN AGREE! YAY! that the constructs of “masculinity” and “femininity” are designed by our BDSM culture to push both men and women to the extremes of a hypothetical Male-Female continuum, so that one side may more effectively dominate and make use of the other. This regardless of our INDIVIDUAL hormone cocktails that might be telling us all to act differently. Meanwhile, underneath all this BULLSHIT there might – MIGHT! – be authentic maleness and authentic femaleness that might – MIGHT! – actually be recognizable. Thing is, we’re so screwed up we’ll probably never find out what those differences really are.

    Besides, even in the post-patriarchal world, an egalitarian culture would probably drum those differences out of us anyway.

    Just some thoughts.

  45. Lily Underwood

    Twisty faster! Twisty faster! Twisty faster!

  46. justtesting

    femininity is a deadly poisonous thing, but also that women as individuals have a right to survive.

    Yes, but many women believe the lies told about them, hence are deeply convinced that they must do femininity to survive, even when that is not necessarily the case.

  47. PhysioProf

    “Doesn’t the criticism that feminism is not for men to pracice but only watch depend on the sort of gender constructs that, from my estimation, underpin all of feminist criticism?”

    As far as the notions of “men” and “women” being gender constructs, these linguistic constructs are based in a set of undeniable facts about biology. (Yes, there are some few people who are not well-described by either term, but that does not render the categories illusory.) And, as I understand feminist theory, at least some of those biological facts have been built upon culturally in the creation of patriarchy, and are used by patriarchy to distinguish the oppressed class from the privileged.

    Therefore, it seems to be wholly consistent for sympathetic members of the privileged class–defined by the biological distinctions between men and women traditionally relied upon by patriarchy–to defer to the oppressed in defining, analyzing, and developing strategies for overcoming their oppression.

    Isn’t it really just a matter of courtesy for men to be supportive observers of feminism, but to allow women to define it? To do otherwise would be like going to someone else’s home and engaging in critical analysis of their choice of drapery.

  48. J

    “Therefore, it seems to be wholly consistent for sympathetic members of the privileged class–defined by the biological distinctions between men and women traditionally relied upon by patriarchy–to defer to the oppressed in defining, analyzing, and developing strategies for overcoming their oppression.”

    My point is that this “deferring” to “biological” women for the definition of feminism seems to invoke the same rhetoric of oppressor/oppressed that underpins all of the other sort of situations of which we are otherwise critical.

    There is nothing oppressed or oppressing about the biological facts of men and women, though I should remind you that “Bodies that Matter,” by Judith Butler, is a well founded critique of even these notions of pre-ideological biological “man” and “woman.” What is oppressed in any case is the construct, not the fact of biology. If you bring in “natural facts” into the equation, you validate the patriarchy more than resists it. If the oppressed are defined, in part, out of this “undeniable” fact then it gives the rhetoric of oppression a secret, mystical niche to bury itself. If there really are natural facts of categorical man and woman, then they certainly are not the basis of the kind of criticism I’m talking about.

  49. B

    Thank you for those who liked what I wrote yesterday. Though it was written late at night and something ate half my comment.

    To me we are dealing with two thing here. What is femininity (and masculinity)? And what or who is male or female.

    To PhysioProf I’d like to say that the number of women who have XY cromosones actually is quite high and they might only get wise to this fact when they start investigating infertility and the like.

    Not that it should matter since I believe that gender is socially constructed. And here we come to the crux. If we don’t approve of the binary way patriarchy has constructed our identities why should we decide to reject just one cathegory of behaviour – namely that we call femininity? Should we also decide to reject masculinity? And what is left if we do so?

    Are there un-coded behaviours in our society? Behaviours that are gender-neutral? And are these behaviours necessarily better than a female or male-coded behaviour?

    I don’t want to reject behaviour just because it can be labeled feminine. There are lots of feminine behaviours that I’d wish men would be allowed to express, and that I think they need to adopt to make this society liveable. Showing empathy and compassion, discussing and verbalising emotions, analysing oneself, adjusting to others and being nurturing et.c. Male ignorance of their own and other’s feelings et.c. is a real disadvantage for men caused by patriarchy and I believe men too can find their gender role to be something negative and patriarchy something to be fought and resisted.

    And while I agree with Twisty that adopting behaviours associated with the female or feminine might cause us to lose power in a patriarchal society I don’t believe rejecting feminine behaviour due to its femininity will do anything but strengthen the position of masculinity and masculine behaviour.

    On a more shallow note, where do we deem a behaviour to be negative? Can a man enjoy satin dresses and wear them in his everyday life without it being negative?

  50. Kim P

    “Femininity is learned behavior that fucks women up.”
    Well said Twisty! That about sums it up in a nutshell. The other day I saw a TV commercial for “Bride Barbie” all glittery and white and pink, and “every little girl’s dream,” etc., etc. Revolting and scary.

  51. Sandy D.

    I’m having a hard time reading the original post, let alone the comments, because my eyes keep going back to the picture in all its bright red flabbergasting discomfort. I think I was happier not knowing such shoes existed, much like furries and diaper fetishes and the ingredients in processed foods.

  52. octogalore

    Ron said “Do you have a reason to suppose any aspects of femininity — by any definition — are innate? Which ones?”

    I don’t suppose ANY aspects of femininity stemming from dominant/submissive, or patriarchal, relationships are anything other than cultural constructs.

    However, there are well-demonstrated biological, hormonal, and brain chemististry differences, and the physical traits, preferences, and behaviors stemming from these, I think, tend to break down into more-often-associated-with-masculinity and more-often-associated-with-femininity.

  53. Jess2

    Twisty, I adore you. You bring such a ray of sunshine into my day.

    “Are there un-coded behaviours in our society? Behaviours that are gender-neutral? And are these behaviours necessarily better than a female or male-coded behaviour?”

    The biological discussion is almost always used as a red herring and almost always used to detriment of women. Speaking as someone who is 34 weeks pregnant and whose entire body and brain are being bathed day and night in elevated levels of all kinds of mood altering hormones, I can say, yes, there are some biological facts that make male and female bodies different– but there are a thousand layers of bullshit piled upon the foundation of ‘biological differences’. In fact, the megatheocorpratocracy often ignores or subverts what might be construed as ‘female biological imperative’ while staying firmly locked into the constructs of masculine/feminine. Masculine cultural norms at work are used to crush women’s attempts to tend to their biological needs while actually keeping their jobs. For example, my female biology, at least right now in the last six weeks of my pregnancy, is making me goddamn tired and I physically need more rest and less hassle than I normally put up with; however, the corporate culture and HR rules at my workplace essentially dictate that women work at full steam right up until they go into labor and that they look “cute pregnant” (in make-up and fashionable maternity clothes) while doing it. (My literally about to pop colleague came in wearing high heels today. Yes, I am wearing make-up and looking ‘cute pregnant’ but my small act of rebellion has been to wear what are essentially orthopedic loafers for the last six months– in my ‘suits and stilletos’ NYC office, it’s actually subversive to do so and even warehousing another human being in your body doesn’t get you off the hook.) If we want to keep our jobs and the approval of the megatheocorpratocracy as productive, docile little fembots, we must adhere to the masculine work ethic while dressed in feminine drag, regardless of whether our biological state is somewhat altered due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. The patriarchy is perfectly happy to ignore “natural biological differences” when it suits their needs, and to pounce on it only when it can be bent to support the masculine/feminine construct. If a person tries to complain and suggest that, for example, the government or corporations could do more to actually support pregnant and breastfeeding working women, the patriarchy kindly reminds you that they have already thought up a solution to the problems of working moms: traditional gender roles. If you would just stay home and depend on a man, none of these workplace issues would be a problem– so either go home, or shut the fuck up. IBtP.

  54. Jess2

    Dang, I pasted in the wrong quote to reference above (I was originally going to comment on a different one).

    I meant to quote Hedonistic Pleasureseeker’s post thusly before my rant:

    “This regardless of our INDIVIDUAL hormone cocktails that might be telling us all to act differently. Meanwhile, underneath all this BULLSHIT there might – MIGHT! – be authentic maleness and authentic femaleness that might – MIGHT! – actually be recognizable”

    It must be “pregnancy brain” (which people say to me all the time thinking it shows their sensitivity to my “delicate condition” when all it does is show that they don’t know me very well– I forget shit all the time, breeding or not.)

  55. TP

    Thanks to J for helping me understand better what was said. I think I agree that by simply acknowledging one person is male we invoke the male/female construct that I, for one, would like to see diminished, if not abolished.

    My point still makes sense to me, though, because it was specifically about a post far, far above us wherein a woman mentioned a man giving her some unwarranted criticism about her reactions to movie violence, which I read as ‘human’ rather than feminine, being caused by being somehow deficient in feminism.

    We currently live in a world in which the artificial constructs of male and female are so real that most of it is subliminal even in the most enlightened of beings. Though I may not have chosen it for myself, I am a member of a privileged class, and despite a few unfortunate instances when I was taught through violence and assault that anyone can have a taste of what it is like to be a member of the sex class, I still have lived my life mostly free of such problems and the constant grate of patriarchal oppression.

    I think maybe, if I may speculate on your intentions, that it is possible for a man like me to share something of my ideas about feminism with women who might need encouragement, but I still rather doubt that anything I say could be entirely free of the unwanted and unconscious weight of patriarchal authority, and thereby somewhat paradoxical.

    I get shut down quickly by women when I try to talk about feminism with them. It’s not like I’m scolding, advising, or attempting to assert my mighty authority about feminist issues with them, either, I get shut down just mentioning it most of the time.

    As long as we live in a patriarchy wherein male female constructs are soundly enforced, consciously and unconsciously, men will be at a distinct disadvantage when trying to instruct women in matters relating to their subordination. The further into feminism I look, the better I like the idea of the essential humanity of each person being paramount over sexual construction, true, but I’m not kidding myself that they don’t exist for a second.

  56. butter

    Delurking. Cannot hope to meet the caliber of this conversation but will try to contribute something. I blame the patri on a structural level, myself idiosyncratically on a level of regret or pride, and the Brownian motion of other people for explaining most of the nonsense in between.

    Just a couple of reactions – will try to emotify sufficiently to convey a bit of warmth as well as critique to the sayers, in line with arguing against totally dichotomous all-or-none rhetoric.

    J: Okay, well, maybe the question shouldn’t be about whether a man can tell a woman how to be a feminist, but whether they are able to make the same observations and criticisms about the patriarchy as any woman.

    Grammatical parsing of this is interesting re: the macro vs. individual level. It’s the ANY at the end that caught my attention.
    In order, “a man” = “they” (= “he” here) is compared to “any woman.” It’s asking whether maybe the opinions of a specific man in this universal situation will always be less valid than those of a (constructed and/or enacted) woman.

    Of course we must simplify for rhetoric to serve any more purpose than a tangle of associations, but I think it’s useful to point out when an argument relies on a strawman all-or-none dichotomy. I’m still muddling through this… here’s another example:

    HP:
    So, it stands to reason (even scientific reason) that in general, Men and Women are Different.

    The question is, HOW DIFFERENT? To the evpsych the hormonal differences mean everything. To the radfem (at least the radfem who really knows her theory and sticks to it – - and I’ve noticed that most commenters on this site DON’T) these differences mean NADA. Never the twain shall meet.
    (…)
    there might – MIGHT! – be authentic maleness and authentic femaleness that might – MIGHT! – actually be recognizable. Thing is, we’re so screwed up we’ll probably never find out

    Understood: HP is describing, not espousing, the all-or-zero approach in that first bit. (And a lovely piece of writing by teh way — fun to read.)

    Okay, so evpsych theory (“Nature Made You My Bitch”) is one extreme of relying on hormones, and radfem (“Deconstructing Girlymanhood”) is at the other – or AN other – along some philosophical vector. And yet… there are things that all people do, or rather that are reported to happen in every society. Not every person carries out human universals daily, but cultures tend to include baby talk, art (visual and musical), interpreting behavior… (and to return to S Firestone just briefly, apparently these anthropogs and ethnogs and org behavior folks ALL noted down some kind of incest taboo. For more, go find Donald E Brown, I think 1991.)

    Maybe one aspect of a femininity-less, masculinity-less set of values is for “okay” to be judged more on whether it contributes to the people you know, than whether it conforms to some distant revealed truth of right behavior.

    Of course, that’s anarchist talk, and the patriarchy’s having none of it.

  57. butter

    TP: I get shut down quickly by women when I try to talk about feminism with them.

    Hm… I get shut down quickly by women when I try to talk about weight issues with them.

    I’m a thin white female, and the feminism-talkin boyfriend in our example is a male (of an undetermined size and color): each of us has privilege in the patriarchy. Resistance is maybe partly in not accepting the views of the privileged on “matters relating to their subordination.” Not that I like getting shut down, but it’s good for balance and fairness and all that. And bad for patriarchy.

    I think I’ve used up my annual quota of rant space — going back to listening.

  58. cycles

    Jess2, that’s such a good point about the patriarchy conveniently wielding biology when it suits them, and suppressing it when it doesn’t. I have nothing to add, just praise.

    An ex-boyfriend used to get mad at me for covering my eyes at graphic violence in movies (sometimes I have to plug my ears and hum too), saying that a real feminist would never act so girly.

    That’s a good example of a thought I recently had. The patriarchy hates women and also hates, insofar as women use them as survival skills, behaviors designated as feminine. Yes. But sometimes the patriarchy gets sassy, and pretends to offer a playful workaround to the enmity: if you women want to escape our hatred, then you’ll cease these feminine behaviors we find so annoying. Man up.

    Only not really. Because the only thing the pat despises more than a feminine woman is one who’s not. Zing!

  59. J

    “I think maybe, if I may speculate on your intentions, that it is possible for a man like me to share something of my ideas about feminism with women who might need encouragement, but I still rather doubt that anything I say could be entirely free of the unwanted and unconscious weight of patriarchal authority, and thereby somewhat paradoxical.”

    Right, but what you got to take with that is the fact that this cannot mean that men are categorically unable to partcipate in feminist revolution. In fact, the only way that feminist revolution will happen is when everyone participates. I think all visions of social revolution have this in mind: the goal is not to over-throw the oppressor, but to do away with oppression.

    We’ve looked at plenty of examples of women, self-avowed feminists even, who spout what we can identify as patriarchal dribble. It is in this sense that revolution is not for men or women, but all.

  60. roamaround

    “I, too, find it hard to believe that any man could have anything to say about what a real feminist does or says.”

    I’ve enjoyed reading all the intelligent, articulate and profound thoughts on this question. It brings up some important issues. But since I alone have a vivid image of my goofy ex-boyfriend, I have to say he is getting way too much airtime. I was raised a feminist by a feminist and never looked to him for “lessons in feminism” —cringe! His rebuking me about my girly behavior in the movie theater was just one of many examples I could have given of the widespread notion *among the unenlightened* that rejecting femininity means adopting masculinity.

    “maybe the question shouldn’t be about whether a man can tell a woman how to be a feminist, but whether they are able to make the same observations and criticisms about the patriarchy as any woman.”

    J, here we are getting into the quicksand of identity politics, wherein no one from a different demographic can say anything about any other demographic. There is validity, of course, as PhysioProf sagely points out: “to defer to the oppressed in defining, analyzing, and developing strategies for overcoming their oppression.”

    But screaming “you can’t say that because you are/are not X” as happens all over the place these days is unproductive and just plain lazy thinking most of the time. It’s especially ludicrous when we are all invisible to each other on the internet and can’t be sure who is what anyway. Seems to me the ideas themselves should be examined and debated rather than focusing obsessively on the identity of the speaker. Not to be too Cartesian or anything.

    Scratchy888: “I believe I’ve always been constitutionally unfeminine…”

    Out on a limb here, but then couldn’t a feminist also be constitutionally feminine? And would that mean that she couldn’t be considered a radical feminist without constantly defending her right to think and feel as the human being she is?

    I am agreeing while disagreeing, as octogalore so cleverly put it. Clearly, femininity as defined here does a lot of damage to women. But as for the dangers of femininity vs. masculinity, dolls in pink do a lot less to potentially destroy the planet than do violent video games and, yes, American football.

    Wake me up when the Superbowl is over.

  61. roamaround

    “But sometimes the patriarchy gets sassy, and pretends to offer a playful workaround to the enmity: if you women want to escape our hatred, then you’ll cease these feminine behaviors we find so annoying. Man up.”

    Cycles, we cross posted here, but that is exactly it. It’s what I was trying to express with my anecdote, but you said it so much better.

    And yes, the clincher is we are damned by the patriarchy whatever we do.

  62. samrocha

    Hello, I searched for people to comment on feminism, I wrote a post today and like to find “experts” or people who care enough to dialogue… I am not trying to be pejorative but if you would like to engage in the dialogue at Debate Relate & Pontificate we would be very happy to read and respond to your opinions…

    samrocha

  63. Kali

    “Right, but what you got to take with that is the fact that this cannot mean that men are categorically unable to partcipate in feminist revolution.”

    Participation in the form of support is one thing. Participation in the form of dictating the terms of the movement (or trying to) is another. It is the latter that is problematic. And the reason it is problematic is not simply because of your biological maleness, but because of the privilege that is accorded you in a patriarchal society because of your biological maleness.

  64. Tam

    It’s easy to play the “I’m more anti-patriarchal than you game.” Reading this today was interesting because, while most feminine behaviors don’t appeal to me to engage in (for which inclinations I naturally take credit), nothing turns me on more than power-based sex play (which I naturally defend with ‘but I liiiiiike spanking’, along the usual lines people use for defending high heels / shaving / whatever).

    Figuring out how to live in the world as a human person is tricky. I appreciate your posts as always, Twisty.

  65. Andy

    Cool…

  66. AJ

    I thought the following, from , was interesting:

    ‘I said to Robert at one point, “Why do people like BDSM?” He said with certainty, “Because in an S/M scene you can actually see your oppressor, and it is liberating.” I do not know what a BDSM person would say about that, but I learned from it the importance of actually seeing your oppressor. I have always remembered it for that reason.’

  67. AJ

    Oops, I forgot to remove the angle brackets from the attribution in my previous comment. It was from:
    http://profacero.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/on-seeing-your-oppressor/

  68. Scratchy888

    Out on a limb here, but then couldn’t a feminist also be constitutionally feminine? And would that mean that she couldn’t be considered a radical feminist without constantly defending her right to think and feel as the human being she is?

    Depends on your definition of feminine (and mine). And perhaps I am not sure enough that what I meant and the terms I used can be extended widely, in order for me to answer. It really boils down to how much femininity is “socially constructed”. There might be deep senses of things being socially constructed, too — like whether one’s society has permitted one to run free as a child, thus developing a certain predisposition towards roughness and freedom, as part of who one is. But certainly, I think that someone who likes to dress up nicely and do stuff in a way which is poised and sultry or whatever could have radical views and be able to think for herself. Then again, if what we mean by femininity is more like a constriction of ideas at the behest of unseen patriarchal forces — being too afraid to think, and yet wanting to belong to a cool group, at the same time — then that’s a contradiction there.

  69. Scratchy888

    “But sometimes the patriarchy gets sassy, and pretends to offer a playful workaround to the enmity: if you women want to escape our hatred, then you’ll cease these feminine behaviors we find so annoying. Man up.”

    I think that members of the patriarchy do this as a kind of rhetorical device for shutting you up. Those who take this approach are generally naive about power dynamics and undertain of their own masculinity. They want you to prove the latter to them by trying and failing.

  70. kate

    I think the spamulator ate my last comment. Just as well I guess a shorter version is better.

    I heart what Jess2 shares about her experience in the corporate world, which is truly nothing more than grotesque oppression and torture. And might I for one, make it clear that I in no way ever mean that anyone struggling under such oppressive situations cannot choose their own subversion or that anyone but them can judge the degree thereof one can tolerate.

    Sounds like wearing loafers with the attire is indeed subversive to others there, more than likely because it speaks loudly, “I am human, made of flesh and blood not mythology!” I can see wear such statements could be seen as subversive.

  71. mearl

    When Twisty’s dead horse has no need of a flog
    And our favourite nifty radfeminist blog
    Has eradicated the patriarchal slog
    A prickly cactus I will snog

    -by mearl

    Recommendations to any persons who think that a propensity for lipstick and pointed shoes is hard-wired:

    “Femininity” by Susan Brownmiller.

    Btw Twisty, I was going to send you my first attempt at a link a few weeks ago when the fashion section of the Globe & Mail featured, with trumpets and banners, the fashionable GOAT SHOE (looks just like the one pictured above) by BCBG or some designer. I have a Saturday sub to the G&M, but don’t know how to get into the website, so I couldn’t send the link. I cried and I cried. But when I saw this post I realised that that’s okay because you are always two steps ahead of the game.

  72. Professor Zero

    Good post!

  73. octogalore

    I’ve been thinking more about the statement:

    “Although the female reader’s anxiety over the above will be, I predict, directly proportional to the degree to which her identity derives from compliance with the rule of femininity”

    Certainly, feeling anxiety and therefore defensiveness is one possible reaction to the post. Another reaction, that a few people have mentioned, is owning up to comformity with various aspects of “femininity” for the sake of getting along in the patriarchy, but pledging complete agreement with the post. There seems to be a general feeling that the latter is the more brave and productive.

    I’m not sure. I wonder whether conformity to femininity in “real life” and conformity to the leadership viewpoint on a radfem site are two sides of the same coin: adapting to one’s environment out of a desire to fit in with the “cool kids,” wherever they may be.

    I wonder whether it is braver to look inside ones reaction to the idea of casting off various aspects of femininity that don’t seem to come from a submissive role, that are not uncomfortable, and that feel genuine. Of course, not everyone will feel this way about whatever aspects of femininity they are outwardly espousing – but some will. This nuanced view is “yes, there are some behaviors that do stem from the patriarchy, that I really need to look at, but I’m pretty sure others don’t, and I’m not going to slavishly cave completely to the “all femininity is evil” party line if I believe the truth lies in the gray area.”

    In my own rather limited personal example, despite my defense of satin dresses etc., I wear makeup maybe 2-3 times a month, high heels probably 2-3 times a year, and I’ve never been in a corporate environment where I haven’t been criticized – and once, fired — for not fitting in sartorially and not kissing enough patriarchal ass. (Of course, I’ve sometimes wear stuff like thigh-high boots at dinners with my husband’s friends and their wives Muffy and Tipper). Similarly, I’ve also lost significant favor in some environments for behaviors that were rewarded in men – and gotten slapped for ignoring “paying your female dues” advice that could helped significantly. The irony is that here, flouting the collective wisdom in a different (or maybe not) way seems to be similarly unpopular.

    Ultimately, I suspect that those who are espousing femininity IRL and the party line here are probably more likely to exhibit more complete devotion to the patriarchy, via aspects of femininity that do stem from dominant/submissive roles than those who aren’t comfortable accepting the party line, hook line and sinker.

  74. mearl

    Too right. No one here actually thinks femininity should be tossed out the window: we all just agree with Twisty ’cause she’s cool. It’s SO obvious.

  75. justtesting

    (blah blah blah)I wonder whether conformity to femininity in “real life” and conformity to the leadership viewpoint on a radfem site are two sides of the same coin (blah blah blah)I’m not going to slavishly cave completely to the “all femininity is evil” party line (blah blah blah)

    gawd octagalore, you are such a knob.

  76. Ron Sullivan

    I wonder whether conformity to femininity in “real life” and conformity to the leadership viewpoint on a radfem site are two sides of the same coin: adapting to one’s environment out of a desire to fit in with the “cool kids,” wherever they may be.

    Oh, for the luvva potholes. That’s like walking into the local Bierstuebe and wondering (rhetoricaally, of course) why the place is so full of beer-lovers.

    And I still don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about defensible “femininity.” All those nice things like empathy and caretaking? Human. (Actually, arguably at least mammalian, maybe carbon-basd-lifeform-ian.) Don’t have to chuck them at all — just the enforcement about who gets to do them most. Cuz, you know, they’re feminine.

  77. octogalore

    Mearl and justtesting: re your claim to throwing “femininity” out the window, keep in mind that cattiness is associated with femininity by the patriarchy. Similarly, responding in an emotional or “bitchy” way instead of arguing issues — which as set out in my post are not as black and white as you seem to want to believe — is also unfairly associated with “femininity.” Please, don’t prove the patriarchy correct here.

    Ron — you didn’t read my earlier post answering your query re defensible “femininity.” I did not refer to empathy etc. Also, if you’d read the more recent post more carefully, you would see that I was speaking about the category of folks who noted a substantial disconnect between behavior out in the world and beliefs claimed on this site. Obviously, many of the people on this site do practice what they preach and that’s why they’re here — thus your beer analogy. That’s not what I was talking about.

  78. roamaround

    “Then again, if what we mean by femininity is more like a constriction of ideas at the behest of unseen patriarchal forces — being too afraid to think, and yet wanting to belong to a cool group, at the same time — then that’s a contradiction there.”

    Scratchy888, could you clarify this? What cool group are you referring to? (sincerely confused here)

    And I didn’t really think you meant “constitutionally unfeminine” that way, but I was probing a little because I think that is a subtext to some of what’s going on in this debate. I wonder if some of us do lean this way or that more than others, but it takes on disproportionate political significance in the bullshit system we’re in.

    I was trying to explain this discussion to a feminist friend from South Asia. We both started laughing when it came out sounding like all these intelligent women are arguing over what to wear! I know it’s more than that, but we wouldn’t have cared what anyone wore who came out with us to protest the scary pro-lifers last year when it was three of us against dozens of them. Platforms might have been useful, in fact.

    I’m think too old to change my few little feminine habits, but giving up expensive, time-consuming and demeaning femininity as defined here is a good message for young women. I just don’t want to see lipstick tests consuming and/or dividing us when there’s so much work to be done. It does seem some people, contrary to Twisty’s intent I believe, want to form a clique and demand allegiance in all things. Why leftist politics can drive you crazy.

    Octogalore, careful or you’re going to get sent to re-education camp.

  79. Amaz0n

    Oh BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA, octagalore.

    Mearl and justtesting: re your claim to throwing “femininity” out the window, keep in mind that cattiness is associated with femininity by the patriarchy. Similarly, responding in an emotional or “bitchy” way instead of arguing issues — which as set out in my post are not as black and white as you seem to want to believe — is also unfairly associated with “femininity.” Please, don’t prove the patriarchy correct here.

    That’s right, ladies. Don’t be “bitchy” or “catty” (behaviour normally labelled “sarcastic” and “witty” when not utilized in by the sex class) or you are TOOLS OF THE PATRIARCHY.

    The parody, it writes itself.

    the category of folks who noted a substantial disconnect between behavior out in the world and beliefs claimed on this site

    That “category of folks” are conveniently explained by Twisty in her original post:

    women face untold horrors in the shape of situations wherein compliance with patriarchal dictates is not voluntary. The flipside, as I often find myself repeating, of the concept of femininity as-self-policed-subordination is femininity as-survival-skill.

    But your attempt to retoricize that “category” into a group who merely “claim” to believe in the destruction of culturally enforced femininity is, in a word, quaint.

    I’d tell you that you are SOOOO RIGHT – women who are coerced into engaging in feminine drag aren’t actually capable of critiquing their own oppression, they’re just looking for approval from Twisty – but I would be engaging in sarcasm and, since I have a vulva, that would make me bitchy, possibly even catty. And that would make me a tool of the patriarchy. So I won’t say it.

  80. shannon

    It’s not ok to say that femininity is socially mandated, but it’s ok to say that we just want to be cool,yea.

  81. Amaz0n

    Dear Octagalore,

    Just now, I told my overly friendly officemate to go fuck himself, because he got in my space and tried to touch my hair. Since my behaviour could possibly be described as “bitchy,” I now realize that I acted as a tool of the patriarchy.

    Because being a tool of the patriarchy might put me out of favor with Twisty, I will cease this patriarchy-approved behaviour immediately. In the future, I will allow my co-worker to violate my space with a Ghandi-like calm only previously achieved by such great feminist minds as June Cleaver.

    I have only you to thank for this great leap in my feminist development.

    Yours truly,

    Amaz0n

  82. Scratchy888

    Scratchy888, could you clarify this? What cool group are you referring to? (sincerely confused here)

    Any cool group at all. You see it in the workplace: women defending the territory of the feminine. It’s a way of coping with patriarchal oppression without really coping. For instance, you can engage in complaining about the pomposity of men in their stale little workplaces, and then you go home and fix him his dinner, havng vented your distress in the company of your sister.

  83. roamaround

    Plus I could fucking retire with all the money I spent on my hair over the years. I did catch a rich husband with it (the hair), but couldn’t accept being a brood mare and ditched that cage for my current self-actualized, socially-conscious poverty. Femininity is a big racket. Save your money.

    But don’t demonize other feminists for different views; that does play into the hands of the patriarchy.

    “It’s not ok to say that femininity is socially mandated…”

    Shannon, I don’t think octogalore said that femininity isn’t ever socially mandated. It would help if the thought police here would read what she actually wrote instead of just picking out quotes to attack with.

  84. octogalore

    Roomaround – many thanks. It is frustrating to see responses that don’t reflect what’s written. I welcome disagreement, when it’s disagreement with what’s actually been said.

    AmazOn – typically when people are catty, it’s quite different from sarcasm or wit. Please don’t conflate these categories to try to cob together an argument that I’m trying to prevent you from wittily standing up for yourself. For example, I don’t believe calling me a “knob,” which someone did earlier and which is what I was referring to, constitutes wit or sarcasm. It’s schoolyard stuff, coming from someone who presumably, although I can’t say for sure, has passed that stage.

    Shannon – as roomaround says, I didn’t even come close to positing that femininity isn’t ever socially mandated. I said that women who do adopt various aspects of “femininity” yet claim here that it all needs to go might do better to think critically about whether that’s the case. I see adopting the extreme “it’s all evil” position on the part of those who do enjoy feminine fashion/behaviors as possibly related to an inability or disinclination to question the extremes of the patriarchy itself. And I believe it’s healthier to have the self confidence to trust that some of what feels right just might be untainted. Saying “I’m gonna do it in my real life but adopt the it’s-all-bad approach online” may prevent the kind of nuanced thinking that would allow someone to keep what feels genuine, accept what’s socially mandated (because of course, some femininity is) where necessary for health and welfare, and reject what might not fall into either category.

    As Scratchy88 says, “It’s a way of coping with patriarchal oppression without really coping. For instance, you can engage in complaining about the pomposity of men in their stale little workplaces, and then you go home and fix him his dinner, havng vented your distress in the company of your sister.” I’m simply suggesting that falling all the way through our swords here may not be “really coping,” and may be connected to a parallel compliance to the patriarchy.

  85. mearl

    Why is everyone calling me catty? *I* wear heels, once or twice a month, because it FEELS untaintedly right. Heck, when I was a baby I used to crawl over to my mother’s stiletto heel where it was lying on the floor, knowing intrinsically that it was the instrument which would allow me to gain my ability to walk, to stand tall and proud…and ever since that time I have sighed with regret, knowing that men – those sadly unfeminine beings – can’t wear heels, and I have lamented for the richness that they lack in their lives.

  86. maribelle

    octagalore–I could care less the height of your heels, but please listen to what the women are saying upthread.

    You wrote:
    AmazOn – typically when people are catty, it’s quite different from sarcasm or wit.

    You miss the point–men are never called “catty” or “bitchy”, even if they say cruel, biting things. Moreover, you warn the women you call “bitchy” and “catty” that THEY might “prove the patriarchy right.”

    Do you see what you just did? YOU (tried to)prove the patriarchy “right” by calling the behavior of some board members by the traditional patriarchal insults. If they had been men, and had been sarcastic, you sure as shooting wouldn’t have said that to them.

  87. justtesting

    please listen to what the women are saying upthread.

    Indeed, though octogalore doesn’t actually need to listen to or read what anyone is saying, octogalore has already decided what we all think.

    Note that he’s also declared himself to be a scientist, and hence not like those dreadfully irrational and “emotional” women. We should be grateful that he’s here to set us all straight with his logic.

  88. octogalore

    Maribelle – I didn’t try to prove the patriarchy right, in fact. I was saying that the comments (which were completely objectionable, although since my views aren’t popular, only one person came to my defense) were not sarcastic, or witty, and could reasonably be termed catty. I have referred to men’s comments that way, as a matter of fact. My point was that presumably, we should try to avoid some of the negative female stereoptypes just as we should avoid negative male ones, whether or not members of both genders sometimes adopt both. The comments I was referring to were insulting, with no wit, and ignored the substance of what was said. It’s interesting that you feel this is OK, but are working overtime to parse through my statements to find something objectionable, while blithely ignoring my main points.

    Similarly, justtesting’s last comment, while indefensible for a number of reasons that commenters have noted here many times, will likely pass uncriticized. It’s apparently fine to insult someone whose views differ from the party line, even if in doing so one egregiously misses many of the main points of feminism.

  89. Twisty

    So you’re asserting, Octogalore, that some aspects of femininity “feel right” because they are right, and that leaving commentary on a blog suggesting that feminine practices are misogynist (you use the godbag word ‘evil’) prevents ‘nuanced thinking’. This ‘nuanced thinking’, if allowed to flourish outside the confining influence of radical feminist blogs, would transform what are tools of oppression into what “feel” like happy-go-lucky girly accessories?

    I have to say, this argument — unless you are unaware what ‘femininity’ and ‘patriarchy’ actually mean — is just nutty.

    Cultural traditions always “feel right” to the people who practice’em. It’s practically the definition of the term. I suggest that in terms of feminist resistnce, primitive “feelings” — what you call ‘nuanced thinking’ — should not trump intellect.

  90. octogalore

    Twisty – I appreciate your response, and yes, an oversimplification of what I said does sound “nutty.” It’s not problematic to state that feminine practices are misogynist in many cases – that wasn’t the point I was making. It is problematic, to my mind, to state that they should all be discarded. More nuanced thinking would not, or should not, transform what actually are tools of oppression into girly accessories, but would isolate which aspects of “femininity” actually are tools of oppression and focus on eliminating those, rather than throwing our hands up because femininity is socially mandated.

    Cultural traditions don’t all feel right when looked at critically. It is easy to categorize this dismissingly as “primitive feelings.” However, someone who did look critically at her own practices of femininity might decide that: it does not feel right to allow herself to be silenced in the boardroom; it doesn’t feel right to buy certain kinds of toys only for a female child; certain patriarchy-acceptable outfits are just too uncomfortable and it doesn’t feel right to be uncomfortable no matter how many men swoon in your path; use of collagen or botox may be counterproductive; wearing makeup regularly is more effort than men are expected and is therefore not cool; however, a comfortable flattering red dress is really not problematic, and a matching shade of lipstick that takes exactly thirty seconds to apply isn’t either, especially if it’s more fun to wear them to a client meeting than a boring suit.

    This may strike you as primitive, and in many cases there’s no “right answer.” I am not suggesting that where I would come out on this kind of analysis is “right.” But I would bet that some of the folks who take the “it’s all bad” approach here are exhibiting a far greater reliance on “femininity” in the non-blog world than someone who took a more nuanced approach would.

  91. shannon

    Twisty said what I was going to say but cooler. But really, I don’t think your assertion is right. I don’t go around wearing makeup on a regular basis, I only wear dresses and skirts when I’m having a laundry crisis, and crippling myself with ugly shoes- no. But online I also say that femininity is stupid, and have a long series on my blog ‘how femininity will eat your brain”. It’s not just the clothing that is feminine- it’s the insistence that you can’t just be honest and say you do stuff because it’s a social rule.

    Guys tend to be honest, but girls? we have to pretend that this shit is super duper fun and we came up with it ourselves. You don’t just have to do the shit- you have to be happy about it. Fuck that shit.

  92. justtesting

    isolate which aspects of “femininity” actually are tools of oppression and focus on eliminating those

    The very concept of “Femininity” is in and of itself the tool. That’s the point. It’s really a fairly basic one.

    And the fact that even A Scientist who can Think In Nuances can’t get the point, is an excellent illustration of the blinkers that are being worn here.

  93. TP

    If anyone doubts that the construction of a feminine self in our culture is any less than a terrific burden they only have to read through the many comments throughout this blog and see how difficult it is for women to try to figure it out for themselves. I really don’t know what I’d do as a woman. I’ve got to comment on how vexing I think it would be.

    As for the masculine problems, maybe that’s not for here. But I’m certain that most ‘feminist’ men are spending far less time worrying about that because they assume the default human state is reassuringly masculine.

  94. maribelle

    Octogalore–

    You miss the point, again. (You do so often that one begins to feel you are deliberately doing so, — hence perhaps a lot of the regrettably sarcastic remarks you sometimes get here.)

    You analyzed a series of neutral behaviors (sarcastic, caustic) and insist not only that they are gendered behaviors, but that the women using them are proving the patriarchy right with by living up to stereotypical assumptions. Only they are YOUR stereotypical, gendered assumptions. I mention this—again, for the last time—because I think it’s important.

    Far from looking for objectionable things in your posts, I have held my tongue in discussing these issues with you because you seem completely recalcitrant and unwilling to allow the wisdom here to inform your views at all. That, along with your inability to concede even *one* *iota* of the that permeate your words make me, frankly, skim through most of your posts.

    But this *obvious* example of gendered assumptions on your part got me to speak up, for it seemed important and one that perhaps you had missed because it had been said in an unkind manner? But no, it didn’t matter.

    If you can’t see this, or *any*–not one–of your wince-inducing gender assumptions, then I don’t see much use in reading your words or communicating with you, let alone “defending you” against what you see are attacks and I see as attempts to open just a little of your mind.

  95. octogalore

    Maribelle — you’re just not getting it. Possibly, as you say, you are skimming; possibly, you don’t want to understand what’s being said. Nevertheless, since your time seems at a premium, it seems a shame to spend it frustrated by me, since ultimately I’m not your enemy here. Please do not feel it incumbent upon you to respond further.

  96. maribelle

    I “get” what you’re saying. I just disagree.

    Since you feel you have nothing left to learn, there’s nothing you can possibly teach me.

  97. octogalore

    Maribelle — where are you getting that? On the contrary, a number of my views have changed by reading blogs such as this one. I don’t think our limited interaction here can answer the question of whether we can learn anything from each other — if you feel you already know the answer to this, I feel sorry for you.

  98. Scratchy888

    To clarify my views here, I do think that femininity is in general footbinding for the mind. In accordance with these views, I often consider women who are highly sexual to be in a state of resisting the dynamic of footbinding. I understand it doesn’t always work that way, still.

  99. roamaround

    “As for the masculine problems, maybe that’s not for here. But I’m certain that most ‘feminist’ men are spending far less time worrying about that because they assume the default human state is reassuringly masculine.”

    And that’s not just the feminist men, TP. That’s why I took instant umbrage to Twisty’s initial suggestion that revolution starts at home with the subversive “action” of rejecting femininity. It seemed to me to give comfort to the reflexive, patriarichal impulse that associates femininity with inferiority and masculinity with superiority.

    I’ve come around to agreeing that one should ideally reject femininity as defined here, but let’s not forget that Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”) is still out there singing: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

  100. Victoria Marinelli

    justtesting:

    Yes, but many women believe the lies told about them, hence are deeply convinced that they must do femininity to survive, even when that is not necessarily the case.

    (Was in response to an excerpt from my comment: ‘…femininity is a deadly poisonous thing, but also that women as individuals have a right to survive…’ – days back. Yes, I operate on a significant delay.)

    I’m not entirely sure why you felt it necessary to spell out this (self-evident) revelation. Did you take from what I said above that I’d have no idea that “many women believe the lies told about them…”? That this would be news to me? Do I come off as that much of an idiot?

    And if it’s just me (or the pain I’m presently in, causing me to be biased in favor of unnecessarily grumpy interpretations), that is fine, and feel free to tell me so, but really, that seemed patronizing. (And yes, I do mean ‘patronizing’ in the sense of ‘condescending in a specifically patriarchy-emboldening manner.’)

  101. justtesting

    Did you take from what I said above that I’d have no idea that “many women believe the lies told about them…”?

    No.

    That this would be news to me?

    See answer to first question

    Do I come off as that much of an idiot?

    Same answer again

    I’m not entirely sure why you felt it necessary to spell out this (self-evident) revelation.

    It’s a discussion. This means that people will take comments and add their own thoughts or restate what has already been said in a slightly different way. Self-evident revelation to you personally, is not the criteria for judging whether someone gets to say their bit. Otherwise, without repetition, this thread would only be about three comments long.

    Never mind the fact that there are plenty of readers for whom there are all sorts of things not self-evident at all. (look at the exchanges with octogalore for instance)

    patronizing … in the sense of ‘condescending in a specifically patriarchy-emboldening manner.’

    Condescenion was not intended, it was a genuine comment, my own musings on the discussion in general.

    As to “emboldening the patriachy”, yes there’s a case to be made for a whole set of behaviours and attitudes that endorse sexist and misogynistic ways of thinking and being, but saying “many women believe the lies told about them” is not really one of them.

    And if it’s just me (or the pain I’m presently in…

    Genuinely no insult intended, hope I’ve managed to clarify and hope you get some respite from the pain.

  102. Scratchy888

    but saying “many women believe the lies told about them” is not really one of them.

    Probably we all believe the lies told about us, to some degree. After all, the lies have a way of making their effect felt in the material environment, even if we did not initially start out believing in them. Such aspects as society’s blind eye to ongoing abuse, unfair disadvantages in the workplace and general browbeating or ignoring us will certainly all add up to create their material affects. Such effects will seem (to our own reasoning and logical minds) to corroborate the very untruths told about us — that we are inferior.

    As Hegel said, the real is the rational — at least we can’t help but think of it in that way. We are all dragged down by an inherent conservatism. By observing what is in the world, we come to conclude that this is so because of people’s inherent natures. We are deluded by our own sophisticated minds.

  103. octogalore

    “many women believe the lies told about them, hence are deeply convinced that they must do femininity to survive, even when that is not necessarily the case.”

    Exactly. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Whether or not the non-essentialist view is correct, believing it’s the goal at this point in time can make it seem easier to conclude that “they must do femininity to survive.” Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether femininity is innate, the goal should be to create a situation in which nobody needs to do anything, femininity, masculinity, whatever, to survive.

    Without getting into the substance of Firestone’s “Dialectic,” it’s clear reading the book that so much of it rings true, while other parts, eg those premised on women’s continuing economic dependence, are reflective of the time period (1970). The battle is far from won, but we do have substantially more economic and political power now (whether it’s moving in the right direction, or at an optimal speed, is another issue). If we can take the steps needed to get rid of the continuing power imbalances, the pressures to adopt femininity will subside.

    However — that’s going to happen by getting tougher about some feimininity practices/behaviors and not worrying about others. Until we have more female CEOs, senators, etc., we’ll still be trapped in the “femininity is socially mandated” box. We need to take the math and science and poly sci courses in school, get jobs that motivate our significant others to do at least 50% of the housework and child care, focus a little more on the practical rather than the meaningful, and look for partners who will support these goals, rather than wealthy men who will support us or indulge us. While Linda Hirshman’s views are controversial, I think much of what she is saying rings true.

    Whether or not we worry about things like lipstick, bows, the color pink, etc., isn’t really going to matter. Aspects of “femininity” that are not subordinating or uncomfortable aren’t going to make the difference in getting to the point where there’s no pressure to adopt them. The limited examples of most-non-patriarchal men exist based on women making more money or having more power or both, not based on women not shaving. And let’s face it, if shaving will help us get to a point where we can freely decide not to with NO repercussions, why not.

    Finally — of course, if certain “feminine” practices are upsetting to the individual and not really necessary for health/livelihood, they need to go. But if they’re not — if standing out in the boardroom because you’re the only one in a red suit is actually kind of fun — it’s a waste of time to get rid of them over an ideology based on a utopia that doesn’t exist yet.

  104. Victoria Marinelli

    justtesting:

    Genuinely no insult intended, hope I’ve managed to clarify and hope you get some respite from the pain.

    Indeed you have, and I’m sorry for being such a complete ass. :-|

  105. Twiss

    I appreciate this blog for its neat format, serious/thoughtful/witty dialogue, general avoidance of “post-feminist” nonsense, and terrific writing combined with refreshingly rare use of junk terms like the f-word.

    About advice from men on how to be a real feminist, it’s hardly necessary to theorize when history supplies such a wealth of examples of why the dominant class cannot be trusted to help the subordinated class free itself. E.g. the kind neighbor man who paid without consulting her the fine imposed on Susan B. Anthony for voting because he didn’t want her jailed – but in doing so foreclosed her chance of taking her case to the Supreme Court; or the much-praised Congressmen and Senators who loudly supported the Equal Rights Amendment but subverted any chance of its passing or having any teeth if it did pass by refusing to allow core issues like barriers to abortion to be cited as examples of sex discrimination that the amendment would prohibit.* Or one of the hero white lawyers who helped Thurgood Marshall et al. craft the cases that advanced the Civil Rights movement but years later scoffed at feminist efforts to sex-integrate powerful men’s clubs in Washington, DC. (I have since wondered what subtle braking actions or flat bad judgment he may have applied as a white ally of Black activists.)

    I have so many more examples, across many subject areas, of gate-keeping by benevolent men, but they all reflect the same unquestioning faith in men’s superior judgment in matters involving women’s rights and lives. Not that a man cannot be helpful in analyzing men’s ideas and actions, but in the end their judgment is no more to be relied on than that of Anglos advising Hispanics, whites advising Blacks, rich advising poor. Sexism advantages all men and entirely escaping the influence of what advantages us is virtually impossible. As writers to this blog often acknowledge, it’s hard enough for women to fight their way clear of patriarchal thinking.

    Asked by fellow members of her NOW chapter how white women could fight racism, Colette Roberts replied, “Fix white men.”

    Andrea Dworkin once remarked that when she criticized pornography for its profound harm to women, all she could see in the eyes of male listeners was the question, “What do I get to keep?”

    *If interested, request published critique of relationship of ERA-Roe-1st Amendment defense of pornography by writing to reference@now.org

  106. Twisty

    “refreshingly rare use of junk terms like the f-word”

    Which f-word? I have to know!

  107. Carolyn

    Hi,

    I just really feel I need to debunk the gender myths and assumptions posted by octogalore,and The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker. First of all there is plenty of consisten psychological research studies from decades by many different psychologists and researchers that has found that girls and boys and women and men,are much more similar than different.

    Twisty even posted the major meta analyses by University of Wisconsin psychology professor Dr.Janet Hyde called The Gender Similarities Hypothesis in which she reviewed over a 100 psychological research studies done by all different psychologists and researchers from over 2 decades,and found that in most psychological areas girls and boys and men and women are more alike. In communication,verbal ability,personality,math,cognitive ability,leadership etc. and her findings were published in American Psychologist in September 2005.

    The American Psychological Association still has two articles on their site about her findings on a section called Gender Matters, One is called,Men and Women:No Big Difference Studies Show That One’s Sex Has Little Or No Bearing On Personality,Cognition,and Leadership. The other article is called,Think Again:Men and Women Share Cognitive Skills Psychologists Have Gathered Solid Evidence That Boys and Girls Or Men and Women Differe in Very Few Significant Ways Differences That Would Matter in School or At Work- in How,and How Well They Think. There used to be an online excellent college paper by feminist Framingham State College psychology professor Dr.Justin P.Bailey called,Men are from Earth,Women Are From Earth,:Rethinking The Utility of The “Mars/Venus” Analogy. And he also debunks these common gender differences myths and assumptions with a lot of decades worth of research findings including Dr.Hyde’s and he explains how our society and the media is obsessed with claims about gender differences and always exaggerates the small average differences. He explains that despite this constant focus on gender differences,research has consistently shown that women and men are more similar than different.

    He explains that the assumption that large gender differences exist for many other abilities is also not supported,such as female advantages in interpersonal skills,nurturance,or verbal abilities are often nonexistent or overestimated. He then explains that popular stereotypes such as the “non-communicative male,”the “map-reading deficient” female,or the alpha-leader male,males make better leaders,the differences between men and women are only 1% or less for verbal ability,verbal aggression,spatial ability,communication,reactions towards infants and leadership. And he says despite decades of searching for differences,the evidence does not support large or even moderate differences much less a “different worlds” analogy,and that most large differences are found between *individual people*

    I would also suggest you read an excellent thorough book by Brown University Biolgist and Geneticist Dr.Anne Fausto-Sterling called,Myths of Gender:Biological Theories About Women and Men. The sexes are actually biologically and psychologically more similar than different and our gentials are very similar since they start off from the same exact tissue in the womb,and our brains are more similar than different too, plus it’s a well known scientific fact that the human brain is plastic and easily molded and shaped by different life experiences,trainig and enviornmemts,which can even change the structure and function of the brain. I have a lot more to add but my post is already too long so I will just have add another.

  108. Carolyn

    I just noticed I made a few typing mistakes. But I also want to add that I have an excellent important 1979 book,He and She:How Children Develop Their Sex Role Idenity by two parent child psychology professors,Wendy Schempp Matthews and award winning Columbia University parent child psychology professor Dr.Jeane Brooks Gunn. In this book they go from birth to the teenage years,and they document many research studies and experiments done over decades by psychologists that show that female and male babies are actually born biologically more alike than different with very few differences yet they are perceived and treated systematically very differently from the moment of birth on by parents and other care givers.

    I spoke with Dr.Brooks Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she can explain al of those great studies in the book that show that girl and boy babies are born biologically more alike than different with few differences,but are still perceived and treated that differently from the moment they are born,and she said that is due to socialization,and she said there is no question that socialization plays a very big part. Also there have been studies by many anthroplogists over decades who have done field work in Tahiti and a few other cultures where they have found androgynous men and women,who are rewarded and encouraged to be both “masculine” and “feminine” and are not put into artifical opposite categories and roles. One of the anthroplogists who studied these cultures is Dr.Walter Williams who is the author of the award winning The Spirit and The Flesh.

    Also try to check out an excellent online recent article called, by distinguished sociology professor Dr.Cynthia Fuchs Epstein that deals with the media renforcing sexist biases and gender myths,exaggerating small differences,and ignoring the research findings that the sexes are more similar than different,Great Divides:The Cultural,Cognitive,and Social Bases of The Global Subordination of Women. Dr.Fuchs Epstein lists Dr.Justin P.Bailey’s article in her notes and I sent it to her shortly before her article was written, but I’m not totally sure if she found it herself or if I was the one who made her aware of it.

  109. Flamethorn

    Which f-word? I have to know!

    Funkfilledbratwurst?

  110. hedonistic

    Hi Carolyn,

    Thank you for posting all that; I’m certain there are folks reading at this site who’ve not learned of it already (I have). However, you’re arguing against a point neither Octogalore nor I ever made. Neither of us stated, or even inferred, that men and women are more different than alike.

    Acknowledging differences between the sexes does not have to equal some moral justification or apology for sexism. After all, if men and women were EXACTLY alike there would be no patriarchy to blame.

  111. Carolyn

    hedonistic,

    Thank you for appreciating my posts. But I have to tell you that the main poni Dr.Justin Bailey and Dr.Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and many others are making,is the major things that keep the patriarchy in place and continue sexist inequalities is these very deep rooted common sexist gender myths,roles and stereotypes!

    Also I forgot to mention yesterday another very important excellent book by cognitive social psychologist Dr.Gary Wood from Birmingham University in England called,Sex Lies & Stereotypes:Challenging Views Of Women,Men & Relationships.He also shows from a lot of great research studies that most of the gender differences are pretty small,and that we are far more alike than different and that there are much greater individual people differences found,and he also shows how these socially constructed gender roles and categories are very limiting to both sexes and only allow us to become half of a person instead of full human people and how this causes problems in relationships between men and women.

  112. Carolyn

    Dr.Gary Wood also discusses how a major part of how men are taught from the time they are very little boys,is to reject and put down anything that the sexist male dominated society defines as “feminine” and that this can cause woman hatred.

  113. dogging

    Dr.Gary Wood also discusses how a major part of how men are taught from the time they are very little boys,is to reject and put down anything that the sexist male dominated society defines as “feminine” and that this can cause woman hatred.

    doubledo@freemail.hu

  114. dsimms

    A criticism: you shouldn’t use a term like FGM without including a definition of what it means (for example, in parentheses). Moreover, I think, you should always spell out the term “female genital mutilation” for the horror it is. To use an acronym for an outrage is to promote it to a euphemism.

    The horror of female genital mutilation still continues in many parts of the world and should be opposed on all levels, including our language. I realize bizarre forms of FGM are now being initiated by Western women on a voluntary basis, but we should never forget that for the majority of mutilated women worldwide, this is a painful, dangerous, barbaric, involuntary practice forced on them by an uncaring patriarchy.

    I mean no offense. But many around the world are fighting today to rid us of this insanity. Let’s hope one day it will be an archaic practice, like testing for witches by drowning innocent women.

  115. a

    I find your broad categoraization of BDSM to be rather narrow minded.
    It takes great strength to be a submissive. Submission is a choice, a gift to that submissive’s Dominant. In life I am my Dominants equal. In the bedroom I CHOOSE to hand over control because that is what makes me happy. I make descisions that impact us both on a daily basis. It is twisted and quite rude to act as though submissives are less than those who are not. In my experience, Dominants find no joy in dominating the weak. There’s no point. If BDSM makes the men and women involved in it happy,and it is all consensual, then who are you to judge? And yes, I did begin my post with “I” because I am expressing my opinions. If you have a problem with that, there is always the delete button. I also realize this is an old thread, but obviously you need something to do so I’m sure you will read this.

  116. riverrealm

    I resonate with Octogalore’s comment, which I read as people trying to fit in with “the cool kids,” whomever they may be in the circumstances– perhaps whomever holds what is construed to be the majority opinion/interpretation of whatever is being discussed.

    “I wonder whether conformity to femininity in “real life” and conformity to the leadership viewpoint on a radfem site are two sides of the same coin: adapting to one’s environment out of a desire to fit in with the “cool kids,” wherever they may be.”

    In my personal experience, I feel this to be true; I’ve encountered toxicity beyond measure amongst “feminist” groups as well as in patriarchal corporate-type environments. I believe that there is a human (beyond gender) inclination to want to fit in and be part of some group, and that the vast majority of people are truly afraid or unable to think for themselves and therefore will strive to conform in whatever environment they find themselves. The heated reactions to Octogalore’s comment (I do not consider them “catty/bitchy” nor “sarcastic/witty”– just thoughtlessly emotionally heated, as if a nerve has been touched in a way that happens when truth is recognized on some level of consciousness and the ego desperately tries to cover it up).

    Although there are cases where somebody may be killed or beaten for non-compliance, in many parts of the United States, the ‘penalties’ are not that harsh. Why is social stigmatization so scary? It will not kill you. The US is truly the land of opportunity and there are other possibilities out there if you don’t comply to the patriarchy or any other group illusion/delusion. It’s a question of de-programming oneself from needing any form of outside approval whatsoever.

  117. Twisty

    Well if you’re gonna resonate, I’m gonna reverberate.

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